Wanted: Your Parental Two Cents


This is a touchy subject.  I wouldn’t be broaching the subject if I wasn’t at my wit’s end.  The whole thing embarrasses me… and Daddy-O.  Apparently, though, it doesn’t embarrass the one person it should!  Frankly, I just do not know what to do about my oldest son.

He steals.  He takes little things from stores – things he can fit in his pockets unnoticed like lip balm or those stupid silly bands.  He pockets small objects, toys mostly, from his cousins – though he is always quick to proclaim innocence and ulterior action.  I believe he pilfers erasers and pencils, etc. from the school book fair but can’t actually confirm it.  And, most recently, he has taken candy from a friend.

This has been going on in various manifestations since he was 3 years old.  The week before his 3rd birthday we went to the party store to buy stuff for his birthday party.  He asked for a mylar balloon.  I said no.  When I put him into his car seat I noticed something sticking out from the pocket of his sweatpants.  He had stuffed them full of latex balloons.  I immediately marched him in to the store and made him return them to the cashier and confess (in front of a long line of customers).  The cashier was embarrassed and dismissive.  “It’s not a big deal”, she said to me in front of Ben.  I stridently disagreed, took my son home and spanked his bottom (with my hand, thank you very much overly-concerned-about-corpal-punishment people). 

A couple of years later he took some lip balm from the local surf shop.  Then went out of his way to show me the item as soon as Daddy-O brought him home.  Busted by his own bragging.  He’s cute but not the brightest bulb in the pack.  Off he went with Daddy-O; back to the surf shop.  We asked that the owner call the police.  (There had been other incidents here and there that I just can’t remember now.)  The owner refused but did give a very appropriate lecture on the distrust for a petty thief and how they will be followed every time they enter a store.  We also made him pay for the item as well as return it.  Hit him in his pocketbook, so to speak. 

Fast forward to the last few months.  I suspect, though cannot prove, that he pilfered copious amounts of pencils and erasers from the book fair at school.  I can’t prove it because he says he bought them.  And he does have money from time to time.  And I don’t keep an inventory of what he has in the art supply category.  So I looked at him suspiciously and asked the question and raised my eyebrow at his response then let it go.  I dropped the ball, I guess.  Perhaps I should have followed up with the school… but I work and I’m busy and gah… that just seems like so. much. trouble….  and maybe a little bit I didn’t really want to know anyway.  sigh.   Same thing with those ridiculous silly bands all the kids are wearing these days.  Daddy-O bought him one pack.  One pack.  Next thing I know he has about 300,000 of them on his arms.  Where are they coming from?  Traded them at school.  Bought them at the market.  Blah, blah.  Again, no proof.  No pudding.  No trust. 

At Christmas time, he lifted a few flies from the Fly Shop in Redding.  I caught him pretty quickly when my Mom-Radar was activated by his suspicious behavior when I walked in the room.  He received a nice and appropriate bare-bottomed spanking and, again, he was taken to the store and forced to confess and return the items. 

Then last night he took a roll of Lifesavers from his buddy.  Stupid Lifesavers! And from a friend!  He’s losing his electronics through the weekend.  He’ll go over tonight and have to look his friend in the eye and tell him he took something from him.  The thing is, I don’t think it’s the first time he’s taken something from friends.  There is a suspicious PS2 game at our house when we never had a PS2.  He says his friend at Nana’s house gave it to him.  I don’t believe him any more.  On the other hand, why would he steal a game for a system we didn’t even have? 

So here is where you come in.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t seem to get anyone to call the police on him.  Obviously, talking to him and shaming him in front of the merchants isn’t working.  He’s getting to that transitional age where things cease to be “stages” and become traits set in stone.  It’s a dangerous, messed up path he’s on.  I have a few ideas gathered from friends over the years of dealing with this.  Most are pretty harsh, which I like.  I feel like it’s going to take a rather large shock to break this cycle.  Here are some of my ideas.  I welcome beg for your feedback and suggestions.

Solution #1:  AN EYE FOR AN EYE.  Take away something of his each and every time he takes something from someone else.  Perhaps give said item to the victim as a form of restitution. 

My thoughts:  All for it, except I am usually the one buying his stuff so I’m really hurting myself.  Him, too, of course.  It’s hard for me to agree to giving away items I’ve worked hard to buy. 

