Proudly Under-Scheduled

Time for the important things — a game of basketball between father and son

When you Google “Overscheduled children,” more than 200,000 results show up.  If you’re not familiar with the term, it applies to children who are spending most of their waking hours in school and involved in organized activities (such as enrichment classes, sports teams, and lessons). 

I’m proud to say that my son is not an “overscheduled” child.  He’s a ten-year-old fifth-grader who goes to school until 2:30 pm (1:30 pm on Tuesdays), and then spends the rest of the afternoon at home doing homework, playing, and relaxing (except on Tuesdays when we pay a visit to the public library). 

You can learn about our family’s decision not to have Ryan become an “overscheduled child” by clicking here and reading my recently published essay, “Why My Son Doesn’t Need ‘Enrichment’ Classes” at RoleReboot.

 

 

I Can’t – And Here’s Why

A photo taken during my teaching days. After a museum field trip, my students enjoyed rolling down this big grassy hill!

On the second day of this school year, my son’s teacher asked if I was available to help chaperone field trips.  It was before school, a minute before the bell was to ring.  There wasn’t time for me to give her a medical explanation so instead, I gave a quick reply, “It depends.”

How was I to tell my son’s fifth-grade teacher that just because she saw me every day (at drop-off and pick-up times) there were medical reasons why I couldn’t help on field trips.

During the second week of school, my son had his first field trip.  A walking field trip.  Again, his teacher asked if I was available to join their class.  This time, I said, “No I’m sorry.  I can’t do it.”

Which was true.  It just wasn’t the whole story.  And most of the time the whole story is much easier for me to write than it is to say.

Click here to read my personal essay (written when my son was a second grader) that explains “Why I Don’t Volunteer to Chaperone My Son’s Field Trips.”

 

Weird Wendy

I am Wendy.  Woman, wife, writer.

I am, in fact, a woman of many “W’s.”

Depending on who you ask and how they feel about me, I may be described (to varying degrees) as watchful, wise, wacky, warmhearted, witty, wonderful.

Ask my rheumatologist, though, and he’ll tell you I’m weird.

To get the full story, click here to read my personal essay, “The Hard Realities I’ve Faced After My Doctor Told Me, ‘You’re Just Weird’,” which was recently published at The Mighty.

 

 

In Praise of Poetry

The latest book in my “just read” pile is Jill Bialosky’s memoir Poetry Will Save Your Life.

I’m not a huge fan of poetry; a poem either speaks to me or it doesn’t, though I do have a (small) number of poems that touch my soul.  And there were several things I liked about this book that I wanted to share with you this week.

From a writer’s perspective, I thought the structure was so original.  The author shares a moment of time, a memory, an anecdote and then included a relevant poem.

From a book lover’s perspective, I thought the cover was beautiful (see the picture above) as were the front and end pages (see the picture below).

From a reader’s perspective, here are some of the passages I tagged as I read:

“A poem’s meaning alters by the associations, insights, and experience we bring to it.  A poem can do many things at once.  Like “The Road Not Taken,” it can challenge the reader intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.  It can validate our experiences or cause us to question our beliefs.”

“Surely this is one of the reasons poetry enriches us.  A poem links us to a universe at once intimate and communal.  Poets and artists work in solitude and by intuition.  They have the same mission: to capture and fathom the reality beyond appearances, the world invisible to the eye.”

“I realize that through the artfulness of poetic form, one can trap experience and make it palpable to a reader.  A poem might be about what hurts, and most illuminating, the subject might be drawn from one’s own life.  A poem could be both personal and communal and save a person from the dark shadow of shame.”

“Poems often begin from a question, or a needling of something disturbing or provoking, sometimes even from ignorance.  From there a poet takes elements, either an image, a particular scene or landscape, a memory, maybe only an expression – and appeals to her unconscious, her place of unknowing in hopes that as words, phrases, and fragments take shape, like beads on a string, something original and exciting might evolve.”

Readers, what are your favorite poems?  Feel free to share in the comments section!

Playing in Pain

The other afternoon, my son and I played hopscotch.

That was after we had played handball.

There are a few details that make those statements more meaningful than they may initially appear.

First off, in our neighborhood, we don’t see many parents outside playing with their kids.  Where we live, kids are left to wander on their own.  Most of the families near us are not only-child families like ours so often times siblings play together, or neighboring kids play together.  But the other day, we were the only ones outside enjoying the sunshine so I was my son’s playmate.

Secondly, neither hopscotch or handball are easy sports for me to play.  Me, the woman with an autoimmune disease, the woman who qualifies for a disabled placard, the woman who experiences pain in her legs (primarily the left leg).

But my son wanted to play.  And I wanted to play with him.  So I did, until I just couldn’t.  Until I was balancing on one foot, bending down to pick up the rock from the hopscotch square, and pain began to shoot up and down my leg a bit.  Then I had to sit the rest of the game out, and cheer on my son while he played alone.

That part hasn’t gotten any easier for me — knowing when to stop and knowing when to say “I can’t do this any more.”  Because I do want to play with my son, and because I realize how special it is that my ten-year-old still wants to play with me. 

Our afternoon playtime session got me thinking about a personal essay I wrote a few years back that was published at muthamagazine.com.  Click here to read, “The ‘A’ Word: Parenting with an Invisible Disability.”

