Back to School Tips!

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The countdown to back to school has started, in some states, children have already returned. Regardless of whether your child is attending in person or virtually, things look a little different this year, but there is no reason it cannot be a fun and exciting event! In typical years, many children have anxiety and frustrations about the returning school year: no one wants to let go of the summer fun! This year both you and your child may be facing some extra emotions and obstacles, but that does not mean the new school year should be dreaded. Here are my top tips on how to make the start of the 20/21 school-year a positive one!

Back to School Shopping!

Every child loves back to school shopping: new clothes, new materials, new backpack. Even if your child will be attending school virtually this fall, there is no reason they can’t have a snazzy new outfit for the first day! They will be connecting with their friends again, meeting their teacher for the first time, and just like adults who work from home, getting dressed makes you feel better about yourself and makes you more productive! Giving your child the chance to pick out a new outfit and dress up is a guaranteed way to make them excited about school.

Talk to Them

Children have worries and fears just like we do, and even if your child seems completely relaxed and ready to go back, they most likely have a concern about something. It could be having to wear a mask all day, or their sport season being postponed, or how are they going to talk to their friends if they have to stay 6 feet apart? If your child is attending virtually, maybe they are concerned because their computer skills are lacking or they had a hard time reading the content in the spring, or perhaps they’re sad they still won’t see their friends face to face.


You can’t force a child to talk to you, but you can let them know the doors of communication are open. Asking a simple question like, “Hey, do you have any concerns about school you want to talk about?” lets your child know you are there to listen. Validate that it is ok to feel nervous or anxious or mad and that you are willing to listen if they decide they want to talk about ANYTHING.

Prepare Them

This year will present a new list of challenges, so send them into battle prepared for success. Teach them how to wash their hands adequately and express the importance of it. This is important for little ones as well as teens who might brush it off. As the mother of two boys, my favorite response to asking them to wash their hands post-bathroom is, “But I didn’t touch anything.” For little kids, have them sing the ABC’s or Happy Birthday Twice through. Post reminders in the bathroom with pictures or invest in a timer or a flashing light to make it fun.

Go over mask-wearing, the proper way to wear it, and why we wear it. Treat it like any other article of clothing that is required for school like shoes or a shirt. Buy them masks that they want to wear! This can be an opportunity to let them express their personality. Assure them that all the other children will be wearing one too, so while it may seem odd at first, it will eventually just be another part of getting ready for school.

Play Time!

Get them outside and playing! Regardless if your child is attending face to face classes or virtual classes it is A LOT of sitting. Children in elementary school need AT LEAST 1 hour of active play every day. If they haven’t had the opportunity to run around and burn off some energy in an after care program or with a sitter, let them play when you pick them up. In fact, make it a rule that they play! Homework can wait, their brains need a break and their bodies need exercise.

Fun and Simple Outdoor Play Options

Baby Pool or Sensory tub filled with water, plastic measuring cups, large eye droppers, rubber ducks (or other floating animal) and small plastic watering can

Backyard scavenger hunt: provide them with a list of things to check off or find

Bikes, Trikes and Skateboards – if you have a safe area for them to ride and play then use it!

Sprinklers – While it’s warm enough hook up a sprinkler to the hose and let them run free

Hopscotch, Jump ropes, Bean Bag Toss, Ladder Golf, Soccer Ball (speaks for itself)

Create an obstacle course using ropes, stepping stones, a balance beam, log or 2 x 4

Beach Ball Challenge, how long can they keep it in the air!

Give Them Space

Give your child a dedicated area to work, especially if they will be doing virtual schooling. Consistency is key, so create a space for them to work and make it theirs (at least while they’re working). Make it comfortable and quiet, and add little touches that make it more personal such as a picture of their grandma, some figurines of their favorite toys, or a poster of their favorite movie. If you have the room to create an area in their bedroom, I highly suggest it, just make sure what’s in their room won’t be a distraction from their work! The idea is to provide a safe and consistent space where your child can get their work done with little to no interruptions.

Office Hours

If, like many parents, you will be working from home with your kids also home, set office hours. This can work with children ages 5 and up, but it will take some practice and consistency. Set your office hours for 2-3 in the morning and 2-3 in the afternoon and explain to your children that you are working. This is an interruption-free time, emergencies excluded (their brother taking their nerf gun is not an emergency). Create an office hours sign that you can hang near your workspace to let your children know you are not to be disturbed. Keep in mind, that this doesn’t mean the house will be silent. Instead teach your children how to use a respectable volume in their voice while playing. They are going to need reminders at first, probably for a week or two. Remain firm, consistent but not harsh. If you are going to be on a call or Zoom chat, give your children a heads up that you will be doing so, so there are no unexpected surprises. In-between your office hours lavish your kids with the attention they need and want. Play a game, go for a walk, or make and eat lunch together. You need to take a break just as much as they need some mom or dad time!

