Tag Archives: frustration

Leaving the Mental Hospital.

12631297_10153509880098860_2696837959808520265_nIt feels like there’s a shift in the tide. My 7-year old paroled mental patient has officially been discharged. It’s fascinating watching her as she’s changing so much, both physically and mentally. She lost her first three teeth within the last month. She tells me while she’s flossing that it’s harder to get in between some teeth now, and I know it’s because her teeth are shifting now that her adult teeth will make an appearance soon.  And then there’s the emotional change. I can’t label it a personality change because she’s still the same dynamo she’s always been since 12 months old, but she’s calmer. She knows she can ask questions and even understand the answers. She appreciates things more, there’s less of the psychotic preschooler, and now she is leaning towards a logical human being who has learned so much.

It’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy sharing humor with her, she understands my sarcasm so much more now. One day when she was coming home from school, we were talking about something and she said “oh I’m so stupid!” and I had an immediate mental panic attack – how will I reverse this? What gave her that ridiculous notion? She’ll absorb this for life! AAAGGHHH! I told her she wasn’t stupid at all, and that she is incredibly smart. I gave it little credit (not to feed any negative attention) but the next (and last) time she said that to me, she said the exact same thing in the car, it went like this:

Lilly; “I’m so stupid.”
Me: “I have wings.”
Lilly (utter confusion): “WHAT?!?!?”
Me (very seriously): “I have wings.”
Lilly (baffled) ” . . . ”
Me: “Lilly, you saying you are stupid is as true as me saying I have wings. Do you see wings on me? No? There you go.”

With that, the conversation was shut down and she cracked up laughing. I didn’t need to do a whole reinforcement thing. I didn’t need to delicately tackle a ticking bomb. I knew it was ridiculous moment where she was probably just tired and needed a break. It didn’t need a UN intervention. I love that I can speak with her this way. I’ve learned to diffuse her temper with humor. She can still have her moments, as we all do, but I can usually eliminate them immediately with some odd comment or dry humor. She can’t help herself as she’ll smile or laugh begrudgingly, because she knows exactly what I’m doing, and it’s almost as if she knows I’m not going head-to-head with her so she’ll ratchet everything down 20 notches and just talk to me about whatever it is that’s frustrating her.

c4a50d9c-13e2-4697-a7ef-6ba404a13bb7Last night, as she was getting ready for bed, she told me that she seriously loves me. That’s big words from her. She can do I love you quite frequently now, but when she added in her “seriously” into it, I knew that it meant that at that moment, she utterly, from the bottom of her heart, her gut, her toes, was telling me she loved me to death. Oh what a feeling. This magnificent creature that came from me, whom is entirely a part of me and will be for the rest of my lifetime, was reciprocating what I’ve been feeling for her since her first breath. I’m keeping all her notes of love. I know this is a fleeting time and soon enough, she’ll been a tween wanting nothing to do with me so I’ll take all I can get now. This morning as I woke her for school, she was wearing a fluffy pair of jammies and once I saw that she was awake (but pretending to be asleep), I climbed on top of her, laughing that I’d found the cuddliest new teddy bear and was keeping it forever. She was practically purring with joy.

I love this.  I love her. My word, how she has stolen my heart and soul. Note to other mothers, if you’re not feeling all gooey inside about your child, don’t worry. I’ve had plenty of those days too. So cut yourself some slack. Good things are on the way.

My 4-year old escaped mental patient is making progress. He’s a little ways away from being paroled but he’s doing better. Still plenty of non-logical out bursts or demands that will never be met, but he’s still four years old so he’s got a way to go yet. However, he’s still the cutest little psychotic bundle you’ve ever seen. When he bounces his naked butt around the house because at that moment, he’s “vanilla bunny the boy,” I can’t help but smile wide.

Life is good.

Back to School and Alcohol.

I know I’m not alone here. I just know it.

It’s back to school week after Christmas break. The kids relaxed for a full two weeks, even my 7-yr old began sleeping in. I could see that she needed the break badly. By the last week of school she was d.o.n.e!!! So she loved every minute of the break and then headed back to school. She’ll still declare that she loves her school however there was a definite shift from enjoying Christmas vacation to not wanting to go back to school. And so began hell week. You may think I’m kidding. I’m not. From the moment of every pickup, she’s been a tornado of anger and frustration. If I didn’t know any better, I’d downgrade her back to an escaped mental patient but I know what’s going on so I handle it differently (and much more calmly, I proudly add).  However the schedule of the week was different for me.