Solution #2:  CAN’T TOUCH THIS.  Make him walk with his hands behind his back whenever he’s in a store/at friend’s house.  Stop him before leaving and publicly search his pockets.

My thoughts:  This one is going to happen regardless but I just don’t think it’s enough. 

Solution #3:  HUMILIATION.  My old sitter suggested this one.  When she had the same problem with her daughter she made a sign that said, “My name is _____ and I am a thief!”  She then had her march in front of the victimized store (I think it was a grocery store) for 30 minutes during rush hour.

My thoughts:  I really, really like this one.  I just don’t know what to do about location.  March up and down in front of his friend’s house?  Or maybe location isn’t the important thing…  Maybe in front of the grocery store for maximum exposure… 

Solution #4:  FORE WARNED IS FORE ARMED.  Make him (or us, perhaps) announce to store managers or parents upon his arrival that he is a thief and bears watching. 

My thoughts:  Nice.  But equally as humiliating for Daddy-O and I.  Don’t know if I’m that strong for the long haul.

Solution #5:  HUMILIATION TAKE TWO.  Make him a t-shirt to be worn either to school for a day or out and about on errands that says roughly the same thing as Solution #3. 

My thoughts:  Schools may deem this abusive.  And I do have concerns about alienating all his friends. 

Now it’s time for YOUR thoughts.  Please, please help. 

Note:  Drive-by’s wishing to only snark at my parenting skills without helpful advice are not welcome and can kiss my, well, you know. 


A Timely Reminder

It has been a trying day around here.  Emotions have  been running high since last night and the unfortunate Flaming Marshmallow Incident which resulted in the burned cornea of one of Ben’s good friends.  We’ve all been feeling on edge.  And Ben decided not to take his ADHD medication this morning. 

I suspected as much when I first woke up to him pesterizing his little brother.  Wrestling.  Playing.  Wrestling.  Teasing.  Wrestling and teasing some more accompanied by an endless stream of noise, words, taunts, vocalizations, words, words, words ad infinitum.  I asked him if he’d taken his meds.  He said he had.  I checked his pill box and saw Friday’s and Sunday’s squares were empty.  Hmmm.  Obviously something was amiss but my coffeeless brain wasn’t up to solving the puzzle.  After re-asking over and over only to get a more adamant version of the same answer each time, I let it go.  It usually takes close to an hour for his pills to kick in after all. 

The moment I stepped through the front door after being at work for the afternoon, I knew I’d been had this morning!  It’s hard to explain the subtle differences in Ben’s behavior when he’s unmedicated.  You can almost tell just by looking at him!  He talks more, for one.  On and on.  And there is a defiant air about him.  And he confronts.  If I ask him to come to the table for dinner on meds he’s more likely than not going to completely ignore me/not hear me until I force him to look me in the eye.  Off medication, he pipes off instantly asking what’s for dinner and proclaiming he doesn’t want that before I can even finish my sentence. 

Tonight was no different.  He pushed and pushed to the point that he practically had to be drug to the table.  Then things got worse.  At one point, Daddy-O was standing behind him forcefully using a hand-over-hand to get him to cut up his own waffles.  The entire family was done eating before Ben had even taken a bite.  He went to bed without dinner at 7:30. 

Ironically, when I finally settled down to check my email I had a comment notification  on a blog post I’d written two years ago:

Aisha, on September 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm Said

Why don’t you get your poor kid off meds and go from there!

Why don’t I get my poor kid off meds?   Because I want him to have a childhood that doesn’t include detentions, perpetual groundings or juvenile hall.  Because I want him to be able to read when he grows up.  Because I want him to be respectful of others and a productive member of society.  Because I don’t want him to struggle for approval and acceptance only to ultimately find it in a group of kids existing on the fringe of what is right.  Because I want him to have more options for friends than those Fringe Kids.  Because if he doesn’t have to expend all his energy fighting the rules he can focus on ways to lift himself up.  Because I love him

I’m sure that tomorrow Ben will take his medication and it will be a better day.  Thank you, Aisha, for giving me reason to pause during a troublesome day and remember how much I love my son and just exactly why it is that I don’t get the poor kid off meds.

Parental Ping-Pong with a side of memories

So much has been going on lately…  I did the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in July.  My boys were gone most of the summer and I missed them like crazy.  Then they came home and I didn’t miss them so much after that.  And now school has started… and it just so happens that Danny is a kindergartener now.  Whew!  So very much happening and I haven’t been able to write a thing.  I’ve gotten part way through several posts.  But then I see a bright light or shiny object and, well, I just can’t seem to finish one up. 

