Category Archives: grandchildren

Finally at Peace

When you live with constant turmoil you become accustomed to living as if on a constant roller coaster ride.  The twists and turns of upheaval in your life create emotional stress, and yet you constantly adjust, cope, and keep on moving forward.  This becomes so normal you do not even realize how much stress you are constantly under.

That has been my life for the past few years.  The loss of my grandchildren to foster care and then a battle with CPS when we tried to adopt which resulted in them being lost to adoption by strangers.  My son serving six years in prison for home invasion, dealing with the constant dangers that environments holds.  My mother, father, father-in-law, and then my husband battling cancer and passing away, all within a three year period.  My son being released from prison and paroled to my home; something I had originally looked forward to but which became a very stressful situation.  Peace of Mind

Following my husband’s death I made a determination that I needed to downsize out of my home and into something smaller.  In the midst of planning for that made a decision to  instead downsize into an RV and travel full-time.  During this process I informed both of my adult children that I was no longer going to be able to subsidize them financially, something my husband had always done while he was alive.  This resulted in more stress, but over time success was achieved.  They are both now living financially on their own.

I am finally at a point where success is on the horizon.  My new lifestyle begins on Monday.  I closed on my house today.    Friday is my last day of work.  My daughter moved her family north and is now residing near her fiance’s parents, a situation that is serving well.  Both Caroline and Rob are working at new jobs and my three grandchildren are enjoying life in a more country setting close to their other grandparents.

My son, now out of prison for 1-1/2 years, has obtained his CDL and is working in a position driving semi.  He and his ex-wife have reconciled and are residing in a home they rent near his workplace.   I am at peace that I do not have to worry about him being cold, undernourished, injured or killed in prison.  I wish him success.

For the first time in years my mind is at peace.  My children are both living on their own without my financial assistance, and I am going into semi-retirement.  I will be residing full-time in a motor home, traveling the United States and Canada and doing part-time remote or seasonal work.

For the first time in years I can sleep without my mind churning over the problems, worries, and stress that plagued me for so long.  I hope nothing happens to upset the apple cart.  A mind at peace is a wonderful thing.

2 Comments

Filed under Adoption, assumptions, cancer, Coping, CPS, death, decisions, employment, events, exploration, Family, Foster Care, grandchildren, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, parents, reality, time, travel, work

Celebrate the Positive!

So here we are, ten days into the New Year.  What will it bring?  Has it been a good start?  What about resolutions?  Were they made?  Have they been broken?

My year started out in a variety of ways.  On New Year’s Eve my daughter and her family were driving north to visit family when she hit black ice and rolled her vehicle twice, ending up in the ditch.  The three children, ages 4, 8, and 12, were fine, as was her boyfriend.  My daughter slammed her elbow into the driver’s window and needed stitches, and she had a couple scratches on her face, but other than that no serious injuries.  Unfortunately the vehicle was totaled, and she only had PLPD insurance, so they are down to a single cab pickup with a family of five.  celebrate-small-success1

Here is where viewpoint is important.  Is it horrifying that they rolled….well, yes, the outcome could have been far worse.  Should everyone be upset that they are without a car and don’t have the ability to purchase another?  Of course that is a dilemma that must be dealt with.  However, the overall important thing is that no one suffered any severe, life-altering injuries, especially the children.   So, with that we can say that their New Year got off to a good start.  They came through a scary, dangerous accident without anyone being seriously hurt.   Celebrate the positive!

As for me, my New Year weekend was both work and relaxing.  I had a four-day weekend during which I never left the house.  I took down my tree, sorted and packed items to go to my kids, and also sorted and packed items for me to take when I downsize and others to go into my estate sale.  I came across things I had forgotten about, and spent some time looking at some old pictures of ancestors.   Some would consider a long weekend home alone and working on household tasks a lonely, sad existence.  I am on a time frame to get through all my belongings in preparation for downsizing and an estate sale this spring, so having a long weekend to work on my project was positive.  Celebrate the positive!

Every year I keep a list in my “notes” section on Facebook of the books I read that year.  My goal is always 52 (one per week), but I have never made that.  The best I have done is around 26.  Last year on the 14th of March I had only just finished my second book of the year.  This year I finished my first on the 4th of January and am more than halfway through my second.   I’m not holding my breath on making 52 for the year, but the odds are favorable so far.   Celebrate the positive!

So now ten days into the new year I sometimes look around me and wonder how I am ever going to get through everything I need to by the end of March.  I also worry about my son, who is trying to find a place to live as he is currently staying with me, being able to find a home and move out by the time needed.  On a positive note, he also has quite a few tubs packed with his belongings.  We can only hope that it all falls into place without a problem.  I’m not ready to celebrate yet, but I am trying to think positive.

How is your new year going so far?  Regardless of whether you have had downfalls or things to celebrate, remember to keep thinking positive.  A good attitude can get you through anything.

Leave a comment

Filed under celebration, communication, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, spring, vacation, winter, work

Dirt on My Shirt

Anyone who has raised a boy can relate to the Dirt on My Shirt poem that I stumbled across recently.  When I saw it memories of my son and my grandsons came to mind.  It is like they are immune to the idea of cleanliness.  If it looks like fun, dig right in.

Dirt on My ShirtI have very rarely seen my grandson, Corbin, with a clean face.  I think it is magnetic and attracts dirt, all he has to do is walk across a room and it zeros in on him.  Thinking back to when my son was growing up, there were all kinds of messes and things going on that bring to life the saying “boys will be boys.”

Here are some of my “boys will be boys” memories….

  • Walking into my backyard and Patrick and his friend had dug a huge hole in the ground.  Why?  Just for fun!
  • Patrick telling me about taking a boat down the canal using a battery-operated fan for a motor.  I thought he was kidding until I was at a meeting and a mother who lived on the canal commented on these boys running a boat down the canal using a fan for a motor…she thought it was pretty ingenious!
  • My grandson, Corbin, telling me he didn’t have to wash his hands as he flipped them back and forth saying “see they are clean” and “I’ll wash them on Thursday.”
  • Socks that are filthy because why bother putting on shoes, you’re only going into the yard.
  • Cleaning out pockets filled with stones, grass, dirt, and miscellaneous other items.
  • At 2-1/2 to 3 years Patrick had a 2-foot ramp he would use to jump his 2-wheeler.  My mother-in-law, who had raised three boys, didn’t give it a thought.  My parents, who had raised two girls almost had heart failure when they saw him do the jump at 2-1/2 years.
  • My grandson, Austin at 2-3 years old running onto a water park and standing in the running sprinklers fully clothed in shoes, turtle neck top and overalls.1933939_1214548853295_8053577_n
  • Creek findings in my garage:  craw-fish, baby muskrat, fish, snails, snakes, turtles (Patrick, now 30-years old, has a large turtle in a tank in my garage right now) all brought home and kept in fish tanks in my garage.
  • Having all the screws in my dining room chairs removed by Patrick’s bare hands.
  • My grandson, Austin sliding ice cubes from his Koolaid around on the table; when asked what he was doing he said “washing the table.”
  • Hearing a crash and discovering my 2 year old son on top of my refrigerator.
  • Greasy/dirty clothes from fixing things…snow blowers, lawn mowers, anything that doesn’t work.

