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Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

If you were reading this blog about four years ago, you would have seen a lot of posts about homeschooling.  It was my first year teaching Lorelei at home, and I was full of plans and eager to share them.

Lorelei spent her first four years of schooling at a parochial school.  It’s an excellent school, and her former classmates seem to have been very happy there.  But Lorelei was showing signs of stress and anxiety from the ever-increasing amount of homework, even in the summer time.  And I wanted to spend more time with my last baby.

Lorelei First Grade

Lorelei’s first day of first grade

Sending her back to “real” school eventually was always my plan:  when we would do it and where she would go were left TBD by needs and circumstances.  All I was sure of was that the transition would occur before high school.

I’ve homeschooled four of my five children for varying amounts of time, and it’s been a different experience with each of them.  I’ve come to realize that homeschooling does not provide the best learning environment for every child.

I am not sorry that I removed Lorelei from an environment that was stressful for her.  At home, we were able to recognize that she suffers from anxiety and take steps to combat that.  I was able to get to know her very well, and to spend time with her, and we are very close.  And she was able to devote extended time to non-academic pursuits.  Lorelei has always loved art, and I’ve been amazed to watch the changes in her pictures over the years.  She also became involved in an online group devoted to making music videos, and I was beyond impressed to see how she navigated the online community and taught herself skills both online and off.  I learned (and I think she did too) how very capable she is.

She also played outside a lot, as children should.  And remained a little girl longer than it seems most girls are allowed to these days.

Lorelei on the rock

Lorelei playing outside

Lorelei 13

Lorelei on her 13th birthday

But the academic side of homeschool was a real struggle.  Part of that was my change in circumstance from the last time I did this. I’m at home, but I’m working several hours each day, and I have to get things done.  But part of it was Lorelei herself.  When I taught Teddy at home, for example, I could read off a list of assignments and he would do them on his own.  Lorelei would complain and resist and insist that she couldn’t understand; she would freak out about possibly putting down the wrong answer even though her mother was the teacher and there were no grades; or she would go off to work and never return for her next assignment, and I wouldn’t even notice because I was so busy.  Every day, every subject, every assignment was fraught.  There were many days when we didn’t even attempt school, and we both felt guilty about it.

I’ve always known Lorelei was smart, of course.  She made high grades when she was enrolled in school.  But I had about decided that although she was a very capable person, she just wasn’t academic.  We all worried about what would happen when she returned to school.

Lorelei started eighth grade at the local public middle school in early August.  And she is thriving.  The transformation has been remarkable.  First progress reports are in and she has straight A’s.  Her Language Arts teacher has commented more than once that Lorelei should be teaching the class.  Her Social Studies teacher asked her if she would like to be in the Honors class.  Her art teacher invited her to apply for Art Club membership.  She joined the Book Club.  She comes home chattering animatedly about her classmates.  She stays on top of her homework without prompting.  And she joined the Youth Group at church to continue her religious education without complaint, and is enjoying that too.

So what happened?  Where did this motivated, happy, energetic, self-directed, intellectually curious student come from?

summer 80

Right after her getting-ready-for-school haircut

The answer, I believe, is that Lorelei is an extrovert.  She is drawing energy from the school environment and applying it to her studies.  It never would have occurred to me that this could be a factor–she wasn’t pining for school by any means; she was happy to have been removed and enjoyed being with me.  But the evidence is clear:  Homeschooling was not an academically good fit for Lorelei; traditional schooling is.

Again, I have no regrets about removing Lorelei from school.  The homeschooling experience may not have been an academic success, but it was valuable in other ways.  And she is quickly making up any ground she may have lost.  But I also have no regrets about putting her back in!

Some people–I was one of them once–are very tied to a certain way of educating their children.  “This is how our family does things,” they think.  For me, it was the ideal of having all my kids graduate from the parochial school attended by my sisters and me, and then going on the be members of the third generation of our family to attended Knoxville Catholic High School.  Family circumstances and the individual needs of my children forced me to rethink and relinquish plans I thought were set in stone, and my kids are the better for it.