Monday: I know she’s tired. I dragged her out of bed. A full day of school. She’s pissed. We’ll get through this.
Tuesday: OK, I know she’s tired, she doesn’t want to do homework, but dear Jesus, this attitude better change.
Wednesday: OMFG, I’m going to kill her. I keep it together (mostly) as she drags out homework over the course of two hours simply because she just doesn’t want to do it. As soon as she goes to bed, I make Baileys & decaf tea. Yes, that feels good!
Thursday: It’s the exorcist. It’s reincarnated and that’s just on the car ride home. Upon entering the house, she bee-lines for Legos and I pop open a Strawberry Ale. It’s only 4.30pm but I figure this might be her best chance at staying alive.
Friday: I don’t know yet but I’m scared. I may have an IV of alcohol attached to me during the carpool lane. At the very least, when I get home from picking her up, it’s PARTY time!! Ice cream for all and beers for Momma!

I remember this struggle the first week of the school year. The mega adjustment is hard to cope with for the little ones and she specifically takes it out on me because I’m her safe place. I get it. But as I bob and weave my way through the house looking for hiding places, praying for it to be bedtime, I can’t help but wish this week were over.

I swear to you, alcohol sales must spike more after Christmas than during it because I’ve decided that that’s the only way I’m getting through this. Am I alone? Oh I bet not!!!!

Excuse me while I pop open #2.

 

What Do I Expect from Elementary School? Not this.

Love this piece. “The children that I get off of the bus are exhausted. They are frustrated. They are over worked. They are burned out. I feel as if I should make them a weak whiskey on the rocks, hand them their pipe and slippers, and leave them alone for an hour to decompress.”

Boils Down to It

When I put my children on the bus in the morning, the wish I call out to them after kissing their heads, is, “Have a good day!” Pure and simple.

Now, I know that not every day can be a birthday party, and not all things in life should be made into a fun activity. My wish is not overly naïve or idealistic, it is simply that they enjoy their day at school.  It is my hope that even if there are moments of the day when things don’t go well, or times when they are frustrated, or they find something to be particularly challenging, the overall feeling when they return home is not negative.

I want them to have had enough positive experiences, enough moments of engagement, enough creativity and fun built into their day that “good” is the predominant mood descriptor.

That is not currently the case.

The…

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The Precious Age

1000228_10151612210048860_473410485_nWe moved house 2.5 years ago. My daughter had just turned four the month before. My son was 20 months old.  He had been sick from months 6-14, and I called him my Velcro Baby. He couldn’t be out of my arms. Ever. When we moved house, it freaked him out and it was a solid 6 weeks before I could even walk out of a room without him freaking out. It’s all ages and stages, all phases that we pass through. I remember meeting my new neighbors. Kids hanging off me, explaining I’m a stay-at-home-mom. They always asked how old the kids were and always responded with “aww, such a precious age.” I’d look at them like they were insane. WTF was so precious, can you tell me? I still didn’t get to shower on any regular basis. Had 27lbs permanently attached me to me along with a four-year-old hurricane that went to battle with me at every turn.

Precious my ass.

I usually responded with my oblivious, socially unaware bluntness and got the shocked stares in response. Oh well.

But now, things are different. My velcro baby has essentially flown the nest and couldn’t care less where I am. My six-year-old has now realized that she’s her brother’s equal (in my  eyes) and I am able to devote time directly to her without a sick baby attached to me. I can kiss her goodnight and whisper in her ear that I’m so lucky I get to be her Mommy, that I’m so lucky I get to be with her every day and see that smile that lights up a room. I watched her purr in response, squeezing me tight and I know I’ve just given her the warmest, squishy feeling she adores.

Yesterday, my escaped mental patient (who just turned four, by the way) took a rare nap in the afternoon. As per my usual routine, I enter their bedroom before I go to bed to kiss each one on the cheek. Last night, the boy was still awake even though it was 9:30pm. “Mommy, is it morning?” he whispers. “No darling, Mommy is just going to bed.” But I first smother his face with kisses. I look at that perfect face and feel his little arms and hands wrap around my neck just so he can hold me.  I begin to tell him how lucky I am to be his Mommy and how much I love him. I hear back how much he loves me, and he means it. Because small kids don’t like or say things because they’re supposed to. They only say it when they mean it. And it hits me how precious this age is, including my 6-year-old hurricane’s age.

There’s a possibility that when she turns 7, I’ll have a slight mental breakdown. Seven just seems so old to me. Ridiculous, I know but seven is so much closer to a teenager than the small years that have just flown by. I get to sleep through the night now and can enjoy my kids more. I can appreciate them more. So yes, this is a precious age. Six and four are as precious as can be. Just don’t be alarmed if someone looks at you like you’re the devil when you say that to them because they have absolutely no idea what it’s like at that very moment for you, and don’t feel bad if you don’t immediately agree with them.  My first go-round with four was so rough. The second time, I’m able to stand back and realize how awesome this age is. I currently don’t have an emotionally clingy baby attached to me and he’s not sick anymore. I’m able to stand back and can now say that “yes, yes this is a precious age.”

