Monday, December 29, 2014

Grammar Lessons: Learning is a Verb

I am starting my graduate program today.

I will be studying Marriage and Family Therapy over the next few years, and hope to primarily counsel gifted adults, children and families eventually, and use my skills and knowledge to help this exceptional subset, among others.

I am a kid on the first day of school.

I woke up several times thinking about my classes. I only hit the "snooze" button twice this morning. I logged on to my computer at 5:30am and read my course plan, my goals and assignments, until the excitement to write about it overwhelmed my need to memorize my syllabus.

This is what being inspired to learn feels like. This is the spark of passion, the eagerness to follow a new path.

Learning and school should feel this exciting for our kids.

Let's teach them that learning isn't sitting at a desk for eight hours, listening to an adult tell them what to think and how to understand, then completing hours and hours of homework in the evening.

Let's teach them that learning is passion - self-directed, need-to-know, delve in deep passion. Learning is questions that keep your mind awake far past your bedtime, discussion that exhausts your parents, and a book that you just can't put down.

Acquiring knowledge is not accomplished by sitting still. Let's teach them to move, to fidget, to run, to pace, and let their brains sort through all of their thoughts and ideas.

Learning is not a one-dimensional activity. Enable the children to pick their own resources and topics, permit them design their projects. Allow them to sit and just think for awhile, without feeling pressured to answer.  Accept that "the project" can be simply letting the information be absorbed and become imagery in their heads, that will materialize once it is processed. Be patient.

Learning is a verb. Let's get out of the way, and let our kids show us which direction they'd like to go when we stop treating it like a noun.

Monday, December 15, 2014

{GHF Blog Hop} Parenting and OE's: Is Sensitivity Your Child's Super Power?

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Our house is bouncing constantly with overexcitability. If you are unfamiliar with that term,

"Overexcitabilities (OEs) are inborn, heightened abilities to receive and respond to stimuli. They are expressed in increased sensitivity, awareness, and intensity. Each form of overexcitability points to a higher than average sensitivity of its receptors. As a result a person endowed with different forms of overexcitability reacts with surprise, puzzlement to many things, he collides with things, persons, and events which in turn brings him astonishment and disquietude." (Dabrowski, 1964)

There are five types of overexcitabilities: emotional, psychomotor, intellectual, sensual, and imaginational. On a regular basis, the members of the family alternate between high levels of emotion, the need to move, and a desire to learn and do everything as often as possible. We each have various levels of sensory comfort and discomfort, and there is no shortage of imagination.

It can make life interesting.

For this post, I am going to focus on the emotional overexcitability, which is most likely my strongest of the OE's, and we all enjoy a healthy dose of it.  

image: JD Hancock, text added by TSL

I have a tendency to take on others' emotions and react accordingly. I can't watch or read the news on particularly bad months. I feel the responsibility to make the world a better place, and my heart aches when I am unable to do so.

I cannot make it through an airport without tearing up. It's a family joke at this point - but the soldiers in uniform meeting their families, the mother with two small children holding handmade "Welcome home, Daddy" signs, and the father nervously putting his 8 year old daughter on the plane by herself, wiping away a tear as the gate closes, send my emotions into hyper-drive.  

I am a big, sappy dork, and the more I accept it, the more pronounced it gets.

*  *  *  *  *

B's emotional OE often comes in the form of a desire for social justice. She has a sense of urgency and action, rather than tears, when it comes to those who need help. She zeroes in on the homeless, the animals, the families in need. She is unselfish and willing to do whatever needs done. She is extremely environmentally conscious and cannot fathom why we don't all drive electric cars and use solar and wind power as much as possible already.

Her relationships with family members become volatile quickly. She flies into a rage, she defends with abandon, she loves with her whole heart and soul. She views herself more like a twelve or thirteen year old might, worrying about the blemishes on her face, what she is wearing in public, and how other people will see her.

She is intense. The asynchronies involved make emotions even more complicated, as she feels and thinks like an early teen, but reacts like the six year old she is.

*  *  *  *  *

C is our lover. She is one of the most empathetic children I have known. From a very young age, she would act out in response to my emotions. It took a few years to discover this was the impetus behind her behaviors, and now I refer to her as my emotional barometer.  It can be exhausting, as my bad day becomes her very bad day. We are both learning to adjust to each other. 

C dislikes most movies, especially movies that have a component of bullying, unkind/unfair behavior, or too many bad guys. She can assess when she has a lot of emotion boiling up inside and will ask to watch Spirit (a 2002 Disney movie about a stallion that leads his herd across the frontiers and meets many challenges), so she can "cry [her] sadness out." I don't know if I will ever become accustomed to the depth of her emotional understanding.

Her mood swings are hurricanes, but the cycle is becoming predictable. She begins with the quick and violent fury, followed by the passionate cry, then comes the hysterical laughter, and finally the apologetic hugs. She is learning her cycle as well, and I am hoping that with maturity, she will be able to fine tune it.

Both girls have a strong memory for feelings, and expect deep friendship among those they meet. They remember children's names months after chance encounters at a random playland or the park. They form quick attachments to children of all ages, and are heartbroken when these fleeting acquaintances do not want to expand their friendships. B is overjoyed to begin working with the 8-12 year old group at gymnastics, with whom she fits in much more easily than her previous class. At just barely four, C's best interactions are with the eight year old boy she plays video games with at the gym while I watch her sister's class. But, again, asynchronies make these relationships unpredictable when emotions begin to overwhelm.

*  *  *  *  *

So, how does our family function with this circus of emotional intensity? How does my logic-embracing husband handle all of us?

