Life On The B Side

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

On Hamilton – A Family Affair December 15, 2017

I have a bit of a parenting dilemma and I’d be curious to know what you all think about it.

 

I am a big fan of live shows in general.  Musicals, plays, concerts … I’m into all of it.  There are several Broadway shows whose soundtracks I know by heart.  Les Miserables.  Chorus Line.  Aida.  Dear Evan Hansen.  Rent.

I also know all the lyrics to Hamilton.  I mean, as much as is reasonable to expect.  It’s a VERY wordy show.  I don’t want to call it verbose because that implies that some of the words aren’t necessary.  I wouldn’t get rid of any of them.

Singing along with show tunes is usually something I do when I’m alone in the car.  It’s not really the coolest thing to do (apparently) and people can be judgy.  Not that I care what people think but I can’t exactly dive into my most emo self during ‘On My Own (Les Mis) the way I want to while someone is in the room rolling their eyes or putting their fingers in the ears.  I also cannot belt out ‘Tits & Ass (Chorus Line) while my children are in the back seat for obvious reasons.

*Side note* – One of the people who judge my love of show tunes is a fan of techno music so there goes all her credibility. 🙂

 

So anyway, in school, Ace was introduced to Hamilton.  He came home singing the opening song.  It’s kind of a Cliff Notes version of Alexanders life.  It made me happy.  It made Shaunie roll her eyes even further back into her head and stick her fingers even further down inside her ears.

 

I think it’s great that schools are using the show to get kids interested in learning history.  We all know that history class has a reputation for being boring – But it doesn’t have to be.

In drama class they also use it.  The kids were broken into groups and given a part of the show to recreate.  Ace got the role of Philip Hamilton at the time of his duel.  I gave him some back story and then we had fun imagining how Philip would be feeling in that situation and then practicing how it would play out.  So much better than math homework.

 

I’ve said a lot so far without actually saying much of anything.  Talk about burying the lede.  OK, here’s my concern:

Ace has taken that inch he got at school and gone the whole mile with Hamilton.  He is now interested in knowing all the songs.  He’s only 11 and the show does cover some adult-ish topics and includes some adult language which I don’t know if I’m comfortable with him singing about/along with.

 

But is one little “shit” the worst thing if he’s also learning the meaning of words like anarchy and intransigent and unimpeachable and deniability and civility and quagmire and abrasive and reticent?

Is a fairly mild wading into the topic of adultery so bad for him to be exposed to, if, because of this show, he’s also curious about other historical figures and events?

Is him singing “pain in the ass” really so bad if it means we are doing a duet?  Me playing the role of all the women and him playing the men in ‘Take A Break’?  It’s quality time and I love having someone to share my love of history and show tunes with.

Lately the 2 boys have been listening to ‘Aaron Burr Sir’ over and over and over and yes there’s a line in it that says “it’s hard to have intercourse over 4 sets of corsets”, … *yikes* … but I don’t think they really know what they’re singing when they get to that line and Jay absolutely delights in it when Ace gets to the part where he sings “Ooh who are you? Who you? Who are you? Ooh, who is this kid? What’s he gonna do?

The no-fighting bro time is worth it … Right?

 

Help me out here.  Tell me that it’s all fine and that I should just go with it.

 

 

 

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P.S.  Lin-Manuel is killing me.  He put out a new song about the life of Benjamin Franklin.  I was super excited because:

A) Lin-Manuel and B) Another cool way for the kids to learn about yet another founding father.

Except, I listened to the song this morning and it’s great and very educational but he drops more than a couple F bombs.  Like, a lot of them.  That’s a hard no for me.  Come on Linny;  help a mama out and make some kid-friendly history songs.

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One Pot Post December 14, 2017

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 12:35 pm
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I’ve let myself fall behind again and now there are too many things to talk about.  I fell behind though because I was struggling to write.  Nothing felt right.  I didn’t feel like pouring my heart out and talking about how I had a great weekend but then turning around and saying that I spoke to my Aunt on Sunday evening and even though I love talking to her sometimes it makes me sad.  I didn’t want to talk about the happy without acknowledging the sad and vice versa.  But it also felt odd putting them all in one post.

 

Here’s the thing – I love my Aunt beyond measure.  Always have.  She’s always been physically small and delicate.  She’s sweet and caring and soft spoken.  But man she is fiercely independent and brilliant and adventurous and steadfast and reliable and hard working.  I have respected her my entire life and tried to be like her.  As much as I loved my Grandma and my Grandad, it was my Aunt that I wanted to emulate.  Just by being who she is, she earned the respect of thousands of students and countless teachers and girl guiders and Church group members and pretty much anyone who ever met her.

I have so many great memories of her and still can feel the excitement in my body when I remember eagerly waiting to see her car pulling into our driveway when I was a kid.

