Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

6/30/2011

College Park Patch: Leaving the Nest for College

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope

Recently I had one of those moments, when as an adult you feel “old” or maybe it’s the first time you confront the realization of how old you actually are. What sparked this? Was it the fact that I have 2 kids in elementary school? Nope. Was it when I sat at the dinner table and didn’t have to cut anyone’s food before my own? No, not that time either.
It was when I attended my cousin’s graduation party. Kevin, also known as “Cuddles”, graduated high school. This is a kid that I remember changing his diaper! I remember when he was a baby and not in that “I’ve looked at pictures so many times that I think I remember” way…no I remember him being a baby. I can recall how he would cuddle up next to me in the nook of my arm as we sat on the couch together, feeling as though he could never be close enough. I can recall how his chubby cheeks felt when you kissed them and how his eyes would light up when he would see me return from college for a family visit. And now he is graduating high school!
I feel old. Though I can’t imagine what his parents must be feeling! I have this rush inside of me to share everything with him before he leaves for college. To tell him the lessons that looking back I wish someone told me, to give him the guidance, the understanding to freely go out into the world and discover who he is. I recognize that the words will be wasted, eighteen year olds aren’t that interested in the knowledge of an older family member. But just in case, here is what I will say:
Run! 
As fast as you can! But look back every once in a while and visit us.
Now is the perfect time to reinvent yourself, don’t be scared to do it. It doesn’t matter what you think your parents will say or do if they find out. Just do it, but be smart about it!
Follow a band around for the summer.
Backpack Europe.
Inhale.
No one expects you to be the same kid who left for college. Each of us anticipate seeing you change, developing into an adult. No one expects you to not fall. So just fall. There is knowledge in the falling. Enjoy the experience of learning, of being around like-minded people and yet at the same time a completely diverse population. The people you meet in college will be your lifelong friends. Grow. Change. Gather ideas and awareness at lightning speed. Don’t worry about not being accepted when you return. College is like a metamorphosis. We are all looking forward to seeing what you will become. Now go, RUN!

6/29/2011

College Park Patch: Boys Will Be Boys!

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope
Driving in the car, the boys are strapped in their booster seats in the middle row of the minivan. We are discussing our plans for the week and enjoying the view of our neighbor's beautiful yards. There is a lull in conversation as we pass one house with kids enjoying a trampoline in their front yard, and I’m half expecting one of my children to begin begging to have one for our yard. But instead I hear…
Z in a hushed voice, "Punch me in the face. Come on I won't tell!"
L responds, "No, Mom is here. I'll do it later. You're just trying to get me in trouble.”
Z, “No I’m not!”
Fast forward to later in the evening. L has clearly kept to his promise, and Z comes to me pretending to cry.
“L punched me in the face!” he said.
I’m amazed he thinks this is actually going to work.
 “I heard you ask L to do it earlier,” I respond calmly.
“But not that hard!” he said.
Boys. I just don’t understand them.
Gun fascination aside - I’ve accepted that I will never understand that aspect of them - why do boys insist on physical violence to entertain themselves?
You get a group of boys together, and at some point there will be shooting and punches.  Both of which start out as pretend. Then someone takes it too far, and we have a full-on fight.
As a child, I remember the boys in my neighborhood doing the exact same thing.  And now as a mom to two boys of my own, I’m experiencing it again, this time up close and personal.
We don’t have a coffee table for fear of someone cracking their head open during a wrestling match, which has happened and resulted in a trip to the ER. The throw pillows that I took such care in choosing for the d├ęcor of the house are often weapons of choice. A family get-together with grown men who still put each other in headlocks and punch each other in the arm is proof that I need to be the one to readjust - clearly things won't be changing with age. It's obviously in their DNA.

6/28/2011

Routine

It's been a while since I've posted a routine picture. This is my dog, Dharma. 
When the boys aren't in their booster seats she sits in them.