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Mothers are closer to God the Creator

It’s been three weeks now since Anni tagged me to participate in the #RockingMotherhood challenge.  I hadn’t forgotten about the challenge–I was just thinking.

Because it IS a challenge, in a society that’s hell bent on making mothers feel that they are never quite good enough, to focus on the positive.  And it can be intimidating to toot one’s own horn, especially since I just did not long ago.  Plus I am a perfectionist, and am far more likely to be berating myself for my motherhood failures than congratulating myself on my wins.

So to get myself in the proper frame of mind, I decided to ask the people who ought to really know the answer to this question: my family.

My big kids all wanted time to think up a good answer.  I’m still waiting. But William’s answer to the question: “How am I a good mother?” was just what I needed:  “How AREN’T you a good mother?”

Seriously, y’all, William is my biggest cheerleader.

Lorelei said, “You feed me,” but that’s a pretty low bar for motherhood, I have to say.  She did add, “You look at my pictures,” and allowed that I could translate that into, “You support my artistic pursuits,” which I think I can work with.

John had two answers, and since they were the two things I’d already thought of myself, I considered it a sign that I was on the right track.   (I marked those with a *)

So here, without further ado, is the list of some ways I am #RockingMotherhood.

  • I am a good advocate for my children.*  William has an IEP.  I show up at meetings with an intimidating-looking binder full of research/ammunition and an attitude.  Yes, I am That Mom.  I don’t care if anyone at the school likes me and some of them probably don’t, but most of them understand and appreciate parents who educate themselves and are engaged in their children’s education.  I was not always as good at this as I am now, which leads me to my next point . . .
  • I learn from my mistakes.  I am not under some kind of illusion that I know everything about parenting.  In fact, as the years go on I really feel like I know less and less.  I don’t see anything wrong with apologizing when I don’t get it right, or with changing my approach from kid to kid or even from week to week.
  • I have (mostly) figured out the truly important aspects of parenting teenagers.* You can read more about that here.
  • I know how to provide the right kind of support for my adult kids.  I didn’t tell my big kids where to go to college.  I didn’t tell them what classes to take or what to major in.  I don’t pry into their personal affairs or tell them more than once that I disagree with a choice they have made. I DO give advice when requested, feed them when they are hungry, help them with adult things they haven’t learned about yet, and provide financial support when requested if I can.
  • I celebrate and support my kids’ interests, even when I don’t share them.  It’s easy for me to support Emily’s interests in literature and writing, since I love those things too.  It’s harder to remain enthralled by William’s fascination with all things Godzilla.  But I listen and learn.  I consider it a privilege that my kids want to share their passions with me.  And you know what?  You can develop an interest in anything that is loved by the people you love, if you try hard enough.
  • I don’t live a life that revolves around my children.  My kids know that my relationship with their father is important and that he and I will be spending time away from them frequently.  They know that I need time alone.  They know that I have interests and passions and they are expected to pay attention if I want to share about those just as I listen when they tell me about their passions.
  • I model faith, morals, values, and principles.  My kids have seen me go to Mass every Sunday and they’ve watched me march for causes I believe in.  We have conversations about politics, ethics, philosophy, and theology.  They know I am a person of strong opinions and they know what I think about things.  With this foundation, they are learning how to think (not WHAT to think), and the importance of having their own strong beliefs in these areas and standing up for them.
  • I love my children and they KNOW that I love them.  That may sound like another baseline requirement for motherhood–and I truly believe it’s a rare mother who doesn’t love her child–but the second part is just as important.  They have to know they are loved, just as they are and no matter what.  They have to be hugged and kissed and listened to and affirmed, and I am confident that I have done all those things, notwithstanding the impatience and the screaming and the inconsistent discipline and all the many other mistakes that I have made.

Here’s where I tag other bloggers to participate in this #RockingMotherhood challenge!

