The one where Bentley turns 11 and the Birds and the Bees arrive.

:: birthday boy, 2006 ::

Eleven years ago today, the doctor looked at me and said, "He's not going to come out on his own. Your birth canal is very narrow so we need to do a C-Section."

The only place on my entire body that is narrow is my birth canal. That sounds about right.

Bentley safely made his way into the world, narrow canal be damned. He had a little trouble breathing at first and his right eyelid wouldn't open all of the way, but he was here and he was ours.

Bentley is eleven years old today and I don't like it. I'll admit it. I'm one of those moms who doesn't love the idea of her little boy growing up and yes, I realize how selfish that sounds. But turning eleven means that he is basically a pre-teen. Turning eleven means that he's getting closer to driving and dating. Turing eleven means that it's time to sit him down and talk to him about things like body odor and girls.

Bentley is a quiet, unassuming boy. I once mentioned to Derek that I doubted Bentley thought much about girls yet. Derek just grinned and said, "Honey, you know better than that." And I do. I know that even though he is still just a little boy, he is already being exposed to lots of things that are beyond his chronological years. Sure, as parents we try to stay on top of and know about everything that his mind is ingesting, but let's face it...we can't be with our children all of the time and we don't hear or see everything that our kids hear or see every second of every day.

Back when I was still teaching, I overheard a conversation between several of the 5th grade boys in my class, the same grade Bentley is in now.

"You know Mountain Dew makes it hard," one of the boys told the others. And by "it" he of course was referring to his penis.

Yeah, 5th grade boys are the best. A constant source of amusement and amazement. As much as I wanted to correct them that day, I chose not to for lots of reasons. I imagined that most of them would go home, test their theory, and find out the truth on their own. No need for me to ruin it for them.

I can almost guarantee that Bentley is already learning about sex, including all sorts of crazy Mountain Dew type theories. At a young age we are exposed to lots of information about boys and girls and sex. And then when you get older, if you're lucky, you learn the truth.

My cousin was the one who taught me about the Birds and the Bees. She is four years older and even though we only saw each other every couple of months or so, she was like an older sister to me. I'll never forget laying under the covers in our grandparents front bedroom, the sheets tucked under our heads, our knees propped up to make a tent, the glow of her Casio watch night light giving us just enough light to see. It was there that my cousin taught me the basics about sex and that I had no interest in any part of it.

My mom had already given me the "talk" (or her version of it anyway.) She bought a book about body change that was extremely vague and lacked essential details (granted, it was the early 1980's.) On the pages where it showed a cartoon drawing of a naked boy, she used her hand to cover "it" up. And by "it" I mean his penis.

My mom wanted to teach me about sex, and she also didn't want to teach me about sex. I don't blame her. What parent actually wants to teach their children about sex? The older I got, my mom's "talk" was reduced to the reverse of a Nike commercial: Just don't do it.

It's no different in 2013 than it was in 1983--if you don't teach them the truth, someone else will. Will having the talk with Bentley be weird and strange and embarrassing? Yes. Will I make his father do most of the talking? Yes. And when together we read the book that we bought to share with him I'll have to resist the urge to cover up the pictures.

Tonight we will eat cake and celebrate our sweet boy. And in the near future, his dad will plan a day for the two of them to go on a hike where eventually, when they reach the top of the mountain, they will sit for a water break and start the first of many talks to come.

And I will nervously sit at home wishing that he was three year old again.

The one where I talk about the beach...and traffic.

There are things to dislike about California. The traffic, the cost of living, earthquakes, and the traffic, sigh, good Lord the traffic. But like many things in life, we accept the good with the bad. Because although there might be some bad (i.e., the traffic) the good makes it all worth it.

I remember when Derek was being interviewed for the job at UCLA. The coach hiring him did his best to warn us.

"It's expensive out here. The traffic's really bad and you'll probably have to commute because you won't be able to afford living anywhere near campus. Which means fighting the traffic on the 405 every day which can be really bad. And gas is expensive and so are the homes. Did I mention how bad the traffic will be?"

But we didn't hear a word. We were excited. We were moving to the ocean. And even if we couldn't afford to live near the ocean, then at least we'd be living close enough to drive there. Even if it meant fighting the traffic.

When we first arrived, we were shocked by the amount of Californians that told us that they never go to the beach. By the time we moved here, most of the beach gear was gone at Wal-Mart and Target, so we asked new neighbors and other people that we had just met if we could borrow theirs.

Do you have any beach gear that we could borrow? What? No? You don't own any? You never go to the beach? But it's California. You do realize where you live right? Yes, (sigh) we've heard about the traffic...  

So, for our first trip to the beach as Californians we were forced to buy a beach umbrella and a few sand toys for the boys at the gas station across the street from the beach. Maybe we were just a bunch of bright-eyed, landlocked Okies, but to us living in California and never going to the beach was like living in Oklahoma and never taking cover during a tornado. It just doesn't make any sense.

