Life On The B Side

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

#tbt Jamaica Post July 19, 2018

On June 20th, I landed in Kingston Jamaica.  I meant to write about it a long time ago but never did.  Think of this as a #tbt post.  🙂

Of course, when I got back everyone asked how the trip was.  That’s tough to answer because I was there to support Shaunie at her Grandfathers funeral and to see my ailing Aunt.

I love going there though – No matter the reason.  At this point, I have lived in the US longer than I lived there but it will never not be home.

It’s the place where my Aunts car got brazenly stolen out of her driveway and it ended up taking about two months just for her to get the police report – so I had to ask a friend to come pick me up from the airport.

It’s the place where the friend was late to pick me up.  Even though I had told him an earlier time than I really needed because I knew he’d be late.  I say that with so much love.

 

But it’s also the place where the fruit is the juiciest and you can always find someone willing to help you if you just ask.

My pictures show me posed up at the brand new (and the only) Starbucks on the island; yummy frappuccino in hand.  They show me grinning next to long-time friends while the sun shines down on us, sipping on blended drinks beside a pool and leaned up against a coconut tree surrounded by gorgeous flowers.  There is even video of us enjoying a ride on a floaty device being pulled by a speed boat.

 

In the beautiful hills of St Ann, as a family, we went for walks and ate fish and cleaned ackee and argued over who ate the last of the mangoes – and worked hard getting the hall ready for the hundreds of people who would show up for the memorial service.

It was a long, but lovely service and it was abundantly clear just how loved Mr N was and how much he’d be missed.  In the front section that was marked off just for family, there were about 80 of us, representing 5 generations, from all over the world, and all wearing royal blue.

The following day we all went to the beach – to exhale.

Sun and sand and the ocean and boat rides and dolphin shows and drinks and the laughter of children are healing.

 

 

It’s unfortunate that it takes things like funerals to bring people together.  It was wonderful that we could all get together.

I hated to see my Aunty like that.  She looked so delicate.  Every time she got up to walk it gave me anxiety because I was so worried that she’d fall and hurt herself.  Again.

Any time with her is incredibly precious and it brings us both so much joy and comfort.  As hard as it was to leave, I was happier that I had seen her at all and filled her in on all our adventures and gone shopping with her and hugged her and laughed with her and scolded her for trying to do too much and enjoyed world cup matches with her and prayed with her.

 

I don’t know when I’ll go to Jamaica again.  There are no plans in the works.  Both the boys passports have expired though and I know that the next time I go, I’d like them to go also.  The paperwork is all filled out and we’re gonna go renew the passports this weekend – so they’ll be ready.

Plus, the in-laws are moving to the Virgin Islands so I’m sure we’ll want to go there soon.

The very next trip we take will be an actual vacation.  I can’t wait.  The boys are going to spend 2 1/2 weeks in Florida with my Mom and Shaunie and I are going on a cruise and then right to the Dominican Republic for a friends wedding.  So exciting!  It will be a nice respite from all the other craziness happening around us.  Stuff with this damn government and stuff with Jay and stuff with loved ones.  Nope.  Not gonna go there.  Let’s go back to thinking about my upcoming vacay.  Yup.  Much nicer.

Talk to you soon.

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Have you ever? July 9, 2018

 

Have you ever had your son beg you to take him to iHOP because he loves their pancakes

So you wake up on Saturday morning and tell everyone to get ready because you’re all going to iHop

And then you get there and everyone places their order

But as the conversations flow

You realize you’ve been watching your older son who is sitting across from you

And you are keenly aware of how chiseled his face now is

And you keep thinking about how in no time at all, he’ll be a teenager and then an adult

But you brush those thoughts aside and just enjoy the quality, no electronics, family time

Then your son, who you were just willing to stay young and carefree and happy and innocent

Tells you that he’d like to get his ears pierced

And you are jolted out of your thoughts

So you take a moment before you respond that you are not comfortable with him getting his ears pierced just yet

