Huge Change

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This year, quite at the last minute, Marco and I decided to place the girls into public school. This is something we talked about ever since we moved into our current school district. When we first moved here we knew the school was a great school, Dee would be going into kindergarten so it would have been great timing. This is what stopped us:

1) Dee had massive anxiety. It was so extreme I was afraid putting her into school would be more harmful than good and I wanted her to love school.

2) The year prior had been awful. Marco lost his job, we lived in different states, and we were homeless. Mark slept on the couch at a friend’s place here and I hopped from place to place. I stayed at an empty house owned by a church, my parents’ house, and hotels. I dragged the kids and dog along with me. It was stressful. The unstable life we led made me want to create a bubble of stability for my kids. I wanted them home with me.

3) Debilitating fear of what the homeschool community would think of me for sending my kids to public school, the fear of being ostracized by homeschoolers and public school mommas since I wouldn’t really fall into either category exclusively, and the fear of being a failure. I feared I had failed at homeschooling my girls. Yes, I realize now that I hadn’t failed, but my fear was real and legitimate.

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We finally came to a breaking point. I was burnt out. Dee and I would fight every time I tried to teach her reading. Math and art and every other subject as fine, but reading? Oh my word. It was awful. Math came easy to her, but reading was hard and she would rather play than read. I cried a lot. She cried a lot. It was not how homeschooling should be. One would think the kid with learning issues and special needs would be the one I struggled to teach. Nope.

To make all of this all 100% worse we were in a homeschool co-op that was the worst experience ever. I loved the other moms there, but the leaders were terrible. They believe in 100% unbending conformity (when I told my therapist this he shuddered). They were not nice people and I hated the toxic environment I was in. I knew I wasn’t going to go back there, but at the same time I knew I couldn’t be home 7 days a week with all 5 kids because I was burnt out. Working at minimum 2 jobs and at maximum 4 jobs, I needed help.

All summer long I struggled with “The Great Debate.” Public school or homeschool? Then one of the kids had a medical crisis and I had to make a decision. The day before classes started I walked into the school and signed the girls up. That was a Tuesday. School started Wednesday. The girls first day was Friday. The entire time we never said a word to anyone other than a few very close people. We did not put up first day of school pictures or discuss it at all.

We lived life and no one noticed. This is a little sad because this means no one really paid any attention to subtle things I said or did. However, I get it. I can miss subtly at times also. My homeschooling friends had no idea the girls were gone all day. I mentioned school and they simply assumed I meant homeschool.

Why didn’t I say anything? I didn’t want to deal with the unnecessary questions and remarks. Remarks that are usually untrue and only hurtful.

“Why did you put them in public school?”
“You know public is not as good as it used it be right?”
“Aren’t you scared of bullies and your kids learning immoral things and growing up too fast?”
“They never really get free time or socialization in school. They will burn out.”
“You are being selfish because you are working. Maybe you should quit your jobs” (or what ever reason they come up with)
“They are at school all day and come home to do homework all night. Do you really want that?”
“You are at the mercy of the schools.”
“Why are you still homeschooling the boys?”
“Do you favor the boys?”

Oh the list of snarky remarks and questions is endless. I didn’t want to deal with them because it is no one’s business. Period. So we didn’t say anything. Mark respected my wishes to keep it quiet. Then the girls had school pictures and I posted them…

People were shocked, but the girls are firmly established in school so no one said anything. I could tell a few people really wanted to, but they held their tongues and I am glad they did. A few people were super happy for us. They understood the turmoil I must have gone through because they messaged me to tell me they deal with the same debate. I felt less alone, less like a failure, and more empowered.

 

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My gorgeous, thriving girls. They are world changers.

The girls are thriving! Ry’s teacher refers to her as an “asset.” What an amazing word! She isn’t just a good kid or studious or smart. She is an asset. This means she is valuable to the class and they need her and greatly benefit from her! WOW! I am pretty sure no one ever referred to me as an asset. When I told Ry the compliment she was glowing. What an amazing confidence boost for a 10 year old girl who was trying to fit in to an already established class. When we went to Parent/Teacher Conference we could tell her teacher really loves her! What an amazing feeling! The confirmation we made the right decision is just what I needed.

