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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

10 Things I Wish I'd Known



As 2014 comes to a close, we all tend to become rather nostalgic and think about the past and what we want to change for the next year. I've had Honey Bunny home since 2010 and have been thinking about how far we've come; from a young middle schooler to at the middle of her junior in high school. Here's what I wish I'd known entering into the realm of life learning and home education:

1) There Is Only One Way Home Education Works. Yep, you read that right. It's the way that works for YOUR child! After years of trial and error, we discovered Honey Bunny requires structured learning and assignments. Boo Bear? Open ended and free flowing learning. Both are on opposite ends of the learning spectrum and both are learning a ton!

2) Keeping Doubters In The Loop Is Important. Remember, it is their fear that motivates them. Try creating a daily log update, or a weekly update, something that is encouraging and shows the learning. With Boo Bear, when my in-laws didn't quite understand why we were educating her at home, and without a curriculum, I made sure to take pictures every day and at the end of the month create a slideshow presentation showing her progress in all subjects. They loved that they had an update on their granddaughter and could see her learning subjects more in depth than school and it gave them something to brag about at luncheons. For me, it showed a progress of learning which felt good to look back upon.

3) Prepare Yourself For Spontaneous Learning. Sounds like an oxymoron, huh? Here's an example: when going to the playground, I look up physics terms and explanations. I focus on only one or two because truthfully, I never took physics and my memory for it won't be grand. While we are there, I introduce the concept, the vocabulary and the explanation - all while having fun. We also do an SAT word of the week. So Boo Bear, who is 7, has a full vocabulary of large SAT words at her disposal in her conversations.  If everything is learning, then learning is everything.

4) Keep Your Priorities Straight! For some, that is keeping everything organized, for others it's making sure you enjoy the beautiful weather and allow the dust to gather for a rainy day, for another it is keeping up on the latest gaming updates. Remember to check in with yourself and your kids on a daily basis. Priorities change daily. Ask yourself and your kids what your daily goal is and check in at  night to see if it was accomplished. If it wasn't, did something happen to usurp that priority? Did it change? Why didn't it happen and what could be done differently next to for it to be accomplished? Use small opportunities like that to introduce the concept of priority planning. It is a life long skill needed for almost every aspect of life, from bills to vacations.

5) You Won't Feel Qualified and You Will Doubt Yourself.  Yep. It's going to happen. You may be curriculum. You will try things on and take them off.  You will wake up in the middle of the night and think: "OMG! What am I doing?!!!" and fret all night long. That's pretty normal. Forgive yourself and move on. If you are feeling that way, and if you keep a log, go back and look over it. That helps me. I keep a log of things completed each day because it makes me feel better. I grew up in a home/society that placed high value on education and higher education. I'm stepping off that treadmill because it doesn't work for my girls, but the old tapes sometimes come and bite me in the butt. The logs are for me and my sanity. (I like The Well Planned Day the best. It has 4 lines per day, per subject=lots of room for my girly handwriting.)

6) The Heart Of Your Child Will Direct You. This doesn't mean that they will always know what they want. When they first come home, if public schooled, they will be lost and irritable and confused. They will watch tv, disinvest and sleep a lot. Then, over time, their interests will arise. Boo Bear, who's never been to school, has no idea what she "isn't supposed to do" and loves science. She is 7 and working on high school freshman science concepts. She can't read well yet, so I read it to her, but her ability to absorb the concepts is there. Honey Bunny loves artistic expression. She does a ton of art work every week. She volunteers at an art studio. She is directed by her love for artist expression from blue hair and gauged ears to photography and watercolor. Each child is different and we use those differences to expand their world of knowledge.

7)The Habit Of Listening. Listening isn't done just with your ears. Listening is also done with the eyes. Reading body language. Listening to the unsaid word. Learning how to read body language is very important. I specialized in sales in my prior life and had to learn how to read body language in order to actually hear what was going on with a potential client. I use that same skill set with my children and husband. Arms crossed? They feel defensive. Voice changing in pitch? They may be lying (or going through puberty). Learn to read your child. You will be able to listen more and be in the moment with them.

8) It's A Lifetime of Learning.  Learning isn't just done when you finish a book. Maybe your child doesn't want to finish a book you loved. Honey Bunny hated Lord of the Flies and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe. I loved both. I had hoped to share them with her. Wasn't her thing. Instead, she changed books, introduced me to some she loved and my world was expanded into a new genre of vampires and magic. Take each opportunity presented to you and learn from it. Keep your curiosity going! Lifetime learning has a benefit for all.

9) Blessing Of Time.  The greatest part of home learning for us is that it can happen at any time of the day! It's a beautiful day out, we spend it outside exploring our world. It's rainy? Let's watch documentaries and snuggle. It's 10pm and suddenly Boo Bear has an urge to do abacus math? Great! It's midnight and Honey Bunny suddenly has an inspiration to write a story? Great! Time is our friend, not our enemy. There is no learning time because it's all the time.

10) Family Unity: This one can take some time to come into it's own. It ebbs and flows in our home. Sometimes, Hubby feels on the outside because we girls spend SO much time together and he's more like a visitor in our world than a pillar. That's hard for him sometimes. Othertimes, our family unit is stronger because we do spend so much time together. Our communication is stronger. We know all the nuances which occur between one and other and can shift and adjust on the fly. Being together 24/7 can be a challenge. It requires dedication to open communication, honesty and vulnerability. In the end, it's worth it but it can be scary getting there.

Overall, since 2010, I feel learning at home, at all hours, has worked best for us. It's not for everyone and that's okay. The glorious thing about the U.S.A. is we have a choice to homeschool or not. Places like Germany, there is no choice. It is not allowed.

There will be good days and there will be bad. There will be days you jump up and down and exclaim: "They got it!" and there will be days you shake your head and wonder: "Will they ever get it?!"  In the end, they balance out.

My best advice, dear Reader, is follow your gut and follow your heart. Let those lead you down a new path, one customized just for you and your family. Read all you want. Research all you want if that makes you feel better. Enjoy YOUR education and lifetime learning experience. You see, lifetime learning isn't just for kids anymore...it's for everyone once you step off that edge and go for it.

(Don't forget to join my blog! It's a little button over there to your right! I don't get paid for it, just want to share with you rather than announce on FB all the time.  Pass it on if you life it!)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Teens and Sex

Let's just jump right into this uncomfortable topic, okay?  Let's not pussy foot around it. Let's not pretend that abstinence is going to happen for the majority of teenagers.  According to the U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics, there were 274, 641 teenage pregnancies resulting in births in 2014. Let's stop pretending teenage pregnancy doesn't  happen. Have theses numbers gone down since 1990? Yes, but only marginally.

So, now that the blinders are off and your heart is beating faster, let's discuss Unschooling and Teen Sex. Whoa there Reader! Breathe in to a count of ten. Breathe out to a count of ten. Okay. Ready to read on? Good.

Let's face it. Teens want to have sex. They are biologically driven to reproduce. In terms of evolution, it is only a blink back in time to where we were reproducing starting at about 13 because most only lived to be about 30-45 years old. I'm 42. I'd be ready to kick the bucket soon, if I made it this far. And back then, the entire family raised the baby, not the teens by themselves. The old saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is pretty much the truth, especially when it happens early in life.

I'm not here saying "Let's encourage our kids to drop their pants and have a great time!" I'm here to say: They want to do it. Most will find a way to do it. Would you rather know about it, and help educate them to it or would you rather they find their education about sex from the internet and their similar age friends?  Come on, Reader, pull your ostrich head out of the sand....let it be you.

Where is this coming from? Honey Bunny came to me the other night and wanted to talk. It was not the best time. I had just completed a 4 day road trip to move my parents from CT to NC and was exhausted. The dogs wanted my attention. Hubby was cranky. Boo Bear wanted snuggles and Honey Bunny had sex on the mind. She is 16 and will be 17 in May. Her boyfriend is 17. I'm not surprised by it in the least, but it was not a good night to be honest.

But, I know how she gets and I knew that if Honey Bunny wanted to talk, it was important. I got Boo Bear to bed, dogs settled and let cranky Hubby be cranky. Goodness knows there wasn't anything I could do there but offer a hug, a warm bed and promise of some sleep.