 

She’ll be 90 years old next month.  Her heart is not doing well.  She’s been in and out of the hospital a couple of times in the last couple of months.  It’s no longer safe for her to be left alone so arrangements have been made so she always has company.

Her faith in God is strong and she is very connected with her Church but has been unable to go.  This bothers her.  Her church will have an intimate, watered down Christmas service for “shut ins” that she will attend next week.

That she is being well taken care of and has access to these things is great – That she needs it, makes me sad.

 

OK, so I spent more time on that topic than I thought I would.  That’s how writing goes I suppose.  Words come spilling out.  Like vomit.  And then you feel better.

I don’t want to make it seem as if it’s all gloom over here though.  You see that same Aunt sent a cake all the way from Jamaica and Ace was super excited to get it because he loves it.  (She sends one every year).  Jay decided he’d try it and when he tasted it, he said “This is making my tongue happy.”  I relayed that information to her and she thought it was awesome.

Jay had a great time at his friends birthday party and now wants to have a party of his own.  We’ll see about that.  His birthday is in less than a month.

Ace got braces put on his teeth.  Braces on their own are not cheap.  (Thousands of dollars).  Add in several more hundreds of dollars because he needs to have some extractions.  I am concerned about how he’ll handle the pain at the same time as I am stressing out over how we’ll pay for it all.  He was excited but nervous about the braces.  Understandable.  It went pretty well even though he was sore the whole next day.  He chose red and green rubber bands in honour of Christmas.  Extractions happen next week.  Send us good vibes.

 

There are other things too, of course.

Passive aggressive racist things I’ve heard lately from “good people” that made me think of passive aggressive racist things I’ve heard my whole life from people who let down their guard and got comfortable and made comments in my presence;  Probably assuming I wasn’t paying attention or maybe just flat out not caring that I was the lone black person in a room otherwise full of white people.   *sigh*

 

There was our holiday card photo shoot.  It went swell.  We dressed the kids in matching red sweaters and took pictures of them in front of our tree.  We got some funny pictures and some perfectly posed ones.  I’m so grateful that we can even do things like this at all.  Picture taking was once a cause of much stress in my life.  For some reason I really let it bother me that the kids wouldn’t pose for cute pictures when they were little.

Now, I just need to make it to a place to print them off and drop them in the mail.  We’ll see if it happens.  If not, I’ll just post the pics online.  I am the same person who still has the gift I bought for my sisters first mothers day sitting in my living room.  I meant to mail it to her back in May but that never happened.  I’ve also seen her twice since then and both times forgot to bring it with me.  I’ll keep you posted on when she actually receives it.  Gonna include it in the box I’m sending for my niece.  Really making an effort to get it to them in time for Christmas.

 

So there you have it.  I just threw everything in the pot; like a paella or a jambalaya.  Hopefully things are going smoothly for you and yours.  I love you all for reading.  Truly.  Enjoy what you can about this life we’re living and especially at this time of the year when it’s so tempting to do, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourselves to make things perfect or to impress other people.

 

Don’t Tell Ace I Said This December 5, 2017

Psst, come a little closer.  I have something to tell you; but I don’t want the kid to hear.

 

He missed his bus for school which meant he missed an entire day of school – And even though I wasn’t happy about it, it kind of worked out nicely.

 

Normally, his missing the bus would have unleashed The Kraken on him.  But here’s the thing – At the end of the day, he really is a great kid and I know it wasn’t done on purpose.  It was the first time it’s happened and he had been up late the night before suffering with stomach issues.

 

Under normal circumstances, if something like that had happened, while it wouldn’t be at all convenient, Shaunie possibly could have gone back home from work to take him to school.  This week though, she’s in a different office – much further way – doing a training.  I definitely was not going back home to take him.  Under the best of circumstances I work too far away.

 

I’m a Mom though so, I got some stuff done and then left work early so that I could put him out of his misery.  Both from being home alone all day and from worrying about what punishment he was going to get.

 

When I got home, I asked how his day had been.  His response was hilarious … “I don’t know how to answer that.  I feel like I shouldn’t say it was good.”

He had done both his Monday and Tuesday chore, had read a book, had brought the trash can to the back of the house, had vacuumed and had folded his brothers laundry.

The kid was pulling out all the stops.

 

I had finished making dinner and cleaning up the kitchen before Shaunie and Jay came in.  In fact, I was sitting on the couch simultaneously talking with Ace and scrolling Facebook when Jay bounced up the stairs.  That’s UNHEARD OF.  We all got to sit at the real dining table and have dinner together.  Not our usual of “kids sit on bar stools by the island” while adults run around and then adults eat later while kids are doing final bed time prep.  We talked about how Jays day had been and laughed at corny jokes and discussed the upcoming weekend and congratulated Shaunie on doing well on her test.

