Shy or just reserved?

There he stood, leaning against a tree. He watched the other boys playing but didn’t approach them. I knew he wanted to, but he still held back and watched. Ea he hung out in the pool alone while the other boys dove off the diving board. It wasn’t fear of the diving board that kept Jase away. It was the awkward shyness of not knowing how to join his friend who is playing with other boys he doesn’t know or doesn’t know well.

This was the scene recently at a birthday pool party that Jase, Lexie and I attended. It was a joint celebration for Jase’s friend Aidan and for Aidan’s sister, Morgan, who is Lexie’s friend. While Lexie had no problem running off with some girls, it was Jase I knew who might struggle at the party.

Last year, his best friend Noah also came to the party, so he was fine that Aidan was hanging with his cousins who Jase doesn’t know. However, this year Noah didn’t make it to the party. This left Jase feeling very left out. I encouraged him to join the other boys who I am sure were not excluding him on purpose.

But this reserved boy has always been a worrier. He is more likely to sit back and observe before joining in. He is hesitant to join a big group and does better with one-on-one interactions in small groups. He is me.

I remember these feelings and problems from my own childhood. Even as an adult I sometimes struggle with feeling like I fit in. But even though I know what he is going through, I don’t know what to tell him to make it better. Maybe he just has to find his own way.

Three years ago, I wrote about Jase being shy and a worrier. I had hoped he would grow out of it. But it doesn’t look like that has happened.

But the funny thing is that he isn’t consistent with his shyness. He has performed in the school talent show. His teacher told me he was always participating in class and even about him dancing in front of his classmates. Of course, this was at the February parent-teacher conference, and maybe that is him half the year to feel comfortable to do those things.

At the recent pool party, he spent the first hour and a half either by himself or watching the other boys. I don’t know what happened but then all of a sudden he was with the group doing crazy dives off the diving board. I saw him talking to a boy he didn’t know and popping balloons with him. Suddenly, he was fitting in and not ready to leave when the party was over.

Maybe this is just how Jase is. Maybe he needs that time to access a situation before joining in.

Fundraisers almost impossible to avoid if you have kids

Jase went to a church-based preschool. There were never any fundraisers as tuition costs covered all activities. Then he went to elementary school, and the money quests began.

fundraiserIn the first few weeks of school, he came home with a coupon book that the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) wanted him to sell. We bought one and called it done.

But of course we weren’t done. There always seemed to be something going on – Jump Rope for Heart (American Heart Association), Pennies for Patients (Leukemia) and a Walk-a-thon (another fundraiser from the PTA).

A few years later, a change of principals created even more money donating options with a Fun-Run, McTeacher night (an event where the teachers run the local McDonalds for an evening), book fair, and a host of other food options that provided kick-backs for the school. This included Mom/Son or Daddy/Daughter dinners at a local restaurant, buying a snow cone from the Kona Ice truck after school or the food trucks they started bringing in for Family Night and Meet the Teacher events.

It now seems that there is something every month that either the school, the PTA or some other group at school wants our money. And this doesn’t even take into consideration that the Boy Scouts sell popcorn, the Girl Scouts have cookies and nuts, and a host of other extra-curricular activities raise funds with the sales of cookie dough or gift wrap.

Two years ago, I became an officer at the kids’ school PTA. We decided that to cut down the demand for money from parents that we would just hold one PTA fundraiser instead of two. We would hold a large festival in the Spring, and this would be our ONLY fundraiser to raise money for not only our programs but any gift to school we wanted to purchase.

Both years it was a success. We raised the needed money for our programs, which include bringing in science programs, theater performances and authors, but we also were able to fund a science lab and add amplification systems to all classrooms. (There systems allow the teachers to wear a microphone and allow all students to hear her/him no matter where the teacher or the students are located in the room.)

It was great. But there were those who complained about the price of the fundraiser. ($20 per person with food or $15 per person for the no-dinner option for a 4-hour event) And I do understand that the price can be prohibitive for larger families, but we offered ways for them to reduce their cost by volunteering at the event and even gave away tickets to families that were really strapped for cash (those families were chosen by the administration and remained anonymous.)

I much preferred this method of raising funds because it was fun. We had music, food, games, prizes, a silent auction, cake walk, and inflatables for a whole evening. It was billed as a community event, and it was better than having to sell something.