Then you feel your eyes begin to fill with water

And you know you are being a bit dramatic

But you simply cannot help it

And since you know at this point there’s no stopping the tears

You put it on the table yourself by saying “Look at me, I’m gonna cry

And the other people at the table look at you in bewilderment because they don’t understand why talking about ear piercing is making you cry

But you know

And you decide you are not going to be embarrassed by it

So you grab a napkin and wipe your tears away

All while your wife and son are joking with each other about how weird you are

But your younger son, who is sitting beside you, puts his head in your lap

And you rub his head and revel in the sweetness of his gesture

As you try to finish your eggs, pancakes and toast

Which you eventually do

So then after paying the bill, you all walk out

And the older child puts his arm around you

Causing you to again get choked up as you hug him extra tight and kiss the top of his head

Realizing that soon he’ll be the same height as you

Even though you weren’t aware of any growth spurt that he’d had recently

And then he totally takes your breath away when he says, “It’ll be ok Mom, I will always be your baby

And you want to hold onto that moment forever

But you know you cannot

Because children were not made to be held hostage by their parents

They were made to fly

And as hard as it is

You know you will grease his wings for him when it’s time

And even though you may not know exactly how long it will take

You do know it’s a matter of time before you will either crack and give him permission to pierce his ears

Or he will get to a point where he’s old enough to do it without your permission

So you sit in the car and don your sunglasses

And in that moment it feels like they are the only thing protecting you from everything???

 

 

No?  That’s never happened to you?

Oh.

Well, that’s never happened to me either.

 

Changing Dynamics July 5, 2018

We are fully immersed in the summer now.  The kids go to an all day camp where they do arts and crafts, go on field trips to amusement parks, watch movies, go bowling or to the library, play board games, enjoy sports and all sorts of other fun activities.  Shaunie and I, well, we go to work as usual.  Adulthood.

A couple evenings ago we were at our community pool.  I do love that we have a pool that’s only open and available to residents of our housing development.  We can walk and be there in less than 5 minutes.  As usual, we had brought snacks.  It’s what we do in the evenings.   Go to the pool; snacks in hand.  Some days we are armed with chips and cookies and assorted other goodies.  On this particular day though we had only brought one pack of Shirley biscuits: a Jamaican favourite, and water with ice of course.  The smell of sun block surrounded us as everyone does their best to keep their families protected, while having fun.  There were 3 other families at the pool that day which seems to be pretty standard as it hasn’t ever been crowded when we show up and we are always able to get a table with an umbrella.  We’d rather have a table with an umbrella than lounge chairs with uninhibited sun exposure.

So far, nothing about the scene seemed out of the norm.  Business as usual you might say.

The kids jumped into the water which was surprisingly warm and began their usual antics.  Spraying each other with water blasters, swimming, diving – you know the drill.  After a while, they began playing with the other children who were there.  One such child is new to our neighbourhood – And state.  He is an only child and will begin the 7th grade (the same as Ace) in September at the same school Ace attends.  As kids are wont to do, they hit it off pretty quickly and began some sort of game that I did not care to learn the intricacies of.

The next thing I heard was Ace complaining that Jay was “spying” on them.  Remember, they were in a pool.  There really was nowhere to “hide” but nonetheless, Jay was spying and it was annoying his older brother who was busy having fun with a peer and had no interest in playing silly games with his little brother.

 

It’s something I’ve noticed more and more lately.

 

Jay got invited to a classmates birthday party and when I asked Ace if he’d like to attend as well, because I was sure it would have been fine with the mom, he declined.  Instead he and I watched a movie at home.  Beetlejuice since I know you want to know.  And no, it wasn’t as good as I remember it being when I watched it back in 1988.

When Jay asked me to initiate a play date with a friend and basically told Ace that he would come too, Ace flat out said NO.  He was not interested.  Jay has been steadily trying to convince him to change his mind.  Ace is unwavering.

 

Also, he no longer likes shows such as Teen Titans, and does not care that they have a new movie coming out.  Last year it was his and Jays fave and they were eagerly anticipating the movies release.