I keep a favorite quote on my refrigerator from Corin Goodwin, and read it often.
 "The times when kids need your love most may be the times when they behave in the most unloving ways. Try to understand what is happening in their heads and their hearts, and address that first."
Empathy and understanding are our foundations. We do our best to meet our children in their moment and support them.  I have adjusted my strategy from a "how can I fix this?" perspective to a "how can I help you right now?" perspective. This approach gives my girls ownership of their intensity, and validates their feelings. They do not want advice or distractions.  They want me to appreciate their sensitivity and let them express it.

We discuss our feelings a lot, and the girls are becoming more self-aware. We use "I feel" statements, and "You feel/you I understanding correctly?" questions.  Yoga is helpful for regulating all of us, and playing outside together clears the mind. We embrace the ecstatically happy moments and hold on tighter during the soul-wrenching sad times. 

More than anything, we accept each other, overexcited emotions and all.  I hope with age and maturity, the girls will find that this abundance of intuition and feeling is a super power. Emotional overexcitability opens your eyes and heart to a glimpse of the world that most people never get to experience, and I am grateful for my view.

This has been successful for our family. What works for yours? Please let me know in the comments.

This blog post is part of the December GHF Blog Hop - Parenting OEs, 2Es, and Everything in Between. Check out the other talented bloggers insights on parenting gifted children here!


Overexcitability and the Highly Gifted Child from Davidson Institute for Talent Development

Sensitivity in Gifted Children from Ian Byrd

Emotional Sensitivities from Gifted Kids Ireland

Parenting Emotionally Intense Children from Talent Development Resources  - (this article discusses how it feels to live in a society that does not value feelings - great perspectives!)


Dabrowski, K. (1964). Positive disintegration. London: Little, Brown & Co. (Out of print).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure - Three Year Old Edition

image: Kristina Alexanderson

Adventure #1

It is 37 degrees outside, and the wind is gusting up to 40mph. As you walk to the car, the cold air sends goosebumps down your spine.

(I know, I know. 37 degrees is not that cold. But I am an Arizonan. We are a warm weather people.)

 You get everyone buckled into the car and leave for your destination.

Two minutes later, you hear a request. "Mom, please may I roll my window down? I really want to roll my window down."

 You choose. 
 Choice 1: You deny the request. It's cold and no one needs their window down right now. The heater is on, for heaven's sake.
 Choice 2: You unlock the window.

 >>You have chosen #1. 

 "No, honey, it's cold outside. We don't need our windows down."

 Three year old immediately breaks down, tears rolling, loud wails fill the car. Complete breakdown ensues. The six year old is now holding her ears and crying because the three year old is so stinking loud. You arrive at your destination on time, but enter twenty minutes behind schedule due to the amount of time it takes to calm everyone back down.

 >>You have chosen #2. 

 "Alright, if you say so."

 Window rolls down. You brace yourself for the cold, but surprisingly, it is not that noticeable. A minute or two later, you hear a song from the back seat.

 "The wind is blowing, and I feel in my heart. It is so beautiful and I love the wind. I don't know why but I just love the wind, and I love the wind in my heart..." 

 There are few things cuter than a three year old singing original songs.

 After about a mile's worth of this, she says, "Okay. I am done with this window. It is cold outside."

 The window rolls up. Everyone is in a happy mood. You arrive at your destination and enter on time. You feel like a good mom today.

Adventure #2

Children are tucked into bed. Stories have been read, waters have been sipped, blankets have been placed the right way. Good night, dear children. 8:05pm.

You finally get to sit down next to your husband, where you plan to drink a glass of wine, maybe even finish an uninterrupted sentence.

Just as you get comfortable, a three year old voice travels down the stairs. 8:10pm.

"Mom, I have a question. Will you snuggle me?"

You choose. 
Choice 1: You deny the request. You've already hugged, kissed, tucked, snuggled, and you are tired. 
Choice 2: You go snuggle.

>>You have chosen #1.

"Sweetie, I have already snuggled you. You are supposed to be in your bed. Please go lay down and go to sleep."

Three year old turns for her room, big sobs causing her whole body to shudder. She returns to bed, where she proceeds to cry louder and louder. Now six year old is crying. She can't read because three year old is so stinking loud. Husband retreats to the garage to "check on some things". You gulp some wine and climb the stairs to begin damage control. Many minutes and tears and tissues later, the house is calm again. You go to bed, no wine, no conversation. You are exhausted. It is 9:07pm.

>>You have chosen #2.

"Sure, honey. I'll be right there."

You scoot into bed beside her and she wraps your arms around her body just so, and presses her little forehead to yours. She asks you to stay "to 100" and counts sleepily to somewhere in the 80's at which point she nods off. You muse about how perfectly her forehead fits into the curves of your face. Her breath becomes even, her arms limp. You stay for a few extra seconds to soak up what's left of her baby-ness. You gently slide out of her bed, and walk back down the stairs.

It is now 8:17pm and you have a quiet house. You might even get to read a book tonight.

Adventure #3

Six year old asks for her piggy bank. She has promised to pay three year old two dollars in exchange for three year old singing a song with her.

You choose:
Choice #1: You deny the request. "Two dollars for singing a song? Money is not for playing with, you know."
Choice #2: You get the piggy bank.

>>You have chosen #1.

Six year old gets angry. "It's MY money. I earned it. I PROMISED I would pay her. Do you want me to break my promise? You are making me into a BAD SISTER!" She stomps off to her room. Three year old is now crying because she wants the two dollars she was promised. There is a good chance that six year old is attempting to climb her bookshelf and get the bank herself, which will probably lead to injury. You sigh and head upstairs, most likely to argue some more.