The list could go on forever, and thinking back on those memories makes me smile.   After all, I can still look at Patrick, now 30 years old, and he will have dirt on his shirt, dirt on his hands, and dirt on his face due to something he has been working on.  Oh, and he still leaves dirt on the refrigerator handle when grabbing something to drink.

Share with me your
“Boys Will Be Boys” memories

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Cleaning, Discoveries, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, nature, reality, spring, summer

A Child’s Viewpoint

I recently had the pleasure of watching my grandchildren for a day.  Time with a 2-1/2 year old, 6 year old and 11 year old always brings a few laughs and simple pleasures.

The simple days, when at six years of age it is a tragedy when your younger sister won’t share her goldfish crackers.  Really?  She only has a couple dozen out of an entire bag, not like there aren’t more to put into a separate bowl for him.   The world is once again at peace, all thanks to a few crackers shaped like fish.

Why is it at 2-1/2 years of age you are capable of stripping all clothing off a doll more than a dozen times a day, but can never get them back on.  Of course once the doll is naked it must be dressed, but Grandma must do that.  The doll is dressed, life is good, until thirty minutes later when that doll is once again, for some unknown reason, naked.  And the hours pass by….

Planning for my future residence, Corbin (age 6) “It would be neat if you had a really big house with a space ship on top.”

Why, I ask, would I want a house with a space ship on the top of it.  The answer, according to Corbin, is simple.  “Because it would be cool!”

Okay, so there you go.  My retirement home floor plans are being laid out now.

When you don’t know how to respond to certain announcements, such as Austin (age 11), “Gunther is dead.”

Austin has autism, so comprehension is sometimes difficult, and he had just been dropped off after spending the weekend at his dad’s house, so with the same seriousness in which he expressed this loss I asked “who is Gunther?”

I received a very straight-faced, serious answer, “He is a Zombie.”

Sorry, I had nothing after that.  I guess the death of a zombie, or the creation of a zombie due to death, has a greater impact on some than it does on me.

Prior to the kids coming over and knowing I would have just Corbin and Alexandria for lunch I checked with my daughter to see what the best food choices would be and planned accordingly.    I had purchased the family size Velveeta Shells and Cheese, and let’s face it, as a general rule Mac & Cheese is a kid favorite.  Apparently sometimes this is not the case.

As he sits down to eat Corbin looks at the food and says “I don’t like macaroni and cheese.”

I responded that yes he does, his mother told me he eats it all the time.

Corbin — “Not today, I’m six and sometimes we don’t like things.”

Imagine that!  I thought six year olds were always logical and cooperative.  Guess I got that wrong.

Blowing bubbles, that wonderful outside activity that all children love to do.  The problem is Alexandria (2-1/2) simply doesn’t understand that it would be preferable if I moved the wand away from my body before she attempted to blow the bubbles right back at me.  Of course that is a toss-up with the other option of letting her hold the wand herself and trying to convince her that if she didn’t put her mouth on the wand to blow, she wouldn’t get the icky tasting soap on her tongue.  The results aren’t in on whether more bubble soap made it into the air as bubbles or if more ended up on our bodies due to Alex’s still to be perfected bubble-blowing technique.

Then there is the issue of cleanliness.  When I informed Corbin that he is supposed to flush and wash his hands after using the bathroom he said “you know, I washed my hands yesterday.”

Good to know, can we do it today as well please.  Of course this goes along with the request he wash his hands and him turning them back and forth saying “they aren’t dirty.”

Girls in that regard are so much easier.  I can say “Alex your face is dirty, let’s wash it.” and she comes and stands beside me waiting to get cleaned up.

A day with children is always entertaining, enlightening, and just plain fun.  Blocks, cars, trains, slides, bubbles, a messed up floor filled with toys.  Cracker crumbs, candy, spilled water, and more.  As the day wears on electronic pads filled with games are great for keeping children from killing each other off and/or driving an adult insane.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Activities, children, Coping, Discoveries, exploration, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, play, summer, time

The Power of Touch

The other night as I lay in bed for hours unable to fall asleep, my mind began circling and the result is the topic of this blog.  The power of touch is necessary to the well-being of the human soul, it can bring comfort, love, relaxation, excitement, security and more.

Touch - the first languageWhen a child is born touch brings it comfort.  You hold it, rock it, feed it.  You do those things when it is happy, you do those things when it is stressed.  The baby learns love thought the power of touch.  To an adult, there is nothing as unique and cozy as a small infant cuddled up against your neck sleeping.

As the infant grows into a toddler and young child touch makes them feel safe, secure, and loved.  They cuddle in your lap, hold your hand when walking in public places, hug you when you are leaving or have arrived, climb into your bed when they awaken at night.  The power of touch is important to the child’s emotional well-being and growth.

As the child becomes a teen their desire for touch moves away from the parents and more toward members of the opposite sex in their own age group.  Teens are often seen showing public displays of affection — hand holding, kissing, hugging, and more as hormones rage.  Touch is powerful.  touch - every day reach out and touch someone

As teens become adults outward public displays of affection calm down, but the need for them does not.  It just becomes more mature, more private.  Human touch provides a sense of security, love, and connection, especially when shared with a spouse or significant other.

Years ago I read that if you are having trouble sleeping you should touch your spouse or significant other.  Something as simple as placing a hand against their body will help you relax and fall asleep.  I found that it worked beautifully.  Although my husband and I quite often slept wrapped up around each other,  he would normally be asleep before I was in bed.  If I was having trouble falling asleep I would reach out and put my hand on him and usually within a few minutes I was able to doze off.  If he sensed me coming into bed he would roll over and cuddle up with me.  If one of us was sick the other would wrap up around the sick one, bringing body warmth and comfort.  Human touch heals and relaxes.

touch - cuddling relieves depressionThat is why I was writing this post in my head as I lay in bed awake a few nights ago.  My husband passed away fifteen months ago.  I couldn’t sleep and I was laying in a lonely bed.   I missed having someone there to cuddle up to, to touch, to help me relax so I could doze off.

It is important as time passes on and things in your life change that you remember to fulfill those things that are necessary to your physical and emotional well-being.  The power of human touch is important.  If it has disappeared from your life revitalize it through whatever means you deem appropriate.   The power of touch heals, empowers, and fulfills the emotional and physical needs to provide an overall sense of well-being.

Save

1 Comment

Filed under children, communication, Coping, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, grandchildren, home, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, mind, parents, reality

Keep the Magic

Think back to when you were a child and the magic that Christmas held.  The excitement and anticipation of a visit from Santa.  The traditions that went with the season.

Remember getting toy wish books?  Once they arrived my sister and I would pour over them for hours, looking, looking again, and writing out lists of what we wanted for Christmas.  Inevitably the list was lengthy and mom would say we needed to shorten it down…the agony of it all!  children-become-a-child-at-christmas

Traditions of the holiday stand out in my mind.  Making Christmas cookies and decorating them, followed by eating them for breakfast as we opened gifts.  Decorating the house was always fun.   In the early years we would trudge through the snow at a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree, which Dad would then saw down.  Of course they always looked smaller in the woods then they did in the living room.  One year Mom kept saying the trees were too small.  The “perfect” one had to be sawed considerably shorter after Dad brought it in the house, not to mention the fact that it was so big around it stuck out about one-third of the way into the living room from the corner where it stood.  It was huge!