Expect the Unexpected

None expects the Spanish Inquisition, and no one expected COVID or for it to last this long. Be ready and willing to remain flexible. If your son is having a really rough day and could use some extra snuggles, cut your office hours short that afternoon. When your daughter has come home on the 5th day of school and lost her 3rd mask, don’t yell and berate, this is new for her too. If your kids consistently say they’re bored after school, look at what toys they no longer play with an consider investing in some new outdoor gear. As families, we have already spent the last six months adapting the way we do things, how we function as a family and how we are navigating this thing called life, and we will continue to adapt. You’ve Got This! You Are an Amazing Parent.

Immortality Complex

We’ve all seen the numbers of COVID-19 cases fall and then rise again. At the beginning of this crisis, the majority of people becoming infected were in the 40+ range. Typically those in the younger age gap were the immune-compromised; however, recently, that’s all changed. Several states report that the majority of coronavirus cases spread and contracted in the last month have been from those in the 20-35 age group. As I read these reports and numbers, I began thinking about adolescent brain development and how it plays a role in this shift.

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Teenagers and young adults have what is referred to as an immortality complex. They are still so close to childhood that adulthood responsibilities and death seem too far away to become a reality. Many young adults who have just finished college and have joined the workforce face little to no responsibilities outside of their job and paying their bills on time. Life is a big game at this point. They are healthy and young and have that belief that nothing is going to harm them.

This stems from the fact that the brain is not fully developed until the mid-’20s for women and men may not develop fully until the age of 30. The specific part of the brain that requires more development at this point is the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is the portion of our brain that develops our personalities and allows us to consider and anticipate consequences. You will always have risk-takers and the more adventurous at any age. However, the fact that brain development is still underway is why we see more cases of drunk driving, drug use, engagement in dangerous stunts and dares, and, most recently, the flaunting of COVID-19 recommendations and the crowding of bars and restaurants. Essentially, those 30 and under could be considered adolescents in terms of brain development.

Some young adults have acknowledged the risks but have said, in so many words, “So what?”. They believe that even if they contract the disease, they will be fine. Psychologist, David Elkind, termed this phase of development, “Adolescent Egocentrism.” They think only of themselves and not the potential harm they may cause others through their actions. By the end of June, many states were reporting that the majority of new cases were under 40, while the older demographics saw a drop in cases. These younger individuals becoming infected are also being hospitalized. I know of two people, personally, who are were behaving responsibly and still contracted the disease and ended up hospitalized. But even if someone is not contracting the disease, or even doing so mildly, they are potentially passing it on to others who may not be so lucky.

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None of us want to be in this situation, the recent re-shutdowns and back in place restrictions are stifling for all of us. But it is imperative that we continue to follow the orders of our local and state governments. Stay home, wear a mask, and engage in social distancing as much as possible. The biggest struggle many are facing right now is schools being closed. It is without a doubt a hardship; I am there with you; my children will be schooling virtually through December. But, when you have the young adult population unable to properly follow social distancing and mask guidelines due to unfinalized brain development, do we actually expect high schoolers, let alone, kindergartners to engage in these safe practices?

We can discuss what is going on with our children and teens until we are blue in the face. We should be talking about these things with our little ones. But expecting children, the most naturally social of our species, with young and still developing brains to follow suit when young adults are proving they don’t possess the ability to is setting up a situation bound to fail.

Stay safe and Healthy and encourage those around you to follow social distancing guidelines so that we can all phase back into normalcy.

ADHD and My Child: the battle with healthcare

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My youngest son is the equivalent to the Tasmanian Devil at times, and I don’t mean the actual animal that lives in the bush, I mean that little cartoon guy that just spun everywhere and caused destruction in his path. It has been a challenge dealing with his lack of control at times, but there is only so much control he has. At the age of 5 he was diagnosed with ADHD, and it’s severe. As an early childhood educator I knew something was off developmentally a few years earlier but ADHD and ADD are not typically diagnosed until school age. All we knew was that he was struggling, a lot, in preschool due to his inability to keep his hands to himself, his lack of self control, outbursts both positive and negative, and the Tasmanian devil that seems to have inhabited his body.

After conducting research on my end, talking to his teacher and other professionals in the field, we came to the conclusion that he should be evaluated for ADHD. Luckily for us, his pediatrician also turned out to be the leading expert on ADHD in the area. That gave us extra peace of mind as we went through this process. After meeting with the doctor privately and conducting evaluations with our son we decided we would try medication. Deciding to use medication was not a snap decision. We had heard horror stories about children turned into zombies and the last thing we wanted was for him to lose was his spark. When he is not in tailspin mode destroying all in site he is an intelligent, funny and entertaining kid.

He wanted his hair to look like Sonic the Hedgehog this summer!

My son loves Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi. He was so obsessed with the Broadway Musical Newsies that the age of 3 he was the main character, Jack Kelly for Halloween. He’s creative and silly but he also has no impulse control, yells his favorite phrase “Booty-Butt” without warning at the top of his lungs, and used to greet people by hitting them in the crotch. Not forcefully, but enough to hurt, particularly if you were a man. We knew he couldn’t continue on this path and be successful. This wasn’t just your typical case of a child gone wild. I am a career expert in Early Childhood, his father has an undergraduate degree in Psychology. We knew what we should be doing to help him and nothing seemed to work.

