Summer is the perfect time to read!

I wish I enjoyed summer as much as my kids do.

The reality is my work doubles as I cart them between camps, swim lessons, tutoring, and sports. Ugh! I'm on the road all the time.

There is a silver lining.

It always seems that I'm waiting on someone to finish something. During those down times, I have a chance to read. If you're like me and adding some books to your summer reading list, I'd like to make a recommendation, Multiples Illuminated.

Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. Before now, no book I’ve read on the subject of multiples has so honestly or as beautifully captured the emotional tsunami of conceiving, birthing, and raising multiples as Multiples Illuminated.

I laughed and I cried as I reflected upon memories that had been neatly tucked away. Some, like the joy of seeing two beating heartbeats on my first ultrasound, were welcome but others, like the heartache of leaving two babies behind in the NICU and returning to a quiet home and empty cribs, still sting. This book reminded me that I'm not alone. 

The writing is superb and generations of parents of multiples will find this book to be a valuable resource. 

Multiples Illuminated should be required reading for anyone considering fertility treatments or currently pregnant with multiples. The perfect gift for a mom-to-be of multiples on bedrest. It's full of excellent, practical advice, great laughs, and success stories aplenty. 

THE resource for multiples. Period.

What does your college degree say about you?

Question for the parents out there: Does your college major have anything to do with your current job/career?

Let's be real for a moment. I'm willing to bet upwards of 90% of the people with college degrees earned them in something totally and completely unrelated to their current gig.

And why is that?

The reality is that we're asking for kids to make major life decisions before they're ready. Before they've really experienced life. Before they know who they are or what they want to be.

Most kids select a college major in one of the following ways: 1) The WAG method (Wild Ass Guess); 2) My parents thought it was a good idea; 3) it sounded really interesting so what the heck, or, 4) it's what my mom/dad/respected person in my life majored in and they have a great life.

Think about that.

College is an expensive proposition and huge investment of time and resources. Yet, most go into it without meaningful reflection or intentional planning. It's a lot like leaving for trip before you actually know where your destination is going to be.

Crazy, right?

College buys you time to figure it all out. Four years to network at keg parties. Four years to enjoy college football or basketball games. Four years to pledge a sorority or fraternity.  Four years to make incredible memories and spend ridiculous amounts of money for a credential that may, but more likely will not, prepare you for the next season of your life.

Your parents want you to go to college so you can become a gainfully employed grown up that's off their payroll.

Parents believe college will give kids the opportunity to grow, mature and experience a different kind of life. But ultimately, a college degree is really about helping kids become self-sufficient. Right?

Which brings me to my favorite nephew. He is me twenty-eight years ago. He picked the same major as both his mother and I chose, International Business. It sounds really cool to have that kind of degree in a time when the global economy is bustling with activity and borders are all but disappearing.

But what do you actually do with an International Business degree? And more importantly, does my nephew really want to do anything international?

<Crickets>

The truth is that multinational companies hire accountants, finance professionals and marketing people. Having an international business degree is a generalist degree and the truth is you need to be a specialist to be attractive to multinational companies.

My nephew is well-traveled but he's not passionate about it. He studied Spanish in high school but it wasn't something he actually enjoyed. If I'm being honest (which I am) this is not a career path that he has chosen for himself. Rather, he's followed the same path as someone else.

I don't want that for him.

I want him to study what interests him. I want him to honestly assess his strengths and weaknesses.  I want him to pursue a passion not pick a profession and go with it.  The last thing I want for him is that he earn a degree for the sake of having one and then find himself in a job because he needed one.

I want more for him.

Finding his way

One of my favorite people in the world is my nephew Michael. He's this amazingly charming guy who gives the warmest hugs and lights up my life.  He's kind, smart, and a joy to be around. He has impeccable manners, a good heart and good looks.

The total package.

Today he finds himself at a crossroads in his young life and I want desperately to help him but I'm fighting the urge to fix it for him. That's why I'm here pouring my feelings out on a blog.

A little backstory.

