Anti-Resolutions

I’ve said before that resolutions aren’t really my thing.  And they’re still not.  But today, I did yoga for the second time in two weeks (and before that in a loooooong time).  And once this past week, I pulled out my flute and played for about an hour.  Last weekend, I got The Boy out of bed and I went to the beach (even though it was freezing) to take a couple of shots with my new camera – I have to practice using the manual settings – Yay!

I’m trying to be more positive at work, and get more accomplished at both work and home.  I’m trying not to let social media rule my evening so I can enjoy some time with The Man.

These are all things I’d like to continue doing this year, but I haven’t identified any resolutions, because I don’t want to set myself up for failure, and then be disappointed.  So instead, I will just try to form these habits, these good habits.

And it all begins with that first time.

Planner Supplies

Last week, I told you I’d let you know about some of the supplies I’ve picked up for my Erin Condren planner.

  • Post-Its  I love post-it notes, and have them in just about every size, and I used these at first to keep track of events that were tentative in my planner, or things I wanted to remember but didn’t have a strip of wash tape to jot it down on.  I still use them a bit, but not as much as I used to.  I like the ones in bright colors, so they catch my eye and do what they’re supposed to do – remind me of something important!
  • Printable planner stickers from etsy  I bought some full-sheet sticker paper for my printer, and then printed these colorful stickers (that say “bill” and “shopping” and “date night” just to name a few) that I then cut by hand.  It uses a lot of ink, however, so I’m not sure I’ll do this again.  We’ll see.
  • Washi tape I have a new addiction to this stuff, and unfortunately, it ain’t cheap.  But Michael’s sells a bunch of rolls in one tube, and if you can wait for a good sale or coupon, you can get a good deal.  I think they run about $20 for 13 rolls, and I got mine half-off.  Not bad when most places charge you around $4 per roll.  I always keep an eye out for some on clearance at Walmart, as well.  Washi tape is good for keeping track of events in your planner that cover several days.  I also use it instead of the stickers that came with the EC planner, because it is much easier to move – the EC stickers are supposed to be re-positionable, but aren’t very cooperative.
  • Frixion markers I picked a set of these up on Amazon for about $12, and they are life-transforming.  OK, maybe not, but pretty darn close.  They are markers that you can erase, which is GREAT for someone who loves pops of color to help her remember things, but hates the permanence of regular markers.  PLUS, they don’t bleed through the page.
  • Stickers I adore the kawaii and mochi style stickers, but haven’t committed the money to order any yet.  In the meantime, I’ve been checking my regular craft outlets and the dollar store for some cute ones to add a little something here and there.  I got these monster stickers at Walmart for $1. I use triangle-shaped ones to indicate when a bill has been paid.

Mornings Suck in Autism Households

That is my theory based on the anecdotal evidence I have encountered.  Maybe not for everyone, but for a lot of people I know that have loved ones on the spectrum.

One morning this week, everything was running along splendidly until I suggested to The Boy that it might be a jacket day as it was below 50 degrees.  No problem!  Yes, he agreed.  A jacket was a good idea.

And then we got to the couch, the time to put on socks and shoes, and wait for the bus.  And the bus was early, and The Boy couldn’t find his hat.  And there was NO WAY he was going to school without his hat…

Add in the stray kitten who had hung outside of the house since the previous evening, meowing away – he was trying to get in while I was marching out to the bus in my robe and slippers to plead for a few more minutes, and Raphael was anxious to get out because he always is, and because he was very curious about this kitten.  Add all of that to The (intransigent) Boy stuffing his feet, face, and hands into the couch cushions to ensure he couldn’t go to school without his hat.

Finally, he’s out the door, but not without a stream of under-the-breath curses about hats and school and buses.  I climb back into bed, and The Man says, “Maybe you should set that stuff out the night before.”

(Can you imagine the dark look?)

Yep.  Mornings suck.