Delaney, not surprising, is known as a sweet heart. Everyone loves her gentle and kind ways. Dee still has lots of anxiety, but she is coming out of her shell and developing her strengths. School was exactly what she needed in order to spread her wings and fly. The teacher works one-pm-one with her and the fact they all have gathered to be a foundation under her makes my heart swell. They want to see her succeed. They could easily not care, but they do. Adding these positive influences into her life has been only a blessing.

We have no regrets. This was exactly what needed to be done. The boys are thriving at home, Charlie is getting more in depth one-on-one with me; something he desperately needed. I am far more calm and far less stressed. I am able to better focus and I accomplish more.

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The days are calmer.

Every family needs to decide what is right for them and their children. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you are a failure because you didn’t do things they way they think you should. You do what you need to do and own it! Being supportive is always the better option.

~Andrea

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Change is Bad …

Have you ever watched Big Bang Theory? If not, WHY????? Do you know who Sheldon is? If not. WHY?????
Seriously, if you haven’t seen it go watch Season 1 real quick and then come back and finish reading my post.

I have a 13 year old and he is Sheldon. OK, not literally, but if you want to know the personality of my 13 year old just think of Sheldon. He has his own chair that is only his and don’t even think about sitting in it, or near it, or even think about sitting in or near it. Heck, just don’t think about it at all.

This is the kid who tries so hard to understand and participate in sarcasm, but last therapy session admitted that he usually has no idea what is going on. He is literal. Period.

This kid knows the name of every single Star Wars Clone Trooper (even the ones with numbers instead of names) and if and how they died. One car ride he sat there rattling them off for 30 minutes before I finally said “Honey, I have no idea what you are talking about.” he continued rattling them off, but at a faster pace, until he was done.

If you already know what he is telling you and you tell him he doesn’t have to finish his thought since you already know….well, sit tight because he HAS to finish his thought. Things are always done in a certain order and in a certain way. This all creates a calm world for him.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it is Halloween and that means the kids will dress up and go door to door and ask for candy. The 13 year old will wear the same costume he wore the last 4 years, a Hershey Bar. And despite my best efforts to get his to say “Trick or Treat,” he won’t. He will say, much to my horror, “Please give me back my relatives.” People will look at him oddly but that is OK, he won’t notice. He will instead tell everyone just how funny he is and how everyone thinks he is hilarious and witty.

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Halloween 2014 — I don’t remember which cloud storage the previous Halloween pictures are in!  

He tried his costume on today and looked at me and said “I don’t think this will fit me next year.” His look of horror broke my heart. He didn’t say it but you could hear “What will I do?” linger in the dead silence. I am glad he came to this realization on his own. I am glad he has a year to try to come to terms with this reality. However, I know that the future me will have to deal with the future 14 year old’s inability to really “go with the flow.”

Hershey 2015

This was the year we lost the brown knit cap … Halloween was almost canceled. 

So tonight I am going to treasure the last year of the Hershey bar. I am not even going to tell him not to ask for his relatives back. I might roll my eyes, but I will make sure he doesn’t see it.
Tonight is the end of an era. It may not seem significant to you, but it is to the 13 year old and therefor it is to us. Wish us luck!

Halloween 2016

Getting a picture of him is never fun, but he let me do a selfie with him. Not stellar, but I will take it.

~Andrea

Dream Journal

I do not hide the fact I see a therapist. Sometimes you just need a little guidance or an extra ear to listen. Sometimes you need serious intervention. Whatever the case, there is no shame … or at least there shouldn’t be, so I try to normalize the completely normal by openly talking about it.

That said, my therapist suggested a dream journal. I can’t decided if this is to help me or to entertain him because I get some seriously weird dreams y’all. I tell my dreams to my husband and he always looks at me and says “Your subconscious is a scary, scary place.”