I am nominating:

Yanique of Kiddie Matters

Kim of This Ole Mom

Kim of Knock It Off Kim

Crystal of So-So Mom

The “rules” are simple:

  1. Thank the blogger who tagged you, and provide a link back to them;
  2. List 10 things (plus, or minus) you believe make you a good mother;
  3. Tag some other bloggers to participate in the challenge.

I picked these ladies because I KNOW they are rocking motherhood–but there’s no punishment for not participating in the challenge!  And if you weren’t tagged, feel free to tell me how you rock right here in the comments.

And here, by the way, is my actual MEDAL for being a good mother–part of a custom necklace that my sister gave me for Christmas, made from an antique French medal still given out to mothers of many kids today.

mother award necklace

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There is another laundry basket in the hallway.

I have to check the waistbands of all the jeans and boxer shorts for sizes before I put them away.

Another car is jockeying for position in front of the house.

I am cooking more meat than usual.

We needed a second pew on Sunday.

The t.v. has been on during the day.

My grocery list last night included peanut butter, protein powder, Gatorade powder, and three dozen eggs.

Teddy’s home for the summer. 🙂

THEO

Picture taken by a school friend of Teddy’s

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Teddy’s first year at Notre Dame is almost over.  He will be home for the summer in less than a month, and back to eating us out of house and home once more.

After we dropped him off, we didn’t hear much from him for a long time.  It was a far cry from the frequent tearful phone calls I remember making home the first few weeks after I started college, which settled to weekly–and tear free–eventually, or even the daily contact I had with Emily when she was at Spring Hill via text, email, and instant message.  Teddy texted a few times–mostly when he had questions about something–and I didn’t call him either, giving him time to settle in and get used to being on his own. He came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and dropped by to and from his Spring Break trip to Florida.  He’s always willing to spend his first hour or so back home talking to me and answering my questions, but after that he’s off doing his own thing.

But I got a real treat last weekend!  St. Edward’s Hall (Steds is what the boys call it) hosted a Mothers’ Weekend and I drove up to spend the weekend with Teddy.  Yes, I did, all by myself–about an eight hour drive not counting stops.  Of course it poured down rain, the kind of rain you can’t see to drive through, for the first several hours (why did it have to do that while I was driving in my own hilly state and not where it was flat?) but after that it was smooth sailing, especially since I made sure both ways to time things so I would not be driving in the dark (because I’m not as young as I once was!).

I made it to South Bend right around six and after I checked into my hotel I picked Teddy up and we went for pizza (it being Friday, and Lent, and South Bend not being exactly a place I’d expect to specialize in seafood) and then checked out the weekend’s first event–hors d’ouevres at the Eck Visitors Center.  This was my first chance to meet Teddy’s friends, including the three young men with whom he will be living next year.  They had just chosen their rooms the night before, and will be living in a quad on the fourth floor of St. Ed’s (most people stay in the same dorm all four years)–room 420 to be precise, and if you don’t know why they think that’s a hoot, your teenager can probably tell you.

Jake, Teddy, Kevin, and Phineas

Jake, Teddy, Kevin, and Phineas

Would y’all just LOOK at my son?  When he came home looking like that I thought maybe that was just the new thing, but then I saw all the other boys, who all look like the boys pictured above, and it became clear that Teddy is the only one doing this particular thing.

Anyway, I was tired so I had Teddy drive me back to my hotel so I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark (oh how I love love love staying in a hotel all by myself!) and we arranged for him to pick me up the next morning, when we were all scheduled to attend brunch at South Dining Hall.

