Life On The B Side

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

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.

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Books Review May 17, 2018

I have always loved to read – And even though there have been pretty big stretches of time when I just couldn’t make the time, this year has not been like that.  I have finished 10 (TEN!) books so far since January and I’m in the middle of 3 others as we speak.  Why 3 at once?  Which one I read all depends on where I am when the desire to read collides with some available time.  1 sits beside my bed.  1 sits on the table next to the couch and 1 lives at work.

 

Anyway, I figured I could do a quick book review post.  Also, if any of you have a recommendation for a book you think I’d love, please do share.  I tend to like realistic fiction; historical, drama, romance, action/adventure and maybe a little suspense.  I don’t do sci-fi, horror or self-help.

 

Anyhoo: My reviews – Not in the order they were read.

 

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

*Soooo good. Should be required reading.

This was a hard one to put down.  Every single character was believable and understandable!  Even the ones who you may not want to agree with.  The book showed many different sides to touchy subjects.  Poverty and police and privilege and race and blended-family.  I think many people might be turned off if they read a blurb about it.  They may assume they already know where it’s going and who will be made out to the bad guy; but it wasn’t like that.  It was honest on all sides and did not shy away from the ugliness/undesirables that is in the “hood” as well as the racism that black people often have to deal with and how difficult it can be to stay true to yourself while also trying to better yourself.

 

The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

*Overall Very Good.

I really enjoyed this book.  Who is who and what is really happening?  What’s true?  What’s imagined?  Ooh, the suspense!  The details made it easy to really immerse yourself in the story but there were A LOT of details and sometimes it felt like overkill.  The story was solid though and there were a couple of interesting twists which is always good.  I enjoyed the ride the book took me on.

 

Empathy and Eyebrows – Danni Starr

*A Nice, Easy, No Frills, Feel Good, Read.

I finished this in 2 afternoons.  It’s kind of like an autobiography/a collection of stories about the life of radio personality Danni Starr.  She’s had an interesting enough life to make for some good stories.  A blind mom.  An alcoholic dad.  A cheating husband.  A daughter with severe health issues.  Some issues at her job related to her race/gender.  Ultimately, each story makes you feel like she’s a sister you can go to with all your troubles cause she’ll understand and won’t judge.  She is all about women being strong and brave and honest and fierce and owning their inner magic; while being empathetic and maintaining killer eyebrows.

 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

*FIVE stars!  A definite Favourite.  Fist bump to the author.

I loved this book so much.  I told people about it on Facebook and on Twitter.  I felt like I was taken on an amazing journey.  Everything there was to feel, I felt it.  I picked this book up every chance I could to read another chapter.  So eager I was to see who I’d me meeting next and how they would tie into the story.  At times, the character the author chose to focus on was not initially the one I thought I wanted to know more about, but then bam, I’d be sucked in to their story too.  This book could have gone in any of a million different directions.  Even though I assumed there would be a nice little bow tying everything up at the end, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The last thing I will say though is that if you are a fan of audio books, I don’t think this would be a good one for that AT ALL.  I often referenced the family tree diagram provided in the front cover to keep my bearings.

 

Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

*Don’t Waste Your Time.

This book was recommended to me by a Barnes & Noble employee.  I should go back there and tell her how awful it was.  She said it was cute and charming.  Boring and pointless is more like it.  I dragged myself across the finish line with this one and in fact, I skipped through large chunks of it only to find that I hadn’t missed anything.  The book is chapter after endless chapter of some guy (who you don’t care about) floating down a river, meeting random people (who you don’t care about) on a quest to find somebody (who you don’t care about).  Next!

 

Behold The Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue

*A++

I didn’t know how to feel about the way this book ended.  It was good, but not what I wanted for them, but only because I cared.  I find myself wanting a follow up book so I can know what happens with the kids.  I felt connected to this family.  My immigrant experience was different from theirs in many ways, but the emotions are universal.  As an immigrant, you struggle.  But there were struggles in your home country too.  You want to be where you are, but you miss so many things about home.  There are amazing opportunities where you are, but nowhere feels/smells/sounds/is as comfortable to your soul like where you grew up.  You want to fit in.  You try to fit in.  You want to hold onto your culture and you want your children to know it too, but how can they?  Is it all worth it?

 

The Orphans Tale – Pam Jenoff

*Awesome Experience.

