Monday, September 22, 2014

The Teenage Brain: Chapbook Entry: Chapter 1

Title: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
Authors: Frances E. Jensen M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-296874-5

Chapbook Notes: Chapter 1

18 year old girl: grades slipped, ran away from home, and hospitalized for depression. "This year has been difficult for us," the mother wrote. "Sometimes it seemsas if she has been replaced by an alien. It is because of the behavior and the things that she says. She is a completely different person." pg. 15

It starts at 14-16. pg. 15

..."recklessness, rudeness, and cluelessless are not totally their fault. Almost all of this is neurologically, psychologicallly, and physiologically explainable. As a parent or educator, you need to remind yourself of this daily, often hourly!" pg. 1

The economic depression after the Great Depression resulted in kids and teens having nothing else to do than go to school. "We had nothing better for them to do." pg. 17

"Before leaving adolescence behind, a boy can have thirty times as much testosterone in his body as he had before puberty began." pg. 21

..."explains in part why adolescents not only are emotionally volatile but may even seek out emotionally charged experiences -- everything from a book that makes her sob to a roller coaster that makes him scream. This double shammy -- a jacked up, stimulus-seeking brain not yet fully capable of making mature decisions -- hits teens pretty hard, and the consequences to them, and their families, can sometimes be catastrophic." pg. 21

The process of puberty and hormones is explained in detail on pages 20-22.

"Adolescence is a time of increased response to stress, which may in part be why anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, typically arise during puberty. Teens simply don't have the same tolerance for  stress that we see in adults. Teens are much more likely to exhibit stress-induced illnesses and physical problems, such as colds, headaches, and upset stomachs. " pg. 22

The role of THP is explained.  In adults THP calms anxiety by acting like a tranquilizer and calming the person down, but the reverse occurs to teens, THP increases anxiety. pg. 22

..."an open and excitable brain can be adversely affected  by stress, drugs, chemical substatnces,and any  number  of changes in the environment. And because of an adolescent's overactive brain, those influences can result in problems dramatically more serious than they are for adults." pg. 23

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Teenage Brain: Chapbook Entry: Introduction

Title: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
Authors: Frances E. Jensen M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-296874-5

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring some of my notes from this important book.


"Most people thought (the teenage brain) was pretty much like an adult's only with fewer miles on it.

The problem with this assumption is that it was wrong. Very wrong." pg. 4

..."The teen brain is at a very special point in development. As this book will reveal, I learned that there are unique vulnerabilites of this age window, but there is also the ability to harness exceptional strengths that fade as we enter into adulthood.

The more I studied the emerging  scientific literature on adolescents, the more I understood how mistaken it was to look at the teenage brain through the prism of adult neurobiology. Functioning, wiring, capacity -- all are different in adolescents, I learned. I was also aware that this new science of the teenage brain wasn't reaching most parents..." pg.4

On school homework and the parent's role:

"I could plan and he couldn't at that point. Having a structured environment helped him learn, and eventually he got really good at it, sitting in his chair at his desk for hours. I know because I'd check in on hi. I also knew this was a good example of place-dependent learning." pg. 9

"You can offer to proofread assignments, spell-check their essays, or simplly make sure they are sitting in a comfortable desk chair." pg. 9

On extreme hair dying:

"Let them experiment with these more harmless things rather than have them reel and get into uch more serious trouble. Try not to focus on winning the battles when you should be winning the war -- the endgame is to help them through the necessary experimentation that they instinctively need without any long-term adverse effects." pg. 10

"What you don't want is to ridicule, or be judgemental, or disapproving, or dismissive. Instead you get inside your kid's head. Kids all have something they're struggling with that you can try to help." pg. 10

"I make an effort in this book to reveal, wherever possible, the rel data from real science journal articles." pg. 11

"But the most important advice I want to give you is to stay involved."

