Enter the Seesaw – the Push and the Pull

Some books I bought recently at the bargain store…

It began the last day of school.

The doubt.

The longing.

Em was suddenly unsure what she wanted to do – return to homeschooling or return to public school in the fall.

And I will admit, I was of two minds.

On one hand, I thought of the hours we would spend together. I don’t just love my child, I like her as a person. I look at Em and think, We have so few years left together before she begins her life, how can I even think of missing a single moment?

I thought of the joyful a-ha moments when she is struggling over a concept, a task, and there is this sudden dawning of understanding. The grin spreading across her face and how her eyes brighten when she finally gets it.

I love those moments. I love to see them, to be a part of making them happen. I love our conversations and her curiosity and thoughtfulness and open heart.

And on the other side of it, homeschooling takes time. The time that I could be spending writing, gardening, creating some of the local DIY art stuff I’ve been obsessing over lately. It’s been lovely to have hours of alone time, mornings spent recharging my introvert batteries and preparing for an evening of running around and preparing dinner and being a mom and wife.

At Em’s recital with Harmony Project KC

So I gave her a week of summer break, watched as she flew away to San Francisco to see her grandparents, and when she returned, I said, “Now we need to discuss whether or not you will be homeschooling in the fall.”

Long ago, when I was quite young, maybe no more than seven or eight, I wanted to live with my dad, but I worried about how my mom would react. My dad suggested we make a list of pros and cons. To this day, I have suggested this very thing to my child as a way of working through the different aspects of the decision.

We cleared some space on the blackboard wall…

I wrote most of this as she dictated the wording…

Pro: Can bring your own food  Con: Everyone might want some and it takes time to prepare it in the morning and plan for it in shopping

Pro: There are good teachers  Con: Can be more strict than Mom (by the way, I’m not sure how I feel about that – I thought I was overly strict but apparently not!).

Pro: Friends every day. Con: Bullies every day and also disagreements with friends.

Pro: Science labs (she loves them – thank you Ms. Grammer for making them so fun) Con: Work before the labs (apparently “clean your room” is a dreaded phrase in school as well as at home)

Pro: Poetry Con: Can be difficult

Pro: Teachers reading books to us  Con: Other kids talk during reading

Pro: No pro to time spent in a day in school Con: Time spent in a day at school

We didn’t even touch on her biggest issues with school…

  • Having to hold it until the teacher let her go to the bathroom
  • The short time they had to eat lunch
  • Little or no recess time
  • No wiggle room for time off – we can’t just take off anytime we like and go on a field trip, to a friend’s house, etc.
  • The likelihood of homework assigned in sixth grade and certainly in the grades beyond

Caught in the act…

We discussed my work schedule, possible all-day playdates, her impending “job” of reading to our friends’ littles twice per month while I clean their house, and some of the books she would be studying this year.

I told her I wanted her to know all mathematics basics like the back of her hand – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – sharp and quick since they are the building blocks of all other mathematics.

“Give me a division question,” she said.

“What’s twelve divided by four?” I asked.

With little hesitation, she said, “Three!”

Em in Science class at Whittier

I smiled at her, “That’s great! You will be done with the skills building in no time,” I told her, “We will do timed worksheets and before you know it those answers will be ingrained in your mind.”

She grinned.

“So, what do you think?” I asked.

“I want to homeschool, but I also want to see my friends and my teachers.”

I love that she wants to keep connections with her teachers and her friends. Em has always been a kind-hearted child and enjoys a wide range of friends. I want to encourage that behavior – the world is always better when you have an army of friends and mentors ready to help you through it. But I also didn’t want her to misunderstand the situation.

Emergency plan for finding dogs when the gate is open…

I explained the difference between seeing her friends and spending time with them at school. “If you are envisioning coming for a visit like a homeschool rock star m’dear, set that notion aside. School is not for socializing, and the teachers will not be okay with you disrupting classes. You can offer to help out your teachers from last year, and we can make arrangements for you to see your friends outside of school, but keep in mind what school is intended for.”

She seemed to understand that and we discussed ways for her to balance homeschool and her social life.

So in the end? We are “on” for homeschool this fall. For now, however, we have a couple more weeks of lazy days before four weeks of Campfire day camp begins. Time for sleeping in, relaxing, and seeing what fun we can get up to.

Like today, for instance. My afternoon cleaning has been rescheduled to Sunday and I’ve asked her what she wants to do. I’m sure she will come up with something fun!

How I love this girl!

Homeschooling spelling tests

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The Last Day of Fifth Grade

Today is Em’s last day of fifth grade. And I have mixed emotions about it, I really do.

Last August, in the throes of self-doubt, fears that I wasn’t doing right by her, feelings of overwhelm, and more – I made the decision to put Em in public school for the first time. I had spent my childhood, and most of my eldest’s childhood, as well as all of Em’s childhood, completely and totally against public schools.

My experiences had been mediocre at best, some of my eldest daughter’s had been downright damaging, and I was firmly convinced that public schools – and especially the Kansas City Public Schools that struggled with accreditation, poverty, and violence – were just about the worst place I could put my daughter.

If I hadn’t been inches from a complete spiraling meltdown, I never would have done it.

But guess what? I’m glad I did.

I took her to the “meet your teacher day” back in August and introduced myself to each of her teachers. Her homeroom teacher, Ms. L. was a petite woman barely taller than some of her students. Her big eyes, young face and kind heart hid a spine of steel, however, and I watched her in action later on in the semester and knew Em was in good hands.

Her reading teacher was an older, no-nonsense gospel music singing woman who had been teaching longer than I have been a mother. I’ll admit she rubbed me the wrong way at first, but she also expected good behavior from the kids and quickly warmed to Em.

Her science teacher Ms. G, was a warm, humorous woman and I could see that Em was instantly excited about being in her class.

The list goes on and on. Each of her teachers were responsive to my questions, engaging and kind to Em, and showed me that they were truly invested in each of their students’ education.


Today I received a photo of Em playing her cello at the talent show from her science teacher, along with the note, “Thank you for sharing your amazing and outstanding daughter with me this year.  She has enriched my year and the lives of those around her! “

All through the year, I have received updates, mainly from Ms. L, her homeroom teacher, and Ms. G, her science teacher, along with pictures, like this one from last Friday:

Which made me laugh.

I will miss the extra time I have had each day to write, even as I look forward to spending more of my days with my wonderful daughter. Time flies too quickly, after all, and I don’t want to miss any of it. In the fall we start homeschooling sixth grade and will move through the grades until the end of the tenth when I plan on enrolling her in the Early College Academy. She will be able to earn her Associate’s degree by the age of 18.

But that is all in the future. For now, all I can think of is how those last days of school felt for me as a child. No matter if I was in public school or private, they were bittersweet. The familiar faces of friends and teachers seen one last time before disappearing into the warmth of summer, the promise of pools and summer camp and plane trips to see family. Leaving the world you have lived in each weekday for nine months, replacing it with another.



A rite of passage.

I cannot thank the teachers at Whittier Elementary enough. For their kindness, their dedication and open hearts. They made a particularly painful transition easy, and in doing so, helped me realize how much good I have done already and how much more I am capable of as we return to homeschool in the fall. I’m glad to say I was wrong, that my deepest fears did not come true, and that Em was able to see what public school was like while learning and growing and connecting with other adults and children.

p.s. After I posted this, Em came home, took one look at me and burst into tears. Even as she misses her teachers she is excited about homeschooling in the fall. She told me about her last day, her eyes and nose blotchy with tears, about the teachers who were retiring or leaving, and the others who were being reassigned to different grades and subjects. Saying goodbye was bittersweet for her, my sweet girl wears her heart on her sleeve!

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Heart on a String and The Great Unknown

Em and Little Miss examining the wild violets

The Great Unknown

Today someone asked me, “So what happens next?”

I shrugged and smiled, “It’s not up to me. It’s up to a judge and damn, I would not want that job, not in a million years.”

“So it could go either way? When will you know for sure?”

I shrugged again, “The wheels of justice move excruciatingly slow. All I can do is wait.”

We were talking about my foster daughter, Little Miss, who has only been in our lives for three and a half weeks now. Three and a half weeks – that isn’t long, but in that short amount of time she has first discombobulated us, then walked with us into a new schedule, a new reality.

A Decent Schedule

Each weekday morning, Em wakes at 6:30 with her alarm. I read to her for half an hour and Little Miss usually wakes up in the middle of it, calling out from her crib. Em runs to go get her, sits her in between us, and I finish the chapter and we snuggle up, all of us, sipping coffee or tea, and talking to Little Miss.

A diaper change and clean clothes, a touch up of the hair and we are off and away to daycare and work.

The evenings are filled with dinner, regular trips to the park, and a little tv in the evening before reading a book and bed.

And yes, there are tantrums and tears, but there is also laughter and hugs. Toddlers are a mixed bag of fun and freakouts, and Little Miss is as normal as they come in this arena.

An Awesome Older Sister

Em is, by the way, an amazing older sister. She is firm, loving, and responsible. I so enjoy watching the two of them interact. Little Miss responds in kind, calling out “Em-yee” when she sees her each morning or evening.

Heart on a String

Here is the reality, the face of foster care for our little family. It’s a love story, of sorts, with an uncertain and unknowable ending. You take a tiny child into your home and I challenge you to NOT fall in love.

I jokingly say to my husband that children are cute because if they weren’t then we would eat them after the first tantrum or unexpected mess.

So, after the initial shock of “Holy hell, a strange woman just came by my house and left a small child on my doorstep!” I did what most sane, normal, loving people would do in my position. I fell in love.

You can’t help but love this little girl. Her tight, pencil-width curls. Her bright smile. The way she chugs chocolate milk like she’s at a frat party.

The reality of being a foster parent is that you will fall in love with a child that isn’t yours by birth. One that takes a piece of your heart forever and irredeemably placed on a string that may travel far away from you.

Love is simple and it is also rather complicated. It’s easy to love, and it’s not so easy to let go.

What Is a “Better Life?”

Within the first 24 hours of a placement, a foster parent is tasked with taking their new foster child to the doctor to get checked out. And here I was, still half in shock that after all those months of paperwork I actually had what I had been waiting so long for.

A nurse, helping me go from one destination to the other, said, “Well, you know she’s better off with you, anyway.”

And my heart twanged with that.

In the weeks since I have met Little Miss’s mom, and I know enough about her situation to know that, if things were weighed by opportunity and disposable income, then yes, Little Miss would indisputably be better off with us. There are thousands of children you could say the same about.

Being poor isn’t a crime, though, and the nurse’s words bothered me. They bothered me because she doesn’t know the circumstances of why Little Miss is with me. Hell, I barely know the circumstances.

Thankfully, as I said above, it’s not my job to decide where she goes, but I fear that we will measure our time together in months at most.