>>You have chosen #2.

"Sure, here you go."

You listen as six year old gives three year old a little lesson on the different types of money in her bank, and quizzes her what the coins are and how much they are worth. Three year old wants to pay her sister for her lesson, and asks for her own bank. Two more dollars are exchanged. There are "thank you's" and "I love you's" spoken. They put away their money. You mentally check "teach some math today" off of the on-going list in your head.

*  *  *  *  *

Grown ups just can't see the whole little-kid picture sometimes. We see from the practical view, the "you'll put your eye out!" mind-set. Children hear the song in the wind, the sweetness of that last hug before sleep. I wish I could say that I always chose #2, and my household was always pleasant and idyllic. Sometimes I can't see past the sensible solution, or the quickest means to my end. But more often, I do, and the results often teach me a new perspective. For that, I  am thankful.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lost in Translation

Our family often has moments in which we notice that we don't quite fit in outside our home. Whether it's a glance from a stranger when we are deep in an unusual conversation, or the double-takes when our girls break out into spontaneous interpretive dance at the mall because the mood strikes (with or without music), it's often an adventure.

Here are a few examples of recent instances that within the house, seemed perfectly normal, but out of the house, caused some raised eyebrows.  If you can relate, or your kids have done the same, come on over. We could use a playdate with some kindred spirits. :)

*  *  *  *  *

We love They Might Be Giants. We have a Youtube list full of their songs. C's favorite song is "What is a Shooting Star", and B's is "Put it to the Test". Even A will sit and chuckle with us, putting her "I'm a cool teenager" persona aside to laugh at the scientist who gets eaten by his plant. I crack up at the "Seven" song. It's not uncommon for one of us to shout, "We want cake! Where's our cake?" when discussing dessert options.

...but transplant that fun time into the birthday party of some kid whose family we hardly know, and my girls see the birthday cake and chant, "We want cake! Where's our cake?" ...

Based on their reaction, that family clearly does not watch They Might Be Giants videos for fun. Sigh. 

*  *  *  *  *

B enjoys the American Girl series, and her favorite girl is Kaya, who is from the Nez Perce tribe. The Kaya books have a glossary of Nez Perce words, and B has learned many. The Nez Perce believed in animal spirit guides, called "wyakins". My little fairy girl loves the idea of this, and told us her wyakin is a dog. Some fun conversations about various Native American beliefs and traditions have spawned from the books. imagine a Girl Scout meeting, at which a police officer has come to tell the girls about his job, and he has brought his German Shepherd police dog. During question/answer time, B pipes up and tells everyone that she has a wyakin, a spirit guide, and he is a dog that looks just like the policeman's. 

<<<crickets chirping>>>

The police officer was very kind, and said, "Well, that's pretty cool", and moved on, but based on their expressions, I don't think the other moms & kids have read the Kaya books.  

*  *  *  *  *

B has a book called "A Genuine and Moste Authentic Guide: Princess" that she reads like it's her gospel. I have to say, her table manners and posture have improved greatly. She has also learned some "frustrated princess" words, and it's not unusual to hear her muttering, "Dash it and diamonds!" or "Flippering frogs!" when things aren't going her way. fast-forward to a gymnastics class. She is having a difficult time with a skill, and exclaims "Curses and crowns!"  I'm so happy that her coach appreciates all of her idiosyncrasies. I am fairly certain that the other girls in her class have not read the  princess book, though, judging from the looks on their faces.

*  *  *  * *

I might be the only at the bookstore who gets it when B sings "Mary Pope Osborne has lost her sheep and doesn't know where to find them..." then dissolves in giggles. Her dad and I might be the only ones who understand what she is talking about at a big gathering when she states "I need some quiet. I'm over-excited right now." 

B told me the other night, "You know, Mom, it's the weird things about you that make you special."

I couldn't agree more!

image: Loulse Docker

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Here Come the Holidays*

image: Peter Thoeny

Twas the holiday season, and all through the town
Ten different Santas were turning Brother’s world upside down.
The smells of trees, candles and spicy egg nog
Was enough to give Mom a piercing head fog.

Dad planned holiday travels while school books gathered dust
When out at the mailbox arose such a clatter
He sprung from his seat to see what was the matter.

There was Mom, looking wild, with a laugh long and hearty
Holding fifteen invitations to holiday parties
To Nana’s! To Auntie’s! To the office and friends!
The routine’s out the window till this holiday ends.

Off to the airport for a five hour flight
Occur at dear Grandma’s, and for all of the cousins,
And Grandpa who changes plans all of a sudden!

The mayhem begins as soon as they arrive
Mom confiscates treats full of gluten, sugar and artificial dyes
Sis-in-law mentions  “pushy parents” and “kids need to have fun”
Oh hurray! Holiday season has clearly begun!

Grandpa bugs Brother to play football, but he just wants to read
Sister sneaks leftovers to make plates for those homeless, in need
Dad’s looking for ear plugs, his mood’s a bit sour

Sister runs and hides as twenty people breeze in
Thank goodness for family members like Uncle Tim
Who’ll chat for hours with Brother about science and the periodical table
While Mom drinks as much “holiday punch” as she’s able.

Now the children are nestled all snug on the floor
Brother doesn’t like scratchy sheets, Sister wants just one book more
Grandma is happy to acquiesce
And sends Mom and Dad off for some quiet and rest.

At holiday dinner, cousins are quiet, well-behaved
And what to Mom's terrified eyes should appear
But Brother’s 5 OE's heightened by Great-Auntie's sneer.