Dad would put the tree into a stand and then we would have to let it sit for 24 hours to let the branches “drop” as the tree warmed up.  After that the decorating could begin…lights, ornaments, garland, and icicles.  The tree decorating was usually stretched out over several days, as we were in school and Mom also worked during the day.  Evenings were spent viewing the tree, seeing a spot in need of an ornament and then finding the perfect one to fit that area.    magic-of-christmas-when-children-are-around

When Hallmark began their dated ornaments Mom started a tradition of purchasing a dated ornament for my sister and I every year.  Those were wonderful to have as we got married and moved out and many of those oldies hang on my tree every year.  When I had kids I kept the tradition, purchasing each of them a dated ornament every year…something I continue to do even now when they are 28 and 32 years old.  Of course I also purchase one every year for each of my grandchildren.  My daughter has also tried to maintain the tradition with her children.

Christmas morning when growing up was always fun.  The discovery of wrapped gifts under the tree.  Going through our Christmas stockings to see what small hidden treasures were there.  Then of course spending the rest of the day playing with new games, reading new books.  Enjoying a day of family fun.

Over time childhood moved into teen years, and we no longer believe.  Gifts become more useful.  Then we become adults and Christmas is nice, but something is missing, at least for a while.  All good things come to an end…or do they?

magic-light-in-a-childs-eyeEventually we get married, have children, and the fun starts again.  This time we hold the magic and enjoy watching a child’s eyes sparkle with excitement when they talk about their Christmas wishes, Santa Clause and the fun of the holiday activities.  We relive the magic through the eyes of our children.

Too soon our children grow, become teens, grow into adults and move out on their own and Christmas once again lacks the magic, at least for a little while.  Then the grandchildren are born and the cycle begins again.

No matter how old you are, keep the magic.  If you have no children or grandchildren, go where there are children.  Watch the lines for Santa, volunteer at organizations that cater to children, work at a toy give-away,  contact charity organizations and volunteer your services.   Keep the magic alive.

Keep the Spirit * Keep the Magic
Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child

belive-in-the-magic-of-christmas

 

2 Comments

Filed under celebration, children, events, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

GRANDCHILDREN GIGGLES

Grandchildren have a way of making you giggle.  They have an innocent thought process that is blunt, entertaining, and enlightening all at the same time.  They are energizing and exhausting with non-stop movement and questions.  This past Sunday I had the pleasure of spending the day with two of my grandchildren for thirteen hours, of which the last five hours also included their brother.

Alexandria is 18 months old and constantly on the move.  She doesn’t talk; she grunts and points then nods yes or no.  She doesn’t play with toys.  It is more fun to explore and get into things she shouldn’t.  A cup of water is great for drinking.  However when grandma isn’t looking it is much more fun to pour it out on the kitchen floor and sit beside it, splashing in the mini inside puddle that has been created.

Why would brother want the track to his train to remain put together?  Does he really need all the parts of the train?  Apparently not, at least as far as Alexandria is concerned.  Gee Grandma, all the stuff you had in that box you expected to stay there?  I thought it would look much better dumped out all over the floor.

Hey, you know that neat round end table that holds your lamp?  Did you know I fit inside and it can hide me too?  Yep, doesn’t bother me a bit to climb inside and close the door.  Oh by the way, just because I sit in my high chair and put the tray over myself doesn’t mean I am hungry.  It just means I want to watch you prepare my food and give it to me so I can take two bites and be done.  You thought it meant more?

IMG_2001

Alexandria climbed into her high chair and put the top over her lap. Photo by Grace Grogan. Copyright 2016.

Now Corbin, who is five is a bit more independent and forthcoming with what he wants and needs.  And for heaven sake, don’t forget to lock the bathroom door or you may have company.  When the door burst open I told him I was going potty and he isn’t supposed to enter.  “But I needed to tell you something.”

Corbin likes playing a food game on the pad and showing me what he has made.

Me:  “You made yourself a hamburger?”

Corbn:  “No, I made it for a human”

Me:  “You’re a human”

Corbin:  “No, I’m just a kid.  I’m not big enough to be a human.  I’m just a little kid.”

IMG_2009

Alexandria climbed into her high chair and put the top over her lap. Photo by Grace Grogan. Copyright 2016.

Then he looks at my wall in the TV Room.  “Hey, where did the picture of the train go?”

Me:  ” It is on the wall by the front door”

Corbin:  “Why isn’t it on that wall?”

Me:  “I moved things around so I would have something different to look at.”

Corbin then runs to the front to make sure I haven’t lied about the location of the train photograph.  Then returns.

Corbin:  “No.  The train needs to be on that wall so I can see it.”  He can see it where I moved it to, he just can’t see it continuously when sitting on the couch, and Corbin loves trains.

And so went my day.  Then around 5:30 pm Austin, who is 10, was dropped off at my house.  As long as both pads were working and I kept the TV on a kids movie things were relatively quiet.  However they are brothers.  Peace can only last so long, especially when the younger one is a tease.   I did manage to keep the war zone at a fairly peaceful level for the next five hours, thanks to battery chargers.

As the day moved into evening Corbin looked at me and said “I think my mother forgot to come home.”  I assured him she had not forgotten.  It was just taking her longer than she thought.  When my daughter called to give me an update on her progress in getting back to pick the kids up I put Corbin on the phone so she could tell him she would be there soon.  Corbin’s response “okay, but I’m playing a game on the pad” and he handed the phone back to me.  So much for concern!

Then it gets dark.  Austin used to stay overnight with us all the time, but Corbin has never gone somewhere and spent the night without his mother and/or brother with him.    Not long before my daughter arrived to pick the kids up Corbin looked at me.  “I’m ready to go home now, Its dark and I don’t like to sleep other places.”

My daughter arrived to pick them up at 10:30 pm.  It was a fun day.  It was an exhausting day.  After they left I sat down in the chair for what I intended to be a 10 minute rest and woke up at 11:40 and went to bed.

When I think back over my day there is a song lyric playing in my mind:   The Mr. Mom song, remember it?  “Pampers melt in a Maytag dryer, crayons go up one drawer higher, rewind Barney for the 16th time, breakfast six, naps at nine.  There’s bubble gum in the baby’s hair, sweet potatoes in the lazy chair…been busy all week long, and it’s only Monday Mr. Mom.”

Exhausting as it was, I will always do it again, if for nothing more than the fun of grandchildren giggles.

 

1 Comment

Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, play

Maybe On Thursday

DSC_8302Anyone who has spent time with young children will agree.  They are energetic, exhausting, non-stop movement, and most of all entertaining.  They will fill your world with knowledge you didn’t know was out there and if nothing else will bring a smile to your face.  In my case this week it was two of my grandchildren that filled the bill.DSC_8278

Tuesday morning I watched my 17 month old granddaughter and five year old grandson for a few hours while their parents went to an appointment.  Corbin, at five, is full of information and never fails to provide some tidbit that has its own unique quality.  Alexandria is a typical toddler who is full of energy, constantly moving, and plays with everything except her toys.

