When passions collide


The focus of An Intense Life this month is “Nurturing Gifted Kids’ Passions.” Well, if I wrote about that, I’d just say “allow all the tech into the house and shut the door,” and I’ve already covered that this month. Easy peasy with my boys’ passions. Tech and programming and hacking and boom, done. But me? I’m a different story.

Growing up I did a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Always played in band, but dabbled a little in basketball and photography and swing choir in middle school, softball and a year of theater in high school. College and grad school I was too focused on survival to do much more than study and practice. But once out of grad school? The dam gates burst. Suddenly I had more brain space and time to investigate anything that interested me, and investigate I did. And so, for the last 17 years, I’ve struggled to balance my passions. There is just so much that interests me, so much I want to do, that I often end up frozen, paralysis by analysis.

I’ve at least managed to whittle my main passions down to two. Flute/teaching and writing/gifted advocacy. And while it may look like four different areas there, nah, it’s really two. I teach because I play and I play to be a better teacher. I write, not nearly as much as I’d like, or on all the things I want to write, but it has led to me doing more gifted advocacy. They both take up a significant amount of time and energy, but I can’t give either one up.

There was a time when I closed my flute case and didn’t open it for 18 months. It could have been stolen out from under my nose and I wouldn’t have known. And at the time, I’m not sure I would have cared. I was burned out, and in retrospect I really did need that time away from it. But now I can’t imagine my life without playing and teaching. I love it. Teaching inspires and entertains me, and playing allows me to be the dramatic extrovert I’m not in my day to day life.

I fell into writing in 2006, when I started a blog on a whim. Thankfully I’ve gotten better over the years, with one book published and another in progress. I’ve thought about giving it up, walking away from the blogging and the gifted advocacy, but I can’t. When I get into a groove, writing is satisfying to the point of ethereal bliss. And while it’s tough sometimes, I love talking to parents of G2e kids.

So my two big passions are a balancing act. Both take a lot of time, energy, and focus. On any given day it’s one or the other. And on Tuesday nights, it’s flute, because I have rehearsal at the same time as the weekly #gtchat, and I don’t miss rehearsal unless I’m puking in a bucket. (No, seriously, in five years I’ve only missed two rehearsals, both because of “please shoot me I’m so sick” illness). I hate it when my passions collide, but it happens.

What this has all shown me is that it’s ok that my boys have only one passion right now, that it’s more than likely they’ll discover a whole world of interests when they’re older, and that I’m modeling the balancing act they’ll need as adults.

Poor kids; guess I’d better improve my balancing act.


Invisible Advocate

invisible-man-shadows-pol-ubeda-41.jpgGifted children (and adults) are often not understood by most people. It’s very similar to an invisible disability in a way, especially when the gifted one keeps it a secret as long as possible. There is a connection between invisible disabilities and giftedness.

When I started writing about being gifted and learning disabled back in my undergrad years, I felt alone. I didn’t purposefully ostracize, but some of the people who would approach me after a presentation I just didn’t feel they were really on target. I felt they were beach goers compared to the submerged SCUBA diver. They would see the surface and say they knew the ocean despite never diving under and experiencing the coral reefs or any of the underwater life.

Since my collegiate days, I married and had children. My children all have had learning challenges and it’s in large part why we home school now, but the bigger challenge comes from a similar issue we wrestle with even more often than having highly sensitive girls who don’t often fall within 2 standard deviations of the norm. I have kids with invisible health issues. I started advocating for my oldest while she was anaphylactic to egg, pork, chicken, turkey, strawberries, tree nuts and fish. This was me going to the beach. Since then we have added Eosinophilic esophagitis x 2, and dysautonomia. What they all have in common is that they are invisible and I’ve become an underwater explorer along the way. Unfortunately I’m not wearing SCUBA gear and have had issues being in WAY over my head.

Invisible disabilities can be difficult socially. Some people seem to get it, while others just don’t. I used to think that if people cared more they would understand and help to make a bumpy ride a bit smoother, but I have learned it’s not always the case. Friends and even family can be clueless and even say things that leave you speechless. Just recently my youngest was having feet pains (EoE related symptom). I ran up stairs to retrieve her script so she could practice her lines (she’s in The Velveteen Rabbit play coming up). Somebody I’ll keep anonymous for now grumbled about us enabling her in a negative way.

This lack of understanding is a huge problem. It belittles the needs of people. This is why we all need to advocate. We need to advocate for our children and for others. When somebody says “maybe the allergic kids could just hang out in a separate room and we could throw Dum Dums and Smarties to them.” It’s not acceptable to even joke about it. We fought hard for civil rights, and now, finally, excluding someone based on the color of their skin is no longer welcome in our society. It was a lack of understanding between people that spurred racism and it’s the same with invisible disabilities or giftedness.

ta188etqzgb3uwi_b1vo1jsuoecpmzpn_invisibleIt may be scary to be the first person to stand up for the family being excluded, but we are all the better for the change. We have seen it in the past and we can continue to include better in the future. As the school year rolls along, consider non-food rewards and treats for the classes with children who have food allergies. You don’t have to be an underwater explorer to do the right thing. Enjoy the beach, and enjoy everyone as who they are.

