Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

On Social Skills November 6, 2018

Jay : Who swapped my good gel pen for THIS? *holds up a regular ball point pen in disgust*

 

Ace : First of all, I’m not answering any questions without my lawyer present.

 

Me : *Takes bow for my excellent parenting skills in teaching Ace his rights*

 

 

We were launched into a full-fledged court proceeding with Jay serving as prosecutor, jury and judge. He would not stop until he had solved the mystery of the missing pen – and truly, the entire thing was quite entertaining.

I was deemed innocent due to having no motive since I had given him the now missing pen in the first place. Next, Ace was deemed innocent due to his willingness to let Jay borrow his gel pen. That meant, through the process of elimination, Shaunie was found guilty of pen theft. She vehemently denied the charges, but without an alibi, her goose was cooked.

~*~

One of the 3 main characteristics of autism is impaired social skills; and we have certainly had many moments where his impairment was severe and noticeable. Too though – and more often than not these days – there are moments when Jay’s social skills amaze me.  Moments like that “courtroom hearing” where he seemed to perfectly understand all the typical features of pretending and sarcasm and teasing and hyperbole.

 

There are still instances though where he hits a bump in the road – so to speak.

Jay came home from school upset and confused about a situation that had taken place earlier in the day. For some unknown reason he had told a classmate that she has buck teeth. Of course, it hurt her feelings and she complained to the teacher who made Jay apologize. The problem is that he didn’t understand what he had done wrong.

I wasn’t making fun of her. I didn’t laugh at her. I just told her that she has buck teeth. She does have buck teeth.”

It was quite a task trying to explain to him that while he may not have meant to hurt her feelings, he had so it was his job to fix it. His intention was not the point.  I told him that in general it isn’t a good idea to talk about someones looks unless you are saying something nice. I tried to explain that his observation probably made her feel self-conscious and therefore, feel badly.

He wasn’t getting it.

Or maybe he was pretending not to get it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with him because I know him and I know he’d rather pretend that he doesn’t know something than to own up to doing something wrong.  Not that he’d outright lie, but, usually I can see it on his face the moment the connection is made. The confused look gives way to a smirk (which he tries to hide by lowering his head). This one was tough.  I’m still not sure where his head is at with this.

 

One thing I do know is that when it comes to getting what he wants, he knows how to play the game and his social skills are impeccable. He lost a tooth recently and “the tooth fairy” forgot to put the money under the pillow. Jay knows about the tooth fairy *wink wink*, but he still likes to keep up the charade. You know, money and all that. When he asked why the tooth fairy hadn’t come by with money, I told him that I’d simply forgotten and that I’d just hand him the cash. His response? He started giggling and said, “OK. I’ll take it. But can the tooth fairy still come tooI want to be rich.”

 

 

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Work Life Balance November 1, 2018

Enjoy it. The kids grow up so fast.

You really should eat better and exercise.

Don’t stay in an abusive relationship.

Save money and maintain good credit.

 

All good advice. All things that people say to help others and all things that people already know to be true or right. BUT. Also all things that can be super hard to fully appreciate when you are in the thick of just getting through each day.

I get it. Oh, do I get it. I’ve been guilty of wishing away time and waiting for the kids to get older because in that moment, things were just so incredibly difficult. I’ve not eaten for weeks because I was stressed out and I am so bad at working out that it’s not even worth mentioning. I had never been to the doctor for a check-up until about 2 weeks ago when Shaunie made an appointment and forced my hand. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship but there were definitely some unhealthy situations that I allowed to linger for too long. And I took a long time to get my financial situation in order; (Well into my 30’s).

 

Making these positive changes gives you such a different life though that once you’ve done it, you get severely annoyed at yourself for not doing it sooner.

 

Don’t be a slave to your job. Take time off. Create a good work/life balance.

More advice that well-meaning people give and that we all know to be valid. Then we go back to our 2 hour commutes and our 12 hour work days and our 160 hours of built up vacation time.

 

I spent nearly 3 years in that life. Leaving home before 6 am and not getting home till after 6 pm. At home, things kept moving. The wheels kept spinning. I just missed A LOT of it. For 2 years, I told myself that I really needed to start looking for a new job and then I didn’t for one reason or another.

3 weeks ago I started a new job and it’s been indescribable.

 

I get to sleep in a little longer in the morning and I still get home when it’s light outside.

I sometimes make dinner for my family and clean up and can still find a minute to sit and watch some TV or read a chapter of my book before it gets dark.

