Life On The B Side

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

Unscheduled Fun February 15, 2019

We have a lot of fun together as a family. We go to trampoline parks and to shows and museums. We plan beach vacations and camping trips and in the next couple of weeks we’ll be going to the circus. It seems though, that having unscheduled fun with the kids is getting rarer and rarer. You know what I mean by unscheduled? The times when you don’t have a plan but you end up building a fort out of sheets and pillows or making funny hats for stuffed animal toys. The regular – free – EVERY DAY fun.

Now that the boys are 11 and 12 (gasp!), our “at home” time often revolves around making sure that all the things that NEED to be done, get done. The dinner and the homework and the chores. Whatever extra time there is, gets used up with me binging Netflix and them playing video games.

I know that one reason for this is that building forts and making play-doh pies just doesn’t cut it for pre-teens. But I also think lazy parenting is another reason. I’ve been at this parenting thing for 12 years and I’m tired. Tired physically yes, but also tired of putting legos together and pushing trains on tracks.  You parents of older kids remember all the “floor time” you used to spend.

When you have a new baby, everything is so exciting. You want to spend every minute with them. Teaching them and watching them and exploring with them. You love going to the park and pushing them on swings and you love hearing them giggle when you play peek-a-boo. You’d do anything for that giggle. You absolutely love feeding them pureed green peas and seeing the mess they make and you marvel at the green poop that follows. After a while though, you begin to love getting back to yourself. You don’t love your children any less. Not one iota. But you love that your children can now entertain themselves and make themselves sandwiches. You love that you can roam the Target aisles in peace and don’t have to spend any time looking at stupid transformers that cost too much for the 10 minutes that your child will actually play with it even though they are telling you that they NEED it and will for sure this time play with it for eternity.

 

How much together time is the right amount? I want us to be close. I want our bond to be strong. I want the boys to have a joyful life full of sibling and parent interaction. I want ME time.

 

I don’t have the answers. I am playing this all by air. I will say though that last week, Shaunie and Jay baked some cinnamon rolls together. It was nice. Also one day last week, I put my phone down, my feet up and Ace read me a story. It too was nice.

 

Then this week, Shaunie had to go to New Jersey on some family business. On Wednesday evening, Jay and I sat together and assembled candy grams for his class for Valentines Day. While we were assembling, we talked. Just he and I. We don’t get that a lot. With one Mom gone, the remaining 3 of us ended up having a slumber party in my room. We are not a co-sleeping family so this was a real departure from the norm. Plus, it was a school night. (What?!?!) It was such a hit that we did it again last night.

 

I really hope that we’re getting it (mostly) right. I hope we’re not being too hard on them; but pushing them enough. I hope we give them enough of their own space; while not making them feel alienated. I hope we force them out of their comfort zones often enough to spark an adventurous spirit; while honouring their own, specific, interests. I hope we enforce necessary routines; while allowing for (and even encouraging) flexibility and spontaneity.

 

Do all parents feel this way? How do you guys manage it?

 

When the alarm went off this morning and Jay rolled over to me and snuggled for a couple of minutes, I knew I had made the right call in agreeing to the “sleepover”. It was just so delicious. But sometimes the answers are harder to decipher; especially when they tell you that all they want to do is have electronics time.

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On Sharing Stories January 22, 2019

On some random evening for some random reason I found myself telling Ace and Jay stories about themselves as babies and toddlers. These are times that the boys don’t remember or don’t remember much so it was fun clueing them in on their own lives.

 

The boys were enthralled.

 

They laughed heartily when I told them about the time Jay threw up on Ace while they were on a kiddie rollercoaster. Jay threatened to use that tactic again as a weapon against Ace should he need it. Ace was rolling on the floor laughing and pretending to gag.

 

They sat raptured as I told them about funny (or gross) things that happened back when I bathed them together in a tub and about interesting sleeping arrangements we had while on vacation. I told them scary stories about Jay getting lost at the park and Ace getting lost at Disney World. Some of the more embarrassing ones (for them) I will keep off the internet but they know now and find them funny.