 

Yesterday was the 4th of July; Independence day here in the United States and that meant a lot of people had the day off work.  Typically, it’s a day spent with family and friends, having bar-be-cues or going to the beach and when it gets dark the skies are lit up with fireworks.

Together with 4 friends (family really), we went river tubing.  Ultimately it was a fun and mostly relaxing way to spend a day off, knowing we all had work the next day.  All, except my teacher friend that is, who has off all summer, but I’m not jealous at all.  Like, NOT ONE BIT.  (I’m lying 🙂 )

We had done this same activity at the same river last year so we thought we knew what to expect.  This year though, for some unknown reason, everyone in the state decided to go river tubing, at that river, at the time we got there, so from the time we parked, stood in line to pay/get wrist bands, sign waivers, get tubes, get on the bus that takes patrons to the top of the river and actually get in the water, it took about an hour and 45 minutes.  A lot longer than the 20 minutes it took us last year.  Everyone was hot and sweating but doing their best not to let it affect their good mood.  At one point Jay was messing with Ace; As brothers do.  Ace wanted no part of it.  He wanted to stand there quietly like the rest of us, inch up slowly in the line, get a tube and chill.  He just wanted no part of being silly or goofy and I had to intervene and tell Jay to leave Ace alone.

 

I cannot believe I just typed the words “[Ace] wanted no part of being silly or goofy”.

 

That tone continued the entire time we spent on the river.  Ace wasn’t being surly.  He was just being … more mature?  He lounged in his tube.  Hopped out to help bring us back together when someone in our group drifted away, passed drinks from the cooler to whoever asked for one and offered to help anchor us when we wanted to stop going with the tide.

Jay spent the nearly 2 hours we were on the water, jumping in and out of his tube, splashing people as they are chips, dropping his empty chip bag in the water which meant I had to go rescue it and put it back where it belonged with our other trash, being loud, making me belly laugh, climbing onto me and nearly toppling me over, “sneaking” up on Shaunie to splash her and just all round having a great time; the way a little kid would and should.

 

I do believe we are entering a new stage here folks.  They have always been each others play mates and my boys do still enjoy each others company but Ace is becoming more serious; more teenagery; more grown up.  The dynamics are changing in our house.  Change is not bad.  But it does mean that some adjusting needs to happen and I think in this case, instead of my mama heart, it’s Jay who is about to have the hardest time accepting it.

 

The Hole In My Lid June 28, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 11:56 am
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Soooo, what’s been up?

It’s been a while since I wrote.

Whatever I’ve missed is going to have to remain missed.  Today, I’m diving into our most recent news.

 

My boys have been away for just about 2 weeks and I feel empty.  I miss them something awful.  I always miss them when they go to spend extended time with their father but for some reason this trip has been extra hard.  I can’t get my stomach to settle.  It could be because we’ve been hit with a series of bad news over the past few months so I am feeling more emotional than usual (which is saying a lot).  It could also be that time is inexplicably speeding up and they are growing up faster than they used to and it’s making me a bit panicky.

Ace happily and artfully sailed through his entire 6th grade year like a champ and it only took about 2 weeks.  It was just last month, (wasn’t it?), that we were touring the middle school and everything about it seemed so daunting.  I was so worried about how my baby would navigate that new environment.  He amazed me in all the ways.  Socially and academically.  His final report came in and I am blown away.  It’s the best report he’s EVER gotten and my heart could just burst.

I haven’t gotten Jays final report as yet, but I have every reason to believe he did a great job as well.  He’s going to enter his final year of elementary school in September and then he too will be off to middle school.  I’m really struggling with that.  Let’s not talk about it.  Thanks.

 

In other news

Shaunie and I went to Jamaica to:

  1. Attend her Grandfathers funeral. It was really great and sad, but wonderful.
  2. See my Aunty. It was awesome and heavyhearted.  I was happy there but leaving was hard.  Really hard.
  3. Attend my uncle’s high school graduation. (My Grandad had a son when he was 72).  It was good but weird.

 

I’ll write a post about the trip later.

