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Special Needs, Dropping Trou and TV Writing

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You may or may not know that I’m a special needs aide for a public middle school. I’m not sure what is further from my Hollywood writing days of yore – working at a middle school or working with kids like Midu, who only know 50 words of Hindi, no English and are more comfortable dropping trou in front of me than the time “Actor Who Won’t be Named” thought it was perfectly acceptable to unzip his pants while I was handing him pink rewrite pages.

Checking out the package (and not the one I was delivering) I almost said,”Not the pink I was expecting to see.” Instead I went with, “Craft service has mini hot dogs! See you on set!”

Back to Midu, who is just learning his ABC’s, I can’t help but think of my days on set. Similar to my days in the writers room, there’s a beautiful synergy that happens over the lunch tables. We laugh a lot. We tell stories. We trade food. “I’ll give you my apple slices for your tahini!” Granted, I can’t understand a word this kid is saying, but half of the director’s notes went over my head also.

The facts are, when it comes down to it, there’s nothing some hand movements, head nods and a good dose of humor can’t solve. At the end of the day, like with a brutal rewrite, as long as no one has wet themselves in the process and we’ve all had a good laugh, it’s a day well done.

As I dip my toe into the water of teaching higher level special ed next year, I’m excited about the possibilities of having even more impact with kids. Like my home for my own kids, the classroom will be a safe place for my school kids… a place to know that… for a few hours a day… they can take a break from whatever is going on in their own houses and rewrite their life script. Some kids I’ll reach, some kids I won’t. (One kid I work with uses all day to sleep. As long is it’s not someone I’m pitching a show to, I don’t take it personally.)

In the end, though…when thinking about teaching… there’s also this 47 year old kid who has a small fire inside her gut. It’s a desire that says, “While you’re helping your kids achieve their dreams, don’t forget yours.”

What’s mine? I want to get into TV again. It’ll take time. I will need to use summers to write my scripts and school nights to network here and there. But I’m ready. I’m setting a goal to apply for a Warner Bros. Writing program 2018 – 2019. I’ll need two spec scripts. Grace and Frankie, here I come! (I’ll get Grace into rehab even if it’s only on paper!)Wish me luck!

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And after dealing with the Midus of the world, I will have stories.

Until next time, tell me about you. What is your dream?

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

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Learning to Be Content – 1 Grunt at a Time (Mine, Not My Kid’s)

 

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In my quest to adjust to life as a working mom, there’s a lot I haven’t done, including writing here.

Because I am lazier than the gajillion people who refused to get out and vote this election season hate to reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d share something I sent to a friend today. She was on my  mind because, being a good self-indulgent product of the eighties, I’m on my mind a lot. And since I somehow live more peacefully in my Starbuck’s infested/doing too much/oh crap/I forgot to apply to high schools for my kid and now he’s going to be stuck at our local feeder school brain when I think of others, I thought I’d share it with you in case you can relate. (A few words added and deleted for privacy.)