 

A few nights later, inspired by the recent trend of posting 10 yr old pictures side by side with a current picture, Shaunie and I were laughing at each others old Facebook pictures. We weren’t planning to post them but we still had a good time making fun of ourselves and the outfits and hair do’s we had back in 2008. Jay came in and immediately joined in on the fun. He wasn’t interested in our pictures though – He wanted old pictures of himself.

I handed my phone over to him and watched as he delighted in his 1 and 2 and 4 year old self. One by one he clicked on and then perused the photos in albums titled, Summer 2008 and Jays 1st Birthday and Trinidad ‘09 and Fall Fun 2011 & Bronx Zoo 2012.

He was happy when he stumbled upon pictures of himself at the Thomas & Friends Live Show.  “Oooh, now that I see the picture, I remember that” he said.

As he clicked on photo after photo I gave him quick tid bits of information that the picture triggered in my memory.

 

Thinking about that trip we took to the Bronx Zoo brought back a lot of happy memories for me. I told Jay what a good day we had had. I told him that it was on that trip that he had first pointed to something wanting me to see it too. I doubt if most parents can remember the first time their child pointed or requested their attention but I do. I remember. He came across a picture of himself laying down in some bushes/leaves (off the track and away from everyone) and asked what he was doing there. I told him that there had come a point in the day where he needed a break so he took one. Back then things like that worried me a lot. It seemed so strange. Now when I think about it, I think it’s amazing. Those days were the building blocks to what we have now. Jay knew what he needed and snuck off the crowded path to have a quiet moment in the bushes. I knew, even then, that I needed to give him that.

That one memory domino’d into another. It was also a trip to the Bronx Zoo that produced another of Jays good firsts. He had gone there on a school field trip. When he came home I did what I always did. I asked him how his day had been and what he had done. I didn’t expect an answer. Even though he was 5 years old at that time, he was just beginning to talk and had never answered a question such as that. That day though, after being at the zoo, he told me that he had seen animals. It was an amazing moment. Yeah, I have a soft spot for the Bronx Zoo and I do appreciate any chance to think fondly about it.

 

~*~

 

When I initially began blogging, it was for purely selfish reasons. I needed it. I was stressed out and tired and worried and lonely. I needed a place where I could let out my frustrations and fears and to commiserate with other people who were also frustrated and fearful.

 

Now, I see it as a love letter and a gift to my children. I do hope they read it one day and that they indulge my parenting errors. I hope they don’t judge my flaws too harshly, knowing that I only ever had good intentions. I look forward to hearing their comments on some of the stories I’ve shared here. I have no doubt that for a great many of them, the take-away was different from their point of view.

For now though, I will tell them about the time Max the dog jumped into the pool to save what he thought was a drowning Ace and about how Ace attended my cousins wedding in Jamaica when he was 2 years old. I was a bridesmaid in it and Ace yelled out in the middle of the ceremony “Mom, what are you doing up there?”

I will tell them about the time their fathers picture was on the front page of the Newspaper below the heading “Parents and students show up for the first day of school” … but the child he was carrying was neither Jay nor Ace. Jay was actually in the front of the line happily holding his kindergarten teachers hand and CC was carrying a child who came on the bus but didn’t want to get off it.

 

Later, they can read the things I’ve posted here; much of which they would have been old enough to remember. It’ll make for interesting conversations I think.

 

It’s A Birthday January 10, 2019

cuphead bday.jpg

(Cuphead, pictured above, is Jays current fave video game)

 

 

Jay was 3 years old when I began blogging.  He turns 11 today.  Crazy right?

What a wild 8 years it’s been.

There’s so much material I could pull from if I wanted to reflect on how far he’s come.

 

I will instead focus on just 2 pieces of info.

Last week Ace and he had doctor appointments.  Even though he is 16 months younger and about 2 inches shorter, at 70 lbs, Jay now outweighs his brother by 3 lbs.  He’s not overweight at all but we now frequently have to deny his requests to eat MORE (because we know he’s full) and we sometimes have to hide snacks so he doesn’t inhale them all leaving none for his lunch box at the end of the week.  We also had to put restrictions on his school lunch account because he was really over doing it with the giant chocolate muffins they have there.

