Taking Time for Mom

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I love having my nails done—I loved nail polish when I was a little girl and was always giving myself manicures, complete with base coat and top coat, even when I was 10 or 11. I generally find going to a salon for a mani/pedi to be a relaxing experience. I used to joke with my husband that when I got a full-time job after gradutation, I needed to make enough money to be able to pay my student loans back and get more regular manis and pedis.

Well, eventually that has kind of happened. I found an amazing salon that is relatively close to our house and is near my office and I’m there about every two weeks. I love it and I love that time for me.

Between my work schedule, commitments for the boys’ schools, sports schedules and my husband’s schedule, my time is limited, but making time for me is important for me. As mothers, our natural tendency is to “go, go, go” and take care of everyone else but ourselves, but I become a very cranky mom if I don’t do something for myself. In addition to regular manis and pedis, I find that it’s important for me to get enough sleep and I’m generally in bed between 9:30 and 10 p.m. I know a lot of people seem shocked that I go to bed that early, but I also get up at 4:30 a.m. in the morning to do the next thing I need to do for myself—exercise! While I’m more naturally a morning person rather than a night owl, getting up at 4:30 is hard some mornings. It’s become a habit, however, and it’s the only way I’m going to get some necessary exercise in. I had slacked on exercise around Christmas last year and then had an injury from a fall in January and realized through the course of physical therapy that exercise is a must and not just to keep my weight down.

I’m a happier person when I do small things for myself. I’m a firm believer that women need to take time for themselves and that there’s truth to the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, then no one’s happy!” It’s not always easy—finding a yoga class that fits my schedule right now is hard, so I get it—but it’s important to do something that works for YOU, no matter what stage of motherhood you are in. I couldn’t go for regular manicures when my kids were younger. Life was too hectic with small children and money was tight, so I did try to paint my nails weekly after they went to bed and with the fast-dry polishes, they looked okay and it made me feel like I was doing a little something for me. When I went back to school, I treated myself to a coffee out or a lunch out at Panera once in a while when my schedule allowed for it to do something little for me. I found it refreshing. What do you do for YOU?

Happy New (School) Year!

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Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

The start of September is almost like New Year’s Day for me. Just as I wonder on January 1 how the previous year went by so quickly, I often wonder in early September how the summer flew by. Wasn’t it just early June and my boys couldn’t wait to get out of school?

The back-to-school season brings a sense of hope for the upcoming school year. Each school year produces new challenges and I often hope that our family gets through it with minimal stress and meltdowns. As the boys get older, the homework increases, the after-school activities add up and the bedtimes get later. Meanwhile, I’m getting older and love going to bed earlier and earlier.

This year presents a new challenge for us. My oldest son will be in eighth grade and remaining at our public middle school, a decision that makes the most sense for us due to his special education needs. However, my youngest son, who will be going into the sixth grade, will be moving to a parochial middle school/high school in a neighboring city. A new school, new people to get to know, new policies and protocols, a different academic calendar….and new expenses. We are excited about this new adventure for him and this seems to be the best school after researching our options, but it’s not without its challenges for two working parents. There are no bussing options and we are still researching carpool options. It’s a lot to figure out and fortunately we have some flexibility for the first few weeks. By November we’ll be in a groove and then something will change—an activity will be added to the mix or our carpool will change. We know we’ll figure it all out, as we always do, but September is always a new beginning for many families. I look forward to it with excitement, hope and a little bit of parental trepidation. It isn’t just the kids who get nervous about back to school!

 

The Elementary School Drop-off and Pick-up Woes!

 Photo courtesy of www.myparkingsign.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.myparkingsign.com

Dismissal time from school—ask many moms who pick their children up and the stories will just start.  You’ll hear stories of people nearly getting hit people or of cars getting dinged.  You might hear stories about parents yelling at each other or using hand gestures to communicate their frustrations to each other.  You’ll hear about mothers grasping the steering wheel in frustration while simultaneously trying not to curse with the kids in the car.  (Oh wait, that might be me.)