The first medication we tried him on cost a whopping $60 a month after insurance. $60 a month for something my child needed to function. We saw results but he was still struggling. Especially as the evening wore on and the medication wore off. He became next to impossible to corral into anything productive. He started therapy with a psychologist and we were hoping to see major results. Unfortunately they seemed slow to come. On the upside he was getting much better reports from school and I was more confident about him starting kindergarten in the fall. At home he still wreaked havoc, knocked things over, ran around and caused general frustration for everyone.

Yes we tried discipline, time outs, meaningful chats, loss of privileges, positive re-direction. If it was in an expert handbook, we tried it. Nothing seemed to work for him. The only plan that has seemed to work is ignoring the negative behavior and over the top praise the positive choices. I have been reading the book Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser and his advice seems to be the first and only thing outside of medication that has had a positive effect on my son. And I love that feels built up by praise. I want to cheer him on and praise him and give him confidence, but there are only so many times I can hear “Booty-Butt” screamed at the top of his lungs while he claps his hands loudly. These aren’t discipline issue, these are impulse control issues. His brain is simply wired differently.

Amidst Cornoavirus shut-downs, he turned 6. We went in for his physical and I asked if there was something new we could try. After talking to me and performing the evaluation the doctor offered a new option. He said it was taken twice a day, was more potent and should have a more lasting effect. I was ecstatic. I went to get the prescription filled and they wanted $365. I’m sorry, for one month? On insurance?! That was simply not sustainable but my child potentially needed this to thrive. After frantic searching I found a manufacturer’s coupon that cut it down to $185 a month. The upside, it seems to be working wonders for him. I am seeing a more calm and engaged child. I am better able to hold conversations with him, and I see him able to focus for longer periods. In addition, it is not suppressing his appetite the way the first one was. These are all wins. The downside is I have to pay almost $200 a month for a medication, for a mainstream mental health disorder in order to help my child succeed and function they way a typical 6 year old should.

What does this say to you about America’s health care policies? Put simply, they are garbage. My son’s father is a doctor, he works for a major corporation, he should have top notch insurance, yet this is what he is offered. A plan that doesn’t even cover medications aimed at treating a common mental health disorder. It angers me and disgusts me. We are fortunate that while it’s not easy, we can afford to pay this amount each month to help our child, but what about all the people who can’t? Without insurance this same medication was over $600! As a mom and an educator I am calling out the U.S. Healthcare system and pharmaceutical companies. How dare you make billions each year and rake us over the coals for our basic needs. How do you expect America’s children to thrive and meet their potential when many don’t have access to their medication needs? It is an absolute travesty that in what is supposed to be the country of Freedom and Liberty the average American child does not have access nor can afford basic health care costs.

Daughter to Disability; my one of a kind Dad

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My dad was always my number one fan and believed I could accomplish anything and everything. The best piece of advice he gave me was to try. I did not have to be the world’s best ballet dancer or the kid who scored the most goals on the soccer team, but if I was interested in something, I should try. If I hated it or failed, no big deal, I could stop, but only once the initial commitment came to a natural end. I didn’t have to be the best, i just had to try my best.

By encouraging me to carry on and follow through on a commitment, I learned the value of perseverance and honor. Staying true to your word is a valuable trait I hold onto to this day. It also means saying no when you know you can’t follow through. Saying yes to everything because you don’t want to let people down is a slippery slope to go down.

Germany, Summer 1996

I have many fond memories of my dad as a child, playing Wiffle ball in the backyard, being thrown in the air in the pool, and him allowing me and my sisters to style his hair with barrettes until he looked fabulous according to under ten selves. My dad was a loving but firm dad. He gave support, guidance, love, but we also knew when we crossed the line and would be subjected to a good old fashioned “dad talk.”

My dad was an FBI agent, which made him one of the coolest dads to have among my friends. I remember the sense of pride I felt when he would be a chaperone on a field trip come in for career day. I looked up to my dad in a way, and I imagine most young girls do. I was never a popular kid, geeky, awkward, and little chunky, but when my dad was around, I felt like the most popular kid in school.

Two of my favorite memories of my dad are related to those “serious” topics of drugs and dating. I remember he was sitting at our giant desktop computer in the living area, and I was in the kitchen microwaving something, and on the T.V., a commercial about talking to your kids about drugs came on. My dad looked up from the computer and said, “Do you do drugs?” I was roughly thirteen or fourteen at the time, I said, “No.” and he replied “Ok, good.” and that was that. The second was that he used to tell my older sister that he used his FBI skills to track any guy she dated. I was pretty sure this was false at the time, but I remember thinking, “Yikes!”