It is a JOY for me to write that.

You guys KNOW how much of a struggle it was getting him to eat.  You know he used to eat literally NOTHING but cheese doodles.  You know we were so concerned about his nutrition that we had blood work done on him twice in 3 years and tried to take him to an eating disorder clinic but we were denied coverage.  It was a S.T.R.U.G.G.L.E.

He has become a kid who eats chicken and rice, tacos, fish, pizza, lasagna, hamburgers with ketchup, bacon, pancakes, beans, carrots and a long list of other items.  He willingly tries new things on a regular basis.  It’s thoroughly amazing!

 

Two days ago he said to me:

Mom, my birthday is coming up and I know I had asked for a *Robux gift card but I don’t need it anymore.  I got one for Christmas and there’s still $4 left on it.”

That’s him.  He’s not the one to take advantage just because he can.

 

He did ask for something though.  He wanted to bring cupcakes to school for his classmates.  As he put it:  “This is the last chance I have.  I can’t bring cupcakes in middle school.”

 

He’s still getting more Robux and yes, he’s absolutely getting cupcakes at school – and then whatever he wants for dinner.

Happy Birthday my sweet, funny, sometimes snarky, affectionate, talented, stylish, handsome, love bug of a son.  You are a wonder.  It has been and continues to be the joy of my heart to watch you grow.

 

 

 

 

[If you are new to my blog and want to get a feel for how drastic Jays progress has been over the years in other areas, I suggest you read this post from 5 years ago.]

 

*Roblox is a video game that he plays and Robux is money you can use only in that game to enhance your experience.

 

Perfectly Imperfect Holidays January 2, 2019

So how was everyone’s Christmas?

I know it’s January now and people are talking about New Year resolutions and the like, but I have some catching up to do.

 

Our Christmas did not go the way we had planned. Does that mean it was good or bad? Continue reading to see.

 

On Saturday, December 22nd, we had tickets to see a play. It was to be a cute show; geared towards kids; about Santa and his elves. Everyone was up, fed, dressed and in the car on time. Then we hit traffic on I-95. Not just any old traffic. Major, not-moving, all the roads including side roads were jam packed traffic. The GPS initially said we’d be 10 mins late to the show. “OK”, we thought, “that’s not so bad”. Fifteen minutes later, it climbed to us being 20 minutes late and forty minutes later when we were not even half way there yet, the GPS said we would be 35 minutes late.

The show was not going to happen. Ugh!

We were disappointed about the wasted money but more so about missing out on the event that we thought would kick-start our feel good family Christmas weekend. The kids took it in stride. They said it was fine and that we shouldn’t worry about it and suggested we go to the movies. So we did. We even splurged on movie theatre snacks which you know is a treat because they are not cheap. We watched Bumblebee and everyone thought it was good. (The kids mostly). Yay!

Following the movie we made a stop at the cell phone store to see what options he had because the day before Ace had dropped his in the toilet. Ugh! FYI – It turns out that putting your phone in rice for a couple of days really does work!!! Yay!

The next stop was a Jamaican restaurant that we patronize when we’re in the area. I made a comment that was just meant to be funny but it led to us being gifted a bottle of sorrel – which really was very good. Yay!

All in all, even though it wasn’t the day we planned, it turned out pretty good.

 

On Sunday, we had plans to go horse-back riding. Once again, everyone was up, fed, dressed and in the car on time. As soon as we pulled out of the drive way, we got a call saying we needed to reschedule because the area was too wet/muddy due to all the recent rain. Ugh!

We spent the entire day being lazy. I mean, there was some light tidying up, but besides that we watched lots of TV, including a Christmas movie. We watched A Christmas Story – the one with the “leg lamp”.  I had never seen it before which apparently is blasphemous.  The kids were excited because it was Christmas Eve Eve which was cute. It’s such a great feeling seeing them be happy. The day may have been totally different than planned but it turned out pretty good.

