Thursday, August 10, 2017

(almost) second grade social problems

This summer we have had to deal with some unexpected social struggles.  Maybe not so unexpected, Benjamin had trouble early on at camp making friends. I was beside myself- he said no one would sit with him at lunch, and when he would ask to sit with other people they would say, "I'm saving this seat for someone," even though that someone never came.  As a former social outcast, it broke my heart, imagining how it felt for him.  He was withdrawn at night (often at bedtime, when he is especially tired), and every time we reprimanded him for behavior at home, he would begin to say, "No one loves me!" One night I found a picture drawn on the white board of Eric's office; it was a stick figure, crying, surrounded by a lake of tears, and the words "no one likes me."  I did two things: first, emailed the camp director about the counselors and making sure they fostered a more inclusive environment; second, got in touch with the therapist who helped Asher through his fruit-phobia and scheduled an appointment (not until September, unfortunately).

Soon after that, Benjamin seemed to ease into friendships and made a "best friend" at camp.  I never heard another word of complaint from Benjamin, and he seemed to get along just fine with friends.  Until this week, when he started at a new camp, and the complaints began again.  He has always struggled with transitions. Is that what is happening? Today we got called to bring Benjamin home because he had a stomach ache, but once home, he ate food (an entire bag of baby carrots), and seemed just fine and happy.

The other part of this problem is Asher- he is not being a good friend or brother.  At the first camp, he made no effort to include Benjamin when he knew Benjamin was being excluded.  Asher quickly made friends with two other boys and spent all his time with them, not making good choices. My general impression is that Asher got in with the "cool" kids and loved it, and Benjamin was not-so-cool, and therefore didn't merit care or attention.  This is not at all the philosophy Eric and I have taught our boys.

Not only was Asher not a good friend or brother, he wasn't a good citizen. There were FOUR incidents that I was made aware of at his camp:
1) He was swinging his lunch box at Benjamin's head and whacked him hard, sending him to the nurse for an ice pack. The swinging was not an accident.
2) He climbed a piece of furniture (the nurse said bookcase and Asher said it was a podium, but whatever) to be "king" and the furniture fell on top of Benjamin, leaving him badly bruised on the leg.
3) He got pulled out of his group for a time out in the director's office because he was too wild and "physical" and couldn't calm down despite numerous warnings and requests from his counselors.
4) On the last full day of camp, the director called to tell me that Asher and his cronies were swinging their lunch boxes over a balcony and despite numerous requests to stop, they continued, resulting in a counselor getting hit on the head by a falling lunch box which had a frozen ice pack in it.

Asher's attitude related to all of these incidents was not one of remorse. He had an excuse or way to avoid blame for every single thing.  I could not stay patient and understanding with him- I know he is smarter than that, and he has been a model student and friend for years. At home, he is the one child I can count on to do the right thing. I remain deeply disappointed in him, and I let him know. There were some consequences (no dessert), and now we are hoping for better behavior from here on out. I am also perusing parenting books at the library for guidance. This mommy thing is HARD.

Friday, July 28, 2017

California, Part II: Northern California

Southern California was all about amusement parks, entertainment, and things that were manufactured.  Northern California was about slowing down and appreciating nature and its beauty.

We flew up to San Jose airport on Friday afternoon. We flew Southwest, and they were so friendly (as advertised!).  Charlotte got to go into the cockpit, and even got invited to try out the pilot's seat.
With the pilot and co-pilot

Totally ready to fly this thing
By this, our 3rd flight of the trip, the kids were old hands at flying. They settled right in to reading, and deciding which sugary carbonated beverage they would order when the drink cart came.

After landing and renting our car, we drove out to Big Basin Redwoods State Park to check out the trees.  The kids were exhausted and fell asleep on our way out there, despite the road being narrow and winding and Eric getting nearly carsick just driving there.  Benjamin threw a tantrum when we told him we were getting out and going on a hike (0.6 miles total, nothing strenuous), but he quickly warmed up and then enjoyed climbing on trees and looking at nature.
Benjamin at the top of the fallen tree trunk

In the tree hollow

3 peanuts in the woods
After our little outdoor outing, we had dinner at a burger place on our way back to Mountain View. We were staying at a hotel that seemed perfect in pictures and amenities... but we arrived at bed time to find that we had a small room that slept 4.  At that point, we didn't have much choice but to make it work; but after panicking, searching for rooms on and priceline, I went down to the lobby to make a deal with the guy working at the desk.  I threw Eric under the bus (since he had booked the room and hadn't said we were 5!) and hoped the the guy would take pity on me.  I then mentioned that I had twins, and he asked if they had been spontaneous or medically assisted.  I told him we had done IVF because I had trouble getting pregnant, and he told me that he and his wife were having trouble having a baby.  After talking him through treatments and how to search for a reproductive endocrinologist, he let me book a second room at the wedding rate.  For the following 2 nights we split up, girls in one room and boys in the other.