When we had a moment, Honey Bunny dropped the bomb. She and Boyfriend are talking about taking their relationship to the next level. Okay. Here's the truth of the matter, no parent likes to think about their baby having sex. It seems....wrong. But, here's the other side of the truth, it's going to happen at some point, some day, some where.

Now, Honey Bunny has some complications when it comes to having a sexual relationship. Being a victim of child sexual abuse as a baby/toddler, sex brings out some pretty harsh flashbacks for her. The first time she had sex, she didn't come to me first and I had a suicidal teen on my hands without knowing why. I'm very proud of her for coming to me first. That shows great maturity.

I told her I'm really glad that she came to me first. You see, being friends with your child is how you have conversations like this. I listened. I asked questions. I didn't judge, over react or freak out. We spent a few minutes reviewing what she felt would be a good line of action. Here is what we came up with together:

1) Talk with her psychiatrist about how a birth control implant would effect her medications, if at all.
We chose the implant because when she was on the pill to regulate her system, if she even took it off by an hour, her cycle would start again, so no sleeping in. :(
2) If we discover the implant is safe, then we have to schedule a new patient appointment with a gynecologist. A full exam has to take place and the implant put in.
3) Then it has to kick in.
4) During this whole process, Boyfriend needs to accompany her to therapy sessions to discuss how her sexual trauma may effect her and their relationship.
5) BOTH need to have condom lessons to make sure the condom is put on properly. Birth control fails. Boo Bear is proof of that.

We also discussed places which are appropriate to having sex. Having sex while your little sister is home is NOT appropriate. That will not be stood for. If they want to have sex while I'm home, and her sister is not, then I suppose I can live with that. I can't say I like it, but at least I know they are safe, not going to get arrested for indecent exposure and if she has flashbacks or gets frightened, Boyfriend isn't there trying to deal with it on his own at 17. Now, between you and me, I can barely have sex with the kids in the house because I'm uncomfortable with it. If they can be comfortable knowing I'm home downstairs, more power to them. LOL

When I told Hubby about them considering a sexual relationship. His initial reaction was to freak out.  He almost face palmed himself. Whereas I see it as very mature Honey Bunny came to me and we could speak about it, he sees it as she's too young. (Doofus, she's not a virgin!) You can't undo what has already been done. At least this time, she is choosing to come to me first. And the sweetest part? Boyfriend is concerned what Hubby will think of him.

After about 5 minutes to listening to Hubby's concerns, it all boiled down to his ultimate concern being she will have more sex than we do! I couldn't help but laugh. Of course teens are going to have more sex than we do! We have a family to raise, dogs to train, groceries to buy, mortgages to pay... in other words, much more on our minds/plate than just sex.  I still smile thinking of that. More sex than us. LOL

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to point out that teens are going to have sex whether we approve or not. I don't want my daughter and her boyfriend to be part of the statistic above. Where does that start? At home. It starts with creating a relationship based upon friendship and trust. It starts with willing to be open with them about what a sexual relationship is, besides fornication, and how it may change their relationship. It continues with proper education about birth control. It moves forward with love and understanding and listening and caring.

Is it truly sex we are scared of or the result of an unplanned pregnancy? Discuss your true fears together. Have the discussion about unplanned pregnancy and discuss all options you are all comfortable with: abortion, adoption, raising the child yourselves, etc.

There is only one wrong answer to the above discussion in my opinion: rejecting your child and their journey.

That applies to everything in life from musical choices to tattoos and piercings to having a sexual relationship. None of those may be my choice for myself, but I will not reject or turn my back on my child because of a choice they feel is right for them.

Standing by them, being there for them, being their rock in this turbulent world is who I strive to be for my children. Their safe haven. The one who only looks down on them to offer them a hand up, with no judgement, no resentment and no fear in their eyes.

Remember, dear Reader, sex happens. But so does love.


Friday, December 12, 2014

My Secret Desire

Whole Life Unschooling. Child Led Learning. Life Learning.  All great concepts. I love them all. I practice them. Every day. Every minute of every day. I am IN the moment. I am creating learning experiences for my children. I am making sure their environment is full of stimulating thoughts and new concepts so that they have a large arena of interests to chose from. And know what? Want to know my deep seeded secret? Are you ready for this?

Sometimes, I really envy those traditional homeschool parents who follow a curriculum.  They research and they find a glorious package for their family. They order it. It comes to their door, neatly, in a box. (I bet it even has a bow on it.) Then, over the summer, they plot out what they are going to do every month/week/day and then they hit send and it lands on everyone's calendar.

Oh the glory of that! I tried that. Once. Four years ago. It didn't work. We returned it within 72 hours. It didn't work for us. But sometimes, while I am making oobleck and having discussions with my 7 & 16 year old about non-Newtonian matter (after seeing it on Pintrest and thinking this is cool...and gluten free...so we can do it. How do I make it educational? Quick..do another look up!)..sometimes, I wish life was sent to me in a  box. Simple. Clean. Easy.

My life is not simple, clean or easy. My life consists of 2 dogs, 1 a puppy. Honey Bunny who deals with bipolar, high functioning aspie issues, anxiety, anorexia and teenage hormones to top it all off. There is Boo Bear who is a joy to be around. Her laughter sounds like the tinkling of bells-but she has ADHD and probably dyslexia (it runs in the family in over 90% of it on both sides). Getting her to sit still is like asking my puppy not to chase after a squirrel or chase his tale. It doesn't happen. Then there is Hubby who, God bless his sole, is my love and my life, but is a 45 year old middle aged man who falls asleep watching television at about 8:30 and snores away until about 10 where at such time he basically crawls into bed to fall asleep again...with some shoot em up kill em show on.

Then, there is me. Yep. Little old me. In this example, it's 10pm, where we just left off snoring hubby stumbling down the hallway. I still have laundry to switch over, a dishwasher to run, a teenager to remind to take her meds and remind her boyfriend to go home by midnight because I'm tired tonight and would like to be awake when he leaves (not that they are having sex, it's just a parental thing I still feel like I need to do...be awake while he's here). Boo Bear is usually going strong at 10pm. She wants to play. She wants to do Reader Rabbit. She wants to play Littlest Pet Shop. She wants to do BrainPop. She wants to have a dance party.

Oh for the love of GOD...I want to go to sleep! I've been up since 6:30 dealing with Muttly 1 and Muttly 2. No matter how cute they are, I am the one up and dealing with them. Hubby has already left for work at that point, or is about to leave for work or is in the shower or is traveling at 6:30 in the morning, on any given day. I'm usually up a few times a night for nightmare comforting, or anxiety comforting, or at the moment I have a broken wrist, so I'm comforting myself. Sometimes, I'm even comforting Hubby, but usually I'm too cranky to do that in the middle of the night because if we are sleeping in the same room/bed, then his snoring is keeping me awake until about 5am and then he decides: Ohhh..lookie here! I have my wife in bed! Let me snuggle close to her with my fire hose. Dude...keep it away. I'm about to kill you is what I'm thinking at that point.

So, again, sometimes I dream of that curriculum in a box, which comes to my door, maybe with a bow, and school is from 8:00 - 3:00 and then we have a "life."

Yeah, that's not happening any time soon. It's 9:00pm right now. The dogs are about to come in whining at the door actually. The boyfriend is upstairs with Honey Bunny. Boo Bear is at a sleep over, for now....Hubby is traveling until next Tuesday and the day after tomorrow, I'm packing up both girls and the boyfriend for a 13 hour drive straight through to Connecticut to drive my parents down to North Carolina where they are moving a town over. The day after we arrive in Connecticut, we turn around and drive BACK to North Carolina now with 2 elderly people, their elderly dog, a 16 yr old, a 17 yr old and a 7 yr old-stopping every hour for my Dad to get out and stretch his legs so he doesn't have another pulmonary embolism land in his lung like it did on Thanksgiving.

Yep...no life in a box for me!!! :) But, truth be told, I'm happy about that. It didn't work for us.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Bullying Elf


Do you see this "Certificate?!"  What does it say? It says a child was "Naughty."  This Elf on a Shelf pisses me off every year! Every year, I see post after post after post on my Facebook Page that talks about their Elf leaving their child letters about their child's behavior. Know what I see more and more? Parents using this Elf to demean their children. It breaks my heart. 