But then this year hit and the woman who was president of the PTA and the instigator of the festival/one fundraiser idea became in charge of fundraising. She decided that there was just too many complaints about the price of our festival, so we needed a SECOND fundraiser. She wanted us to sell chocolate.

I voiced my opinion – I don’t like selling. I don’t want my kids going door-to-door, and we don’t have a large family who is going to want to buy the chocolate. But she assured me and the rest of the school that this was an easy sell at a great $2 price point.

wfc_30csvpShe envisioned every child selling at least one box of 30 chocolate bars. I warned her that not everyone would do it. She responded by saying that there would be kids selling more than one box, and that they would make up for the others who didn’t sell any.

Well, it looks like she was wrong. Instead of her high hopes of 75% participation, it has been closer to 25%. We have a lot of chocolate bars that didn’t get sold. I guess other parents agree with me that they don’t like selling. Or maybe they are just tired of raising money for the school. (Most parents don’t differentiate between a school fundraiser and a PTA fundraiser.)

I would prefer that both the school and PTA limit how much they demand additional money – shirts, photos, books, fundraisers. The list goes on and on. But I realize that I am dreaming. Fundraising is here to stay and my only option is to decide which ones I will spend my money on.

Adjusting my daughter’s ADHD meds – at her request

In June of 2015 we started our daughter Lexie on medication for ADHD. At the time, we weren’t even sure she had a problem. Her teacher had shown concern that she couldn’t sit still in class and was having trouble concentrating. The test from her pediatrician had proved inconclusive but she suggested trying medication to see if it would help – and it would give us the answer to the question whether Lexie had ADHD or not.

Jumping to medication may seem like a jump when you don’t have a definite diagnosis but no amount of redirection seemed to help Lexie. We worried about the side effects of the medication and that we would be creating some kind of zombie who shuffled through the day. But we also didn’t want her to continue struggle in school.

adderall-xr-10-mgWe started her on the lowest dose possible but saw little in the way of change. But the next highest dose seemed just about right but we waited until she started the school year to finalize the amount of medication she took. We wanted to see how she did in a school setting verses just being at home in the summer. At our first parent-teacher conference, her teacher said she was doing great. Lexie’s reading had already jumped several levels and she seemed to have no problem paying attention.

Everything progressed well through the school year. The dose seemed the right amount to give Lexie the focus she needed without diminishing her bubbly nature.

Then she started third grade. From the beginning, she began complaining about not being able to focus. She would tell us when her teacher had to redirect her or when she would get in trouble. Comments from the teacher came home echoing the same thing – Lexie wasn’t paying attention in class.

Lexie has never been a fan of taking the medication. She doesn’t like that it sometimes makes her not hungry. She worries that she isn’t her same fun self on the meds. But she also finally has realized the benefits. She too knew that last school year she had less problems.

drugitem_5271When I asked her if she thought the medication wasn’t working properly, she said yes. We talked about how much she has grown in the past year and how medications must change as you get bigger. She suggested that might mean she needed a higher dose. She then thought about it for awhile and even talked about it with her teacher who of course wouldn’t tell her what to do but did ask her questions to help her fully explore her options.

When we went to see the pediatrician, my eight-year-old calmly explained to her rationale for going to a higher dose. The doctor agreed it was a good thing to try so we went up one more level in her medication.

And so far it has been helping. Both Lexie and her teacher say she is more focused in class. So barring a drastic change in her weight at her one-month follow up appointment, it looks like Lexie was correct in asking for an increase in her medication.

Even when I want to say no…it doesn’t work

My husband often says I take on too much, and that I need to learn to say no. Yeah, that hasn’t stopped my yet. But after slacking off during the kids’ winter break, I felt a little overwhelmed last week as I tried to get caught up.

I had just spent almost all of Wednesday taking care of our financial records from the end of the year and doing some tax work for my husband’s law firm. So Thursday morning came, and I was thinking of all the things I needed to get done – especially with publishing a book in only two and a half weeks.

I spent the time preparing my kids’ school lunches talking myself out of going to my volunteer time in Jase’s class. I go every Thursday for about an hour to help with their math stations but it is after all a volunteer job. They can certainly do without me. And then Jase came downstairs….

“Do you know what today is?” he asked, excitedly.