 

I get to drop my boy off to school and hear him marvel at the colours of the sky when we step outside. This morning it was glorious shades of hot pink and bright blue.

For the entire month of October, there was a family who lives next to Jays school who used a skeleton family to depict various fun activities. They changed it every day. It was so fun. Jay and I loved pulling up to see what the skeleton family was up to each day.

 

Ace and I get a few minutes in the morning to chit chat before he heads out to the bus stop. It’s invaluable. Yesterday I spent some time talking with him and one of his friends as they waited for the bus.

The boys and I have gone on Burger King and Taco Bell dates in the afternoons and we were able to do a make-up tennis lesson on Monday evening.

The tutor can come earlier in the afternoon so that we can have more time before bed to either get things done or just hang out.

 

Simple things really. But oh my gosh they are the BEST things.

 

I know in the vast majority of cases, people need to learn lessons in their own time; not because someone told them to. We all make moves when we are truly ready to do them. As one of my best friends told me recently, “I know I complain about being fat, but if it was really a problem to me, I’d do something about it.” I do understand that. But if there is anything I can do or say to encourage you to take the step you’ve been wanting to take – but have been procrastinating on – please let me know. I’ll do or say it.

 

You won’t be sorry. I promise.

 

And now I need to seriously get into some sort of workout routine – And stick to it.

 

How A Space Heater Saved Our Lives October 23, 2018

Typically, a group of about 10 of us go camping together in the summer. Some years we have a couple extras. One year we had as many as 22. This year though, we couldn’t find a weekend that was suitable for everyone in our regular crew. Too many other things happening. Babies being born and weddings in other countries being attended and so on.

It seemed as though we’d miss out on our annual camping trip this year. And in some ways we did. But not in all the ways. Our rag tag army of 4 decided to brave the elements and take it on by ourselves.

Camping on a good day is a lot of work. It’s worth it. But it’s a lot of work.

Add to all the normal work that we chose to book a weekend in late-ish October AND hadn’t checked the weather report before heading out. Maybe it was a good thing that we hadn’t checked because had I known a storm was going to pass through I may have pulled the rip cord and spent the weekend on my couch.

 

We arrived at the site around 8pm on Friday; which is later than we normally try to get set up.  I mean, setting up in pitch blackness can be a little tricky.  None-the-less, we got the tent up, made a fire, hung out for a little bit and then went to bed without any problems.

Let me just say – Thank the heavens we had brought a space heater. It saved our lives when the temperatures dropped in the night. Even with the bit of warmth, no-one got a good nights sleep however. It rained pretty hard and the air mattress Shaunie and I were on, lost air steadily as the night progressed. By the time we “woke up” the next day, we were feeling hard ground beneath us.

Oh well. All part of the fun I told myself.

Saturday was a great day. The kids made a hot dog breakfast on the open fire and Shaunie made eggs on the one burner propane stove we had. We toured the site and found that it was quite nice. It sits on a river which I’m sure would be fun to swim in, in the summer time. They had a basketball court, a bouncy thing for the kids to jump on and a game arcade (which we didn’t actually use). Back at our site, we played board games and Jay threw rocks into the river. At one point he tried walking down a hill but he slipped and ended up going down the muddy slope on his butt. It was pretty funny and he took it like a boss.

In the afternoon there was a costume contest (since it’s so close to Halloween) and also there was trick or treating. The boys ended up with 2 bags full of candy. I snagged a snickers bar and some vampire teeth. We had no idea we were supposed to bring candy to give away but it was ok; All the regulars (who clearly knew the deal because they came PREPARED with legit decorations) made up for it and there was more than enough to go around.

When it got dark, we went for a walk on a haunted trail (also set up by the camp site) and it was really good. I think Ace was the most scared out of the 4 of us. But he made it all the way through and I was proud of him.

Saturday night was rough since a storm came through. Really heavy wind and rain lashed outside and our little tent was swaying a lot. It also got seriously cold. The space heater helped for sure, but it didn’t come close to making us warm. Poor Ace got so scared by the wind that I ended up moving to his air mattress and cuddling him all night.

We all woke up exhausted on Sunday and even though the sun was out, it did not help to warm us up at all.

We packed up and left the site at around 11:30.

 

All in all, I think it was good that we pushed through and did it. Shaunie may disagree with me.  But the kids enjoy it and I think it’s good for them to spend time “roughing it”.  Plus, I am all about having family traditions and this has become one of ours.