Mike graduated from an elite college prep high school before heading off to well-respected college on the east coast. He's completed his freshman year of college and he did okay. He didn't crush his first year and he didn't flush his first year either. 

His cumulative GPA was a 3.1 for the year. <Meh>

I know. Before the eye rolls start, I acknowledge that a 3.1 GPA would be a great result for many people. Knowing my nephew as I do, I can say with certainty that it's not indicative of either his ability or his aptitude. Not even close.

For him, it's just okay.

Worse, the all in cost for his freshman year of college was $68,000. <GULP>

Yes, some of that came from a scholarship awarded by the university but a large piece came from his hardworking parents and other relatives who want to help him succeed.

His parents have made the decision that they cannot finance mediocrity and so he won't be returning to his high priced school in the fall.

So what now? What does he do next?

That my friends is the million dollar question and that's what brings me to this post and has me all up in my feelings right now. 

The truth is my nephew doesn't know who he is yet. He doesn't know who he wants to be, where he wants to go or how he's going to get there. I take his current plight to heart because I feel I had a hand in it.

In the name of love, I've enabled him and helicoptered and now we are here. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

It's time for all of us to take a step back and figure this out. And while I'll implore him that he can't possibly map out a plan until we know the destination, my heart tells me that he'll rush to make a decision .

I know that at 19 he's likely going to be embarrassed to tell his friends that he's not going back to his east coast college in the fall.  The signs are all there that without deliberation or honest self-exploration, he'll rush into another decision to find another college.

Knowing him as I do, I predict he'll chose a college not based on in depth research and analysis but one that gets him as far away from his nagging family as he can get. He'll declare a college major that sounds good to others and not spend any meaningful time figuring out a major that really inspires him or a career that is an excellent fit for his abilities and interests.

In short, he'll do what countless young people do. Collect a credential and postpone real life for as long as possible with the hope of figuring it out later.

That is, unless I can get through to him.

 

And She's back...

This blogging game is HARD.

It's not the writing that intimidates me it's the guilt of not posting daily.  Jeff Goins has changed that for me.  Yesterday I read his Writer's Manifesto...again...and again...and again. I then began reading everything on his Facebook page, his books, and his website.

I've developed a full-on writers crush on this man.  He's dropped some knowledge that has me all up in my feelings and gotten me totally and completely jazzed about writing again. 

So here I am.

I'm going to get over the shame of not finishing the blogs about my Christmas Kindness Countdown.  The activities were fun and meaningful for my family so I'll celebrate that instead. I'm going to get past the guilt of the long break between posts.  Life happens. I'm going to stop beating myself up. Period.

Today I'm writing because that's what writers do.  We write.

16 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness--Help the Helpers

Kindness mission accomplished!

The feed back from this mission has been incredible. The kids delivered candy canes with notes attached that read:

Dear Friend:

Our family is counting down to Christmas in a special way and you're an important part of it. We want the world to be a kinder place so we're doing our part. Please accept this small token of appreciation. Thank you for helping us enjoy a wonderful place to learn. We feel safe, we enjoy clean classrooms, eat yummy food, learn cool stuff, and feel loved and supported. 

You are awesome!

Your friends,

Cole, Maddox & Sheridan

Best challenge yet!

13 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness -- Be Kind to a Senior

I'm going a little out of order but I'm doing what I can when I can. 

Note to self for next year: December is the busiest time of the year for you. Perhaps you should consider the 12 days of Christmas next year so there isn't an overlap between all the end of year school activities, work activities and the Christmas kindness challenge.

This challenge was near and dear to my heart. I love seniors! 

Did you know, in fewer than 25 years, one in five people will be 65 years or older in the U.S. (Source) The baby boomer generation is becoming older and the biggest increase in population will be among those 85 years or older.

initially, I was leaning towards Meal on Wheels. Out of curiosity, I did a little research for a high impact charity that addresses aging. There are so many wonderful organizations that do incredible work.  Alzheimer's Association, National Council on Aging, and Justice in Aging to name a few. 

Ultimately, I've decided that I need to do more. I need to find volunteer opportunities with the aging that my kids can participate and really benefit from this interaction. In the meantime, I chose Meals on Wheels. 

