Monthly Archives: October 2010

When kids help and aren’t such a help :)

This morning I started taking dishes out of the drainer, and noticed that a number of them weren’t very clean. Usually I do the dishes, but last night ds8 wanted to surprise me and spent a long time in the kitchen washing a huge sinkful of dishes.

This was particularly nice since I can really see him maturing into his own person – as the typical youngest child personality (he was the youngest for almost four years before his next three brothers were born), he had a strong tendency to avoid work and tell me he can’t do what he’s asked to do, that it’s too hard.  So the significance of him doing so much work that he wasn’t asked to do, doing it cheerfully, and doing it voluntarily shows he is growing out of that stage.

What do you do when your child helps and it’s not up to your standards?  Firstly, remember that: a) the purpose of them helping isn’t to assist you, but to learn the skills they need to do, and b) to encourage them them so they have a positive feeling in the future about similar jobs.  Don’t get frustrated that you’ll have to do the work all over again.  It’s irrelevant.  What matters is the opportunity you’re giving your child to develop a new skill and sense of competence.

But when the work does have to be done again (as it did today), don’t let them see you doing it.  There was a good bit of grease left on the dishes, so I waited until he was busy somewhere else for a while, and then did all the dishes again.  When he came back into the kitchen, I sincerely thanked him again and told him I hadn’t realized how many dishes he had washed – the drainer was packed!

It helps to remember also that if they help and you have to do it again, you’re not any worse off than you were before – but if you encourage your child, in the long run you’ll both be lots better off!

This is how kids learn – they need to be allowed to do something new and not have high expectations held over them that they can’t possibly live up to.  Children quickly learn that they’re better off not trying than doing what they can, if it will provoke criticism and complaints from you.  It’s pretty easy to remember this the first couple of times they do something new; the challenge is in remembering this when they’ve done it enough times that you think they should be proficient by then!  Children will naturally continually seek increased independence and competence when they feel good about their efforts, and our response has to come from a place of appreciation and support of our children.


Joy in the Journey parenting workshops

I’m excited to share that I am offering my new parenting workshop series, Joy in the Journey!  I’m thrilled to offer this course since though there are many, many things I find interesting and enjoy sharing about, parenting is absolutely my passion!  Parenting from the right paradigm is transformative for every member of a family, something I’ve been fortunate to experience personally.  The challenge is to access that paradigm!

The live (ie in person) workshop will offer a new perspective on parenting, an empowering approach that will help you connect with and enjoy your children.  This is an inside-out approach that differs dramatically from other parenting courses.

Joy in the Journey: Part 1 will begin the second week of November.  The workshops will be offered as mini-series of four weeks each.  Each series will build on the one before it but they will be structured so that a parent can attend a later series even if she missed an earlier one.

There are two groups currently being offered (for women only):

Sundays, Nov. 7 – 10:45 am – 12:15 pm – if your oldest child is between the age of 7 – 11.

Mondays, Nov. 8, 8 – 9:30 pm – if your oldest child is between 0 – 6.

(A class for parents of teens will be available at a later as of yet undetermined date, but I don’t have enough time available to offer it concurrently, as much as I would love to. )

The workshops will be interactive to allow for discussion and questions, and the price for the 4 week series will be $50.  For more information or to register, contact me at avivahwerner at yahoo dot com (replace at and dot with the appropriate symbols).

This is going to be fun and inspiring, and I can’t wait to get started!


Haircuts and the importance of listening

Yesterday was haircut day here!  Until about a year ago I always did haircuts for all of the kids, but then the boys started getting haircuts done by their older siblings – with the haircutting machines it’s not very complicated.  Then I was only left every couple of months with haircuts for the girls, and when dd15 decided she was ready for a style change, she switched to a professional stylist (I wasn’t insulted!) and I was down to demonstrating my haircutting abilities for just two of the girls.

Anyway, yesterday I did haircuts for all four boys who are home and have enough hair to cut :)  (ds11, ds8, ds4, ds3), and they all look so neat now!  It was the first time in quite a while that I’ve had the chance, and I enjoyed the one on one time with each child – I often marvel at how much we can emotionally nourish a child by really giving them our full, undivided attention for even five minutes.

As I was doing the haircuts and then showers, I thought about how critical it is that parents try to understand why a child is acting as he does so that they can respond with understanding instead of frustration to issues that will come up a number of times a day that push parental buttons.  By making the effort to see where a child is coming from, it will help a parent stay on an even keel.