Why does all of this happen?  Why do normally rational people, who typically obey traffic laws, park wherever they want, despite the amount of cars that become blocked in by people doing whatever they want?  Why do some people feel they can just cross the roadway with their kid’s hand clenched in theirs, even when they see a car coming?

I’ve always found the entitlement that occurs during pick up and drop off to be interesting.  It’s so frustrating to me to be waiting to get to a safe spot to pull over to drop off my kids and the person in front of me is dilly-dallying.  Is it really necessary to pull over (to the drop off area that is supposed to move quickly), get out of the car at a snail’s speed, get little Johnny out of the car, grab his backpack from the TRUNK (why doesn’t he have it in the backseat with him??) and then make a production out of the hugs and kisses you have to give him?  The best is when the mom stands there and watches him walk up the steps and into the building and waves the entire time.

I somewhat understand why people are frustrated in the afternoon.  People are rushing to get home and get homework done, or they need to go to an activity or they need to go to another school to pick up another child.  The latter is my frustration this year.  Both kids are in two different schools, but they get out at the same time.  My oldest gets a bit nervous waiting for me, even though he now has a cell phone and calls to find out when I’ll be there, so I feel the need to rush to get to him.  Even so, I still don’t park wherever I want and block people in so that I can get out first.   That’s just obnoxious.

Do you have any interesting tales to tell about drop-off and dismissal at your kids’ school?

**Note: the drop-off scenario mentioned above does not represent a particular person.  This represents a combination of many scenarios I’ve observed over the years.

Yes, kids grow up too fast, but…..

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My Boston fans!

They can be a lot of fun when they are older.  My boys both have birthdays next month and my oldest will be 12 and my youngest will be 9.  I sometimes wonder where the time has gone, but they are at ages now that are fun.  They can joke, they are pretty self-sufficient (I haven’t wiped a bum in years) and they can enjoy things that my husband and I also enjoy—take, for instance, sports.

My kids are kind of obsessed with Boston sports.  It can be a great thing when a team is winning and it kind of stinks when they lose.  When my youngest cried when the Patriots lost the last Super Bowl in which they played, I was not happy.  But waking my kids up this morning to tell them that the Boston Bruins won last night after a big come back was awesome.  And it’s not just that they were happy that they won.  When my kids asked which team the Bruins will play in the next series and my husband told them, my oldest said, “That’s going to be tough for them” because they get it.  They understand the games a heck of a lot more than I do.  They can have conversations about the games with my husband and talk statistics and analysis.  I end up left out of these conversations because I really don’t understand this stuff at all, but that’s ok.

 

And it’s not just sports.  My youngest loves to talk about current events.  He loves to take in information and learn new things, so he loves to know what is going on in the world.  It’s amazing to listen to an 8-year-old’s perspective.

 

While it stinks to think of how quickly the years fly by, I love the young men my boys are becoming.  I love that they are taking life in and participating in it.  I love that they can team up with their dad and tease me.  I love listening to them have conversations with adults.  And my oldest might almost be as tall as I am, but both boys still make sure to give me a hug and a kiss before bed.  After all, they are still my boys.

 

It’s like riding a bike…..

Bike riding makes my son happy, so I should try it, too!
Bike riding makes my son happy, so I should try it, too!

How often do people use that analogy when speaking to others about trying some long-lost activity that they are afraid they’ve forgotten?  I hear it often because supposedly one can’t forget how to ride a bike.

I’ll be testing out that theory today.

I haven’t regularly ridden a bike in over 20 years.  I never owned a 10-speed bicycle when I was a kid.  We just weren’t bike riders and I never learned how to properly ride in the street.  Well, today, I’m buying a bike.

You see, my kids have bikes and love them.  My husband used to own a bike and ride regularly.  We have bike paths in our area and my kids want to go on family bike rides.  We bought my husband a bike yesterday and we are going today to get one for me.  We are looking at this as a family investment—two bikes, a rack for the minivan, and we’ll need to have a trailer hitch installed on our minivan for the rack.  It’s going to be quite expensive, but we’ve been budgeting for this since last summer.

It should be interesting and my kids have asked if I’m going to need training wheels and have offered their assistance if I need it.  We’re leaving soon for the bike shop.  I’m kind of nervous, but hopefully that common analogy will be true.  Wish me luck!

