life on the "j" train

Taking a "busy working mom with 2 special needs kids" life one moment at a time

40 Years In The Making October 25, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — the jay train @ 10:20 am
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This past weekend one of my friends had a 40th birthday party which we attended.  Today, yet another of my friends has hit that milestone.  This year has seen a lot of that.  Next year, there will be many more – including myself.  It seems to be the age that most people have the hardest time reaching.

People think about where they are in life and compare it to where they thought they would be.  For most people, this is not a good idea.  Having a beautiful home, with a doting spouse and over-achieving, well-behaved children as well as a successful career and no serious health problems is a tall order.  Let’s not forget, we also want back our flat tummies and perky breasts and full heads of non-gray hair.

Apparently, 40 is the age at which most people feel like they have turned a corner and are now closer to old age and death than they are to youth and opportunity.

At 40, people appear to focus more on what they are lacking than on what they have achieved.  They focus on their “failures”.


I’m not dreading my next birthday – But I’m not going to say I am immune to some of the emotions around turning 40.


Since I have been surrounded by so much 40th birthday talk lately, I’ve been thinking about how I want to deal with my own when it comes.  I don’t want it to be about superficial things like my lack of closet space in a too-small townhouse.  I’ve been thinking about the last 40 years and the way I lived them.  I’ve been thinking about what I want the rest of my life to look like and most importantly, what I want the lasting memory of me to be once I kick the bucket.


I had a happy childhood.  Not perfect.  But happy.  Despite the overall happiness, I had some emotional baggage that I carried around.  I think any child who is not raised by their biological parents carries some baggage, no matter how good their guardians are.

After high school I left everything I had ever known and fell into a situation that was not at all healthy.  I would describe it as toxic.  They did not bring out the best in me.   I could have done some things differently to make it better, but I was young and inexperienced and incredibly sad and lonely and I did not feel comfortable.  Was it hard for them, having a teenager they barely knew thrust upon them?  Sure.  Probably.  Was it hard for me, leaving my home and friends and being forced to live a life that was totally foreign to me and doing it with no support?  Sure was.  I fell apart pretty epically.

I spent my 20’s trying to figure out myself.  I had some fun.  Traveled a little bit.  Tried different styles of dressing and had a couple different groups of friends.  I did a few people wrong along the way.  I thought I had been wronged and I was angry and resentful and selfish.  I didn’t feel grounded or attached to anything or anyone.    I was in relationships that left me feeling used or unfulfilled.  I used and hurt people.  My credit was bad.  At one point I had given up on life; (what was the point of it all?); and I had no-one I could go to for help.

My 30’s were all about rebuilding  – in every way.  I had a lot of work to do.  I had children now that I needed to do right by.  I needed to be better.  I picked my head up, made some hard decisions and took one step at a time.  I accepted what really was and stopped dwelling on what I hoped was.  I had had enough knock downs and bumps and bruises to propel me toward a better future.  I was ready.


Now that my 30’s are winding down; do I feel like I made all the progress that I had hoped to make?  Not at all.  But do I feel like I am a better person now?  A more stable person?  A happier person?



As I near 40, I finally know who I am and I’m comfortable with who I am.  I am still a work in progress.  I take responsibility for my role in all my bad relationships and I am looking forward to leaving the world better than I found it.  That’s what I will spend whatever time I have left doing.  Trying to not only improve myself but also making other people feel like I bettered their life somehow.  I want people to think happy things when they think of me.  I’m going to be even more positive and even more uplifting and even more kind.  I am going to buy the $15 bag of popcorn from Boy Scouts when I see them standing, in the cold, in front of Lowes.  I am going to embrace all the hard lessons I have learned up till now and use them to make the next 40 (or whatever) years of my life the best years yet.




The Most Stubborn October 19, 2016

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Special Needs Kids — the jay train @ 8:35 am
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I am no stranger to stubborn people.  It runs deep in my blood.  It runs in my fathers blood and ran in my grandfathers blood.


With that in mind …


Whose son decided that he was no longer going to eat any real food because we made a rule in our home that each child would wash their own plate and cup after they ate and he doesn’t like to wash plates or cups?  Whose son gets really angry when he’s hungry and STILL did not eat anything because he didn’t want to wash a plate or a cup?   Whose son spent DAYS eating nothing but cheese balls straight out of its tub and cereal bars out of their wrappers and getting progressively more and more difficult to deal with?

Mine did.  :-)


(It took us a few days to figure out what was going on and what the root of his “lack of appetite and misery” was.)