Example: when ds3 kept squirming as I tried to cut the hair by his neck, of course I would have liked to have finished the haircut right then and there!  That would have seemingly been the efficient thing to do.  However, efficiency and effectiveness aren’t the same thing, and with personal interactions, effectiveness is the important value.   I realized ds3 was feeling ticklish and the sensation of the electric haircutting machine near his neck felt strange to him.  Paying attention to him meant not insisting on finishing right then (I’ll use scissors in a couple of days to even up the back).  And when he was ready to get out of the shower less than sixty seconds after he got in, and his hair hadn’t yet been washed, I understood that taking a shower may not be a big deal for us but to a little person used to taking baths, it can be an intimidating experience.  (Ds3 told me earnestly when he got out “That was a scary shower!”)

When my kids were much younger, I wouldn’t have been able to easily step away from my own idea of how things should have progressed, and would have insisted on finishing the haircut or shower regardless.  I would have seen it as a situation in which I needed to show my child he had to listen to me, so that I wouldn’t turn into a doormat.  And as normal as that is, I would have been totally wrong – it would have been manipulative and disrespectful.

It is so, so easy to get involved in taking care of all that needs to be done, and forget to respect the child involved.  I’ve seen this even with sentiments that seem to be noble – parents want to give their child a particular kind of experience that they perceive to be valuable, and get so caught up in it that they continue to insist on it even when the child is miserable.  Sometimes there’s a fear of not being able to accomplish what we need to do, that we don’t have time to slow down and pay attention to what is going on with each child; we have things that have got to get done!

But it’s a false efficiency – so many times power struggles, tantrums, and negative interactions can be avoided completely by taking the time to connect with your child when interacting with him, and to pay attention to the feedback that he is giving you.  This isn’t the same as a parent negating his own needs and letting a child dictate what the outcome of a situation should be regardless of parental preference.  True parenting power is when a parent interacts with a child from a position of true strength, not by imposing his will, but being willing to be flexible and find ways to resolve the situation so that all parties are satisfied and left feeling loved and respected.


More on teens and planning for the future

With so many interesting comments from my recent post on teens and financial planning, I needed another post to respond to them!

>>A degree is no guarantee that you are going to make a good living. Do you know how many teaching jobs in the frum world I was turned down for because 1. I had a degree 2. they felt bad paying a married woman with a degree so little!<<

I don’t believe that there are any guarantees in life, but I do think that we can make good choices that would set us up in the best possible way.  I don’t believe a degree by itself is of much value.   Some degrees are much more valuable than others.  Whatever path one pursues, it’s critical that it be part of a conscious plan.  I wouldn’t support just any career that a child wants to pursue.  For example, teaching is a low pay profession, so I’d have to do some research to appropriately redirect a child with strengths in that area to a field where he/she could use those strengths and be appropriately renumerated.  There are some fields that are flooded by capable and well-trained individuals, and there are fields that could easily be outsourced to cheaper labor in India or China – these are additional concerns to the financial reward issue that we keep in mind when we discuss careers.

>>The reason why we landed in debt is not because of lack of education but the literal forcing down his throat about budgeting and therefore he just wanted to break free and not be so frugal.<<

It’s not uncommon for people to go from one extreme to another.  As a frugal parent, I’ve felt it important that frugality not be seen as an exercise in deprivation but rather as a way to achieve one’s goals while living within the constraints of your current reality.  A good education or vocational training can’t overcome a lack of discipline with regards to spending.

>>Most of the young men getting married are marrying girls who will work . They do get some parental help too. I happen to not go for full parental support but to help the young couple.<<

I know this is true but this isn’t the kind of ‘planning’ that I support, and therefore in my opinion, marrying someone capable of bringing in a good income doesn’t obviate the need to develop one’s own skills and abilities.  (By the way, this is true for girls or boys – I don’t support girls not developing their abilities because they hope to get married young and not need to work.)  Nor do I support those who plan to marry women who have parents who are willing to generously support the young couple.  There is a tremendous character development and maturation opportunity that is totally missed when young men voluntarily choose not to take responsibility for a primary part of their lives.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve made it very clear to my children that if they’re old enough to get married, they’re old enough to support themselves. Someone recently asked me if this was because I don’t have the resources to offer my married children significant financial help.  My answer was no, it’s not contingent on how much money I do or don’t have, and that I’ve told the kids that even when we’re blessed with much more money than we have today, this is our position.  I don’t want to handicap my children by bypassing the need for them to take responsibility for their own lives, and needing to handle finances is a major maturing factor.

>>My father has a BA and made a “good living” but we never had anything!My mother had to keep a super tight budget and work full time since we were little.<<

It’s not how much you make, but how much you keep that matters!  This is where financial management skills are important.