..."Our best tool as they enter and move through their adolescent years is our ability to advise and explain, and also to be good role models. If there's anything I've learned with my boys, it's that no matter how many assignments they forgot to bring home from school, they were watching me, taking the measure of their mom as well as all the other adults around the." pg. 13

"Yes, you can survive your teenager's adolescence. And so can they. And you will all have a lot of stories to tell after it's all over." pg. 13

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Transitional Imperfection

We expected that our younger son would have a bit of a rough transition to school. Since it is an alternative education school with more relaxed and more common sense policies for the younger kids than what public school doles out I didn't think it would be too drastic.

We expected lower grades, challenges with learning to memorize foreign language and developing study habits. I had no clue how he would do remembering assignment, if he would comply or be open to keeping a "student diary" type calendar or at least use an app on the iPhone.

We figured homework would be an adjustment but truth be told he has either no homework, a half hour, or an hour's worth a night. For 9th grade!

He is doing Singapore Math and they have a combined Algebra I & II class. The whole class is a combined grades 9 & 10 since grade 9 enrollment was too low to justify the creation of a class just for them, so kids are at different math ability levels. He seemed to forget everything he learned last year, even basic pre-algebra stuff so it was a bit rough at the start. I asked what the textbook was, thinking I could buy one, and asked instead if he could take his textbook home at night (they normally make them leave them in class). The school decided to send him home with a brand new Singapore textbook to leave here. My husband is helping him. I am just as capable but they are leaving me alone due to homeschool burnout and stress over my eye condition.

I have not seen grades yet.

I seriously have let go and am letting the school handle my son. It is very different to just let go and let it happen. I thought all responsible parents help their kid such as if they struggle with a math concept, to suggest they go watch Khan Academy's video on it, until that gets ingrained so the student does such a thing on his own.

We told our son he is not being pulled out so he is there for the whole year no matter what.

So far, so good, I think, after three weeks in.

Friday, September 19, 2014

First Public Show For My Business

I did my first public show to sell my soap and body care products which I formulate on my own and create in small batches myself. I was asked to participate after the organizer found my etsy shop. I had only five weeks notice so rushed to make some fall and winter scented soaps and products that would be good for stocking stuffers. Since the soap has to cure for a minimum of four weeks you can see I rushed in week one.

The show as billed as a harvest to holidays market and was pushing to buy for Christmas. Thing is, it still feels like summer in Houston. It's not October yet and people are not even in the Halloween mindset let alone thinking of Thanksgiving then Christmas.

It is a major undertaking to pack up inventory, buy and prepare all the supplies for the display, load it into your vehicle, drive to the place, unpack the vehicle, set it all up, look presentable (after all that sweating), then sell and then tear down and shove it all back in your car and drive home. After days of prep to wrap and label and get signage for prices, I was faced with bad weather.

We had gully washer thunderstorms with rain the size of half dollars. There were multiple flash flood warnings from the National Weather Service. Roads were closed. I left at noon and drove an hour through that insanity. Thank goodness there was a roof over the drop off area and a cart. I actually had a hand truck at home, but while using it the axle broke rendering it useless.

Attendance was estimated to be 500 but I would say only 200 came through, at the most, and some of those were kids and babies in strollers. It was just that kind of rotten weather day that after dealing with it you wanted to just stay home at night. Especially because although it was sprinkling or dry at shopping time, the prediction for more gully washers all day the next day was known to all. It was a depressing weather day for Houston.

I made 25 sales. I understand a first time buyer may be afraid that my product sucks so they want to buy one or two bars to try out. The challenge is since this is an annual market only, they do not have access to my product except for the etsy shop. Some young women said they would buy via etsy. Maybe that generation is more Internet shopping comfortable and not minding to pay $6 to ship 8 bars? I doubt the older ones would shop online.

I don't know whether what I took in was good for the bad weather or bad for me in general. The door to door time was 10.5 hours and that doesn't count packing up everything and loading and unloading the car. We were encouraged to discount or offer a special sale so I knocked $1 off my price and added tax after (formerly the 8.25% tax was inside my price).