Mission Accomplished!

14 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness--Be Kind to Our Furry Friends

Be kind to every kind, not just mankind.
--Anthony Douglas Williams

Kindness Mission #14 accomplished!

Did you know there are 5,000 dogs euthanized a day? It pains me deeply. I looked for a no kill shelter and found an article about the most effective no kill shelters in the country. Number 1 on that list was Austin Pets Alive! 

$25: Buys one week of milk for a litter of kittens. 

How cool is that?

 

 

12 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness--Pay it Forward

Ugh!

I'm so behind! Life has taken over. Birthday party, guitar lessons, Christmas musical, indoor soccer game, Futsal game, and ANOTHER birthday party. 

It's important to me that I don't rush through these missions.

This mission will be accomplished ASAP.

Peace and love!

UPDATE 12/15/2015:

Mission complete!

Today, the kids and I went out to dinner and noticed a table full of women in hospital scrubs. We chose them. The kids gathered around me and asked me to do the talking.

"Hello, our family is participating in a count down to Christmas by performing 24 acts of kindness. We'd like to treat you." 

The looks on their faces made it all worth it. My kids loved completing this mission. And honestly, so did I.

Thinking of you mom.

11 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness--Give a Gift to a Stranger

Who would have thought giving gifts away could be so difficult for my kids!

They have no problem giving gifts to friends or family. They totally enjoy treating their friends and even their siblings (sometimes).

I recognize now that the kids have a comfort level and approaching a stranger pushes them beyond their comfort. So rather than make this challenge feel like a chore which is contrary to what I want this challenge to be for my family, I improvised.

Today I chose to donate to the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency). For the third time, matching funds were available to extend my gift.

I gave a gift to help exhausted refugee families, many with children who are fleeing persecution and conflict. As winter approaches, more support is needed urgently to continue saving lives and protecting families forced to flee their home. 

Our gift to strangers.

10 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness--Call someone you're close to

I was a beneficiary of day 10 and man was it sweet!

One of my oldest and dearest friends Katrena called me and it was so good to hear her voice. We communicate daily. Text messages and Facebook are our predominant modes of communication. We're both crazy busy and it allows for the ultimate in flexibility. Phone calls are reserves for lifelines typically. When things get so overwhelming that a text just isn't enough.

But hearing her voice today and knowing that she was participating in this count down with me, made me feel so incredibly loved.

That was the definite high of my day.

The low of my day was not being able to reach the beneficiary of my call, Aunt Cordy.

She is my mother's only living sister and the only remaining sibling of my mother's that I still remain in contact with. She was a seamstress before the work was exported to Mexico where it could be done more cheaply. After that, she worked as a housekeeper.

The thing is my Aunt Cordy has always been incredibly hardworking and even in the golden years of her life, she's busy raising her two great grand-daughters. A herculean task for anyone but especially for a woman in her 70's. 

I've been calling her every day and I haven't spoken with her yet. That usually means her daughter has her phone. The dynamics of that relationship won't steal my Christmas joy. 

Instead, I'll just keep trying to reach her until I succeed. 

Day 9 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness--Be Neighborly

Today we delivered cupcakes to three neighbors and lined up playdates with our buddies across the street during the holiday break. The boys wore their Santa hats and were super excited to make these deliveries. 

When we were done, the boys agreed it was their favorite day of our count down so far. They want to do something for EVERY neighbor next year. Hmmmm

I really love our new neighborhood. We've only lived in our home for about two years but we already know our neighbors better than we knew any of neighbors at our previous home despite having lived there for a decade. 

I'm thankful for that.

Day 8 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness-- Be Kind to the Mailman

We got a little behind here but we're all caught up! 

I forgot to place our homemade note and Starbuck's gift card in our mailbox before we left for school so we had to do it the next day.

Today I thought about how much I used to love to check the mail. The only snail mail we seem to receive are endless catalogs and bills.

Not so much fun. 