In the meantime, while we were gone, Grandma in New Jersey underwent surgery.  Some sad medical news hit my family.  Also, there were big shake-ups at work.  How the work shake-ups may or may not affect me is still to be determined.

 

I know this post wasn’t that interesting but I needed to “stick a hole in my lid”.  You get that reference right?  In a coffee cup lid, there’s the one hole that we drink out of and then there’s the (very important but easily dismissed) hole on the other end that lets the steam out.  My internal steam was building and this blog is my tiny hole.

 

If you are the praying type, please keep our family in your prayers.  It can’t hurt.

 

My boys come back this weekend.  I am ready to see them and hug them.  That’s the good news, so I’ll end there.

xoxo

 

 

Being An Ally June 8, 2018

Filed under: Family,Life on the Jay train — The B Side @ 3:14 pm
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*Language warning. If you’re offended by curse words, stop reading.*

 

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I saw this on Twitter and added the comment – “Not just the cake. All vendors/services.”

 

 

The other day, via text message, I received a bit of a rant from a friend. A straight friend.

 

I’m so over this wedding cake case. Fucking religion. When I hear people start with it, I have to restrain myself. If you are using it for good, then fine, but what infuriates me is all the awful things they use it to justify. If they want a cake, and you are in the cake business, bake them a cake. They want a room, and you are in the hotel business, rent them a room. Why is any of that subject to your belief system? They want to be married and are of consenting age, give them a license. I get so goddamn angry. Because if you’re the worst person on earth but you’re straight, step right up. What will you be having today? Marriage, cake, adoption?

Fuck outta here. It’s indefensible.

I asked a religious friend of mine who I know is against gay marriage due to the fact that “it’s a sin”, if there was any action/sin that a straight man/woman could commit that would make him say they shouldn’t be allowed to get married to someone who also wanted to marry them.  He said no.  I had to laugh. Then I said, so only homosexuality is a problem? He said he had never really thought about it that way but no there isn’t any sin that would disallow marriage if a man and a woman wanted to get married.

 

After reading through his messages, I replied with:  “Yup, that’s how it is.  They’d rather the gay man, lie (which is also a sin) and pretend to be something he’s not and marry a woman. Then they can live unhappily ever after.”

 

It’s imbecilic” was his final comment.

 

 

Recently, another friend of mine asked if I wanted to be a part of a Whatsapp group chat with a bunch of people we graduated high school with.  I said sure.

It started off fine.  Lots of people who I hadn’t spoken with in years popped up in the group as each member kept adding whoever they were still in touch with.  Some of the names being added were people I don’t remember being in school with at all.  It was fun though.  People cheerfully welcomed all the newcomers.  People reminisced on our high school years, mourned the loss of those who have died and asked after the ones they had long since lost touch with.  At one point, someone asked if anyone was in contact with my friend Jon and suggested that he be added to the group.

That’s when things took a turn.  Jon is an openly gay man.  As far as I know, he’s the only one of our group.  My former classmates, who I’d just been happily chatting and catching up with did not want him added to the group chat because they “don’t agree with his lifestyle” and they actually called him derogatory names.

 

Jon and I are Facebook friends but we are not as close now as we used to be.  However, back in high school, he was one of the nicest people you could ever know.  He never said anything bad about anyone.  Never hurt anyone.  Was considerate and welcoming and when we were at his house he was a gracious host.  His entire family was that way.  I have no reason to believe he is any different now.

I know for a fact that some of the people who had been enthusiastically welcomed into the group chat have criminal records.  We had liars, cheats and divorcees. People who have had abortions and those who have had kids out of wedlock with multiple partners.  People just a minute earlier were boasting about how much rum they drink and how often they get drunk still.

The only person they wanted to exclude was Jon.

 

I don’t know if I should have said something in the group or not.  I chose to speak separately with the people I considered friends.  I told them how disappointed I was in the way they were behaving.

A lot of the people in the group know that I am in a same sex marriage and (whether they agree that it should be legal or not) they didn’t reject me.  But for some reason, it’s pretty standard for males to get harsher treatment than females.  I can’t be a part of a group that would discriminate that way even though I wasn’t personally being harmed or left out.  We all need to do a better job of supporting each other and advocating for each other and being allies for each other even if we are not in the affected set.