My dreams are so vivid I sometimes can’t even tell if they were a dream or reality. I hate that. I feel like I am going crazy when that happens. They just seem so incredibly real! Many nights I am sound asleep but fretting and my husband is left to groggily soothe me so he can go back to sleep. I rarely remember those dreams, but I always remember the feelings I had in them; fear, anxiety, stress.

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I have done a fairly decent job at getting my dreams written, but this morning the first half of my dream just ran away from me, like running water through your fingers. I find that frustrating. All day I have been trying to remember the first part of the dream. As I type this blog post, my mind is still trying to grasp that earlier dream. I can remember the second half completely. I can still feel the cold and damp from the fog and smell the brisk air … these things didn’t happen but they were so real to my subconscious that have stuck with me all day. The first half though? It is like when you have Deja Vu and can’t quite figure out why. Did it really happen before?

I am curious to see where this rabbit hole of journal writing leads. Will it open an inner perspective? Maybe it will simply provide some seriously interesting writings. Hm, maybe this is where my riches will come from. (I kid! I kid!)

I do have hopes for this endeavor. I am hoping that I will no longer hate the prospect of sleep (I can’t stand these vivid dreams). I hope to garner insight. I am not sure what specifically I am looking to learn, but I want to learn something.

So I have to wonder, who else has a dream journal? I can’t be the only one who has insanely crazy and totally “out there” dreams. Share if you wish.

~Andrea

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! Or Is It?

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Oh my word … I can’t believe it is October 20. Where did the month go? I am in B-I-G trouble! WHY? Well, to start I don’t have Halloween costumes completely planned. The big ones are the eldest and the middle and they happen to be the 2 not planned. Figures.

However, before Halloween even gets here I have Dee’s 8th birthday, although I am going to have to do her party in November because one of her classmates is having his party ON HER BIRTHDAY! UGH! I know the mom has no idea, but it is still frustrating on my end. Dee could care less (thank the stars), but she isn’t the one who has to re-plan the entire thing.

So are you following? Dee’s birthday, then Halloween, then Dee’s party … and then Thanksgiving and after that is Ry’s birthday. We will do her party in December because I can’t handle 2 November parties …. or maybe I should do a combo? My house isn’t big enough and renting a place is $$$. Hm …. Sorry let me get back on track.

OK, so we get through Ry’s birthday and then it is Christmas and then the 13 year old’s birthday immediately after. Sigh. We get a little reprieve before the next birthday in the middle of January. Zen is my favorite. He is an April baby.

I am exhausted and need a plan. Sooooo …. Anyone want to do all this for me?? Any takers? No? Darn. Well, I tried …

I also need to not  miss the happiness that all of this craziness brings. We are celebrating so much GOODNESS and it is so easy to get lost in the hecticness of it all. My middles are all going to celebrate new milestones (8, 11, and 14)!!!! Halloween is always so fabulous in my neighborhood! Thanksgiving is quiet for us, but it is always nice. Christmas….ah! I love everything about it!

I need to not focus on the heart-squeezing panic I feel at what needs to be done. I need someone to walk behind me flicking me and saying “Are you living in the moment? Be happy!” Pretty sure my friend Jess B is up for that job. Good thing she doesn’t live near me!

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted!

~Andrea

My Top 10 Best Ideas

OK, so I really feel like even after 15 years of parenting, I totally stink at this gig. However, there are moments where I feel I out-shine my biggest expectations. Please note these are the best ideas for MY family! I am absolutely not telling you this is the best way because I am not stupid. I realize every family has to find there own groove. These are my hacks that have made life in the Gardner Household far easier.

Here are my favorite (in no particular order):

10. Teaching my kids to cook at an early age. Now that they are older they can cook dinner without supervision! Can I just tell you how awesome it is to not have to worry about making dinner every night.

9. Split the house into zones. I give them a number and they scurry off and clean that area. When they cooperate the house gets fully clean in under 30 minutes.

8. Use Perfectly Posh Gender Bender to remove stains … including nail polish! Posh makes no claims that the soap is anything more than a nourishing, tallow-free, moisturizing soap, but it worked wonders when a certain daughter spilled nail polish all over my carpet and hid it from me instead of telling. I found it 2 days later but Gender Bender and a little elbow grease got the polish completely out of our carpet!