When That Day Comes

You can love a child to the ends of the earth and back and not have that love returned. Or you can love, and be loved in return, and still lose a child. I’ve experienced the first scenario, and honestly, I rather expect the second scenario.

That said, love does not have a price tag nor a boundary attached to it. I want to believe that I can face the day that Little Miss returns to her bio mom with grace and with love. For me, that’s what it means to be a foster parent.

I recently read an article about a couple who had fostered and adopted a child. The author wrote, “So often people say they love children too much to open their home and then see them leave, but I find it hard to use the argument of having ‘too much love’ that forces you to keep that door closed.”

I have been asked, multiple times, “Aren’t you afraid of getting your heart broken?”

The answer is yes, of course, I am afraid. I walked into this, eyes open, knowing what it meant. That I might find the perfect child, the one who felt so right in my arms, so much a part of me that biology aside, we were meant to be a family.

Little Miss’s middle name is my first name. She turned 2 1/2 on my 48th birthday. She is left-handed like me.

She fits so well within our family. So yes, I will be heartbroken.

The only cure for heartbreak is to open my heart again.

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One Week As a Foster Parent

Em and Little Miss examining the wild violets

I was sitting on the porch with a new neighbor, learning more about her, when the phone rang. Heck, I didn’t even hear it. My daughter came to the front door, phone in hand.

“I have a 2-year-old little girl who has just come into care,” the woman on the other end said, “are you interested?”

I asked for more information and she gave it to me. A day or two earlier, I told myself, If the call comes in, and it is a child two years or younger, just say “yes.”

“Sure, bring her on over,” I said, my heart rate increasing. My voice sounded calm and the worker said she would call when they were on their way. I hung up and turned to my neighbor, “Well, it looks like I’m getting a child dropped off in the next twenty minutes or so. My first foster placement.”

The woman had just mentioned that she never wanted kids and she paled slightly as I explained that we had just received our foster care certification. “I’d better get going, it sounds like you’ve got your hands full!”

Thirty minutes later, Little Miss arrived in our lives.

A Traumatic First Night

She was absolutely adorable – cute curls and a tentative smile. Her big brown eyes regarded me solemnly at first and then later she smiled, a book in her hand. A book. She’s a girl after my own heart!

Within minutes of arriving, she fell down three or four stairs, landing on her head, right in front of the social worker. Em screamed in horror, Little Miss got up and brushed it off like it was no big deal.

Later though, when I tried to give her a bath as the social worker had suggested (and oh boy did she need one), Little Miss began to scream, cry and fight us. We gave up, wrapping her in a soft towel and rocking her until she calmed down.

I turned around twice and it was 9:30 and past time for bed. And that’s when the real heartbreak began.

I turned the lights off, then opened the curtains to the street below. The streetlamp lit the room in a soft glow and Little Miss stopped the crying that had begun with the dimming of the lights and began to pat the edge of the window that she could reach, “Mommy, where you?” She called softly, over and over.

And something deep inside me broke at hearing that.

It was an hour before I could get her to sleep – her crying, me crying, the music playing as I gently rubbed her back.

It was another hour before I was calm enough to sleep as well. I kept imagining what it must be like for her – how frightened she must be, away from everything familiar. It broke my heart.


We Are NOT Heroes

You know who are real heroes? The ones that take those kids who set fire to their foster home, kill or maim animals, or who threaten their caregivers and everyone else with violence. Kids with severe behavioral issues who might NEVER be okay. Our foster care training instructor gave us a peek into that world – “They will pee in your shoes, destroy the belongings you love the most, and set fire to your house” – that was my takeaway from STARS training.

We aren’t the heroes of this story.

We had to agree with a larger age bracket, that of zero to six years in age, but we also have the right of refusal and our certification worker had noted our preferences of age 0-2 years.

I’m being honest here, I didn’t know that I would be able to handle a child who was older, who had been through the wringer and back again, one that had seen or experienced abuse and neglect. I was protective too of Em, who deserved to have a good childhood, one that wasn’t sidelined by traumas that would take up all of our time and energy.

Little ones are more malleable, better able to rebound and form new connections. For the two of us, with a child and pets already in the house, taking on a child within the 0-2 range just made sense.

I’ve been called a hero, a saint, and blessed over and over. And that’s very kind, but misdirected. We are simply operating as parents, however temporary or permanent this might be, to a little human who happens to be rather adorable.

Not My Child

There was a moment, well, a couple, on Days Four and Five where reality set in – on both sides. Little Miss realized we weren’t going to beat her or try to eat her and her behavior slipped into the range of a typical two-year-old – complete with willfulness, shrieking imperiousness, and tantrums.

And I looked at her and thought, “This is NOT my child!”

It is said that humans only have a capacity for identifying a small amount of those around them as familiar, as friends and allies. The others are, well, others. And that was the feeling that came over me, briefly, as her tantrums and willfulness intersected with my vision of a peaceful house.

It’s called reality, by the way. She was acting like a perfectly normal toddler and I was responding to an unfamiliar face and thinking not my kid. But for the moment, she is my kid, and so I took a deep breath and moved past it.

Past the feelings of frustration, of the wish to blame someone for bad behavior, of the instinct to stop the bad behavior ASAP. I breathed in deeply, looked into Little Miss’ eyes and recognized her needs – for boundaries, for clearly stated expectations.

“Hey, talk to me. Use your words, tell me what is wrong.”

And the screaming stopped. She didn’t tell me exactly what the problem was, but she calmed down enough to be reasoned with. And later, that evening, when no amount of reasoning or words could bring her down, we gently placed her in bed and gave her a few minutes alone. She screamed like a skinned cat for five minutes and then fell dead asleep.

She is getting used to our rhythms, and we to hers. We are learning what she will eat, and when she has eaten enough. There is learning, and compromise, by all parties. Instead of “not my child” it is “my child for now.”

Private, None of Your Beeswax

“Is that your grandbaby?” A checker at Walmart asked.

“So why did she come into care?” Asked another.

“Well, at least now she has a better life than she did before.”

None of these are fair questions or statements.

Little Miss has a right to her privacy. She has a right not to be paraded about and clucked over, questioned over her parentage or her parents’ abilities to parent, and frankly, the questions can only hurt.

I have yet to come up with a polite, yet firm response that just rolls off the tongue when asked why she came into care. I can see, after just a week, that she has been well-loved. That the love makes this situation both easy and hard – easy, because she is meeting the milestones expected for her age and responding well to boundaries and our expectations of her – hard, because I adore her and welcome her presence in our home and fear that letting go will be hard, very hard.

She has a right to confidentiality, so I will not be discussing the reasons she came into care. Frankly, it’s no one’s business besides those who care for her.

Learning Curve

As you can see from the picture at the top, Little Miss is African American and that has been quite the learning curve. Skin and hair care are a very real, very important aspect.

“Did she come to you like that?” Her caseworker asked me, pointing at Little Miss’ boogie hair and I was seized with anxiety.

“It, uh, looked a little better than that, and I, uh, didn’t know what to do with it.”

The woman’s mouth turned down in disapproval, “You need to get those tangles out before it gets matted. If it gets matted we will have to cut it off.”

I messaged my friend with mixed-race kids that day in a panic and begged for her help. And by the next day, we had a crash course on how to moisturize skin, scalp, and keep the tangles out of the hair and caseworkers off my back.

Little Miss looked much better as a result. And my anxiety over it faded.

To Love, and Be Loved

It hit me hard the other day. As we prepared coffee and tea in the early morning, while Little Miss, Em and my dad snoozed away,

We were talking about Dee, Em, and Little Miss and Dave said to me, “I know, you always have wanted a big family.”

I told Dave, “I just want to love and be loved. Nothing can replace Dee, nothing will ever replace her in my heart. But in the end, I just want to love and be loved. I don’t need accolades, false promises, or sentiments. I just want to surround myself with love.”

I am fascinated by how children change and grow. I love being part of the process, watching the milestones as they move, shift, change and become complex humans with emotions and dreams of their own.

Fostering, like the rest of life, is both easy and hard. Easy to love, and be a parent and give boundaries – I’ve done this, and I’ve learned, matured, relaxed, and enjoy it now more than ever. Hard, to know I might have to say goodbye long before I am ready to. People come into our lives, and we give a piece of our hearts to each of them. The thing to remember is that loss is a part of life, a good and natural part that, while hard, helps grow our hearts bigger. No matter how long or short of a time we have with Little Miss, that love is not wasted. I want to believe that it hasn’t been wasted on my eldest either, and that the love I felt (and still feel) is real and valid and exists – whether we ever speak again.

The same goes for Little Miss.

“I hope she stays forever,” Em said the second day we had her.

“I hope that she is loved, that she is happy and that her life is full of opportunity and love and joy, wherever she goes,” I said in return.

To love, and be loved, a lot of life’s problems can be cured just by that state of being.



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Reading Spikes and the Big Green Light

This is Em wearing a favorite outfit she got for Christmas – a white sweater with a fuzzy heart and black polka dot pants, holding our future foster baby. “I didn’t want to color the baby in, Mama, because we don’t know what we will get and I didn’t want to assume.”

I’m so stinkin’ excited, folks. I can’t even tell you how excited! Well, I will, right now actually…

The Right Way to Start Off the Week

Finally, after weeks of delays, and a nearly seven-month-long process, we received our foster care home study and a contract to sign with the State of Missouri. As of tonight, when my husband is home from work and can sign the paperwork, and send it back, we can officially accept a foster child into our home.

Holy Toledo, we finally have that big green light!

Em drew the picture at the top of this post after hearing that we had finally received approval. I would say that she’s excited, wouldn’t you?!

Intrusive Doesn’t Begin to Cover It

I am not complaining, believe me I am not, but I did have a chuckle when I read another prospective foster parent’s post…

Birth certificates, drives license, ss cards, recommendations letters, W2s, physical, FBI finger printed, 30 hours of parenting training,….all to foster a child…all I had to do was spend 3 minutes in the back of a Dodge Omni with an idiot to get a biological child….

And the paperwork was only the beginning. The home visits were down and dirty and asked about every part of our lives.

I can only hope it helps the social workers weed out those who are in it for the money (the joke is on them, Missouri has one of the lowest compensation rates) or for some nefarious reasons.

I’m pretty open, and I share a good deal of my life as it is, but even I grew weary of it by the end. The proverbial straw came with the request to get a statement from a counselor my eldest daughter and I had seen over sixteen years ago in the wake of a particularly nasty divorce and abuse on my ex-husband’s part. I wrote to the social worker and said…

My daughter, despite her insistence on blaming me for all of her problems along with the waxing and waning of the moon, has a right to her privacy. She has a right to break ties with me, as much as it has hurt me and our small family, and she has a right to not be intruded upon in her decision to no longer be in our lives or to re-hash events that happened half a lifetime ago. And if that means that you or your supervisor are not interested in allowing my family to be foster parents, so be it.

