It was a whirlwind #Family #Kids


This last week was my first use of Paid time off from my new job. I took the week off to spend time with family. My brother and his family came up to visit for a couple of weeks. I was able to parlay 3 days of PTO into 9 days off from work, due to the holiday week. Which is a nice deal if you can manage it.

I am really glad I did so. I had a really good time with everyone. Did a number of different activities. Had some good food. Good conversations. The cousins were able to spend lots of time together. But now it is time to pause, recuperate, and get ready to resume normal activities. Before I really do so I wanted to take some time today to reflect and review. And I choose to do so with pictures from the week.

There was loads of fun family time. Visiting with each other. Enjoying a birthday celebration for those who we will not see closer to their actual birthdays. Playing on a lake. Exploring a museum. Playing around the house. And some bowling.

There are some missing folks from these pictures. Sorry I could not get good shots of everyone. Of course, those who were missed most were off on their own adventure. Kim and Emily were at the family Girl Scout camp. Which they enjoyed immensely. But they were missed all the same. So I would be remiss if I did not include a picture from the camp:

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As is clear from the pictures, a lot of fun was had by all. It was a good week. Now it is time to resume ‘normal’ life. Or at least time for me to return to work along with Kim. While the kids get to enjoy some true time off with no camps of other activities for at least a week.

 

It was an exciting year, full of fun, challenges, and changes #Kids #Life #Mentalhealth


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First Day

For Emily, it was her last year of Lower El. The last year of Ruch kids for Mrs. Clarice.  It was another good year for her. She continued to be the social butterfly. With friends of all ages. There were challenges, particularly the running club. But she persevered for the most part.

It was another great year of Girl Scouts for her. Kim took over the Troop officially. They had a good year, although it was exhausting just to see Kim on Mondays between Scout meetings. Emily did have a stellar year of cookie sales, reaching her goal of 2000 cookies!

She continues to mature and grow. She is smart as a whip when she wants to apply herself. And is a joy for all her teachers to have in class. She is more than ready for the next level next year though.

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Last Day

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First Day

This was a big year for Danny. First year at a new school. The first year of Middle school. First full year as a Boy Scout. I cannot say enough about how much he has grown this year: mentally, emotionally and physically.

We were a little worried about he would do academically at the new school. There were some initial challenges. But in the end, the picture below is him after accepting awards for the Arrow Club (requires a 3.5 GPA for at least 2 quarters) and Excellence in Social Studies. Turns out he really thrived in a more traditional academic classroom over the openness of the Montessori.

Socially he has also grown, he has made friends at the new school that he enjoys spending time with. And watching him at this last Boy Scout Camp showed me how well he is capable of handling himself in large group settings.

For Boy Scouts, he continues to enjoy himself. Kim has joined him as well as Assistant Scout Master (Yay Super Mom Kim!) He earned his first rank. And seems to enjoy the meetings and being a Scout. Which I think is really good for him.

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Last Day

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First Day

Last, there is this guy. As you can see there was a lot of growth for him. Physically he continues to mature. His first year of High School was full of challenges. There were some successes along the way. And I envision a bright future for him.

James discovered a love of singing this year in Men’s Choir. While not naturally gifted he does enjoy the singing. Which balances out his wrestling to keep him balanced. Wrestling season was solid for a JV year. He continues to enjoy the physical challenge.

Academics were a challenge. Poor study habits, laziness, and health conspired to keep him from realizing his full potential. And then there were the emotional issues.

We finally recognized the symptoms and got James the help he needs as he was diagnosed with Depression (damn genetics.) Of course this after a nearly wasted quarter, many arguments and trials, followed by a scare when he decided to simply run away one night. All is well now on this front.

All of the above were not helped by his learning the challenges of teenage relationships. That contributed to the wasted quarter and the stress that led to the attempt to simply run away.

However, after getting the help that he needed he was able to turn things around. Turning a failing semester into an average Semester. He now has the understanding of what he needs to do in the future to succeed, and I think the emotional balance that is also needed to get there.

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Last Day

It was an interesting school year, to say the least. Made even more interesting by my own life changes as I transitioned to a new job.  We could not have done as well as we did without the aid of Supermom Kim. Here we are at the beginning of Summer break.

The kids all have activities. Summer enrichment programs take up the month of June. Everyone has at least one camp. James starts with his wrestling camp. Then Emily has her first sleep away camp. Later in the summer, Kim joins Emily and then Danny for other Scout camps. While I work, due to the lack of vacation time that comes with a new job.  All in all, life remains good for the most part.

