Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10.28.2014 -- Middle Child Blues

Parents have lots of problems built in, yet we make more for ourselves all the time. For example, I started our first in gymnastics classes when she was 3, and encouraged her to take as many classes as she liked. Now that (only) two other children are in the mix, and Lucy is even busier, 3 or 4 classes a week turns into 9 or ...17!

I never did the math, even though I reminded myself from time to time that the exponential activity explosion would happen one day. Probably the bigger "problem" here is me trying to equalize my parenting and time allotment from child to child. A noble idea, but impossible and maddening.

If I were wise, I would just accept that the oldest will have advantages that the others won't, and that the youngers will have advantages the oldest didn't. It seems so simple!

Take Gabe's Kindergarten experience. His is very different from Lucy's, although they are both enrolled in the same school and we live in the same house.

Gabe is in a Chinese immersion program.
The only program available to Lucy was the... English immersion program.

Gabe's school day is much longer than Lucy's Kindergarten school day.
Gabe eats lunch at school. Lucy never did.

I took Lucy to school every day.
Gabe often gets to walk or ride his scooter to school with Lucy.

This is the tip of the iceberg.

So...what does that have to do with...anything?


The other day, I got an email from Gabe's Chinese teacher requesting help from parents in her morning class. She explained that the afternoon class was getting along fine, but that the morning class was falling behind due to "behavior problems."

When Lucy was in Kindergarten, I got into her classroom regularly enough. Not all the time (I did have Gabe to care for, after all), but I was able to squeeze it in. Before yesterday, I hadn't spent any time at all in Gabe's class.

When I read that email, I decided that I needed to find a way to help in Gabe's class. Imagine how much stronger that resolve became when Gabe's teacher approached me one afternoon - when I picked him up after school - to ask me to come to class to help Gabe pay attention better.

I guess it never occurred to me that Gabe would have any difficulty in school. In retrospect, I think I should've been more aware. When Gabe is faced with something that is new to him, it's pretty normal for him to get frustrated to the point of withdrawal. I've tried to teach him to tie his shoes at least 20 times. It feels like fifty. He won't sit through it. Its like the instruction hits the "special kind of torture" receptors in his brain. His Chinese teacher explained that Gabe often just goes into his own little world and plays by himself while the teacher instructs the class.

So, I made arrangements and spent 3 hours yesterday with Gabe in his Chinese class. It was fun. It was eye-opening. It was exhausting!

It has been a long time since I've learned much that was truly novel. Until yesterday, I had forgotten how exhausting it is to be immersed in a foreign language. I remember being absolutely wiped out when I was immersed in other languages in France and in Africa. Those three hours of helping the teacher and reminding kids to stay on task and not talk while the teacher was talking was a great reminder of what Gabe is doing every day in school.

I made arrangements to spend a couple of days each week in Gabe's class. I had a hard time getting to that decision - chalk it up to mom guilt - but I found someone to babysit Charlie who I feel will add a lot to his world. I am so relieved to have time scheduled for me to focus just on Gabe!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

10.26.2014 - The Rainbow Bridge

Zoey has gone to meet her maker.                                                   (Euphemisms fascinate me.)

I just realized that this means I'll need to update the blog description, so I might as well write something about it, too.

We (our family of five) took Zoey in to the vet for euthanasia a few weeks ago. It was hard. She had fallen a few times - her legs just gave out under her while she was standing there - so I made a few calls and scheduled the appointment we had been dreading for years. The vet, Joe Liljenquist, is a friend of Brian's so we may have gotten extra special treatment, but I doubt it. All of the staff were great. They even sent us flowers!

All of us, except Charlie, shed tears by the time we'd left Zoey, still warm but unmoving, there in the vet's office. Charlie seemed to think it was no big deal: Zoey was going to be an angel dog and to live with Grandpa Dave in heaven. This seemed alright with him.

Having not owned a dog before, I didn't really know what to expect. In retrospect, I think I could've made an educated guess. When I was a kid, my mom made a difficult decision to remove a pet cat from our home. I loved that cat a lot. A LOT. I cried hard when I found out. I could've guessed that I would react similarly to Zoey being gone.

One of my cousins saw an online post of mine about losing Zoey and responded with the text of "The Rainbow Bridge," which I hadn't seen before. What a lovely thought, that Rainbow Bridge where our four-legged companions wait for us... I hope it's true!

When I read "The Diggingest Dog" to Charlie, he often requests that I change the story so the dog, Duke, is Zoey. Whenever Zoey is subbed in for Duke, Charlie asks that I also substitute Charlie in for Sammy Brown. This is how I know that Zoey still plays a part in Charlie's story. We have enough pictures that I think Charlie will always have "memories" of Zoey, but I don't know whether they'll come from him or the pictures.