I have been patient, I have been open, and I have been honest. I am not so desperate to have another child that I will intrude on my daughter’s decision to ostracize herself from our family. I spent nearly 12 years chasing after my child, desperate to have a relationship with her, and I’m done.

I don’t need that, and neither does she. As talented and smart as she is, from this armchair psychiatrist’s perspective, she is at worst a narcissist, and at the very least suffers from depression and anxiety. And that is the extent of what I am going to say about her because I am not a psychologist and she is not in my home nor will she be around a foster child.

In the end, you and your supervisor have a decision to make. Either we are people who can provide a good, safe home for a child, or we are not.

That was Sunday. And today we received the home study, without any more questions, hoops, or “And one more thing…”

Reading over the home study, which included gushing praise from all of our references including Em’s 5th grade home room teacher, was a very bright spot in my day. It’s not every day you read things like…

Emily meets and exceeds all expectations. She pushes herself to do more
and do better. She is aware if she is struggling with a task and will ask for help. Emily takes it upon herself to work above and beyond her potential. Emily has a great relationship with everyone she meets. She is empathetic to the feelings of those around her. She wants to help people and make them happy. She knows how people’s temperaments are and does a great job meeting them at their level.

Emily makes everyone’s day better. Emily’s parents are what all teachers hope for. They reply quickly and happily. They ask questions and seek to be proactive. I always feel comfortable and supported by Emily’s parents. I can’t think of a better family. They are understanding, welcoming, funny, intelligent and selfless. They have all helped make me a better teacher.

How amazing is that?! I just couldn’t stop smiling thinking about that!

More Training On the Horizon

Now that we are certified, there is annual training to be done. I have already had us signed up for two classes – The Importance of Sibling Relationships and CPR/First Aid. The first one we just have to do as part of our annual hours of training, the second class is one that I am really looking forward to. Knowing CPR/First Aid is an excellent skill to have.

Reading, Reading, and More Reading

So in case you haven’t been reading this blog since the beginning – my 11-year-old has not had a particularly positive view of reading in general.

I can’t tell you the number of times she has said to me, “Mama, I just don’t like reading.”

As the author of six books, four blogs, and the proud owner of nearly 30 journals in various stages of completion – to say that I was horrified at that statement doesn’t do it justice.

She was late to enter the reading game – and was nearly 8 1/2 when she finally nailed reading and felt competent. And while we were homeschooling Kindergarten through 4th grade, she still resisted, even after learning, complaining, dragging her feet, and generally down in the mouth whenever tasked with reading more than a few words or sentences.

In my world, which is overly filled with books (I think I own at least 1,000 books at this point), I have struggled to understand this. I love to read, and when I was younger I plowed through books, slowed only by a lack of accessibility or funds. My parents never thought to take me to libraries for some reason, I know not why.

And honestly, I have clung to the belief that all it would take was the right book to turn the key and open the reading frenzy floodgates.

I have bided my time, counseled patience in the face of my own fears, and countered to her “I don’t like reading” complaints with “You don’t like reading yet, but you will get there.”

I struggled with reading aloud to her, since reading aloud, especially while lying in a prone position in bed, induces sleep regardless of my energy levels. I finally figured out that, if I read to her first thing in the morning, while sitting upright in the library, I would not fall asleep. So that is what we have been doing, reading the three “Bad” books by Pseudonymous Bosch and then moving on to The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which is a lovely story.

Waiting in the wings are Hatchet, clothed in a leather 30th Anniversary edition and The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

And reading these aloud to Em has been wonderful. Truly. I was over the moon to finally find a solution to my falling asleep while reading problem. It was something that had dogged me through Dee’s childhood and Em’s early childhood and was sooo frustrating!

Now that we have a steady pattern of reading in the morning, I have added the evening adventure of reading side-by-side in bed to the mix. I start by inviting her to prepare for bed at 8:30 or so. “Hey, come brush your teeth with me.”

She does and then I say, “I’m going to read in bed. Why don’t you grab a book and join me?” We cuddle close and read our books. I turned around twice and she had moved from graphic novels to Book One of Dork Diaries, Tales From a Not-So-Fabulous Life that she had checked out of the library at school.

Today she said, “I really like this book and I want to try and find more of them.”

“Would you like me to see if I can find them on Amazon?”

Her eyes lit up, “Oh, yes please, Mama!”

She will have Books 2 and 3 in her hands by the end of the week. Around here, when this recalcitrant “I just don’t like reading” girl says she likes a book, you can be damn sure I’m getting it for her!

Posted in Bonding, Community, Foster Parenting, Homeschool - Language Arts | Comments Off on Reading Spikes and the Big Green Light

Behavior and Consequences – Without Yelling or Tears

In mid-February, I looked into my daughter’s bedroom and realized I had had enough. “All the way, up to here, couldn’t stand the mess one more minute” kind of enough.

“Clean your room,” had become a daily admonition, complete with lawyer-like arguments on her part, “You didn’t say clean all of it,” or “I thought you just meant pick up those clothes over there.”

My 11-year-old could have a bright future in the courtroom, but I was damned sick and tired of the mess that covered every surface of her room, crept along the floor, and had apparently begun breeding (if such things are possible).

I put my foot down, “This WILL be cleaned up, all of it, and you will NOT be involving me or your dad in the process. At this point, you do know how to clean your room, you have made this mess all by yourself, and you and you alone are responsible for it continuing to be like this.”

It took a week.

It took taking away her laptop, her Kindle, and eventually even television and ability to play with friends.

“I finished cleaning my room, Dad.”

My husband came in and inspected. He was satisfied. Then I came in and inspected, I had a few more things on my list. Surfaces were dusted, the floor was vacuumed, and I briefly looked up at (but did not climb the ladder to inspect) her platform bed. At a glance, all seemed fine.

The following day, I had to walk into her room to open or close her curtains and I happened to look up. A mound of empty soda cans, a bag of trash, and containers of snack foods were up on her bed.

The consequences were the loss of electronics again and the new rule: Eat in your room and lose electronics privileges for three days.

I had been willing to allow food and drink if it was handled responsibly – dishes not piling up, wrappers and food particles not on the ground, and food not stored in the room – but these rules had been repeatedly violated.

After that it was smooth sailing…until mid-March. Em was gone at a friend’s when I walked into her room to retrieve her laundry basket. I saw piles of candy wrappers on the floor.

So when she came home and came into my office to talk to me I said, “So, I went into your room to get your laundry basket and there were clothes on the floor, but I didn’t know which were clean and which weren’t. Also, there were a bunch of candy wrappers on the floor,” I paused and looked her in the eye and continued in a calm voice, “Want to tell me about that?”

Her shoulders sagged and she looked down at the ground, “I ate candy in my room. I know it was against the rules.”

“Yeah, it was. And the wrappers were all over the floor, which is one of the reasons I made the rule in the first place.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

I nodded and smiled at her. “I’m not mad, but you remember the consequences, right?”

“Yeah, no electronics for three days. So when does that start?”

“Well, it’s 3 p.m. now, and it’s a Sunday, so you can have them back on Wednesday after 3 p.m.”


Later that evening we talked more about it and I told her, “I don’t want to be a grumpy, mean mom, but there are times when I have to enforce the rules. You understand that, right?”

She nodded. “You said it in a really nice way and I knew you weren’t mad, but I also knew I had broken the rules.” She shrugged, “Break the rules, get banned from electronics for three days.”

I didn’t say it, mainly because I don’t want there to be any confusion or stepping over the line right now, but if she had just thrown her wrappers away, it wouldn’t have been a problem. I would not have objected to candy wrappers in her trash. Not at all!

I just don’t want the trash on the floor or dishes covered in food in her room or food stored in her room. Trash goes in the trash, dishes go in the sink, and food stays downstairs.

Basic rules.

I am thankful for her attitude, though. She is an amazing kid and I am very lucky.

Posted in Challenges, Parenting Techniques, Responsibility | Comments Off on Behavior and Consequences – Without Yelling or Tears


I’ve been on a book buying spree. Don’t judge me!

And a month or so ago, I bought a couple of money and entrepreneurship books for kids.

Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs With Big Ideas introduces the idea of entrepreneurship, something close to my heart.

How to Turn $100 Into $1,000,000: Earn! Save! Invest! was the second book I purchased. Heck, I’ll probably be taking notes on how to make this happen.

And last week, an email flew through the nethersphere and landed on my desk. It was from the local farmer’s market coordinator and I shot off a couple of questions to her…

Hi Jenna-Your post about being a vendor reminded me of something I had been thinking about – that of promoting entrepreneurship in children. I was wondering if the farmer’s market ever allows more infrequent vendors? I’m thinking something along the lines of a sweet tea stand that my 11-year-old could run. I just know that she’s 11 and wouldn’t be interested in every Thursday, and she will be in some summer camps anyway, so it would be more of an infrequent thing. What is the vendor fee for something like that?

She responded back and let me know that it sounded like a great thing, especially on the hotter days, and that it would cost $5 each time we wanted to have a spot at the market and that we would need to let her know a few days before.

Her First Summer Job

Do you remember your first job? Was it delivering papers? Working in an office? Asking if the customers wanted fries with that hamburger?

“This is going to be your first opportunity at a summer job,” I told her. “Not every Thursday, but definitely a number of them.”

She looked intrigued.


I was the one to suggest sweet tea. I figured it actually might have a higher profit margin than lemonade made with real lemons, or even the instant mix kind.

And then we started digging in…

Me: What if we offered herbal tea? Or made our own soda?

Em: We could give them samples in the little cups – a quick taste for a quarter?

Me: Or we could give those samples away and tell them, “Hi! Try a sample for free! We are right over there if you want a nice cup of ice-cold sweet tea!”

Em: [grinning] Yeah! And we could ask them what kinds of drinks they would like!

Me: We could make a list of potential drinks and then have them vote!

Added Value/Income

After that, I brought up the idea of having something extra for sale. “You are already there, so you might as well offer something else for sale. Maybe we could bake some cookies?”

Em’s eyes lit up. “That would be awesome!”

Financial Outlay and Fiscal Responsibility

“Now, we do need to keep track of expenses, and figure out what cup sizes we will need as well as best price on cups. I can loan you money, but I will need to be paid back, so you will need to figure out your profit margin and all that.”

She nodded, smiling.

Some of the potential costs that I have already identified are:

  • $5 vendor fee
  • Cups
  • Ingredients

Preparation and Responsibility

Since we don’t have an icemaker and buying ice will cut too deeply into her profits, Em suggested we buy a couple of extra ice trays to make ice in the days before the farmer’s market.