But now, thanks to the holidays, I'm so enjoying all the Christmas cards. My favorites are the picture cards. 

Keep em' coming.

Day 7 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness -- Be kind to kids who go hungry

When I was about the age my boys are now, my family was stationed in the Philippines. We lived on a base in Subic Bay and the Olongapo River separated the base from Olongapo City. The river was turned brown from the sewage.

I remember Americans throwing coins off the bridge to the children on skinny boats who would dive into the water to recover the coins.

The smell was horrific but the thought of children swimming in it was too much for me to wrap my mind around. 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Olongapo_and_bridge_leading_to_NS_Subic_Bay.jpg#/media/File:Olongapo_and_bridge_leading_to_NS_Subic_Bay.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Olongapo_and_bridge_leading_to_NS_Subic_Bay.jpg#/media/File:Olongapo_and_bridge_leading_to_NS_Subic_Bay.jpg

I've never been so hungry that I willing would make such a choice and for that I am grateful. 

Today, our family donated to the Plano Food 4 Kids ProgramIt may come as a surprise to many, but hunger is a reality for a number of families in Plano.

  •   1 out of 5 children in Collin County are considered food insecure. That’s over 44,000, or 20% of children who might struggle to find their next meal.

  •  Over 7,000, 29% of kids in 50 PISD early childhood and elementary schools are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

  • With $5, you can provide a backpack full of nutritious food for a child during the weekend.

Day 6 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness--Gratitude Letter

The challenge today was to thank someone that I don't feel like I properly thanked. I chose my son Cole's kindergarten teacher. 

She altered the trajectory of my children's lives and I will never forget her. I've copied the letter that I wrote to her below.

Dear Meena, 

Thank you for your profound interest in helping Cole learn. It meant so much to me that you were so invested in him and his struggles. As much as it meant to me, I know it meant even more to Cole. 

He felt loved, cared for, and supported in your class and for that we will never forget you.

I remember the time when you first made us aware of Cole's learning differences. We cried together at the set backs and celebrated the successes. I remember you running out to meet me in carpool, jumping in my car, and proudly declaring that Cole had read his first book. 

 It was your loving guidance that brought us to Shelton.

When we began testing for Shelton, it was the absolute worst time of my life. 

Both of my parents had been diagnosed with cancer. Both were struggling to live. And both had been physically devastated as much by their cancer treatments as by the disease itself. 

Which brings me back to my kids. 

There were few bright spots during that time. The weight of this ordeal still brings me to tears even now. You were a bright spot. 

Cole couldn't wait to see you after his 3 day visit to Shelton. It was you he wanted to tell all about his visit. It was you he wanted to convince to come with him.

While Shelton has been an excellent fit for the boys and their confidence as learners has skyrocketed, Cole still thinks of you. 

We go to the grocery store and he wonders to this day if we'll run into you. We miss you. 

Thank you for being my ally, my friend and my son's champion. 

You will never be forgotten. 

Trina

 

Day 4 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness -- Be a Secret Santa

How could I get this so wrong?

I totally expected the kids to love playing secret Santa and it was the opposite. The idea of picking just one person to treat didn't sit right with them. They all wanted to do something for the entire class. 

"It's not fair to everyone else in the class to just pick one mom." 

Welp. There you have it. 

Ultimately, the boys got their teachers to help them hide their gifts in their recipient's lockers. My daughter brought her gift home and decided she wanted to give it to her little buddy next door who isn't school aged. 

Note to self: Re-think Secret Santa next year.

Day 3 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness -- Be kind to the environment

What. A. Day.

Our original plan was to do a little manual labor and walk our neighborhood and the surrounding area to do a trash clean-up. Time being at a premium, we resorted to plan B and chose a high impact environmental charity to support.

I gave the kids 3 choices: 1) Sierra Club; 2) Ocean Conservancy; and 3) Rainforest Alliance

Drum roll please...

We chose the Rainforest Alliance. I was so proud of how much my kids already knew about rainforests. Couple their interest with an article I received just today from Upworthy and our choice was clear. That article contained a dire warning and yeah, I'm a little freaked out about it.