After brunch, we had a free day.  I didn’t get to see nearly all the campus when we dropped Teddy off.  Y’all, the place is enormous.  And it was hot then, and the weekend was packed with required events. (Plus I have more energy now but more on that later.)  So we decided to spend the day exploring the campus. It was a glorious day for it–in the upper forties and sunny.  Also have I mentioned it’s flat up there?  I can walk for hours under those circumstances and I did.  We started around noon and kept going until after four.  Teddy calculated we walked around five miles and we both even got a little sunburned! Here are some of the sights we enjoyed.   nd 11 Starting with this, even though it isn’t where we started, because it’s what everyone wants to see, right? nd 26 Here’s a nice shot that gets the Basilica in there too. nd 47 We actually started out in the bookstore, where this was only one of many children’s books designed to indoctrinate them early!  Seriously, it is a really nice (and super expensive) bookstore. After that, Teddy pretty much walked me all the way around the campus, including quick trips inside the library and the student center. nd 49 I showed y’all Touchdown Jesus last time I wrote about Notre Dame.  This guy they call First Down Moses. Did y’all know that Notre Dame du Lac is the school’s official name?  And that two lakes sit right next to it?  Last time John and I walked around the smaller lake, and this time Teddy and I walked around the other one.

nd 28

nd 42

nd 44

Can’t go to Notre Dame without stopping to pray at the Grotto.  There was a wedding party there posing for pictures, and then a rival lacrosse team stopping to pray together after their game.

nd 13

The last thing we went to see, and my favorite thing since y’all already know I’m weird that way, was the enormous cemetery which is practically at the front door of the place.  But that’s going to get a post to itself. 🙂

So moving right along, I barely had time to get back to the hotel and shower and change for the big evening event at the Jordan Hall of Science.  We had hors d’oeuvres and drinks, heard about the latest renovations to St. Ed’s, attempted (Teddy and I did not attempt this seriously) to learn how to two step and line dance, and ate dinner.  We sat with Teddy’s new roommates and their mothers, and it was a real treat to get to meet them and some of the mothers of Teddy’s other friends.  We went back to the dorm afterwards and “chilled” a little longer but I didn’t stay too long because I didn’t want to be tired the next day for the long drive home.

The grand finale to the weekend was Mass on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. (super early for these boys who are used to Mass at 10 p.m.!)  held in the Chapel of Sts. Edward and John, which just happens to be at the end of the hallway where Teddy currently lives.  If y’all are picturing some folding chairs and a wooden altar with a cross sitting on it, you might want to think again.

ND Chapel Window St. Edward

ND Chapel Altar 2

Did I mention that about 100 mothers came for the weekend (and there are around 150 boys in the dorm)?  So all the seats were full and the boys sat on the floor.  I’ve heard people say that Notre Dame isn’t authentically Catholic and I can only assume that those people have never been there.  Father Ralph (who lives right there in the hall) started his homily with these beautiful words of St. Augustine: “You gleamed and shone, and chased away my blindness. You breathed fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for you. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. You  touched me, and I burned for your peace.”   And I wish I had taped those boys belting out “Wade in the Water” at the end of Mass!

Then it was time to go home, but not so hard to leave knowing how soon I will be seeing Teddy again.  And it was great to see how at home he is and how much fun he is having, and to be able to picture him there with his friends.

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When I was a teenager, the poster below (or one very like it) hung on the back of my bedroom door.

footloose kevin bacon

It wasn’t because I had a huge crush on Kevin Bacon, although I did think he was cute.   What I loved was the movie–Footloose.

As I checked my phone before bed last night, I learned that Kevin Bacon, who remains incredibly cool 30 years later and has aged better than most of us, appeared on the Tonight Show and was not too stuck up to engage in a little self-parodying here.

This was serendipitous because at the very moment he was doing this, I was watching Footloose with my big kids (well, two of them) who HAD NEVER SEEN IT.   John picked it up for me the last time he was at the video store, knowing how much I love it, and I’d been waiting for a good opportunity to share it with them.  This weekend, with John and the little people off on a quick visit to Baltimore, was the perfect time.

I was a little worried that they wouldn’t like it, that it wouldn’t stand the test of time or “translate” well across the 30 years that have passed since I saw first saw it.  I even wondered it I would still like it. (Yes, I did, for the record.  Just as much, with maybe even a little more depth as I now have a lot more understanding of Pastor Shaw’s point of view!)  Why should I care so much?  you ask.