6/17/2011

College Park Patch: Inflatable Happiness

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope.
We spent more time in line for the moon bounce than it actually took for the kids to get through the giant maze of bouncy goodness. After he appeared at the end, L took off running for the front, not realizing that in order to go through it a second time, he would have to stand in the long line again. When I informed him of such, his spirit deflated and immediately tears began to take shape.
My partner and I choose festivals based on whether or not they have moon bounces. Festivals are so hard for us to attend as a family; the large crowds are overwhelming for L to deal with. To make things worse, there are typically musicians that are not only playing loudly on a stage but sometimes, like at NASA’s open house yesterday, the music is then being pumped through speakers all over the area.
Festivals more often than not result in tears. They are sensory overload for a child on the Autism Spectrum. But if there is a moon bounce, it is our personal saving grace. As long as L can go through the moon bounce, all is well in the world and we can enjoy other activities at the festival. If we know in advance that there will be a moon bounce, we talk up the excitement of it.
“What kind do you think it will be? One of those big square ones or one like a maze you have to climb through? Or maybe it will have a slide at the end!”
I’ve often wondered what it would be like if we had one in our backyard. Would the neighbors complain about the constant hum coming from the generator? Maybe we could become an attraction on the block and charge a fee to the entire neighborhood. The money we make from the neighbor kids might put my kids through college! Or if nothing else, instead of being labeled by his peers as “weird,” maybe he might be that cool kid who has the moon bounce in his backyard.
For me it’s a moment in time that doesn’t happen often. He is engaged in an activity with other children instead of playing by himself on the perimeter, being an observer of life. It’s a moment where L would appear as any other “normal” kid to a passerby. And some days, I’m willing to buy a moon bounce if that simple moment can last a little longer.
Is there something you wish you could buy in order to help your child overcome an obstacle?

6/14/2011

College Park Patch: Learning to Let Go and Say Goodbye

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope

I was raised in a house full of pets. We had birds, and it seemed that as soon as one died we had a replacement in the cage, their color being the only differentiating characteristic.
Each one learned how to sit on the edge of my dad's beer mug or perch on my mom's finger and sing. I wasn't that interested in them, and I was immediately turned off by the mess they created. My sister had a floppy eared rabbit that was gigantic, as large as a beagle. He also had a fear of heights. Picking him up resulted in scratches covering your forearms. But we did it anyhow.
When I was 13, a friend's dad was closing his pet shop and needed to unload some baby turtles. I begged and pleaded with my parents to let me have one and eventually, they caved. I had never expressed interest in turtles before, and they must have fully expected the "I told you so" moment when I would invariably become bored of such a pet.
That day never came. Sam, the turtle, was a fixture in my life. She was a boring pet; turtles in their nature are not very exciting. But for whatever reason, I loved her.
She went to college with me, and afterwards we moved to NYC together to launch a struggling acting career -- me, not her. She made the cross country trip to Seattle sharing a backseat with a terrified cat and a whiny six-week-old baby. She moved from house to house on the West Coast, never aware of the change of scenery beyond the glass walls of her tank. Again she endured the cross country trip back to the East Coast, this time on a plane, each of us coming full circle in our lives.
My boys were fascinated with the unusualness of her as a pet. I think they enjoyed the bragging rights surrounding having her tank in their room.
One day last week I returned home and found Sam dead in her tank. The boys were with their dad at the time, thankfully. My heart felt like it literally dropped in my stomach. The tears flowed for hours. I never would have imagined that I would feel this much emotion surrounding the death of a turtle. But she was my turtle, my "I told you so" pet for 22 years.
I am sure the passing of one of our dogs will be more traumatic for the boys than Sam's death. Then again, their room looks pretty dull without the glow coming from Sam's tank. Maybe they will miss her, but undoubtedly not as much as I do.
How have you explained the death of a pet to your children?