Now. If only time would stand still.

Education Reform – Why am I involved?

PARCC Test Prep
PARCC Test Prep given on the third week of Kindergarten.

After the debacle of my first child starting kindergarten last August, she was a shadow of her happy, bouncy self. She was exhausted and weary by mid-September. All this because she started kindergarten in the wrong school. What’s worse though is, while I know I won the lottery with her new school, her old school is only following orders from up high. The district school board and the state of Florida have their hands, pockets (and asses) deep in the system, a system that is crumbling while simultaneously shattering children’s self-esteem, burning out students of every grade, and materials being taught only to suit the answers on a specific test.  Just those 5 weeks in her old school made me so sick to my stomach with stress and anxiety that I was barely able to function. What she was exposed to in her old public school is what every student has to face across the state and it’s unacceptable. Her first week of kindergarten, she came home with an hour of homework every night, photo copies of the PARCC test  for her to fill out, and an ad nauseum regurgitation of letters that rendered homework a complete nightmare every single night. After three weeks of this, I timed her homework. It took one hour and fifteen minutes. I was done. DONE. The next morning, I told her teacher to expect her homework to routinely be returned incomplete. I was not going to subject my child to this at aged 5. The teacher, whose hands are tied thanks to the system, agreed wholeheartedly. Began talking about retiring after she warned me that the homework would only get worse after Christmas due to the EOC (End-of-Course) tests they’ll all face at the end of the year. What? The EOC for kindergarten is another set of tests – yes, I said ‘set’. The EOC for kindergarten comprises of 186 questions over the course of two weeks in May. So kindies all over the state in a public school are working solely towards this test. That’s just for math and english. Doesn’t include the tests for the other subjects!!!! Not only is this bad enough, but the tests counts for nothing for the students. It’s meant as a means of benchmarking the teachers. I happened to talk to my girl’s school principal early this week. He told me that he’s not even sure they’ll bother with the kindie EOC. He knows what his teachers are like. While the final decision hasn’t been made yet for her school (hers is a charter, so they are allowed more freedom than the standard public school), I’m going to have my ear to the ground just in case. Two weeks of testing is bad enough. Two weeks of testing that has zero merit for the child is downright ridiculous.

FSA
What time is this?

And this is just the beginning. Currently, all grades have EOC tests, and when you get to 3rd grade, you get to take the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment). Detailed info here. Initially, it doesn’t sound so bad. But then practice tests were sent home and the questions defy logic. For example, take a look at the clock. How are the hands positioned? Which is the hour and which is the minute hand?

FSA2
Answer this!

Maybe this question is better? What’s the answer??? Anyone? Anyone?  I’ll give you the answer below. When I say “answer,” I really mean I’m giving you the correct answer as designated by the test and by which the students are compared to. Expectations are that 70% of the students will fail this year. Who the hell approves and administers a testing system where 70% are expected to fail?? My hurricane is three years away from having to do the FSA but when the time comes, we know she’ll be opting out. We in no way wish to damage the school’s rating so we will follow very specific guidelines to achieve an NR2 score which will meet the minimum requirement of participation without any repercussions to the school from the district school board. There are so many examples of this test. It’s wrong. Just plainly wrong. So my obligation as a parent is to get involved. I am guilty of prior ignorance on this matter but now that I have a child in the education system, I’m listening. I really don’t like  what I am hearing. No more. I am writing this post because others may also not know about it and the more informed we are, the more we can become active, let voices be heard and stand up for our children. School isn’t school anymore, it’s a testing prep factory. And it’s time for that to end. Oh, and the answer to the question above is B. Did you get it right?

What has happened to Kindergarten?

10708783_10152475639178860_6213760241580596127_oI love our new school. My 6-year-old tornado is doing great there, but I’m still increasingly concerned by the standards that these kids (all kids in any sort of public/charter educational system) have to get to. I love her teacher. She’s a sweetheart and sends home a newsletter every week with updates on what’s going on in the class, things they need, things that’ll be coming up. This week, the newsletter said that next week, the kids would begin spelling tests. In kindergarten???

Am I just out of it? Am I alone in thinking it’s entirely ludicrous that kindergarten has been reduced to this? There’s a list of sight words that the kids are tested on (to read) at the beginning, middle and end of the year. I tried to help out, and I typed our Sight Words so every week, my girl and I go through the list. I add a page every now and then. I thought this was a lot for a kid to have to learn. Where’s the fun here? Now she has to do spelling tests? WTF!