“We can store them in baggies in the freezer,” she told me.

We will also need to bring:

  • Table, chairs, and shade (if possible)
  • Drink dispensers
  • Cooler full of ice (we have the cooler, but Em will need to make ice ahead of time in ice trays)

Looking Ahead

It’s not quite mid-March and the farmer’s market doesn’t start until mid-May. Em doesn’t get out of school until late May, and although she would be out in time for the market, which begins at 4pm, I think we will hold off until the weather turns nice and warm, the perfect time for sweet tea.

It won’t be every week – Em will spend a week in San Francisco visiting her grandparents and extended family and she will have camp at least two weeks in July and one week late in August – but I think it will be good for her to dip her toes into a taste of entrepreneurship.

We will read through the Kidpreneur book and also How to Turn $100 Into $1 Million in April and May in preparation as well as do our research into the proper size cups and also do some basic profit/loss analysis…

How many cups do I need to sell to break even?

How much can I expect to earn?

Should I sell something else along with it – like cookies?

Should I offer multiple choices of tea and soda?

By the time the farmer’s market rolls around, she might be well and truly over it, but I would like to think that she will actually do rather well. The farmer’s market has been rolling along for over two years now, maybe three and by now they probably have a decent number of attendees.

It will also be a great experience for her to interact with others and really shine.

Create Opportunity

Back in the early 80s, I read the book Kidco and later saw the movie by the same name. That story, of a handful of entrepreneurial kids, has stayed with me for decades. I was so shy and self-doubting that it took most of my life to get to the point where I was willing to jump off the cliff and take a chance.

And while I remain rather conservative in terms of risk, I am far more willing to take a chance on creating money outside of the confines of an office/employee status now. I want for Em to have that opportunity and vision as well and not be afraid to take chances, albeit well-planned ones.

I think that with opportunity, comes freedom of choice, and perhaps a wider outlook in terms of who she can be. College or no, employee or self-employed, paychecks or her own accounting.

Opportunity – it’s what’s for breakfast around here.

Posted in Community, Entrepreneurs & Entrepreneurship, Events/Local Events, Homeschool - Mathematics | Comments Off on Kidpreneurship

An Open Letter to My Eldest Daughter

I have said relatively little in the public forum about the schism that occurred between me and my eldest last year. The really big emotions, the ones that need chewing on, they take time to understand. Her words, set in such a public space, were hurtful, at times dishonest and/or incorrect, and they set into motion a reaction I did not expect or understand for several months.

Nearly a year has passed. I have journaled, cried, rocked myself to sleep in the early days, gone through the stages of grief (returning to several of the stages time and again), and struggled with how to answer, or even if I should answer.

There have been plenty of sleepless nights – times when I woke up at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., and 3 a.m. – lying in bed thinking about it all and unable to sleep. Yesterday was one of those.

Years ago, when my second husband was convicted and sent to prison as a pedophile, I struggled to reconcile the relationship I had thought we had with the terrible acts he had committed. We were divorced by then and he was serving his sentence. It took me three years before I could summon the words to describe how I felt.

When my emotions are high, it is difficult to say things in any constructive way. And this is also why I have stayed silent on the subject, mentioning it only in passing and not digging into it and addressing my issues.

We spend eighteen years, give or take, raising our children and hoping for the best. We try to instill in them the values we hold dear and prepare them for adulthood as best as we are able. We make mistakes, flounder about, and try and try again. That’s parenting. It’s messy, it’s full of tears and struggle, hugs and messy rooms, adorable yet recalcitrant children, and frustrated adults.

It’s hard. It’s amazing. It gives you a reason to wake up in the morning and it breaks your heart.

Of all the things I will be in this life: a daughter, student, employee, consumer, wife, friend, confidante, business owner, writer – all of these pale in comparison to that of being a parent. It is a place where both my greatest achievements and my deepest sorrows live, etched into my soul. It has defined me for every step of my adult life and I aspire every day to be the best parent I can be. That, more than anything, is what I hope you, the reader, take away from this.

What follows is a letter written not for you, but for Danielle, my eldest child…

Dear Danielle –

It’s taken me a while to set my thoughts in order. I have some things to say, in detail, about what you wrote in your blog post last July. But before I do, I want to tell you that I love you. Someday, when you have a child of your own you may begin to truly understand how that love feels. It is wonderful, and awful, dizzying and full of despair, all at once. And if I am not there to see it, all I can say is, welcome to parenthood and enjoy the ride.

I’m Done Chasing You

When I was seven or eight, I attended Live Oak School in San Francisco. Each day I would take the L Taraval all by myself to school. At recess, Tom, one of our teachers, would occasionally chase the kids growling like a bear. We would scream and run and laugh – and each recess we would beg him to chase us again. It was terrifying and thrilling and I loved it.

I feel like I’ve been chasing you for most of your life. When you were a few weeks old, your dad asked rather petulantly, “When is she going to like me?” All you cared about was breastfeeding and getting your diaper changed, he was extraneous. Later though, the tables turned. You wanted him to pay attention to you and to spend time with you. And I’ve been trying to keep up ever since.

It’s felt like that recess on the playground gone wrong. As if, no matter how many times I chase you about trying to have a relationship with you, trying to prove my love, you are just out of reach. “Chase me!” you say, “Prove you love me!”

Last January you sent a letter that basically said, “Agree with everything I’ve said or I’m done with you.”

That’s not a relationship, Danielle. Or at least, that is not one I am willing to have with anyone, not even you.

I’m tired of trying to prove that I love you, that I want the best for you, and that I will do whatever I can to help you. No matter how hard I try, no matter the words I speak and write, you are determined to see malice when there is none, scheming when there is only honesty, and control when my hands are in the air.

Why is that?

Something Doesn’t Add Up

You lived with us for 18 months from the end of May 2015 until the end of December 2016. I was glad to have you. Honestly, I jumped at the chance. “Surely now I can finally have the relationship with Danielle that I’ve wanted for all her life – as equals, as friends.”

I was full of hope. And for the most part, we got along very well. At least, I thought we did. But if we did, if things were going as swimmingly as I thought, and as the rest of our family and friends believed as well, then why did you post what you did last year?

I still jump and over-explain when I perceive that I’ve done something wrong.

You paint a picture of PTSD or worse. As one friend said, “If Danielle was feeling that anxious or stressed while she lived with you, then she is surely the best actress I have ever seen.”

Something doesn’t add up here.

Jealousy is an Ugly Green Monster

The first time you visited with your then-boyfriend Mark and his son Tim, it was August 2012. There was a moment when the kids were being kids and Em was saying something about the game they were playing. I looked over at you and you were staring at Em and she and Tim played with this intense look of hatred. It has stayed with me over the years – and you yourself have admitted to feelings of jealousy in regards to your sister. But I think it goes deeper than that.

While you were living here, you would go through these periodic bouts of “I have to move out and live on my own!” – they seemed to happen about every 3-4 months or so. And I get it, you were frustrated, you felt like you weren’t prepared to live on your own, that you were stuck with crap jobs, minimum wage, and more.

I tried to help you brainstorm options – return to college for a degree, do housecleanings on the side so you had a flexible schedule, reduce debt, save money. Just when it seemed you had a plan, again you would wail, “I just need to live on my own.”

And honestly, it got real old. Perhaps you had a point, perhaps you needed to be by yourself and do your own thing. And so, after you had signed up for your fall semester and I thought you were all set for the next 2 1/2 years, and you again uttered that fateful line I just need to live on my own, I was over it. I guessed that you needed a bump, and after you started dating L, I started telling you what we would do with your room when you moved out.

Not because I wanted you to move out, but because I was 1) so damn tired of hearing how you “just needed to live on your own,” and 2) it felt like I was telling the tide to stop rising. You were 28, it was time to let you go, again.

And then the call from Panama happened and I found myself flying to another country for the first time in my life – unsure of what to do, but determined to do something about my dad. You didn’t have to leave right then. Yes, he was in the front parlor, but that was a primarily unused room – it wasn’t necessary for you to move out of the bedroom above.

But it did certainly suit your narrative to say that you moved out or…

I try to not be in the way. I don’t want to be a burden.

After I returned, with Dad in tow, those first two months were absolute chaos. I was still averaging 4-6 hours of sleep, we were dealing with a multitude of doctor visits, in and out of the hospital and the ER, and I was desperately trying to find equilibrium. You took my request, and it was a request, it was me asking and NOT assuming, for help with your grandfather for one night, and ran with it…

She automatically assumed, without asking, that I would be willing to stay up with my sick grandfather and take care of him–change his catheter and help him to the bathroom and monitor his glucose and whatever else it was that he needed. It was a big task. I don’t dismiss that taking care of an elderly, sick person is a big job that requires a lot of time and energy.

What bothered me is that she never asked. She assumed.

Assuming would have been me saying, “So you need to be here at 5 p.m.” Asking, which is just what I did, was me writing, “Is there any way you would consider staying here on a Tuesday night while we drive to Lawrence to see That One Guy in concert?”

Also, no one but a nurse can change a catheter, he didn’t need glucose monitoring at night and he had a walker for getting into the bathroom with. All I actually asked of you was to sit in the living room and watch tv for five hours on one night. I was worried about Dave’s and my relationship in the wake of all this thanks to his co-workers telling him that taking in elderly parents dooms a marriage. One night out was all I asked for.

You said no and after clarifying that I was asking you to help me out, not him, I accepted your answer.

It was you and only you who has continued to make it into something it was not, to manufacture visions of me angry at you for not saying you would do it, et cetera. In fact, since you had access to my FB feed, you should know that. I never once complained about you in that regard.

You have mistaken my silence in those days (overwhelmed by nurse visits and a man who was weak and near death), and my lack of ability to leave and come see your house as some kind of proof that I was angry at you. I wasn’t. Please do not label me with feelings I did not have. I know how I felt, I respected your stand.

This – the reaction to your sister, your moving out when you did, feels like jealousy. It looks and tastes like it too.

You have admitted to it with Em, but I have to wonder if it doesn’t extend as well to my dad. If I am hearing it correctly, it sounds like you are saying, “I had to leave because she chose my awful grandfather over me.”

And it was never a “him or you” decision. Not in my mind, at least. I had to do what I felt was right. As his only child, I had to make some kind of decision and leaving him to die in Panama was not the decision I was going to make. My moral compass drove me to get my dad from Panama and bring him home, and it is the same one that dictated I take you in when you needed a place to go. That is what family does. That is what I do.

I live in a better home and have a better husband than I did when I was raising you. I have a better life now than I had then. That is reality. The thing is, I can’t undo my life, or unbirth a child, or unanswer a phone call from Panama. Being jealous of it has no real purpose and is detrimental to you. Crying “if I had only been born when my mother was older” serves no purpose, it changes nothing.