According to Webster Dictionary, the definition of demean is: to lower in character, status, or reputation 

So, with that being the case, kindly explain to me how leaving a note to anyone, let alone a child, about behavior the adult/parent does not approve of is helping bring the child's character, status or reputation up and help build their self esteem?  It doesn't.

As an adult, how would you feel if your spouse or boss or another person in authority in your life, left you notes full of insults about your behavior? Image this: you get up excited for your day. You can't wait to see what new surprise you have from this person who only appears this "magical" time of year! Then, you find a long letter telling you everything you did wrong, why this person doesn't approve of your behavior.  This person doesn't bother to tell you what you are doing right. This person doesn't come to you with a true concern about some upsetting behaviors, giving you the chance to explain them or listen as to why they are upsetting nor does that person give you the opportunity to explore different behaviors together. Instead, you are left with your day crushed, your belief in yourself reduced and you are expected to go about your day now and have a better attitude and want to work on your behavior.

Can you tell me how effectively that would work for you? Would you want to improve your behavior for the hopes of getting a certificate that said you'd been nice? Is that truly what we want our children to work toward? A certificate that says they are nice? Really?

I would rather my children work toward being more caring, loving and communicative people who will in turn mature into adults who are gentle, loving and able to properly discuss what is bother them, listen attentively and offer solutions when required.

We so often hear about bullying in schools, but where does a child learn to bully? At home.  And when does a child learn to bully? From birth on. I'm sure the parents who use the Elf on the Shelf to write these letters think they are amusing. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and even go so far as to say I'm sure they are thinking they are using the Elf to show what behavior they would like their child to have and hoping that a stationary cute object will instill in their child the ability to listen to the Elf better than to the parent. I don't want to say these parents are bullying with the purpose to bully.

But they are bullying. Back to Webster's for a moment. The definition of bullying is: to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone)
: to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force

So, if the Elf is being used to make a threat, such as not returning or not getting presents, then that is bullying. If the parent is using the Elf on a Shelf to frighten the child into submission by name calling, that is bullying.  If the result wanted is meant to control the child, that is bullying.

Bullyingstatistics.org says this about parental bullying: "When bullying parents use this style of parenting, they try and motivate their children by being derisive. This can be especially damaging, since it can encourage a child to think ill of him/herself. This can leave mental scars that can result in depression, as well as set the child up to have difficulty sustaining good relationships. Indeed, if a child learns how to treat people form the example of a bullying parent, he or she is likely to grow to be a bully as well, and may have a hard time developing healthy relationships.

How can we, as a society, help prevent further school shootings and bullying if the adults go so far as to bully with what should be a fun holiday expression of celebration?! 

Imagine what would happen if the parent used the Elf in a way which promoted behavior the parent wanted emulated? What if the Elf only ever spoke of the great things the child did that day? What if the Elf was only used to encourage the child? Can you image how much more "good" behavior the child would want attention for? 

Remember the scenario above? The one where you started your day with a note telling you everything you did wrong and how that made your feel throughout your day? Now, imagine yourself waking up, excited because it is the "magical" time of year and you read a note that reviewed all the wonderful things you did the day before. How you stopped to take the time to wait for someone while holding a door in the middle of a rain storm. How you were loving with your friend. How you listened when all you wanted to do was tell someone they were wrong. A letter which spoke to the behavior you did have which was positive. Wouldn't you feel better about yourself? Wouldn't you want to continue to receive praise? Wouldn't you want to behave accordingly to that feel good feeling you had? Wouldn't you want to go out into your day and embrace it all those you encountered?

It's a completely different world when we take a moment to recognize the positive, rather than the negative. As a society, we will get nowhere good if we continue to recognize the ugly parts of a person or of their day. Demeaning another, even with the intent of being humorous or amusing, is bullying. Bullying is painful. Bullying by a parent even more so.

I encourage you, if you use this Elf on a Shelf, to only use it for humor and examples of good behavior. Throw out the "naughty" certificates. Throw out the examples of behavior you don't want. Use the Elf to show the good behavior and the fun things your child did. You yourself need to talk to your child about behaviors that upset you. YOU need to do the dirty work, not some inanimate object which should represent fun and magic of the season. You need to listen to them, talk with them and find solutions together. THAT is how we stop bullying. We begin at home. 



Monday, December 1, 2014

Teens & Body Modification

Body modification. Whoa! Here's a topic which gets all parents up in hackles-whether you support it or are against it. Personally, I'm not big into gauged ears, pierced faces or tattoos.  Not my flavor. I have a tattoo.  It's a small infinity sign on my left ring finger because I am allergic to my wedding band and engagement ring. The nickel in the platinum and white gold cause my finger to break out in blisters.  It's pretty painful. A year ago, Hubby and I had had an argument while he was unemployed and I was so frustrated at him and the state of our marriage that I needed something permanent to remind me of my commitment to him, so I stopped in a tattoo parlor on the way home that day, kids in tow, and had it done right then and there. No forethought. No planning. No idea what I wanted. I just walked in, said I'd like a small tattoo on my finger to represent my commitment to my marriage and walked out an hour later with a very painful finger and the lifetime reminder of my commitment to a flawed human being. :)

So how does my tattoo connect to teenage body modification? Great question. Seven months ago, Honey Bunny was struggling with her addiction to cutting. I actually went back and read my post about her cutting here on the Bored Gargoyle the other night (made myself cry). Back then, I made her a promise. If she could stay clean for six months, I would take her to get a tattoo which would remind her not to cut herself. For the following six months, every time she was tempted to cut, she remembered how desperately she wanted those tattoos.  In the beginning, it was my promise that stopped her from cutting.  Ninety days into it, it was the promise to herself that stopped her from cutting.

During those months, she had to prove to me she knew what she was doing and why. I asked her to write up why having a tattoo was important to her. I asked her to do some in person interviews of people who got tattoos as a teen. I wanted her to hear their opinions of their tattoos. What did they like? Did they still like their tattoo while in their 40's or beyond? Do they feel they made the right choice getting a tattoo as a teen? Why did they chose that particular tattoo?

She discovered those who took the time to make sure their tattoo would be timeless still loved it. Those that ran off in rebellion and had a tattoo which meant nothing to them, other than their rebellion at that time, disliked their tattoos. She thought about what she wanted it to say. Many conversations over those months revolved around what should her wrists say to remind her to not cut.

A few nights before her tattoo, Honey Bunny was being a complete brat. Yes, it happens. Unschooled teens do not walk on water nor are they perfect. And having a bipolar 2, anxious, PTSD, anorexic teen means we have moments which are not too glorious. We'd had a difficult family therapy session and she had been a true brat all week.  I'd broken my wrist (it's still broken) and needed help around the house (still do) and she was refusing to help. Not cool. Even her therapist was surprised at her cruelty toward the situation and myself. He had suggested that if she isn't helping out and isn't eating, that her boyfriend couldn't come over. Normally, I wouldn't go to such measures as talking with her is usually enough-but that week it wasn't. Her meds weren't working well, she was a bitch to be honest and she needed something to shake her out of it. So, I agreed.

Of course Honey Bunny was angry at not being able to see him that night. I wasn't canceling a plan already made. I was simply saying no to him coming over that night.  Here's the most frightening thing about parenting:

There is no formula! The frightening thing about parenting is that our children hear everything we say and watch everything thing we do and they expect those two to line up.

I had to hold the line here. My message of word to action had to line up. When we got home, she stormed up to her room. I went to start dinner.  A few hours later, she ventured downstairs with a video she wanted to share with me. It was about tattooing. She had taken the time and opportunity to do more research about tattooing so she better understood it. The video was scientific in it's origin. It was about the epidermis and dermis and the ink and how it is injected and into which layer. She also showed me the chemical compounds of each color of ink, which had metals in them and which didn't. She showed me how organic inks work in comparison to non-organic inks.  Then, Honey Bunny showed me the images of tattoos the woman who was going to do her tattoo has done.

Now, if I had insisted she do that research, she never would have done it. If I hadn't held the line and hadn't had my actions and my words support one another about her behavior being unacceptable, she never would have done it. You see, Unschooling doesn't mean your kids walk all over you. It means you live in respect with one another. She wasn't respecting me and my needs. It wasn't a want for her to do help load the dishwasher or fold laundry.  It was a need. It still is a need. (You should see my typing this with one hand and a finger. It's pretty humorous.)