 

See ya again next year camping equipment. In the summer though.

 

What’s Been Up? October 17, 2018

What should I write about?

I could mention that one of Ace’s friends was giving him props and said “You my nigga” to which Ace promptly responded, “No.  I’m not.  I don’t like that word.” And how proud I was of him that he spoke up even though it was from a friend and not intended to be demeaning or insulting and even though it had the potential to turn what had been a pleasant moment into something more serious and uncomfortable.

I could tell you that Jay came home complaining about another student and during his rant, he said among other things, “… he’s retarded” and I was completely taken aback by that word choice.  I let Jay finish and then we had a discussion about the word “retard” and that it’s not the correct word to use because it’s insulting to people who have an actual medical issue or disability.  I suggested other words that he could use instead and was very pleased when he said, “Oh yes, that makes sense.  I won’t use that word anymore.  Well, he’s a total jerk and you should talk to his mom.”

 

 

Ooh, can we talk about how Jay had a project at school where he was supposed to make a plant cell model?  At least, that’s what he told me the project was.  I spent time on the weekend getting necessary supplies.  I took a minute to complain about having to do a project on Facebook.  We built (what I thought) was an awesome plant cell and Jay took it to school.  ONLY FOR IT TO BE WRONG.  Ugh!  I got a call from the teacher explaining that Jay had not accurately understood what the project was so we need to do it all over.  There is a part of me that fully appreciates how willing the teachers are to give us more time and how they tried to not make it into a big deal by saying “He just took the assignment too literally and you know, once he has an idea in his head, he gets stuck on that.  We won’t grade his project until Thursday so you can work on it.  It won’t take too long.  And we’ll talk with him today and give him some examples and maybe have him look at some of the other kids projects to make sure he understands before he comes home.”  There is also a part of me that’s like “NOOOOOO.  NO MORE PROJECTS!!!!!!  How bad would it really be if he got a zero this one timeAnd seriously, who gives 5th graders nothing but verbal instructions on a project?  Not everyone processes the same way.  It would have been lovely if, in addition, to the verbal instructions given in class, they also sent home written instructionsPlus, I feel badly for him because he really hates not understanding things because it makes him feel stupid; which he certainly is NOT, so having to do the entire thing again will not go over well.”  (Spoiler alert:  I won’t actually let him get a zero.)  But this will make 3 projects in 5 days.  2 of which needed to be done the night before they were due so that’s no fun for Mom.

 

Let’s end on a high note.

The 15 minute commute is going swimmingly.  Yesterday, I got home at 4:30, and was able to take the boys to Chuck E Cheese for Jays school spirit night.  They had a great time, which means I had a great time.  We got home and were all ready for bed by 8, after having done homework, cleaned the bathroom, taken out garbage, had a very fun pillow fight, done nightly reading, talked on the phone, ironed clothes and tidied rooms.

This morning, I set my alarm for 7am, showered/dressed, hung out with the older boy a little bit while I made tea and then we both walked out the door together.  I made it to work at 7:55.  Simply wonderful!!!

 

Sneak Peak October 14, 2018

I have news.  Well, you know how I used to talk about how much I enjoyed my job but I had a long, painful commute?  I’ve given that up and I will start at a new job this week.  It is bitter sweet in that you never know what kind of boss or coworkers you’ll get when you start a new job and I really did like my former ones BUT that drive was simply too much.  90 minutes in the morning and 2 hours to get home.  More than half of that being nothing other than me sitting in traffic.

I will now have a 15 minute commute and I am very much looking forward to the extra time at home.

 

Last Thursday was my final day of that awful drive.  Actually, it was only half awful because I left early and was home by 4pm.  I picked Jay up from school on my way home and since Ace takes the bus he was there waiting for us.  By 6pm, we’d had dinner and cleaned up, the homework had been done and checked, we’d showered, I’d taken out clothes for the boys to wear the next day and chores had been completed.

It was quite a shock to my system since 6pm is usually the time I’d be getting home.  I almost didn’t know what to do with myself then.  Bed time seemed so far away whereas it’s usually the next step once we’ve done our evening routine.

The boys, realizing they had lots of time left, took off running.  As I lay in bed watching TV (something I NEVER got to do at that time before), I heard them laughing and play fighting and chatting.  They were up the stairs and down the stairs.  They were in the kitchen and they were in their rooms.  They bounded into my room wearing their Halloween costumes and I chased them out.  They came back 🙂

We got to just hang out being goofy and silly and it was really nice.  At 7:15, when they had apparently exhausted their immaginations, they asked if they could get on their electronics.  (They don’t typically get to use them during the week).  I said they could for a little while.