 

PS – Guess where the hat was?  Right next to his bed.  *facepalm*

Sex Ed for Sale

Before break, 7th graders at The Boy’s school had a week-long sex ed program.  A couple of days in advance, an opt-out form was sent home that also explained where materials could be viewed (in the library, something like the following day in the middle of the day – very realistic for working parents, but I digress). I have never opted out of these programs for The Boy in the past because I feel it’s important, and I want him to have access to the same curriculum as his peers.

About the second day of the week, I noticed that the “workbook” for the program was in The Boy’s backpack and thought I would sit down and see what was in it.

The first page I had a problem with claimed that condoms were ineffective against STDs, and that only abstinence would ensure that you would not get an STD.  Half right, in my estimation.  I went to the CDC website to fact-check the information on the page, and actually found that this workbook page contained some inaccurate statements.

Concerned, I continued to read the workbook.  And then I came to this page:

gender

Ah, boys are logical and girls are sensitive.  Boys deal in facts, and girls deal in feelings.  All couched in “sometimes” and “generally” which are the equivalent to “no offense but…”.

Nope.  Not acceptable.  Not even “generally”.  And then, I found this:

marriage?

Check out Attitude #6.  Because if you don’t want to get married, there’s something wrong with you.

What in the world is this crap they are teaching the 7th graders in my county? I googled the name of the group that put the curriculum together.  It’s actually a women’s pregnancy clinic that maintains an anti-abortion stance, and sells this curriculum to school districts.  A pregnancy clinic that doesn’t even know the facts about STDs and condoms.

I emailed the principal, knowing that this curriculum was probably selected by a committee, and was approved and paid for by the school board.  I asked her who I might contact with concerns about the program.  She took several days to email back, and even then only said that one of the counselors would be contacting me about my concern.

At least a week and a half went by before a school counselor called me and referred me to… drumroll, please… the pregnancy clinic that published the curriculum.

That would be like referring a library patron with concerns about pornography in the library to Larry Flynt.

I will be pursuing this with central office.  I will attend board meetings if I have to.  This curriculum is insanely out of date, and presents opinion as fact, which is a very slippery slope.  I just wish I had had better access to this in advance, and I wish the school had handled my concerns more appropriately.  I’m extremely disappointed with their response.

A Looky-Loo at my planner

You may recall that I splurged a bit and purchased an Erin Condren Life Planner awhile back.  These are kind of a trendy thing right now, and I had no idea if it would be worth the cost, considering I’m not a sorority girl, a teacher (they have a special lesson planner, too), or getting married – all very popular markets for this planner.  But I have kept it up, and especially like finding the perfect supplies to make planning fun (more on that in another post!).

I went back to a paper planner, because I needed one spot to find all my important dates and lists. I’m keeping track of:

  • bills and due dates
  • assignments, quizzes, and tests for The Boy
  • blog posts I want to write
  • appointments at work, and when the boss will be out of town ;)
  • evening activities like school events and date night
  • budgeting and expense tracking for our trailer flip
  • ideas for novels
  • my christmas list
  • prescription renewal reminders

I’d like to also include (but haven’t yet):

  • meal planning
  • shots I want to take and skills I want to practice – I got a new camera for Christmas!
  • a real dashboard – mine (pictured below) is more of a home for unused or previously-used post-its and pre-cut washi tape

Here are a few shots to show you how I’m using it.

photo 2

stars are bill due dates, wash tape indicates evening activities (I like to keep the month at a view fairly simple)

photo 1

my “dashboard” on the inside cover – needs help, I know, but it functions

photo 3

Work is in the middle, because that’s where I spend my days. Due dates on top, because the morning is when I make sure they are all met. Evening activities are on the bottom.

photo 4

Commonly used stickers are in the back (as well as school calendars and other important papers).

 

Goodbye 2014

Here is my obligatory end-of-year post.

2014 was what it was.  7th grade brought new issues for The Boy, and by extension, for us at home.  We never stop learning. And we never stop being amazed at how much we have to learn.

This time of year is a natural time to reflect and plan, and I have much to be thankful for from 2014, and much to look forward to in 2015.

