Thinking, Playing, Reading

I loved this article that Melissa linked to on her site.  I have been thinking a bunch about college and college prep lately now that I have had one graduate, one finishing her second year and one starting the college visit/application/testing process.

I realize that a lot of what we parents worry about and think has to happen before college, and what is going to happen during college isn't really reality.  There are checklists of course of things that the kids need for dorms, and things they must be able to do (laundry) but in the grand scheme of life, these are inconsequential.  For instance, my oldest didn't know how to do laundry when we started college-I'm not sure Abbey did either-but I knew they could figure that out on their own by asking someone, or reading the actual dials.  People make such a big deal out of the things that don't matter, I guess, is my point.  So talking to people, being confident enough and friendly enough to say, "Hey can you help me with this", or just smart enough to figure things out on their own is helpful.  And it is different today than when we were in college, because mom was not a quick text away.  So that is enough learning opportunity-as parents we need to be able to balance ourselves when it comes to promoting independence with back-up support-that's so important.

I will say this for sure-college is about growth, huge growth, when it comes to learning about their peers and living with others.  It's about learning to manage time, and learning how to make good personal decisions.  I've talked a lot with different parents and what they've heard from their college kids.  Things are definitely scarier in terms of bad decision that kids can make.  I can use this is one example-when I went to college I saw people smoking marijuana one time, and the only alcohol that was present was wine coolers, and cheap beer.  Yes, damage could be done with that type of alcohol, but how much damage?  As much damage as straight vodka?  From what I have heard, hard liquor and marijuana and other drugs aren't as scarce as they were back in my time.  I've heard and read many stories about alcohol poisoning, something I never heard about when I was in college. Recently a beautiful girl was found dead at a campus in my state from alcohol poisoning-a freshman with a wonderful future ahead of her.  And the next weekend at her campus dozens of kids were in the ER for alcohol poisoning-I don't think this is rare anymore on weekends across our country.  (This is a whole other subject-when I was in college we were all poor enough to make our $ stretch like crazy just for meals-so if anyone was buying alcohol it was cheap-where are these kids getting the funds to buy all this? Parents.)

These are the things that we parents need to talk about more than anything-'not being an idiot' is what I call this talk.  Knowing how to still have fun and not drink or if you choose to do so (and if you are under 21 you are breaking the law)-well, don't be an idiot. The consequences of lower inhibitions from alcohol etc. is all on topic.  I find the way so far that has worked best is using real life examples, and discussing these-why would someone do this or that, the pain that was caused to others from this choice, the consequences of the action and how that affected that person's life forever, and just treating your own brain and body with respect.

On the chance that I am scaring someone, it does seem to me that one thing that has changed-peer pressure isn't too much of a thing anymore.  That it's not "cool" to pressure peers to do things or make them feel like the odd one out.  This is a good change, isn't it?  Because I definitely felt that in high school and college.  Maybe that also has to do with the friends kids keep.

The personal growth in college can be huge-but it ebbs and flows for sure.  Sometimes I have thought-Alleluia! and other times I have felt like one step up, two steps back in terms of management skills, and independence.  For example, I found that my kids became worse at some things-here they had to be more independent at making their own meals at different times so if they needed a lunch or breakfast and I was busy or driving someone somewhere they fixed their own.  In college, assuming they are living in a dorm, they now visit a cafeteria with a ton of different options all made and waiting (and paid) for them at any time of day.

There is a good argument too, that the concept of college life-this age group of kids living together in dorms etc., is an absolutely crazy invention-or what it has turned into-the culture of college- vs what "college" really was, is crazy.  And I could agree with that also.  These are still kids without full brain development.  And college is really about learning stuff.  That has nothing to do with sports, Greek life, dorms and parties.

These are just my thoughts-I am NO expert, maybe by the time Patrick gets through college I will be more confident in what I know about college prep and maturation during this time.  I think by then I will have hit every college-my oldest's experience at a small private school has been different in ways from my daughter's experience at a huge state university.  And knowing our children, what their strengths and stressors are-and having those good conversations with them-that is most important.

I think if I had read that list that I linked to I would have panicked in some ways-are they ready, do they have this all mastered? I think we have to realize that mastering all these skills continues into the college years.  There is much learned from experience and trial and error and mistakes and confidence is gained from this-just like the way we are still learning about life now.