The little scars left behind

Today is a bittersweet day. Today is my son’s annual IEP meeting/3-year evaluation. It’s our last at his current school. I am early for the meeting since I had to get the boys to school on time, so here I sit in my car, pondering what will happen during the meeting.

I always go into these meetings with a sense of hope, a hope that I will hear that my son has made extraordinary progress. I’ve seen great progress this year, as I often do. I see a beautiful boy who is compassionate and passionate about Boston sports. I see a boy who still likes to give me hugs at age 11, who still feels that his younger brother is his best friend.

Yet what I hear during these meetings is how far behind my son still is. I hear how his reading level is many grade levels behind and who can’t handle math at his current grade level without extra tools. I know the special education team sees progress, but I can’t seem to hear it when the meeting is filled with talk of all that my son can’t do. It’s a harsh reality that I’m aware of, but it’s hard to hear.

These meetings are draining. Who wants to look at their children as IQ scores, numbers pertaining to whatever reading benchmark the school is using this year, and math levels that just really aren’t attainable yet?

We do so much to try to help our son reach his goals and this year he’s met most of them. Awesome, right? Yes, it is. But soon I get to be reminded that he’s not “typical” and that he’s behind his peers.

My hope is that one day I’ll be able to come out of one of these meetings without a sense of being emotionally beaten up. Every meeting leaves a little scar.

**Update: The meeting went as well as to be expected.  It was filled with data and analysis about my son’s most recent testing, along with funny anecdotes about him, how he handled the testing, how he performs in school outside of the testing situations and how he’s a wonderful boy who’s polite and has made nice progress.  As my wonderful husband pointed out, we do need this information and it is an important part of who our son is, but it’s still hard to hear.  It’s still draining to hear so many negatives about our son in a 2+ hour time frame when, as a mother, I would love to focus just on the wonderful pieces and forget that there are the tougher parts of the autism puzzle. 

Time to “rock” 2013!

(I couldn’t resist the title of this post–go ahead, have a laugh at my expense and call me a dork. I know you want to if you have an idea where this is going.)

First things first: last semester was kind of miserable.  It was a huge challenge for me and also for my family.

I’ve mentioned frequently that I am not a fan of science courses. I struggle with them.  Science is not my thing. I don’t get it. Unfortunately for me, two lab science courses are required at my university, so I had to deal and try to make it my thing, at least for the semester.

Last semester’s science course, geology, kicked my butt. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but suffice it to say that leaving my house at 6:45 a.m. for tutoring sessions twice a week was not fun. It was hard for me, it was hard for my husband and it was hard for my kids. I worked harder for that course than any other course I’ve ever taken. There was a ton of homework for the class AND a paper AND a group project. There were times my husband said he forgot that I was taking other courses because all he ever heard about or saw me working on was geology.

In the end, I got a B+. You might be wondering, “Why did she kill herself for a B+?”  I did horribly on all the exams except for the final. I got C-/Ds on them. However, there was so much additional work that, in the end, my average came up to an 83 and then the professor curved up to a B+. I also ended up with an 86 on the final, but that was because the professor changed the format of the exam and I didn’t have to do the dreaded (for me, anyway) multiple choice questions.  That was where I’d lose the most points.

The rock kit my son got for Christmas.  He decided "rocks were cool" this semester, of all semesters.
The rock kit my son got for Christmas. He decided “rocks were cool” this semester, of all semesters.

Because of this class, I really neglected a lot–my family, myself, my health–and struggled with “balance”. I’ve really put a lot into perspective and while this journey of being a full-time college student and having a family is difficult, I need to find a way to focus on eating better, fitting in exercise, lowering my cholesterol, and getting a better night’s sleep. I’ve started some habits that I hope to continue. I have a better schedule for the spring semester and I hope that will help me accomplish these goals.  I don’t expect any of this to be easy, but I hope I can find a way to make it all come together.  I can’t live on cafeteria food and coffee or my health will decline.

Last year was a great year.  I’ve accomplished a lot, but now it’s on to bigger and better things!  Make 2013 a great year!