I’m thankful for my good-paying job that does much to support our family in a fairly comfortable fashion, even though it makes me absolutely crazy in the summer.  I actually really enjoy it in the winter, so we shall see what the new year brings.

I am so extremely thankful to have The Man in my life.  He is my rock, my partner in crime, the one who holds me at night, and cracks me up during the day.  There is no one on Earth I would rather have by my side than him.

I’m thankful to have my parents so close after being so far for so long.  It’s a joy to see the relationship between The Boy and his grandparents so strong.  We are lucky to have that, I think.

In the coming year, my first priority is to find more balance.  I’ve been struggling with this.  I work more hours now, for less money, and much of my off-time is wasted in front of the TV.  I plan to use more time in the evenings to work on the necessary things that fall by the wayside too often, as well as the things I’d like to do, which also get pushed to the back burner. This may not be a welcome change at first for The Man, who sees our TV-watching time as time spent together, but in the end, I hope he’ll see it as necessary to my sanity, and therefore a good thing for our relationship. :)

I also need to spend more time with my parents, and I already have some plans  in the works on how to accomplish this.  Time is so dear, but it marches on, as well.  And I don’t want to wake up ten years from now and wish I had done more and taken more time.

Thank you, dear readers, for hanging in with me this year.  I know I haven’t been posting as regularly as I have in the past, and that is another priority for me in the coming year.

Have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve, and enjoy your loved ones.

An Open Letter to the Ex

Our son is thirteen now. I wonder if you are shocked by how much he has grown every time you see him. The last time it had been over a year. This time, eight months. I know he’s grown because I have to buy him new pants for every band concert. The size 18’s from last spring were way too short last week so we bought some 29/30’s. I wonder if headlines with autism catch your eye, or if you’ve ever read anything about it. I wonder if you remember anything from the year and a half between the diagnosis and when you left. I wonder how you spend time with him when he’s with you – do you try to connect or do you just coexist? Feeling a little schadenfreude as I hope you experience some of the pubescent rage we have witnessed this fall. But not too much because I wonder if you could handle it, and know I’d rather not find out. In a few years we will have been divorced longer than we were married and the boy will have lived longer without you than with you. That should scare the bejesus out of you, but it doesn’t seem to even register on your radar. Shocking to realize his speech teacher at his school last year who saw him once a week spent more time with him than you have in the last year, and knows him infinitely more than you do.

I wonder a lot, but it isn’t my place to know. That’s between you and him. The question I will never get an answer to is how. How do you live without him?

So I shake my head, sigh, give him to you for Christmas and cross my fingers. This never gets easier.

We Are Destroying Our Children

On the news last night, they featured a music program in a California school system that was funded by a grant because there wasn’t any money in the school budget for it.  This is not new, this happens all the time, but while watching this program I began to cry.  Not like, “Oh, that’s so sweet, and isn’t that great for those kids.” No, this was different.  These tears were more like, “This is completely and utterly unacceptable that our schools cannot afford arts programs.”

Do you know where the money is going?  It’s going to Pearson, and companies like Pearson who charge for their testing programs, for their test prep materials, even for their “professional development” programs – “experts” that they have chosen to send to schools willing to pay enough for the wisdom on… you guessed it, how to get the kids to pass the test.  How to teach more, faster.  How to determine what not to teach, so that you can teach the really important stuff – you know, the stuff that’s on the test.  How to get kindergartners to sit still long enough to take a standardized test.  Test taking strategies to teach to the kids to increase their odds of getting a correct answer… on the test.

Let me be clear – testing is not education.  But our kids and our teachers spend so much time on testing, there is very little time left for actual teaching and learning.

And in the meantime, we wonder why the rates of kids with anxiety have gone through the roof.  We wonder why kids are so mean to each other.  We wonder why our kids get addicted to video games, and their phones, and technology in general.  And I hate to say it, but in ten years or so, we’re going to be shocked at the rise in suicides and mental health issues in our youth.

They don’t know how to play anymore because they don’t have time.   They don’t have hobbies anymore because they don’t have time.  They don’t find joy in music or art because it’s not in their school day anymore, and you guessed it – they don’t have time after school.