This book started off a little slowly and I wondered if I’d made a mistake in getting it.  That feeling didn’t last long though and it picked up speed as I went along.  I was caught between wanting to know how it ended and not wanting it to end.  In real life, I don’t know any circus people.  I have never had a conversation with anyone about their or their families experience with Nazi occupied Europe.  Yet, I knew these characters.  I could hear their voices and in my mind I just knew what they looked like.  I cared about every single one of them and what happened to them.  I felt their joy and their pain.  Even though the book is set in WWII Germany/France, I was caught off guard by how dark it got at times, but it made the story more compelling.  It’s one of those books that if they ever made a movie about it, I’d be hesitant to watch it because I feel protective about how the characters should be interpreted.

 

Yellow Crocus – Laila Ibrahim

*4 out of 5 stars.

There weren’t too many surprises in this book, but that didn’t make it any less interesting.  I eagerly followed along with Lisbeth and her enslaved wet nurse, Mattie.  I loved seeing their relationship develop as Lisbeth went from a baby to a teenager to a woman.  Laila (the author) did a great job of putting herself in both womens shoes so we could see things from both their perspectives.  Lisbeth loved Mattie, but she was absolutely a product of her era and upbringing.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

*Good. Not Worth The Hype. 

As well known as it is, I had never read this book and then I saw it at the book store on a bargain shelf that was full of “classics”.  I liked it but I don’t really understand why it was SUCH a hit and why people are SO outraged at it.  There are lots of books that are set in “Jim Crow”, USA and none of them would be honest if they didn’t include language that is offensive.  I don’t think the story is better or more offensive than A Time To Kill for example.  Maybe it was a big deal because of when it was written or because it was written by a woman.  I have no idea.  I liked it though and I loved little Scout.  She wasn’t afraid to ask the tough/inappropriate questions.  She was bold and inquisitive and a boundary pusher.  May we all be little Scouts.

 

Living Right – Laila Ibrahim

*Highly Recommend.

This is another book that I think does an excellent job of showing a sensitive topic from both sides.  On one side we have Jenn.  She is 100% committed to her family and her evangelical Church.  On the other hand, we have her teenage son, Josh who swallows a bottle of sleeping pills because he’s attracted to the same sex and knows his families views on homosexuality.  What’s a mom to do?  This book is not political.  It’s not about laws or rights.  It speaks directly to what happens inside someone’s home and heart when their most tightly held values are questioned.  Jenn is not portrayed as a bad person and as a reader, I felt her struggle, even though I disagreed with her beliefs.

 

 

 

And there you have it.  My first ever book review post.  The books I’m reading now are Girl Last Seen, Before We Were Yours and The House Girl.  I also have Lion waiting in the wings.  I can let you know how those are when I’m done if anyone’s interested.

 

 

p.s.  I realized while writing this that all the authors are female.  That was not by design but it’s kinda cool too.

 

MY Saturday Was Good May 15, 2018

It’s Saturday Morning

And I have told Jay that it’s time to get ready for his weekly tennis lesson.  When we step outside, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.  It’s a beauty of a day.  I don’t know yet what it will be, but I know I will find something to do that will keep me outside for a good part of the day.  Even Jay is picking up on the good energy and arrives at tennis in a good mood.  Usually he’s a bit surly until the class is well underway; sad to be leaving his video games behind.

At 10:30 when his class ended, instead of making the left that would take us down the short winding road that leads home, we made a right and took a long winding road to a town 30 minutes away.  A Naval Museum there was hosting a STEM event for kids.  Both boys tend to enjoy science and we’re always looking for ways to get the boys involved in activities such as those.

At this point though, Jay was no longer a happy camper.  He wants to go back home – to his electronics.  He whines for the entire car ride.  We hear every complaint in the book.  He tries bargaining his way out of going.  When he raises his hand during one of the experiments, the teacher probably was not expecting him to ask: “Is this the last thing?  Can we go home after this?”

He suffers through the first task.  The second one is made only slightly more bearable because it involves starbursts which the kids get to eat when it’s over.  The third and final exercise, requires them to form teams of 2 and then use marshmallows and spaghetti to build towers.  The team with the highest tower would win.  Wouldn’tcha know, after all his protestations, with him as the leader, he and his partner win the challenge.  We leave, he chooses a bag of Doritos as his treat and then we head home.  Not before I also get a treat though.  KFC.