“Thursday.”

“Yes! And you know what that means?”

“We are closer to the weekend?”

Jase laughed. “No. It means someone will be in my classroom today!”

I was in shock. He seemed so excited that I would be there. He has never really shown that before. So after deciding I had better things to do with my time, I quickly changed my mind again. I would go help out his class. It is after all only an hour, and he so wanted me there. I want to keep being involved while the kids are excited about it. I know the day will probably come where they are rolling their eyes and grumbling about their mom being at their school. But we aren’t there yet.

You know, when I volunteer to do these things – work in Jase’s class, do our homeowner association newsletter or run the HOA activities’ committee – I always do so because it seems like it will take such little time. Volunteering in Jase’s class is just an hour a week. The HOA newsletter comes out quarterly and takes less than an hour to put together. We also have the two HOA pool parties down so that it takes shopping at just two stores and about thirty minutes to set up (plus an hour and a half for the actual party.)

So it never seems like a big deal to sign up for these things. Of course, all those “little” projects do add up, and they do take away time from my writing time. I could have used last Thursday to finish formatting my novel. But instead, I made my son happy. It was worth it. Not to mention I had the weekend to finish working on my new release.

Check back on my blog tomorrow as I reveal the cover for The Heir to Alexandria. It will be available on Amazon starting Tuesday, January 27th.

Teaching the kids to swim

Lexie swimming (one closest to orange cone)

Lexie swimming (one closest to orange cone)

Today, Lexie has her fifth swim lessons. This is her first summer taking swim lessons. She was very excited – and a little nervous – to start them. By the second day, she decided learning to swim wasn’t as fun as she thought it would be.

Every summer, I typically look for swim lessons that fit into our schedule. Many places here seem to offer them the first few weeks of summer break, which is when we are on vacation. Our public parks program offers one near the end of June, but the locations are nowhere near us.

This year I went back to a location we used before when Jase turned 6. They are done through our local school district, which has partnered with Swim Academy to offer these lessons. The goal of the Swim America program is to first off ensure that your child is safe in and around the water. After they have worked on breathing, gliding and floating, they began teaching actual swimming strokes. I think the rate of $75 is reasonable for eight classes. The kids are taught in small groups of about four kids and as the kid progresses in skill, they are moved up to different classes. It is all based on what your child knows and can do.

Originally, only Lexie was going to take swim lessons. Jase was signed up for Star Wars Lego camp during her first week. And then suddenly we got the call that his camp was canceled because they didn’t meet the minimum enrollment. (This happened to him last year for Mad Science camp too. He just has bad luck so far with camps.) Since he was now free of activities, I was able to get him signed up for the same two weeks as Lexie but his class would be the one right after hers.

Jase (middle of pool) getting instructions.

Jase getting instructions.

Really, Jase should be a good swimmer by now, but he isn’t. We started him in once a week swim classes when he was 4. He did that for about 15 months. He loved his classes but never really learned to swim. I don’t think the once a week thing worked. So we did the Swim America lessons when he was 6 and then didn’t follow up the next year with additional classes as they either didn’t have them or couldn’t find the sign up. (Honestly, it is the hardest thing to find the website for signing up for these lessons even if you know they are out there so I don’t know how they get so many people there.)

Quite a few of my friends have said I should put the kids into a swim team, so they can learn to swim. Of course, most of our area swim teams have some sort of test before they let you on the team, and I don’t think my kids would pass it. Plus, I really have no desire to have them on swim team. I want our summers to be relaxing, not spent every morning bright and early at the pool.  (No offense meant to those of you who have kids on swim team or enjoy spending all your time at the pool, but that isn’t for us.)

So we will see how much they will learn in this final week of classes. Lexie has already advanced one skill level, and I expect Jase will too before it is over. Then it is up to us to keep practicing and of course decide if we want to do them next year – if they fit into our vacation schedule.

The dreaded report cards have come out….

It is a time that many kids – and perhaps some parents – dread. Yes, it is report card time. Both Jase and Lexie received their mid-year report cards last week.

The grades reflected on these report cards are supposed to be a benchmark on how your child is doing in school. And as parents, we want our kids to do well. We want to see our kids reach their potential and show how smart they are (because as parents, we all believe our kids are bright).