A weekend of contrasts #life #Health #kids


The weekend did not start well for Freereangegeek. He watched his beloved Buffs get demolished while recuperating from a medical procedure. Then he spent the majority of the day Saturday watching wrestling, followed by another evening of football. Sunday dawned with a day of promise. Kids were given their assignments, a good breakfast was followed by shopping. Then a day of relaxation followed. It was a weekend of activity and a time of rest.

Friday was the rite of passage that accompanies turning 50: a colonoscopy. Which followed a no fun night of little sleep combined with no food. But the returns were all positive from the procedure, no growths or problems. Friday evening was devoted to catching up on recorded shows and then football. The football was fun for a while. But it became clear early on that it was not going to be the Buffs night. Which was okay as they were effectively playing with house money on this season.

Saturday came with the chance to attend Number One Son’s first JV wrestling tournament. It began well. As said son won his first 2 matches handily. It seemed that great things were coming. But it was not to be. A lack of experience and development showed in his last 2 matches as errors were made, and the shock of playing someone 4 years older kicked in. But a respectable 2-2 record for the day with real signs of improvement from previous seasons made it all a success. Even if it was a long day for the Freerangegeek.

Saturday evening was spent in more relaxation and watching two exciting and close college football games. It was entertaining, to say the least, and a good way to unwind from the day.

Sunday was initially devoted to household items. Cooking breakfast, picking up the kitchen. Assigning chores to the children. Then grocery shopping and meal planning. That was followed by some time devoted to holiday shopping and planning. During which Freerangegeek was abe to keep abreast of football scores using his early Xmas gift.

However, when he returned it was like all energy seeped out of his body. As his usefulness went away and he fell into the depths of televised sports again.

There was a strong set of contrasting events and feeling over the course of the weekend. There were moments of excitement and activity. And there was time spent in grips of the couch and televised sports. In all, it was a good weekend, but there were moments when it felt like time was being wasted. When his employment changes in a week the Freerangegeek will have to find a better way of handling the time when he is not at work better so it will not feel like as much time is wasted.

I have allies if I utilize them #Life #Kids


Today the kids are off from school as part of a 4 day weekend for Parent Teacher conferences. Yesterday was filled with appointments and the conferences. Plus some events for Emily. That really wiped me out. But I had tasks to do today. Then I remembered I have help.

I told the kids that each would be assigned a room in the house. And that today they would clean that room completely. So this morning I set a time to start. And at that time we all got to work. I kind of did my part, moving what I could, providing direction. It took about 30 minutes and boom we had the main rooms clean.

This was a lesson for me. I am not alone in this. The kids are all old enough to do their part. They are perfectly capable of doing the work when I ask. I just need to remember to ask them to do their part. Make it a group effort and even have some fun with it. Voila, the work is done!

I plan to start doing more of this. Some assigning of meals and kitchen clean up. Assigning days to clean. It is not that hard, and it makes life easier for everyone.

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About those conferences. There were some surprises and some affirmations. We heard what we kind of expected from one group of teachers. It is up to us to help get someone on track.

It was also a pleasant surprise for another child. Danny’s science teacher was surprised that Danny was on an IEP and needed help with reading and comprehension. When it hit me. Science books are written with a plainer, more logical type of writing. It is just easier for him to digest information from that than it is for him to do the same with fiction.  It was kind of gratifying to realize that.

All in all, it has been a good couple of days. Which will make it easier for the next couple of days to continue that trend.

 

A Most Excellent Daughter #Birthday #Kids


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Wishing my Daughter Emily a most excellent birthday today.

There she is in the middle of her little posse of girls at school. She is such a wonder to me. Jimmy and Danny have their little idiosyncrasies that remind me of myself. But Emily is my polar opposite. Happy, outgoing, self-assured, successful and driven.

All that aside, she is truly a bright spot in my wonderful life. Shining so bright that I tend to forget the other great parts of my life.

With all of that gushing done, I just want to repeat: you are an excellent daughter and I want to wish you the best of birthdays.

 

Dear Son, your dad has a condition #Mentalhealth


Dear Jimmy, Danny, and Emily,

Your father is not what you would call ‘normal’. He has an obsessive control disorder combined with anxiety and depression. What does that mean? Well, it will mean a couple of different things.

First, he will go through what seem like mood swings. He will seem relaxed and calm one moment, then upset and angry the next. He is taking medication to control this. He has seen therapists, and will probably see more therapists in the coming years. The important thing is to realize that when these changes occur it is not your fault. You may have done (or not done) something that triggers one of these moods, but you are not responsible for his moods. You cannot control his moods.