The blessing in parenting is that there is no formula. So what do formulas and body modification have to do with one another?  A LOT!

Most of us have been raised to believe in the following "formula":

A rebelling teen does the following for attention: dye their hair odd colors, pierce their body, gauge their ears and get tattoos.  Teens who do such things are a menace to society.

Let's think about this for a moment and take it point by point.
1) Dying hair odd colors. Yes, Honey Bunny's hair is pink this week. Last week is was Raspberry Red. A few weeks before that it was Teal. Now, let's discuss the hair coloring industry.  How many different shades of color from platinum blonde to black are there on the shelves in CVS? Your local grocery story? The beauty salon? Oh wait, you mean you, too, dye your hair? - Negate that statement.

2) Pierce their body. Yep. Honey Bunny has a lip piercing. I don't want one. Looked painful getting that needle through her lip. Grossed me out. No thanks. But-my ears are pierced. I modified my body. Are your ears pierced? Yes? Well, negate that statement.

3) Gauging ears. Again not my thing. I think of National Geographic with those women who's ear holes fell to their shoulders they were stretched out so much! I have been scarred by saggy boobed/big ear hole women I saw as a child in NG. But todays gauges aren't that big. Have you ever bought a pair of earrings where the earring pole was too wide for your hole? I know I have. That's now negated. And if not, well, is it hurting you if someone else has their earring holes bigger than yours? No? Definitely negate it.

4)Tattoos. Oh, this is a big one! Under aged tattoos. Any tattoos. Society has told us that tattoos are the mark of the devil, so to speak. Only those on the fringe of society get tattoos.  Only those who buck the system get tattoos. Only those who are against the status quo get tattoos. They are a life long commitment to something you may not like in 20 years. I'll admit, I used to be of this group. I won't lie. But watching Honey Bunny's commitment to herself to not cut, to work on stopping her addiction, changed my mind.

Why wouldn't I support her want to be clean? I have always said I would give anything for her to stop cutting. Our children are great observers. They hear, see and read everything we do and they have to make it their own. Sometimes, that takes them down some pretty ugly paths full of bad decisions and heartache. But how we respond to them during those times is crucial-to both our relationship with one another and their relationship with themselves.

So, to be honest with her and myself, I said I would do anything...and a tattoo is anything. A piercing falls under that same category. So does hair dye. If having pink hair, a ring through her lip and tattoos that say: "Stay Strong" on one wrist and "Love Yourself" on the other helps her stay clean and fight the demons inside of her, I was going to make sure I supported that 100%.

You see, I didn't have to throw my beliefs out the window. I simply had to allow them not to count for her. I still don't believe that I want gauged ears or a pierced body part nor do I want another tattoo at this time, but if something is true-such as my belief in her want to stay clean and her claiming these modifications would help her-then I can chose to look at it long and hard and think about it long and hard and compare it with other beliefs-and discover it will stand on it's own. It will be reliable and true.

How we deal with the early doubts and questions in our relationships can make huge differences in a child's life. Will Honey Bunny always want that pierced lip? I don't know. For now, she does. Will she always want gauged ears? I don't know. For now, she does. Will she always want fun colored hair? I don't know. For now, she does. Will she always want those tattoos? Yes. For now and always.

Will I always support her unconditionally? No. I will not support her unconditionally if she choses to hurt herself. Will I always be there for her unconditionally? Yes. Yes I will. Will her having pink/blue/teal/red or whatever color hair make me love her less? No. It will not. Will her having her face pierced, ears gauged or tattoos on her wrists make her less of a person to me? No. It will not.

You see, dear Reader, parenting isn't parroting. It's not about following the right formula, whether that  be an unschooling formula or a strict formula. It's about finding what is right, true and reliable for you and your child.  You won't find the right answers for you in a book, a blog or even in a magazine. You will find the right answer for you and your family in your heart, through trial and error. You may find your belief systems run counter to society. You may find your comfort zone is what society says. You may find it somewhere in-between. In the end, though, you should ask yourself the following:
"If my child is hearing, seeing, and reading everything I do-what message is that giving them and is it one I want them to repeat?"

They will repeat it. They will make your statement their own. You can't control how they interpret it, but you can be in charge of supporting them while they explore their world and what it means to them.  In the end, parenting is a journey full of modifications along the way.  Be at peace with them and love one another through it all. Remember: Stay Strong and Love Yourself.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Poem

It is the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house
Not a creature is stirring, not even my spouse!
The turkey's not bought but I do not care.
I just want a moment, I say with my prayer.

The children aren't nestled all snug in their beds
For Netflix is showing the Walking Dead.
I dream of a moment without things to do,
the laundry, the bedding, the dishes-accrue!

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away through the blackness iPhone Flashlight in hand
I tore through the darkness to see it firsthand.

The moon on the floor from the windows above
Gave a luster to the dust on the floor I'm not proud of.
Then what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a half-grown puppy with my kitchen gear.

That little ol' puppy, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment I just find his throw stick.
More rapid than eagles, my curses they came
And I whistled and shouted and called him by name!

"Now Dammit! Now Darn It!
Now Prick Dog and Vajayay!
Oh Clusterf*ck! I'm Screwed!
G*d Dammit! This is Bullsh*t!
Get away from the turkey!
Come! Stay! Sit in the hall!
Don't dash away, dash away,
Dash away at ALL!"

As swear words poured out before my sanity arrived
I realized in a moment the turkey had survived!
So back to my couch my butt it sure flew,
this was just too much to have to go through.

Then in a twinkling, I heard on the stairs
the sound of sweet footsteps and knew I'd been snared!
As I put down my head and was turning around
I knew in a moment I'd be met with a frown.

They were dressed in their jammies, from their heads to their feet,
and I knew in that moment I was in the hot seat!
A bundle of giggles they had held in their cheeks
And they tried so hard for those giggles not to leak.

The kid's eyes how they twinkled! Their dimples so merry.
Their cheeks were tight with laughter. Their noses so flarey.
Their droll little mouths, drawn up like a bow
The cursing they heard, they wanted to know.
The taste of fresh words held tight in my teeth
and those words circled inside of my head, my breath held underneath.
They had on that face and and certainly knew better
And they laughed when I began to stutter and fretter.

"That turkey was chubby and plump, in-spite of it's size."
and I laughed when I saw them and knew I had allies.
A wink of their eyes and turn of their heads,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

They spoke not a word, but went right back to Netflix
They had learned some new words for their big bag of tricks.
And laying my head in my hands I did shake
Knowing I just taught them the words that they'll take.

I sprang to my feet and gave my kids a notice.
I am only human but I am not hopeless.
But I heard them exclaim as they walked out of site:

"I heard it from you, Mom! Don't say it's not alright!"




Monday, November 17, 2014

Trust Your Gut

Do you ever get that feeling in your gut something is wrong, but don't listen to it? Ever get it about something related to your child? What do you do if your child has a friend you don't approve of?  What do you do if they do something you don't approve of? Ever had a situation arise where you know in your gut they are making the wrong choice, but you have to let them learn the lesson on their own? These are questions every parent faces, day in and day out. From kids writing on walls to befriending those who are bad for them, each step of the way it's hard as a parent, especially if we were raised (and society tells us) shaming and controlling our child is the answer.

I want you to think about a time when you felt shamed by an adult, at any age.  I bet you can still feel that humiliation in the pit of your stomach, huh? I remember in 4th grade, I had a teacher I did not get along with.  I was painfully shy and hated to read out loud to the class, but it was required.  I was reading along and came across the word "photographer."  I pronounced it as I saw it: photo-grapher.  The teacher called me stupid and all the kids laughed at me.  I still feel that humiliation writing about it over 30 years later. Now, imagine if someone I trusted and loved had humiliated me? How much worse would I feel?

But that was only a person who I had limited contact with for a small portion of my life.  What about a situation you knew was wrong, but you did it anyway and someone else had to pay the price for it? Do you have one of those?  I do, and its a doozy.  I will get to mine in a moment.

You see, Honey Bunny has befriend a boy she knows is bad for her and I know is bad for her.  Rather than shame her into dropping the friendship, or putting rules on her which negated the friendship, I have allowed her to continue to communicate and see this person.  Please know, there was no illegal activity going on and she was not in direct harms way for physical abuse. Was emotional and mental abuse possible? Yes.  She and I discussed this friendship openly and I told her my concerns and how I was not going to stop her from this friendship, but neither would I encourage it.  It was one of those times in life where a teen has to learn on their own, in their own way, in their own time.