7. Letting the kids pick their own extracurricular activities instead of imposing my own desires on them. If I had my way they would all be little theater buffs. To date, none of them are in theater. However, when they love what they are doing, they tend to try their best.

6. When shopping with little kids always bring a sharpie marker. Why? Because they can be used on mirrors in fitting room and wipe off easily with a baby wipe.
Why are you in a fitting room with all the kids?
*Baby wanted to breastfeed and you need quiet or they rip your nipple off while looking around and nursing at the same time because stores are exciting for them. So you pop over to the fitting rooms and settle with the baby and let the toddler create art on the mirror. Now if only they would deliver a coffee to the fitting rooms ….
*You have 3 little ones 5 and under and you need to hide while you cry because what the he** were you thinking when you thought that you could take 3 little kids to Target??
*You actually need to try on clothes and you really don’t want your toddler climbing under all the dressing room doors and scaring the sh** out of all the other women also trying on clothes.
*Because it is a great idea.

5. Push Ups. Forget time out. Time out does nothing if you aren’t going to teach your child how to cam themselves by taking slow deep breathes etc. Time outs make them mad at you because it is soooooooo unfair so they retaliate and draw on the walls when you turn your back. How do you punish that? They did it while in punishment! Instead make them do push-ups! Sure they grumble and complain, but they learn how to do proper push ups before the rest of their peers and, I kid you not, it becomes a bragging right. They get stronger and learn that positive physical activity can help them. When they are done we talk about what they did wrong and what they can do different next time. The push ups help them get into a clearer mind faster so the conversation actually sinks into their brains!

4. The girls are terrible at cleaning their room. They can literally take a full day to do a 5 minute job. Ground them, take away dessert, etc and nothing changes. Heck, I have even thrown away their toys! Yes, in the trash, not into a bucket to earn back. Doesn’t matter. They could care less. Do you realize how annoying this is?? I want their rooms clean. It is a safety issue and, to be honest, I hate messes. It overwhelms me and makes me irrational. So how did I finally get them to clean and in a timely manner? I bet them they couldn’t clean their room in the time it took the Mission Impossible theme song to play. I blasted the song and stood at their door and watched (because I didn’t want stuff shoved under beds etc). I have never seen them move so fast. The song is 3 minutes and 28 seconds long. I think this is a new cleaning record. I don’t mind losing this bet.

3. No screen time during the week. Period. I have a basket and phones and tablet go in there unless I give the say so. Bored? Go play a game or ride your bike. Read, write, or be bored. Just stay off electronics. I am watching a terrible trend of disconnect. Humans are losing empathy and I really think it is lack of real human interaction that is the cause. Maybe I am wrong, but I know this isn’t hurting them and may benefit them. If this doesn’t work for you, I totally get it. I promise we do not judge. To each their own, but I promise you this has made our lives more pleasant and far more simple.

2. I took Facebook off my phone. It is still on my tablet and that goes with me everywhere also, but I am more likely to not check it 500 times a day. I also took Snapchat, Twitter Tumblr, etc off my phone … the only thing I kept was Instagram because I do like to post pictures easily. All of these are on my tablet, so I am still connected via social media, but I am on it far less and much happier for it. Bonus, my kids have also noticed I am not on it as much and they are also happier.

1. Everyday I tell myself “You are doing the best you can in the moment. Give yourself a break.” OK, so sometimes I then call myself a liar and tell myself I am terrible at this parenting thing and I may even cry ugly tears, but if I keep telling myself I am doing my best then maybe I will one day believe it and maybe my kids will see I tried and refused to give up on myself. Maybe it will help them to learn to never give up on themselves. If that is the one thing I succeed at, then I did well.