 

It was such a lovely evening and while I don’t expect that every evening from now on will be like that, I do feel like it gave me a little sneak peak into what I’ve been missing out on and what it will be like soon.

 

The one downside to this arrangement is that it seems I’ll be the one responsible for preparing dinner since I’ll be the first adult to get home most of the time.  It was kinda nice coming home to a cooked meal every day.

Not THAT nice though.  I’ll take the extra chore of cooking dinner if it means more quality family time.

Wish me luck!

 

3 out of 3 October 4, 2018

Last Sunday was a pretty quiet and uneventful day.  To be honest, the entire weekend had been pretty quiet and uneventful.  There was lots of electronics time and lots of time spent in pajamas and lots of “every man for themself” where food was concerned.

 

One of the few times we left the house was when Jay and I went for a bike ride on Sunday evening.  It seemed like a great idea BEFORE we went.  1) Fresh air.  2) Exercise.  3) Bonding Time.

The reality of it was somewhat different.

 

I mean, it was still good, but also:

As soon as we got the bikes from the back yard and brought them to the front, Jay announced that he needed a snack break.  I stood there watching him munch on Doritos.  Finally he put the bag with the remaining chips in his cargo pocket and we were off.  OK good.

Except, I spent a lot of time reminding him to stay to the side of the road – instead of riding down the middle.  We made it around the block one time and then he parked in front of our door claiming he needed to take another snack break.  As he was snacking on more chips, mosquitos were snacking on me.  Not so much fun.  Although it may have been entertaining for any neighbours watching me dance around and flail my arms.

I managed to get him back on the bike after a few minutes where there was more of me working over time to keep him out of the middle of the road.

*Please note it’s not a main road. There’s light traffic in our development and drivers are well aware that it’s a hot bed for kids playing outside but it’s still a little stressful for me as the parent.*

 

We were half way around one more block and Jay stopped riding because he couldn’t make it up the hill, plus he needed water.  Fortunately I had some.

As we walked towards home, he stopped repeatedly to watch a family of geese, to check out a little girl playing cornhole in her yard, to complain about the hill we were climbing, to ask me if I was sure he wouldn’t get run over by a car, to confirm that he’d get more snacks when we got home, to pose for pictures and to wave at children calling to us from their bedroom windows.

 

All in all, we were outside for over an hour and we didn’t go more than 3 blocks.

It was one on one time spent outside with the boy though and I still count it as exercise because the alternative was me sitting on the couch so I guess we hit 3 out of 3.

 

Birthday Buddies Bust September 27, 2018

A couple of weeks ago Jay came home from school with a flyer advertising “Breakfast With Buddies”.  Basically, students were allowed to invite someone (a non-student) to have breakfast with them in the school cafeteria.  As a mom who works a full time job, I rarely make it to these kinds of events.  I can’t remember the last time I chaperoned a trip. It’s been years.  I attend concert recitals and I’m always available if there is an issue where I have to meet with a teacher but I’ve never been to a field day or to the annual Thanksgiving lunch – And before today, I hadn’t been to a “Muffins with Mom” or any other fun breakfast gathering.

When the flyer came home, I knew I wanted to go.  This is Jays last year in elementary school which means it’s my last opportunity to engage in these kinds of activities with him.  Lately, I have been feeling a compulsion to make the most of the time we have here.  To NOT put things off.

I asked Jay if he’d like me to go with him and he gave me an enthusiastic yes.  I put it on my calendar and let my job know that I’d be in late.

 

Today was the day.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Jay told me that he hoped there would be bacon.  I told him I didn’t think there would be, but we would see.

When we filed into the cafeteria along with all the other families, Jay disappointedly said, “Aw man, all they have are donuts. Ugh!”

 

Jay got his donut, I got mine and a cup of coffee.  We sat and chit chatted for all of one minute before he said:

“You can go now if you need to.”

 

I told him that I hadn’t even finished my donut yet.  He said “Oh, I’ll sit with you while you finish.”  As if he was doing me a great favour.

As soon as I took the last bite he let me know that I could take my coffee to go.  He was over the breakfast.

Well.  OK then.

 

At least I got to sleep in for an extra 90 minutes – which I very much appreciated.