Lexie’s report card is more difficult to decipher how she is doing, and if she is learning at a proper rate. In Kindergarten, the report cards don’t have letter grades. It is a list of tasks and whether they have mastered them or are still working on that skill. On both her first two report cards, there are some skills that neither has a + (mastered) nor a / (working on) by them. I assume those are skills that will be addressed later in the year.

Now Jase’s grades this year are lower than those of first grade. Last year, he had mostly As with a few Bs. He excelled in science but struggled more in reading. He started reading tutoring (RAP) last spring and has continued it through this past fall. His reading grade on this report card reflects that extra help. It has gone from a high C to a high B. (Yeah, Jase!)

As I look at the report cards, I am unsure if Jase understands the importance of grades. We have never stressed that he needs to get all As. We have just told him to try his best. The problem is that since he doesn’t see their importance, I sometimes think he doesn’t try his hardest. But I also know that his struggles in reading have led to some of his lower grades in other subjects.

Education 00200

As I listen to other parents brag about their kids’ good grades (thank you Facebook), it makes me wonder if some parents put too much importance on grades. There are many kids who do not test well but this doesn’t mean they are dumb, don’t know the material or are not as wonderful or special as their high-achieving classmates.

Not every kid will be an A student. And parents, in my opinion, shouldn’t pressure their kids. They may try their best and only reach a C.

I am a firm believer in not rewarding good grades with money and not punishing a child for bad grades. Too often parents want to take away a privilege such as video time when grades are bad. Now I guess if the grades were really bad, I would consider dropping extra-curricular activities as academics need to be a priority. But the consequence should fit the crime. If they aren’t doing homework or studying like they need to, then homework should be the first thing they do when they get home.

I guess my advice is to take to the time to explore the reason your child is getting the grades they are getting. Are they trying their best? Will extra studying or tutoring help? Taking the time will help more than yelling or punishing them.

With Jase and Lexie, we are trying to stress the importance of good grades and taking pride in your efforts. It is about looking for ways to positively motivate them and promote a love for learning. And if they try their best, we will be happy with whatever grades they receive.

Dealing with PTA and School Fundraisers

The school year begun in August, and already we had our first fundraiser. I have to say – I am not a fan. I don’t like asking people for money or selling them items that they do not want. But with public schools (and probably even private ones) there will always be some type of fundraiser.

This September, the school organized a Fun Run through a company called APEX. This was the first year the school has used this company. APEX comes in for a week or so before the run and goes over some fitness lessons with the kids. They talk about being good citizens, doing the right thing and stuff like that. They also hype the kids up to go fundraising to win prizes. And it works. The kids come home excited to earn a sunglasses, radio-control helicopter, or even a digital camera.

Of course to earn the top prize (a camera) you have to have up to $50 PER lap in pledges. They suggest you contact grandparents, aunts/uncles, neighbors, parents’ co-workers and friends. Grandparents are an easy given but the rest…well not so much.  All of our neighbors and friends have kids who if they aren’t participating in this fundraiser, they have their own fundraisers that they will be giving their money to. So Lexie and Jase had three people donating money. They earned enough to earn the $2 per lap prizes (finger lights and a silicone watch).

IMG_1379[1]On the day of the actual Fun Run, they were so excited. I volunteered to help mark the kids’ (and their respective classmates) T-shirts each time they ran a lap. Both kids were so proud that they ran the maximum number of laps (36). Of course that means I owe $36 per child for the fundraiser having pledged $1 per lap.

This beats the last two years where Jase sold coupon books. We always bought one (as did the grandparents), but we rarely used most of the coupons in the book.

This year the principal has vowed to keep the requests for money to a minimum – or basically, one a month. Of course, he includes even picture day and the book sale into his requests for money. There will always be a few “collect coins for (insert your charity).”

This year the Parent-Teacher Association (who in the past did the coupon book and a walk-a-thon) is sponsoring a 5K run. They figure this is a way to get money from runners and other members from the community instead of just from the parents. It is going to be a big undertaking but with a big payoff – or so we have heard from other PTAs. I am not sure I am gung-ho on this endeavor but am going along with the majority. I liked our walk-a-thon which was very little effort but a good money maker. It also didn’t take over part of my Saturday. But I will go with the majority and give the 5K run a try. The money that we raise will certainly go to good use for the school and our students.