I like home shows the best. The audience is targeted. The actually want to be there hearingabout your   product and friends can be influenced by other friends more than just relying on direct sales pitches from the business owner. When you are an artisan maker of things your passion is making the thing not necessarily being a salesperson first and foremost. But when you make and sell you have to have at least decent sales skills.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Teenage Brain: NPR Story

I have begun reading an uncorrected proof of a new nonfiction book slated for publication in January 2015: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt.

I wish I had this book and information in hand four years so I could read it and be ready for when my oldest turned fourteen and began the roller coaster in the summer of 2011.

I am so convinced of the importance that every parent read this book that I have decided to do chapbook entries featuring some of the parts that are of importance to me, chapter by chapter.

I will start by linking to a 2010 NPR story, an interview with the author Frances Jensen M.D.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Decluttering In Short Spurts

I was folding laundry and when I went to put the t-shirts away I realized the drawer was overflowing. I realized I probably had not done a clean out in a year so I decided to just tackle it.

I removed each item and put them in a stack. I thought I had it organized but this soon revealed some confusion. In realizing the minor chaos I had ideas on how to better organize things. You can do this for yourself while working with your own things. I will share my process for this. It took me about 45 minutes to do four drawers and to select items to donate and to pack those in boxes to ready for donation.

1. Workout pants and shirts in bottom drawer. Special clothing for exercising, Under Armour, yoga pants, running shorts, etc. I removed items that I have not worn or that are too large now for the donate pile. I found a sports bra there and moved it to the bra drawer.

2. T-shirts that we call spirit wear: logo shirts for our kid's sports teams and FIRST Robotics team. I realized I have the old hated sport club so those went in the donate pile. I don't want to advertise them anywhere around here so they are gone. Some "Life is Good" shirts which I don't wear around on a daily basis can be used for exercising.

3. For gardening, arts and crafts, and soapmaking I selected two of my husband's wrong sized dress shirts, three mock turtlenecks that are stretched at the neck, three stretched or stained comfortable t-shirts, and one sleeveless knit shirt that is too old ladyish to wear out.

4. Plain casual t-shirts for wearing around that fit well and are flattering on me. Tight knit t-shirts to wear layered in winter. Golf or tennis type shirts designed to wick away sweat that I wear in hot weather.

While I was on a roll I decided to tackle the pajama drawers (three). Shirts are on the top, I pared it down to the ones I actually wear. Bottoms are in the next drawer, I got rid of some that are not comfortable enough so never get chosen to be worn. The last drawer is nightshirts or nightgowns, I got rid of one I never wear.

All the drawers are not quite full. All the laundry is clean and put away so I know everything can fit.


A basic principle with keeping stuff and clutter is having too many is the issue. There is no need to keep souvenir shirts for teams you now hate, or shirts that are too big now and are unflattering. There is no reason to keep fifteen stained t-shirts thinking you need them for gardening work when your schedule and laundry washing routine means three shirts can suffice.

The biggest help in decluttering is putting everything in one spot and seeing that you have too many. When the excess is seen and realized it starts to look ridiculous and stupid if not greedy (hoarding up stained t-shirts for what reason?). So it is easy to let go of the unnecessary crap.

Donate your stuff to a nonprofit organization and take the donation slip to use as a write-off on your federal income taxes, that's what we do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vayarin Update

I was asked how Vayarin is working for my older son (age 17). Here is an update from my original post: Trying Vayarin For Older Son.

We did not notice a change but he is still on it. He eats no fish and lacks nutrients from his picky eating.

The insurance does not pay for it but the drug store runs it through them and they then give us a 20% discount. It's an odd arrangement.

It was $58 a month until last month when it jumped to $63.

We are having trouble finding an over the counter fish oil supplement that doesn't reek and make him gag and puke upon trying to swallow it. The Vayarin is tasteless.

I note that my son's health issues which were diagnosed in June 2014 may have contributed to a lack of focus, memory, and alertness. He was diagnosed with hypothryoid, very very low vitamin D, low calcium and magnesium. He's on all kinds of supplements now.