I can’t even think of a way to describe the way I feel about this movie and the night I first saw it without resorting to the worst kind of cliches.  I was 17 in February 1984, just like Ren in the movie.  Like many teenagers then and now, my life was completely wrapped up in my group of friends.  I could not imagine a future in which I did not see or talk to them every day and I dreaded the thought of going away to college and leaving them.  We saw the movie at what was then the Cinema 6.  These days it’s an artsy place showing lots of foreign films, but back then it was our favorite theatre, perhaps because of its close proximity to the Downtown West location of Mr. Gatti’s (gone now), which for some reason was our high school’s acknowledged hangout even though the school itself was on the other side of town.

We were having a slumber party at one friend’s house and it was the birthday of another friend, and I don’t remember how we came to the decision to go to the movie, if it was spontaneous or part of the plan from the beginning.  But perhaps it’s worth noting that I remember anything about it at all.  I mean, I know some of the other movies I saw in high school, but no other evening at the movies maintains this much space in my memory, or evokes so much feeling.  I clearly remember watching the opening sequence–all those feet–and feeling excited about what was to come.  But what I remember even more is coming out of the theatre after the movie.

There were, if I remember right, six of us there that night, five girls and one boy.  I can remember coming out of the movie almost dancing–maybe actually dancing, there on the sidewalk to the south of the theatre.  I don’t remember what we talked about, other than how much we liked the movie.  Probably we were discussing what we were going next, which might have been back to the slumber party, or maybe to Gatti’s for pizza–that part I don’t remember.

What I do remember so clearly though is how I felt.  Maybe it wasn’t the movie itself.  Maybe it was just the joy of being young and with close friends, out alone at night under our own steam, having friends who were driving and a couple who even had their own cars.  But for me the way I felt that night is inextricably linked to the movie and always will be.   I felt . . . empowered.  Like I could do anything.  Like life was good and all of it was ahead of me (that part at least was true).

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My Facebook feed is filling up with pictures of beach views, because both Knox County public and Catholic schools are on break this week.  Were I to post a picture of my view, it would be the same one everyone has seen before:  my back yard.  I’m not complaining, though, because I do have some future travel plans to look forward to (more on that later!) and  a week at the beach would bore me to tears anyway.

The Spring Break that’s been on my mind took place last week, when both Jake and Teddy were frolicking at Panama City Beach.  Now that they are back safely (well, Jake is back safely; Teddy was here briefly and is driving back to Notre Dame today) I can let out that breath I was holding and get back to thoughts of my own “vacation”–a break, at least, from getting up before dark and spending hours driving kids around.

Teddy went to Panama City last year, and seemed surprised and irritated this year when I texted the boys occasionally to make sure they were okay (I did not hear from Teddy ONE SINGLE TIME last year). “Stop texting Jake,” he said.  “You are killing his vibe.  I didn’t die last year and I won’t die this year.”  Jake, on the other hand,  called of his own accord a couple of times to tell me how much fun they were having and ask how I was doing, and to assure me that they were being safe.

Now there was never any question of my going on a trip alone with my friends sans parents while I was still in high school.  I remember begging my mother to let me and a friend drive to Coalfield to watch a basketball tournament, returning the same evening, and she wouldn’t even allow that.   (My sister got to go on Spring Break with friends HER Senior year.  Go figure.)

My first year of college, I came home for break, bringing my roommate, who was from Seattle, eager to share Tennessee with her.  We spent one day in Gatlinburg (which back then was more or less shut down that early in the season) and one exploring the mountains.  I don’t remember what else we did.  Sophomore year we decided we wanted to go to Daytona Beach.  Even as a sophomore in college, I had to beg to be allowed to go, and promise to stop and call my mother every two hours while driving to let her know we were okay.