I left the group chat.

 

 

 

 

P.S.  “No Gays Allowed” because the Bible says so? The same book of the Bible (Leviticus is the popular one) also forbids: • Charging interest on loans • Trimming your beard • Selling land • Eating shrimp • Wearing two different fabrics and suggests the death penalty for adultery.

 

 

 

Roller-Coastery Weekend June 1, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Life on the Jay train,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 11:25 am
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I’m hoping this coming weekend will be less of a roller-coaster than the last one.  Never have I ever had such a roller-coastery 3 days.

Friday started out great.  I got out of work early ahead of the holiday weekend and instead of going straight home, I made the decision to spend some time alone and do girly things.  I visited Sephora and played with Rihanna’s line of make-up.  I ended up buying a cheaper Sephora brand lipstick that supposedly was similar to the Rihanna one.  I’m not sure I made the right choice.  I might still need to go get the real Snake Skin lipgloss.  Next, I went to Charming Charlie and even though I browsed all the displays and saw several cute things, I landed in the sale section where I got the cutest pair of gold flats for $8 and a $5 t-shirt that says “Live Wild & Free” in gold letters.  Guess what I’ll be wearing together?

Later that evening, cousins from New Jersey came for a visit.  We had a good time hanging out with them; drinking wine and chatting.  The next morning we took a quick trip to the river before they moved on to their next stop.

 

Then – We got the news that Shaunies beloved Grandpa in Jamaica had died.  It had been coming for a couple of months so it wasn’t a shock in that sense.  But still, it hurts.  A lot.  He was only 70 years old and the last time we saw him (exactly one year ago) he was as vibrant as ever; with no signs that anything was wrong.

 

On Sunday, we decided to try and keep our spirits up – partly for our sakes and partly for the kids sakes.  We went to the pool and had a nice time.  We all jumped and raced and showed off handstands and splashed and did summersaults.  In between all the water fun we ate snacks and just put our feet up and enjoyed the sun (and shade).  We closed out the afternoon with a trip to a bookstore.  All 4 of us love browsing book stores.

 

Then – We got the news that my Aunt was back in the hospital.  Her hip has been misbehaving lately and she’s about to have her 3rd surgery in as many months.  That’s not good news for anyone.  It’s particularly not good news for someone who is 90 years old and on the fragile side anyway.  It sucks.  Add to that, the medical bills are adding up and some uncomfortable conversations needed to be had.

 

On Monday, there was (as you can imagine) a lot of emotions swirling.  Lots of phone calls being made among Shaunie’s large and tight-knit family and plans being put in place.  Me worrying about my Aunt and trying to be supportive of S.  At one point I decided that spending some time outside would do me good.  I made the kids get their bikes and helmets and we headed out for a little exercise/fun.

Now understand this:  I’ve been trying to teach Jay to master a 2 wheeler bicycle for years.  It has been a struggle.  A STRUGGLE.  Mostly because he’s been scared.  He was certain that he would fall and hurt himself.  As long as I’ve been trying to teach him to learn, he’s been trying to convince me that he doesn’t need to and will get along in life just fine without that skill.

Well, on Monday, HE DID IT!!!!  It was so exciting and I was incredibly proud of him, but even better than that; he was proud of himself.  We rode for a while and when we were all done he asked me if I had caught his ride on video.  I had 🙂 .  Now, he wants to ride his bike every day and I am not mad about it.

 

There are other things too – Good and bad – But I’ll keep those close to my chest for now.  Unnu too faas.  That’s Jamaican for “you’re too nosey”.  Just kidding.  I love you for reading and following along.

Peace and love!

 

4 Square Wars May 24, 2018

The name of the game lately has been conflict resolution – And truth be told, that’s tricky for me.

  1. I’m not great at forgiving people or working through conflicts. I don’t say that to brag.  I recognize it as one of my (many) weaknesses.
  2. I didn’t have these issues when I was in 4th grade so I don’t have any parenting examples to pull from.

