Friday Free for All~Back to School Edition

These short school weeks are hard. The kids are WIPED OUT when they get off the bus, and by wiped out I mean cranky and angry and not at all a pleasure to be around. We’re taking a trip to the library after school today in a desperate attempt hopes that everyone will get rid of their crankies before we step inside the house. Parenting school age kids is a rough gig sometimes.

September is my vacation time. Classroom volunteering doesn’t begin until October (after the myriad of testing dates-3 weeks worth-end) which means I have free time to myself after a long summer vacation of only having free time when I went to work. I can play Candy Crush with no one looking over my shoulder, eat a piece of candy without everyone whining that “it’s not FAAAAIR” and generally take a small breather during the day. Oh sure, the house needs to be vacuumed and the collection of paperwork from school is starting to breed (already, I KNOW) and oh look the dishes aren’t done. But in order to be a better me when the zombies darling cherubs get off the bus, I’m going to drink coffee, fritter away time on Facebook and read a book. At least for today.

Fall showed up on our doorstep the other night and it’s glorious right now. The mornings have been chilly and the afternoons have been nice, unlike last week when the kids were sweltering at school and we had to run the air conditioners all day. The leaves haven’t started to turn their gorgeous colors quite yet, but this new weather pattern will definitely help the cause. Fall has always been my favorite season and I try to soak it up when it arrives. I think I need to go dig out some fall related decorations today.

Soccer is on the agenda for us this weekend. What about you?

Protective

As the mom of four active kids, I’ve learned what I can let go of, like pulling clean laundry out of the basket instead of a bureau, and what I stick to my guns about, like looking both ways before crossing a parking lot (we live in the woods, away from a public street). One thing I am extremely protective of though, are my kids’ noggins.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1.7 million people die, are hospitalized, or seen in the emergency room for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) every year. Almost half a million emergency department visits for TBI that occur each year are among children aged 0 to 14 years. The most common type of TBI is a concussion, frequently defined as a head injury with a temporary loss of brain function. Concussions can cause a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms (definition from Wikipedia).

The CDC has created a Heads Up campaign, which is aimed at health care providers, parents, schools, even sports coaches in order to get the word out about TBI. There are a variety of materials available by going to the CDC’s website. The CDC also has a Facebook page where parents, athletes and coaches can share stories or ask the CDC questions about the campaign. Knowing what a concussion is, what the symptoms are and how to treat it are such important tools for parents, and having that information at our fingertips is even better.

As a parent, it is my job to keep my kids safe, but that doesn’t mean that I have to do it alone. I am fortunate that when Drew and Megan play hockey, they are required to wear a helmet every single time they step out on the ice. Even when we take them to open ice times just to skate, we make sure they wear a helmet. Both times that Annie and Izzie have taken the ice, they’ve done so with their bike helmets on. All the coaches in the hockey program are required to wear a helmet on the ice as well. Not only does it keep them safe, it sets a great example for the kids to see. As a hockey family, we’ve seen the NHL take a greater interest in the effects of concussions on its players such as Marc Savard and Sidney Crosby. The discussion is important for everyone, not just kids.

My kids are also required to wear their helmets when they bike or scooter or roller skate/blade in our garage. We don’t have a paved driveway, so they go round and round inside my garage like lunatics. I didn’t wear a helmet growing up; it wasn’t the law and the word about concussions wasn’t out there like it is now. I rode my bike up and down the street, flipping over the handlebars more than once. I’m lucky that I came out relatively unscathed.

While wearing a helmet when they skate or bike might seem like such a little thing, it’s the single greatest thing I can do to protect my kids from TBI. I even ask that their friends wear a helmet when they come to play if they want to ride bikes or trikes. While I know that I may not be able to protect them from ever getting a TBI, the least I can do is be proactive by knowing how to protect them and what to do if they ever do fall and hit their head.

I wrote this blog post while participating in a SocialMoms blogging program for which I may receive a thank you kit. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

It Had to Happen Eventually (the day I talked to my kid about 9/11)

Yesterday morning I woke up to a text from Doug (who leaves before I even crawl out of bed) that Osama bin Laden had been killed. My immediate reaction was “what” followed by “wow”. My second reaction was wondering how I was going to explain this to Megan.

Megan was 8 months old on September 11, 2001. While she slept soundly in her crib each night for the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks, Doug and I watched the news and cried. We cried for the people lost, for the families suffering, for the pain our nation felt. We wondered why this happened, how this happened, what would happen next.