I am determined to complete this one, though! 


So, the boys were at their Va-Va’s house (Daddy-O’s mom) for most of the summer.  Ben doesn’t really enjoy going to her house.  She’s a hoverer.  A micro-manager.  She’ll get up in the middle of the night to check on my soundly sleeping, non-infant children.  Not that these are bad things… they’re just not MY things.  Nor, Ben’s apparently.  Thankfully, he doesn’t mind hanging out over there during the summer as much because he gets to swim more days than not.  But he feels that he “didn’t get a summer” to a great extent.  Danny, on the other hand, doesn’t mind being over there at all.  He could probably use much more hovering and micro-managing than he gets in our household.  Sorry, it’s just not the way I roll. 

We tried very hard to enjoy the kids when they came home on the weekends.  We did lots of fun things like going to the fair more times than we’ve EVER been before and taking in a few concerts, doing the lake thing, etc. It felt a lot like what I imagine a divorced parent feels on their visitation weekends with their kids.  Shove as much fun in as possible and be damned the rules.  While it was fun and certainly liberating, it was also sort of icky-feeling and I don’t ever want to have to feel like that again. 

And now school has begun.  I find it hard to fathom that I have both a Fifth Grader and a Kindergartener this year.  Danny is going to Hawthorne Elementary because they have a Special Needs Kinder class.  I just didn’t feel that he was socially ready to be in the mainstream kindergarten at Baywood.  I love that his class makeup is only 8 kids and a whopping 5 adults!  I also love, love, LOVE that he doesn’t have a dedicated Aide this year.  What I don’t love so much is that he seems WAY more advanced than his classmates and MUCH more social.  I worry that I’ve underestimated him.  I guess only time will tell.

As for Ben, well, I think this year will be very exciting for him.  At least my 5th grade year was.  I remember it very clearly.  At least the social aspects.  Interestingly, it’s the only year I can’t tell you specifically who my teacher was.  Hmmmm.  What I can tell you is that Angie Haywood and I both began wearing bras that year.  We were (if I remember correctly) the only girls in our class that did.  I also remember going behind the maintenance shed with a boy  – I think I was expecting a kiss and may have actually gotten one at some point (that part’s fuzzy)  – but instead got my bra snapped.  And so began my self-consciousness and poor  body image.  It was at least a decade and a half later before I realized that having boobs was like having a Super Power – they could be used for good or evil… but mostly, they could be USED.  Oh, wait… this isn’t about me. 

So, I’m thinking this is going to be a very fun year for Ben.  A year of great changes.  I hear rumors that pubic hair may be making an appearance sometime in the near future.  (Ack!!!!!  La, la, la, la, la! ) Really, though, I have no concept of the male pre-pubescent angst.  I’m beginning to gather there is a lot of anger and frustration that goes along with it, however.  Just the other day I required something of him – something, I’m guessing, that was either completely beneath him or too demanding of his precious time – causing him to fly into a frustrated meltdown and run to his room.  He was crying and mumbling angrily.  Then I heard his muffled yell of unfairness and hatred.  He was yelling into his pillow.  Oh, how I remember those days!  I considered it private time and didn’t interrupt him. 

So maybe there’s not such a difference between boys and girls at this age.  But here’s where my concern lies…  He doesn’t really seem to have many friends – certainly not a close or best friend.  When I dropped him off at school the first day there was a circle of 5 or 6 boys he’s known and played sports with since kindergarten.  I watched him circle the group several times, land once or twice for a minute or two then begin a meandering orbit again.  I don’t think he ever actually spoke to them beyond a hello.  It was the same last year.  Towards the end of the school year I thought he’d finally found a good friend.  He seemed to be hanging with one boy quite a bit.  However, when Ben approached him on the first day of school to ask how his summer was, he was told it was none of his business.  It hurts my heart.  I know how important friends are in these years of change! 

It wasn’t always like this for Ben.  Our weekends used to be filled with playdates and sleepovers.  He used to be met on the playground with a chorus of greetings.  Then we put him on ADHD medication.  Suddenly, everything seemed to change.  He doesn’t go outside to ride his bike on weekends anymore unless we push him to.  Even if we don’t let him watch tv or play video games he really doesn’t want to leave the house.  For the life of me I don’t know if it’s the medication or just Ben.  And I don’t know what to do about it. 