 

It’s Saturday Afternoon

And we have dropped Jay home.  We have also checked in on Ace who is suffering from a severe case of “When will the pollen go the hell away so I can see, breathe and sleep normally again???”  The temps are in the high 90’s which for many people, only means one thing:  staying inside where there is AC.  Our AC has broken so there is no respite for us.  Also.  I have no intention of staying inside all day AC or not.  Between the 2 of us, I am, without question, the more outdoorsy one.  I suggest that we check out a state park not too far from us.  Their website says they have a “beach” and multiple trails.  The park does not disappoint.  I love driving through “farm land” Virginia to get there.  At one point we stop at a red light and 2 guys who are hanging out at a road side shop eating watermelon offer us some.  Once at the lake, I love kicking my shoes off and feeling the sand squish beneath my toes.  I love the coolness of the water lapping my ankles.  I love hearing children laugh as they play in the sand and seeing the canoes and jet skis further out on the lake.  Shaunie … keeps her shoes on, gives the side eye to teenage boys who’re throwing a football too close to her head and asks if I think she should reapply the bug spray.

When we’ve strolled the full length of the beach area and stood around chit chatting and taking in the scene for a while, we trot back to where we have parked.  I am actually willing to go home at that point.  I’m sure Shaunie has had enough.  But, she knows me and she loves me so SHE suggests that we check out one of the trails.  Yay!!!!!!   More bug spray and we are off again to see what the forest has to offer.

 

It’s Saturday Evening

And I have promised Ace that we will have a family movie night.  The problem though, is that I said that earlier in the day when I was feeling energetic  and spunky.  By the time I had finally gotten home, the LAST thing I wanted to do was sit for 2 hours and pretend to be interested in a kid friendly movie.  I wanted to shower, eat dinner and catch up on my own TV watching.  I had made a promise though.

We gathered in the living room and turned on Netflix.  The movie was painful.  And we were only 10 minutes in.  How was I going to make it 2 hours?  Then … Netflix went bonkers.  It just stopped working.  We went back to the home screen and tried again.  Nope.  We tried a different movie.  Still nope.  Before Ace could come up with any suggestions, I told him that our plan wasn’t going to work and we’d have to try again the next day.

He was disappointed but he understood.  After all, he saw what happened and knew it wasn’t anyones fault.  I got off scot-free.

I jumped up from the couch, showered, ate and was comfy in my bed before 9pm.  It was glorious.

 

All in all, I had a great day on Saturday.  How was it for my people?  Debatable.

 

 

*Netflix righted itself so Ace and I watched a movie on Sunday*

 

Oh, Mothers Day. May 10, 2018

It is chilly in here today so I have the oversized scarf that doubles as a blanket draped across my lap.  It is keeping my bare legs warm.  I sit at my desk and look out the window.  It’s not my window though.  I am not a manager, yet, so I don’t get an office.  I sit in a quad of cubicles with the other accountants who are also not managers.  The window I am looking out sits on the other side of the glass wall that separates me from one of our company’s lawyers.  I like that I have visual access to the outside.  I have always been a fan of the outdoors.  I love the way the sun feels on my skin.  The heat never bothering me.  More recently, I have found that I also enjoy the first prickle of a chill that comes in the fall and the way my entire body tenses while I am outside building a snowman with my son.  In my head I know that being tense won’t keep me warm, but it is involuntary.  It feels like if I relax, even more of the coldness will get in.  I like the anticipation of it coming to an end.  I know that after being outside for a while, I will get to open my front door and warmth will envelop me.  Then there will be the tingling sensation as my extremities thaw.   The sweatpants I will inevitably don, following a hot shower will feel extra soft and comforting.  I will feel content.

 

Content.  I can think of few better words in the entire world.  When you are content, it means that – at that moment – you are truly happy.  It means you have a moment of peace.  Of joy.  Of acceptance.  Of calm.  It is freedom from worry or stress.  Even if it is fleeting, it is always welcome.

 

Despite my scarf blanket, a shiver runs down my spine.  Perhaps, it was not a good idea to leave home with wet hair this morning.  It is thick and curly so it takes a long time to air dry.  I can feel the dampness at the nape of my neck where my ponytail is tied.  I pull my bright green cardigan up higher, hoping that will help.  It does.  I am relieved.  I know it is temporary as the sweater will surely slide back to it’s more natural place across my shoulders.