FACT: The Amazon Rainforest absorbs about 20% of human-made, carbon-based greenhouse gases.

FACT: During the past 40 years, 20% of the Amazon has already been destroyed. 

FACT: The amazon has a vast collection of medicinal treasures that are still undiscovered.

The cherry on top was that there is a HOLIDAY MATCH going on at the Rainforest Alliance that doubled our donation.

YAY!

 

Day 2 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness -- 5 compliments to 5 people

I thought today would be an easier mission. No props. No preparation. Just pay an honest compliment to five people.

Easy, right?

Wrong.

My kids are taking this challenge super serious. They wanted to pay compliments to people that they didn't know well or at all. I expected a simple list of the five people that they approached. Instead, we spent the majority of our evening discussing their struggle with approaching kids they didn't know well.

Ultimately, they figured out it wasn't as hard as it sounded to them at first. I'm thrilled with this wonderful unintended consequence.

Maybe I'll raise three social butterflies after all.

 

 

Day 1 of 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness -- Thank our troops serving abroad

It is with great love that my kids took time to prepare cards to thank our troops. 

For Day 1 of our 24 day Christmas countdown, we chose Operation Gratitude. This organization sends 100,000+ care packages to troops around the world and those wounded in service. 

This was a wonderful opportunity to thank the men and women who keep us safe all year round and to teach my children about the importance the military plays in our lives.

I am so proud of their originality, effort, and the sentiment expressed in their cards. 

Be still my heart. 

It's always a good time to support this wonderful cause. L
etters and artwork may be sent to:

OPERATION GRATITUDE
17330 Victory Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91406

5 Sports Legends You Probably Didn't Know have a Learning Difference

Lazy. Dumb. Bad. Stupid.

If this is how your kid sees himself, it may take years to repair this damage and convince them otherwise.

Kids with Learning Differences (L.D.) are more likely to struggle socially and with their own sense of self-worth than peers who are traditional learners. 

As much as I may want my kids to strive to be unique, the truth is most kids really don't want to be different or stand out from their peers. They especially don't want to draw any attention to themselves for something like not being able to read or being unable to sit still in class.

I want my boys to understand that they're not alone. And, more importantly, I want them to recognize that many kids with learning differences grow up to be exceptional adults who accomplish amazing things.

To do that, I've looked for examples that will really resonate with them. My son Maddox loves sports and more than that, he takes comfort in knowing that some of his sports heroes had a hard time in school, just like him.

  1. Muhammad Ali. A boxing legend. The greatest of all time. Ali earned an Olympic Gold Medal and is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Many don't know that Ali barely graduated from high school. Dyslexia made reading a tremendous challenge for him but it didn't keep him from becoming an incredible athlete. In fact, his academic struggles likely motivated his need to be excellent elsewhere.
  2. Michael Phelps. Grew up from a little boy with ADHD into the most decorated Olympian of all time. All of that extra energy came in handy while he was racing for Olympic gold, don't you think?
  3.  Pete Rose. Unfortunately for Rose, his ADHD wasn't diagnosed until later in his life. As a result, when he was a kid most people simply viewed him as a troublemaker. Impulse control issues is one of the major challenges for kids with ADHD. No one will know how things could've been different for him had his L.D. been diagnosed early on. What we do know is that he put up Hall of Fame worthy numbers during his career as a major league baseball player.
  4. Terry Bradshaw. This four-time Super Bowl Champion, has struggled with ADHD for years. His undeniable success as a football player has afforded him a platform to challenge the stigma once associated with L.D..
  5. Greg LeMond. This  three-time Tour de France Champion struggled with ADD as kid. He points out that people with ADD excel in really good ways. The physical exertion of cycling helped him focus and wine championships.

I agree with Greg LeMond. Not every kid is built to sit still in a classroom with minimal physical activity absorbing information quietly for eight hours a day.

And that's okay.

Maybe it's time to view learning differences as gifts and not disabilities. Would anyone describe any of these five sports legends as disadvantaged because of how they learn? 

I think not.