On Saturday, we attended the wedding rehearsal and then drove south to Monterey Bay.  We made 2 pit-stops on our way: 1 for me to buy a bag of cherries at a roadside stand, and 1 for lunch at In-N-Out burger.  It turns out that Asher likes hamburgers!  Charlotte had French fries and soda for lunch.

The aquarium was amazing.  We saw the sea otters and admired their cuteness. We could have been there for hours and hours more, but we had to get back to Los Altos for my cousin's rehearsal dinner.
The family at Monterey Bay
Sunday was wedding day! We had to be ready by around 2 pm, so we stayed around.  My mom and I went to the Mountain View Farmers Market, where I continued to plot my move to California. The fruits and vegetables were to die for!  The possibility of eating like that year-round is quite enticing. After the Farmers Market, another friend from high school who now lives in California came and met us at the hotel for swimming and snacks.  We hadn't seen each other since 2002, and we are now both married with twins, so there was a lot to catch up on.  

We got beautified in a hurry, and went off to the wedding, which took place at the most beautiful wedding site I have ever seen.  The ceremony site was in a glen surrounded by redwood trees, and the rest of the location was indescribable.  There was a little train circling the property, a fairy cottage, a gigantic chess board, and beautiful surprises around every corner.  My cousin had hired babysitters to take the kids after the ceremony, so we were free to enjoy ourselves. The kids ran around and explored and didn't even talk to us.
The kids were part of the procession
Charlotte wore the same dress our flower girl wore at our wedding
Unfortunately in motion, but Benjamin was adorable
Asher on the stairs away from the ceremony site
On the throne at the edge of the chess board
With Meema and Papa Nick
I don't know if we planned to leave the wedding early, but we didn't- we stayed til the end and didn't get the kids in bed until 11 pm! They had certainly adjusted to west coast time.  I was awake before everyone in the morning and got in a run.  

We went to the after-wedding brunch on Monday, and then drove up to Berkeley to see my mom's cousin and his wife- my mom's cousin was at work, but we spent time with his wife, and played Old Maid, but no one remembered the rules.  I love Berkeley, but it seemed like Eric was having anxiety from the height of the hills.  The views are unbelievable- another city I would love to live in.

San Francisco and the bay from the Berkeley hills
A stop for ice cream before we left
From Berkeley we went back to San Jose to return our rental car and begin the trek home. Whatever great travel karma we had, we'd used up, apparently.  Nothing disastrous, but our flight out of San Jose was to LAX, where we would get on a red-eye home to Philadelphia. We had a short layover, and then they started delaying our flight.  I went up to a gate agent and said, "We have a short layover in LA... are we going to be ok?" and she said, "Let me route you through Phoenix."  So instead of a short flight and then a long flight, we had two shorter flights.  The good part was that our flight from Phoenix was fairly empty and we had space to stretch out and sleep. All 3 kids slept the whole flight.  We arrived in Philadelphia and rushed to get our bags in the hopes of getting home for a couple of hours of sleep before I took the kids to a half day of camp and myself to a full day of work.  3 of our 4 bags arrived, and then the belt stopped and... no 4th bag.  I marched off to the lost luggage office, and we waited around for an additional 45 minutes in order to be told it had jammed the belt and they'd deliver it later.  We got in a cab just in time to sit in rush our traffic going home.  We had to go to my parents' house because in our absence work had begun on our master bath.  We did get there in time for a couple of hours of rest, and then we were off and running- vacation was over.

It's now 3 weeks later and I can't stop thinking about what a great trip we had.  It was worth every dollar we spent, and we made memories that will stay with us forever.  I loved the time with my family of 5.  All 3 kids were wonderful travelers and good company. We are fortunate to have children who are flexible and adaptable and comfortable wherever we go- it makes me want to keep up the exploring.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

California 2017: SoCal

Watching the sunrise over the planes 
We are back from our first airplane trip as a family of 5- and the boys' first time ever on an airplane.  We decided months ago that we would attend my cousin Erica's wedding in California (excellent decision), and told the kids they could come. Erica made plans to include the kids in her wedding, and they were thrilled- they had never been to a wedding, either.