DSC_8310After they were dropped off Corbin immediately informed me that he brought Sissy with him so he would have someone to play with.  I guess “play with” is objectionable as he seemed to spend an equal amount of time complaining about her, and i don’t think he ever played with her.  Alexandria did tear apart the train track, steal the train signs, steel hot wheels cars, drink all of Corbin’s water, and more.

DSC_8267For the most part Corbin takes it all in stride.  After all, he knows how she came to be in his life.  You see Alexandria was growing in mommy’s tummy and a doctor had to cut her out because it wasn’t good.  When mommy ate Sissy took all the food.   Now I must say that is pretty good logic coming from the mind of a five year old.  Besides, I’m sure there are a lot of pregnant women out there who feel like the baby is taking all their food when they eat.

DSC_8335As I mentioned, Alexandria tore apart the railroad track and Corbin wasn’t able to get it back together.  That was never my area of expertise, my husband Ron always handled it, but since he passed in December it is one of those duties that now falls to me.  I worked my way behind the table to the spot where three pieces of track were separated.  As I was working I kept hearing a dinging noise, until Corbin said “you’re pushing on the RR Crossing sign.”    I wondered where the sound was coming from!DSC_8270

I worked and got the three pieces of track put back together.  I did feel a certain amount of accomplishment since getting them lined up and connected without accidentally tearing it apart elsewhere was a bit tricky.  When I finally got it done Corbin said “Good job!  I knew you could do it.”  Five year old grandsons are great for the ego!

DSC_8356And so our morning went, flying by quickly as it goes.  I did take a look at Corbin’s hands and told him he needed to go wash them.  Corbin’s response “No, maybe on Thursday.”  When I told him they needed to be clean for school Corbin responded that he isn’t going to school, he has to stay with me for forty-five days.   Yep, that was his plan and he never even told me.  Isn’t it nice to know there is a plan in place should the need arrive?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Caught up in Life

The past couple weeks it seems like life has been in a whirl and I can’t seem to catch up.   But then, how boring would life be if it were always the same.

Some of you who have been readers for a while know about the struggles of my husband, Ron, and I trying to adopt our two granddaughters.  We were denied the youngest, Kae-Lee, and she was adopted by her foster care parents almost a year ago.  We were still hoping to get Kiley, who is seven and severely handicapped, but we recently received the denial that they are giving her to complete strangers who live in northern Michigan, ironically in the very area where Ron’s parents retired to and we have spent a lot of time.  That adoption will most likely go through in the near future.  I did put in a call to the attorney that was trying to help us before to see what the retainer would be and what she thinks the chances are of winning a Section 45 hearing, but I already know from reading numerous appeals decisions that it is very hard to win.

Life is like a bicicleWhat is very frustrating is CPS/DHS denied us contact with the girls, both before and after the termination of parental rights.  Then when Michigan Children’s Institute wanted us to have supervised visits for MCI to make a final adoption decision, DHS fought against that as well and the judge ruled against us getting the visits.  So what is one of the reasons we are being denied?  Lack of contact for over three years — and yet they are giving her to a complete stranger.

When the adoption agency wrote their recommendation that we adopt, they recommended we get only the older one, not the younger.  Why?  Because the younger had been with the foster care family from the time she was an infant and they wanted to adopt.  As for Kiley, they said she should be adopted into a family as the only child — but they are awarding her to a family that has other handicapped children in it.

Their third reason was that we do not have experience in caring for a child with severe handicaps requiring 24-hour care.  The time we spent caring for her prior to being kidnapped by CPS apparently doesn’t count.  That’s okay, because I had started a book about this situation and was taking my time to see what the outcome would be.  Now that I know, I can delve into my writing more intensely and obviously will have a lot of time for promotion of the book once published.

I know we are not the only family this has happened to.  Kidnapping by Child Protective Services/Department of Human Services is a nationwide problem, no family is safe.  Removal of children from loving homes, placing them in foster care and then giving priority to non-family members, rather than biological relatives, has been going on for at least 15-20 years and needs to be stopped.

If you were not reading my blog at the time I wrote in more detail about our situation you can check it out at Attempted Adoption.  I would love to hear from others who have had experiences with this type of situation, good or bad.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adoption, Family, grandchildren

Learning to Live in a Language Based World

I am not a big fan of “Awareness” months, but I am going to make an exception.  I have a 9-year old grandson, Austin, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder.  When I was in college a few years back I was required to write a paper for an English and Culture class.   I chose to write about the difficulties people with Autism endure as they typically struggle with both social skills and communication.  Autism is a spectrum disorder, no two people are the same.  Each person is unique in which areas they are most challenged and to what degree.

Austin is doing well.  He is in a special needs class in second grade.  He is learning to read and has greatly expanded his ability to communicate and express needs since I wrote the paper.  What people need to understand is that although people with Autism have learning difficulties, they are intelligent people who are misunderstood and frequently have their abilities underestimated.  The trick is figuring out what needs to be done to communicate and get the message across to them.

I hope you will take the time to read the article I have posted below.  I would love to hear from those who deal with people who are autistic, people who themselves are autistic, or anyone who has read and learned about the struggles these people encounter in their every day lives.

Learning to Live
in a Language Based World

Imagine you need something but are unable to formulate the words to express your needs. How do you get someone’s attention? How do you communicate your wishes? This is the frustration a person with autism spectrum disorder deals with their entire life.

Cultures throughout the world are based on verbal communication and social interactions. A person with autism struggles to learn language, has difficulty holding a conversation, and lacks social skills. The inability to communicate can leave a person feeling lonely and isolated. An autistic person’s ability to live successfully in a language based world requires them to adjust to living outside their comfort zone. To help people with autism accomplish that goal, society needs to develop an understanding and compassion for the needs, feelings, frustrations and learning style of people with autism spectrum disorder.

As many as thirty percent (30%) of people with autism are unable to speak (Apps for Autism, 2011). Children with autism are found to have hyper-acute hearing that creates an inability to filter out and properly process ordinary everyday sounds. Buzzers, alarms, a dishwasher running, a lawn mower being used, and all the other miscellaneous sounds that the average brain filters out may sound as if they are on a super high volume and jumbled together to the autistic person.

The inability to properly process auditory input results in an inability to understand the meaning of words, an inability to express needs and wants, and a lack of social skills that leaves the autistic person feeling detached and unconnected to “normal” people (Notbohm, 2005). As Temple Grandin, who is autistic, said “There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to communicate” (Valentine, 2006, para. 11).

Ellen Notbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew, stated “The ability to communicate, whether through spoken language, pictures, signing/semaphore or assistive technology, is bedrock” (2005, pp. xvii-xviii). “Words are the essential building blocks of spoken communication…” (McGregor, 2008, para 2). A child who lacks social skills, including the ability to read body language and facial expressions, finds communicating and fitting into society very difficult. The autistic child often stands out in society as a social oddball (Notbohm, 2005).