I will be honest, it was hard.  It sucked.  Everything in my parental body was screaming at me to put the kibosh on it: block his number, not bring her to youth group, etc.  We had stepped in a few times and not allowed her to go to a party where he would be because even she said he was bad for her and I wanted to stand by her decision and support it.  But, the truth is, I wanted to shield my baby from the pain and conflict she was feeling. Reality is, if I had, she would only up the anti on the next person she found who was bad for her. 

After 3 months of this, Honey Bunny came to me and told me this friendship was relly hurting her.  She had to cut it off.  She asked for my help.  Let that sink in for a moment.  A teen.  Asking for help. From their parent. 

Yep.  You read that right. I asked if she needed a sounding board or to help find solutions.  Those are two different things a friend has to offer.  She chose options.   I gave her three:

1) I text the boy, explain to him I am blocking his number because the friendship is toxic to her.
2) She texts him and tells him with me sitting next to her.
3) She talks with her therapist and they decide on a course of action together.

I gave her 2 hours to decide.

Honey Bunny does best with small increments of time to make a decision.  She said she needed to process and think and went upstairs to listen to music.

Here's the thing, Dear Reader, had I at any time, made her feel shamed about this friendship that I disapproved of, she would not feel safe coming to me when it was time to end it.  She would have been all alone and frightened. As a parent, and with more experience, I can often see the writing on the wall, but she can not.  Why should I deny her the ability to learn to read that writing by shaming or refusing her the ability to learn to decode it?  Isn't it my responsibility to be her guide? To assist her in her growth, not deny her of it? 

When she was learning to walk, did I carry her everywhere, when she wanted to walk, to avoid her falling down and scraping her knees? No. Did I stand by and gasp every time she fell? Yes.  Did I help her back up, tell her she did a great job and keep trying? Of course I did.  I dried her tears. I kissed her sore knees and I helped her back onto her feet when she was ready.  In essence, how is this any different?

So why is it we, as a society of parents, see the need to shame our teens while they learn different age appropriate lessons in life? Because "they should know better"?  Really? Don't you think if they knew better, they would do better?

Back to the story, ultimately, Honey Bunny chose option 1 and I texted the boy, with her permission and blocked his number.  But, the story doesn't end here.  This was just step one.  She felt empowered and I, truthfully, did a happy dance.  And for a few hours, we were both happy. But, then reality hit her.

A loss.  Another loss of a friend. Yet another betrayal. It is SO hard to do what you know is best for you, especially when it hurts.  She is still struggling with it, a week later. She misses his text attention. She misses they cycle of abuse: the tension, the action, the make up, the honeymoon phase.

This has been a life long pattern for my girl.  It's one I hope to help guide her through as gently as possible so she doesn't end up where I did.  Remember I told you I had my own story?  Well, here it is in a nutshell.

Eighteen years ago, I didn't listen to my gut and went against everything that was telling me someone in my life was bad for me. I thought that intuition knew nothing.  I was 24 and knew it all. What I couldn't know then, that I know now, is that my action of not listening to that gut feeling has caused someone I love very much to suffer the consequence of my action for the rest of their life, and they didn't have a choice. 

That someone is Honey Bunny. 

There person who was bad for me?

Her biological father who abused us both.





Monday, November 10, 2014

Should You?

Yesterday, Boo Bear and I went out for almost 6 hours. We made natural bird feeders, picked pumpkins, fed a horse, had a pizza and hung out together. Hubby was grumpy and I felt it best not to be home to listen to his grunts, groans and other grumpy noises.  When I got home, he was on the couch, almost asleep, and had done no house work at all. Well, not really, he had sanded the door jam down and not cleaned up any of the sawdust. Does that count?

I said nothing knowing he was having a bad day, but honestly I was annoyed. Why was there still garbage, his garbage, on the counter in the kitchen? Shouldn't he have cleaned that up?! Why wasn't the laundry folded and switched over? Shouldn't he have done that? Why weren't the dog blankets washed? The house smelled like dog. Shouldn't he have realized that and taken care of it?  Why didn't he clean up the stove, where he reheated dinner for himself? Shouldn't he have realized he needed to be responsible for his own pick up?

There I stood, standing in my laundry room, thinking about what my husband should have done, based upon what I would have done.  Man, what a bitch I was being! It occurred to me that by my putting the word "should" in there, I was assuming he wasn't doing his best. I was assuming that he had the energy, the forethought, the insight, to see what had to be done. I was assuming that he should have known. I was accusing him of not being good enough.

Wow. Let that one sink in a bit. Not being good enough. Didn't we all feel that way one way or another? Maybe our parents made us feel that way. Maybe it was sports that made us feel inferior. Maybe it was school, or a subject in school, that we thought we should be able to do better at but never could. We live with so many should's, it holds us back most of the time.

There I was, standing in my laundry room, thinking my husband "should" have done something different.  It stopped me in my tracks.

What does Free Dictionary say the definition of Should is?
should  (shd)
aux.v. Past tense of shall
1. Used to express obligation or duty 
2. Used to express probability or expectation
3. Used to express conditionality or contingency

What other things do I think people I love SHOULD do? What things do I express an obligation to or a duty to without communicating that to them about?

What things in your life do you think people should do?

Are those thoughts realistic? Are they set upon the value sense of those we love are doing their best or is it a judging stick we use to "whip" them with because they aren't living up to our expectations?

What are our expectations? Are they clear? Are they obtainable?

Do our expectations leave room for self awareness and growth? Do they encourage the person to become who they are or do they force the other person to become who we want them to be?

All these thoughts were swirling through my head while I folded boxers and neatly tucked one sock into an other.

When I was done in the laundry room, and I could hear in Hubby's voice he was still struggling, I asked myself what would I do if Honey Bunny or Boo Bear felt this way? Would I expect them to tough it out or would I be there for them? I hung my head in shame internally knowing I expected he should be able to tough it out because he's an adult, knowing I'd be more supportive to my children than my husband.

I bucked up, went out and asked him if he'd like a hug. Now, this was a big deal because he hadn't showered and smelled like, well, an oily man. Ick. Then I asked if I could draw him a tub. We have a large soaking tub.  He said yes and I drew him a nice hot tub, with Epson Salts, and took out the biggest and fluffiest towel I could find to put by the tub. He came in and asked me to stay.  Honestly, I wanted to leave and let him have some personal time, but then realized that was MY wish when I take a bath and he'd been alone for almost 6 hours that day. So, I pulled up a chair. And I listened.

He told me all about his frustrations that day. Waking up at 4:30 am and never falling back to sleep. How the door insulator wasn't fitting right. How he had to sand and sand and it still sticks and he's concerned the girls won't be able to open and close it. How the new dryer didn't set up as he expected or as easily. How everything he touched that day was an issue - from dropping screws where he couldn't see them to heating dinner and burning some to the pot. It was all just too much for him yesterday.

He shared with me his feeling of being less than. That is hard for a man. Had I acted on my "should-y" feeling, I never would have heard how he was up at 4:30. I never would have seen inside my man, but instead stood there over him in a sense, judging him.  That isn't what a good relationship  is based on.

A good relationship is based upon support, respect and love for one another. I am so thankful for that moment of irritation with my man for it showed me where I need to grow in our relationship.  Our 8 year anniversary was last Tuesday and I was wondering what else we could possibly learn about each other only to discover I don't need to learn more about him, instead, I need to learn about me.

So I ask you, dear Reader, what should's do you put on your relationships? What should's do you put upon yourself? What should's do you put upon your life? Should you make more money? Should your kids get into a high end college? Should you...what? What SHOULD do you have?  List them. During the week, when you feel someone should be doing something-write it down. Then, ask yourself this important question: "Should they REALLY?"  and then why. For what purpose does it add to their life? How is your should adding value to how they feel and live their life? Honestly now, not your projection of what you expect it to do, but what does it truly do?

Stop living a "should-y" life my dear Reader.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cutting-A Mom's Perspective

Some of you may have read the post Honey Bunny wrote about her cutting at http://eyesthrougheyes.blogspot.com. If not, go there now. It's her first hand account of her cutting journey.  I'll be honest, it isn't pretty. It isn't all rainbows and butterflies. It's honest. It's raw and it's painful to read. Here is my response/tag along/follow up/other point of view to her blog.