Now the weekend has ended, much love and much cheer
Alternated with delicate feelings, apprehension and fear
As Brother wails, feeling itchy in Grandma’s hand-knitted sweater
Mom and Dad sigh, and say “Next year, we just know it, next year will be better.”

The links in the post are from the November 2013 GHF Blog Hop, Surviving and Thriving at the Holidays with a Gifted/2e Kid, which has many other excellent tips! Here's hoping for a happy and fun holiday season! 

*...with apologies to Clement Moore, and with a little help from Jade Rivera and the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Monday, October 20, 2014

{GHF Blog Hop} Five Tips for Raising Your Gifted Grown-Up

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Raising your gifted grown-up comes with its unique set of challenges. Sure, it is fantastic to be raised by someone who understands why the line across the toe of your socks drives you into a frantic tailspin, but these grown-ups take time and patience to handle. I have put together a list of a few things you can do to keep that gifted mom/dad's meltdowns to a minimum, and help them "meet their potential", as we hear them say in conversation. *

1. Food. Your gifted grown-up needs healthy snacks and meals every 2-3 hours. It is important to pay attention and be sure that they are not just finishing the snacks and meals that you decided you no longer liked or wanted to eat. Grown-ups are tricky, and will tell you that they don't feel like making another snack because they have just spent 15 minutes in the kitchen paying close attention that the peanut butter on your celery is applied with the correct peanut butter to celery ratio, and the celery strings have all been removed. If your gifted grown-up does not eat their very own snack, you will notice a quick decline in their behavior, perhaps presented in the form of short-tempered responses followed by apologies. If your grown-up continues to decline food after your generous offers, get a big scoop of that peanut butter on a spoon, and bring it to them with your best puppy-dog eyes. Tell them you just want what is best for them. Who can resist that?

2. Exercise. Your gifted grown-up needs to move. He/she builds up a great deal of energy throughout the day, and may even have psychomotor overexcitabilities. If you notice that your mom is fidgeting a lot while you are explaining to her why you have been considering that the moon has a core, and based on the recent evidence of Europa's tectonic activity, you feel that you are on the right track, and will she please help you find some more information about this, she may need to do some jumping jacks while you talk, chew a piece of gum, or play with a stress ball. She wants to pay attention, but occasionally her mind wanders and her inner engine revs up and needs a release. It might help to encourage her to go for a run in the morning, or do some yoga in order to get some of that energy out before you expect her full attention for the day.

3. Brain Food. Your gifted grown-up requires a great deal of intellectual stimulation. Stacks and stacks of it. Take numerous trips to the library. Ask lots of questions, preferably questions that your grown-up has not considered before, or in a subject area that he is not well-versed. This will give your gifted grown-up motivation to do some research.  Your gifted grown-up has his own interests, too, and often forgets to pursue them. Watch for answers to grow shorter, eyes to grow a bit dull, and a smile that looks forced. These are signs of brain food shortage, and can be remedied by reminding him to do something that he enjoys and feeds his need for knowledge. Provide some quiet time for him so he can focus on writing, researching, or another favorite brain past-time.

...which bring me to my next tip.

4. Quiet time. Gifted grown-ups need time to recharge. Consider the morning that you and your sister were busy creating an awesome 5-pot band, complete with a harmonica, your baby brother would not let Mom put him down, and the road construction crew had been repairing your block. Mom's sensual overexcitability was probably on overload. If she didn't have a melt-down, it was probably a few precious threads away from happening. Send your gifted grown-up to a quiet place daily. Tell her that it is really, truly okay to take some time for herself in a calm, peaceful room. She needs to reboot, or someone may just get the boot. While she is having her quiet time, you and your siblings should also find something quiet to do, like rearrange the kitchen for her, or see how high you can stack every book from the shelf in the living room. But remember, keep it quiet. She needs some peace.

5. Grown-Up Friends. Your gifted grown-up will tell you that she has plenty of friends and adult interaction. It's most likely not true. Adults need other adults to talk to, whether they are virtual or in-person friends. Yours may be an introvert who prefers one or two select people, and finds group interactions and office parties exhausting. He may not have found his person yet. Gifted grown-ups frequently have a difficult time finding others with whom they "fit in". If your gifted grown-up fits this description, there are several on-line forums and groups that have the potential of showing your gifted grown-up that they are not alone, are not crazy, and do have a "tribe" somewhere. Encourage them to find these other special adults, and make some connections.

Most importantly, encourage your gifted grown-up. It is a glorious thing to have a mind like theirs, but from time to time they get bogged down in the difficulties and forget. Remind them that they are unique and get to experience the world in a way that most others do not. Give them a hug on the bad days. With your help, your gifted grown-up will flourish.

*This is, of course, a parody of the commonly seen blog posts entitled "10 ways To Motivate Your Gifted Child" or "5 Ways to Help Your Gifted Child Meet Their Potential". Humor aside, all of these areas are important to maintain sanity. Take care of yourself, gifted grown-ups. We are a complicated bunch, and without the proper attention to our needs, life can get difficult.

For more resources/support for gifted adults, follow these links:

(This article is one of my personal favorites.)

Paula Prober's amazing blog for gifted adults, Your Rainforest Mind

* * * * *

This blog post is part of the GHF October Blog Hop on Gifted Adults. I'm on my way to read the many insightful posts about being a gifted adult here. I hope you read them too!

Photo Credits:
Yoga Pose:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Library Card Blues

If I need to find B, she is usually sitting on the floor, immersed in her book.