So, this is my year to worry about my oldest boy.  The youngest seems to be doing just fine.  Is this what parenting is all about?  A ping-pong game of worry and concern?  Maybe I’m just watching too much CSI and Criminal Minds and not having a close friendship is nothing to be concerned about… 


Back in time

This foot bridge leads back in time nearly two hundred years to La Purisima Mission as it was in the 1820’s.

What you can’t see from this picture is how muddy the creek below the bridge is despite all the rain we’ve had this year.  I found this surprising as every other waterway in the area is running like gangbusters – even the dry ones.  It’s easy to see why the Missions were made of adobe bricks.  The creek bed is thick with a sucking, muddy clay.  It practically looks like bricks already. 

La Purisima is quite picturesque.  I expected a Mission more typical of the others I’ve seen here in California:  a main church with attached rooms and perhaps an outbuilding or two.  Instead, I found an entire town of sorts, complete with a Chumash Indian village.
I was there as a chaperon on a field trip with Ben’s 4th grade class. Seeing how much of the educational stuff was outside on the grounds I am particularly glad the rain held off until the evening.  
This is the Lavanderia.  The Chumash enjoyed bathing and used this lavanderia to wash their clothes and bathe.  The kids pointed out the face with the water spout in it’s mouth.  I find that a little creepy.

La Purisima was a fully functional township.  There were shops selling the wares of the weavers, potters, candle makers, and leather workers as well as a blacksmith shop and livestock production.  It was really neat to have the docents dressed in period to really bring history to life for the kids (and me!!!).

For myself, I was fascinated by the craftmanship.  Each heavy wooden door was hand made and unique as were the locks.  There is so much beauty in handmade items. 

Mostly, I reveled in the bucolic setting unmarred by modern technology.  There wasn’t a tractor or truck in sight…  Here are some of my favorite views.

Quiet solitude.  Perfect for meditation…  
The main church and cemetery.  Very anti-climactic after seeing the whole property.  But still lovely.
Here’s my artsy shot.  I loved how the bull’s horns framed the outbuildings.  And the sky just seemed so dramatic.  Very wild-westy.  
My favorite shot…


It has been a momentus week so far.  Yesterday I finally reached the end of my third year of Cancer Freedom!  That’s just an awkward way of saying it’s been three years since I finished treatment for Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  Today I had my Well-Check with my Oncologist and was given a Clean Bill of Health.  Bloodwork results are normal.  My overall health is normal.  I am hideously normal – probably the only one in my family that is – and couldn’t be happier about it!!!

These checkup visits are becoming rather mundane these days.  Dr. Villa walks into the exam room.  We hug.  She gives me my lab results before we even sit down just to get it out of the way.  Then she asks after the kids and Daddy-O before we get on to how I’ve been feeling.  Ultimately, we always manage to fit in some sort of small philosophical discussion in.  Today’s topic was Remission.

This word has been bothering me for quite a while now.  Every time I read WhyMommy’s posts on Mothers With Cancer or Toddler Planet I cringe at the mention of her being in “remission”.  I’ve asked WhyMommy before why it is she refers to herself that way.  Wouldn’t you know it…  It’s because that’s what her doctor told her. 

Here is my problem with remission – it sounds like a temporary state of affairs.  Remission makes me feel like the other shoe could drop at any moment.  It feels like a close cousin to that other re word – recurrence.
So I brought up WhyMommy and her annoying status of “in remission”.  Turns out I am “in remission”, too!
And here I thought I was “cancer-free.”  Surprise! Surprise!  And not the good kind either.

After a moment or two of discussion I realized that it all comes down to semantics.

Dr. Villa glanced at me out of the corner of her eye, head cocked to the side.  “You don’t think you’re cured, do you?”

Uh… not anymore…  Actually, I’ve never thought I was.  I’ve always referred to myself as Cancer-Free and didn’t delve any deeper than that.  Turns out that no doctor (the “worth their salt” was implied) would ever mention cured until the 5 year mark.  Yeah.  I knew that.

So, just to be clear, here is the definition of Remission as taken straight from Dictionary.com.


a. a temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of a disease.
b. a period during which such a decrease or subsidence occurs: The patient’s leukemia was in remission.

Note: The term remission is often used in speaking of sufferers from leukemia or other cancers whose symptoms lessen or disappear. In such a case, the disease is said to be “in remission.” The period of remission may last only briefly or may extend over several months or years.