Even with all the stubbornness that I have known in my life – and I have known a lot – I have never known someone who would stop eating in protest of dish washing.  Not in protest of washing the family’s dishes and some pots.  Oh no.  In protest of washing ONE plate and ONE cup.


On one hand, I think it’s great that he’s so strong-willed.  I don’t want children who will let other people walk all over them.  But can we all agree that this is a bit much and he’s taking it too far?  I mean, come on.  He seriously may be the most stubborn person I’ve ever known, and that’s saying a lot.


We had to put our foot down and get a little stern with him.  He is now back to eating proper meals and washing his plate.

He’s back to being happy and chatty.



I swear, these kids challenge everything I ever thought I knew about parenting.  I could have never predicted things like this.  Anyone who goes into it, thinking they have an idea about what parenting will be like, is sorely mistaken.  They don’t tell you about things like this is parenting books.




Going Clubbing October 17, 2016

The older boy has joined 5 clubs at his school.

Some of Ace’s clubs meet in the morning before school starts and some of them meet after school.  He’s now officially in the chorus, the gardening club, the Lego club, the engineering club and the Math 24 club.


Some of them don’t surprise me.  Lego and engineering namely.  Both of those are right up his alley.  Building things and entering contests and using power tools and soldering irons.

Some of them scare me a little bit.  See the last sentence about the power tools and soldering irons.  He’s my “clumsy, gets easily excited and often acts before thinking” kid.   I’m just hoping that at the end of the school year, he has neither gotten hurt, nor caused anyone else to get hurt.

Some of them surprise me.  Math 24 and gardening certainly do.  Chorus surprised me the most though.  I mean, he loves to sing, but if I’m being honest, he’s not a great singer.  Also, the types of songs that they learn in chorus are not really the types of songs he usually enjoys.  None-the-less, he’s been practicing and I have purchased the shirt he will need for their November show.

Apparently in the gardening club, they will do some planting, but they will also spend time learning about seeds and bulbs and will try out various nuts and herbs.  That should be interesting.  At home, it’s a struggle getting him to put any green food in his mouth.


I think it’s good for kids to get involved in extra-curricular activities.  I believe in an enriched school experience.  I think it’s good to spend time with and get to know different types of children and have friends that bring out different sides of yourself.  I think it’s good to get to know your teachers in a way that’s different from knowing them in the classroom.  I think elementary school is the perfect place to begin to explore all that life has to offer and figure out what it is exactly that you love to do.  I think kids like Ace benefit from having a lot to do and many ways to keep busy.


We have discovered that it can sometimes be difficult to fit in regular life things around all his clubs, such as dentist appointments, but we will do our best to work around him and his now very busy schedule.


In all my excitement, I almost forgot to let him know that while we support all his activities, it’s still a privilege and if his grades start to suffer, we will make him cut back.  Shaunie was there to add her voice of reason as I happily signed off on yet another approval form.

I may be as enthusiastic about all of this as I am also because I am really impressed that his school even has all these offerings; and pretty much for free.  (The only cost to us has been the Chorus shirt).

Shaunie is less impressed and rolls her eyes at my awe.  She tried her hand at a lot of things as a kid but she didn’t grow up in a country where the only options were brownies for girls and cub scouts for boys.


What’s Wrong With Him? October 12, 2016


Ignoring the stares and comments from strangers used to be a daily occurrence.  People had a lot to say about the behaviours they saw from Jay in the early years.  At first it was really hard.  Every look put me on edge and every judgmental word made me cry – Then my skin got thicker.  I became a master at focusing on him and what I needed to do to help him, instead of them.

Without me noticing it, the need for the thick skin slowly faded.  His tantrums have all but disappeared.  He has become more and more able to regulate himself and function in a mainstream setting.

I got comfortable.

Nowadays we sit back gleefully and soak up all the positive reports we get from school.  We grin and get all the good feelies when people who know us see how well he’s adjusting and working his way through life.

We brag about his sense of self and his unwavering support for his brother.  If Jay has your back, he really has your back.  Trust me, you want him in your corner.

Plus, he’s just so darn cute.


When he goes to martial arts class – we see him through parental eyes.  A year ago he would have been unable to handle that type of setting.  The bright lights and loud noises.  The physical touching and demands to perform, to wait your turn, to be crisp and sharp and to remember routines.

When he’s in class we see him thriving.  We see him learning the moves.  We see him getting stronger.  We see him trying really hard.  We see him HAPPY and proud of himself.  We share the videos with family and friends.  They all cheer for him and share our excitement.

When he’s in his martial arts class the joy bounces off him.  He loves it there and it’s magical.