We are trying our best to raise beach boys even though we live a good 45 minutes away from the coast. Almost seven years into California living, we now own 2 surf boards, 2 boogie boards, 3 wet suits, 2 beach umbrellas (one of which is the original gas station umbrella), 5 beach chairs, and enough buckets and shovels to keep the kids digging for a good 10 minutes at least.

Yes, going to the beach is work. You've gotta plan ahead, pack snacks, pack the car, remember enough towels, pack enough drinks, pack enough sunscreen, don't forget the hats, remember the sand toys, and the wetsuits, and on, and on, and on. A day at the beach is never a day at the beach for the parents who are trying to make sure that you have everything you need to enjoy your day at the beach.

And do you know what has slowly happened? Each year that goes by we seem to go to the beach less and less. We are becoming Californians.

But then you get a four day weekend and you decide to head down to Laguna Beach and you are quickly reminded that God moved you here for many reasons, and one of them is to enjoy and be blessed by this amazing place in which you get to live. California isn't perfect, but it is beautiful.

Our boys have no idea how cool it is to be growing up here.

But they weren't kidding about the traffic.

Family Science Night

There are many things that impress us about the boys' school. Our school does a great job of the "extras" and by "extras" I'm referring to the many things that the school does that goes over and beyond the expected. When you choose to send your kids to a private school and start writing a big fat tuition check every month there are a lot of expectations, so for the school to go over and beyond those expectations is pretty impressive.

You are probably thinking, "Sure there are impressive extras. It's a private school." There's no arguing with that. Private schools definitely have resources that public schools currently do not (i.e., money.)  But our old public school had extras too. The difference? At our public school, the PTA coordinated and paid for the extras, and since I was on the PTA Executive Board it was hard to really ever be impressed with or fully enjoy our own work.

At our private school, the teachers and staff handle all of the extras. (Unless it's a party, then I have to be a 5th grade Party Mom, my latest school volunteering gig. You can take the mom out of the PTA, but will never completely take the PTA out of the mom.) But this particular extra, Family Science Night, was all about participating, no planning or partying required. I was able to just enjoy being there with my boys.

We learned about Optical Illusions. 

We experimented with creating a boat our of aluminum foil to see how many pennies you could float without sinking your craft.

Tried to build the tallest Marshmallow Tower out of toothpicks.

Found out what kind of fingerprints we had (lots of loops and swirls in our family.)

And even though they bickered about how to exactly create a suspension bridge out of masking tape and straws and didn't have a lot of patience when trying to get a paper clip to float, we had fun.

When it comes to impressive extras shared together as a family, that's really all that matters.

:: photo credit Palmer Freeman::

iTouches at the table.

:: photo found here ::

We have a rule at our house: No iTouches or any other type of electronic device at the dinner table, at home or otherwise. Is there a time when it is ever appropriate? No, not really. Have we ever been guilty of allowing this? Absolutely. Have we succumbed to the "here just play this and be quiet" pressure? You betcha. Did that make it okay?'t.

When our kids were babies we did what most parents do; we did anything to keep them from bothering and irritating every other single person in the restaurant. Then came the time when our boys grew out of the age where disrupting other patrons was a concern. It was no longer necessary to pull out the board books or the plastic keys to keep our kids happy until their meal arrived.

Saturday night after church we went out to dinner as a family. The boys know our rule, but that didn't stop them from asking to play on my phone while we waited for our table. Instead, we made them sit there, patiently waiting. This required their father and I to stay off of our phones. This is called being a good example. Are we always perfect about that? No, but we try.

After our wait we finally sat down in between two other families. And wouldn't you know it, the kids at the tables on either side of ours were all on some type of Apple device. The adults were talking to each other enjoying their meals, while their kids played their games totally disengaged from everything around them. It was like the kids weren't even there. The kids could been home with a sitter and the parents could have really been enjoying themselves. I'm just sayin'...

But the story gets better. One of the mothers sitting next to her child who was probably around 10 years old, didn't even make her child stop playing his game to eat his dinner.  As he continued to play, she began feeding him like he was a baby! His head was down the whole time looking down at the screen while she carefully navigated the noodles into his mouth encouraging him to take a bite.

I stared in horror. I couldn't look away. His arms weren't broken. He wasn't handicapped or disabled in any way. He was perfectly capable of feeding himself. It...was...crazy. There was a fleeting moment when I wanted to look at her, mother to mother, and say, "What in the world are you doing? If you have any respect for yourself as a mother or a person, please stop. For the love of all mothers, please stop!" Luckily my sushi arrived and my Lotus on Fire roll saved the day.