>>College/vocational training doesn’t have to be right out of highschool. There is no harm in going to college later should they need it.<<

Theoretically I don’t disagree.  But once children enter the picture, it gets more complicated.  My goal is to help my children develop a conscious plan for the future.  I know they want to get married fairly young and start families fairly soon after that.  If they are all committed to actively parenting their children and then decide they’d like to go to college while raising their children, where does it leave them?  Conflicted and overextended.  There will be bumps in the road for every person, but I’d like to help them avoid those that can easily be avoided with a little forethought.

>>I think it’s very brave of you to be sending your teens to a college campus but I don’t think that at their age I could have withstood all the pressures of it, especially while doing it alone, at such a young age.<<

To clarify, my kids will attend commuter colleges, not living in dorms. There is a very big difference in the campus atmosphere when there are no dorms or campus ‘life’ and everyone is just going for their classes and then heading back home.  As of now I’m planning for dd14 to start college classes next year with dd15 (they’ll both obviously be a year older then), and have them in the same classes (because of her age, dd14 will only be able to take a maximum of 2 per semester).

I’ve striven to raise my children to know who they are and be able to hold their own in different situations, and that includes the secular college environment.  But I wouldn’t put them in situations I don’t have confidence that they could handle.  The current experience of both dd15 and ds17 are bearing out our confidence in them as they handle challenging social situations while far away from home, skills that will continue to come in handy as they encounter more and more of the adult world.

>>You could get a profession by taking a good vocational course. College isn’t everything. Also needs to have a good head on his shoulders. You can have the best college degree and then blow your money or not be able to hold down a job.<<

I used to think that vocational schools offered good alternatives to college, until a year or two ago when I checked out several vocational programs.  After all, why should someone spend all those years getting a college degree when in a year or two he can do a vocational program and come out being able to make a lot more money than most college graduates.  Right?

Not quite.  Let’s say someone wants to be an electrician or plumber – if he wants to be paid well, he needs to be at the master level to run his own business, which entails about seven years of school and apprenticeship.  And then the salary still isn’t fantastic – it’s highly dependent on him being able to start his own business.  Many people have the work skills but running your own business is another skill set altogether.  The programs tend to be very expensive, and I don’t remember if any of them offered federal financial aid that is generally available to qualified students at a college.  And the peer group is ….. not of the highest quality.  So we figured, once you have to spend all that time and money on your education, you might as well go to college.  Also, we didn’t feel that any of these professions matched the self-image ds17 had of himself and his future.  So even though he’s very good with his hands, can figure things out just by looking at them, and enjoys that kind of work, we (together with him) decided against vocational training for him.  But it can definitely be a great option when it matches someone’s interests and strengths.

I realize there are other vocational courses that are shorter term and don’t require this investment of time, but they don’t generally facilitate the earning capacity that I believe to be realistic in supporting a large family.

>>I think that if a man has a good work ethic and knows how to manage his money then everything could be fine.<<

These are very important, but without having marketable skills, it will be very challenging to find employment or to start one’s own business.

There were a lot more comments that were specific to the Orthodox world that I’ve often discussed in detail in person but feel that my blog isn’t the right place to do that, since many of my readers won’t understand what is being discussed.  (For example, why the girls schools are doing a much better job than the boys schools, where that’s coming from, and why I feel it’s problematic.)  Hopefully I responded in the past post to comments so you won’t feel that I ignored you, but if I didn’t, it was due to this constraint.


Question about ADHD

>>It has been discussed with us that our ds9 has symptoms of ADHD.  For example he’ll climb under his desk to listen to the teacher while peeking out of a hole or the like.. also obnoxious behavior to other children I.e. spitting or throwing things.  He does these things at home too, it’s hard for him to walk past a sibling w/o a bump or push of some kind to them.  He’s doing well academically but socially not so good.  My own mother told me that she suspected this in my son since he was much younger but I guess I didn’t want to consider it at that time.  What I’m trying to (ask) is what you would recommend for a child w/ ADHD.  I may have him assessed formally to get a diagnosis but I really do NOT want to medicate.  The school said they know of families who took the “natural” route to help children but it just took a lot more time.  Ritalin apparently gives the child more focus throughout the day.  Any advise you have would be so very appreciated.  I’m so sad for my son and hope we/he can get through this.  Thanks so much.<<

There are several aspects of ADHD to consider: nutrition, vaccination history, behavioral expectations, and parenting are those which to spring immediately to my mind.  This is a very emotional topic for many people, and I strongly suggest that parents do their own research.  I do not make recommendations one way or another beyond that!