My dad had an excellent sense of humor and loved to pull our legs, as the expression goes. In the summer of ’92, we took a family vacation to Washington, D.C., and among the famous sites, he arranged a private tour of FBI headquarters for us. Little did I know that 15 years later, I would be living in D.C. and working two blocks from these same headquarters. During the tour, we were taken down to a basement level and told that this is where the Xfiles were kept!! It wasn’t until several years later that I realized there were indeed no Xfiles…. at least that we know of 😉

2008

My dad loved Indiana Jones, MacGyver, Crime dramas, Andrew Llyod Webber musicals, playing his guitar, and supporting his three girls in all our adventures, whether sports, musical theater, or learning a new instrument. He built us a treehouse and a lemonade stand. We went to Phillies games and out on daddy-daughter dates.

Circa 1983

In my early teens, my dad was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a condition being made more mainstream recognizable by the new T.V. show, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. PSP is a condition that slowly creates the loss of your motor skills. It affects one’s ability to eat and swallow food, speak, walk, and perform essential functions for yourself. Over the next two decades, my dad held on much longer than any medical expert predicted. He carried on through bouts of pneumonia, a broken hip and pelvis, seizures, and depression. He received the diagnosis in his 40’s, much younger than people are typically affected. But even through this massive change in his and my family’s life, he continued to take joy in life and to be his children’s number one fan.

2012

I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like for him to go through this process, to experience the loss of the use of your body, nor would I try. But despite the adversity, my family and my dad had to overcome; I can say I was lucky to have the dad I did.

Happy Father’s Day to all the incredible men out there that make a difference in a child’s life, your presence matters.

To learn more about PSP please click here.

It’s OK to be scared, I am too.

I was recently researching a writing project, and I came across the term Re-Entry Panic Syndrome. I had not heard of this, and as I read, I began to relate to the feelings being characterized by the syndrome. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge created this name, and it addresses anxiety pertaining to concerns of re-entering the workplace. Dr. Capanna-Hodge is a mental health expert based out of Connecticut. She describes the syndrome as follows, “… it is when feelings of panic come over you like a wave and you can’t leave your home, or you have to return to work or school. You are afraid of leaving your cozy quarantine abode because you don’t want to get sick or feel unsafe.” I totally get that. It is not that I don’t want to be out in public, and I miss my students terribly, but there is a sense of worry and fear about what will happen if I go out?

Being “blessed” with diagnosed anxiety, it made sense to me that I would exhibit some of the symptoms related to Re-Entry Syndrome. I had already been feeling this dread of going back to the world. I am an introvert by nature, and because of that, I have not found quarantine to be as challenging as many others. That, unlike having anxiety, indeed, has been a blessing. We had a COVID-19 related scare in my house recently, just when everything is supposed to be dying down and becoming safer. Thankfully, the test results came back negative. Still, the fact remains, coronavirus is very much alive and thriving in parts of this country, so why would I want to go out?

Add to that, I have young children. And while I understand completely that deaths related to COVID-19 are substantial to the adult side, why take the risk? I do not personally believe I suffer from this syndrome. People I know and love have been working this whole time or have returned to work, but I am decidedly worried and cautious. I would be able to return to work without adverse psychological effects but currently, my children have no one to watch them and nowhere to go. Three of the four summer camps I enrolled my older son in this summer have been canceled, and I have no option for my younger son. It’s not exactly like I can leave a six-year-old boy and nine-year-old boy home during the day… I am sure nothing bad would happen. Oh yeah, it’s also illegal. In the words of Olaf, “This is fine.”

Like anxiety and panic disorders, those who have Re-Entry Panic Syndrome may have shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, difficulty sleeping, mood fluctuation, and irritability. However, the unique symptom is becoming upset, stressed, and worrisome when someone close to them re-enters and goes back to work. If you believe you are suffering from these symptoms, there are many steps you can take to help set your mind at ease. Use disinfectant wipes if you travel via public transportation or in a carpool. Wear your mask as much as you like, even in places it is not required. If it makes you feel mentally secure, then wear it. As we’ve been told all long, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and face. A key point is to remember is germs on electronics. Frequently clean your phone, mouse, TV remote, keypad, etc. If wearing gloves makes you feel safe, then do that too, but please keep in mind wearing gloves and a mask are not a fail-safe prevention system. Gloves serve little to no purpose unless you are taking them off each time you touch something and then wash your hands immediately. When wearing gloves as soon as you touch a surface, any germs that were on that surface are now on your gloves. So guess what? The next thing you touch now has those same germs. I have worked in early childhood for fourteen years; trust me, gloves are not a magical intervention. Please wash your hands.

If you feel you need to talk to someone or may require professional help, you can go to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America or the ADAA’s website. It offers resources and a directory if you want to search for treatment in your area. Providers offer video and/or phone sessions. You can also reach out to the SAMHSA’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-622-4357. Anxiety Anonymous is another resource if you want to reach out and talk to others. They are currently holding daily sessions to which you can call in and participate.