Honey Bunny has always struggled. She has always been different. She wasn't a jock. She wasn't a "popular kid." She never had it easy in school. She never had it easy in life. Her biological father abused her. He abandoned her (thank goodness) and both of those things have left open wounds which no one can heal but herself.  It's been a long journey parenting a child with special needs which aren't seen to the outside world. No one can see her and say: "Wow. She has challenges. Let's be more gentle." Nope. They just see a girl, this week, with bright red hair, a lip piercing and probably some Sharpie tattoos all over herself. Chances are they judge her because of that. But me? I don't. I know those are signs of her surviving. Those are signs of her fight. Those are signs of her becoming healthy. You see, she is finding herself and her strength. It takes more strength to find yourself and stand out than it does to blend in. It takes more strength to stand up and say I am done with this crappy life and begin a new one. It takes more strength to risk failure than it does to risk nothing at all. And this is our journey together for the past few years....grab a tissue and be ready to cry.

Two years ago was a dark time in our lives. Hubby was unemployed. We lost our home. We lost our money. We lost our security. We were looking at moving into my parent's basement into an 11x15 room, all four of us and our dog. It was a winter of much snow. Of much darkness. Honey Bunny was battling severe depression. Every day was a struggle to just keep her alive. Education was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn't care what she learned from a book or a movie. I just wanted her alive. I prayed. I cried. I yelled. I talked to doctors. Nothing was working.

We moved into my parent's basement. That wasn't fun for anyone. She met up with an old friend who introduced her to someone new, a cutter. We talked about the cutting and I had hoped she wouldn't cut, but I knew in my heart she would start. When Honey Bunny becomes obsessed with something and starts asking questions about it, it means she's going to try it. I just had to sit back and wait.

The waiting is the worst part. Waiting for your child, or any loved one, to spiral so far down that they bottom out is like waiting for the Grim Reaper to finally get to you, after watching him approach slowly and not being able to speed up the process.  It's like death just hangs around, waiting, to see what you will do next. It was the most horrible wait. I sat in silence, waiting for her to come to me.  I sat in silence watching her sleep for hours, watching the long sleeves cover her arms, watching her isolate, watching her hide, watching her stop take care of herself, watching her not enjoy her art work, watching my child die in front of my eyes.

Understand, trying to interfere with someone who is hell bent on destructing themselves doesn't work. It only causes them to do so in private. It causes alcoholics to hide their liquor, it causes self-harm to go to even deeper depths. When someone you love is hell bent on destruction, they will find a way. I know. I did it. I kept choosing more abusive relationships until I met her father. He took the cake.I know this road and I know only Honey Bunny can bring herself out of those deep, dark woods. All I can do is stand by, always at the ready, to give her my hand and help guide her, if she'll accept it.

In August of last year, she woke me around 11pm. Hubby was in NY visiting his son. She showed me her arms. They were covered with horizontal cuts from wrist to elbow on both arms. I stayed calm. I thanked her for showing me. I held her. We cried. We got some tea. We talked. I held her as she fell asleep. I called the insurance company at 1am. I found out which hospitals were covered since we were on State due to unemployment. I couldn't take her back to the private one she was in the year before for suicidal plans. This time, it was a state funded one. Crap. Those are awful!  I cried knowing I had no choice. I couldn't keep her safe from herself. I couldn't watch her 24/7. No one can do that for a prolonged period of time.

We checked her into the hospital the next day. I thought it would only be a 72 hr thing, enough to get some safes in the house, enough to get some sleep and to have her home and in an out patient program after that. They wouldn't let me take her out! I had to leave her in a  place where she was in an alarmed room because the girls there threatened to rape her for 10 days! It was the most horrible experience in my life. I sobbed every night when I left that horrible holding pen of evil. I sat in the car, after visitation, and sobbed and sobbed. Usually for about an hour. She'd see me drive out and wave goodbye, on a good night. What she didn't see is I would park farther down and just sob. I was broken. I couldn't save my baby. I couldn't save the one person who saved me.

Fast forward a few months. She had relapses. I would freak out at first. Then, I stopped. It got to the point where every 3-6 weeks she would relapse. I couldn't keep fighting for her. I couldn't keep fighting for her life. I couldn't keep fighting and losing the rest of my family. She was destroying Boo Bear. She was destroying my marriage. She was destroying me.

One morning, a mutual friend 700 miles away Facebooked me telling me she saw pictures of Liz cutting on her Instagram account. I was horrified. She was telling the world, but not me? WTF?! I went upstairs, woke her up and insisted she show me the cuts. They weren't as bad as before, so no need for the hospital, but still, why did she continue to want to destroy herself? To this day, I still don't get it. I accept it. I don't understand it.

At that point, through tears and with much heart break, I told her that if she wanted to kill herself, I had accepted it. I know one day I will wake up and find her gone. I know that she has the power to destroy herself and those around her and I will no longer stop her.  My exact words were: "I have to live with the fact that one day I'm going to wake up and you're going to be gone. I have to live with the fear of losing you every day. And in the end, all I can tell myself is that I did my best."

I wasn't giving up on her. I was simply acknowledging that I could no longer be held prisoner by her sickness and her need to destroy herself. It was the hardest thing I have ever said. Did it set me free? Somewhat. It put down a boundary. It said: here is where you stop and I begin. But the truth is, some mornings, when her depression is still pulling her down, I still fear I will go up to wake her and she'll be dead. I fear finding a blue child under the covers because the temptation to cut became too strong and she lost her battle by making a cut too big or too deep or in the wrong direction. I still fear I am going to lose my one precious love who helped me save my life.

But, for now, I try to squelch that fear as she has been clean for 6 months on 10/26/14. I celebrate every day she choses to live and I enjoy every moment we share together. I don't waste my time arguing about mundane crap - hair color, piercings, tattoos, school work  - because I have a bigger goal in mind: keeping my daughter alive for as long as possible. I know I can't keep her here on this Earth if she doesn't want to be and I've made as much peace with that as possible. But if the only thing she has is knowing that someone is willing to fight with her, then know I will do that every moment of every day, sword in hand-ready to help her battle whatever dragon or demon or inner turmoil she has to fight..but she has to ask for my help, because if she doesn't ask for it, it won't matter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

No Strings Attached

It's Tuesday morning, my house is a mess. We were gone for 24 hours and I returned with a pulled back and complete lack of sleep. Hubby and I have different definitions of "picked up," "cleaned up," and most importantly, "put away."  Yet, there I was last night, barely able to move, laying in bed, only able to request assistance - while he sat on the couch watching TV.

I had two choices: accept the help he was giving or belittle what he wasn't doing according to my private specifications. Man, this was hard. In the past 8 years, I've had to learn how to let go. I used to be a major control freak. I cleaned my floors 2 times a day. I picked up everything, all the time, put it away. My house was spotless. And then I married Hubby. I inherited two other children instantly and was pregnant. My perfection only brought me misery. I had to learn to let go. It wasn't easy.

To this day, I truly hate dishes in the sink overnight. I hate dirty kitchens. I hate messy bathrooms. I hate laundry rooms with dirty laundry on the floor-I hate dirty laundry on any floor to be honest. But way back when, I had relationships fraught with conditions, and those began to feel like there was no rest for the weary. And I was weary.

Nowadays, I am more relaxed. Things aren't picked up? Not so much an issue, except if it is deadly for Puppy Boy if he gets into it and swallows it. Lost a Barbie and her arms? Well, that's a natural consequence to leaving it down where Puppy Boy could get to it. Lost a pair of nice shoes, Hubby? Well, perhaps next time you will remember to close the closet door behind you so Puppy Boy doesn't get into it and decide those $200 loafers are so much more tasty than his toy. Lost your collection of Sharpies, Honey Bunny? Perhaps you should have picked them up off the floor.  No longer can I stand guard against their habits than I can the weather.  They must learn for themselves.

As parent's, that's a hard one, isn't it? Allowing our children to learn for themselves, with no strings attached. They won't learn the lesson of picking up if I put a condition on it. If I say: "You didn't pick X up, so now you must be punished." All they will remember is the punishment, not the lesson of picking up X.