I believe Ritalin is drastically over-prescribed, and what historically fell into the range of normal behavior on the very energetic side has now been labeled as dysfunctional.  We expect kids from a very young age to sit still for what is unreasonable for their ages and abilities.  Some kids can manage but young boys in particular have a very hard time with these expectations.  Not surprising that young boys are the most heavily medicated for ADHD!

One book that I would suggest parents interested in doing some research begin with is: ‘Healing the New Childhood Epidemics : autism, ADHD, asthma, and allergies : the groundbreaking program for the 4-A disorders’.   The doctor who wrote it discusses from his professional perspective the relevance of vaccine history and nutrition, which is interesting and relevant to everyone, but particularly to children who have attention deficit disorders.

The quality of food eaten and the effectiveness of the digestive system is tremendously important for ADHD kids.  Much has been written about this, and it goes way beyond not giving children sugar, chemical additives, or food coloring.  To get you started, here is a link to the first in a series of interviews with Donna Gates (Body Ecology Diet) and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (Gut and Psychology Syndrome).  Though the title of the series is Autism Diet, the brain imbalance for autism and ADHD is very similar though it outwardly manifests differently, and healing the underlying problem is therefore addressed in the same way.  Both address issues that I think parents of the ADHD child will find of interest; it is a six part series and you can continue on your own to research if this aspect interests you.

Of course the way a parent deals with a child who is very high energy is also very important. Parents need to learn what reasonable expectations for their children are, and how to appropriately navigate challenging situations that arise.  I’ve written about this in various posts, but I strongly feel that someone in the above situation needs personal consultation with someone skilled in mentoring parents so they get the detailed help they need.  Reading suggestions that aren’t targeted to their specific concerns will be somewhat helpful but to really turn things around, you need to take clear and concrete action in the right direction, and be sure that you’re really headed in the right direction!  I have a very strong sense in this particular situation that this is a very critical factor.

The alternative approach does take longer, but time takes time – the natural process can’t be rushed; it proceeds at an organic pace.  If you do wish to avoid Ritalin, then you’ll need to be willing to experience the discomfort of not immediately being able to resolve the situation, though the commeasurate satisfaction will come from addressing the root issues at the core rather than eliminating the symptoms.

Good luck!


Our new piano

With three kids currently taking piano lessons  for the last two years (before dd15 left, it was four), you’d think that I would have acquired a piano for them to practice on by now!

However, even though I’ve periodically seen pianos being given away, I’ve never responded because: a) the kids are able to practice daily on their teacher’s baby grand piano (she lets them come and go when she’s at work), which is much higher quality than anything I would get; b) a piano would take up a lot of space in our not so big living room; and c) even a free piano isn’t free since it means hiring a mover and usually having it tuned, with the costs starting at $300 and up.

But last week I saw a piano being offered for free, and I finally decided to look into it. All of the kids are conscientious about practicing regularly (about 30 minutes 4 – 5 times a week), but dDd14  practices a lot – 60 – 90 minutes daily – and having something here in the house really would make it easier for her to practice as frequently and as long as she liked.  However, I really don’t know anything about pianos so I asked my dh and dd14 to go take a look at it to see if it was suitable. Dd was enthusiastic about it, saying it was a good piano that played well even though it didn’t look great, so we decided to get it.

Dh, ds17, and the husband and their 17 year old hauled the piano from their house to the curb. At that point, they realized the piano was too heavy and unwieldy to maneuver from the sidewalk into our van (we had removed the seats), so it remained outside for five days until we were able to hire a mover to bring it over on Sunday afternoon.  (Dh covered it well with tarps to protect it since a few hours after they got it outside, it began to pour!)  Fortunately, a piano isn’t exactly the kind of thing a thief wants to walk off with. :)

When it got here there was such excitement!  I don’t know if my house will ever be quiet again.  :)   The littles are very excited and would be happy to spend hours banging away.  As much as I love the idea of encouraging their artistic creativity, I’m not so relaxed about a continually heightened noise level, so there are going to be some new guidelines that will be introduced and then repeatedly reinforced.  Did I ever mention that I don’t like lots of noise?  (You might not have guessed that, since I have nine children.:))

Once it arrived, I looked up the company name (Wurlitzer) and was pleased to learn that it’s considered a very good piano.  The most visible improvement that we’ll make is to refinish the outside, which dd14 volunteered to do. Someone started repainting it so half is black and half is wood toned.  If it were in the basement, it wouldn’t matter but since it’s in the living room, I’d like it to look as nice as it sounds.