Re-entry panic syndrome, depression, general anxiety, whatever the case may be, it is OK to seek help. The recent situations in America have made us all feel uneasy, broken, confused, angry, and more. To quote my favorite musical, “Into the Woods,” No one is alone. If you know of someone to whom this post may be of value to, please pass it along and share it. For more information on Re-Entry Syndrome, please visit Dr. Capanna-Hodge’s website here.

Children Will Listen

The year 2020 has been one of turmoil, unrest, and confusion. Parents are dealing with how to explain to their children the scary and unexplainable things they may have been experiencing. Whenever I think about teaching my children about a delicate matter, I am reminded of lyrics from one of my favorite musicals, Into The Woods, as sung by Barbra Streisand on her album, Back to Broadway. You can listen here.

How do you say to your child in the night

Nothing is all black, but then nothing is all white?

How do you say it will all be alright

When you know that it mightn’t be true?

What do you do?

We have all felt this moment, whether as a parent, grandparent, teacher, aunt, uncle, or babysitter. The unequivocal sense of, “What do I say?”

I have always been a firm believer in telling children the truth, even if it is difficult. That does not mean I tell them every intricate detail or things beyond their understanding, but I do always try to boil it down to their level so they can understand.

There is a picture of me facing the Lincoln Memorial right after I had participated in the Women’s March in January of 2017. My friend snapped it as I was standing there, looking at the Memorial, which has always been my favorite. My son often asks me why I have that photo. He has been asking since he was nearly 6, and he first saw it 3 1/2 years ago. My explanation has gotten more in-depth as time passed; it runs along the lines of this. “Mommy went to a march, a march is where a group of people who all believe in the same thing get together and walk. There were things mommy didn’t agree with happening in the country, so I participated to show I wanted things to change.”

My children have already experienced two of the “Big Issues”, parents may face; divorce of their parents, and the death of a pet. At no point did we exclude them from asking questions or explaining things to them. I was fortunate that my divorce was remarkably civil, and we remain friends. I was able to honestly and simply tell my children that Daddy and I decided we would be better as friends, and it’s true. They never saw any fights or disagreements (not that we had many). They saw a united front, and that is one of the most important things you can do.

This year alone, as if corona virus, schools closing, activities being canceled, and vacations hanging on by a thread were not enough to discuss with our kids, riots are happening throughout the country. I am not going to discuss the politics behind the riots, that not what this blog is about, but I bring them up as a current and frightening example of a situation children may have questions about. My partner and I have made a point of not discussing them when the youngest two are around or awake. But should they happen to see or hear something, I have had to think about what I would say? My children know racism is wrong, I have listened to my son make a comment about things he has heard in movies or on YouTube, proclaiming what the person said was racist, and he was right. Explaining riots is an entirely different and complex issue..  I can’t hand you a script and tell you what to say, but I can break down the guidelines you should use when talking to your child about a difficult situation. You will have to guide the conversation to reveal your morals and feelings, something which only you can do.

  1. Present a united front. No matter what you and your partner, spouse, ex-spouse, a grandmother who lives with you, etc. believe personally, you need to come to a consensus of what and how you will say things should a question arise.

2. Consider your child’s age, temperament, and ability to understand. You know your child best. There is nothing wrong with using concepts or words they do not know; you can expand their knowledge this way, but don’t delve too far beyond, or they may become more confused.

3. Take your current mind frame into account. If you are stressed, angry, sad, they will sense that, even if they are not exactly sure what they are sensing. Children are amazingly intuitive. It’s ok to say to your child, I want to answer your question, but I need about 5 minutes, then collect yourself.

4. Talk to your child about your feelings concerning an issue, ask how they are feeling, and then validate their feelings. If they have seen a frightening photo, focus on the people’s emotions rather than what is happening. Ask them to describe what they think people are feeling.

5. Remind your children they are safe. That you are there, and they can talk to you about anything. When my children come to me and say, “Mom, can I ask you something?” or “Mom, can I tell you something?” my answer is “Always.” Children need to know they can come to you for ANYTHING. If you instill that when they are young, by the time they reach the teens, they are much more likely to come to you when things like sex, drugs, and questionable activities arise.

6. There are children’s books on pretty much every sensitive topic out there, including death, divorce, racism, moving, class structure, bullying, diversity, etc. If you can’t find the words, books, and social stories can be a great resource.

There is no easy way to talk to our kids about some of the world’s events right now. Still, it is our job to do everything in our power to prepare, educate, support, and explain so that when the time comes, we can release them out into this maddening world and watch them fly.

Guide them but step away

Children will glisten

Tamper with what is true

And children will turn

If just to be free

Careful before you say

“listen to me.”

Children will listen…

Teacher’s Pest

The long weekend is over, and that means time to head back to homeschooling. So much fun.  I don’t mind spending time with my kids but the horror that has become school work in this house is a reoccurring nightmare (or in this case daymare) I get to relive every Monday through Friday.  If I’m being totally truthful, they usually have work to finish on Saturday because the battle to get them to do more than one or two things a day has me pulling out so much hair that I usually give up.  Ok being really, really honest, I typically send them to their dad’s Saturday night with work to complete on Sunday. 