What is it that we want our children to learn? Is it important they learn the dates of wars? Is it important that they learn what DeMoivre's Theorem is? (I had to look this one up: The formula useful for finding powers and roots to complex numbers. I've never used it personally.) Ask yourself: "What in life truly needs to have strings attached?"  If I am honest, I can think of nothing. No relationship needs to have strings attached. No education needs to have strings attached for true learning to occur.

Webster's Dictionary defines learning as thus: "the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something "

Nowhere does it say learning is a passive action for which we dictate what someone learns nor does it say learning must be quantified by testing. Quantification of learning is attaching a string to it. When we attach strings to our relationships, they become a burden. They become a win/lose situation. One must retain power over that string in order to remain in control.

What would happen if you removed that condition? Chaos? Perhaps, at first. No one would know what to do. No one would know what is expected of them. You may see hours of MineCraft and then you hit the panic button. I see it all the time on my FB feed; parents frightened their child is spending too much time doing video games. I ask you: Would you be so upset if they spent all that time reading? Why the condition on video games?

As parents, we are so afraid of failing we attach strings to our children, adding burden to our journey. I'm not saying don't have expectations for your children. I'm saying talk WITH them about THEIR expectations. Work WITH them to help obtain THEIR goals. Mirror YOUR goals and they will learn how to achieve their own. Don't put a string on their life. It is their life. They aren't a kite to be controlled. They are a bird who needs to learn how to ride the currents and ebb and flow of life.

Relax, my dear Reader. Your babies will outgrow co-sleeping all too soon. They will begin to sleep through the night. They will learn how to read.  Trust me. My now 7 year old has never read a Bob Book, yet she is reading advanced Amerian Girl Doll books because they challenge her and interest her.

Your 10-15 year old will have their passion return. Right now, they are doing a lot of internal work. Release your grip and allow them to discover their passions. Only step in if depression or other dangers issue come into play. One day soon, they will be 16-18 and they will have already done the work most do at age 18+ to discover what it is they want to study in their "other life" and will be self-motivated to achieve their own greatness.

Although parenting doesn't stop at 18, we somehow attach the string of "you are all grown up, it's up to you now" at that age in our society. Their ability to make responsible decisions after that age will rely heavily on what seeds were planted when they were younger. You reap what you sow. It is wise to remember that. Plant what you want to grow in them early on and you will create a beautiful young adult, able to handle the many changing winds and tides of the adult world.

We are all doing the best we can in each moment. For me, last night, that meant being grateful Hubby made us hash browns and bacon for dinner and cuddled into bed with Boo Bear and I at 10pm. He doesn't normally snuggle with us. It meant letting Honey Bunny sleep because she was sick. It meant loving myself enough to let myself heal so today I could tackle the kitchen and the laundry room feeling a bit better.

Today's request for you is this: Let loose your conditional strings on yourself, your children, your spouse.  Allow your relationships to bloom as they are. Allow yourself the ability to love freely. Then, watch as you all grow together. Watch the joy, the laughter, the happiness. And when your fearful strings come back around (and they will), put them at ease. Relax again and tell them they aren't needed. This life has No Strings Attached.

















Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Monster I Was Before



The year is 2001. I'm 30 years old. Honey Bunny is 4. The divorce is over. The custody battles are still going on. Every day is a battle.  It's a battle to get her up for preschool. It's a battle to get her to eat. She defies me. She yells at me. She throws things at me. I say no to a bike while in Walmart 2 weeks before Christmas and she runs at me like a ram, head down, and cracks my ribs.

Every night, at bed, I lay with her and silently sob. She is sent to her room so often now, I wonder what the point it. Time outs are non-effective. I yell. I scream. I lose my temper-on a 4 year old. I spank her. I feel like a monster.

It's now 2005. She's in 2nd grade. The custody battles are long over. We haven't heard from her father in 4 years. But our battles, the ones where we go at each other, are still going on. I'd planned a great Halloween Party. She and I had made tons of decorations and even made the invitations by hand, burning the edges. Everything is bought for the party. She does something which makes me cancel the party. To this day, I don't remember what it was. I still feel horrible. She was 8 and I cancelled a party because of something she did related to school. What did she do? I don't know. Maybe it was she didn't complete an assignment. Maybe she failed a test. I remember her tears. I remember her shame. I remember the look on her face of horror that I cancelled her party. I remember being "the one in control" and having to do this to "teach her a lesson."  Want to know the truth? I'm not sure what lesson I taught other than I was a monster.

A few months later, something was going on before school. I don't remember what again. I was trying to get out the door. I was slicing an apple. She wasn't ready or she didn't follow my directions, something. When I close my eyes, all I see in my mind's eye is the following: A cute kitchen with red cabinets and yellow walls. My standing at the counter, cutting an apple next to the sink so I could put everything easily into it once I was done packing lunch and then...an explosion. An explosion so huge it changed my life forever. I see myself turn around, with total rage on my face, throw the steak knife in the sink in my rage, and have it bounce back out at me, tip first. It just missed my eye.

My anger had done that. My rage at not being listened to and her not following my orders had created that abusive reaction. Luckily, no one was hit by the flying knife. But in that one moment, time stopped. I knew I had lost it. I had lost my control as an adult. I had lost my control as a parent. I had lost my daughter.

Honey Bunny stood there, immobilized in fear. I ran past her, up the 4 stairs to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and said out loud: "I will NEVER be the parent he was. Today, this stops." I walked out, kneeled down and held her as we both cried. She was late for school. I was late for work. But I wasn't too late to start over again.

That day, I began my journey to Whole Life Unschooling (WLU). I didn't know it then. All I knew then is that there had to be a better way to parent other than spanking, time outs, yelling, screaming, punishing and being punitive. I read everything I could get my hands on, but all authorities told me I was doing the right thing by parenting that way. So why, then, did it feel so wrong to me?

I quit my job a month later. I refused to sleep with my boss, who offered me life long security, a beautiful house, a car and everything I could ever want and need. He claimed to love my daughter and myself. I would have taken him up on it. I could have become a well paid prostitute to support my daughter except for one thing: I was friends with his wife of 20 years. I couldn't do that to her. Instead, I quit my job and lost my rental home, my car, everything physical. I ended up in my parent's 500 square foot cottage, sleeping on a bunk bed in the main room. I got the top bunk because Honey Bunny was afraid she'd roll out. This is where I really began my journey on the road to WLU.

I met my, now, husband a few months later. We were so in love. We spent every waking moment together as a family. We were married 6 months into our relationship, and I was 4 1/2 months pregnant as we walked down the isle. This November 4th, we will celebrate 8 years together. During those 8 years, I have changed how I approach relationships and parenting. Through his love and acceptance, I have become a gentle, loving IN-RELATIONSHIP parent. I have become a WLU parent.

Now, there is no screaming. There is no yelling. There is talking with, not to. There is laughter with, not at. There is communication, not shame. There are no time outs for Boo Bear. There are no spankings. There is no need. You see, we work TOGETHER. If I am upset that she didn't follow a direction, such as putting something away before she starts something else, I simply go to her and say something like: "Hey, please remember to pick that up first. Major (our puppy) would really enjoy eating that and it could hurt him," or "I'm sure you'd like to play with that again. Major may get it and I know that will make you upset. Let's do it together."

It is a difficult thing to do, change. Hubby looked at me a few months ago and said: "You've changed. I'm so confused now. You aren't who you used to be." I agreed. I'm not. In order for us to be on the same page, he chose to step up to what I am doing because it works. He has stayed in the traditional way of parenting with his two other biological children, and those relationships are tenuous at best. One child doesn't speak to him. The other it is very strained. He sees me with Honey Bunny and Boo Bear. The one child with whom it is very strained at least he is trying to be involved with. Relationships are a two way street and this child is almost 17 and doesn't have any practice being IN relationship WITH someone. Hubby gets hurt and frustrated because he keeps trying what I'm doing and it isn't working with this child. As I said, it's a two way street. But, he keeps trying. That is the beauty of WLU. You keep trying.

You will "fail." You will fall. You will fall back into old ways when hungry. angry, lonely or tired. It happens when we are stressed. When we feel an old trigger being hit, we will revert to old ways. But remember, we are in control of how we react. We can either chose to RE-act or we can chose to re-ACT. One means repeat (re) the other gives us a chance to make a different choice (act).

