Humble Brag

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I received an award from the Diocese for my “contributions to American life and the Catholic Church.” Hah! I push kids to read books, but I’ll take it. I joked with the Mister that I got the award because they couldn’t give me a parking space. :)

What made the night special is that my eighth grade teacher, who is now the superintendent of schools, presented me with the award. I hope she realizes what an impact she had on me so many, many years ago.

I wore this dress from Land’s End, which I bought in December for work. It came in the mail the day I found out about the award, and it looked like something I could dress up with jewelry and shoes. I put it aside just in case I didn’t find anything else that worked. I tried on 340 different outfits, bought several, and even went to my mom’s house in search of a black shawl to wear with the little black dress I bought for the occasion–my first black dress in years that didn’t have color, dots, etc. Fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave, I pulled out Ol’ Red and immediately felt more like myself. I’m not cool enough to pull off all black. I tried, I really did, but when I looked at myself in the mirror (black dress, black shawl, black tights, black shoes) I looked like La Llorona. Forget the award ceremony, take me to the river so I can drown some kids!

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In other news, Mikey, looking very much like a slouchy tween here, is the table for Current Events/Academic Decathlon. We’re studying pretty hard around these parts. I think 6th grade is a bit too young to table for Academic Decathlon, but he earned it and the 7th grader on Current Events dropped out after the first week. Oh well. We’re also going to church, driving from here-to-there, adapting to new school/work schedules, getting ready for an accreditation visit, looking forward to Lent, and reading lots of books. Life, basically.

 

Flower Power

Maggie 3

Maggie

Maggie 2 Maggie 4

On Sunday we welcomed into our family a 7lb Ewok we christened Magnolia Mae Jigglypuff Kendall. Maggie, for short. Maggie isn’t the most original name for a female dog, but I had it in my head that all our pets need flower names, like Buttercup. The boys vetoed Flora, Blanche, Daisy, Petunia, and a few others.

She’s a 3.5 month cavachon and I can’t believe she’s ours. We weren’t looking for a dog, definitely not a puppy. I said a year ago that I would only consider a female cavachon*, but we never really talked about it again. I feel like one of those women who didn’t know she was pregnant until she goes into labor.

Miss Magnolia is so far fitting in nicely, though she has yet to meet Buttercup. We are getting back into the routine of having a puppy in the house again. Potty training, multiple feedings per day, and asking nicely that she please stop chewing the baseboard are now part of our day. Unlike Buddy and Buster, she seems quite taken with worn clothing. This morning I pulled out of her mouth one of Nico’s dirty socks. Not ten minutes later, she had my pajama pants in her mouth and was tearing down the hallway and into the family room, the legs undulating behind her like a floral Chinese parade dragon.

It’s good to have a dog again.

*I wanted a female dog only because I’m drowning in testosterone. I wanted a cavachon because I heard they don’t shed (they don’t!), have sweet, gentile personalities that get along well with other pets (so far, so good), and are hypoallergenic (I don’t believe for one second a living animal can be truly hypoallergenic–they aren’t tubes of mascara–but I figured what the hell).

Happy, Happy

Nico Sweater 2

Saturday

This winter has been cold enough for the boys to wear sweaters, which makes me very happy because I think little boys wearing preppy sweaters look adorable.

Sunday

We celebrated my niece’s 8th birthday, which meant more time with the cousins. The boys have been around their cousins so much lately, and I love it!

Monday

Another day off, another day organizing, baking, and reading.

Tuesday

I’m a total music mom. If the boys wanted to play 12 different instruments I probably would buy them all and chauffeur them all over town to various music lessons. But even I have my limits. Mikey discovered Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven and has been listening to it on repeat. Have you heard Moonlight Sonata? It’s, like, the most depressing song, ever. Trust a tween to find emo-classical music.  But, hey, it isn’t death metal, so I’m happy.

Wednesday

Mikey stayed home sick, and we spent the day on the couch snuggling and watching movies in between naps (for him).

Thursday

Kindergarteners, always, especially after hearing the Alan Rickman news.

Child: I don’t have my book, Mrs. Kendall.

Me: Oh, did you forget it?

Child: No, my sister has it.

Me: Your sister? How old is she?