How To Make A Dream Poster

Girl playing in the sun
Girl playing in the sun

Parenting gifted children is a challenge in many ways. But it is also exciting. Their intensities and passions are electrifying to be around. But sometimes our kids struggle with wrestling that excitement into a dream for their future. Life happens, the world misunderstands them and slowly they begin to limit their dreams, their passions. This is where we need to intercede and help our kiddos NOT lose sight of their dreams.

Dreaming isn’t about being practical or pragmatic. It’s about imagining the most fantastical life you can dream up, and imagining it in perfect detail.  Teaching our children how to visualize their passions can inspire them to do as Henry David Thoreau says and “go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

A Dream Poster is a great way for your children to put their fantasies and dreams into something that can remind them of their passions. Making one is easy and can be done with minimal supplies. The how-to list below can be done to create a print poster. You can also adapt it to create a digital poster or collage board on Pinterest, Tumblr page, or similar online site:

How To Make A Dream Poster:

  • Start with a listing of your interests
  • Find or draw pictures that capture those interest, as well as your goals for the future
  • Make a collage, poster, or some other artistic representation of those interests. Be as creative as you dare. Some people have made 3-D letters, decoupaged with pictures of their dreams. Others have created Wordle posters or Tumblr pages. There really are no limits to what you can create.
  • Somewhere in the picture, write a goal of something you would like to do or achieve.
  • Date the picture.
  • Revisit it often and change it or add to it as you desire.
  • Most importantly, DREAM BIG!

It’s important for all of us to make visual reminders of where we want to go, both in terms of our goals and our dreams. Teaching your children to to this can help them harness their intensities and turn them into passions that ignite their future. A dream poster can be their (or your) reminder to help us when life throws curve balls, gets too difficult, or our dreams seem to fade from view altogether.

Keep calm and close the basement door


You know, and I know, that when a gifted kid develops a passion in something, it is more all-encompassing than the norm. It’s not unlike Willy Wonka’s candy factory; it’s in every nook and cranny and in every detail of their lives. It becomes them.

So I should be grateful that my sons’ passions are not things like snakes or arachnids or making rocket fuel or international travel. I’m a little tweaked that their passions aren’t in the kitchen, but whatever.

Tech. Computers. Programming. Hacking. Building. Rebuilding. Tinkering.

This is my basement:


If, like me, you like things neat and tidy and “a place for everything and everything in its place,” then this picture probably has you rocking under your desk. This is a horrific mess.

And you know what? I don’t really care. For the most part it’s out of my sight (unless I’m on the treadmill, which you can’t see here), and it rarely oozes upstairs. The boys go downstairs and they work on computers. They tinker with aging servers that friends have given them. They program their Raspberry Pis. This is their maker space.

This is their Willy Wonka tech space. Their passion in every nook and cranny.

And I get to close the basement door.


Back to school for parents too


Well, we’ve been back to school for a month now and it is kicking me in the teeth. The boys are fine, both are rocking their individual educational setups (a homeschooling sophomore, a 7th grader at the local and awesome public middle school) better than I could have ever imagined. It’s me. So far this school year has been brutal.

When we think of gifted kids heading back to school, we tend to think of things like “will he be appropriately challenged?” and “hope she and her teacher are a good match” and “oh please oh please trust me when I say that he needs recess for his sanity and yours.” I think we forget about the parents sending them off.

I feel as though my many, many years of advocacy for my oldest son sets something off in me when school comes back ’round in the fall. Even though things couldn’t be smoother right now (lights a candle, says a prayer, turns around three times), I still get on edge. Add to that the early and fast-paced mornings and more students in my flute studio and the fact that I am the executive function for the entire household, back to school is mighty rough until about Halloween.

So all you other prematurely exhausted parents? Promise me that you’ll take it easy this school year. We can’t keep running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. Care for your kids, but remember to care for yourself, too. That’s the best way for everyone to hopefully have a great year.