Some of the keys were stuck, but my kids are quite industrious, so they (mostly dd14, ds11 with a little assistance by dd10 and ds8) unscrewed the piano and got busy figuring how to fix them.  Once they opened it up, they not only fixed almost all of the keys, but cleaned out years of papers that had slipped through the cracks – a very significant pile!  There were also some toys, a mouse’s nest (empty, happily), game pieces – but once they cleared it all out, they realized that all of the white keys weren’t striking heavily enough because the papers were blocking them inside.  So now that’s taken care of and the keys strike perfectly.

Tbey also fixed a pedal at the bottom that wasn’t working (they found a small piece that had broken off and glued it back together – the reason they started this cleaning out was in the hopes of finding this piece), and have informed me that if I buy a tuning lever, they’ll tune it for me so we don’t have to pay someone to do it.  (They looked up how to do that online.)  But it plays fine and it’s not like this is the piano they’ll use at their recitals, so tuning doesn’t seem that critical to me at this point.

There’s only one key that isn’t yet working, but ds11 explained to me what the problem is and told me that he’s planning to take the piano apart again tomorrow (whatever that means) to see if he can find a way to fix it.

The kids enjoyed all of this and felt quite accomplished to have done all of this on their own.  There’s nothing like finding and solving a problem, particularly one that requires extensive effort, to enhance a child’s (adult’s!) sense of accomplishment and confidence in their abilities.

Oh – our total cost for the piano?  $140.


Don’t kill their curiosity!

What is about adults that makes them so quick to say things that totally kill a child’s interest and motivation??

Today we had our second class at the homeschool co-op we’re signed up for this year.  The classes are taught by homeschooling parents, but there are a lot of ways to homeschool, and the classes reflect the approach of the teacher, obviously.

My ds told me last time he asked a question in one of his classes, and he was told, “What a good question!”  And then given the assignment as homework to look up the answer.  Right after he said this, dd14 exclaimed, “I know!  Someone in my class asked a question last time and was told to find out the answer and do a report to the class on it.  I’m not asking any questions!!”

You would think homeschooling parents would know better than to fall into this trap, wouldn’t you?  After all, isn’t it pretty obvious that no child is going to want to ask for more information if they’re given lots of work as a reward for their curiosity?

It reminds me of when a child asks how to spell something, and they’re told to go look it up.  (I’ve been guilty of that.  :))  In the real world, if someone wants to know how to spell something, they ask the people around them, and look it up on their own only as a last resort.  So why not directly answer the child asking so they can learn the proper spelling and go ahead and use it for whatever purpose they had in mind?

It’s when we don’t trust the natural desire of a child to learn and seek mastery that we feel we have to jump on every possibly educational opportunity and force the learning down their throats.

Less is more!


My homeschool goals

I just came across something I wrote back in May 2005 about my homeschooling goals in response to a question of “what keeps you motivated; what are your goals & philosophies?” It was really interesting to read over five years later; I was surprised to see how similar what I wrote then was to what I would write now. So I thought I’d share it here with you.

“My philosophy could be summarized as follows: no one knows, loves, understands, and cares about my children and their successful development the way that I do. I want to be directly involved in their lives, and want us all to share significant experiences as a family. I want learning to be a lifelong pursuit that is filled with joy, and feel that it can be when children are treated as the individuals that they are, and taught when their minds are developmentally ready for the material presented.

I’m not sure if you are asking about academic goals or what I consider the more important substantive goals.

  • Firstly, for me, would be helping them build good character, including a strong internal moral compass and the willingness to do what is right( even when it isn’t popular), kindness, and respect for others;
  • a healthy sense of self-worth and value, to be responsible members of family and society, to be hard working, responsible, independent and able to be interdependent;
  • to be able to think critically, have strong basic academic skills (which for me means, fluency in reading, writing, math, and the ability to navigate Torah texts) which are precursors to more advanced learning;
  • to have strong bonds with their parents and siblings, to imbue them with a strong sense of our values as pertains to Torah philosophy and behavior, and to have the interpersonal skills necessary to form healthy relationships as adults which result in a healthy marriage and family;

There are many more things I could write, but I think most of them would fall somewhere into the above goals. For example, they have time to develop their interests and have more relaxed and balanced lives. They avoid a bunch of negatives, such as peer dependency from a young age, unhealthy competition, etc. They learn to navigate the world more effectively from a young age (eg, managing money and interacting with people of different ages).

I don’t think it is necessary to be able to pin down exactly what your reasons and goals are, just to have a strong feeling for what they are. As your kids get older, your goals will become more specific. So much of why we do what we do comes from an instinctive sense of what is right, that it often can’t easily be defined.