 

I decide to take a break from responding to my work emails and processing the invoices that I know I will never stop coming in.  I check my personal email.  Most days, there are 1 or 2 announcing that new blog posts have been written by someone whose blog I follow.  Today there is only one.  Although I do vaguely remember seeing a notification a few days ago that went unacknowledged by me.  I will have to go look for it and catch up with that blogger.  Today, the one I am treated to was written by a woman who chose to tackle Mothers Day and the complicated feelings that it can stir in some.  Yes, Mothers Day is complicated for some.  For me.  I read her post, inserting myself into far too many of her scenarios.

Since I am nursing a cold, I stop midway through to blow my nose.  I think about the conversation I had with my 11 year old son the previous evening.

Ah, allergies finally got to you huh?

Nope.  It’s not allergies.  This is a cold.  I can tell the difference, I tell him.

A cold?  He asks incredulously.  Who gets a cold in the summer?  You haven’t even been out in the rain or anything.

I laugh.  Well, all it takes is for me to come in contact with the germs, I say.  Rain or not.

I marvel at this child.  I cannot believe how mature he is now.  How much more growing and maturing he still has left to do.  Mothering both he and his 10 year old brother is the best thing I have ever done.  It has brought me the most joy.  I neither want or need anything for Mothers Day, other than to know that they are happy and safe.

 

I read in the blog post about how we should take a moment to think of the women in our lives for whom mothers day brings sadness and that we should reach out to them with a kind word, or a card or gesture.

The woman who miscarried a few months prior.  I don’t know any, I think to myself.  The woman who has been unable to get pregnant in the first place after years of trying.  I pause for a bit before going on.  Yes, that is a tough one.  That wasn’t my story, but I do know that story well.  It is incredibly difficult.  The woman whose mom has just passed away.   The mother who is struggling to maintain her sanity while dealing with her teenagers.  I mentally add, the single mother who does not know how she will get through one more minute, much less one entire day or the next week, month, year.  I know that woman well.  My chests feels heavy with the memories of the days I was alone raising 2 special needs toddlers and the weight of trying to be all they needed as well as maintain a full time job.  It was the most difficult and exhausting time I’ve ever had in my life and there is no way anyone can understand it unless they have lived it.  At that time, I couldn’t even think of celebrating Mothers Day.  What was there to celebrate?  I push those thoughts away and continue reading.  I cannot get teary while sitting at my desk.

I continue reading.  The woman who gave her baby up for adoption, the one who is in jail, the still single 30 something year old who wants desperately to find her life partner and a chance to even begin the journey …  the list is long.  She is trying to make sure that every reader feels seen.

The woman who hasn’t spoken to her mom in years.  “She wishes things could have been different”, the author writes.  That one hits close to home.  Different.  Yes, there is so much that I wish could have been different in my own life.  I wish my Grandma were still here.  I smile as I think about her.  I wish I had a better, closer relationship with my actual mother.  Weeks, maybe even months will pass without any communication between us, and then we will talk, or text – always keeping things light, superficial.  There are no “I love yous” when we hang up, no inside jokes, we do not lean on each other for support or reach out for advice or to share good news.  On Sunday, she won’t wish me a happy Mothers Day.  Or at least, she never has in the past.  I will send her a message and she’ll respond with a polite thank you.

 

Finally the author gets to her final group.  My phone rings and even though I am eager to keep reading, I answer.  I am at work after all.  A few minutes later, I pull my browser back up and continue.  I realize that even though my body as shifted position and my sweater is back to its rightful spot, leaving my neck exposed and vulnerable to my damp hair, I no longer feel cold.  Then I sneeze into my elbow.  I should try a different cold medicine, I think.  The one I picked up at the drug store yesterday is not doing its job.  I wonder briefly if there is anything else I need to get while I am there.  I could use a box of tissues.  The toilet paper I’ve been using is harsh on my nose.  I toy with the idea of getting a Mothers Day card for my Mother-In-Law or GrandMother-In-Law, but at this point, it wouldn’t get to them on time.  I wish I had thought to get it sooner.  Just the tissues and a new medicine I decide.

 

I read on:

… there’s a stepmom smiling through her disappointment. She knows the marriage is new and everyone is trying to adjust and gracefully work out how to be a blended family. But she had hoped for a card or some acknowledgement this Mother’s Day. She’s loved her stepchildren as her own, but has struggled to gain their trust and love in return. As happy as she is that they are close with their mother, she hopes someday they’ll be close with her, too, and wishes that day were today.