Over the years, we’ve watched the specials and followed the anniversary of that day. But we’ve never involved the kids, because they’ve always been too young. It’s hard enough as adults to understand that happened that day, but to explain such horrors to children just wasn’t something we were prepared to deal with.

However, Megan is 10 now and has a reading teacher who talks to them about current events. Over the course of this school year, we’ve talked about tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and yesterday, September 11th. Knowing this, I asked her if her teacher had talked about “anything special” yesterday, and she mentioned the death of bin Laden. While I tend to shy away from showing her the uglier side of the world because she is so sensitive, I sat down and gave her what I call the “Reader’s Digest” version of September 11th. I pulled up photos of the Twin Towers before that day, and some photos of the planes and the towers burning. I showed her photos of the Pentagon, of the field in Shanksville, and we talked. We talked of the heroes of that day, of the thousands who died. It was emotionally exhausting for me and having to explain to my 10 year old why I was crying was even more difficult. I didn’t personally know anyone that died that day, but that didn’t make it any less difficult for me to bear.

The talk yesterday lead to more quick trips through history~World War II (she asked about Pearl Harbor), Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hitler. I’m sure it was a lot for her to take in and digest; I know it was a lot of history and emotion for me to discuss. While I felt exhausted after our talk, I was glad that we had had it. I can’t say that I won’t continue to shelter her a bit from the uglier things, I do know that I don’t have to completely keep her out of the loop when things happen in the world. She is stronger than I give her credit for sometimes. I only hope she can stay that way.

"Tween" big and little

I am the parent of a tween. Apparently a tween is aged 9-12, and I am the parent of one. Um, holy crap. A tween. A girl tween. Hold me. Or send me a padded room (for me, not her).

Ahem.

A tween isn’t a little girl anymore. But a tween isn’t a big girl either. So she’s stuck in the middle, too big for little girl things, and not quite big enough for big girl things. Which puts us in the position of trying to make the best decision for her so that she doesn’t feel like we’re treating her like a baby and also that we aren’t expecting too much out of a 9 year old.

Case in point: softball and hockey. She has played minor league softball for 2 years, which makes her quite the veteran. She misses the cutoff to try out for major league softball by one month. We’ve asked the VP of softball for our league to see if she can get a waiver to at least try out for majors and are waiting on an answer. Now normally we wouldn’t even have questioned the decision, but the kid is a good player. She needs to be with older kids that have the experience and can make her an even better player. To stay in minors with first year players (who are 7) could potentially discourage her from playing. We’ll see how that all plays out.

Hockey is another story. This weekend is her final weekend as a Mite, and next year we have two choices for her: Squirts (with boys like she’s always done) and all girls (from ages 9-14). After Squirts, she needs to play on the all girl team as I don’t believe that girls are allowed to play PeeWee, where they teach checking (in ice hockey, girls do NOT check as it’s not allowed under the rules). In this case, we are totally unsure where to place her in the fall. At first, we (ok, I) really wanted to put her on the girls team since she’d eventually end up there if she continued playing. But as I’ve thought more about it, I’m leaning toward making her a Squirt for the next two years, and it has (almost) nothing to do with gender, but more to do with age. Squirts are all 9 and 10 years old. She’ll be with her peers, even if some of them are much better than she is, and some aren’t as good. I worry that putting her on the all girl team could put undue pressure on her to be as good as the 14 year olds. I also worry because quite frankly, girls are mean, and putting a 9 year old with much older girls could be potentially more stressful than we’d like. We’ve asked Meg what she’d like to do and she’s unsure at this time. At least we have some time to figure it all out.

I figure if I survive parenting one tween I’ll be golden when I have to do it all over again with the twins. Either that, or I’ll have gone completely over the edge trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do for Meg and the girls will have to fend for themselves.

I didn’t have my A game today

I would not make a good single parent. I tip my hat to those single parents out there, because holy crap is it hard being alone 24/7. Now granted, unless I came into some serious money, I wouldn’t be home all day long as a single parent, because I would have to be out of the home working to pay for food, and clothes, and other such sundries. I just didn’t have my A game today. I didn’t know how to occupy the twins so that they wouldn’t climb the couches and run, or open up drawers and slam them shut. I missed my older kids, even though a part of me was glad they weren’t home. It took me all day to empty the dishwasher, because when the twins did finally nap it was all I could do to make myself a sandwich and watch some tv. I never turn the tv on during the day for myself. I have one more full day alone, with all four kids, and I have absolutely no idea how I am going to manage.