I formed my goals based on who I am, what is important to me and feel will be important skills for my children in the future, and by doing lots and lots of reading and thinking. I read many things I disagreed with, but forced myself to think through why I disagreed with those positions. Many, many, many hours of thought have gone into my philosophy as it developed, and into the specific decisions I have made as a result. I have adapted along the way, finding that what I sometimes thought the best way to do things changed depending on my children’s personalities and their ages.

As far as staying motivated, I personally haven’t found that a challenge. When you continually see your goals being achieved, and there so many validations of your approach (both internal and external), there is nothing more motivating than that. I love who I see my children becoming, and am incredibly grateful for the quality of life we have.

I am far from perfect, but am raising kids who are better than those I ever could have raised if they were in school for most of their waking hours. I love seeing how they don’t make distinctions between learning and fun; for example, doing mind benders (deductive reasoning exercises) for fun late at night, begging me to read more of our historical read aloud, doing lots of lessons at a time in math or grammar, just because they enjoy it. I appreciate having a positive, stimulating, and loving home environment.

And I really, really love having a very strong relationship with them, which gets us through many situations that I don’t know how parents navigate without that relationship.


My first doctor visit in a loooong time

Some of you who have been reading here a long time might remember that in the past I periodically experienced difficulty with breathing, and that a couple of years ago I dealt with the issue effectively using herbs.  That ended my problem with cold air during the winter, but then a year ago when camping I suddenly was unable to breathe.  (That’s part of why we didn’t go camping this year; dh was worried about a repeat.)  Since then, I’ve had something similar but not as drastic happen twice, and we’ve realized it’s triggered by exposure to mold and dust spores that are stirred up when I do major cleaning and reorganizing in the basement or attic.

Since the last time there was a problem was the day before dd15 went to Israel about five weeks ago, I was careful for a while to stay out of the basement. But then I saw nothing was happening when I was down there even for extended periods of time, and forgot that the issue wasn’t being in the basement, but being there was detailed cleaning was being done.  So on Sunday I did some organizing, not real cleaning, but dd14 was doing the cleaning with me right there.  Since Sunday afternoon, I’ve been having increasing difficulty breathing.  I wasn’t really paying much attention to how I was feeling which is why I didn’t do anything like take vitamin c or herbs to head things off.  I thought it would pass out of my system in a couple of days and really didn’t expect it to get worse.  But it did.

This morning, I got into the car to take the littles to my inlaws, and then proceed to our weekly history class an hour away.  I wasn’t feeling great (this is a gross understatement :)) but I told myself that driving hardly took any effort and I’d have the older kids take the littles out at my inlaws house so that I wouldn’t have to do anything that would be an effort. But walking down the stairs from my room and to the car had winded me so much that I couldn’t get a breath.  I started wondering if I was being responsible to try to leave the house.  Dd14 saw me struggling to breathe and asked me if we should stay home. I told her it would be fine, it would just take me a few minutes to catch my breath.

After a couple of minutes, it became clear to me how serious the situation was.  I really needed help – and I didn’t have the physical capacity to get myself to the emergency room.  My inlaws are only ten minutes by car, but it felt much, much longer and the physical effort to drive was enormous; I kept telling myself I could make it.  While we were driving, I told my dd14 that when we got there, to get an inhaler from my father-in-law, and if he didn’t have one, to call Hatzala.  But not in that many words.  It was, (gasp), “Get (gasp) inhaler (gasp) or Hatzala.” (Hatzala is a private volunteer ambulance service in my community – they are super fast and competent.)

They called Hatzala but then my father-in-law came out with an inhaler, and after three puffs, I could breathe again.  I’ve never used anything like that before and couldn’t believe something so minor could help so fast, but I was so incredibly grateful that it did.  I didn’t think I would die or anything like that but I didn’t see how I could continue working so hard for every tiny bit of air.  I asked my father-in-law to cancel Hatzala because I didn’t want them to come for nothing, but they said it couldn’t be cancelled.  At that point I was able to breathe enough to walk so I went inside the house to wait for them.

The ambulance and three volunteers were there within five minutes, and I felt so embarrassed to make them come for nothing.  I told them I was fine and I was really sorry to have bothered them, but they told me they could still hear me wheezing from across the room and I didn’t sound fine at all.  They told me I needed to go to the hospital immediately but I really didn’t understand why, so I told them I thought that was overkill since I was basically okay.  But I agreed to go into the ambulance for further treatment.