 

I sit with this one for a moment.  The copier next to me is making loud noises.  Step-parenting is fraught with challenges for sure.  However, I bristle at her description.  I imagine that my own step mother might have tried to describe things that way in the early years.  She would have been wrong to do so.  She never loved me.  I won’t even add the part that says “as her own”.  She did not try to gain trust or love.  She was not happy about other close relationships I had and wished only to have me out of her life.  For reasons mostly unrelated to her own behaviour, she eventually got her wish.

Then there is my Shaunie.  She jumped into step-parenting head first.  She does love my children and they her.  In many ways, it is the best anyone could hope for.  That does not mean there are not times when things are not aligned properly.  Understandably there are times she feels unappreciated.  Or overwhelmed.  There are times she does not understand the things I do.  But how can she.  I will always feel differently about the boys than she does and those feelings will shape the course of my actions.

 

I glance at the clock on the lower right side of my laptop screen.  11:03.  It’s nearly time for me to eat lunch.  My stomach reacts to this realization.  A few new emails have come in and I need to address them.  I’ll tackle the easy ones now and save the ones that will require more time or brain energy for after lunch.  The lunch that will include the trip to the drug store where I have decided I will purchase 2 Mothers Day cards.  If I am lucky they will get to NJ on Saturday.  More likely though, they will get there on Monday; one day late.  I reason, that’s better than not at all.  I want the 2 women who have become family to me, to know that I appreciate them.

 

Another sneeze and sniffle.  In my mind, I add orange juice to the growing drug store list and gather up my phone and keys to head out.

 

Letting Off Steam May 2, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 10:13 am
Tags: , , , , ,
I just need to vent a little.  Let off some steam if you will.
So, I have this “aunt” who is a vocal fan of #45.  I put aunt in quotes because neither her nor my uncle who she’s married to are biologically related to me.
She posted this whole thing on Facebook about how he’s the greatest president ever.  Apparently his accomplishments include lowering taxes and wiping out ISIS.
I was itching to comment on it.  I typed up some questions for her and then deleted them all.  Partly, because I promised Shaunie that I would cool it with the politics on FB (due to her job) and partly because I feel like there is no reasoning with people like her.  If she’s confident enough to post that crap knowing all the other horrible things there are to know about him, then, hell …… what could I possibly say to her that would make a difference?
I checked back on her post a couple of times to see if anybody else (especially anybody I knew) had either “liked” it or commented on it.  So far, nothing.
The thing is, I don’t feel good about leaving it alone.  I feel like a fraud.
I feel like leaving things alone is a huge part of the worlds problems.  Nobody wants to rock the boat, or cause a stir, or get into an uncomfortable argument.  I get it.  But it’s frustrating as hell too.
……………
*Just so when I read this again years from now, I’ll remember what happened – Kanye West made some comments to TMZ (a celebrity gossip site) and among other asinine things, he said that for slavery to have lasted as long as it did, it seems to him, that people chose to remain enslaved.*
That to me, feels kinda like a coworker I had who once told me that Jay (who is autistic and has a lot of struggles and challenges associated with it) was so lucky that he got extra time to complete tests in school and that it wasn’t fair to her son (who is neuro-typical and fully capable, but kind of lazy) because he didn’t get extra time.
Her and Kanye are both totally clueless about real life shit and they can both eff all the way off in my opinion.
 
When I watched the video though, I couldn’t help but notice all the people in the TMZ room who heard the crap Kanye was saying and just stood there, with no rebuttal.  The ONLY person to say something was the 1 black guy who was there.  All the white people in that newsroom are just like all the people who heard that comment about Jays “good fortune” and just sat there silently, even though they knew the situation.  And unfortunately, just like all the white people I’ve known in my life who have heard their friends and family say racist crap but chose to ignore it rather than speak up because they didn’t want things to be uncomfortable. Well, guess what? It was uncomfortable for me.  I guess that was the lesser of the 2 evils to them.  
Vent complete.  Happy friggin Wednesday.
 

Cash Crops Coming April 24, 2018

The other day I posted the below on Facebook.  (Real names edited to protect the innocent)

 

Me: I should get some more plants for in here. I love them so much. All that greenery. It’s just so beautiful. Yup, that’s what I need. More plants. Give me all the pants. All different kinds of plants. Big ones and small ones. I’ll take such good care of them. It will be great. And our air will be so fresh and clean. MORE PLANTS!!!