She is the type of child who cannot walk past a book without sitting down to read it. Our living room, her bedroom floor, her bed...all covered in books that she is in various stages of reading.

I was the same way as a child, and the only reason this description does not continue to apply to me is that I made myself put down the book to do silly things like vacuuming and making dinner and reading a book to C, who prefers to be read to at age 3. I see her heading down the same path,  as she will sit and look at books for an hour, and her bed is just as covered with them as her sister's. If I had my way, I would sit on the couch and read beside them all day. Sometimes I do.

The librarians at our main library know us well, and rarely give us issues with the amount of books we take home. They know we will be back in a week to exchange them for more. We have been frequenting the smaller library in our town for convenience sake the past few weeks, and they are not as familiar with our habits. We were preparing for our weekly trip, and I checked our library account to see the list of the books we had checked out, in order to round them up and turn them in. I entered B's library card number.


I chuckled to myself at the thought. She was 13 books over her 20 book limit, and had been barred for the second time at six years old. Not many children I know have that distinction.

I knew that she would not find this as amusing as I did, and it would most likely cause a serious issue if I did not resolve this before our next library trip. Later in the day, I turned in most of our books and picked up some new ones while she was at gymnastics, and spoke with the staff about her account. They set her card free again and all was well.

In the evening, as she sat among her new pile of reading material, I began to tell her the story. In my perception, it was a humorous tale, a testament to her extraordinary reading powers and a badge of honor to wear proudly. "I was banned by the library at age six for reading too much", she could someday say with pride.

Photo credit: UTS Library, NSW
Unfortunately, I only got to about sentence three of the story, the one in which I said that she was barred from using her library card, and she collapsed in a hysterical heap of tears and anguish.

"No, no, no, sweetie! Please don't cry! There is more to the story! It's all fixed - your card is fine. You can check out all the books you want! You can use my card, and C's card too, and all together that's 60 books that you can take home! It's okay, all fixed, please don't cry!!"

Ten messy, tearful minutes later, she had calmed down, gathered all the books she could balance in her small arms, held them protectively to her chest and went to her room. She did not find me or my story charming, and grudgingly accepted my apologies as she walked away.

Lesson learned. Tell the end of the story first, even if it ruins the suspense, and never, ever get between that girl and her library card.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stop Thinking. Start Doing.

I recently participated in a call hosted by Sara Yamtich and Jade Rivera on "multipotentiality" a.k.a. being interested in and wanting to go multiple directions with your life and how to make that happen.

I spent a good fifteen years of my life fitting myself into a little box, shrinking who I am to a minimum, ignoring hopes and dreams. I realized a few years ago that I don't have to feel trapped in circumstance anymore.

I have found many treasures that I love and want to use, now that I have "unpacked the box", so to speak, but it is difficult to remember how. I have also found that letting my emotions roam freely can be overwhelming and exhausting, and I struggle with how to manage them wisely.

A moment in the call particularly spoke to me - Jade discussed satisfying three things every day to keep herself in a state of peace: one for the mind, one for the heart, one for the body.

That sounds like an excellent starting point for me.

I  have responsibilities, and homeschooling two gifted girls is very time consuming, but I know I can do three things daily for myself.

So, what's my plan?

image: flickr

For my body - I began running in April. I am not a very athletic person, but one day, I had just had enough of everything, and needed 15 minutes to myself. I downloaded the Couch25k app, and got on the treadmill. Within a month, I felt motivated to run often, and I began running outside, which improved the experience further.

It's a soothing habit now. I run 1.5 miles 3-4 times weekly. It adds an element of  peace and nature and endorphins to my routine. It's healthy for my whole self.

For my mind - I am enrolled in a Coursera class - Modern and Contemporary Poetry from Penn State. I adore poetry and much of the material for the class will be new to me.  I enroll classes often, but I rarely participate. I will make it a priority to engage in this class, and pamper my brain, rather than watch another Grey's Anatomy on Netflix.☺

So far, I have taken 15-20 minutes in my day to watch the lectures and read the selected poems. B has been watching the lectures with me, and perhaps she will learn to love Emily Dickinson as much as I do.

For my heart - I need to help, to give. I tend to go all-out and give until I have nothing left for those who are most important to me, and then I come to an abrupt halt.

I volunteered at our local food bank/food center for a time, in the kids' reading room. I read with children who came with their families for their one hot meal of the day, helped with homework, and played with the little ones. My emotional OE went into overdrive and I could not stop thinking about the children and their lives. I wanted to take them all home, feed them all, love them all. I would break down thinking of them during the day, and I dreamt of it at night. My family suffered in the mean time, and I had to force myself to admit that it was too much for me. (In my head, this still sounds horribly selfish - my emotions were too much? Their lives are too much.)

I had to accept my limitations, however selfish it made me feel.  I don't know that I am able to turn my emotions to a lower gear, so I need to involve myself in productive endeavors that will satisfy but not consume me. My goal in this area is to give daily, in ways that are more sustainable for the long-term me. For now, I will engage in random acts of kindness, and look for small but meaningful ways to help in my community.

At the beginning of the call, Sara emphasized that "clarity comes from doing, not thinking", and that is is just fine to be and do more than one thing. It sounds so simple when I write it.

Stop thinking. Start doing.

image: flickr

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Balancing Act

So many of my days, I have too much - too much that I want to do, too many thoughts in my head, too many things that I feel that I will never get to.

I make my lists and my to do's, short term and long term. I schedule my weeks so I can pencil in a time to get to these things. I remember my goals and tell myself to take my baby steps toward them. Then, my indecisiveness kicks in.