On Monday, July 3, we woke up at 4 am and took a taxi to the airport in the dark.  The kids were talking as if they had never been outside of the house before ("What is a motel?"), and were so excited.  We had a connection in Chicago, thinking we would get out and stretch our legs.  Fortunately everything went smoothly, but we probably didn't need the connection. The kids were all great on the plane, with the exception of their use of chewing gum.  Benjamin took his gum and stuck it on the seat, and Charlotte let hers fall out of her mouth and then sat in it.
With our friends in Santa Monica
We arrived in Orange County around lunch time (California time), and got our rental car. I had gotten in touch with a friend of mine from high school who lives in Santa Monica, and we drove to meet her, her husband, and their daughter for lunch. I hadn't seen her since her wedding in 2001!  She is also a clinical psychologist, so we had a lot to catch up on.  The weather in Santa Monica was absolutely gorgeous: sunny without a cloud in the sky and warm but not hot.  I can see why people pay a fortune of money to live there.  We had a very California lunch, and then went to the beach.
Santa Monica Pier
Smile! It's our 11th anniversary!
Around 5 we headed back to the car and drove back to Anaheim. We stayed at a Marriott Courtyard close to the Disneyland entrance and it had its own little waterpark.  The kids loved it, and it was perfect for our family and our trip. The room had 2 queens and bunk beds and we all slept like rocks. That first evening, Eric and the kids went to the waterpark and I ran to Walmart for groceries.  We had a little dinner in the room and fell into bed.

We were still mostly on East Coast time in the morning and awake before 6 am.  I went out for a jog (I am much faster in cool, less humid air and on streets that are completely flat) and then we got ready to go to Legoland. Since it was the 4th of July, we thought we would stay for the fireworks at 8:30, but who were we kidding- it was hot and we were exhausted.
Welcome to Legoland!

Legoland was fun; we rode the rides, went into the waterpark, and spent many minutes in the gift shop deciding what souvenirs to get.  We were all exhausted by about 4 pm so decided to just call it a day, and went back to the hotel to enjoy the waterpark there. I got to see a bunch of fireworks from our hotel room, and we were all asleep by 9.

For our first day at Disneyland, we went to Disney California Adventure. Top of our list was Guardians of the Galaxy, which is just a fancy new name for "Tower of Terror."  The height minimum was 40", and Charlotte is now 42", so it seemed like a great idea to take her on it.  Ha! She screamed, and screamed, and yelled, "When is this going to end?!? Get me outta here!" When we walked off the ride she was hysterical, crying that she hated it. She spent the rest of the day saying things like, "I don't think anyone should go on Guardians of the Galaxy, ever. That ride is a terrible nightmare!" Aside from that disaster, we had a great time. Asher and I rode the California Screamin' rollercoaster 2 times, we saw a great performance of Frozen, and went as a family on the Radiator Springs Racers. Benjamin was cautious and didn't want any rides that went too fast or who were too scary. Asher, on the other hand, thought the scarier the better.
Charlotte can't even look at the sign, she is so scared
Radiator Springs
Lightning McQueen
We left the park around 4 to go back to our hotel- the kids were just as excited about the water slides at our hotel as they were about Disneyland!
The boys in Radiator Springs
The ferris wheel- everyone enjoyed it, no one was scared
On Thursday the 6th, we went to Disneyland's main park. I took Charlotte and Asher on Space Mountain (Charlotte didn't love it; Asher did). We crammed in several rides in the first hour and a half the park was open, before the crowds got heavy and the sun got too hot. As a cost-cutting measure, we ate breakfast in our hotel, and I packed sandwiches for our lunches. Asher did complain that we ate a lot of sandwiches on vacation, but I had to cut a corner somewhere!  We did get treats in the afternoons.

Eric wanted a picture with the stick-guy behind him but didn't want to wait in line

Charlotte is speechless at meeting Minnie

Overjoyed to be with Minne

Outside Space Mountain

Charlotte is screaming in fear on Space Mountain

Despite those muscles, Asher was unable to remove the sword from the stone

Lunchtime indulgence: gigantic turkey leg
Meeting Moana

Benjamin adores Tigger
That day, Eric took Charlotte and Benjamin for a nap, and Asher and I went on Splash Mountain. After our ride, we caught the 4:30 parade, and then I made Asher go back and take a nap, too. That night we attended the nighttime Electric Parade, and the fireworks that followed.  I must still be a child at heart, because I love all that stuff, and I couldn't get enough of it.  The kids seemed to like it, too.

There is more to say, but I want to get this posted, and then I will get to work on Part 2 of our trip: Northern California and the wedding.