Shaunie: Nope. I’m not living in a jungle. We have enough.

Ace: Nope. You’ll just kill them like you did all the others. It’s not fair to the plants to be left in your care. You are a plant murderer.

Jay: Go ahead Mom. Do what makes you happy. Get your plants if you want to. I believe in you. You’ll keep them alive this time.

#MyLife

 

 

I have an update.

In social studies, Jay has been learning about Americas first colonists and about the revolutionary war.  It’s actually pretty cool that we live in Virginia because so much of the story played out in our back yard.  We have a couple of famous battlefields right in our town.  The house that George Washington was raised in, is a stones throw away.   Thomas Jeffersons home of Monticello is a history lovers must-see and interested visitors can tour the Yorktown Battle field which was the site of the last major battle of the American Revolution.  Around these parts, kids take school field trips to places like Jamestowne and Colonial Williamsburg.   But I digress.  *My kids get their chattiness honestly*

Like I was saying, Jay has been learning about colonial Virginia and you can’t talk about colonial Virginia without talking about tobacco.  He has learned that tobacco was a “cash crop”.  You know what that is … A crop produced so you can sell it and make money as opposed to a crop produced solely for the owners use or enjoyment.

 

What does this have to do with my love of plants you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.

First though, you need to know that Jay came home very excited because he had found a 4 leaf clover so of course that meant he would have good luck.  In an effort to protect his 4 leaf clover, he placed it inside a zip loc bag (not sealed so oxygen could get in), then he placed it by the window where most of my plants are so they can get adequate sunlight.  Since he was over there, I asked him to water my plants; and he happily obliged.  Somehow this led to the boys counting my plants (7 thriving) and Ace having a grand time teasing me, yet again, about the sad state of one of my bamboo plants.  I had 2 and only 1 of them is currently doing well.  Jay was quick to come to my defense.  I love that kid.  The 4 of us got into quite the lively and funny conversation about whether or not I should get more plants.  Clearly I need to replace the 1 dying bamboo so that the 1 that’s doing well can have a buddy.  Jay was ready to fund it with his piggy bank money.  Ace and Shaunie were totally opposed to the idea.

THEN, I had the BRILLIANT idea of asking Jay if HE would like a plant (or 2) of his own that HE could take care of.  He was quick to say yes.

LOOPHOLE!!!!!!

 

Shaunie couldn’t say no to Jay having his own plants to tend – even if she gave me a wicked side eye while agreeing.  She did make a slight alteration and suggested that he grow something besides flowers.  Something like tomatoes maybe.  Jay was all for it and said “that’s a great idea, instead of just flowers, I’ll grow a cash crop and we can sell what I grow”.   So now, we have a plan to go to the store this weekend and purchase all the necessary things to grow tomatoes … (and maybe carrots and bell peppers as well cause I think those are pretty easy and I have a hard time just buying 1 thing when I hit up a garden section … but don’t tell anyone I said that).

 

Can’t Tell He’s Autistic April 23, 2018

We heard it again this past weekend.  “No!  Really?  I would have had no idea.  You can’t tell at all.”  It was said by someone who has spent one hour every Saturday morning with our son for the past couple of months.  It’s the response I get most frequently when I tell people that Jay is autistic – even people who know him on some level.  I understand why people react that way.

People expect to see rocking back and forth or hand flapping.  They have come to learn that loud behavioural outbursts mean “autism”.  They assume that a non-verbal 10 year old or a toddler who is lining up toys and watching wheels spin has autism.  Also, that one “weird” kid who is opening and closing the window blinds while all the other kids are playing tag.  Yup, definitely autistic.

They do NOT see my boy being chatty and funny and polite and coordinated and engaged and expressing emotion and playing appropriately and making eye contact and being aware of danger – and think that’s Autism.  I am not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing.  I believe it has both helped and hurt him in the past.  I believe it will continue to both help and hurt him in the future.

I just say this to show that autism is not always visible.  It’s a neurological disorder (or just a different order) which means it’s a brain (dys)function.  How that manifests itself in people varies wildly.

 

You may be wondering then what does make Jay autistic.  How do we know he is autistic if he doesn’t exhibit any of the traditional traits.

2 things.