They have hours – HOURS! of homework. Even in Kindergarten. They have shortened recess because the class didn’t get everything done.  They have silent lunch periods where they have to sit boy-girl, boy-girl so that they do not socialize and cause “trouble.” They are not allowed to have a real vacation – some teacher will assign a project, because kids will just get bored over break, right?  Why not use that time to get some more standards in?

I cried at that news story out of sheer rage and helplessness.  I left education in large part because it was heading in a very wrong direction, and it is only accelerating  toward that really bad place.  And it will have devastating, crippling effects on this generation of school kids that can only “socialize” and escape via technology.

What do we do? I do what I can. When my kid’s teacher assigns homework over break, I tell him it may not get done, and I might tell a little white lie about why.  My kid deserves a break, and he will get it if I have anything to say about it.  When a school in my district enacts these stupid policies about recess and lunch (and yes, those are real policies in place in an elementary school in my district), I will write letters to principals, superintendents, and school boards. And I will speak loudly to anyone who will listen about testing, and what it is doing to our kids and our educational system.

I do what I can.  It may not be much, but it’s better than crying at the TV.

What Stress Does to Me

I’ve mentioned how stressful the fall has been.  Know what happens when I get stressed?

First is my back-shoulders-neck-head. Mostly shoulders-neck-head. Tension-soreness-headaches-migraines happen to my shoulders-neck-head.  It can get bad, where I need to consciously lie on back at night (normally, I’m a side sleeper, curled into a fetal position), take too much tension headache medicine, be in a darkened quiet room, etc.

Second is my stomach.  Polite way of saying I need to run to the bathroom every two seconds.  Again, not fun, but uncontrollable, and a sure sign that something (or someone) has me stressed out.

Third, I begin to shake.  Somewhere between a shiver and a quake. Deep breaths help, but again, it’s uncontrollable.

All the while, I worry it, shake it like a rag doll in my brain.  In other words, I get a bit obsessive about whatever or whoever it is in my brain, and I can’t let go.  Probably one of the reasons, “Don’t worry about it,” sounds just as awful as nails on a chalkboard to me. It’s just not even practical, not even a realistic goal. Shut up.

Why do I know this much about how stress affects me physically? Because I was a teacher for over 17 years.  No, that was not a sarcastic answer. It’s the truth. And I’ve paid attention to my own body.

What helps alleviate some of these? Regular yoga (oops, need to get back on that wagon, too). Me-time. Deep breathing (goes along with the yoga). A massage now and then. Reading (to some extent). Being able to vent to someone about my source of stress (but not too much, because that can get me ramped up again). And a realization that This Too Shall Pass. I forget that a lot. Maybe I should get it tattooed somewhere I’ll see it all the time.

What does stress do to you? What do you do to alleviate it?

On-Again, Off-Again Dad

The ex has called a couple of times over the past month or so, after a couple of months of not calling. He said, “I get him for Christmas this year, right?” Ummm, ok. So after making use of your liberal visitation schedule for two weeks out of the last 104, you want to stake your claim? Sure. Yes, you actually are supposed to have him starting on Christmas Eve, as it is an odd year. “I’ll try to get some time off, then,” he said. Sure, I thought.  Like last Christmas.

He called once more, spoke to The Boy only for a little while, and that was the last we heard anything about Christmas.  The Boy’s birthday was Wednesday, and his mom had sent gifts, one from her, and one from his dad. Her card said they were looking forward to seeing him at Christmas.  But the ex didn’t even call his son on his birthday.

What?

My mom told me that recently, she and The Boy were at Walmart and he said he really hoped he’d get to see his dad at Christmas, because he hadn’t seen him since April.  Yes, it hurts him more than he’ll admit to me, and yes, he does keep track.

As The Man says, kids are only young once. He’s going to miss it completely.

Angry for The Boy and pity for the ex. And partly angry for me too, really, because I have my own life and family that will be affected by his inadequacy. But mostly angry for The Boy.