Look for volunteer opportunities - should I work with kids? Teens? Adults?
Find the right grad program - should I choose counseling or social work?
Register for a class - but do I have more interest in painting, or photography, or learning the ecology of my region? 
I need to get out of the house. Make a choice. Change the world. I can do this. 

And then I become paralyzed by  - what? I don't know. The fear of failure? The guilt of taking time away from my kids to do something for myself for once? My lack of reliable babysitters?

This I do know: I want, NEED, to be more than a mom and housewife. I am good at many things, interested in countless topics, and have future career hopes and dreams. It's difficult to balance all of my desires along with all of the have-to's and need-to's. But honestly, I have to figure it out, otherwise I am afraid that some day I will end up angry or resentful or both, and my family is far too wonderful and supportive to put the blame on, when I know who is holding me back. Me.

As Sara Yamtich puts it, "There are so many ways that you could contribute to the world. And you’d probably be pretty darn sufficient at most of them. This is the fate of the multipotentialite."

It's just difficult to choose which one, and where to fit it into to my crazy life. 

Do you ever feel like this too?

On September 8, at 4pm PST, (7pm EST), I am going to be joining a community call hosted by Sara Yamtich and Jade Rivera, to discuss how we can accept, celebrate, and harness our multipotentiality. 

I encourage you to read Sara's blog and feel inspired and motivated, and then sign up for the call. From personal experience, after speaking with Sara for an hour, I felt like anything was possible, and that all I needed to do was to take the first steps to make it happen.

Jade is full of compassion and wisdom, her blog has helped me understand myself and my children better, and she has become a good friend. I am looking forward to speaking with these intelligent ladies, and others that are possibly in a rut like me, or have made it out of the rut, and have words of wisdom and support.

 Hope to "meet" you then!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Days of Disconnect

I like to call it his bi-monthly angst. He mopes around the house and questions his choices, his career. Feels like all is fruitless, doesn't matter. Wants to change the world, but feels like he will never change the world. I wait it out, fight my own descent into it. I am an optimist. I will not be taken down by the sink.

But then, it catches me, completely unawares.

What? I don't do this. I am not depressed. This is not my thing.

The first day, I just feel antsy, full, like there is something inside me that needs to break out. I am restless around the house. Tired of cleaning, tired of laundry. I run 2 fast miles, but it's not enough. I do some research. I read a book. I plan an outline for a class I could teach this fall. I want to teach my children, play with them, but they are wrapped in a lovely imaginary world together that requires no facilitation on my part. I am just an interruption.

I feel stagnant. My house is stuffy. I am stuffy. I am not progressing the way I would like to. I have all of this frantic energy and it is tiring. Time, money, guilt, fear of failure, all keeping me in this room. Do I need sunshine? More friends? Am I lonely? Most of my connections are online, and on days like this, they feel like imaginary friends. My computer is quiet and doesn't drink coffee or wine, or make me laugh...

By the end of this day, I am unhappy with everyone. I don't really notice, but they do.

The next day, I wake up in the "depths of despair", as my dear Anne Shirley would say. I make myself get out of bed, drink my coffee, try to write a little, but mostly just stare at the screen.

My thoughts swirl around me while the rest of my household sleeps in peace.

What am I doing with my life? I should go back to school, get the degree I set out to get in the first place. The resources are 10 minutes away, but the money has been spent...I owe debts for a job that I no longer hold, to pay for a degree I don't want to use anymore. Am I doing the right thing, staying home with my children, letting them explore the world? Should I be teaching them more structure, using more curriculum? Are they going to end up in their teens having learned nothing about discipline and perseverance, because their mother didn't push them hard enough? I want to change the world...I will never change the world. I need a good cry.  

The air this morning is suffocating, closing in around me. I feel disconnected.

The kids wake up. I struggle to get them breakfast. C, my three year old emotional barometer, begins to act up. She is defiant, pulling at my clothes, hurting me, refusing to comply with anything. My frustration rises and I lose my temper. I hold her and try not to cry and apologize. She takes my face in her hands and looks into my eyes with understanding. She is once again feeling, reading, responding to my emotions. She is acting out my defiance, my pain, my frustration. We sit and snuggle for awhile and both feel better.

I have to find my happy face, or it is going to be a difficult day for everyone.

I wait for it to pass. I hope I am not just burying it further, to grow stronger roots.

I remember reading a beautiful description of self-portrait color therapy by The Younger Mrs. Ward, and decide to give it a try. I am not able to be all alone while I color as she advises, but my girls get out their paints and we all create together. It's nice. I begin as suggested, with a face profile, and make random shapes from there. I don't choose my colors in advance; I use what strikes me. My daughters admire my art while I again push back the tears.

When I am finished, however, I feel remarkably better. The fog is beginning to lift. I smile for what feels like the first time in two days while the girls show me their artwork.

We play together and I look at my picture every now and then. My husband returns from his job. The girls show them their "work" from the day. He looks at the bulletin board and asks them about my picture, which conveys more than I intended. "Who made this sad lady? It looks like she is crying an ocean of black tears. I hope she gets to that green part soon; it looks peaceful."

Me too.

My children continue to react to my emotional state...all of these sensitive souls bouncing off one another. B is disrespectful and angry. C is sad and clingy. I end up asking my husband to put them to bed, instead of following our usual bedtime routine. I feel guilty, neglectful.