On to fun things:

Janey is so cute right now with her imagination-I spy often and hear her playing mommy or school or shop lady or waitress.

She loves envelopes and stationary and little pads of paper.  This is so easy to buy cheap at the grocery store.  She has a wallet and a few purses.  (I have to find her a waitress pad!)

She is really really into playing with her borrowed Fisher Price doll house (thank you Aunt Julie!). Everyday she has it all spread out and every girl and boy and mom and dad named and they go on adventures every day.  Hours and hours.

I bought her this book after reading some reviews on a home school site and we love it.  It has a little duck hidden on every page-we have had a few other books like this over the years (this one is geared toward younger kids) and my kids have always just loved finding the hidden item. There are also so many opportunities to count the apples or the chicks etc.  We read it at least once a day.

Patrick and I are still working on Big Red.  That boy and his dogs.

Andrew is reading this book and really liking it.


Ordinary Days-Sunshine and Books on the Beach

We were lucky enough to take off for a sort of last-minute vacation to Hilton Head-we haven't visited in about 9 or 10 years and I missed that place!  We stayed in the condo complex we have stayed in the last few times, Shorewood, because it's on the beach, close to the little shops and the pool is heated. I love Hilton Head because we can ride bikes on the beach when the tide is out and we took some long long long bike rides.  We had gorgeous weather, sunshine every day and it was just perfect.  PLUS we had only four kids in our minivan, leaving the older two behind (work and school) and there was SO much room.  Which resulted in very little complaining, and no one punching each other or left on the side of the road (well, we've never had that, not that I haven't been tempted.)

This is the first vacation in 22 years that I've been able to read books on the beach or at the pool.  I've dreamt of this moment!  And I read five to make up for those two decades.  I brought two, one of which I was halfway finished, and then Andrew let me borrow his Kindle because I was desperate, which I am forever grateful.  I am also forever grateful to Jeff who played with the kids every single minute and went to the grocery store and made every meal.  Janey was a pool girl this vacation and she floated and played for hours upon hours in the pool while I sat by the side and read and the boys played at the beach.  It was SO nice.  As much as I loved seeing all the beautiful pregnant moms and sweet little babies and toddlers, I must say I enjoyed immensely having a little less intense time at the beach.  

Sand burials.

The boys went fishing a few days and saw quite a few alligators and came home with wild tales of stolen fish and scary moments.

Greg Russell, a Hilton Head tradition.  (That is not him up there, he hasn't arrived yet in this pic.) Janey finally got up the nerve to sit on stage and listen to him play his guitar and sing funny songs, and a few songs in she was clapping along and having a great time.

Junk food galore, another tradition.  I'm on a massive detox.  Jeff loves Publix and thankfully there was one a few miles away.  I can't even tell you how many loaves of White Mountain bread we went through but it was more white bread than any family should eat in a single week.  And we've also discovered Publix generic ice cream and I am thankful we do not have a Publix up north here or I'd be in big trouble.

Janey brought down her own romance novel found in the condo and read it to us.  The story sounded a lot like Mary Poppins.

BOOKS!!!  Thank you for all your book recommends last post-I can't wait to start on my list.

This is a short, sweet, uplifting read perfect for the beach.  I ADORED Mrs. Brown, everything about her-her small town ways and regimented life and her unrelenting kindness.  

This was a great, LONG, but great book about a farmer who takes in two wayward girls and whose life is changed forever by it.  The prose is beautiful, Amanda Coplin is one of those gifted writers who conveys emotion in a beautiful way.

I didn't read this, Andrew (13) did and LOVED IT.  He told me this was the first time that he couldn't wait to read a book, instead of find something else to do, (and he is a great reader!) and that he now loves non-fiction-something he didn't think he would like.  (I get frustrated with all the sci-fi and fantasy for boys this age so I was thrilled to hear this.)

I loved this book-it's a WWII love story between a girl and a boy who were raised as siblings, one of them  Jewish, one Catholic.  There was a lot of factual information worked into the book that I didn't know-how many Catholics sheltered Jews in their homes and in convents.  I couldn't put this one down.

This was such a good book.  A Scotland girl finds herself living with a family on a farm during the Dust Bowl, hired as a school teacher-she falls in love and a family is torn apart.

Back to routine, and lunches and soccer practice and an incredibly busy April...and lots of rain. But it was so nice to get away and recharge and remember what sun feels like.