Second, the obsessive control disorder means that he will feel like he has to take control of everything he can in his life. Even things that he cannot wholly control, like you, his kids. It is important to understand that when he does this is it is not something he can moderate easily. So he will either attempt to control things or not attempt at all. It is very difficult for him to find a middle ground, a compromise where he pays attention to you and what you are doing, but does not attempt to get involved and take control.

Third, the anxiety and depression stem from his heightened empathy. He will feel things and take things to heart very easily. When you say or do things that affect his emotions he will take them seriously, he cannot easily just move past them. If you are hurting he will be there for you and feel really bad. But he will also worry about how you feel, and often read bad feelings when there are none.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it is good for you to know what you are dealing with. And to maybe give you some ideas on what you can do to help him cope.

Control, how to deal with it. You kids, especially Jimmy now, but the other two as you grow older, will want more control over your life. That is normal, and part of growing up. But you father has a very hard time giving up control in some areas. When the time comes and you want to show more responsibility and control over your life, start by showing what you can do. Do not demand control without showing him you can handle it. Above all, do not just try to challenge head to head. He is smart and very aware of what is going on. So if you show you are responsible, and can take care of things completely, he will find it easier to let go.

On the other hand, if you ask for control of something, and get it from him, and then do not do it, it will trigger his conditions. And if he has to take back control for something he will find it that much harder to let go a second time. This is trust, he will trust you to do something, but if you do not do it, he will have a very hard time trusting you again to do that thing. In short, if you want to take charge of something from him, he will let it go, but be completely sure you can handle it.

Involvement, he will be there or not. In his best interests, your father has learned that for a lot of things he can either be all in or all out. Which means that many days he may seem to ignore you, and not do things with you. And then he will turn around and spend a lot of time doing something with you. That is often how he interacts with a lot of people and things in this world. If he is seemingly ignoring you it is not because he does not care or love you. It is because he has a very hard time splitting his focus between things and people. Which often means he will focus on doing something with your mom, and not you. It is frustrating for him to be in situations where he has to spread his focus among multiple things or people. In short, if you want him to do something with you, ask for it, but be prepared for his full attention and involvement in what you are doing.

Last, because of his anxiety and empathy, he will want people around him to be happy. Which means he will do whatever he can to make you happy. If you appear unhappy or act in such a way that he gets worried, he will do whatever he can to alleviate that. This will make it seem like he is a pushover who will spoil you. However, he knows this and will worry about spoiling you, so he will sometimes go the opposite direction to counteract that. Which means he may punish you one moment, then turn around and give you a treat the next. Just be aware that he knows this about himself, and to not abuse or take advantage of this because he will realize that is happening and view it as breaking his trust.

Your father loves you all more than life itself. He loves his family and his life. But loving something does not make it easy for him. He will be there for you. But his conditions will cause him to do things or behave in ways that make you question that. Just recognize that what he is doing is often beyond his immediate control.

 

First weekend is here #Life #Kids #Mentalhealth


When I returned from my vacation on Monday I looked at my calendar and realized that I had no scheduled time off on the schedule at all, except for a 3 day weekend late in September. In fact, except for 3 day weekends here and there, I am working steadily for the rest of the year. Which is fine, but that means that weekends will mean a little more to me.

One of my colleagues asked me what I am doing this weekend; if I had any big plans. The answer is yes and no. I personally do have a plan for the weekend. I will be going to Denver on Sunday for my monthly Pathfinder game. As a family, we do not have big plans. But the kids all have something going on.

Jimmy has a wrestling camp this weekend. It is a 2 day affair. With his starting once a week training with the high school wrestlers; and now this camp, he is beginning to get that edge back in his eye for wrestling. Which I like, because I think that is something that can take him far if he just can discipline himself to work hard at it.

Danny returns on Saturday from his first full week Scout camp. This was the longest he has been away from the family. And we were not entirely sure he would make it. But he did, and tomorrow he gets back. I am sure he will be tired, and glad to get back. I will be glad to have him back. But I am proud that he made the trip.

Emily (and Kim) will be doing a 2 day Girl Scout camp this weekend. It is just a daytime camp, not overnight. But it will keep them occupied for Saturday and Sunday. It sounds like a lot of fun for them.

And I will be going to Denver Sunday. I am excited for that as I have not been up there for 6 weeks, and I am actually in a bit of a dry spell for gaming in general. So this will be good for me to get back to.

The upshot of all this is that I will be able to take good care of myself this weekend. Despite the fact that everyone has something on their docket. Which is a good thing. Without any vacations planned for a while I will have to vigilant when it comes to my time. Not let the weekends vanish in a puff of smoke without some time for myself. Especially with the school year coming up fast.