Brian and I got Zoey for our one year anniversary. She enchanted us with her impossibly blue eyes and velvet coat. She destroyed lots and lots of things we were attached to. She taught us what it was like to leave a crying "baby" in a safe place to learn how to self-soothe.

Fifteen years leaves a lot of room for memories: I have so many of Zoey. There were so many things I got to experience because of her. I came to know new places, new people, and new things about myself. I wanted to put "the sweetest thing" under her name on the memorial plaque we ordered from the pet cremation place, but Brian won me over when he reasoned that we should leave it at her name.

I'm not what some people call "a bucket-list person," but if I were, if I had to do it over again, if I could somehow benefit from my own life experience and advice... I would put "own an awesome dog for 15 years" on that list. (That's a lot of ifs, I know.)

10.25.2014 - Stress Writing

It has been a long time. What's that song? ....It's been a long, long time coming, Lucille?

Never mind.

Kenny Rogers is underrated... that gravelly voice...  the songwriting... I almost never listen to his music, but when I do, it gets me every time. Hey: did you know that at least several educated people believe that listening to music is super good for you? See?

If you follow those last couple of links, you will find links to studies/articles on how music reduces cortisol. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, is great if you need to engage in fight or flight, but chronic stress (high levels of cortisol) makes many people's health goals harder to attain. It's a big deal.

Stress is on my mind, because I'm human and I'm an American! Kidding aside, though. Stress is a risk for everyone, as far as I can tell. Lately, I've been accepting stress in the forms of having our house on the market (uncertainty about the future), worrying about our kids (there's always something), and getting things checked off my Responsible Adult To-Do List (RATDL). 

Sometimes, I successfully flip stresses on their backs by breathing deeply, listening to music, chewing gun, exercising, writing, and letting go and letting God. It doesn't happen as often as I would like. (This is where I wanted to insert a gif of a turtle or a beetle stuck on its back, all of its legs wiggling uselessly in the air.) 
Internet: please make an gif of a turtle stuck on its back. 
Thank you. 

I did find this, however:

Huh. Before 10:45 p.m. on October 25, 2014, I was unaware that "Let Go (and let God)" is actually a song. I would really like to include a link here on the origin and history of "let go and let God," the phrase, not the song, but I can't find anything on the interwebs after my exhaustive 6 minute search. Here's a music video, though.

The above song by Dewayne Woods doesn't really do it for me, but at least now I know! (I love to know, by the way.) My amazing husband gives me a hard time, sometimes, for "being on my phone too much," but what I think he fails to understand is how often I am just using that phone to find the answer to a random question I have, or read up on something I'm curious about. I rationalize that this shouldn't count against me as "phone time," because I could be doing this with other resources, the phone is just faster and more convenient. Same with using my phone to communicate with friends. I feel so much better now that the world has access to my personal excuses on this publicly accessible blog! (wink)

Update on the kids:

I went to a gym sleepover with Lucy last night. We stayed up until 4:00 a.m. Many wise people collected their children before it got too late. They are undoubtedly much better rested than our family today, but it felt good to support Lucy and to get to know more people involved with her gym better. Three separate people decided to share their (unsolicited) opinion about Lucy. They love her. These things are good for a parent to hear.

Gabe has a new obsession passion: Skateboarding. Today, he spent a good amount of time lamenting his lack of skateboard instruction. He just feels that his dad has failed to adequately teach him how to skateboard. He IS five. That's a lot of wasted years! I'm going to have to work that parental shortcoming into his therapy budget. Gabe loves time with friends. It fills his cup. Love him.

One of Charlie's new things is his way of saying prayers: He has ditched the old format and in favor of his own. His prayers sound like Power Rangers adventures. They are different every time, so he has that going for him... Charlie loves preschool and loves the air of authority he commands by walking around with his fists on his hips. He's gotten very good at telling all of us what we ought to do at any given time.

Brian is busy with... well, mostly the same stuff, but not the same... (I don't REALLY know.)  ...Since nature abhors a vacuum, I will just say: Brian has been spending a lot of time thinking about how amazing I am and how lucky we are to have each other. He has been losing sleep trying to figure out how best to memorialize our love. He thought of buying a constellation, or having one formed with satellites. He thought of doing a sort of "Mt. Rushmore West" with our faces immortalized in stone - forever locked in a passionate kiss. Of course, I told him that was really too much, and that he could just rub my shoulders next time we are sitting next to each other.