Just this week, we were going over her homework. Mostly, it’s greatly conceptual and I’ve no problem with it. Maybe write a couple of sentences. They’ve been working on math too so they’re doing simple equations such as 6+1=7. Nothing goes above 10. OK. But this week, the homework unit was that I was to write out a few equations such as 4 + = 10 and she was to figure out what x was. Say the hell what????? When did algebra become necessary in kindie and when the hell did abstract algebra factor in here?? How the heck is she supposed to conceptualize that x can stand for any number at all and that it all depends on the equation. For the most part, I just counted with her – if I’ve got 4, how many numbers do I need to get to 10, and then finger count along with her. IT’S KINDERGARTEN!!

I even talked to my 14-year-old niece who fondly remembers kindergarten and then said that things got serious in 1st grade.  I told my niece what my 6-year-old is doing and she was shocked. They never did that in her kindergarten class. Well, I guess the educational system has pushed that crap downwards and now the kindergartener gets to do what used to be for the older grades. It just feels like a bunch of this (especially the x equation, come on!!!) is well beyond her mental capabilities and she’s a smart kid.

Having had my rant, she’s still a happy camper in school. Although, she did ask me this morning if her 100 days of summer is coming up soon. This is because the 100th day of school celebration is this Friday but I think she thought that meant she was getting ready for summer break. Sorry, kid.  She asked me to put together a calendar for her to look at so that she can see when it’ll be summer time. I think that might have more to do with getting up at 7am than the work itself. She still bounces into the car each afternoon and runs into school every morning.So they must be doing something right. Maybe it’s just me that has the problem or maybe she just doesn’t know any different. My youngest, the 3-year-old will be starting VPK in August and it more than likely looks like I’ll be able to get him into the same school she was in. She loved that place so much. He’s started asking if he can go to school and she’s been telling him how much fun preschool was. And while I do think she is happy in her current school, the inference was that kindergarten isn’t as fun as preschool.

And that makes me sad.

Superwoman Was Already Here.

homework1My increasing disillusionment with Kindergarten and the traditional school system has rendered me the in-house mental patient for the past month. Last Thursday, I decided to notice the clock as we sat down to do homework. One hour and fifteen minutes later, two weary females left the table. This is ridiculous for second grade, let alone just the fourth week of kindergarten. Not sure if you can make it out in the photo, but we doing chapter 12 of algebra. Because that’s what we’re forced to do now on the fourth week of kindergarten. We never started at chapter 1, we started with chapter 12.

homework4We’ve got the usual writing to practice and we haven’t even finished the entire alphabet yet, but somehow here we are, trying to put letters together. Oh, and she’s supposed to write a sentence at the end of the page. You are correct, she doesn’t even know what a sentence is.

What the hell has happened? More and more, our children have become assembly line robots that are force-fed information, and to what end? So that the school can pass a test at the end of the year. In Florida, there is the joy of FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). A series of tests that begin in 3rd grade that have proved utterly useless.  I spoke with my daughter’s teacher on Friday morning regarding the unGodly amount of homework and her dear teacher, a classroom veteran of twenty years, was ready to cry along with me. Mrs. V doesn’t recognize kindergarten now, not from when she started teaching and she confided that she’s begun speaking to her husband about retiring soon. She warned me that homework was going to get worse after Christmas because the kids (KINDERGARTNERS) will have to take a test on the computer at the end of the year. She even suggested removing my girl early from the school day every now and then, since the kids are already in school so long each day, just to give my girl a break.

I’m done. I can’t take anymore. My paroled mental patient is actually adjusting well but I don’t want her adjusting to that. I don’t want her turning into a robot that stomps on individuality and creativity. She is a high-spirited child and I absolutely do not want that spirit crushed. Regurgitating for the sake of school scores, where the desire to learn is etched away week by week, no, that’s not for us. With my escaped mental patient at home with me (3-years old), I just can’t fathom homeschooling. So what I need is Superwoman. And it turns out, she’s already been here.

Maria Montessori was a pioneer, and slowly, the movement she created is spreading. Most Montessori schools are private, unfortunately, but there are some charter schools out there. My daughter is on the waiting list for one. I urge you to look at this alternative to the abhorrent day that our children are subjected to. Yes, yes, we all did it and survived. How many of us thrived under that system?  How many thrive from Montessori? Ohhhhhhh . . . the Montessori approach has spawned a creative elite, including Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, cook Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs. I’ll talk about the benefits and core beliefs of Montessori in another post. If there is anything else you do today, please watch the video above.