So…. I was grateful that there were no assignments yesterday.  They spent a lot of time playing outside and watching Minecraft videos.  I spent a lot of time doing work outside (I put up a new gate!) and household chores and all around we had a great day.  But now, the clock is looming over me, a big and significant 9:05 AM and I know the terror is soon to begin.  They haven’t come out of their room yet, so I am going to hold my breath and wait, why bother a resting dragon?  I know as soon as I hear that door crack my spirits will temporarily sink and the chaos of creating the balance between their desired fun time and schoolwork will begin. 

What makes it so bad you may ask?  Well to start with my younger one has ADHD.  It’s severe.  I think the only time he is fully stopped in motion is when he’s fast asleep.  However, he’s been having night terrors again, so even in sleep, of late, he can’t fully rest.  Trying to get him to focus on a tiny laptop screen and pay attention to a disembodied voice as it goes over the slide it’s showing is near to impossible.  I’ve tried having him wear earphones, and that works to some degree, as long as he doesn’t forget they are on and walk away.  Which he does.  Often.  In addition to the ADHD he has anxiety, like me and his older brother, and while his manifests in a different way than his brother’s he seems to have this intense fear of getting the answer wrong.  When he’s not sure he just says “I don’t knoooooooow” or makes up a ridiculous answer that he’s knows for sure is incorrect and starts playing with a toy nearby, or doing somersaults (literally, he loves gymnastics), or just rolling like a log across the floor.  The question could be “Name and animal the book said lives in the water.”  And he will reply “I don’t know, a monkey.”  Not cute kid, not cute.  So, I will either replay the segment or read it myself and over annunciate every word.  “Some. Animals. That. Live. In. The. Water. Include. Frogs. Snails. Crayfish. AND. ALLIGATORS.”  He’ll look at me and say “I said a monkey.”  I reach a fevered pitch and say “Just pick one of the animals I just said!”  and I’ll get “Ohhhhhhh that’s easy, frog.”  A question he could have probably answered before even reading the book since his brother is a budding Herpetologist and plans to move to Orlando and work for Dinsey’s Animal Kingdom.  I am not in the slightest joking; it has been his goal since he was 3.  We have a subscription to Reptile magazine that makes me cringe every time I flip through its pages. 

Animal Kingdom, 2016
Photo by Tiago Pereira on Pexels.com

The new phrase for the expression “If I had a dollar every time you said (blank) is “Am I done now?”  It is asked after every single question answered or math problem solved.  I have done my best to break their work up throughout the day.  An assignment here, then a break, then another assignment, then a break.  Problem is, they want to break constantly.  They want to live in a world of perpetual breaks.  And, amazingly as soon as I say it is time to work, everybody is miraculously hungry and needs a snack right now.  This literally just happened as I was editing, so I came back to add the dialogue.  It was currently 11 AM.  My kids got up around 9:30. I offered breakfast to both.  One ate, one did not, although he told me what he wanted.  I prepped his bowl of dry cereal, then he told me he wasn’t hungry.  Ok cool, it’s dry cereal, it’s not going anywhere.  At 11, I call down to the basement, “We are starting schoolwork in 5 minutes” and on cue “I HAVEN’T EVEN EATEN BREAKFAST YET MOM!”  Sigh. Eat, then work.

This would be my older one, and he is a whole different ball game. I think he might even be another sport. If there were a prize for whining and complaining, he would destroy all the competitors. I didn’t even know it was possible for a child to whine as much as he does about schoolwork. His usual proclamations are “This is sooooo hard”, “This is going to take forever!”, “I don’t understand this, it makes NO sense”, and my ultimate favorite “Can you do it for me?” No child, I will not do it for you. I went through second grade once, and that was enough for me. What I can do is sit with you, help explain things and I don’t even mind typing if it is a lengthy answer, since at 9 it is not his strong suit. But I will not simply do your work for you. I do my best to encourage him to at least read the directions and make an attempt before I jump in. His teacher and I have had many conversations about his sloppy mistakes because he rushes through to be finished. This is a boy fast tracked for the gifted program next year, but his anxiety and laziness jump in and everything becomes jumbled. Most of the time, when I attempt to help him, he doesn’t like my answer, or the way I am explaining it and then the fireworks start. He is very much like me in temperament. We both want to be perfect, we both embarrass easily, we crave our private time but at the same time want the people we most rely on close and at our disposal and we both cry at the drop of a hat. When I have tried to teach him anything over the years it usually ends badly, this is no exception. He gets mad says I’m so mean and don’t help him with anything and I snark back that I am not going to help someone who is being ungrateful and won’t listen. Lovely, I know, these are not my proudest moments as a parent. This will usually happen two or three times throughout the course one assignment. Then once the dust settles, we get to move onto the next one. Wash. Rinse Repeat.