Children with autism are considered social outcasts because they lack the ability to communicate verbally and display behaviors that help them cope within their environment. People make negative assumptions that a child with autism is unwilling to cooperate, temperamental, and lacking in intelligence. Autistic children are known for their “meltdowns”. A meltdown is an autistic child’s manner of communicating to the outside world that there is something wrong. The child can be hungry, thirsty, cold, tired, or any other range of things. The adult has to figure out what the trigger to the meltdown is because the child is unable to express their need. It is important to remember that behavior is a way of communicating, and that a child who lacks verbal skills is unable to tell you what is wrong (Notbohm, 2005).

As the grandmother of an autistic child I have witnessed meltdowns and how they can easily be remedied by analyzing what the trigger is. Meltdowns in public can be exceptionally frustrating when people who do not know the child feel free to make rude, insulting remarks about their behavior. When my grandson, Austin, was two years old I was trying to put him into his car seat and he was arching his back, crying and kicking. “All behavior is communication” and “all behavior happens for a reason” (Notbohm, 2005, pp. 21, 22).

Austin’s behavior was because he hadn’t said goodbye to grandpa, who had ridden to the park in a different vehicle. Austin’s behavior confused me; what upset me was a man parked beside us. As I lifted Austin out of the car during the meltdown the man said very clearly “what a spoiled brat.” Looking back I wish I had taken the time to express what I thought of his rude behavior and assuming comments about a child he did not know. The man’s behavior is best summed up by Temple Grandin, “Normal people have an incredible lack of empathy…they don’t have much empathy for the autistic kid who is screaming at the baseball game because he can’t stand the sensory overload. Or the autistic kid having a meltdown…I’m frustrated with the inability of normal people to have sensory empathy.” (Valentine, 2006, para. 24 ). A child who lacks the ability to communicate normally in a social situation needs understanding and assistance. They should not have to endure insults and rejection from adults.

It is important to create circumstances where the autistic child can practice social skills with success. “Social navigation is necessary at every turn in our lives: at home, at work, at school, in our travels about the community, in our shopping, recreation and worship.” (Notbohm, 2005, p. 71) It is important to understand that fitting into society socially requires a tremendous amount of effort from the person with autism. The autistic person must learn to cope with the demands of society while trying to understand what is expected of them and using what abilities they have to make those adjustments. (Notbohm, 2005).

In Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew the seventh item on the list is “Help me with social interactions” (Notbohm, 2005, p. xxviii). A child with autism may feel lonely and left out because they lack the social skills to enter a play situation or start a conversation. They may not be able to talk to the other children and are unable to read facial expressions, body language or emotions of others. It is easy to assume the child doesn’t want to participate in activities, but what they really need is guidance on how to join the fun.

The way to successfully teach a child with autism spectrum disorder is to focus on their positive abilities. The autistic child may lack the ability to process verbal information, but they are usually very good at paying attention and are visual learners (Gordon, 2007, para. 3). The sixth item listed in Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew is “Because Language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. Please show me how to do something rather than just telling me.” This is followed by the seventh item, “Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do” (Notbohm, 2005, pp. xxvi, xxvii).

A child cannot learn and function well in an environment where they are made to feel that they are not good enough. Often peers, teachers, siblings, and relatives focus on what the child is not doing, rather than what the child’s strengths are (Notbohm, 2005). A computer can help an autistic person with both learning and social skills. The computer is not critical and has unlimited patience, allowing the child to repeat skills as needed until the task is mastered.

The Apple iPad and other tablet computers are offering special applications that allow people with autism to communicate. By using pictures or characters on the computer screen the autistic person is able to make selections and use the computer to “speak” on their behalf. The computer allows the autistic person to voice their thoughts and needs, helping them to function in society.

A 60 Minutes episode called Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad featured the utilization of computer applications for people with autism. The use of tablet computers was demonstrated by Joshua Hood, 27 years old, who was unable to communicate until he received the Apple iPad. Joshua is now able to go to a restaurant and use the picture apps on the iPad to order his own meal. Prior to receiving the iPad Joshua rarely looked at people, but the iPad has given him the ability to interact with others. His therapist, Tammy Taylor, said “He’s part of the community. I mean, communication is the essence of being human. And here he is, communicating fully now” (Apps for Autism, 2011).

The use of computer applications is allowing professionals to realize how intelligent people with autism are, people that were once considered to have below average intelligence. At the Beverly School in Toronto, Canada half the students are severely autistic. The impact of the iPad is demonstrated by its effect on the attention span and willingness of those children to socialize. Ten year old Nuno does not talk and was believed to have the intelligence of a toddler. An iPad vocabulary application was used to test Nuno. The school was amazed at Nuno’s vocabulary and learned that he has a love of classical music and opera (Apps for Autism, 2011).

Whether a person with autism is learning to communicate through the use of a computer or through traditional learning methods, it is important to understand the stages of their learning and the need to guide them in developing social skills. Speech and language deficiency are defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorder, but it is important to remember that each person is an individual, with their areas of difficulty and ability to learn unique to them. An awareness of whether the person is mindful of being spoken to, if they try to communicate in any form, and whether they are attempting to use speech is important. If they are talking, are they speaking naturally or are they echolalic? A child that is echolalic will repeat sounds or words that are spoken to them, which indicates that the child can perceive and articulate speech (Gordon, 2007, para. 5).

A child that is using echolalia to communicate can create the impression that they are understanding and using language in a comprehensive manner, when in reality they are not. Temple Grandin was teased as a teenager because when she talked she reused the same phrases, and kept talking without letting other people respond.

Some people with autism do not have a problem with the mechanics of language, but they do not understand the process of having a conversation (Hamilton, 2006). Echolalia are messages that are memorized from the world to compensate for language deficits. These can be groups of words they have heard people say, or phrases from TV shows or movies. The person with autism does not necessarily understand what they are saying, but they know that a specific set of words can be used to provide a reply, ask for something, protest, or deny requests (Notbohm, 2005). This was used by my grandson when he needed help. It started when Austin would need assistance on the computer, he would come up and rub a person’s hand or arm and say “sorry”. We would respond “what do you need?” and taught him to reply “help on the computer”. It wasn’t long before that memorized set of words was used for anything he needed help with, be it the computer, opening a door, or getting something from the refrigerator. “Help on the computer” was a set of words that got someone to come and give assistance.

Whether a person with autism is learning to speak, using a computer for communication, or exercising echolalia to converse, it is important to remember that “…having a means of functional communication, whatever it may be, is what’s truly essential, to any child, but even more so to the child with autism” (Notbohm, 2005, p. 42). It is also important to reward the autistic child’s efforts to communicate in a positive way. My daughter always asks Austin if he wants chicken nuggets, then she makes the decision on whether to get him just the nuggets or a happy meal. A few weeks ago she asked Austin if he wanted chicken nuggets and he said yes. When she pulled into the McDonald’s drive-thru from the backseat she heard “chicken nuggets, French fries, chocolate milk, trick-or-treat”. His statement was rewarded with a full happy meal, all the items he requested in the Halloween trick-or-treat bucket. Verbal interactions and positive results help the child learn not only the mechanics of speech, but also how to use them to function in society.