I have chosen to care for my dad for as long as I can. My morals dictate that I do so. Caring for him gives us a small boost financially, one that I am using to further our goals for retirement, and it is benefiting him to be with family. When his health declines further and being cared for at home is no longer an option, off he will go to a nursing home. That is the reality we live with right now.

I believe that if you are honest with yourself you will acknowledge that there is this belief I have somehow picked others over you. And it is simply not true. I stood in two pairs of shoes for years – acting as your mother and your father – both financially and emotionally. I have taken care of you while your dad laughed and bragged about how he had tricked me and never had to pay a penny in child support. Danielle, have you forgotten how he treated you as soon as you turned eighteen? You were his meal ticket. He still regards you and Vanessa as nothing more than that. Fools and suckers, that’s how he sees the world around him when he isn’t bleating on about how “nobody cares about anyone else and someone should do something.”

You can blame your friends for it if you like. Tell me again how your friends tore up and burned the letters I gave you? The ones that are attached to the bottom of your post? In the days following our fight some 12 years ago, I was trying to get you home – whether you recognize that or not – I was reaching out to you, not throwing you away.

Cowardice Does Not Become You

In February of this year, you admitted to having access to (and reading) all of my Facebook posts and even my personal communications between my friends.

You stated…

All the revelations about how she, my mother, truly saw me, and how some people I considered allies saw me…I realized who my true friends were at this point…I saw her target my friends.

So a couple of things on this.

  1. No, you don’t know how I truly saw you because you have not had access to my daily interactions with Dave, my friends I saw in person, nor my journal entries. You saw a small piece of the agony, depression, confusion, frustration, feelings of betrayal and more. A small piece. You didn’t see the whole of it – the attempt to explain away your behavior, how I blamed and questioned myself, wondered how I could fix it all, and the overwhelming grief.
  2. I did not target your friends. Reaching out to Casey, who is my friend as well as yours, and asking her if she knew you had dropped out of college after receiving your funds and completely fucking us all financially was not targeting. I was freaking out. I knew the clock had begun ticking and I somehow had to pull $10,000 out of my ass because I had foolishly trusted you. I was busy kicking myself for being so incredibly stupid. I have the right to be displeased, the right to share that displeasure with others and the right to try and get some kind of understanding from one of your peers on why you would do such a drastic thing.

After taking in the fact that you had been, as one friend wrote, “Rummaging about in my panty drawer,” by logging into my FB account, I did some digging. What had I said? What had I written to others? It turned out my panty drawer was rather clean.

Along the way, I found the exact date you had changed the password on Facebook and removed yourself from having access to one portion of my private life. It was July 11th.

You posted your blog entry on July 2nd and reset the password on my Facebook account nine days later. Essentially, you read a few entries, mainly from my friends, began to see the enormous level of hurt you had unleashed, and then bugged out.

Was my sorrow inconvenient for you? Did you wonder, just for a moment, if you had done the right thing? Did you question any of it after seeing the tiny fraction of my response to your post? If you were going to stick around for six months, reading everything I had ever written, why stop when you did?

What did you think would happen, Danielle? Did you imagine me to be so malevolent and evil that I wouldn’t be affected by your words? That I would shoot back a response filled with vitriol and hate?

Cowardice does not become you. You left right after the shit got real. I spent six months trying to understand what you were thinking, trying to understand you. And then, when I get a piece of it, you leave. You really should have stuck around and read some more. You could have seen me break into a thousand pieces, pick myself up again, rinse and repeat. It took months, I’m still hitting some of those stages of grief on a regular basis.

And in the middle of it, I was dealing with my mother, who was in a snit and busy telling me I had no idea how much it hurt to have one of your family members reject you.

“Actually, I think I have a pretty good idea,” I said.

The Inconsistencies…and the Mistruths

I want to talk for a moment about some of the inconsistencies and mistruths in your original blog post and the subsequent update. You mentioned…

I’m a little tired of her taking control of the narrative

Which I found interesting since the rare instances I’ve put something in a more public forum, you have demanded I retract it or apologize for it. Which I have done.

However, there are several areas I could not let lay as fact because they are not and I’m a bit of a stickler for clarity and honesty.

Let’s start with pregnancy, shall we?

It was early 1988 when she realized what was happening in her body. And, unlike I would have, she welcomed the challenge.

Yes, I was 17 when I learned I was pregnant with you. I turned 18 in the months before you were born. And I was also terrified and plagued with nightmares throughout my pregnancy. I would wake up sobbing, “I’m going to be a terrible mother!”

Please do not denigrate my choices. It’s easy to look back and from the clarity of hindsight point out that I was stupid and thoughtless and foolish.

I was scared, beyond measure, at the thought of having a child. I wasn’t ready, I knew it, and Walt was busy telling me I would be great and we should get married and everything would be fine. And I had only him around me to look to for advice. My parents were still fully in the “you are a fucked up teenager” mode and spoke to me like I was five years old and beyond redemption.

One good thing came out of all this fear – I was determined to be the best mom I could possibly be. You think about all those stupid “Pregnant and 17” shows. How many of them were sitting there trying to figure out how to make it all work? Or were they too busy freaking out of stretch marks and whether or not they could afford a pedicure or if diapers and formula were cutting into their makeup budget too much?

I began to write to you, hoping you would look back on the letters and know that, barely an adult or not, I wanted you and loved you and was determined to do right by you. If that caused you to misinterpret my brave face as being “up for the challenge” I hope I have now disabused that notion.

The reality is that I have spent most of my adult life terrified that I am fucking up parenting beyond all redemption. Only now, with menopause and the months of self-doubt that followed your post behind me, do I see it with anything close to clarity.

Moving on to the “I’ve done a lot of research” bit…

The last is something I’ve come to the conclusion of after doing alotofresearch. It is not a clinical diagnosis. I am going full armchair psychologist over here. However, I cannot dismiss the parallels between someone with NPD and the person my mother is and was.

Um, bipolar disorder and manic depression are the same thing. Just so you know. Apparently your “lot of research” didn’t cover that part.

And yes, I took some time to examine the NPD diagnosis as my friends were practically screaming at me, “Someone has narcissism but it isn’t YOU!” Because, believe it or not, but I didn’t automatically dismiss it. I wanted to try and understand why you would say such a thing.

Some aspects fit, most didn’t. Which is as armchair a diagnosis as I, and the three people I sent it to, can manage. What did fit, was something far, far different.

Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder – which is basically PMS on steroids. As I read through the symptoms, I remember thinking, “Wow, I meet at least five of these!” Later I showed it to my husband and younger daughter and they identified even more symptoms.

There is good and bad news to this. The bad news? I could have been treating it all of these years if I had any idea it was a real thing. The good news? I’m post-menopausal now – and I don’t have these severe mood swings any longer. Anxiety, yes, frustration, absolutely, but the near-maddened rages? Not so much.

And your link above took me to Narcissistic Parent in Wikipedia and this line really stood out:

Typically narcissistic parents are exclusively and possessively close to their children and may be especially envious of, and threatened by, their child’s growing independence

Which is actually the exact opposite of me. You have heard the refrain over and over. I insisted you learn how to type by touch, so you would have a skill. I encouraged you to get a job, so you would have experience, money, and responsibility. I encouraged you to learn to drive so you would have a driver’s license and be independent. I was fine with independence, then and now.

My job was to raise an independent adult and I was dedicated to that cause. If you will re-examine my stances on so many things, I think you will revise your opinion on that. I have always encouraged your independence. It was the subject of many of our “car talks.”

I do believe we all have a touch of narcissism – it’s a necessary biologic imperative to take care of numero uno and to focus at times on ourselves. I think that writers often have an even larger swath of it. Especially non-fiction writers! We will fill in the empty air space left by others, anxious to tell our stories and share our thoughts. My social anxiety often causes me to babble non-stop, although again, post-menopause, I find I’m getting better at sharing airspace and listening to others.

In the end, I have to agree with my friends. Someone is showing strong narcissistic tendencies, but it’s probably not me. According to Healthline,

NPD can cause problems in many areas of life, including:

  • work
  • school
  • relationships

You have had ongoing difficulty in all of these three areas – swinging wildly from cleaning houses to call center to sandwich shop and you also dropped out of college multiple times. Same with relationships.

As has your father.

Me? Not in the last twelve years or more – at least when we talk about work and relationships, since I’m not in school. I have a wide range of friends, good people, you have met them, that I regard highly.

Now narcissism can be inherited and while you can blame me if you like, but please keep in mind that your dad should be the poster child for narcissism, so…call it what you will and point the finger at who you will on that one.


“Oh yeah, my mom is great—we even went out to ice cream last night.”

—but I don’t mention that the ice cream came after she screamed at me for forty minutes and told me that I was a worthless human being and she should have aborted me, and you don’t mention whatever it is yours did to you.

But we both know, don’t we? Wink, wink.

Okay, a couple of points here.

  1. In the times when I was not the best mom, when it could actually be considered abusive behavior, the LAST thing I would do after it was to take you out for ice cream. In fact, I avoided such behavior like the plague. Hell, I’ve watched the abusive husband beats the wife then brings her flowers movies. I did NOT want to be that person. I didn’t want to be the person screaming at you either. And I certainly didn’t want to follow that up with a tried and true oh so typical abuser/abusee cycle of then taking you out for ice cream or buying you a toy or any other crap like that. I knew that if I did that, I would be setting the stage for your future relationships, it would be the measure by which you existed and I couldn’t imagine you with that kind of future.
  2. Under no circumstances would I have ever, EVER said you should be aborted. Not ever. I’ve had an abortion and it was something I regretted deeply. I felt cornered, helpless, and was terrified. I chose YOU, Danielle, over that child growing in me, because I already felt I wasn’t doing right by you, how could I bring another child into the world? It would take away from you and you were my entire world at that time.

Please stick to the truth – you have enough of it to prove your point without veering into half-truths.

I was a burden. It was financially, emotionally, and physically exhausting to raise me. So I tried to make myself as useful as possible. I tried to disappear into the background and be as unobtrusive as possible…This is a behavior that has haunted me in my adult life. It helped lead me into codependent relationships where I tried to take on more and more responsibilities and tasks for my lovers so that I would not be a burden.

It wasn’t financially, emotionally and physically exhausting to raise you, it was poverty that made me exhausted and short-tempered. And poverty was something I was determined to end. Something I have ended through hard work, better choices, and determination.

When you first moved in, you spoke about feeling like you were a burden. I reminded you that we were your family, and that we loved you and that you were not a burden. I don’t know how to help you to understand this any better. Yes, having you with us was expensive and yes, it slowed down our ability to invest in the Cottage West renovations – something we will need to help prepare us for retirement. But let’s also be clear. You made a lot of promises when you moved in, kept a couple of them, and then you also said things to me like, “My cat is going to shit on the floor, you are just going to have to get used to it.”