 

 

To be honest, that’s kind of how the entire holiday week went. Things not going according to plan, but then being imperfectly perfect just the same.

Even our New Years Eve plan didn’t work out.  I had bought us tickets to an event which ended up being cancelled on Dec 28th.  My money was refunded and Shaunie and I spent the day/night reading and eating left overs and generally having the best time at home just relaxing.  At 10 pm on New Years Eve we both said how glad we were that our event had been cancelled.  I made it to 12:05 or something like that.

 

Ultimately, over the past week or so, we went to Church and spent time with many loved ones and yes, Santa was good to us.  We did make it to 2 shows.  The Harlem Globetrotters on Dec 26th and on Dec 30th we saw Hip Hop Nutcracker.  It was a really lovely way to end 2018.

All that’s left is to send everyone lots of well wishes for a happy and healthy 2019.

xoxo Deens.

 

The Hawaiian Raccoon Boy December 21, 2018

What the heck is a Hawaiian Raccoon Boy you ask? Allow me to explain …..

 

On Wednesday evening Jay changed his mind about what he wanted to dress up as for Thursdays “character day” at school. The original idea of being a “business man” was apparently too boring.  It was kind of late in the game to be making those kinds of changes though so we had a brainstorming session and went with the easy choice of “tacky tourist”. That had been Ace’s Halloween costume so we had all the necessary pieces. Gaudy, floral button up. Fanny Pack. Bucket Hat. Sandals which were to be worn with socks. You get the picture.

 

Then, in what I thought was an unrelated action, Jay brought down a clip-on raccoon tail that he owns. (Don’t ask why he owns that. I honestly have no idea.) The tail though had split in 2 so he asked for help putting it back together. We told him we’d fix it but that it wasn’t high on our priority list so we wouldn’t get to it THAT night. He was not happy at all but we were un-phased and sent him to bed.

 

The next morning, I got a message from Shaunie saying that Jay had glued the tail back together himself AND had worn it to school.

 

I know I know. You have more questions. What does a raccoon tail have to do with being a tacky tourist? Let me tell you.

I’m just kidding. I don’t know any more than you do. It just did as far as Jay was concerned. We let him be him.

 

 

The other thing about Thursday was that the choir kids had a field trip planned. It was their last show of the season and they went to a Senior Living Community to perform for the residents. On our drive home in the evening I asked Jay about his day.

 

Jay: I had a great day. We went on our field trip and sang songs for old people. They liked it. Then we talked to them for a little bit before going back to school.

 

Me: On Yeah? What did you guys talk about?

 

Jay: They asked if we were ready for Christmas and I told them I was a Hawaiian Raccoon Boy and I made the noise for them.

 

*Proceeds to make an awful hissing/screeching sound*

 

Me *slightly horrified and slightly finding it hysterically funny*: Ohhh! Well, ahm, what did they say about that?

 

Jay: They said it was cool. I had teeth too. The vampire teeth that we had at Halloween so I put them in when I made the raccoon noise.

 

And that my dear friends is what a Hawaiian Raccoon Boy is and what the lovely folks at the Assisted Living Community were treated to. I’m sure it was a first for them no matter how many years of life experience they had. They are most welcome!

 

No Holiday Stress Over Here December 20, 2018

A couple of school concerts

FINALLY getting the kids passport applications done and mailed

Mailing off the only Christmas gift I had that needed mailing

Receiving our annual Christmas cake from my Aunt in Jamaica

Already eating ALL of the annual Christmas cake we got in the mail from my Aunt in Jamaica

Making an ugly Christmas sweater

Indulging in Spirit Week at each kids school – (Every day there’s a theme they have to dress like)

Finding (too large to match the rest of the display) plastic toy animals mixed in with my African wicker nativity scene

Watching a 1970’s Christmas movie

Getting to the end of a really good book – And then starting another

Sleeping in

Deciding to stay home and be lazy all weekend

But then …

Going to Church and really appreciating the spirit/vibe/nature of the Church we attend

Eating out (aka not cooking) both on Saturday and Sunday

Finishing a knitting project that’s been languishing

Getting new (bigger for a bigger project) knitting needles and new yarn

Going to the mall to do some shopping for an older family friend

Falling in love with a new Bath and Body Works scent

Getting a quick 20 minute massage

Wondering if I should go back and get more of that same scent so I have extra in case they discontinue it

Getting roped into a work holiday pot luck lunch; complete with ugly Christmas sweater and gift exchange

Finalizing some plans for trips we’re taking early next year

RELAXING

 

 

Just some of the things that’s been happening since my last post on Dec 11th.