It’s obvious that this child is a super star and that he deserves to be praised and celebrated.



Then one day you are reminded that everyone is not in your bubble.  You make the mistake of forgetting that not everyone sees him through the same lens that you do.

They don’t see the amazing, over-comer that you see.  They see just another kid.  They see him running too fast or his arms moving too erratically or his coordination not being quite as good as the other children.  They see him smiling too widely and laughing too loudly and being a little too silly.  They wonder out loud,WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT KID?”

They don’t know they are witnessing a miracle.


I’d love to shrug it off and say it sucks for them.  That it’s their loss and their life would be richer if they could really see him.  Really see him.  But the truth is that no matter how much you try to convince yourself of that, it hurts.  You wonder if you should say something to defend your kid.  Shout at them.  Calmly educate them.  Or should you just ignore it.

How dare they dampen your joy.  How dare they put a nick in the awesomeness that it is to see your child shine.  How dare they assume to know anything about where we have been and how far we have come and what our story is.  How dare they wonder about what it took for us to get to this point.

No, hearing those questions doesn’t erase all the work or minimize the achievements, but it does make you stagger.  It feels like a kick in the gut.


In the end, you sit there, swallowing bitterness and fighting the urge to lash out.  You let your kid finish his lesson.  You give him a huge hug when he runs over to you at the end of it; delighted with his performance.  You hold his hand tight, and your head high, as you walk past the same people who were wondering what was wrong with him.



For My Enjoyment October 11, 2016

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Special Needs Kids — the jay train @ 9:05 am
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This is a purely selfish post.  I assume most people will not be as amused by any of this as I am.  If this were back in the day when people kept photo albums, I would put these pictures there and that would be it.  Now, I get to put it on my blog for posterity sake.


OK, so here goes.  Below are 3 pictures that I took of school work that came home in Jays school bag.  Each of the 3 sheets shows his answers – Which while they are correct and I am so proud of how well he is doing in school – Was not what caught my eye.  My boy illustrated his work.  I will go on a limb and say he was probably the only kid who did that so I hope it brought some cheer to his teachers day when she checked it.




In the above picture, the drawings that I am particularly fond of are the “wonder” and the “cricket”.  I also got a kick out of him drawing a Christmas tree for “marry”.  I am guessing that he thought the word was “merry”.  I do kind of wish that he had drawn something for marry.  I’m interested to know what his idea of marriage is.  What the picture doesn’t show is that he had erased the E in sundae and written in a Y.  Most likely because he didn’t know what a sundae was and thought there had been an error.  The E was put back in it’s rightful place and he drew an ice-cream cone.  So funny!




In the above picture, I like the untied shoe lace but mostly, I am in love with the attention to detail.  Notably, the light on the dentists head and the closed eyes as the person uses the napkin.




In the above picture, he not only drew pictures for each part of the compound word, but then also one for the compound word itself.  I love how he drew “soft”, and I am sort of relieved that he didn’t know how to draw “birth”.  There’s time to get to that.  The birthday hat took me more time to figure out than it should have.  My absolute favourite though, is the sunburned person.  You can see the dark colour and the heat radiating off them.  It’s fabulous!




Learning Style October 6, 2016


I am not an auditory learner.  I tune things out too easily.  This may be why I never understood the need for a “quiet room” inside my college library.  Libraries are already pretty quiet places.  I studied at the Dunkin Donuts in the middle of our student center.  The noise just never bothered me.  Sitting in a huge lecture hall while a professor rambled on and on was about as helpful to me as if my textbooks had all been written in braille.

I need a visual.  I like charts and images and I like to take notes.  I took A LOT of notes and the margins of my text books were full of drawings or arrows or additional tidbits.  For some reason, seeing the words, in my own handwriting, and even in different colours, solidified things in my brain.  During a test, I would recall words I had written and I could picture it perfectly … It’s position on the page (top left corner), the green ink, the exact swirl of that particular S, the pink arrow I had drawn connecting it to some other point further down on the page.


I have my Grandma to thank for that.  She taught me that there were different strategies for studying and it was important that each person finds what works for them.  She helped me to find MY way.  I think it was important to her because she never felt like she was as successful as she could have been in school.  Back then schools took a one size fits all approach.  If you couldn’t learn the way they had taught it, then YOU were the problem.  She grew up thinking that she wasn’t smart.  In fact, she was a very talented artist and was able to connect to what an author was saying in a way that never got tapped into.  I would have been lost while learning Shakespeare if not for her.