You got angry at me when I insisted that he stay in your room instead of spreading his incontinence over the house and you inferred that I was being abusive by not letting him roam free to shit wherever he wanted.The $200 in rent you paid did not cover the increases in food and utilities, but I had agreed to do it and was happy to have room for you. My only mistake was in expecting you would be at least somewhat appreciative. Instead, you told me to “take it out of what [I] owed for the student loan.” If I had done that, you would have been hit with an $8,000 bill. I didn’t pull that number out of my ass, I actually compared before and after utility bills and grocery expenses.

I did what I did because you were my daughter and I loved you. In return, I was misrepresented and my wishes for a cat shit-free home were often ignored and certainly not agreed with.

We met at the bank to finish up a business arrangement between us. She gave me the last of the $10,000 I had loaned her from my student loans—a final $1,500 payment—and I signed a quit claim deed to the cottage that has been in my name a little over a year.

Why don’t we tell the rest of the story here? How your stupid, trusting mom not only gave you a house but believed you wouldn’t screw her over? Here goes…

Cottage West, which Dave and I purchased and had done a few thousand dollars worth of work on, was signed over to you, for FREE in the summer of 2015, in order to give you the chance to own a home of your own. I even paid the registration fee.

It needed a hell of a lot of work and we both hoped you could get some special deals and possibly a loan and find a way to make it a place of your own. I was handing over my hopes for retirement to you (the Cottage West will be a rental property) and with it a dream of you being able to own your own home, free and clear of any large debt, something I am still working on in my own life.

After about six months and a few limited attempts to secure financing, you gave up and told me you didn’t want it after all. I started getting the funds in order to fix it up. A few months later you decided to go back to school. You were the one who pushed the idea of getting the rest of the work funded on your student loan.

“Are you sure?” I asked. Oh yes, you were. And we ALL signed on the dotted line to get the loan, all three of us.

And then you moved out, almost immediately dropped out of school, and then demanded we either pay back the money immediately, agree to sign a contract, (we already had one, it was our co-sign on the loan) or you would sell Cottage West out from under us because you were still on the title. You refused for weeks to give me the loan number so that I could make payments directly to Wells Fargo, citing it was confidential information you didn’t have to share (except for the fact that Dave and I were both listed as financially responsible right alongside you). I’m not sure if it was the threat of taking the then $32,000 worth of investment we had paid into that property or the clear message that you were convinced I was going to fuck you over financially that insulted and hurt me worse.

Together it was too much. We trusted you and believed in you – and you repaid that trust by dropping out of college and then accusing and threatening me.

And then there is this…

My mom always played lip service to motherhood—talking about how much she loved me and bragging about all of my accomplishments. Only these days do I recognize that the consequences of bad behavior were severe, whereas my accomplishments were absorbed as hers.

Seriously? I have read countless books, I studied parenting and communication techniques, and I taught the parenting classes for years. I write about it still on this blog. And you call that lip service?

That is insulting and complete bullshit.

And how in the hell could I possibly absorb your accomplishments as mine? By being proud of you? By pointing out the bright young woman that you became, the artist, and the accomplished writer? How is that absorbing? Am I not allowed to be proud of my child? Should I have pointed to your shortcomings instead? “Sure, she’s a great artist, but getting her to clean her room is impossible.”

I avoid small, dark spaces. Is it because of that time when I was around four years old, and she locked me in a closet with no food, water, or way to relieve myself? She left me alone there in the apartment before she went off and tried to commit suicide. I don’t remember her roommate, but I’m thankful that she came home, discovered me, and reached out to my father.

Danielle, when you were three years old you were being a typical preschooler who was, having had an afternoon full of activities and no nap, rather overdue for bedtime. You were being a typical kid, obstinate, unwilling to eat dinner and generally grumpy. I was renting a room in Mill Valley at the time and separated from your dad. The closet had a set of sliding doors. I put you on timeout, called your dad, and talked to him for a while so that I could calm down and not be hurtful towards you.

I talked to him for twenty minutes, the doors were both slid over to the right and you were on the left side. You could see me, I could see you, and you fell asleep while I was talking with your dad. I got off the phone, picked you up and put you to bed. I was worn out and went to sleep right beside you. An hour, maybe two hours later, the knocking at the door woke me. It was the grandfather you hate so much, and his girlfriend Diane, they had listened to Walt’s tale of god knows what, and came to get you because “you weren’t safe with me.”

My roommate at the time was a pot-smoking man of few words who rarely spoke to me and preferred I stay in my room and never come out into the living room or kitchen while he was there. I did not “go off to commit suicide” with you “locked in a closet.”

Think about it. When did I ever leave you?

On that day, she didn’t try to hit me so much as throw a twenty-pound decorative rock through my windshield, but it was close enough.

For the record, and it is detailed in one of the letters I wrote to you at the bottom of the post. It was not a twenty-pound decorative rock. It was a wooden planter I held in my hands, it was in the shape of a toolbox. And I didn’t throw it. God, I was mad, damned straight I was. You had just told me you were going to quit college and move in with your drug addict meth head friends. You had just quit your part-time job citing that you couldn’t work and go to school and somehow you were going to move out. I wanted to shake you, hell, slap some sense into you – you were nearly 18 years old! And then, when I called you out for slamming the front door behind you as you left, you called me a fucking whore. Repeatedly, at the top of your voice, outside.

I was seeing red! That said, I grabbed the planter, filled with dirt, and thought about tossing it at your car. Mainly though, I just wanted you to leave. I didn’t want to hit you, I wanted you away until the fury passed. My heart was saying, just go away until I cool down and my ego was hurt by the names you had just screamed at me. The neighbors were staring and I was wrestling with hurt pride, embarrassment, and despair over what felt like another wave of you running away from your problems. I remember giving you a crazy look and hefting the planter in my hand while thinking just go away so I can calm down because I look as crazy as shit right now.

And you drove away.

Getting the call from the insurance company an hour later just felt like the last nail in the coffin. “Your daughter ran a stop light and was in an accident.”

And I was freaking out. Because life had spiraled from “I want to move out” to something far worse and eventually included dropping out of school, homelessness, and moving to California – none of the things I wanted to see happen to you. I was also scared. What if you decided to fuck us over and empty the bank account? You were on our main checking account and that was NOT a good thing, not with your immature decision-making skills of the time. So I had Dave pick up the key and the debit card from you. I figured we would all take a couple of days, cool off, and then discuss it. But that isn’t what happened, is it?

Either I have created an elaborate fantasy about what my relationship with my mother has comprised of.

Or, my mother suffers from a mental illness compounded by narcissistic personality traits and/or disorder.

How about somewhere in the middle? This isn’t either/or. I’m not a monster and you aren’t either. But you are taking half-truths, brandishing them about your head, and issuing inaccurate labels. You also threatened all of your friends after writing your July post. For a short time, and I’m going to guess this was because you had your settings set at public, I saw you post the following:

Line in the sand here folks. If you think my mom is the victim in all this, you can push the unfriend button right now.

Agree with me or get out. That is narcissism. From Psychology Today:

Narcissistic functioning at core is a disorder of listening.  Think of it as one-sided listening, with multiple features that emerge as a result.  The desire to sustain a friendship, never mind a love relationship, can quickly fade with someone who does not seem to see or hear you, who dismissively pushes away what you say, and who may be quick to anger if you attempt nonetheless to express your viewpoint.

One of my friends summed it up quite well after reading your initial post.

“Oh Christine, when I read Dee’s post all I see is that you were struggling and tried your best to be a good mom. None of us is perfect, every one of us have moments we wish we could go back and re-do. All I see here is that you weren’t perfect. And Christine, NOBODY is.”

And then there is this…

Stupid is my mother’s worst insult. She is intelligent, and anyone beneath her in intelligence or who stumbles in any way is immediately labeled as stupid. And this means that they can be dismissed. Her friends are all stupid. Her family is all stupid. The cashier, the lady at Time Warner, the plumber, the neighbor–they’re all stupid. It’s her way of dismissing anything anyone else goes through or anything they have to say.

Because when it boils down to it, her opinion is the only one that matters.

That is a somewhat accurate assessment of how I reacted to stress (or those who were more mentally slower than me) years ago. Having my dad live with me also reminded me of exactly where I got it from and how far I have come in changing this dynamic. Hearing it from his mouth and listening to it occasionally spout from Em’s mouth was a huge reality check. I made a concerted effort to remove the verbiage from my vocabulary because it caused nothing but negativity and pain. Not just for you, but for me hearing the words repeated back to me.

So no, my opinion is not the only one that matters.

In the end, Danielle, you seem to think I’m incapable of change, when it is quite clear that, over the years, I have changed tremendously and continue to do so.

There is more, plenty more, that I could argue, take issue with, or clear the record on, but I’m closing in on over 8,000 words as it is, so I will instead say this.

You have stated more times than I can count that you “can’t remember most of [your] childhood.” Instead, it seems that you remember most of the negative and little of the positive. I hope that your pursuit of those missing memories will be the subject of future therapy sessions now that you are seeing a therapist again. Holding me solely responsible, dismissing your father’s complete lack of accountability, glossing over your own behaviors, and omitting the parts that make you look bad does not paint a full picture of the truth.

The Irony Has Not Escaped Me

I have come to an understanding of sorts as well. It may not be completely accurate, but I think it is a little closer than it was before.

When I get old and need help, I will not be asking you. You have already made it clear what your priorities are. Several times you have told me exactly how it will work. You said:

  • Vanessa will just have to take care of Dad
  • Emily can take care of you and Dave
  • I’ll take care of Uncle Dave, Aunt Anne and Uncle Zane

It sounds so perfectly reasonable. And I’m sure your sisters will be on board with that. The fact that the only ones that currently have any money (and plenty of it from what you have told me) are the three you plan on taking care of.

Just in case you were wondering, I wasn’t asleep at the wheel when you said that and the irony has not escaped me. But it has brought home the understanding of inheritance and wills and what decisions I need to make as a result. And as you said:

I don’t feel like I owe her anything. Not my time, my attention, or my presence. I feel as though, at this point, we are even, and we can finally be quit of one another.

I think we both agree. We’re even. Any wealth I create in the future, that remains after my death, will be directed towards Emily and any potential adopted child. They will have shared my time with those projects, they will be contributing in some small way to that wealth-building, so it is reasonable that they should inherit it all.

If the events of last year have taught me anything, it is that I will not end up like my dad, living out my final days with nothing but SSI to depend on.

You have made your preferences crystal clear, and I thank you for that, I know exactly where I stand and what value I and the other people in your life have to you.