~Andrea

19 Years Later

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1996

Happy Anniversary, Marco! Can you believe it has been 19 years since our wedding? The day was perfect. The temperature was an ideal low 70s and the New England leaves were just starting to turn into their gorgeous fall foliage colors. That morning, as I got ready, I scarfed down Dunkin’ Donuts and prayed I wouldn’t stain my dress. Spoiler alert, I didn’t!

Katie Beth, our flower girl, was so tired. It was nap time and she looked at me before walking down the aisle and said, “Auntie! Hold my hand!” Her dad rushed over and took her hand and walked with her. I love that memory; she was my buddy.

I walked down the aisle to Over The Rhine Rhapsodie … and there you were. My best friend. Oh the butterflies!

5 children, 3 states, medical emergencies, work trips, vacations, major job changes, leaps of faith, fights, laughter, death, and more. I hasn’t been easy. I can’t even put into words our journey because it would be a book. It is all worth it to be with you. I hope you feel the same.

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2017

So, Mr Gardner, here’s to another 50 years. You’re stuck with me. I was wrong on the day of our wedding. I thought I couldn’t love you more than I did in that moment, but I was naive. That was such an innocent love. Now, I love you madly and deeply and so much more than I ever thought was possible. There are still butterflies. No regrets. Happy anniversary, my love.

~Andrea

Something of Value

My husband hung 2 white shelves in my kitchen for me. They are the type of shelf meant for decorations. They look perfect.

The night he hung them we were all in bed and suddenly an enormous crash woke us up. My husband and I went flying down the stairs to see, in utter dismay, one of the shelves fell. The anchors were still in the wall, but the shelf managed to fall and everything on it crashed to the floor. Oddly, the decorative sugar bowl didn’t shatter. Neither did the clay bird my 15 year old made in kindergarten. The mold of the 7 year old’s hand broke a little; the base and one finger. The finger I can glue back on. Everything else shattered.

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The upper shelf fell at 1:30 AM. A part of me wishes I had taken a picture of the epic mess it made. 

Someone mentioned to me how sorry they were that all my stuff broke. What I found interesting was that I wasn’t sorry at all.

Back track 4 years ago, I would have been so upset had this happened. I love elephants and one off the items that shattered was my little black elephant statue. The teapot my mom sent also shattered, as did the heart I made in Bible Study. I would emotionally attach myself to objects all the time. Why? Why did I have this attachment? I think it was a learned behavior. We are taught to put extra value on items that can reference any memory, emotion, or family history. However, none of these objects, aside from the heart, really had a meaningful story behind it. The story behind the heart is one I can simply pass down to my children, no object needed.

So what changed in the last 4 years? Why am I suddenly able to emotionally separate myself from objects I was once attached to? I think it was an evolution really. Over the last 4 years I dealt with so many unknowns, inconsistencies, changes, and more. I learned nothing is permanent or reliable no matter how hard you try to keep things “as is.” It took 4 years to learn this lesson and the comment from one person to realize I learned it.

So what does it mean? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Frankly, I don’t think it is falls into either category. I think it is great to have sentimental attachments, but to a degree. We can’t attach ourselves to every little thing in our lives. We become obsessed.

I also think it is unhealthy to have zero attachment anything at all. We are humans and we are made to have feelings. That is one of the major distinctions between us and animals; and even then some species are closing that gap. But I digress …

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Some things help you remember moments more clearly; helping to to treasure the important aspects of life. 

Back to my shelf … Bummer the teapot, elephant, and heart broke, but it is OK. They are just stuff. However, had the hand or bird been shattered, I know there would have been tears. Why? Because, God forbid anything to happen to one of my children, these precious pieces of art that they hand made transport me to the time they made them. Their joy at showing me their amazing creations. Knowing their hands carefully crafted the items. I can see the pudgy kindergarten hands of my now 15 year old. I can see the sparkle of excitement in the eyes of the 7 year old. I remember odd things, like what they were wearing, and these objects help my brain to keep those memories fresh and focused. Sometimes we NEED the physical reminder so we don’t forget.

I understand this post is mostly babble to you and that is OK. I am realizing what things really matter in life because not everything can hold value, but I am also learning it is OK to have attachment to some things.

~Andrea