Today, be conscious of where your reactions are coming from. Are they from your past? Are they from the here and now. Are you RE-acting or are you re-ACTING? Ask yourself: What type of parent do I want my children to remember? Do so before you do anything today. Folding laundry and you want your child to do it? Offer to do it together. Putting dishes away and feeling like Cinderella? Start  whistling a song or singing like Cinderella does and see if they come wondering what you are doing and ask them to help. Children don't want to be shamed. They WANT to be involved and do good. They want your love and your acceptance, even if you don't understand them or their motivation.

The best line I have ever heard, and I use often is this: "I love and accept you even though I don't understand you." I even use this with myself: "I love and accept
myself, even though I don't understand myself." That sets me free. Try it. It might just set you free too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gluten Free Connection to Mental Illness

Today, I'm going to venture off my usual parenting topics a bit, but not really. I'm going to talk about something near and dear to my heart: gluten free eating.

Don't roll your eyes at me. I've been doing this since the beginning of the craze and not because it's a craze, but because I discovered my body can't handle gluten (wheat, rye, barley, malt) as well as oats, corn, milk and a whole slew of other things (such as iceberg lettuce and carrots and celery).

We also discovered Honey Bunny and Boo Bear don't do well with it either. Whereas I end up the hospital due to severe stomach pains or passing out while having such bad diarrhea on the side of the road, crouched down leaning against my mini-van tire praying no one will drive by, that I can't even risk literally a crumb coming into contact with my food, Honey Bunny presents different side effects of gluten contamination and so does Boo Bear. Boo Bear gets migraines from hell.  Personally, I don't know any migraines from heaven. All migraines are from hell.  Honey Bunny, on the other hand, becomes suicidal.

Yes, you read that right, suicidal. For us, having gluten is something that must be avoided at all cost. Boo Bear will be uncomfortable with a migraine. She will cry. She will hurt. But ultimately, it will pass. She will have an upset stomach, she will poop her brains out. She'll have bloating and all those "wonderful" gastrointestinal discomforts, but it won't be the end of the world for her.

Honey Bunny and I? It's bad and when I say bad, I mean bad. For me, life stops for at least 3 weeks while it processes fully through my system. You read that sentence right, three weeks. It is extreme pain, worse than kidney stones and child birth combined (and that's saying something). For Honey Bunny, we are usually checking her into a psych ward within 72 hours of digested gluten for suicidal attempt or want to attempt.

I'm sure you're shaking your head thinking I'm nuts. Am I really? The following are taken directly from www.celiacdisease.com: (http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/CeliacNeuroSymptoms/a/Gluten-Neurological-Symptoms.htm)

 "Finally, there are some hints that conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder also may be affected by gluten intake in a few individuals."

" In fact, one study found that about one-third or more of celiacs suffer from depression, and 17% may have an anxiety disorder."

"Nearly half of those with bipolar disorder carried the celiac disease genes (i.e., the genes that predispose you to celiac disease)"


Now, you tell me, am I nuts? Major medical research is finding a connection between the brain and the gut. Major medical research is finding a connection between gluten and mental illness, NOT just gastrointestinal discomfort. Doesn't that make you stop and wonder what the hell you are eating? What are you doing to yourself and your children, your family, when you feed them that sandwich, Friday night pizza, or mac-n-cheese?


Gluten is also known to have connections to the following disorders: depression, anxiety, sleep issues, brain fog, ADHD, epilepsy, neuropathy and vertigo. It's not just bloating, gas, fatigue, anemia, joint pain, rashes and diarrhea/constipation. 


Remember those ads with the two eggs? One said: "This is your brain" and they turned on the burner and the eggs began to fry and the narrator next said: "This is your brain on drugs. Get the picture?" THAT'S how I feel about gluten. It fries our brains. Did you know NO ONE on Earth is actually able to digest gluten? Our bodies aren't made to break down the protein structure of it. 


On top of that wheat is so modified through genetic engineering it isn't even considered a plant! It changes OUR DNA in ways we can't even begin to track. Doesn't that scare you? Did you know that? Did you know they now add opiates to wheat so you want to eat more and more of it? Yes, you get addicted to the bread you are eating, to the breading on your chicken nuggets, to the pretzels and the Hot Pockets and the crackers and almost everything that has a coupon for it!


Sorry. It's something I am very passionate about. Let me calm down and talk about food for a moment. That's my true passion. I once owned a gluten-free bakery. I figured out a lot during those days. 


First: Combining my own flours was expensive. Buy pre-made mixes. They spent millions of dollars figuring them out. You don't have to.


Second: Bread batter is supposed to look like cake batter. Don't freak out. It also only needs one rise!


Third: It CAN be flavorful, delightful and exciting.


Now, onto what do we eat. I sometimes buy the processed stuff for the girls to eat, but it is expensive. Bagels are $7 for 4. Pretzels $7-$8 a bag. Those are rare and exciting when I do get them. Aldi's has come out with some decent processed stuff, but it's still processed and full of crap. I have a few websites I run and I will mention them now. Feel free to stop by and take a look.


1) www.homemadegfmeals.com 

Here, I offer classes, recipes, even concierge shopping for your first few times after you go gluten free. It's a scary world in the grocery store if you don't know where to go and what to look for. 

2) The corresponding Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/HomemadegfMeals?ref=hl

TONS of recipes there. Meal plan ideas, etc.

3)For the Vegan meals: https://www.facebook.com/6weekvegan?ref=hl
I can't do dairy, so doing vegan is just as easy as doing Paleo.

Here's the answer to what we eat: Here is last week's menu plan:
Bkfst:
Freezer Oatmeal Cups
Eggs & Sausage
Crustless Quiche w/Bacon Bits
Eggs and Avocado
Cinnamon Quinoa Bkfst Bars
Smoothies
Pancakes
Lunch:
Tuna & Salad
Grilled Cheese (Vegan for me, Cheddar for girls)
Quesadillas for the girls
Leftovers whenever
Dinner:
Sweet & Spicy Roasted Chicken Legs and Sautéed Garlic Kale
Crockpot Apple Pork Loin w/Whipped Taters and Green Beans
Grilled Steak Tacos in Bibb Lettuce & Grilled Squash
Fiery Jalepeno Buffalo Burgers w/ Sweet Potato Pancakes and Roasted Garlic Sauce (thinking of doing pancakes as the bun)
Red Bean Chili w/Salad
Leftovers

That doesn't look too bad, does it? It doesn't look like we are missing out. Oh, and as for the sandwiches you see. I bought Canyon Bakehouse Bread. The best GF bread out there. It's only $5.00 a loaf, whereas to make bread myself is over $7.00 a loaf. :)  Why make it if I can buy it for less?

Basically, my Dear Reader, begin to question what you put in your body and your family's bodies. Educate yourself to what you are truly eating. Do you remember how you made glue in school for those paper mache projects? You mixed flour with water. Guess what happens to the bread/cereal/etc. you ate does in your intestines? Yep. It makes glue....

If you are eating organic, why are you eating  wheat? If you aren't eating organic, why aren't you doing the "Dirty Dozen" (that's what I do. Eating GF can be expensive, so I pick and chose). Truth be told, my loves, I only spend $200 or less on groceries a week for our specialty diet. 

How much do you spend on groceries? How much is your health worth? 

Honey Bunny's health is worth her life to us. No more than I would allow a loaded gun in my home, than I allow gluten to step foot inside my home. She follows through with this even at friend's houses because she knows it means something horrible for her.

Our next step as a family? Removing all grains to see how that effects our family. I've been doing it slowly for a few weeks now. I'll let you know how it goes next month. The past 3 weeks have already gone well. We are down 85% on even gluten free grains. Another 15% left to go!  Wish us luck!

I ask you: Do you or someone in your family suffer from any of the symptoms above? If so, change your diet. Don't know how to or where to start. Contact me. I'm happy to help: maryherrington0401@gmail.com.  Put in your heading line: GF Blog Question.

I'm going to leave you with an action item: Go to your pantry/cabinets and read your labels. If you see anything with wheat/barley/rye/spelt/flour on it, write it down on a  list and then see how much you are serving your family. Think about it. Do your own research. Then come back, leave me a comment below. Say how you feel about what you now know. Ask me a question.