You’re Getting There, But…

When I read your post from February, I asked a friend to look at it. “I think she’s, you know, admitting some accountability for her actions there,” I said, “Owning up to going through my Facebook posts. Do you think it is a step towards reconciliation?”

She answered back. “I don’t see that, not at all. No apology, no remorse, nothing.” And this was from a woman who, upon reading the initial letter you wrote to me in January had urged me to do whatever was necessary to reconcile with you. “I just can’t understand how it has come to this,” she said after reading the letter. She held that line of thought until your post came out in July.

I went back and read this…

I’ve done some fucked up shit in my life. I’ve lied. I’ve stolen. I’ve said things, and done things, that I’m ashamed to admit to. I tried to run away when I was fifteen and rope several friends into doing the same. I stole expensive jewelry from my grandmother to fund the expedition.

I’ve pushed my way around at parties and amongst friends to get my way. I’ve bullied and berated. I’ve manipulated and cheated.

And so has almost everyone else on the planet.

I never read your journals. I could have. I certainly had ample opportunity to. But I didn’t.

Shortly after you were arrested for truancy and they found over $20,000 in antique Native American jewelry of your grandmother’s in your possession, the arresting officer said, “I’ve looked through her journal and uh, there’s some rather interesting stuff in there. I think you really need to take a look at it.”

And I probably should have. But I remembered my mother invading my privacy. She did it while visiting me at my dad’s in San Francisco for my 16th birthday. She took things completely out of context, both of them did, and it was at a crucial juncture of my adolescence. I never trusted either of them again. I also realized that, if they could read what I had written and misunderstand it so badly, if they could label and categorize me, then there was really nothing more for me to say or do. I might as well go ahead and be all of the things they accused me of, hell, why not, they already thought I had done them and wouldn’t believe me when I tried to explain.

I didn’t want to do that to you. I wanted the trust to stay there. I needed you to trust me, above all else, because at that age you were vulnerable and you needed to finish growing up. I didn’t want to read your inner thoughts. They were yours and yours alone. So I guess I’m not that “almost everyone on the planet.”

The point here is, you shouldn’t be either. Perhaps you have figured that out already or perhaps you are still laughing at the stupid woman who trusted you so implicitly. No matter what – I hope that you take full responsibility for your actions and stop making excuses.

Lastly, and Undoubtedly Where You Will Stop Reading

If you are even reading this now.

No, I’m not okay with your choice of partner/boyfriend/husband. You asked me once if I would tell you what I thought. And I’m telling you now.

I wanted to like him, I really did. Mainly because you liked him so much.

But I don’t. And I’m going to tell you why, but you aren’t going to like it. Some you may already have read, but I want it clear and transparent, so there is no confusion. I am not happy with your decision because…

  1. Severe mommy issues – his seem even more significant than your other relationships. His reaction to them is unique and disconcerting. And while it might seem amusing that he carries his mother’s ashes with him to events he thinks might make her head spin (like LGBTQ festivals), it also points to a level of hatred I am not comfortable with.
  2. Tranny porn (as in turning it on our computer in the middle of a party we were hosting that had children attending it) – Yep. Said it in this public space. Sure did. And here is why. Every single person I have mentioned this to has not only been shocked, most have had very strong reactions – ranging from they would have contacted authorities, all the way to “My husband would have beaten him to a pulp.” He didn’t just “misjudge the room” – that would be when you put on rap in an easy listening crowd. He took it to a level that was completely inappropriate for his surroundings and one that had children on the premises.
  3. Creepy vibes – I got them from him. And that means little, honestly, except when connected with other people saying the same thing. It isn’t my friend’s husband’s fault that I “wouldn’t let you see your sister.” It was that weird vibe, combined with his report of a weird vibe, combined with #1 and #2 that made me go, “Uh, uh.” And I will say it again here, you are absolutely welcome and encouraged to see your sister, but she isn’t staying the night there.

I did learn something from my disaster of a second marriage. I am more suspicious, leery even, and err on the side of caution. And I don’t apologize one bit for it. I will go to my grave filled with guilt over what happened to you and angry at myself that I did not see it. I’ll be damned if I let anything like that happen to Em. If I could take away what happened to you I would and I hope you know that.

I would rather be dead wrong than absolutely right in hindsight. And I truly, truly hope that I am wrong. The alternative to that is something I truly do not wish on anyone.

This might leave you angry and defensive, and I’m sorry, but that is where I stand. It has nothing to do with money, as L apparently told my friend’s husband, and everything to do with gut feeling and traumatic experiences.

In Closing

You have made many grand pronouncements in the past, ones in which you said you forgave me for the mistakes I made in your childhood, but you haven’t. And that is perfectly understandable, I haven’t forgiven myself, so why should you?

She was always careful to pull back just enough so as not to permanently damage me. Except for that once. She is brilliant, as I’ve said.

But you have laid at my feet all of the accountability and little of the accomplishments. You have created an image of a person who is clever and evil in her abuse, and utterly without regard for your emotional health or future.

That is not me. And if you feel it is, then I absolutely agree with you, it is better that we not have contact. Not ever again.

All of my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood – I have longed for a family to surround me. I don’t need fame or fortune, I don’t require awards or fancy cars. I wanted you, Danielle. Always, I wanted you – in my life, laughing, sharing music and movies and our “car talks” together. I dreamed of you long before you were born. I still love you. I always will.

But I don’t trust you. And after reading what you wrote, it all describes a person you have created in your mind order to blame for your feelings of insufficiency or doubt. Just hearing you say repeatedly how you told people about an abusive mother who threw you out on the street without a stitch of clothing or a dollar to spend so you could get FAFSA funding for college – that really hurt my feelings. I should have said something, but I think that some part of you knew it hurt me to hear it, yet you said it anyway. You might object and say, “I just said that so that I could get the funding.”

But the fact is, you said it. And you said it again and again and again – enough times that I think you began to believe it and absorb it as reality.

So, here’s the deal: I don’t want to have my mother in my life anymore. I don’t feel like I owe her anything. Not my time, my attention, or my presence. I feel as though, at this point, we are even, and we can finally be quit of one another.

You have made it excruciatingly clear how you feel about me. You have also done your best to paint a picture of an indifferent mother, but it doesn’t reconcile with my memories of sleepless nights and the desperate and deep love I still hold for you. Those are my memories, I own them, and I will not let them go or be told that they do not exist.

It hurts. I won’t say I’ll get over it because I doubt I will. I’ll just learn to live with it. That’s what life is – you embrace the happiness and do your best to get through the sadness. You learn to accept that it won’t be perfect, that people won’t always be nice or kind, and you choose your path and you walk it. And when being around certain people causes you too much pain, then by all means, walk away. I thank you for that lesson. It took your words, there on your blog, to finally bring it home to me.

Despite all of this, I do wish you the best life possible. I hope that it is filled with love, fulfilled dreams, and peace. I hope that you will live it to its fullest.

Take care, Danielle.


Posted in Challenges, Love, Responsibility | Comments Off on An Open Letter to My Eldest Daughter

Three Minute Math and the Big Question

I’m a planner by nature. I like to know where I will be next week, next month, heck, even next year (as much as one can predict that). So when Em asked to return to homeschooling this fall, I began working on our schedule. It took a while to resolve itself, but after a couple of weeks I had a decent answer and it will give us a regular, dependable schedule that we can both stick to.

And now, being that it is March and only five months away (she says this tongue in cheek), it’s time to focus on what our curriculum will be. I’ve been thinking of math, in particular.

I fear that during the last parent/teacher conference I may have given a highly regarded math teacher a bit of an existential crisis. It went something like this:

Me: So I think that, in the fall, I will return to the basics, just to make sure it’s all there – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Mr. G: Oh, she’s got that down!

Me: [turn to Em] Do you, kiddo? What’s 8×7?

Em: Um, um

Mr. G: [looking aghast] But you know this!

Me: Eh, you know how it is, after a while I’m sure she will remember, but I really want the basics to be an instantaneous kind of thing. Almost habit, you know?

Mr. G: Well, yes, of course! They should be automatic!

Poor guy. He is a great teacher, by the way, but he has 30 kids at a time in his class. If I were teaching 30 kids at a time, I’d be a neurotic puddle on the floor.

I really hope I didn’t send him hurtling into an existential crisis. He’s a highly regarded teacher and has several awards. Perhaps he will walk away from that discussion with the question, though, of just how much IS being retained and whether he needs to revisit things and make sure the kids truly KNOW it.

In any case, the point of it all is that the basics should be automatic. She should be able to snap off basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, all the way to 12, without pause. Until she is at that point, I feel that the rest of it is pointless.

Three-Minute Math

So we have flash cards, which seem to be frustrating for Em as well as mind-numbingly boring for me. And since she has been spending a year in school, I know she has had a lot more exposure to worksheets. So I’m going to give some 3-minute math a try. Just a 3-minute review daily in addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Nothing crazy and extreme, but something that will consistently give her a review of the basics.

A quick Google search landed this helpful site: Math-Aids where you can customize the worksheets and even choose 1, 3, or 5-minute worksheets. I printed off several different worksheets – five each of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

After she makes her way through those, we will see where her skills are and either continue with the worksheet practice or move on to something else.

I can remember my eldest arguing with me about how she didn’t feel that knowing her multiplication tables was particularly necessary. But honestly, I really think they are. They (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) are the building blocks upon which everything else stands.

Math Games

I struggled with math when I was young. And I created games to keep me practicing my skills on a daily basis. In fact, they became a habit, and to this day I still practice most of these games automatically.

Digital Clock Game

When I was struggling with short division and fractions, I began practicing daily by dividing the hour into the minutes on the clocks throughout the day. In this case, 42/3 = 12. If say I had 6:45, I would do the division, 45 divided by 6 = 7 3/6 – and then reduce the fraction down – 7 1/2.

12:03 becomes 3 divided by 12, which becomes 1/4

11:53 becomes 4 and 7/11

And so on…

License Plate Game

This was one of my earlier games, devised on the endless trips between Flagstaff and Phoenix. We lived in Flagstaff, but Phoenix, nearly two hours away, was where the airport was. My dad was in San Francisco, my mom in Flagstaff, and I moved between them regularly.

I would get slightly carsick if I spent the entire time reading, so I played the license plate game to keep me from being bored to tears.

Take the license number above and convert any letters to their numeral equivalencies. So…

6  L  I  K  2  7  4


6  12 9 11  2  7  4

Now compare the differences between the numbers. The difference between 6 and 12 is 6, the difference between 12 and 9 is 3, and so on…

6  3  2  9  5  3

And then the differences between those individual numbers…

3  1  7  4  2

And again…

2  6  3  2

And again…

4  3  1

And again…

1  2

And finally…


When I played it, and I was young at the time, it always ended with either 1 or 2.