 I still think it sounds pretty ominous to me!  But I guess I’ll forgive all doctors in general – just this once.


In other completely unrelated news, Ben sent his first love letter over the weekend.  Via email.  (It’s the wave of the future, folks.  I hear it’s really catching on!) 
He is only nine. years. old!  We’re talking about a single digit age!  Sheesh!  I thought I had at least another year or two. 
At the risk of completely alienating him in the future, I am sharing his email with you because I am so touched by the damned sweetness of the whole thing.  And also the horror!

”Hay Olivia,don’t tell anybody this it’s a seacret”,Ok here i go ”i LOVE YOU Olivia”.
Plus, did you notice there were not boxes to check?  No question of reciprocation?  Just a lot of putting himself out there like that.  Wow! Times sure have changed since I was a kid!

Benefit or Burden

I love October.  Suddenly the bright spotlight of the media is shown on stories that normally don’t rate for their lack of warm fuzziness.

Take the Welsh’s from Ohio, for instance…  Both wife and husband are in their 60s and are undergoing Breast Cancer treatment.  Both. Of. Them. 

This is a subject near and dear to my heart as my boys have a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer because I and my mother both carry the BRCA2 genetic mutation.  By significantly, I mean about 80 times that of other men!!!  This equates to about a 1 in 14 lifetime chance of breast cancer.  BRCA2 also increases the risk of other cancers: prostate, pancreatic and stomach cancers as well as melanoma.  Did they hit the genetic jackpot or what!? The BRCA2 gene DOUBLES a man’s chances of developing prostate cancer and melanoma!  My boys have a 1 in 3 chance of prostate cancer before they turn 65!  All of these cancers will rear their ugly heads earlier than typical in a BRCA2 man.

I have long been an advocate of Knowledge Is Power!  It’s only when we hide medical histories and facts in the dark because of embarrassment or fear that these awful diseases get the upper hand.  That being said, knowing my boys could be victims of genetic Russian Roulette, I have a decision to make.  Should I get them genetically tested?

My quandary is this:  genetic testing would arm all of us with the power of knowledge.  We could gird our sons against cancer with more frequent screenings at much younger ages.  Even enroll them in test programs aimed at prevention.  However, by equipping ourselves with this information we also make the results available to insurance companies.  If I test the boys as children in order to afford them the best possible chance at survival, do I label them with a giant red flag that will prevent them from ever getting health insurance?  Will it cause them employment issues in the future?

It’s such a tight rope to walk; future benefit or burden?  What would you do?

Cross posted to Mothers With Cancer

The Accidental Victim

Or… How To Get Out Of Soccer Practice.
Or… How To Get Mom To Give Up The Good Meds.
Or… All The Fight With None Of The Fortitude.

Maybe you can come up with your own title.

I’m thinking Ben has a shining future if they ever make Injurious Diving an Olympic event. He’s really quite talented in that area; a natural. (See that semi-colon… Did I use it correctly? Because I really just never know.)

Let’s see, if I can recap for you…

Routine: Windmill Free Fall
Difficulty: 3 of 5
Timing: 5 minutes before brother’s First Birthday party
Presentation: masonry scrapes on forearms and legs and a large 3-cornered gash under chin (complete with embedded brick shrapnel)
Location: Block wall in backyard
Cry Time: 45 minutes
Score: 7.5

Routine: Tarzan Forward Somersault Belly Flop
Difficulty: 5 of 5
Timing: First day of school
Presentation: Bruised nose and buckle fracture of the wrist
Location: Rope swing down the street
Cry Time: None, unless you count clenched teeth and welling eyes.
Score: 9

Routine: Bunk Bed Double Gainer
Difficulty: 3.5
Timing: One week after first cast came off
Presentation: Stuck the landing directly on the under-bed drawer, greenstick fracture of same wrist
Location: Sleepover at friend’s house
Cry Time: 30 minutes at friend’s house and entire way home
Score: 6

Routine: Triple Handlebar Hand Stand Launch
Difficulty: 4
Timing: On the way to soccer practice’
Presentation: Popped bike tire, broken pedal, ripped seat, gash in knee, jammed shoulder, bruised ribs
Location: Into large landscape rocks, over neighbor’s mailbox, onto asphalt
Cry Time: 52 minutes plus every time the judges glance his way
Score: 8.5

The boy has incredible talent!!! Watch for him at the ER near you!