While I was in the ambulance, they were talking to each other about the plan of action, obviously intending for me to hear them (and ambulance isn’t exactly spacious and people speaking in normal tones can easily be heard, lol).  “If we could make her realize she needs to go to a hospital, we would take her there immediately.”  So I pulled the inhaler thing out of my mouth and said to them, “I told you I would go to a doctor today to get this checked out, and if you really feel it needs to be a doctor at a hospital, that’s fine.  But don’t be patronizing since it isn’t appropriate.”  Then I explained that I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but I really didn’t understand the urgency and could they explain why they felt it was so pressing for me to go to the emergency room even after they gave me so much Albuterol.    So they did.

They explained to me that even after all of the treatment my oxygen saturation was very low and every part of my respiratory system was still blocked up, that there wasn’t one part that was clear.   They were afraid there would be a rebound effect and in a few hours all my symptoms would come right back unless I got further help.  So off we went to the emergency room.

I’ve taken kids to the emergency room three times in this city.  And it hasn’t been a positive experience since it involved lots of waiting until the child got help.  Now I was headed to that same emergency room that I already had a very negative impression of.  Combined with the fact that I haven’t needed to see a traditional medical doctor (except for normal pregnancy stuff) for over 18 years, I was feeling a bit apprehensive.   But once I decided to go, I chose to let go of all of that and just experience whatever would happen without any mental noise about it.

Because they put me on oxygen in the ambulance, I had to be taken into the hospital on a stretcher before being transferred to a wheelchair.  I didn’t bother protesting at that point, even though I felt guilty that someone healthy was getting priority at the emergency room.  I figured I might as well enjoy the experience so I could tell my kids all about it!  (When they took me off the oxygen, I asked if I could keep the mask so I could show it to the kids.)

Then they got me into a room and an attractive hospital gown :lol:, and hooked me up all over to wires.  (I later saved the five adhesive meditrace things that were stuck in different spots on  my upper body that five of the wires were attached to to show the kids, too.)  Everyone was really, really nice – the doctor, the nurse, and the aid.  And of course the ambulance volunteers.  They left once I was in my room.  I spent a few hours there getting treated and monitored and getting a chest xray and then getting more treatment.  It gave me lots of time to think positive thoughts.

Finally several hours later the doctor came in and told me I could be released, and then we went back and forth about if I needed steroids.  He was really, really nice.  He said I was right in the in between zone of getting or not getting them because of my specifics, and that a comment I made caused him think he should give me some.  So I asked him since it was my one comment had that effect, could I could possibly encourage him to change his mind in the other direction.  :)  He jokingly said, “Sure, you can push me around however you want!”  And he agreed that I didn’t have to take them.

So now I have a prescription for an inhaler, which I hope to never need, but will be good to have on hand just in case.  I’m very grateful to the wonderful medical personnel who helped me today, and plan to send them all thank you cards tomorrow (I took note of everyone’s name badge :)).  At the same time, it’s clear to me that the approach is management of the problem, not looking at why I started being triggered by environmental allergens or how to address the underlying problem.  That’s okay with me.  It’s good to be clear on what to expect from who – I had a great experience today in the emergent care department because it was very clear what I would get and why, rather than being frustrated that they weren’t able to offer me something else.  I’m very aware that whatever was wrong that caused all of this is still there – the symptoms are gone but the core problem still exists.

My wonderful husband took the day off of work tomorrow so that I can rest up – I’ve been pretty tired since I couldn’t get much sleep the last couple of nights due to difficulty breathing.  I told him it really wasn’t necessary since I’m okay, but I so much appreciate that he cares about me so much.  And it really will be nice to have a chance to rest while he takes care of the kids and the house for the day!


Future planning for finances for young adults

We’ve been enjoying having ds17 home for the last two weeks, and during that time he’s shared some perspective on things that he has noted are different between our family mindset and what he sees in the many young men he has been meeting.  One comment he made was that our family is goal oriented, and it doesn’t seem to be very common;  he said that very few young men he’s spoken to are making concrete plans for the future.

In our home, the topic of thinking about and planning for the future is a frequently visited topic.  We have strong family values, so it’s not surprising that marriage and raising a family feature prominently in what our children are expecting/hoping for.  One preparatory aspect of marriage that seems to be routinely glossed over is the reality of finances, and the importance of being prepared to support oneself.  Not being prepared for this aspect of marriage has placed huge pressures on many young couples, pressures that could have been minimized or avoided by planning ahead for the predictable.  (Not only that, it’s put enormous pressures on parents to continue to support their adult children.)