Monday, June 26, 2017

End of school/Las Vegas

Since I last posted, all three kids finished their years at school, summer vacation began, and I took a trip to Las Vegas for a conference.

Charlotte was the first to finish school.  She finished pre-k, although she will now have to do 2 years of kindergarten since she is a December birthday. Her teacher, Miss Tammy, organized a lovely graduation ceremony that started with the kids bringing roses to their parents.  Charlotte hammed it up through all of the songs and performances, but clammed up when it was time for her to get her diploma.

She had a really amazing year this year; she made friends with everyone in her class and was happy to go to school everyday.  She is ready to read and loves to learn.  I feel so fortunate that we have a preschool where our kids get such good care and learn in a warm, loving environment.
Charlotte with her 3 teachers
 Charlotte saw many of her classmates getting flowers and gifts and got upset that I hadn't gotten her anything (what can I say? I didn't even think about it). So after her graduation lunch, I brought her home for a nap and went out for a walk with a friend. We walked up to the shopping area nearby and I picked out a necklace for her. I wrapped it and tied it with a bow and gave it to her when she woke up.
Opening her gift
I was so excited- the necklace had a rose quartz heart and some fake diamonds- it was sparkly enough to be appealing to Charlotte but tasteful enough that she could wear it for years to come.  She opened the package... and started to cry. She was disappointed that the present wasn't "big" enough. I picked up the necklace and said I would hold on to it until she was ready to enjoy it- which turned out to be the next day.
Friday night at Chanticleer
 On June 10, Alex's Original Lemonade Stand was across the street.  The kids all look forward to it all year long, and this year the boys volunteered to serve lemonade with their friends. They both seemed excited about it, but when the day of the lemonade stand arrived, this is what we got:
look closely at Benjamin's face
 After all of the anticipation, Benjamin couldn't stick it out- he complained that he was bored while serving lemonade, then didn't want to play any of the games, then decided he had to eat lunch at exactly the time they did their choreographed dance which he had practiced at least 10 times.
Asher ready to serve with his friends Jonathan (left side of the photo) and Luca (right side of the photo)
 The rest of the family thoroughly enjoyed the lemonade stand and all its lemonade, games, crafts, and friends.

Then the boys started their final week at school.  I was a room parent for Benjamin's class and helped plan an end-of-year party for his class and teacher. It was a steaming hot day and we were wilting in the sun, but the kids had a great time. I had very mixed feelings about his teacher this year- I had heard she was one of the best, but Benjamin had some struggles with her, and she seemed more focused on his shortcomings than on his achievements at some points.  On the other hand, Benjamin's reading skills increased, his writing is impressive, and he did seem to make some good friends (and some undesirable friends, too- he has an affinity for those).
Benjamin's class
Asher had a better year- he and his teacher were a perfect fit, and the kids in his class were all sweet and easy.  Asher's reading level went up to a Level M, which is amazing given that he was around a level H at our March conferences.  He has since started picking up chapter books and reading them all the way through, a huge change from my begging him to read me just a few pages.

 Then, like the good mom that I am, I took off mid-week to go to a conference in Las Vegas, letting the kids finish the week with only one parent.  I went to the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists with my friend Molly. We have never traveled together, and it turned out that we were well-matched companions. Neither one of us gambles, neither one of us is a big drinker, and we both like to go to bed early.  Neither one of us slept that well, but that is ok, too.
At the pool
Aside from attending the conference events, we spent many hours at the pool. We enjoyed a fancy dinner at the steakhouse at the Mirage, and then I had the brilliant idea to walk 1.5 miles across Vegas at night (it is still 90 degrees at 9 pm, in case you wondered). We both had blistered feet and were hot and sweaty.  Next time- Uber.
At dinner
Saturday night we got tickets to see Magic Mike Live at the Hard Rock Hotel. I was prepared for it to be sleazy and cheesy, but it was actually a great show with professional actors/dancers. It was amazing! I would go again. In fact, anyone want to go to Vegas?
Put 3 sex therapists/educators in front of this restaurant and there is no shortage of jokes 
At home, Eric got to deal with Asher coming down with strep throat and missing all the birthday parties he was supposed to attend, and taking all 3 kids to Diggerland on Father's Day.

Worst of all, Eric's Aunt Annette passed away suddenly, and he went to Maine for her funeral. She was a kind and generous woman, who I always thought had a great sense of humor. She will be missed by everyone.
Benjamin with Aunt Annette, Christmas 2010
After the end of school and my travel, our summer adventures are just beginning. There is more to come!