I think it has been this crazy stress of homeschooling that has depleted my energy these last few weeks. I am a teacher, I tell myself should have been able to handle this, yet I haven’t; at least not the way I wanted to. But me being a teacher doesn’t separate the fact that I am still a mom, like all the other moms and dads out there, struggling to figure this out.

I made a promise to myself yesterday after we had so much fun putting a tent up in the backyard.  I am going to turn my engagement back on.  I will struggle through the muddy waters of schoolwork as required, but also make sure I am participating in fun things with my kids too.  I have let the stress of work take over the fun we used to have.  Summer is almost upon us, and with that the end of homeschooling, but it is still unknown what life will be like moving forward.  Will my son’s summer camps (that are all pre-paid!) go forward or will he be here with me?  Three of those weeks are camp learning about animals and reptiles and snakes (his favorite!).  He has already lost his baseball season, is he also going to lose his first time at sleep away camp?  What about the week of magic camp or baseball camp?  Will schools even open in the fall and if so, in what capacity?  We are heading, as Elsa so eloquently put it, Into the Unknown.  I can’t control the schoolwork that needs to be done right now, or the cancelled vacations and camps that may arise, but I can control how we handle our time here.  So, for today at least, I am going to create some fun, hopefully lessen everyone’s stress and then try again tomorrow.  As another one of favorite heroines said, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

A Walk Through My Wonderland

Today I did one of my favorite things and it was very restorative. My boyfriend and I walked around and through the streets of downtown Historic Annapolis. If you don’t know where or what Annapolis is, then you are missing out on one of America’s gems. Annapolis is the State Capitol of Maryland. It is a small, historically preserved city that is set on the water. It is nicknamed “The Sailing Capital of the US”. The city is ripe with early American history. It is the place George Washington resigned his military commission in 1783. I have stood in the very room. It’s a blend of old world historical charm and modern restaurants and shops. I used to live in Annapolis but last year my boyfriend and I purchased a house 15 minutes away. It has become our place. We both has history there as performers and it is where we had our first date. At least once a month we can be found there milling about, enjoying the delicious food or just sitting by the harbor drinking Starbucks. Today we enjoyed the city as tourists and really slowed down to enjoy some of the sites. Enjoy my photographic journey today!

This mini lending library is outside St. John’s College and I adore it! I even found two books today to take home with me so next time I got downtown I will replace those with two old ones of mine!

I love this wall. I have loved this wall since I first saw it. It actually stretches along the entire side of the house but I wanted to capture the plaque. You will see plaques like this on many of the homes that have been designated as part of the Historic District. This one is located on Fleet Street and it is one of my favorite side streets to walk down.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church boasts a beautiful garden behind the church. Winding paths and plenty of benches can make this a quiet respite on a busy day.

The Annapolis Harbor is always a delight to view. It’s particularly lovely on a beautiful, sunny summer day when boats can be seen sailing all over the water.

A replica of the original Liberty Bell is placed on the grounds of St. John’s College. In 1991 Alumni dedicated the memorial to fellow alumni who had died in service to their country. On the other side of the pathway is the monument pictured below which was erected in 1920. Students placed it for their fellow alumni who died in First World War. A beautiful place to pay remembrance this holiday weekend.

I wish each and everyone of you a Happy and Safe Memorial Day.

In Flanders Fields

BY JOHN MCCRAE
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Just Me and My Baby….. and Grad School

I embarked on the terrifying journey of applying to grad school 5 years after I left undergrad.  My constant thought was, “Can I do this?” Not only was the idea of applying to grad school daunting, but I had completely switched career paths. 

I grew up watching old musicals with my mother and my grandfather. My grandfather used to play Judy Garland on our drives to his house in Florida, and it was love at first sound. He used to say that he went to high school with her, which I passionately believed until later in life when, I found out he never went past the eighth grade. I bragged about this to my fellow second and third grade friends who had no idea who she was. I was the only ten-year-old I knew who could sing “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart!” from memory, or really who sang it at all.

Image Source Barbra Streisand in the film Funny Girl, 1968

With my mom, it was Funny Girl, Hello Dolly, and Oklahoma! At 13, I was pretending to be Fanny Brice in my bedroom. Barbra Streisand was my idol, and I knew I was born to perform. And not just perform, but to perform on Broadway. I was going to be a star. I wanted to sing “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma in my 6th grade talent show. They told my mother I needed to choose a different song because it was inappropriate. Seriously? It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein. For my 14th birthday, my mother took me to NYC to see Glen Close in Sunset Boulevard. It was Game Over. The final nail in the destiny coffin. Broadway star I would be. Norma Desmond is still one of my dream roles. Twenty-five years later, I’m finally almost old enough to play her… almost.