Hi friend – 

Just writing you a quick letter to let you know something my own sponsor said to me today. I call her every morning at 730. If it’s 731 she gets on my case. “You’re late.” It’s annoying and a bit non-graceful. She’s of a different faith than me, a lawyer and pretty much the opposite of overthinking/soft hearted/no boundaries me. But she’s been amazing. She’s like those rubber walls in a pinball machine for me. My emotions get wound back and released high into the game. The ball then falls against those walls and plink! plink! plinks! all over the place. It wants to go straight to the top (that’s where I think the good life is) but it hits those walls. Those walls scream at me, “No. You’re staying right here. Get still. Stop running.” So I do. 
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Today I told her, all in fifteen minutes, how I had all these fears. Fears that I would never land on that TV show or hit the big time to have money to send my kids to private schools and have all these CRAZY FUN experiences if I keep doing what I’m doing as a special needs aide. I need time at night to write again and figure out a way to finish that pilot that’s going to make me that money. (And my book. Whatever happened to that?)
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But then I told her (and this is the truth) that I have never been happier at a job then I am right now. I make a small bit/hour and barely have cash after I buy food for the family and pay some bills, to do anything. And yet, I have people in a community that adore me. That I love right back. That bring me hard boiled eggs from their chicken coop and walk coffee to me on a break. People that have Thanksgiving and Halloween feasts…
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…that have burrito bars for our Hispanic community… arts and crafts and Willy Wonka productions and ridiculous school dances where I get to walk around with eighth graders trailing behind me like baby ducks while Gen Ed kids scream out at me, “Mrs. Frizzle! Mrs. Frizzle! Nice Marilyn Monroe skirt!” (Intentionally refusing to call me Mrs. Frazer based on my… ahem… style of dress.)
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I push wheel chairs and wipe drool and dance with Down Syndrome kids. I am plugged in to love on a daily basis. 
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With that,my life saving sponsor reminded me to remember where I am today. To “Make space between the notes” to be present. She reminded me that sometimes what we think we want is not worth it if where we are we cannot be content.
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As I write this I am still so unsure of my path. Without sounding like a narcissist, writing is where I find so much joy. My blog and my book are my soul. I refuse to lose it. But I’m also thinking that maybe TV isn’t for me. The pushing and shoving for money to validate my ego somehow doesn’t feel as rich as the team work and caring that validates others. I want to live up to my true potential, but what if what “I” thought was supposed to be is not what “God” intended. Is this spiritual enlightenment or just crack talk for the words ‘LOSER at a bigger life.’
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 I’m not sure. But I do know this: There is a peace in doing what I am doing RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Whether that’s painting a snowman with Ethan, my Asperger buddy who can barely read let alone hold a brush, or cooking dinner or having a beautiful Advent for my kids. There is joy in being of service right where I’m at and not flogging myself for being bigger in the world or my bank account. 
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In thinking of my purpose, I must always revisit God’s purpose. In all I do, I must remember the question, “What is my motive?”
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  To quote Paul, 
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“I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.
Hang in.
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Love, Andrea
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If any of you are reading and are not a God person, I still believe God has a purpose for you. If you’re of another faith – or perhaps Christian and think your life should have turned out better because you go to church and help the poor and only buy sheep from catalogs as Christmas gifts for people to sponsor underprivileged villages in South America and have foster kids named Jorge and Wanita Azul – let me remind you that the most Christian of them all hung out with the poor, the wackadoos and died a brutal death. We have to let that fantasy of “I deserve it” go. Life sometimes sucks. Period.
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Tonight, with four tween boys stinking up my house, a pot of rice in the cooker, lights twinkling on my staircase and a husband peacefully watching a show I’d rather die than view, I’m content that it doesn’t suck today.
I hope you are, too.
Here’s to more time here connecting. As always, I’ve missed you.

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

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I’ll Take a Venti Life with 3 Pumps of Sweetness and a Side of Career. Oh, And I Have a Coupon

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So the award for the longest title goes to me.

Also the award for the biggest tantrum on the planet. It has been going on for two days two years. And now it’s ending. What I really needed to do two years ago was give myself a spanking to snap out of it, but I don’t believe in corporal punishment, so instead I whined and complained and basically made myself and many around me miserable.

And then last week I threw water at my argumentative teenager which was my wake up call to give myself a time out on my nuttiness. And here’s what I learned.

Right now I’m exactly where I need to be.

I’m not God so I can stop pretending to run the universe. He has a plan for my kids, my hubby, my job, my entitled sausage of a dog… all of us.

I’m working at Starbucks.

I can stop feeling bad about it. It’s not because I suck at writing or because I couldn’t get something better. It’s because it’s an honest living. I get to stretch that side of me that hates discipline, order and routine and become good at it. Why? Because how can I expect my kids to do the same if I haven’t learned that lesson?

In taking a little time to myself the other day (a long time coming, I might add) it really sank in that my current job situation is tough for a creative like me. But it’s not impossible. And it’s not necessarily a punishment or a burden. It’s quite the opposite.

Getting paid pennies to show up on time, flex new sides of my brain and show professionalism when I want to scream are valuable life skills that I need to be ready when the bigger stuff hits. It’s allowing me to become a warrior in my own life. This is not a crap job. It’s a magic tool belt to refine my spirit. It’s a petri dish for my character defects and because of it I get to grow.

Life is not a Starbucks drink. I don’t get to stand in line with a kushy gift card and order a Venti Existence with Three Pumps of Joy and a Side of Career. (With a gift card no less!) I get to earn it fair and square so I’m ready when the big stuff comes along.

And here’s the real kicker: What if the big stuff is not out there? What if this is the big stuff… this very minute? This very “smells like Pike standing on my feet working it all out in a green apron” minute? Is that good enough?

The very plain answer is yes. Because right here… right now… is where my kids get to be 12 and 13. Where I get to work on my relationship with my spouse. Where I get to serve others and love on my nasty customers and try to make someone else’s world better each and every day.

And in doing so I get the greatest riches of all.

Peace.

Just a few thoughts for today.

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

bookcover profile pic

 

 

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Letting Kids Fail:When to Let Go?

I don’t know about you guys, but the only thing harder than being in middle school myself is watching my kids go through it. It’s painful enough watching my sweet Martha Stewart daughter deal with kids in the hall throwing curse words. Her Victorian sensibilities are under attack on a daily basis and she’s ready to throw up her parasol in despair.