It helped me with addition and subtraction and also number/letter substitution which led to other codes and puzzles, all good for the growing brain.

Typewriter Game

In 7th grade, we learned to type on these old manual typewriters. They covered the keys with black tape. I had a hell of a time learning the letters and found remembering where the numbers were exceedingly difficult. Later I was happy to transition over to ten-key. Once I learned that I was golden, but that’s a story for another day. I liked typing on the typewriter, I wanted to be better at it because I loved words and writing, and it became a welcome challenge for me.

I developed the habit of typing words that appealed to me, whether I had a typewriter in front of me or not. Ones I heard, ones that were said – and I haven’t stopped. My kids and husband will see my fingers fluttering away and ask, “What are you typing?” Sometimes I don’t even remember! It is good for a laugh, though.

So the game, or habit really, comprised of typing words, any words, but the longer the better. I would not only practice the correct fingers to use by tapping my fingers as if they were on a typewriter, but I would also keep count of how many fingers I used and how often.

I’m starting to sound rather obsessive and weird, aren’t I?

With that in mind, let’s take the word obsessive as an example…

If I number my fingers left to right, one to eight (thumbs don’t count), the fingers used looks something like this…

7  4  2  3  2  2  6  4  3

It has nine letters and those nine letters take a total five fingers to type. So I would consider it a 9/5 fraction or one and four-fifths.

I considered it a “win” when the ratio went into bigger whole numbers like two or three. A huge win would be a “four per”

attendance – 1  4  4  3  5  4  1  5  3  3

ten letter word, four fingers utilized, so ten divided by four = two and two-fourths – so an average of 2 and one-half per finger. Not bad.

It enabled me to not only engage in much-needed typing practice (thereby firmly cementing it in my brain) but also to continue to work on my fractions which I struggled with at that time.

To College Or Not?

I know it is a ways away, but I’ve been thinking a lot about college.

The eldest amassed enough credit hours to probably be closer to a Bachelor’s – and has flitted back and forth with college over the past eleven years. It has made me deeply thankful that I did NOT find myself funding it.

My youngest is just as bright and curious as her sister – but the question of college is not as simple as looking at your child and saying, “Well, you are smart so you HAVE to go to college.”

This excellent article questioning whether “you must go to college” is truly the message we should be giving our children.

This isn’t a matter of stupid versus smart or economic status – it’s a matter of interest and skills.

If your child is crazy about taking things apart and putting them together again, she might be a fantastic car mechanic.

If your child is constantly creating art, perhaps they need to become an artist – and maybe,just maybe that does not mean with an art degree.

I remember when I quit my office job and started my cleaning business. I knew that I could control what hours I worked if I ran my own business, and honestly, that was my primary reason for choosing a cleaning biz. I could go to school, work around my learning schedule, and even have time to study – all without a manager peering at me over my shoulder or telling me I couldn’t have the time off.

When I was asked why I chose a major in Psychology and a minor in Creative Writing, my response was honest, “Typical delaying tactic. I can’t say I’m a writer until I’ve got the degree to prove it, right?”

But the reality was – I could be a writer and I didn’t need a degree to accomplish it. Just like I didn’t need a degree in business to run my own business either. Twenty plus years working in offices had more than prepared me to deal with clients in a professional manner.

Life experience, entrepreneurship, dipping our toes into the working world, and the lessons we learn at home from our parents and extended family are essential. College? Less so.

If you are planning on a position in the medical field – by all means, attend college. I don’t want some kid consulting Wikipedia and watching YouTube videos for instructions on how to remove a tumor. Years upon years of education is definitely a stringent requirement before you put your hands on a patient!

But at some point, we have to make a decision – and that decision is on just how much debt we are willing to encourage our children to be buried underneath. I took out a $10,000 loan in 1988 for secretarial school and a good chunk of it was money that my loser first husband and I lived on (mainly due to the fact that he had no intention of ever working for a living – that was for stupid people like me). Over 20 years later and probably at least twice that amount in payments back to them, I finally paid it off.

Our children are saddling themselves with debt – tens of thousands of it – and it needs to stop. Because there is no point in paying through the nose for a piece of paper if it is going to cost them their future ability to buy a home, a car or to ever hope to live debt-free.

Posted in College?, Homeschool - Mathematics | Comments Off on Three Minute Math and the Big Question

Schedules, Promoting Writing and More

Schedule Rearranged

Beginning at the first of this month, I moved most of my cleaning clients to afternoon appointments. This was the first step in planning our fall schedule.

Em wants to return to homeschool and I feel more confident and prepared than ever!

One of the lessons I have learned though, is that we need a more regular schedule. The odd, ever-changing one I had before was frustrating, and it left me trying to squeeze in homeschool and my personal writing time into odd-shaped holes in the schedule.

After examining all of my client cleanings, I realized that over half were in the morning, during this early bird’s most productive writing/teaching time! That didn’t make sense, so I changed it, and with few exceptions I have nearly all of my client cleanings starting at 1pm.

This allows me to carve out a morning schedule of writing, and then incorporate homeschooling into the mix beginning in the fall.

It is a busy, yet workable, schedule now. Now that I’ve gotten two huge parts of my day figured out – housecleanings and writing – I can create a good schedule for homeschooling and decide what subjects will happen on what days. And I have plenty of time to figure that out – because fall won’t be here for five more months!

Big Changes on the Horizon

I’ve pulled our crib from the attic and wiped most of it down and began to set it up. We are weeks away from certification as foster parents and then it is just a matter of waiting for a little one to be born or come into care. We are open to all, but the room is pretty small. It can handle a toddler bed or a crib, no problem, but not something bigger. I’m pretty sure it was originally intended as a nursery or a sewing room.

It makes me wonder if Louise Abney, one of the original residents to live in this house, stayed in that room first. She was just two years old when her family moved into the newly built house.

We will be taking advantage of daycare during the day – both now and in the next year or two. I still have to work (my cleaning biz contributes around one-quarter of our monthly income) and in the fall we will be homeschooling, so I hope to have time set aside specifically for Em, to maintain our solid relationship and reassure her of her place in our hearts.

The goal with all foster care is reunification with the birth family – and I am certainly on board with that. If it becomes obvious that the child’s needs cannot be fulfilled by the bio parents in the eyes of the court, then we hope to adopt. Either way, the goal is care and love – in whatever form and future that takes.

When I was pregnant with Em, a full eighteen years after my first child was born, I had plenty of shocked looks when I told them her sister was nearly 18 years old. They shook their heads and asked me if I was crazy (“The end was in sight!”) and I told them that, if I did this again, it would take both medical and psychological intervention. And here I am, eleven, nearly twelve years later. Apparently, I was wrong – it has taken menopause and a move to the city to accomplish this major change!

It has been a long road to this decision and it will be a longer road still as we experience the ups and downs of the foster care system and welcoming a new life into our family. I welcome the challenge. I have learned a lot from 29 years of parenting. I added it all up and realized that IF we get a newborn and IF we end up adopting him or her, by the end of it, I will have 47 years of active parenting experience. Considering I am 47 (nearly 48) years old right now, that seems like a whole lot of parenting experience!

Then There is the Neighborhood Kid

And if all of the parenting/fostering plans weren’t enough, we do seem to have a young man here in the neighborhood that continues to seek us out. Well, he seeks out my husband, who is quickly becoming a father figure to the young man.

This is something that R needs desperately, as he lost his father last year to a car accident.

R is fourteen, and definitely in that stage where they think they understand it all. I think we all remember that age, don’t we?

He has had a particularly hard time this past week as it was the one year anniversary of his dad’s passing. He shows up on our doorstep at least 3-4 times per week, looking for a meal, looking for a ride, and Dave invites him in and helps him out.

I have stepped back and decided to let Dave run with this. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons.

  1. The kid made a rather transparent attempt to steal from us – which deterred me from wanting to get too close to him. What can I say, I have trust issues!
  2. He needs a father figure right now, not a mother figure – his mom is alive, but has stage 4 kidney disease and is on dialysis. Whether her life is measured in weeks, months or years, I do not know, but she is there now. Later he may need someone like that, but for now, what he really needs is a male role model.

Where this is all heading, I have no idea. For all I know, he might end up in the foster care system in the next year or two. We have talked about it a couple of times, but really, who knows what will happen? For now, we are simply trying to be there for him and help him out as much as possible.

Writing – Looking Good

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Em’s homeroom teacher, Ms. L…

As you know, for a long time getting Emily to produce writing in a timely fashion was near impossible. Since we returned from break I have really noticed a switch. She seems more confident in her work and is now one of my most efficient workers. Her grammar and conventions have also improved significantly. It is always bitter sweet when they no longer need your help!

I was so excited to hear that. And I was even more pleased when Em read her project paper to me yesterday. She had picked out the subject – What Foods to Feed Your Puppy – and written it in an informative and personable manner. I love it when you can hear their voice in the words they have written – no bland, stilted writing for my child, she made me proud!

This got me to thinking about writing prompts and possible writing projects this next year. I did a little bit of rummaging about on the internet and found a great list of writing prompts for Middle School students: 100 Not Boring Writing Prompts.

Be sure to check it out!

My Creative (yet slightly creepy) Kiddo

Em creating this mask and came walking up to me one evening, playing it menacing and scary. I have never been a fan of scary movies and frankly, it was a bit much. I asked her not to do it to me again. But I did take some time to admire her work.

Later, upon noticing that her eyes and lips were visible in the photographs, she asked for some pantyhose she could color black. I happened to have some black knee-high stockings I didn’t mind her having and she taped the pieces over the eyes and mouth holes. She could see just fine and it really completed the look.

Creepy, creepy, CREEPY!

Our  Morning Reading Adventures

We recently finished the trilogy of “Bad Books” by Pseudonymous Bosch (Bad Magic, Bad Luck, and Bad News). I also purchased, but we have not read, the Secret Series by the same author. Em has really enjoyed these books.

Right now we are delving into “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill

After we finish that I have the 30th Anniversary edition of Hatchet to read to her. Perhaps then we will also see the movie and compare it to the book.

Emily reads well, but she and I both enjoy this reading time first thing in the morning. It is a great way to start our day. I sip coffee and read in a variety of weird voices for the different characters and she slowly sips her tea, gets dressed and brushes her hair.

At the end of it, she pulls out her cello and practices for 20-30 minutes each school day. She improves with each day that passes. This means less angst when her juries and the two scheduled public performances sneak up on us.

Overall, things are falling into place. Life is good and I feel like we have solid momentum forward. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated as we add a new member to our household!

Posted in Advocacy, Bonding, Foster Parenting, Homeschool - Fine (and not so fine) Arts, Homeschool - Language Arts, Homeschool - Music | Comments Off on Schedules, Promoting Writing and More