Ueno Zoo, Japan 2007

Life had different plans.  I got married at the ripe old age of 26 (already way late in the acting game) and moved to Japan for a year to save up and teach English.  Towards the end of that year, the CEO of the English school I worked for stole all the company’s money.  While I got a heartfelt apology from the company, I did not get paid for my last two months of work.  Since the company was supposed to be paying for my apartment, I was now being evicted because they also, hadn’t paid my rent for two months.  I was forced to purchase last-minute airfare to the states.  Between not being paid, having to dip into savings to pay my bills back in America, purchasing a costly flight ticket, and needing a place to rent, which required a down payment, almost $10,000 in savings were gone. So, instead of landing in New York ready to begin my struggling actor attempt, I arrived in D.C. as a reading instructor in D.C. public schools.  From there, I transitioned to an assistant preschool teacher. 

During my first two years in that position, I decided to commit to education as a career.  I’d always enjoyed being around children and had worked with them in a multitude of settings, church, girl scouts, babysitting, to name a few.  I seemed to be good at it, and I enjoyed it.  The kids made me laugh and smile, it was a good feeling.  The more I learned about child development, the more I became hooked.  Who knew so much learning and development occurred between birth and age 5?  Well, I mean the experts knew, but I didn’t, and I found it fascinating.  The question I posed to myself was, “So, now what?”  I hadn’t given up my dream of acting yet, D.C. has a vibrant theater community, and I was still performing.  Since I needed to maintain a full-time job due to having lost all my savings, I didn’t have the time to pursue acting on a professional level right now.  I had to make one of the most difficult choices I have ever made, and that was not to no longer pursue acting as a career. After a few months of indecision, I applied to grad school. 

When you’ve grown up knowing you were only going to do one thing and life throws a curve-ball straight to your head and makes you see stars, you have to come to and make a decision.  Once I made the choice and became accepted to school, the idea was no longer scary or painful.  Two months into school, I became pregnant.  It wasn’t wholly unplanned; since I was no longer going to auditions why not peruse my other dream, becoming a mom. I just didn’t think it would happen that fast.  As my due date approached, I worked ahead and informed my professors.  The day my son was born, about a week and a half before the semester ended, I submitted my final project hooked up to IV’s and in the delivery room.  I am nothing, if not dedicated, to my work.  I had a few weeks of new mom bliss (Ha! Mesh maternity underwear, ice packs for my vagina, and nipples so cracked and sore from nursing I had to get $80 prescription-strength cream) and then it was time to go back to school.  Fortunately, I was earning my degree online from a brick and mortar university; that’s campus, to this day, I have never stepped foot on.  I fit assignments in between nursing and naps and diaper changes.  When it came time to begin work on my thesis, I would leave the house.  I was back at work by this point and could often be found on my lunch break at the Starbucks on N.W. D Street and Indiana Ave in D.C. doing research.  In the evenings and on the weekends, if my husband of the time was home (he was taking pre-med classes), I would head to our local Starbucks, sometimes for hours at a time.  On my walk over there, my anxiety would kick in, wondering if someone would be at one of two favorite tables.  If someone was at my table, yes, my table, I couldn’t concentrate or get any real work done.

I would sit where I could see the coveted spot and watch like a furtive hawk so I could sweep and claim the table once vacated.  These days that anxiety is channeled towards my weekly trip out of the house to the grocery store.  I go early every Friday morning, re-stock day, and panic prior to my arrival.  What if they don’t have toilet paper again?  What if there are out of the flavor of Hot Pockets my son obsesses over?  Can there please be my favorite brand of seltzer water??  And don’t even get me started over the lack of frozen French toast sticks…. It’s not fun.

I pushed on through anxiety, countless hours of research and writing, and re-writing, and finally, two years after I started, I graduated with a 4.0.  Going back to school was one of the greatest things I have done for myself.  I still perform regularly, although corona-virus has put that temporarily on hold, but now, I do it solely for me.  I may not have made it to Broadway, and honestly, I still hold out hope, but I have become a pretty big deal in my own way, and for that, I couldn’t be prouder of myself. 

From top to bottom: Your’e a Good Man Charlie Brown 2019, Damn Yankees 2018, How the Grinch Stole Christmas 2017.

The Power of Music

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As a singer and performer music has a phenomenal power over me. It takes me to places deep inside and gives me a strength like no other. Singing is how I express my soul to others. It provides me a way to communicate when nothing else gets through. Face to face I can be extremely shy and quiet. I may come off as goofy or awkward but when I sing I can reach you. Here are some songs that get me through when it is dark.

Rescue by Lauren Daigle

This is Me The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

Defying Gravity Wicked

Almost Sweet Hoozier

America’s Sweetheart Elle King

Gold Once: A New Musical

Waving Through a Window Dear Evan Hansen

Piece by Piece (Idol Version) by Kelly Clarkson

Uninvited Alanis Morisette

First Burn Hamilton Remix Single

Below are some of my recordings. I am not looking for praise or approval. I know they are not perfect and I make mistakes but I wanted to share my musical soul with you.

Shallow from A Star is Born sung with my guy

The Wizard an I from Wicked

When We Were Young Adele