Understanding the way an autistic person processes information and the way they are best able to learn is imperative to helping them fit into their community. Whether the person is able to converse, speaks in echolalia, utilizes a computer application, or demonstrates coping behaviors, it is important to recognize and accept them as a growing, feeling, human being who is trying to adapt to the world around them. As Temple Grandin said, “normal people find it difficult to put themselves in an autistic person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective” (Valentine, 2006, para. 4). For a person with autism spectrum disorder to live successfully in a language based world, society must learn to recognize the needs, feelings and frustrations these people experience on a daily basis and make appropriate accommodations for them to function within their community.

References
*  Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad. (2011, October 23). 60 Minutes. New York, New York. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385686n&tag=contentmain;contentBody

*  Gordon, B. (2007, April 2). Speech and Language Problems in Autism Pectrum Disorders. Retrieved from Kennedy Krieger Institute: http://www.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/speech_and_language_problems

*  Hamilton, J. (2006, July 9). Autism Reveals Social Roots of Language. Retrieved from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5503688

*  McGregor, K. B. (2008, October 6). Learning Word Meanings. Retrieved from Kennedy Krieger Institute: http://ww.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/wordmeanings

*  Notbohm, E. (2005). Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew. Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons, Inc.

*  Valentine, V. a. (2006, July 9). Q&A: Temple Grandin on Autism & Language. Retrieved October 2011, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5488844

Leave a comment

Filed under assumptions, children, Coping, decisions, disabilities, Family, grandchildren

Merry Christmas

My Christmas Tree.  Photo by Grace Grogan

My Christmas Tree. Photo by Grace Grogan

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas.

This year we had family Christmas with my sister, her daughters and grandchildren on the 21st of December, followed by Christmas with my daughter, three grandsons and daughter’s boyfriend on Christmas Eve.  All previous years Caroline came

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

over with her kids on Christmas Day after they had opened gifts at home, but this year we had to make different arrangements.

Our oldest grandson, Austin, was leaving at 9 pm Christmas Eve to spend the rest of his Christmas vacation at his father’s house. This created a bit of a dilemma as my daughter’s boyfriend, Rob, had to work the morning of Christmas Eve, so it raised a problem with when Santa should arrive. The solution – Santa came to our house, left a note explaining why all the gifts were here and not at their house.

Corbin and Austin

Corbin and Austin

Once Rob was out of work they all came over to our house, arriving around 2 pm for pizza and gift opening. This worked out perfect as Austin was then able to go home and play his new and #1 gift wish, Skylander, before leaving to go to his dad’s for the rest of his Christmas break. Corbin, who will be 4 on the 30th of December, was thrilled with his Thomas The Train tracks, his fire engines and cars.  He is a kid that likes anything with wheels, but his number one love is trains.  Alexandria, just born on the 12th of December slept through the entire event.  She looked adorable in her “Baby’s First  Christmas” shirt sleeping away.

Ron and I waited until the gang had left before we opened our main gifts for ourselves — new Nikon D750 Cameras and gear.  Since we had no children in the house or gifts to open on Christmas morning, we were able to spend the time figuring out our new cameras and getting them programmed the way we wanted.

I hope all of you had a fun-filled Christmas celebration.

1 Comment

Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot

New Life

As one life ages and leaves this earth, another is born. This is the case this month in my family. The rotation of life.

My father passed away on December 3, 2014 at the age of 75 and my new granddaughter, Alexandria Louise, was born on December 12, 2014.  Coming into this world a whopping 4 lbs 15 oz and 18″ long.  She has a good set of lungs on her, which is probably a good thing as she has two older brothers with whom to compete.

A family gathering with my sister and her family will be fun this weekend.  She has two grandchildren.  Aiden is 7 years old and Marney is 5 months.  Combined with Austin who is 8, Corbin who will be 4 on the 30th of December and the newborn baby, it will be a fun, child-filled gathering.   Then on Christmas Eve my daughter will come over with her three children again for our own Christmas exchange.  Christmas is more fun with children around.

Everyone is busy now in preparation for the holidays, and in fact my next two regular posting days are Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  I hope you will find time to check back in, but I will take this time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  If you do not celebrate Christmas, then I hope you have an enjoyable time celebrating the appropriate holidays for whatever faith you practice.

 

1 Comment

Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot

Caught in a Tornado

It started out as a heavy wind, then the momentum kept building, blowing harder and harder, starting to spin around me.  The power increased steadily until it was overpowering, hitting me with its impact and before I knew it I felt like I was spinning uncontrollably.  I was caught in a vicious tornado, life had thrown too much at me and I was loosing control.

Ultimate Measure of ManBack in July my husband, Ron, began having some trouble swallowing when eating.  By the time we returned home from vacation in August the problem had become much worse.  It was discovered that he had a large tumor in his esophagus and that it was cancerous.    During the time it took for the various tests and consultations with doctors to be done the tumor became worse and his ability to eat went from normal to soft foods only to very thing liquids/broths.  At the beginning of his 5-1/2 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation his esophagus was 90% blocked.  He has lost around 40 lbs and is down to around 131 lbs, very thin.  He finished his chemotherapy last week and today, the 4th of December, was his last radiation treatment.  The treatments have reduced the tumor and four about 1-2 weeks he was able to get some foods down, but the burning from the radiation has now caused that to be extremely painful.  We have to wait about a month for the burning to heal and the poisons from the chemo to leave his body.  In January he will have surgery to remove the esophagus and they will raise his stomach up to replace it.  Once those steps are done and he recovers from the surgery he should be able to resume a normal lifestyle.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that my husband and I have been trying to adopt our granddaughters and lost one to adoption already.  We found out on the 17th of November that although we have never received an official denial that another family has been found and she will likely be placed with them in January and adopted in June.  DHS has fought us all the way, and although we have not totally given up, we know that we are not likely to succeed in any attempts we make.  If you are not familiar with what has been going on, you can read about it in Power of Emotion and Attempted Adoption:  An Emotional Whirlwind.