 

5th Grade – The Home Stretch

My 5th Grade School Picture

My son is a fifth grader. 

School started yesterday, which means this will be Ryan’s last year at his elementary school and then it’s off to middle-school.

But I don’t want to rush ahead.  We have 180 days of fifth grade to experience first.  And like in years past, I’d like to share with you memories of my own fifth grade year.  (To remind you, you can click here to read about my fourth grade experiences and click here to read about my life in third grade).

I had the same teacher for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.  Ryan has had a new teacher each year.  My elementary school went up to sixth grade, so unlike Ryan, at this stage I wasn’t yet looking ahead to middle school.

And though I was in fifth grade back in the 1980s, one thing remains the same.  All fifth graders are still required to complete the fifth grade physical education fitness test.

Unlike Ryan’s school, my elementary school didn’t have a physical education teacher.  When I was in elementary school, our classroom teachers took their classes out for P.E. once in a while, usually on Fridays, and usually as a reward for good behavior.  We didn’t train and practice for this physical fitness test.

Luckily, Ryan’s school has a group of physical education coaches.  They have been training for this test since kindergarten, slowly building up the endurance needed to run a mile.

And when it comes time for this test, I’ll give Ryan the same words of encouragement I always give him for any test: Do your best. 

Because really, no matter what grade you’re in, no matter what you’re being tested on, that’s the only thing you can do.

Summer Reading

A photo taken a few months ago showing Ryan and I browsing at the library.

We’re coming to the end of summer break.  In our family that means school resumes next week, as does afternoon homework and a note packed into my son’s lunchbox each day.

Our summers usually consist of:  one family trip (we were in Santa Barbara and Cambria this year); numerous museum visits (including LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center, the Norton Simon Museum, the Getty Center, and the Skirball Cultural Center); and lots of reading.

My ten-year-old son just completed the reading log required for the public library’s summer reading program.  We never tell Ryan what to read, or insist he sit down and read each day.  He just reads.  Sometimes alone, sometimes together — on our patio, on our couch, at our local Coffee Bean.

And looking over his list of books makes me smile.  Ryan read about LeBron James and King Tut.  He read joke books and books based on Pixar films.  He read about Katherine Johnson and Buzz Aldrin.  He read about Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.  He read about Nintendo’s Mario and Curious George.

It’s been a good summer.

Parenting Color-Aware

Three sets of legs, three different skin tones. One family.

I am a mother.

I am the mother of a son.

I am the mother of a ten-year-old son.

I am the mother of a bi-racial, ten-year-old son.

My family’s racial identity is not always up front in my mind, and yet I am in no way color-blind.  Click here to be re-directed to MomsLA.com to read my recently published essay “Parenting Color-Aware (The Opposite of Color-Blind).”

It’s A Different World

My double-digit son with his new iPod Touch and chocolate birthday cake!

The other night, my ten-year-old son and I were having a discussion about technology.  Specifically, how it seems like many of the kids in our neighborhood and in his last class at school have things he doesn’t have — namely a phone.

Ryan is ten years old.  I take him to school and pick him up each day.  He doesn’t travel anywhere without an adult.  There is no need for a phone.  (We did give him an iPod Touch for his 10th birthday).

I asked Ryan who he would call if he had a phone.  He listed me, my husband, and my parents.  I asked him if he needed a phone, and he told me no.

Then he asked me how old I was when I got my first cell phone.  I told him — I was in college, commuting on six buses a day, a roundtrip travel time of 3 1/2 to 4 hours each day.  My parents gave me a cell phone that looked like a brick.  With it came strict instructions not to use the phone unless, heaven forbid, there was a real emergency.  Otherwise, always keep some quarters in my backpack, and use a pay phone when needed.  (I never used that phone).

That is not the world in which my son is growing up. 

And that got me thinking about a post I wrote for MomsLA back in 2013.  Click here to read “6 Ways My Son’s Childhood Is Different Than Mine.”

Moments of Happiness

A few months ago, a good friend gave me Option B written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.  I’m about halfway through it, and already have quite a few Post-Its tagging pages.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, there has been an awful lot going on in our family during the last couple of months.  The other night I read a few passages in Option B which really impacted me, and I wanted to share them with my readers.

“When we look for joy, we often focus on the big moments.  But happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity.”

“Paying attention to moments of joy takes effort because we are wired to focus on the negatives more than the positives.  Bad events tend to have a stronger effect on us than good events. “

“Even when we’re in great distress, joy can still be found in moments we seize and moments we create.  All of these can provide relief from pain.  And when these moments add up, we find that they give us more than happiness; they also give us strength.”

And, I’d like to take it a few steps further and share with you three moments that made me happy this past week:

  1. Driving in our car, my ten-year-old son sat in the back seat, singing along to “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies, but doing it our family-way — substituting “Oh Ryan” for “Oh Sugar.”
  2. My son and I watching Apollo 13 (again), and applauding when the three astronauts safely splashdown.
  3. Sitting on our patio the other night after dinner as my son and husband ate bowls of chocolate ice cream, and I sat and watched — our giant pinwheel spinning, a hummingbird, and “my guys” on our glider.

It’s a good reminder that when things seem hard, or scary, or overwhelming, moments of happiness are all around us.  We just have to pay attention to them.

Readers, I’d love to hear from you.  I invite you to share your recent moments of happiness in the comments section below!