I remember her sister, who was a math teacher, telling me that she remembers almost everything she hears and she would get very distracted in the classroom if her students were being loud.  She would see words on a page and they would quickly disappear from her memory bank.  She kept a small device into which she verbally recorded information that she needed to know and store for a long time.


Ace is a really smart kid but he doesn’t test particularly well.  We have spent time trying to find his “thing”.

It appears that his teacher has lead him to something that he responds well to.  Mnemonics and catchy songs.  He used that strategy to remember information about the continents and oceans.  I think it’s great.  I would have never come up with that plan because my brain doesn’t work that way.  The problem is that I don’t know any mnemonics or catchy educational songs and I am not creative enough to create any.  We will have to see how we can get him to make his own.  But at least this is a start.

Jay is a video lover.  He can watch a video and report back to you everything that was on that video after watching it just a couple of times.  We have used YouTube videos to help him learn about addition and subtraction, as well as molecules and atoms among other things.  It’s quite remarkable.  He has a science test this week and has been watching videos on the water cycle.  As I was washing dishes, I quizzed him and he did a good job of answering my questions – even though he can’t properly pronounce the word “precipitation”.


The key to good teaching and effective learning is tapping into what works for each individual.

I guess I’m putting this out here in case it helps someone else.  Sometimes what seems like it should be obvious, isn’t.  If your child is having a hard time remembering things, take a different approach.  If that doesn’t work, take a different one.  Everyone has something that works for them.  It may take some out of the box thinking.  You may need to enlist the help of someone who thinks differently than you.  Get some new ideas.  It’s worth the effort.


Perry October 5, 2016

Filed under: ADHD — the jay train @ 12:28 pm
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To hear Ace tell it, he went to a Rock Concert. Yeah baby!!!

The truth is that we went to see The Band Perry at the base where Shaunie works.  They are more country/pop than rock but hey, it sounds very exciting when classified that way.


I understand the thrill he felt.  Many years ago when I was too young to be going to concerts without adult supervision, my father and his friend decided that they, and I, were going to a reggae show.  It would be a late night.  I was so excited.  It made me feel like a grown up and I thought I was going to get to see a whole different side of the world.  It certainly seemed more enjoyable than 8pm bed times and warm milk in front of a TV that sat on the floor, only had 1 channel and didn’t air any shows until 4pm on week days.  These were the days of listening to soap operas on the radio and when going to video stores to rent a movie about once a month was a treat.

As we drove up to the venue the traffic started to get backed up.  A lot of people were going to this thing.  That made my excitement grow even more.  I was in the back seat trying to play it cool, but really, I was all bubbly and giddy on the inside.  It was already past my bed time and I was so proud of myself for not feeling the slightest bit tired.

After sitting in traffic trying to get inside the gate for almost an hour, they decided it wasn’t worth it and they turned back.

I was so completely disappointed.  I would have sat in that traffic all night if necessary.  I tried to plead my case for why we should stick it out.  We had already driven all the way out there.  We had already waited that long.  Surely we were almost where we needed to be.  Once we got inside, we’d forget the annoyance of waiting and we’d just have fun.

No dice.  They u-turned and we headed back to the house.

I cried myself to sleep.

It’s strange the things that stick with you.  I’ve never forgotten that feeling.


That’s what I was thinking about as we drove to the site of The Band Perry concert.  How excited Ace was feeling and how happy I was to be able to give him that.  He was a chatting mess.  The words were spilling out on top of each other at lightning speed and I had to remind him to not walk so fast and get ahead of us.

I bought him a light up wand and Jay got a foam guitar.  We found the friends we were meeting and made our way to our seats.  Almost immediately Jay was ready to go home.  It was too loud and it was inching dangerously close to his usual bed time.  Ace was in his element.  He was singing and dancing and waving his light stick.  Jay spread out across a couple of chairs and tried his best to hold it together.  I felt so bad for him.  I know that is not his idea of fun.  I sat in one of the chairs and held him in my lap as he lay across the chair beside us.  I kissed his forehead and tried to cover his ears with my hands.  He calmed down and fell asleep.  My arm fell asleep too but I dared not move;  Except to look up and see Ace standing on his chair, one arm around Shaunies neck, the other arm in the air.  He was sporting a huge grin.


Days later Ace is still talking about the concert.  Apparently his favourite part was their “dramatic entrance“.  He also thinks the lead singer is pretty and was interested to know if she had a husband.  She is pretty and she does have a husband.  Sorry bud.


I love when I get to give my boys these kinds of life experiences.  Everyone remembers the first live concert they ever went to.  Mine was Janet Jackson, back when Janet was Janet. A young, new artist named Usher, was her opening act.