I feel very, very strongly that it’s the responsibility of a parent to give their children concrete guidance in this area.  As adults, we understand the reality of financial obligations, we know what has been positive or challenging about the choices we’ve made, and we owe it to our children to actively guide them.  And guiding them doesn’t mean cutting out an article about the importance of planning for the future and handing it to your twenty year old to read.  :roll:

Recently I shared with someone an example of a goal my ds17 has set for himself, and she commented about how impressed she was that he had that clarity at his age to make a plan in that way, particularly since the general mindset of his peers is that they will somehow magically not have to worry about finances when they are married.   I told her it didn’t happen by itself – I’ve gone over and over this topic from various angles for the last several years.

I discuss with my teenage children what their values are regarding marriage, working and child raising are; this affects many, many things.  For example, what age do they think is ideal to get married at?  Why do they believe that?  Based on their answers (they are all inclined towards marriage at a fairly young age), we go on to discuss potential challenges. I ask my son to think about how he’ll be prepared to support himself and his family by the time he is married.  What will he do?  What kind of training/education will be necessary?  Will he have work experience by then?  I’ve kind of drilled it into him by now that he has no business getting married until he can support a wife – not a popular position in some circles, perhaps, but I truly believe he and his future wife will be much better off than letting him take the short term path of what is easier and feels good.

For my daughters, I encourage them to think about careers that will transfer well to private practice that can be home based if at some point they desire that.  At this point, dd15 would like to be a chiropractor, dd14 a psychologist – of course this may change, and it’s fine if it does.  This means learning about different careers, the academic requirements and prerequisites, and thinking about how that will work with their personalities and interests, as well as their anticipated goals of marriage and family.  Practically speaking, it means that dd14 and I are currently planning a time frame towards her goal – she would like to have her four year degree completed by the time she is 18.  I also recently started talking to ds11 about a specific suggestion that I think would be a good option for him, but a big part of this is to warm him up mentally to the idea that we expect him to prepare for a professional career.  Since I plan to graduate both dd14 and ds11 at age 16, it’s not as early as it seems to be thinking about this – dd has only two more years for full-time homeschooling so it already affects what dd14 is focusing on this year.

When I see positive or negative examples of financial management, I bring them up for discussion.  (I never mention specific names when it comes to negative role models; I only mention scenarios.)   When ds17 told me several young men have gotten engaged during the time he’s been at yeshiva, I asked how old they were, and if any of them had completed college or had another career planned.  No, none of them.  Hmm, I mused out loud, I wonder how they’re planning to support themselves once they’re married? I guess they have parents who will take care of them, or a lot of faith in credit cards.   This kind of conversation is common in our home – I don’t belabor the point but I regularly point out observations and discuss the consequences of making certain choices.  When I find an article that addresses issues I think will be of interest, whether it’s from a position I agree with or not, I’ll read it out loud at dinner and ask them for their thoughts.  (I recently mentioned that I usually stay up late Friday nights talking to my teens – these are topics that we often touch on.)

Some of the messages I’ve shared are:

  • anyone old enough to get married is old enough to support themselves;
  • there is an easier and more difficult way to do things, and doing things in the right order makes life much, much easier for many years to come – eg, prepare for a career before you have family responsibilities;
  • debt quickly becomes a millstone around your neck; don’t spend money you don’t have and don’t rely on credit cards to buy what you can’t afford;
  • be willing to think for yourself and do what is right for you no matter what everyone else is doing;
  • marriage is something you must be emotionally ready for – it’s not a game, it’s not playing house, and being a certain age doesn’t magically give you the maturity for a healthy and balanced relationship.

It really helps to have a strong sense of commitment to helping my children be prepared as best as I can for the future, since issues come up and it makes a huge difference in working through them to have a compass point to guide me.  For example, ds17 would really like to attend a particular type of yeshiva – but the places he most wants to attend aren’t college accredited.  I told him that when he’s 21 and has his BA or BS, he can go to whatever yeshiva he wants to pursue the environment that he wants.  Don’t think I’m heartless and don’t understand and value his desire for a certain kind of yeshiva.  I very, very much understand it and I wish he could find it within the criteria that we’ve set up.  But I keep in mind the long term view – what will be more harmful to him later on in life, not being able to support his family (because the yeshivas he wants to go to are against college and working) or having learned for years in a yeshiva that wasn’t as intense as he wanted?  If you’re going to be left wanting more, than wanting more spirituality isn’t a bad place to be.   And if I’m paying the bill, how I could I in good conscience pay for him to be in an environment that I didn’t believe supports his best interests?

This is really just the tip of the iceberg – it’s a huge discussion since there are so many components to it.  I think it’s arrogant and presumptuous to believe that a person can plan for every eventuality, but I do think that parents have more power to actively guide their children than they generally assume.