This was a no frills post because I’m in a take it easy mood at this point.

Really hope you guys are not all stressed out.

 

Breathe In. Breathe Out. Close Your Eyes. Listen To Music. Read A Book. Take A Walk. Do The Thing That Relaxes You.

 

A Life Appreciation Post December 11, 2018

We are not big on the kids sleeping over at friends houses – if we don’t know the family well. That said … Jay got invited to a sleepover to celebrate one of his school friends birthday. My initial thought was no. But my mind kept drifting back to … well, maybe.

Having good friends is huge. For many autistic people, having any friends is huge. I mean, just yesterday the mom of a popular facebook page posted the foll:

 

Screenshot_20181211-102225_Facebook

(As you can probably assume, her son Greyson is non-verbal and uses a device to communicate.)

 

I had met the mom issuing the sleepover invite before. She seemed very nice each time. As Jamaican people would say “mi spirit did tek to her”. Jay had been invited to and had attended that same kids birthday party last year so this is not a brand new friendship.

After talking to the mom 1 more time and asking questions like “which other kids that we know will be there and *do you have a gun in your house?”, we agreed to let him go. He was so excited about it and the other kids were excited to see him when we showed up – that made it easier for me to walk away after the drop off. I want this for my son. I want him to have friends and to be included.

 

*~*

 

For the first time – I think ever – Ace had Shaunie and I to himself for an entire evening and night. He’d been asking to go to a Hibachi restaurant but since we knew Jay wouldn’t eat any of the food there it hadn’t happened. This was our chance. We didn’t tell him where we were going and to see his face light up once the realization hit was awesome. The evening did not disappoint. From the initial giant flame to clean the stove area, to the flaming onion volcano to the catching of the food in your mouth to the fake egg being thrown at him. He loved it all. And I loved watching him love it all. He tried the miso soup and said it was good. He did not eat any of the salad but … are you ready?… he ate a piece of zucchini AND a mushroom. Of both he said “It was ok but I don’t want anymore.” He did like the rice and although he had chosen to order steak, he said the best part was the complimentary 3 pieces of shrimp he got. Neither of those meats are things he typically eats.

I was just so proud of him. I want this for my son. I want him to have a wide variety of experiences and to know that even though sometimes his wants are not immediately do-able, when we can, we will do, just for him.

Following the hibachi dinner, at Ace’s request, we browsed Barnes and Noble where we each got a new book.

 

*~*

 

The next day we picked Jay up and heard rave reviews from him about how much fun he and the other boys had. He didn’t even want to come home. [Well, hurt my feelings won’t ya 🙂 ] The mom told us how pleasant of a kid Jay is and how polite and how much of a gentleman. It made me feel so good. I know I say this all the time, but truly – I NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED THIS WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER. It’s the most wonderful thing to witness.

 

After we got home it began snowing so we spent the day reading books and baking and playing in snow and finally settled down in front of the TV to watch Christmas Chronicles (a new holiday movie on Netflix). As I sat there, cuddled with my 2 boys under a blanket, listening to them laugh and seeing Shaunie in her spot on the other side of the couch, also under a blanket, the fireplace lit, the Christmas tree lit and already overflowing with presents, the snow falling outside, I had a moment of total and complete contentment. Despite a whole lot of crazy and hectic and worry, we have such a good life and I am so blessed.  I don’t take any of it for granted.

 

 

 

 

*If she did own a gun, I’d’ve had follow up questions about the storage of said gun.  I mean, you can’t be too careful with 7 boys ages 10 and 11 running around.