I wake up a few long days later and stay in bed. I keep my eyes closed and assess how I am feeling from head to toe. I think I am better. I lay completely still until I am sure that I feel better than yesterday. I get some coffee. I don't check email or look at my computer at all. I just sit, and drink the coffee, and think. I go for a run, but run more slowly, paying attention to the trees and mountains and lovely views in my neighborhood. I eat breakfast. I sit in quiet and do nothing. I take a hot shower. I cautiously approach my day. I look at the picture I drew a few days before, and don't feel as connected to it. I give in to the temptation to turn on the computer, and spend some time reading articles from Sarah at Left Brain Buddha, whose blog always gives me something to think about. I bookmark some mindfulness activities.

The kids and I have a good day. My husband checks in on me and acknowledges that I sound much better. The hopelessness has lessened. I start making plans, researching options, clean up the house. It's sunny outside. We share happy hugs and have fun. The storm has passed for now.

To learn more about existential depression and giftedness...

Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals

Gifted Sensitive, in Need of Meaning: Existential Depression

Dabrowski's Theory and Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults

What is Existential Depression?

Monday, July 7, 2014

{GHF Blog Hop} Waiting for "Ready"

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I bought B a new tooth brush. I put it in her bathroom, removed the old one, and went on with my day.

That evening, right around tooth-brushing time, there came a shriek from the bathroom.

"Where is my pink tooth brush? Whose is this red one? Where is mine?"

Followed by a five minute semi-heated discussion on the state of her pink toothbrush, the need for a new one and the strong resistance of a stubborn 6 year old.

Finally, I asked myself, "Is it really worth all of this nonsense?", took the toothbrush from the (thankfully) top of the trash can, cleaned it and gave it back to her.

Peace and clean teeth for all.

I left the new brush in the toothbrush basket, though, just in case.

About two weeks later, B found me, and told me proudly, "Mom, I was finally ready for my new toothbrush! I have been practicing with it, and I am ready to throw my pink one away."

Then she did.

She and I have talked about writing to a pen pal. The parents in one of my favorite facebook groups set up a pen pal list, and I encouraged her to participate.

"You could write to someone who is interested in the same things that you are. You could make a friend in another part of the country, or another country altogether!"

She declined. I though perhaps she didn't want to do the work of writing, or she didn't like it because it was my idea. Finally, she sighed and told me, "Mom. I am just not ready for a pen pal."

About a month later, without any assistance from me, she became pen pals with our next door neighbor, a very nice woman who loves kids. They have been writing what B calls "beautiful letters" to each other weekly.  I asked her about it, and she shrugged nonchalantly and replied, "I was just ready."

She rides her bicycle with the training wheels on. We can tell that she is capable of riding independently. She doesn't feel quite equipped for that step yet. My husband took the trainers off, hoping to force the change...instead she refused to touch the bike for two months until I convinced him to put them back on.  I am confident that she will follow her usual pattern. When she feels confident about it, she will do it, and do it well. Not on our time frame, but on hers. She'll probably take the training wheels off by herself, since she is already better with tools than I am, and I will join her for a bike ride and notice half way through the ride that they are gone.  It's the way she is.

The unknown can be difficult for any kid.  Waiting for your child to adapt to change, or try something new can be difficult for parents. The issue seems like no big deal, you can do this, why is this such a problem? Emotional overexcitability may exacerbate the situation, perhaps for the child and the parent.

So, what do you do?  I am learning to be patient, and to remember that adapting to something new is a process, not a two-second flip of the switch. I plan ahead and move gradually with the toothbrush swap, out-grown clothes removal, and rearranging the house. I give verbal notice in advance when possible. The older two are getting better at revving up their adjustment speed, and understanding that sometimes, they just have to. It's uncomfortable and unfortunate, but occasionally, it just can't be helped. Life is unpredictable, after all.

I am listening when my children tell me that they are not ready, and trusting that they know themselves better than I do. When they feel emotionally and physically equipped for the task at hand, they will accomplish it fantastically, without my prompting or intervention. It's a difficult business to sit back and wait for it to happen. But, I've never seen a mama butterfly hovering over a chrysalis to make sure the caterpillar knows what it's doing, and does it at the right time. The caterpillar senses the right timing, and the result is phenomenal.

It's a beautiful thing to watch happen.

This blog post is part of the GHF July 2014 Blog Hop. Be sure to visit these other insightful bloggers' posts on Gifted Parenting!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

...A Bushel and a Peck, and a Hug Around the Neck

Months ago, B was in the throes of a terrible fit. I was out of answers, out of patience. I told her that I just didn't know what to do with her to get her to behave, and asked her how I could help her to stop.

Tears running down her face, she choked, "hug me."

Thus, what our family refers to as "hug therapy" began.

It isn't a hold-you-down-so-you-don't-break-anything hug, or a get-along-t-shirt style hug. It is a genuine hug, full of love and compassion.

When the girls are edging quickly toward a poor choice, or not listening well, or boiling over into a fit...I give them a hug. When I am at my wits' end, about to venture into the bad parenting zone, I get a hug too.

Feelings get out of control. Emotions build and grow until they explode like a scary, ugly monster. Sometimes, "frustration" becomes an understatement.

During times like this, I take my volcano-girl and envelope her in my arms, let her climb into my lap, and hug her. Some moments, my hug is fiercely returned. Other times, it is fought against. My hug then becomes a loose hug, an "I'm here when you are ready" hug.

image: flickr

B is learning to realize when she is getting out of control, and will growl in the angriest of voices, "I need a hug." Under the growl, is a sad, angry five year old who knows her emotions have escalated too far, but hasn't yet learned how to bring them back down.