The Social Scene at School: 5 Tips to Help Your Gifted Children

Portrait of smiling little school kids in school corridor
Portrait of smiling little school kids in school corridor

Back to school means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some of our gifted kiddos, it means back to the social grind. Many of our gifted children struggle when it comes to making friends. The five tips below can help your gifted children feel more comfortable in the social aspects of their lives:

Healthy Habits: Start off on the right foot by making sure the child is practicing healthy habits that include the following:

  • Rest – no one functions well on little sleep, and while many gifted children need less sleep, it is important that they develop healthy sleep habits
  • Eat well – well-balanced meals are the key.
  • Exercise and relaxation – both are needed in a healthy, well-balanced life
  • Playtime – gifted children are often very serious. Building in playtime, preferably with others, can help provide much-needed balance

Perspective: Teach children how to discern between the things within his control versus those things outside of his control. The Hula Hoop technique can help:

  • Imagine there is a hula hoop on the ground and step into it
  • Everything outside of the hula hoop you have NO control over
  • Everything inside of the hula hoop you have 100% control over
  • The next time you are angry or upset think about the hula hoop. Is this something you have control over, something you can change? If so, make the needed changes. If not, let it go. There is little you can do anyway.

Temperament: Learn the difference between introverts and extroverts (my post earlier this month may help) and help your child determine which one is true for them. This can help in determining the cause and solution for potential problems with peer interactions

Intensities: Help your child deal with their intensities. Here are a few specific strategies to help:

  • Teach children that their feelings are a normal part of his personality.
  • Build activity into the day.
  • Teach relaxation techniques.
  • Allow for creative thinking and creative outlets.

Social Skills: Teach your children these five success tips from 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids (Prufrock Press):

  • You don’t always have to be right.
  • Be a problem solver, not a problem maker
  • Never try to hide your giftedness to make friends – it won’t work anyway
  • Accept yourself and others as you are
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously

These tips will begin to help your children develop the social skills needed to develop healthy peer relationships at school and beyond.

Long Evenings and Good Mornings

The deep drone fills the entire house. I can feel it slightly vibrating the walls. Beep beep beep. I stop what I’m doing and listen for a moment. Then two more. Ah! The alarm has been shut off. The milk I pour into the cup is extra cold and the chocolate syrup takes a while to mix in completely. I put the milk on the table and place a napkin, no, two napkins, next to it.

The bright green digits of the clock on the stove tell me a number of minutes have passed since the alarm was turned off and I haven’t heard any noise from upstairs. At the bottom of the stairs, I pause, listening intently. No movement. I walk up the stairs and peek into the bedroom. A little boy shaped lump, like a mummy made with spaceship-decorated fabric, is laying quietly in bed with the blanket over his head, blocking the light. Asleep.

Loudly, I call to the dog. “Let’s go, Boy! Wake up time!” At the head of the bed, I kiss the round shape at the top of the blanket-mummy and say a cheery, “Good morning” just as the dog jumps onto the bed and starts bouncing him into a wakeful state. I peel back the blanket and give him a kiss on his exposed cheek.

Groggy though my son is, he is still young enough to consider such brash attention first thing in the morning with the good intentions with which it was intended. The dog sniffs his ear and my son starts smiling even though he is not quite awake. To jump start his thinking, I remind him, “Today is picture day! Do you want to wear something special or regular clothes? You have a button down shirt. What about a tie? You can use one of Daddy’s ties. I just have to learn how to tie it.” He surprises me by agreeing to wear the necktie. Google to the rescue.

In only a few years, judging from my experience with my oldest child, such pleasant, if slow, morning interactions will disappear to be replaced by pressing snooze until just enough time remains for the student to throw on (hopefully) clean clothes and dash out the door. All with very little interaction with mommy.

When did I realize our family would never achieve Ozzy and Harriet style fuss-free mornings and evenings? When my kids stopped napping regularly at one and half years old. Sleep, naps or a normal bed time, was elusive. From playing with toes to recounting the entire day and discussing the philosophy of Pokemon—why would anyone want to close their eyes and put a stop to such riveting contemplations? While I like to be understanding, and being privy to the thought processes of my precocious little one makes it easy, we still had to impose silent time.

Rather than wake up when the extra-loud alarm clock buzzes insistently, it is turned off and the morning routine starts to slip. These are the days I hope there is something simple to make for breakfast. I make sure his feet are on the floor and he is supporting his own weight before I go back to the kitchen.

Because I volunteered to learn how to tie a necktie, we’re running a bit later than usual. Just as he comes downstairs, I place a re-heated waffle on the table. I do the morning check: Shoes? Yes. Hair brushed? Good enough. Oops! The shirt is on inside out. He’s a good sport and fixes it.

The time I spent learning how to tie a necktie was probably why we missed the bus. I had the brilliant idea a week ago to get up and cook breakfast 15 minutes earlier. Did it help? No—it took an extra 15 minutes to eat. It was a relaxed 15 minutes, though. It seems, much like projects at work, the task will expand to fit the time available. Ultimately, what works for us is a bit of flexibility; I recognize that we might just need to drive in more than other families.