“It’s just too much, Mom!” she cried the other day, fanning herself with yet another tween novel about pioneers and progress. “This is why I refused to go on the nature trip. Why would I deal with the insanity of boy crazy girls and bad food when I could be at home with a book and a cup of tea in front of a warm cozy fire?”

I wish I were joking.

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Then there’s my son. He’s about as far a cry from Jane Eyre as Snickers is to junk food. Bring on the hump day tee shirts. Bring on the Pokemon hats with the bright yellow balls and the Pikachu-themed Nintendo DS’s. No skateboards and skinny jeans for this kid. Add in some tics and you’ve got yourself about as far out of the social circle as one can get.

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A friend of mine, whose son has Asperger’s, told me that her son really began to shine when she put him in an alternative school.

“My kid was a duck trying to fit into a swan pond,” she told me, with nary a hint of frustration or defeat. (Apparently going through cancer can cure you of a lot of things that once would bring you down. But I digress.) “Now he goes to a school that’s only full of ducks. He can waddle to his heart’s content.”

This thinking seems completely reasonable. Why should a kid suffer for being who he is? I 100% applaud her decision.

But for my kids and my situation, here’s the real sticky mess – the Oreo filling in the center of two very logical crackers: “What if a little bit of suffering is what my kids need to grow and become strong?”

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In her book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, Jessica Lahey talks about how we, as parents, can let our kids fight their own battles to become self-sufficient adults who don’t crumble at the first sign of adversity.

The Amazon description reads:

“In the tradition of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, this groundbreaking manifesto focuses on the critical school years when parents must learn to allow their children to experience the disappointment and frustration that occur from life’s inevitable problems so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.

Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call to deliver forgotten assignments, who challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher and writer Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.

Overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education.”

It’s tough. On one hand, I don’t want to hover. But where is that fine line between letting a kid learn his part to avoid feeling like a victim, and when is a kid truly a victim? If you’re like me, you know only too well your child’s short comings. “I can tell my kid that his new hair do makes him look like a candidate for the short bus, but if that punk with the flat top makes fun of his bowl cut he’s going to hear it from mama’s best side!”

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Bottom line, like this picture of me (taken by said wacky son), life can sometimes feel sideways. It’s tough to stand back and watch my kids get hurt. But when I’m truly being honest – who is getting hurt more? Them or me?

Trying to keep mean children and sadness away from them is like trying to stop the ocean. On good days I surf those choppy waves like a pro. On bad days I go under. But most days, I aim to sit on the beach and remember that my kids have had their swim lessons. It’s time to let them go a bit deeper into the water. And when they need a breath, I’ll be right on the shore – warm towel in hand.

(But not for that mean kid in seventh grade whose name will go unnamed. That kid can be freezing and suck it.)

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

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Is Your Kid Joyful or Feral? It’s a Fine Line!

 

It’s Saturday. I slept until 10am – a rarity for this tired mama.

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I just lingered under the covers until I felt like shuffling toward the kitchen for a lovely cup of Starbucks in my favorite mug. It was, dare I say, peaceful? Which of course could only mean one thing:

There would be hell to pay.

My son was found hunched over a video screen with his buddy, Tyler.

Me: “Stink, how long have you been on that thing? Be honest.”

Him: “About one hour.”

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Me: (Attempting to be calm.) “Really? Because isn’t one of your friends coming over at 1 to play with you?”

Him: “No.”

Me: Sigh of relief.

Him: “Two more are coming. Holden and Adrian.”

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Me: (Blood now rising like hot air balloon…. in Hades.) “If you only get two hours/day on the computer (picture Patience with Control Issues rising) and you’re now playing for one hour (insert the image of a harpie on steriods) then do you mean to tell me you’re only going to play for one hour when your buddies come over?”

Him: (Instantly shutting down the screen) “Sorry, Mom.”

Me: (Determined not to go into a full on lecture. Going into a full on lecture.) 2

“You are 13! Thirteen! I don’t want to micromanage you, dude, but apparently I’m going to have to because if I can’t trust you to be responsible with your gaming limits then clearly I can’t trust you in the future when you are driving and going to work… if you even qualify for anything besides playing Mario Cart… and really is this what I am going to have to do deal with first thing in the morning FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE?

Him: (Calm as a cucumber) “No, Mom. Just for today.”

Me: (Taking a deep breath) “Okay. You’re right. I’m sorry I over reacted.”

Him: (Hugging me) “It’s okay.” (Then) “To make it up to me, can I have a few more minutes?”

Con artist.