6/13/2011

College Park Patch: The Weekday Race

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope
Brownies are in the oven.
I volunteered to bake a snack for 25 people for Teacher Appreciation Week at L’s school. I chopped up leftover mini peanut butter cups, stolen from the kids’ Easter baskets, in order to make the brownies looked a little more “fancy” and less…from a box.
This week has been a complete test of my endurance. I thought training for a triathlon was hard! At work I’m planning a charity event for 200 people and organizing four fundraising walks in three different states. After my hour-long drive home, I’m baking brownies while calling out spelling words over my shoulder to L.
“Dishes- mommy wishes you would wash the dishes," I say, drawn-out so that he can really hear the word "dishes.”
Our weekdays speed by, each one blending into the next, a PTA meeting being the highlight this week. Once the kids are picked up from Aftercare the race begins: walk the dogs, eat dinner, do homework, clean up dinner, get kids in the bath, out of bath, 30 minutes of TV time, read stories, in bed.
And then I collapse.
I’m struggling with finding the balance of spending quality time together as a family day-to-day. Currently I feel as though we are treading water, trying to stay afloat, living for the weekend - and it makes me sad in my heart. I want to be more Buddhist-like and enjoy each moment as it comes. Instead of racing on to the next…looking ahead…checking the calendar…planning out the month… and not seeing what is right in front of me.
I know I’m not alone. I know there are other parents like me in this weekday race.
How do we get out of it? How do we stop and smell the roses without our little piece of the world crashing down around us?

6/10/2011

College Park Patch: Let's Google It!

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope
“Mommy, what is mucus?”
“You know when your nose is all snotty and runny? That's mucus.”
My five-year-old son is full of questions right now. He is past the “why” stage of 2-3 year olds and has properly moved into asking what certain words, like mucus, mean.
We were at a birthday party recently, and the little girl received a Barbie doll. In the back of the room one parent said to another, “Barbie looks different.” The other parent replied in a hushed tone, “I think she got a breast reduction.” The parents within earshot all laughed quietly, trying not to draw attention from the birthday girl.
My son, who was not anywhere near this conversation, did not miss overhearing the exchange. At bath time that evening he asked, “What is a breast reduction?” I answered him honestly, and afterwards came the “why” type of questions. Explaining cosmetic surgery to a 5-year-old is not exactly the easiest thing I have done. I’ll take asking for a raise any day of the week over that!  
While I’m delighted about my son's vocabulary expanding, many times I feel like I'm in front of the cannon. I consider myself an intelligent person with a well-rounded vocabulary, but often, he stumps me.
It isn’t because I don’t know what the word means. It’s just a challenge to explain to a child the definition without using yet another word he doesn’t understand. There have been more times than I would like to admit that my reply has simply been, “I don’t know. Let’s Google it.”
“Mommy what is areola?”
“Uhm, where did you hear it used?”
“In the airplane book from the library.”
I am left sighing with relief with the realization that our anatomy conversation will be continued for another day.
“That would be aerial,” I tell him.
Have your children put you in front of the cannon by asking questions that are harder to explain than you realized?

6/08/2011

Entertaining Kids in the Car

We have a long rode trip ahead of us for family vacation which means I have spent a good portion of my morning surfing the web for resources and ideas to keep the kids entertained. We have never really done a long road trip in a car. When I lived in Seattle and would fly to the east coast once a year to visit family and I would create travel bags to keep the kids entertained on the flight. We do have a DVD player in the car and the boys also have DS games to play but at some point they will tire of both of those items. Shocker, I know! But it's true.
I'm creating car travel bags for each child. Filled with travel games they can play with each other (Sorry, Uno, Go Fish, Trouble), new books to read and little toys to keep themselves occupied.
I found this wonderful resource while surfing the web, MomsMiniVan.com, it is full of ideas to keep kids entertained on a road trip (some are a bit dated...who plays a gameboy anymore?) .
I always create personalized coloring books. Printing pictures that I know interests each individual child, I three-hold punch the pages and insert into a report folder and pair with a set of brand new crayons.
National Geographic Coloring Pages
Superhero Coloring Pages
Printable Worksheets- Yes I assign homework on vacation!
Superhero Powers Matching Game- with answer sheet for the parents.
We are going to the beach so this word search is perfect!

Also on hand will be pipe cleaners, these are my go-to "I'm bored-Mommy!" saver.
Audio books FREE from the public domain- I'm really hoping the kids get into this. I'm going to try Tom Sawyer and The Road to Oz.
I bought these lap trays for the car so they each have a work area to write and do puzzles and to keep track of their stuff.
Do you have any tips or tricks that made a long road trip fun for your kids? Please share in the comment section.

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