My father has been experiencing health issues for the past year or so, plus struggling emotionally since my mother’s death in 2013.  He recently went into the hospital in a weakened state and with fluid around his lungs.  He was  transferred to a medical rehabilitation facility to regain his strength when a set-back sent him back to the hospital about a week ago.  I spoke with him on the 7th of December and he was uncomfortable, weak, and having difficulty eating/swallowing.  On the 2nd of December, his 75th birthday, he began to fail badly.  They attempted to drain fluid from his lungs and one collapsed, his kidneys were not working properly, and a multitude of other problems existed as well.  Throughout the day he changed floors in the hospital twice as his condition worsened.  By the end of the day he was intubated and not expected to live through the night.Death

The hospital is two hours from where I live.  Ron is weakest in the evenings and has had some dizzy spells and falls so I didn’t want to leave him home overnight.  The emotional impact was hitting me and I was struggling with  everything — the loss of Kiley to adoption, Ron’s condition, and my father’s anticipated death.  I was able to call the hospital and they held the phone to his ear so I could talk to him.  I was surprised when my sister, who lives near him, called the next morning and said she was at the hospital, he was failing very fast but they could maintain him for family to arrive.  I called into work and hit the road.  I was lucky, the roads were clear and very little traffic, I was at the hospital within about 2-1/2 hours from when I received the call.    My father’s skin was cold and clammy to the touch, his vitals were very low, but when I spoke to him I could tell from his facial movements that he could hear me and was able to register what I was telling him.  My sister and I decided to go to the cafeteria for a quick lunch, as her son-in-law and a pastor were expected to arrive and we would then remove life support and switch him to comfort measures only.   When we returned to the room we said a few final words to him.   Once we made the change in his treatment he passed peacefully within about 20 minutes.

children reinvent your worldOne life ends and another begins.  My daughter is pregnant, a high-risk pregnancy and her C-Section is scheduled for December 12th, so 1-1/2 weeks after the death of my father, the birth of another grandchild will take place.    The juggling of life continues as we have to drive her 45 minutes away to the hospital where she will deliver, take care of her other two children while she is at the hospital, and handle getting her and baby back home and to her follow up appointments.

I’m either adjusting to the speed of the tornado or it is loosing momentum.  We are now down to my grandchild’s birth, a family Christmas at our house, my husband’s surgery in January, continuing to monitor what happens with our granddaughter being adopted out to a non-relative rather than us, and my sister and I sorting through and cleaning out our parents’ home and belongings and handling the details of settling their estate.    It only goes to show that Life is a Melting Pot of incidents and activities.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Adoption, cancer, death, Family, grandchildren, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, parents

Tossed Turkey and Dog Food

This year our Thanksgiving meal was unique.  We had tossed turkey and dog food.  I know, not everyone can enjoy such unusual holiday fare, but then it takes a special talent to come up with such things.

When I removed the turkey from the oven it was a picture perfect golden brown, the stuffing displayed in a perfect mound between the legs and I knew it was done because the little plastic thermometer had popped.  I asked my daughter to steady the pan while I lifted out the bird.  All was going well until the darn thing fell apart as I was lifting, so I only had half a bird as I moved it over the serving platter.  Then the inevitable happened.  Before I got the 1/2 bird placed on the platter it too fell apart, flipping around in mid air and landing upside down on the platter with its two winds spread as if in flight and displaying its ripped apart belly.  Caroline and I were laughing hysterically as I stabbed and managed to flip the bird back over.  We then tried to remove the remaining half a bird from the pan, but everything kept just falling off the bone so the other half of the platter was a jumbled mess of turkey and a mound of stuffing.  Of course everyone knew we were having a bit of an issue so when my tossed turkey was placed on the table, it was good for a laugh.  Little did we know the best was yet to come.

Corbin, who is 3 years old, took one look at that mound of stuffing on that platter and said “Dog Food, No!” and went to the other end of the table.

That announcement of his impression of my cooking got me to laughing so hard I was choking.    How can you argue with the observation of a 3 year old?  You can’t.  No matter what we said, no matter who ate what, Corbin was not going to be fooled by anyone and he was not going to eat that dog food, nor was he going to eat any meat that had been placed on the same platter as the “dog food”.  It just wasn’t happening.

Although they would never have won a Betty Crocker award for appearance, the turkey and dressing were tasty.  The mashed potatoes and gravy were a bit on the lumpy side but everything else was fine.  When the meal was over my daughter, Caroline, and her boyfriend, Rob, left Cobrin with us while they went out to begin Black Friday shopping at 4 pm on Thanksgiving Day.  While I was tackling the kitchen cleanup Ron and Corbin both fell asleep on the couch for a nap.

I knew this Thanksgiving would be a little different.  This is the first time my 8-year old grandson, Austin, would be with his father for Thanksgiving and not our family.   My husband, Ron, has been undergoing chemo and radiation for cancer of the esophagus and it has reduced his tumor enough that he was actually able to consume a small bit of dinner.    No elegant table cloth, elaborate center pieces or fancy clothes.  Just a tossed turkey and some dog food, but nonetheless a fun, memorable Thanksgiving.  Hope yours was memorable too.

 

1 Comment

Filed under children, Family, food, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Toot My Own Horn

As a writer I love putting thoughts down and sharing them. This week I am going to share two columns I recently had printed in the local paper…I’m going to toot my own horn.

It seems as if the government is getting involved in our lives more and more, taking control in areas they never have in the past. Once such area has to do with the regulation of school lunches, so I wrote a column School Food Guidelines Will Not Solve Kids’ Nutrition Problems. I am sharing it with you here both as a link and with a copy of the column posted below in case the link no longer functions, as sometimes happens with newspapers.

The other column is on a subject much more personal to me.  My grandchildren were taken by CPS, parental rights terminated and although my husband and I tried to foster and adopt our granddaughters CPS/DHS fought us all the way. That battle is the subject of a book I am writing. I recently wrote a column that Foster Care Policy Change is Modest Given the Need for Reform.

I hope you enjoy the subjects on which I have chosen to “toot my own horn”. If you have any accomplishments to share, please do in the comments section below.

Times Herald Column - Foster Care Policy Change Times Herald Column - School Food Guidelines

1 Comment

Filed under Adoption, Child Protective Services, children, CPS, Department of Human Services, DHS, education, Family, food, Foster Care, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, nutrician, school

Let’s Get Prepped

Corbins First Day  of Preschool September 3, 2014

Corbin ready for preschool. Photo by Caroline Kelch.

This week as the children in Michigan returned to school I was thinking about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  There were numerous Facebook postings of children on the first day back at school.  Photos were posted of my grandsons.  I don’t remember my mother taking the “first day” photographs every year, but I did take them of my children and that seems to be a popular modern activity.   In reflecting on back-to-school preparation and school routines there are generational similarities that may or may not be an improvement.

Austin and Corbin ready for school.  Photos by Caroline Kelch.

Austin and Corbin ready for school. Photos by Caroline Kelch.

I was of elementary school age in the 1960’s.  Back-to-school preparation involved getting 2-3 new outfits, new shoes, tennis shoes for gym class, new pencils, an eraser, a box of crayola crayons and a notebook and loose leaf notebook paper, and of course your metal lunch box, carefully selected with your favorite TV show on the outside and a matching thermos to carry your beverage.  There were no book bags or backpacks.

If you lived in town you walked to school, if you lived in the country you rode a bus.   There is a home movie of me and other students walking to school my kindergarten year on the shoulder of a road.  There were no sidewalks and we walked with cars driving past us on the roadway.  My first grade year we moved to the small town where I grew up.  Subdivision streets did not have sidewalks, so again we all walked on the side of the road.  Somehow we all managed to survive the hike each way without anyone getting killed or kidnapped.   Today’s parents would most likely cringe at the thought of sending their young children out to endure such a walk on a daily basis.