From what Jake told me when they got home last night, the scene at Panama City sounds something like what Daytona Beach was like back in the day.  Not that I would know firsthand or anything, because my roommate and I and our friend STAYED WITH THE FRIEND’S GRANDMOTHER.  We took a day trip to St. Augustine, and another to Disney World.  Oh, we were such good little Catholic girls (typed completely without irony).

The next year we went to Charleston, and John came along.  I was the only one who’d been there–it was the last vacation I ever took with my family, the summer before I left for college–and I was excited to go back and to show them the beautiful and historic sites.  Charleston remains a place I want to get back to.  Senior year I was busily planning an August wedding and I think I went home for Spring Break to conduct wedding-related business.  Since having kids, Spring Breaks have usually been Easter Breaks and occasionally included a few days in a hotel in Gatlinburg with an indoor pool.

Below are some pictures from a couple of those college trips.  Please excuse their condition, remembering they’ve been through fire and flood and that I have them at all is a minor miracle.

My roommate, Renee, in the Gatlinburg wedding chapel, March 1986

My roommate, Renee, in the Gatlinburg wedding chapel, March 1986

Me in the cantilever barn in Cades Cove, March 1986

Me in the cantilever barn in Cades Cove, March 1986

John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988

John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988

 

What about you?  Are you going somewhere special for Spring Break this year?  Do you have any memorable trips from your past you’d care to share?

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All-Nighters

I may have mentioned a time or two that I was an English major.  So that meant I wrote lots and lots of papers in college.  And college being what it is, I rarely wrote any of them until the night before they were due.

I write really fast, so usually that wasn’t so painful.  My senior year I took four English classes at once.  By some evil twist of fate, my Southern Fiction and my Catholic Fiction class required four papers each that were always due on the same day.  Routinely I would start writing these papers around nine p.m. the night before the due date, and I’d be done by midnight.  This drove my roommate, who was in one of the classes with me and who was a much more painstaking writer, crazy.  She’d still be working on the first draft of her one paper and I would be all done.

If this sounds like bragging, it’s not meant that way.  Writing fast without the need for much revision is just a gift I have and I can’t claim any credit for it.  It’s a good gift for an English major–and a blogger!–to have.

Now these are five page papers I’m talking about.  When the assignment was longer, I did try to start sooner.  The problem with college (and now with life) is that things aren’t neatly ordered and often responsibilities fall on top of one another.  It was a mantra of mine in college to say “It has to get done so it will get done.”  And I would make myself do the most urgent thing first and then move on the the next.

So there were a few times when I waited too long to start a longer paper.  When I had so much to do in a given week that I just couldn’t get a head start.  When I started a ten-page paper at midnight (a paper that had to be written in longhand and then had to be TYPED ON A TYPEWRITER).  And that meant an all-nighter.

I remember one particular time, staying up all night writing and typing until dawn and then turning in the paper the following morning.  I was writing about Gulliver’s Travels, and I was so sleepy that I kept spelling the horse-people’s name a different way every time I mentioned it.  I won’t even try to remember how to spell it now, although it would be easy because Google.  I attached an apologetic note to my paper explaining that I was exhausted and the letters just kept running together before my eyes!

When I was a little girl about ten years old my mother and I stayed up all night one night to watch the sun rise in the morning, just for fun.  She made me sweet coffee with lots of milk and we stayed up and talked all night.  It was an adventure.  In high school I sometimes stayed up all night talking with friends.  Then there were those college all-nighters.  I’ve stayed up all night laboring with four babies.  But it’s been a long time since I can remember staying up all night on purpose, particularly pulling the kind of all-nighter that is followed by a  full day of responsibilities with no opportunity for sleep until late in the following day.

But guess what?  Jake has waited until the last minute to write his Western Civilization paper, a paper with such ridiculous parameters that you wouldn’t believe them if I read them to you.  And Jake does NOT write fast.  He is going to need a lot of moral support to finish this paper and Emily and I are providing it.  It looks like we will be up all night tonight.  I hope I still have it in me.

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