I could have gone loco. (Like just yesterday, when I had the grand idea that the way to stop an arguing ADHD teenager is to put my hands on his mouth and see if it would block the noise from coming through the pie hole. Um, note: That totally doesn’t work.)

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Instead, that’s when I took the high road. I put my arms around him, took a deep breath, told him how much I loved him, and invited him into a moment of prayer to bond and connect with our Lord, Jesus then reached my long arms down and pinched his butt.

He retaliated by grabbing a bag of gluten free bread and smacking me on the side of the noggin.

GAME. ON. (And this one didn’t require a plug.)

The moral of the story: Sometimes turning a potentially explosive moment into a joyful one can keep you from killing your offspring.

Underlying points of the moral of the story: I can be controlling sometimes. The kid is not a baby. I don’t need to be policing his every move.

The flip side of my controlling tendencies: If I don’t teach him consequences and boundaries, who will? And even more to the point (yes, I over think… like you don’t, readers?) if I don’t keep my anger in check, what’s the point of keeping him off the games in the first place if he’s only going to deal with a crazy mother who screams at him first thing in the morning with bad hair and no caffeine in her pre-menopause body GOD HELP US ALL!!!?

No, as Farmer Stacey always reminds me, relationship trumps being right.

This kid will be out of my house of my house (idealistically) in five years. While I want him to grow into a man of discipline and respect, I want him to remember being a boy who experienced silliness, laughter and love.

For me, this area is difficult, because I don’t always have the most boundaries with myself.

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I don’t care about time restraints and house tasks and being on time for important meetings (Dear God, please let me work on my time issues) as much as I value chatting up the random shopper at Trader Joes about her guinea pig business and the pros and cons of fresh tumeric vs. cholesterol meds. If only I could be paid for being a chatty Kathy human being instead of a warehouse worker!  Life would be perfect! (Oh yeah, I scored the perfect job for me! More to come!)

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How about you, mamas?

Where is your happy balance in this parenting deal? How do you find the balance between a kid who is joyful and a kid who is feral?

The line is shaky, is it not? (Especially when you have a kid like mine.)

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Until next time, May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

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Got Hope? Live Outside the Box! (The Hope Box, That Is)

 

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I woke up yesterday to more clothes in my living room than Trump has haters. The reason? My kids had the duty on Sunday of moving every stitch of them from my closet upstairs to the couch to make room for my daughter to move her clothes into her soon to be “new” bedroom. This would not be a problem except I was now faced with the task of putting 1000 pieces of crap into a vintage armoire that holds – at best – 100 pieces.

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I could, of course, do what most normal people would do and get rid of some items. But that would be a tragedy. First, there was my mother’s size 11 gold wedding shoes from 1969. They will never fit me, but I take such great joy knowing that she once wore these sparkly clod hoppers with a bright pink wedding dress. Oh, that dress? I have that, too.

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And then there’s my nana’s size 2 navy pumps. I’ll never fit in those either, but they make me smile. How did such a tall granddaughter come through her genetic line?

Add in the wool overcoats lined in bright plumages of pink and purple Victorian roses… the silk panda scarf… the “I Love My Crazy Friends” tee shirt…the XL puff skirt to wear under a dress I don’t have and the mis-matched China tea cups picked up from a thrift store for $1.99 each.

Yup, that’s a whole lot of “crap”. And yet, that crap fertilizes my heart and keeps it blooming. Running my fingers through the fabric reminds me that it’s okay to slow down just a bit and just enjoy.

When I was 11, I’d spend hours sitting on the floor of my bedroom,  sifting through my hope chest. In it I’d place all the trinkets I hoped to use in my future life of awesome sauce: handkerchiefs, tea sets, lavish picture frames or art books.

While I’m not 11 anymore, there’s still a girl inside the grownup who longs for the stillness of dreaming. And so, rather than just shove all of my items in an over sized bag and donate it to the local Good Will in impulsive “THIS HAS TO GO NOW” fashion, I took one section at a time. Hats in one bag and belts in another. Those would go at the bottom of the closet until hooks were purchased.

Winter stuff went in the garage. That would go in the attic until I could afford adequate outdoor storage to access it more easily.

Mom’s wedding dress, grandma’s sweater and all the shoes – they would be placed in a box in the attic until shelves were made in my new room to store them.

Underwear and bras – side table of the bed.

Tee shirts, pjs and pants – TV room! Cause where else but a 3-drawer plastic Target bin would my every day clothes go? I would not stress. I would find a better spot another day.

Everything else went in the armoire or in a bag to donate.

The result of this process was nothing other than good old fashioned intention – that intention being that while I want to honor my needs at this time, I’m passing the baton to another 11 year old who has hopes and dreams. (Out with my salmon, in with her pink!)