 

By 7 pm, we were in the living room hanging out.  Jay, Ace and Shaunie had a wrestling competition.  Not me.  I don’t wrestle.  I’m the bell.  *ding*

Spoiler Alert: In the finals, Ace beat Jay and then Shaunie beat Ace.

 

The wrestling lasted for quite a while and then it was time to get everyone ready for bed.  By 8:10, the boys were knocked out and Shaunie and I settled down to eat an apple pie thing that we found and love but aren’t willing to share with the kids because it’s not cheap.  🙂

 

So, yeah, the kid fell back asleep after initially waking up and missed his bus and that’s not ok, so he did get a lecture about it because that’s what responsible parents do – but – we’ve all been there; life happens; and in the end, it allowed us to have a nice evening together.

 

 

 

Courtesy of Jay

What does an ill tempered cow do?

.

.

.

Cause udder destruction.

 

Unbroken Streak Charlie Brown December 4, 2017

How was everyone’s weekend?

Good?  Good.

Ours was also.

 

It started on Friday when Jay came home from school, brandishing an invitation to a birthday party.  It’s the first time he’s ever been invited to a party that wasn’t for a family member.  And it’s not a situation where they are in kindergarten and there’s a rule saying the whole class needs to be invited so as to avoid hurt feelings.  This is a legit friend from his before/after care.

Jay is so excited to go.

Jays Mom is so excited that he got invited.  She’s excited that he is doing well in school on a social level and that he has friends and that this party is at a pool (a place Jay loves).

I made sure to RSVP quickly and then I asked Jay what he’d like to get his friend as a gift.  He suggested Roblox toys.  I had to let him know that when you’re shopping for someone you should choose something THEY like, not something YOU like.  🙂

 

On Saturday we got to see my friend (and everyone’s fave), who agreed to babysit in the evening while Shaunie and I went to a sip and paint birthday party for one of Shaunie’s friends.

On Sunday Jay finished up a science project for school and then we put up our Christmas tree/decorations.  I love it.  The house looks great.

 

We closed out the night with cuddles on the couch, some Charlie Brown and a short Welsh Christmas movie.

 

OK, wanna hear something?  I’ve never seen any Charlie Brown episode (or movie).  Not Halloween.  Not Christmas.  Nada.

I thought last night was going to break the streak, but we let the kids start watching while we ate dinner and by the time we were finished eating, they were just about done with Charlie Brown – I Want a Dog for Christmas.  Then we put on that short Welsh film.

There’s still time for me to get some Charlie in my system before we get to Christmas day so we’ll see how that goes.

 

Holiday Takeaways November 27, 2017

The boys spent Thanksgiving with their dad.

So …

Shaunie and I took a quick trip to Boston.

We caught a couple of shows, we watched a movie, we ate delicious lobster, we took a trolley tour, we saw street performers, we posed for pictures with the Cheers sign, we walked around Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market and the State House and Boston Commons and Beacon Hill and down Boylston Street.

Then …

We flew back to Newark airport, picked up the children and drove the nearly 5 hours back home.

 

We spent the entire next day in our pj’s, watching Christmas movies and playing Chutes and Ladders.  It was a delightful way to spend a Sunday.

 

Here are my main takeaways:

It’s easier on your emotions to be “away” for the holidays when the kids are away.

Double (and triple) check your Uber before you get out in case you leave your bag behind and then have to jump through hoops to get it back as well as pay a fairly substantial “fee”.

Always pack extra underwear.

If you can, print your tickets ahead of time because phones are weird things and sometimes they freeze up causing you to not be able to pull up your email confirmation.

Budgeting a day to just relax when you get home before going back to work makes a huge difference.

Even if you spend 4 days avoiding social media and the watching the news, you don’t miss much.  First thing I saw when I checked into Twitter at the airport on Saturday was that 45 had claimed that Time magazine spoke to him about being person of the year to which Time magazine basically said … “That is a lie”.  Smh.

Let the dad know what you are getting the children for Christmas so he doesn’t buy them the same exact thing as a “good job doing well in school” gift while he has them for the holiday.

Reading is fun and it’s great when I get time to actually do it; so I need to make more effort to create the time.

Wonder, the movie, was great.  I’m gonna make my kids watch it when it’s available outside of the theatre.

 

 

I hope everyone had a good weekend.

 

Brag Post November 20, 2017

Back in the day there was a page on an autism blog I followed called the “Community Brag Page”.  This was a place where people could talk about their children’s accomplishments to an audience that truly understood.  I mean, it’s normal to see on Facebook etc the proud parents posting about their honor roll student or their star athlete or the recent MIT acceptance letter.  If someone posts on Facebook that their kid sat through dinner in a restaurant or wore a pair of shorts or played with a neighbor it may seem odd.  To most people, these things are commonplace.

On the community brag page, everyone knew that these things were a big deal.  We all knew that these things that parents talked about had not come easy.  We cheered each other on.