The hug is is not a "get out of jail free" card, by any means. It is a moment to pull emotions out of overdrive, and back to a place in which they can be handled more appropriately. A silent reminder that I love and will encourage my girls no matter what they do. Once the crying and flailing have ceased, we revisit the source of the problem and figure out a resolution.

My littlest one often cannot stand a hug; the physical contact would be too much in the high-sensory moment. Sometimes, she simply isn't ready to let go of her fit and fury and find a less tempered spot.  In that circumstance, I give her a quick, loose hug, or just sit beside her, hoping I can express the same love and compassion, without the physical touch. Slowly, though, she is beginning to ask for a hug before she gets to "high alert".

I am not perfect, and dealing with intense emotions day in and day out can wear on me. During some particularly difficult weeks, I feel as though I do not have one more moment of patience left to give. My temperature rises and I launch into the equivalent of a mom fit. As I begin to fume, however, a little 44-inch tall figure tells me, "Mom. You need a hug." And I do.

Now and then, I behave like C, and fight the hug..."I'd love a hug, but I don't have time right now. At this moment, I just need you and your sister to please go put on your shoes like I asked you to so we are only 5 minutes late instead of 15", I will reply in a strained I'm-about-to-lose-it tone.

"Mom", She tells me firmly, "there is ALWAYS enough time for a hug."

Five year olds can be so wise.

I make time for the hug. I feel better. Somehow, we still make it out the door with 20 seconds to spare.

Shel Silverstein had it figured out, didn't he?

Hug-o-War, Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

The tantrums have decreased significantly lately. Cooperation has been on high. The kids are improving, too. ;)

It's working for us. What works for you?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

P is for Perfectionist

C lays on the floor, coloring with a pencil. She screams in exasperation.

"What's wrong, sweetie?"

"My pencil is frustrating me!"

She erases all of her work and begins again. Five minutes later, she throws her pencil across the room in a rage. She stomps off, returns with a pair of scissors and chops the offending piece of paper into teeny-tiny pieces.

"THERE!!", she yells.

I chuckle to myself. That one is a firecracker, and sometimes I see reminders of myself in her. 

 * * * * *

At gymnastics, she is focused.  She wants to complete her skills correctly. She holds up the line while she walks on the beam. She doesn't have 100% balance, and can't bring herself to move to the next activity until she tries it again and gets it right. She steps out of line and lets others take their turn until she can attempt it again.

She is learning, carefully, that these skills...the cartwheels, the backward rolls, the pullovers...are endeavors that take time to learn, and practice to improve.

Sometimes (most times),  perfection doesn't happen on the first try.

In fact, sometimes it doesn't happen on the 56976 try.

* * * * *

B has big expectations for herself. She sets the bar high, and becomes upset with herself if she doesn't fulfill her ambitions on the first pursuit.

She has a new addition facts set to work on.  She sets her two-minute goal. She reaches it, just barely. She sets her one-minute goal - but it is twice as many problems as her two-minute goal. I interrupt her, ask her if she thinks that is reasonable given her progress in the two minute time span.

She gets irritable with me. "I can finish this today, Mom. I just want to learn them all right now."

I back away, give her space. She doesn't complete her one-minute goal. Her face is dark. She asks for a new paper.

"Are you sure? You've already..."

"I didn't do as many as I said I would. Please give me a new paper!"

Three papers later, she stomps off in frustration, only one math problem away from where she wanted to be.

"I don't understand why I can't just know them, Mom. I don't want to have to learn them."

* * * * *

"I don't want to go to gymnastics!"

"But B, you enjoy gymnastics! Your coaches love you!" After asking some questions over several weeks of complaints, and getting a variety of answers, what I believe is the real issue emerges.

"Every time I do a skill, my coach fixes me. I don't like to be fixed. I know how to do it."

I explain that although she is able to do many things, the next step is to work on her form, hold her body just right, strengthen her muscles.

"I can do that myself. I wish they wouldn't fix me."

I send her to class anyway, where she has a great day and practices hard, but makes a subtle face every time she is corrected by a coach.

* * * * *

I can empathize. I am the same way. When I was younger, if I couldn't learn something the first time that I tried it, it was "boring", "not my thing", and all of the other excuses perfectionists use. I couldn't stand being a trainer, by an expert. I could figure it out myself.

Now in my adult life, I work very hard to re-train myself away from this, for my own growth and to be a better example for my girls. It is an obstinate way to approach life, and I am trying to soften my rebel spirit a bit, and allow others to help me and teach me. It still makes me a little squirmy, though.

* * * * *

People handle perfectionism in different ways. C exhibits the more productive version as her father does, the kind that pushes you to be better, do more. B and I struggle with the halting variant that whispers, "Why try? You won't be good enough."

I want my children to strive for excellence; I know they are capable of doing whatever they set their minds to. Perfectionism, though, can be all encompassing and at times, debilitating. My husband seems to have a huge case of Imposter Syndrome, although, of course,  he does not believe it. I have a research compulsion, and read everything I can find on how to help us change the cycle. We can teach these young ones the importance of setting realistic goals, being proud of their accomplishments, and enjoying their interests without the self-deprecating words that perfectionism murmurs.

Then I have to stop and laugh at myself, and ask the hubby if he too sees the irony in my reading "Moving Past Perfectionism" in an attempt to make us better? :)

* * * * *

Some fantastic resources on helping gifted kids cope with perfectionism can be found here:

Perfectionism and the Gifted from Hoagies'

Helping Gifted Students Cope with Perfectionism, from Davidson 

Sylvia Rimm on Perfectionism from SENG

Imposter Syndrome from Hoagies'

flickr, Creative Commons