Child: She’s two years old. [puts hand on my shoulder] But don’t worry, she doesn’t eat books.

Friday

The Mister has been out of town for a week and today he’s coming home just in time to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary! He hasn’t had to travel for two months and, wow, that two months was just long enough for me to get used to him being at home. I forgot how hard it is when he’s not home!

Have a happy, happy weekend, everyone. :)

In Defense of Honesty

In Defense of HonestyThat Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life by Ana Homayoun
Published by Perigee Books on January 5th 2010
Genres: Adolescence, Education, Parenting
Pages: 304
four-stars

At last, the solution for getting disorganized boys back on track. Missed assignments. Lack of focus and enthusiasm. Falling grades. For too many boys and their frustrated parents, these are the facts of life. But they don't have to be. Top academic couselor Ana Homayoun has helped turn even the most disorganized, scattered, and unfocused boys into successful young people who consistently meet their personal and academic challenges. She does this by getting back to basics- -starting with a simple fact: Most boys needs to be taught how to get organized, how to study, and-- most important--how to visualize, embrace and meet their own goals. With an accessible and no-nonsense approach, Homayoun shows how to: ?Identify their son's disorganizational style ?Help him set academic and personal goals he cares about ?Design and establish the right "tools of the trade" ?Complete assignments without pulling all-nighters ?Help him tune out social pressure and fend off anxiety Much more than a study guide, this insightful, user-friendly book provides a roadmap for the success too many boys have trouble finding--in school and in life.

 

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I never imagined Mikey as a sixth grade boy. I imagined him as a sixth grader, of course, which to me meant brilliant, with lots of friends and impeccable behavior displayed while doing many Catholic good deeds. That is not a 6th grade boy. (Turns out it’s not a sixth grader either.)

Mikey is a sixth grade boy, and let me tell you about sixth grade boys. Sixth grade boys forget to bring work home. They forget due dates. They mismanage free time at school. They make assumptions. They don’t ask questions. Sometimes, parents, they forget to turn in a test they have taken in class. How does this happen?

“Because we graded it in class and I got a 100%.”

“…”

“And when we get our tests back we’re supposed to correct the answers we got wrong and then turn them in, and since I didn’t get any wrong, I figured I didn’t have any to turn anything in.”

I was speechless. The Mister was quicker on his feet. “Wow. I…Okay. How did you think your teacher was going to know you didn’t get any wrong on your test if you never turned it in?”

It was like a little lightbulb went off in his head, and said lightbulb shined a big spotlight on the 0% that stood in place of the 100% on his progress note. (Which made me feel horrible.) It also shined a light on something for me: no one talks about how hard middle school is for the students, especially the boys. (Which made me feel angry.)

For the last few months I’ve felt like our family was the only one having these issues. When I tried broaching the subject with other parents, I got the “Little Johnny is doing swell!” line in all its various iterations. The logical part of me knew that couldn’t be right. No child is perfect. We’re raising children, not manufacturing drones.

But logic rarely overpowers doubt and insecurity, so I spent much of October through December feeling like a failure. Maybe I hover too much. Maybe I don’t hover enough. Maybe he’s doing too much. Maybe he’s not doing enough. Then one day, after a fight about I don’t know which forgotten assignment I thought, maybe it’s not just us.

960

It’s not just us. And if you’re reading this and are experiencing a similar situation at home, it’s not just you. A teacher confirmed this to me after a discussion about another missed assignment, again done perfectly and on time, but not turned in.

“He’s either acing his classes or forgetting everything. There’s no middle ground with him!”

“That’s sixth grade. It’s an adjustment year with a huge learning curve. Totally normal.”

“But I’ve asked other parents, and their kids don’t miss a single assignment, or forget schoolwork, or..”

“Eh. They’re just not telling you about it.”

We’re all guilty of that. We like to layer our lives with filters that smooth out the edges, but this isn’t an Instagram moment. This is life, and it should be real, and honest, and beautiful, and full of mess-ups. We do a disservice to our kids when we get angry with them at home but pretend life is grand in public. We teach them to lie, to deflect, and, worst of all, to never admit the slightest mistake. We do a disservice to ourselves, too, because if we as parents act as if everything is perfect, then we can’t admit we don’t know what we’re doing, we can’t bounce ideas off each other, and we can’t gain comfort in knowing we aren’t the only ones with a child who just started studying for a math test at 9:00pm the night before the exam. We don’t get the benefit of knowing this is all normal, expected even. And I bet if we did, we wouldn’t be so angry at our kids in the first place. Just a little angry, because, ugh, it’s still sixth grade.