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This 11 year old loves music and singing and art. She loves tea cups and lace and books.

She dreams of a corner nook to sketch with her stuffed animals and a roll top desk to correspond with her Aunt MaryAnne (whose name she still writes as “Anut MaryAnne… who am I to argue?). No one understands dreams and goals this better than I, and so accommodations will be made. Yes, there will even be space for a bright pink carousel horse named “Pink DiMayo” because who doesn’t need such an animal in their Victorian Palace?

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I might not have a hope chest anymore, but when I look at my daughter’s face, I have more joy than can ever be housed in a cedar box.

And that, my friends, makes living in my new tiny box of a bedroom worth every single bit of lost space.

One more

(my little Pip, performing as Wendy in Peter Pan a few weeks back. She was radiant if I do say so myself!)

What about you?

What do you dream of? What makes your heart sing?

Until next time, May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

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Uncategorized

ADHD – Another Day Having Discussions

 

I used to read that the “co-morbid” conditions of T.S. were far more frustrating than the tics themselves.

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As defined, co-morbid means the annoying other conditions that make you want to poke your eyes out with ice picks the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient. For kids with Tourettes, this could be ADHD, OCD, Autism, ADD and insane awesomeness.

Stink deals with the last two on the list, and let me tell you, it’s been a crazy year. If I was able to guide him through the chaos, drama and joy that accompanies kinder through sixth grade, let’s just say that seventh grade has proven to be the final leak in a boat that was destined to sink without a major overhaul in the floorboard.

Having a kid with T.S. and ADD, while being a working parent with a little bit of ADHD herself (I know… biiiig shock) is kind of like fixing a boat’s floor while still on the water. It can be done, but the progress is slow. (Not to mention tiring. How many buckets of water can you scoop and throw over the side while steering the ship and feeding the crew?)

The best bet to fixing that leak is to get that boat out of the ocean all together. Take a break from the swells and breathe while your vessel chills out on dry docks. Get a professional boat repair man (or woman – no prejudice here!). Invest in his advice, buy the supplies to keep it fresh and clean once it’s back on the water, and absolutely join a hole-in-the-boat support group. After all, there’s a decent chance that at some point that gash in the floorboard will come back. You’ll want another mama to cruise by in her motorboat when this happens.  You’ll want that lifeline and the invitation to a cup of coffee in her well stocked cabin to catch your breath until your own boat works again.

Since life is not apparently perfect, I’m kind of stuck in the middle between shore and open water. I’ve been organizing my own life, to help organize Stink’s, and we’ve made progress. I am avoiding a lot of frustration by accepting life on life’s terms. I am not focusing on what he’s behind on in school. (Um, everything.) Instead, I’m focusing on helping him get caught up with the goal that he’ll be doing this himself at some point.

This means coming home each day after school and doing his work in the same spot. It means having him diligently utilize his planner so that he’s not relying on his own brain to remember every little detail of his “overwhelming” (his words) seventh grade schedule.

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The challenge with using a planner is that you have to remember to take your planner home. And then, here’s the real rub: you have to find it in the first place. And when that task seems too monumental, you just throw yourself on the floor and scream like a Carolina fan reach out to an educator who knows you’re doing your best to help your kid.

Here’s an email exchange I had yesterday with one of his educators, minus the teacher’s name because, you know, these teachers have nothing better to do than stalk their ADD student’s mom’s blog.

Hi Teacher Fabulous-

The last piece of my kid’s organization puzzle is his missing planner. He is out sick today so when he’s back tomorrow I will have him check his locker. If it’s not there, is there an extra he can have? If not, I will buy one and he will be held accountable.
If there is any homework you need him to do today, please feel free to let me know. 
Thanks!

Andrea

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Hi Andrea,
I don’t have any extra planners.  I gave my last one away a few weeks ago.
We are practicing percents in a new packet today.  Do you want to pick it up later?  Let me know.
Thanks,
Teacher Fabulous
** 
 
Hi again –  
 

Yes, I will pick it up today after school if that works for you? If not, you can leave it in the office. Whatever is best. 

Can I just pick up a planner at an educational store?
THIS KID. He better get with the program or I’m returning him. I have books to write.
Andrea
**
Andrea – 

I have to supervise out front after school.  I’ll do my best to remember to bring it out there with me so you can get it then.  

I would make your own life easy and just go to Target or Walmart for a planner.  
There’s a thirty day return policy…..sorry, you can’t return him!  🙂
Teacher Fabulous
*** 
 
Oh for fucks sake. 
Andrea
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Until next time, May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

book cover