Back to School Pop Quiz


Welcome back to school, everyone! So good to see so many bright and shiny faces! I know we’re going to have a wonderful year, and I can’t wait to get to know all of you.

But first, please take out a Number 2 pencil, put your devices in the Bowl of Integrity on my desk (yes, just like at Trivia Night at the local watering hole), and strap on your thinking caps. It’s a Back to School Pop Quiz!

  1. I am excited to be back to school. T/F
  2. The one thing I am most looking forward to this year is:
    1. Learning all there is to know
    2. Discovering this year’s fundraiser
    3. The new cocktails I’ll concoct to survive the year
    4. Summer Break 2017
  3. The one thing I am most dreading this year is:
    1. Homework and the accompanying battles
    2. This year’s fundraiser
    3. The After-Schooling to feed my child’s insatiable brain-maw.
    4. The second and third jobs I’ll need for #2 and #3.
  4. If Wilson is traveling west on a scooter going 10 mph and Minerva is traveling south on a hovercraft going slightly faster than it takes for a watched pot to boil, what are the pink elephants drinking when they show up at the inevitable meeting we’re going to have about your child? Bonus points for naming the song playing on the ISS at the time, including artist and language.
  5. Please diagram this sentence: Your twice-exceptional child does not test well enough to meet the qualifications for the gifted program at this school; too bad, so sad.
  6. Fill in the blanks:
    This year, I hope my child ___________ and ______________, despite the _________ and the __________. I know the _____________ can be a real ____________, but it’s really in the best interests of the _____________. Ultimately, it’s the _________________’s responsibility that ________________ gets a fair and appropriate education, and _____________, _______________, and ________________ should do well to remember that. ___________ _____________ ____________ ______________ _____________ _______  _____________ _______________ ____ __ ____________ _______________ _________!!!
  7. Are you a robot? Please type what you see in the image below: __________________
  8. Thought experiment: Zombies have come and education as we know it is kaput. You still have a G2e kid. Please demonstrate “now what?” using either interpretive dance, modern art, or twelve-tone serialism a la Schoenberg.
  9. Your teacher is tired of making questions. So if you’ve made it this far choose #1 to get this one correct. Peace out.
    1. YASSSSSS!!!!
    2. Wait, what, really?
    3. That’s it?
    4. Can the whole freaking year BE THIS EASY?
  10. Let’s have a great year! Please write any concerns you may have in the space below:

Homeschooling and LD and Falling Through the Cracks Oh My!

eyechartWhen I was a kid, I went to public schools, but they did me no service. I was not diagnosed as having a learning disability until my senior year of college. I knew our girls had strengths and weaknesses, and they needed to be addressed. Unfortunately our experience in the public school realm displayed a lack of recognizing their needs. The school our girls attended seemed to feel that average or within 2 standard deviations of average was acceptable and if you were on the high end, you were fine.  Getting services in public schools can be a challenge; getting services for homeschoolers can be a different kind of challenge.

In schools, getting services for things like dyslexia when your child can still read and comprehend above grade level is near impossible because “she’s within normal range”, “she’s fine.”  We recognize that our daughter needs services even through she reads and tests above her grade level, however we struggle to figure out exactly what services she needs, therefore struggle to know who to ask for help.

So with all this, you may be asking, “Gee Tom, how do you get services for your kids?” Well there is no easy answer to that one. It’s a lot of talking with other parents, hit and miss, trial and error, and referrals from one specialist to another so insurance will cover whatever possible. Families who live in a rural area may not have as many options when it comes to specialists, and that can really suck. We have been fortunate to have found a wealth of knowledge in our support network. We talk to a lot of other parents who face similar challenges and are always sharing curriculum ideas, coping skills as well as therapist experiences.

When our daughter was in school and we were told that she would grow out of her letter reversals, we accepted what the experts were saying rather than follow through with our gut instinct. We delayed her services a couple years and now she struggles more than she probably should.  If we had kept her in school, she would have slid through the cracks though. At home, we know better than to say “she is performing above grade level, so she must be fine.”

When one of our daughters began losing interest in reading and said the words were blurry, we had her checked at the eye doctor who said she was fine. We were not satisfied and went to our support network to find a better optometrist. We had to travel a bit farther and we’re glad we did.  They ran a functional eye test and we learned that she was not “fine.”  This is very typical of how it works in our house: we keep pushing to find the help we need.  I think this is typical of most homeschoolers and public schoolers alike.

So as this school year starts I say, stay strong and keep pushing for help if your gut says it’s needed.  Trust your gut – it’s usually right.  And look in every corner.  You never know where you might find help for various needs.  I would have never guessed that an optometrist could help us beyond the blurry vision.  I would have never guessed an optometrist could say her vision issues are causing her to skip lines and that might be why she’s not understanding what she reads. Help and answers may show up where you least expect them.