 

Jay has been coming home from school complaining about the kids in his before and after care program.  To hear him tell it, they call him names and are mean to him; basically, he’s being bullied.  I know my kid though.  I know sometimes his communication is a little off (due to his autism) and I also know that sometimes he’s the instigator who then only tells one side of a story (due to his winning personality).  I needed more information before I went barreling into the school to demand action.

 

Flash back to a couple evenings ago

Jay hops into the car and immediately complains to me about “the mean kids”.  When we get home, he doesn’t stop.  He sits on my bed and continues.  He no longer wants to attend that program he tells me.  He’s over it – and them.

I ask him a bunch of questions so that I can get a full, and accurate picture.  Is he being singled out?  Is the staff aware and what have they done about it?  Has anyone hit him or otherwise physically assaulted him?  Does he say mean things to them or is he unreasonably difficult/bossy first?  Is the main perpetrator encouraging other students to be mean to him also?  How old are the kids he’s having problems with?  Do they understand what is expected of them?

The answers only leave me more unsure.  He says what he’s supposed to say to make his point and to validate himself as the victim, but …

There are little smiles and smirks (that he tries to hide) when I ask about him being mean or difficult.  He shifts his body and holds his head down, sneaking glances at me when I ask if he’s really being bullied, or if he just doesn’t like not getting his way all the time.  To the question about the age of the “problem kids” he tells me that one of them is in 1st grade; that makes him 5 yrs old compared to Jays 10 years.  (That doesn’t excuse him in Jays mind)

 

We spent most of the time talking about one child in particular.  This is someone who was (is) his friend.  Being my son, Jay is ready to end this friendship due to their misunderstandings at after care.  Apparently this friend, accused Jay of something.  Jay then proved he had not done that thing.  The friend apologized but Jay was having a REALLY HARD TIME forgiving the friend for accusing him in the first place.

We had a lengthy talk, and (fighting my personal inclination) I told him that people deserve 2nd chances and we talked about accepting genuine apologies and about how being a good friend works 2 ways.  Being forgiven and being forgiving.  We talked about how mistakes do happen and there are misunderstandings that happen between people all the time; whether they are friends or brothers or wives or coworkers.  I reminded him of times when he needed to be forgiven by his brother and reinforced that if we never acknowledged our own errors or our role in mix-ups then we would go through life being very lonely because we will push everyone away.  We talked about being understanding but not so much that we are being taken advantage of or opening ourselves up to be abused.  I told him that this is something he will have to deal with many more times in his life so he needed to learn how to handle it in a way that was healthy.

He was resolute.  The friendship was over.  He absolutely could not forgive the offense.  He was too vexed/hurt.

I felt him in that.  I know that stubbornness well.

I suggested that he not make a decision right then but take the rest of the evening/night to think about it and to see if he had it in him to talk to the friend the next day and fix their relationship.

 

I am happy to report that the next day he initiated a conversation and he and the friend “were able to work it out”.  Jay even told the friend that he was sorry for not accepting the initial apology.  I thought that was very big of him.

I also had a talk with the staff at the after-care program.  They gave me some insight.  He’s not being bullied.  Apparently all this fuss is over a game called 4 square.  It has become a real problem.  It’s all the kids favourite game, but it also brings on some intense arguing/shit talking/accusations of cheating etc.  (Jay confirmed this as well).  The staff did agree to facilitate a talk with the kids and act as mediators.  Since it has become such an issue, if this mediation doesn’t fix the problem, they will ban the game from being played altogether.

 

I honestly don’t remember anything like this in my elementary school days.  It’s a little crazy to me but here we are.  Wish us luck going forward.  I don’t want Jay to have such a hard heart when it comes to forgiveness.  I also don’t want him to get bullied for real, so there is a part of me that’s happy about him not taking anyones crap.  I don’t want him crapping on anyone else either though and by all accounts, he’s dishing it as much as he’s taking it.  All the kids are.  Yikes!  What a balancing act this whole raising children gig is.