Then I remembered a book I bought months prior on recommendation from a reader.

Crumpled Paper

You better believe I dusted that thing off and jumped right in. I read That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized Boys Succeed in School and Life and realized, finally, I don’t suck as a mom and Mikey isn’t secretly plotting to kill me–at least not now, and not over school. Mikey is absolutely, positively normal. He’s behaving exactly as he should at this age and at this point in school.

Many educators and researchers believe there is currently a crisis in boys’ education, and if you’ve picked up this book, you may already be aware of it. Male students are, on average, between six months and a year behind their female counterparts when they start high school, and the girls stay ahead right through their senior year. The problem is clear to the parents who come into my office for the first time, typically at their wits’ end and sometimes near tears. The boy that they know to be smart, witty, thoughtful, and/or brilliant can’t remember to turn in his homework and is failing several classes. The son who was absolutely precious as a young child started slipping as a middle schooler and has now become a headache of a teenager who just this morning forgot his English essay on the printer, has no idea that he has two tests tomorrow, and still needs to return his uniform for a school sport that ended two weeks ago.

Sound familiar?

That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized Boys Succeed in School and Life

I’m recommending the book to everyone not because it was absolutely amazing. If you’re organized and pragmatic, there isn’t much new to read, which is why the book is so heavy on success stories and anecdotes. I’m recommending it because it has the potential to be a huge comfort to parents. I know I felt good knowing Mikey’s “A one day, F the next” wasn’t unusual. There are some great techniques on getting your child organized, tips on how to change your attitude or approach, and practical solutions and strategies for tackling homework, longterm projects, and tests/quizzes. There are also entire chapters devoted to special considerations like learning differences, divorced/single parenting, and illnesses (yours or the child’s).

The most important messages for me were (1) change won’t happen over night and (2) tween minds, especially boys and especially at this age, aren’t developed enough to manage their intellectual and artistic achievements. Just because they can think like an adult, doesn’t mean they can manage like an adult. How I failed to make that connection for all these months amazes me. I tell parents all the time that just because a child can read a book five grade levels ahead doesn’t mean they should. Then, I remember that I’m a new middle school mom. I’m figuring it out as I go, just like Mikey. (That’s right, new moms! You will always be a new mom with your first born! Everything is new and difficult and worth it.) Realizing I’ve been a huge part of the problem this year as we adapt as a family to middle school was a tough pill to swallow, but I did.

Luckily, we are on the upswing. Things are getting better simply because my attitude and approach changed. We’ve already put in a few of the techniques from the book into practice here at home, as well as a few I developed on my own on the fly. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll share what worked and what hasn’t.

p.s. I’m happy to report that in the last couple of weeks the parental confessional floodgates opened. I’ve had some great chats with mothers (oddly, all them have daughters) who have provided me with a wealth of insight and a dose of healthy commiseration.

four-stars

Happy, Happy

cookies

Monday

I told myself that this year I would take a day to myself, and only myself. On Monday I went on a walk, made cookies for the boys, and read a book.

Tuesday

Kindergartners are the best.

“Okay, who wants to go with Emily to the bathroom as a partner?”

“I will, Mrs. Kendall. I’m her total BFF.”

Wednesday

5th graders aren’t bad, either.

“How about this one? Newbery winner, set in France…”

“Blech. I don’t think so. It’s just so…childish.”

“…”

“…”

“You know you’re a child, right?”

“Yeah, but I’m a matured one.”

Thursday

On my way home from work, I remembered I had a bag of red potatoes that was fast approaching expiration. I roasted them for dinner and served them with sautéed kale mix and grilled salmon burgers. I avoided food waste and made a dinner everyone actually enjoyed! I swear to God, it’s the little things. The joy remembering to roast those damn potatoes brought me is ludicrous.

Friday

This post will be my second of the week, which, hey! That is more than I’ve written in months. I gave myself a goal of 2 posts per week for the new year. So far, so good!