I never thought I would say that I don’t like being a stay at home parent. It was something I wished for so often when I was working and hated my job and just wanted to be with my baby girl. My mom stayed home until I was 12 and old enough to watch my brother for a bit after school and I really loved it. I just don’t know why I don’t feel that way about it all now. I am certain that a lot of my issues with being at home has to do with the age differences of the kids. Only the twins are in the same place, and of course that is a busy place for me and I don’t get to give the other kids any kind of time or attention. I see those words, I understand them, but there isn’t anything I can DO about it. I want to enjoy my chaotic life, but instead it makes me cringe and want to lash out. I want peace and quiet and when I get it, I don’t know what to do with it. There are days when leaving it all behind and never coming back never sounded so good.

It’s sad for me to realize that what I thought was my dream isn’t working out as well as I’d hoped. I know that’s why I butt heads with the kids so often. I’m not mad at them, but mad at myself that I don’t get to give them the best of me. I don’t know where that person went, or who she even is anymore. That is so unfair to my children. I just want to change things, yet I don’t even know where to begin. I’m not asking for the perfect life; I’m just asking for something better than this.

Mom Gone Mad?

I am sitting at my kitchen table using my piece of junk laptop. The ONLY sounds are the twins having lunch, and the click click of my fingernails on the keyboard. My older kids have gone for a playdate/sleepover with my in-laws. So riddle me this~why do I feel sort of sad that they’re gone? I KNOW, right? Usually I’m bitching because they are too loud/messy/rude, but the minute they’re gone, I miss them. And that my friends is the dichotomy of being a parent.

I am sure you’re nodding your head in agreement, right? RIGHT? I am sure I’m not the only one who has days when you want to duct tape your children to the wall and chloroform them just for a moment’s peace (or am I really the only one? Please don’t call CDS if I am, thanks). And then your kids are gone, either to school or a playdate or something else, and you miss them like mad and want them home again ASAP thank-you-very-much. It’s a strange sort of balance, being a parent. You want to take care of your children, but also want them to learn to think for themselves. You want them to go off to school to learn things, then lament the non-educational things they come home and teach you (like how to do a monkey bite). You dread telling them about the birds and the bees or smoking, but would rather they be informed than ignorant. You want to hold them close, but know you have to learn to set them free so they can grow into the person you know they can be.

It is amazing how much we can love, and loathe, our children at the same time. How they can make us cry, or laugh, or smile, by sometimes just a simple glance. So I’m going to miss Meg and Drew for the rest of today, and look forward to their arrival home tomorrow. And then I’m sure they’ll be home for a few minutes and I’ll be searching around for my duct tape.

Parenting

I have to thank Amy for today’s blog idea. I actually didn’t know what I wanted to blog about, but her post got me thinking.

I think parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve been a SAHM for a little over 3 years now, and I worked outside the home for 4 years before that (when I only had 1 child). I don’t think you can compare the two; it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Each has its own set of unique circumstances, and there is no way I can say one is better than the other. But parenting itself is just a difficult job all its own.

Parenting is hard. Anyone who says that parenting their children is all sunshine, rainbows and ponies really needs to stop trying to impress everyone else with their parenting skills. I’ll say it. Parenting sucks sometimes. Like those days when the kids start bickering at the breakfast table at 7:15, and the babies dump their bottles all over the trays and no one will cooperate with getting dressed. Those are the days when my Type AAAAAAA personality kicks in and I yell. I know, I should just relax and go with the flow. But really, when I have 4 kids to get down to the bus stop at 8 am and everyone is crying and screaming, why on earth would I just smile and go with it? And why would I pretend to the rest of the world that it’s all good? So that I look good to some other mother? Forget it. I actually don’t care what people think of me. Oh, I used to care what people thought of me. I used to care an awful lot. But then I realized that I am doing my best (most days) and that if someone thinks they can do better, just give me a shout out.

Since when did raising our children become some sort of competition? Why is it so hard to admit to another mother that parenting is hard? Oh yes, I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of glossing over the tough times so that I don’t sound like I’m complaining. But then there are the days when I count the hours until the kids go to bed and I don’t care who knows.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I love my children. I would do anything for my children. I love their kisses, hugs, funny looks, silly sayings. But being their Mama is challenging and I will be the first to admit it.