  1. The boy he is today, is not the boy he always was. We have worked really hard to get him to a place where he can live comfortably – in a world that’s not really ready to accommodate him – while respecting and honoring and celebrating and holding tightly onto his uniqueness.
  2. Even with all the work that we (Jay, parents, school staff) have done, his brain still processes things in a different way from non-autistic peoples – and that is obvious to us in subtle ways on a daily basis.

 

Jay is fortunate that he has a brother who not only understands his brain but is only a year older than he is so they enjoy much of the same things.  They play/work really well together.  Outside of that, friendship is hard for Jay.  He doesn’t always understand the rules of engagement.  He has learned how to navigate a lot of social situations, but children are unpredictable.  They seldom follow set rules which leaves Jay confused and sort of playing catch-up trying to figure out exactly what is happening or what is expected.  Having a friend means caring about what someone else is interested in even if you are not interested in it.  This does not come naturally to Jay.  He doesn’t understand why he has to pretend to like something that he doesn’t like just because it will make someone else feel better.  To him, this feels like a lie.  And we tell him that lying is bad.  These are difficult things to explain.

Jay gets very anxious over things that other people can easily shake off.  So anxious that it can affect his entire day and night and he will wake up the next day still hampered by the previous days “event”.  That event could be:  Being 5 minutes off his schedule, having to eat something besides pizza for dinner on a Friday, losing a game of Pictionary or being called handsome instead of cute because in his mind when someone says “you are not cute, you are handsome”, all he registers is “you are not cute” and that’s an insult.

His is a tricky autism.  He understands SO much of how the rest of us think.  He loves a good joke.  He is pretty good at recognizing sarcasm, but there is also a lot he does not understand.  He’ll engage in a conversation assuming that whoever he is talking to has all the back story and history about the topic at hand.  I often have to jump in to either clarify things for him or add some context to whoever he’s conversing with.  I can only imagine what happens when I am not there.

I am glad he doesn’t have tantrums (anymore), but we are constantly trying to figure out what is causing him to behave the way he does.  Asking him does help, but words are unreliable.

 

Here is an email we got from his teacher last week.  It’s pretty typical of how life is.

 

Good Afternoon!

I wanted to touch base quickly about Jay.  He has been such a joy to have this year and is always so happy.  The past couple of weeks he has seemed a little different – not quite as happy.  Last week I wanted to attribute it to being gone on spring break for a week, and not being on a regular routine for a week may have thrown him off, but it continued into this week as well.  He seems to be upset coming from [his before-care place] in the morning, and has a very hard time moving on from what happened there in the morning, which I’ve seen before, but I am usually able to help him get over it.  He has almost seemed “ornery”, to be honest.  He has not been bad in any way, I just wanted to bring it up to you to see if there had been any other changes for him that he’s having a hard time adjusting to, or if you have seen any change in his behavior at home.  Also, just to let you know, Jay came in very hungry this morning, and he said he ate breakfast at the [before-care], but he wouldn’t tell me what he had eaten.  I suggested he eat the banana from his lunch, which he did, but then later he seemed to get even more upset about food, because it turned out that the breakfast he had eaten had been his lunch for today!  I had him buy lunch because all he had left was popcorn.  Maybe he’s going through a growth spurt and that’s what is affecting his mood!

 

Have a great weekend!

 

 

I am really so appreciative of his teachers.  He’s always had teachers who genuinely care about him and try really hard to help him and they communicate with us when there’s something off.

Only time will tell what any of this means for my little boy and how adulthood will look on him.  My little autistic boy who does chores, takes the same tests as all the other kids in his general ed class, can negotiate his little butt off, is usually ok with last minute changes, loves to socialize, isn’t bothered by bright lights, loud sounds or itchy materials, sleeps well and has shown a willingness to try new foods … but for whom there are few “minor” inconveniences.  Things are all or nothing.  Black or white.  Very VERY good or “the worse EVER“.

 

 

I replied to his teacher and the below was how she closed out her last response.  I really do feel grateful that he has such a supportive team who don’t get annoyed at the things he doesn’t instinctively understand but who try to meet him where he is no matter how many times they’ve been down that same road.

 

We have talked many times about “being a duck” and letting the problem roll like water off his back.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, as Jay isn’t always able to see past the literal meaning of the phrase!  🙂  Jay makes me smile every single day, and I love having him in class.  Hopefully he will be back to his “always happy” self soon!

 

God bless the teachers!  That is all.