In the classroom each student had a desk with a lift up top so you could store all your supplies inside.     School started at 9:00 am with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then class instruction began.  There was a 15 minute recess in the morning,  and another recess in the afternoon.  A hot lunch could be Back to School Desk 1960spurchased or students could pack there own, and there were no restrictions on what could or could not be brought to school to eat.  Lunch was a one-hour period in which students sat wherever they wished in the cafeteria and once done eating would get up and go outside to play for the remainder of the lunch period.  If it was cold weather this involved walking back to your classroom area, unsupervised, to put on your hat, boots, etc. and then exit onto the playground.    School was dismissed around 3:20 pm.  Latch-key did not exist, everyone went home after school.    While some kids had extracurricular activities, for the most part the time after school was open for to play with friends, watch TV or do chores.  Elementary level students rarely had homework.

When my children were in elementary school in the early 1990’s shopping for school included several outfits, shoes, gym shoes, backpack, folders, spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, Kleenex, glue sticks, highlighters, red pencils,  lunch boxes, thermos, and other items I have since forgotten.    If you lived within a mile of the school your child was a “walker”, but the majority of the parents drove their children to school.  There was always a long line of vehicles going in and out of the school parking lot.  School began with announcements over the intercom system and each classroom then had the option of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  When my oldest child was in third grade the district we lived in eliminated recess and it was Back to School Suppliesnever restored.  The only physical outlet the children had was gym class once a week, and art class.  Children who could not sit still or pay attention for extended periods of time were diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and medicated.   At lunch time students had assigned tables, sat with their classmates, and had to remain there until lunch was over.  Lunch was a quick affair, only 20-30 minutes to get your food and eat.  If a child forgot their lunch money or lunch they were offered a free peanut butter and jelly sandwich.    With most children coming from two income families, many children went to latch-key after school or had other organized activities in which they participated either immediately after school or in the evening.    My kids were no exception, participating in cub scouts, girl scouts, Awana, Karate, dance, and probably a few other things I have forgotten.

Now zoom forward to the 2010’s.  I  have grandchildren who are in elementary school.  Clothing and shoe requirements are about the same as they were when my children were young.  Backpacks are a must and children ride the bus to school even if they live in town.  My daughter deals with a lengthy list of required school supplies.  Many schools have supply lists available in advance at major stores so people can stock up.  You are not purchasing supplies for just your child, some items are shared with the entire classroom.  Required supply lists include notebooks, paper, folders, pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, glue pens, erasers, scissors, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and snacks to share with the class.  Young children often have a lunch box as well.  Schools are managed tightly for security, teachers meet the youngest grades outside as they exit the bus, and escort them back to their buses at the end of the day.  Entrance to the school is only possible through the main entrance, all other doors are locked to prevent entry from the outside.  Most schools have eliminated the Pledge of Allegiance because of its reference to “One Nation Under God” and the fact that this reference might offend some people.  Classrooms have a mid-morning snack time using food provided by students.   Classrooms and/or schools may have restrictions on certain food items due to other children having allergies, with peanuts and/or peanut butter being a frequent restriction.  I believe there is limited recess time for the children to go outside and play and do not know what the arrangements are for lunchtime seating but assume it is a controlled and organized system.  Many children are scheduled with after school activities.Back to School Bus

What I question is whether things have improved over the generations.  Things were far more relaxed in the 60’s and 70’s than they are now.  There was less structure giving children more  opportunities to make their own decisions and they had more unscheduled free time.  More time was allotted for play/recess during the school day which allowed students to expel excess energy and learn social skills such as how to resolve conflicts on their own.  You rarely heard of children being medicated for disorders, allergies were practically non-existent, and violence such as stabbings and shootings in schools were extremely rare, basically non-existent.  If children got into a conflict or fight they may have been sent to the principal’s office, but suspensions from school for such conflicts were not common.  If our parents worked we went to a friends house after school or by around age 11 were allowed to let ourselves into the house and stay there alone until our parents came home.  Actually many of us were babysitting other children by the age of 11 or 12.    Parents of today may read this and wonder how we survived without having our lives properly organized.  The answer, we learned how to cope with boredom, how to socialize and resolve conflicts without violence and how to take care of ourselves so that we were well prepared to go out into the world and be productive members of society.

School - How do you turn this thing onChildren that grew up in the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000’s have led a much more structured lifestyle.  Their time has been mapped out for them with activities, video games and TV to prevent boredom.  School days are organized with where to sit, who to socialize with at lunch, and any physical or verbal conflict results in suspension due to “zero tolerance” policies.   Children do not learn how to conquer boredom, resolve conflicts or care for themselves because their time and care is mapped out for them on an hour-by-hour basis.  In my opinion this has resulted in increased violence amongst young people who are frustrated, angry, over-scheduled, and have never learned coping mechanisms for boredom and conflicts.  While not all children demonstrate these symptoms and many are successful, there are also a high number who are unable to adjust to the realities of adult responsibilities.

While it is doubtful that things will ever change back to what they were in prior generations, I think it is important to look at the overall affect our lifestyle is having on our children and try to make whatever adjustments we can to make sure that they learn all the skills they need to be successful academically and socially in school and later in their adult years.

I welcome thoughts on what you think on this topic.  Whether you agree or disagree, an active discussion is a great way to open minds and consider different viewpoints.

1 Comment

Filed under children, education, Family, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, school

Backyard Exploration by a 3-Year Old

Who's out there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

Who’s out there? Photo by Grace Grogan

Our 3-year old grandson, Corbin, was recently at our house and I decided to go out and take some photos while he was playing in the backyard. It is easy to forget how active and intrigued with the little things a 3-year old can be. Warning — don’t watch them play if you aren’t feeling energized, because just watching that continuous movement can wear you out.

Parking the car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Parking the car. Photo by Grace Grogan

Up the slide, down the slide, over to the next slide, up and down. Jump in the Little Tikes car, park and get out, go in the Little Tikes house, out of the house, open the windows, shut the windows. Look outside to see who is there. Get back in the car and move it a bit, on the other hand why drive, easier to get out and push. Oops! I haven’t gone down the slide in a few minutes, better take another run at that before walking the ledge around the flower garden.

Down the Slide.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Down the Slide. Photo by Grace Grogan

Hey, there is a hill over there to can roll down, and some exposed dirt to pick up chunks of and throw. What can I see down the water drain? I know you’re supposed to sit at the picnic table, but much easier to play King of the Mountain if standing on it. Wow, Grandma and Grandpa’s big table has a hole in it, wonder what is down there?

Coming Out.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Coming Out. Photo by Grace Grogan

Back and forth, over and over, the activities continued, rotating from one end of the yard to the other over and over again. It never even occurred to me that he was paying any attention to the small windmill we have out there, which was turning at a good clip due to a nice breeze, until the wind stopped. Never underestimate the ability of a child to know what is going on around them.

Walking the Edge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking the Edge. Photo by Grace Grogan

Corbin stopped, pointed to the windmill and said “uh oh, what happened? Turn it back on”

What is in there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

What is in there? Photo by Grace Grogan

Ron blew on it a bit to show Corbin that wind makes it go, not an on/off switch. Of course Corbin didn’t worry for long. After all he had to re-park the car, see what was going on inside his house, and take a few more runs down the slide. Life is a whirlwind of activity when you are three years old.

1 Comment

Filed under Activities, backyard, children, exploration, Family, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, play