You're probably wondering what my family did at dinner that night. We talked to one another. We enjoyed our sushi and enjoyed our conversation. Bentley tried a spicy tuna roll. Palmer complained about cooked cabbage being in his noodles. And Derek spilled his wine while helping Bentley with his chopsticks. It was a lovely evening.

Know the last thing I ever want to be is judgmental, especially when it comes to parenting differences. And I'm certainly not going to judge anyone on this particular issue because there will probably be a time when my boys will be found with a phone in their hands at the dinner table. We aren't perfect and we don't expect others to be either. We just know that when we sit down to dinner, we would prefer that our kids not invite Plants or Zombies to be at the table with us. Oh, and they also have to feed themselves. We're weird that way.

paying attention part 10: limbo

Before taking my blogging hiatus, I had started to tell Bentley's story. In nine different posts I shared his diagnosis of ADHD-Inattentive, the struggle to find a doctor, our issues to medicate or not medicate, and the worst struggle of all: teaching him how to swallow a pill. (Yeah, I'm not kidding. That was the worst.)

We are now two years into his diagnosis and things are...good. Actually, they are really good. We ended up changing his medication one more time. Like many conditions that can be managed with medication, it takes a while to find which medication is best. Bentley is on his third medication, Concerta, and this one finally seems to be the right fit. There are still side effects, his lack of appetite and trouble falling asleep, but he started taking a second medication at night that helps with both of those. Wasn't our first choice to put him on not only one but two medications, but after trying it for a few weeks we noticed great improvements. Great improvements are hard to deny.

But medication isn't the only fix. We also met with a couple of therapists. After reading about the benefits of something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that works well in conjunction with medication, I went on the hunt for a therapist. This type of therapy works to help kids change the thought patterns that can keep them from staying on task and focusing. It also helps with other areas that kids with ADHD/ADD struggle with like time management and organization.

Much like my hunt for a doctor to diagnose him, finding a therapist wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. I would love nothing more than to help my son myself.  I wish that I could just read a few books and be able to help him focus, help him pay attention, stay on task, stay organized. But I can't. I am his parent, not his therapist.

The first therapist we found who claimed to treat kids with ADHD/ADD didn't even know what CBT was when I brought it up.

"Now, what is that exactly?" the therapist asked me during our first appointment.

"I read that CBT is one of the best therapies to help kids who have my son's diagnosis of ADHD-Inattentive," I replied. "And, well, you said that you worked with kids who had been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD."

"I'm just not familiar with that particular therapy." he said.

I have a problem with going to a professional where I know more about his field of study than he does.

"Actually," he said, "I think Bentley might have control issues. Does anyone else in your family have control issues?"

"Yes, well, me. Yep, I come from a long line of controllers. We're not controllers. We just want it the way we want it." I stopped talking and tried to force a laugh but it came out sounding manic, which is never good when you're sitting in a therapist's office.

I couldn't get out of his office fast enough.

Finding professionals in the fields of medicine and education that have been trained/educated about ADHD/ADD in children has been far from easy. This has shocked me more than anything else about Bentley's diagnosis. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 10 kids has ADHD and that since 2007, 5.4 million children have been officially diagnosed. That's not a small number. In a school of 500 kids, there are at least 50 that have ADHD/ADD. That's a lot, people.

We eventually found a therapist who was familiar with CBT, had worked with kids with ADHD-Inattentive before, and was willing to work with our son. We met with her a few times and Bentley seemed to like her, mostly because she had a cool LEGO game in her office that he got to play with while he was there. After four or five meetings, she told me in not so few words that Bentley was good to go.

Really? That's it? Um, okay. Sigh. So much for that.

Did I try to find someone else? No. Bentley was about a month into the new school year and seemed to be doing fine. Better than fine:

  • he was staying on task at school
  • he was doing homework without being reminded
  • he was no longer bringing home unfinished school work
  • he liked school
  • he wasn't a discipline problem
  • he was making good grades
  • he had friends
  • he was happy

I mean, I have friends with kids without ADHD/ADD who don't have it so good.

Maybe our boy was getting better. Maybe that LEGO game did more for him than I realized.

more to come...

list 16. 16 things I learned from my dog.

1.  Start every day with excitment, even if it's only to go outside.

2.  Always be happy to see people.

3.  Multiple naps throughout the day are a good thing.

4.  Don't be ashamed to show your need for love and attention.

5.  Listen.

6.  Obey.

7.  Take long walks.

8.  Don't bite.

9.  Don't beg.

10.  Don't bark at others.

11.  Eat whatever you are served.

12.  Too many treats will make you sick.

13.  Sometimes sitting in the front yard, enjoying the view, is enough.

14.  Don't pee on the carpet or do anything else that makes others unhappy.

15.  Loyalty matters.

16.  Protect the ones you care about.