It was nice.

 

This past weekend we went to a 3 year olds birthday party.  There was a face painter and a balloonist.  OK, so they’re not actually called balloonists.  That’s someone who operates a hot air balloon.  I looked it up.  Anyway, at this party there was a face painter and a balloon artist?  Balloon shaper?  A person who makes shit out of twisting balloons.

Jay took some time deciding what kind of balloon he wanted.  If you’re a balloon thingy maker, you are not going to get away with a sword or a dog with my boy.  He finally came up with something; then he sat to wait his turn.

While he was waiting, I could see that preparations were underway to do the birthday song and the cake cutting.

Jay has VERY FEW sensory issues – for which I am grateful because I know they can be debilitating.  However, I know my boy does NOT like the birthday song.  For reasons unknown to me, he reacts very strongly to it.  In the past it would have meant, screaming, crying, yelling – There was even a time where he pulled plants out of the ground.  Yeah, not fun when you’re at someone elses house.

I went to him and quietly told him that I thought they were going to sing happy birthday soon and asked if he would be ok.  He said no and immediately covered his ears and buried his head into my chest.  I asked if he’d like to go to a room upstairs until it was over.  He let me know that he did but also that he did not want to lose his spot in the balloon line.  I suggested that we ask Mr Balloon Man if he could hold his spot because we’d be right back.

And that’s what we did.

We were nearly to the top of the stairs when we heard the first line of the song.  He quickly dove into the nearest bedroom and closed the door.

There was silence.

After a couple of minutes, a smiling Jay said “I think they are done now.”

We opened the door and walked back down the stairs and he resumed his spot in the balloon line.

 

Jay got a balloon robot and in what was a first for the face painter, got his face painted to look like a slice of pizza.

 

All 4 hours we spent at the party were a success – And this is worth bragging about!

 

Not to be ignored is Ace.  I don’t think I ever updated you guys on his report card.  The final result came in and the kid got straight friggin A’s.  There are no words really to tell you how proud I am of him.  Under all the normal conditions this would be worthy of praise but I’ll leave you with this quote from the only “grandfather” they’ve ever known – Because he gets it.

It’s all the more impressive when you consider where he’s coming from.  I mean, from almost having to repeat 2nd grade to straight A’s in 6th grade.  That’s impressive.

 

Now That That’s Cleared Up November 13, 2017

One day last week I noticed a ZERO written at the top of Jays final history test for the marking period.  It might as well have had flashing neon lights around it.   I was horrified and shocked and kinda sad too.

So … I emailed his teacher.

I told her how surprised I was by the grade and that I was concerned about it.  I told her that I had helped him study and that he had done well on the small quizzes leading up to the test so I just didn’t understand what went wrong.  I reminded her that we had a meeting already scheduled so it would be nice if we came to the table already armed with ideas.

 

And … She wrote me back.

She said that she was confused by my email but offered suggestions for what she can do if I think he needs testing modifications.

 

I was less than thrilled with her reply.  Why was she not as concerned as I was?  A ZERO should set off alarm bells.

 

Also … I spoke to Jay.

I asked him what went wrong.  I made sure to tell him that he wasn’t in trouble.  I just wanted to help him.  He offered no useful insight.  He said “I just forgot everything I guess.”

 

This morning we had the meeting and after hearing about how happy he is in school and how much he participates and how well he follows the class schedule and how funny he is and how much they enjoy having him in class and after being told that he had been featured in the school announcements for being the artist of the week, I brought it up … What about his academics?  I wanted to know what they or we could and should be doing to help him to get better scores on tests.

 

After a little back and forth and trying to figure out where each other was coming from it turns out that my boy did not get a zero on his test afterall.  He had in fact gotten 100%.

The zero I saw was the teacher marking the test to show that zero points had been taken away!!!

 

We all laughed at this mis-understanding and I felt a huge relief and then I felt really badly that Jay thought he had gotten a zero when in fact he had gotten all correct.

 

I can’t wait to see him later so I can let him know that it was my mistake and to let him know how proud I am of his hard work and the glowing reports from his teachers.

 

As I said in the meeting, I wish I could take his current report card and show it to his 1st and 2nd grade teachers.  I want to take his report, full of mostly 3’s (B’s) and just a couple 2’s (C’s) and show it to everyone who knew him back when he was crying and screaming all day long.  Everyone who knew him when he was 6 years old and couldn’t write his name or count or sit through one class period.   Everyone who knew him when he had IEP’s full of therapy and accommodations and behavior goals.  All that’s been taken away.  He now has no behaviour goals because there are no behavioral concerns.  No pull outs, no therapy, not even extra time for tests.  His current IEP basically is a one liner that says the special ed teacher will be available as a consultant to the general ed teacher if necessary.  Academically he has the same goals as any typical 4th grader.

 

He still has some things to work on.  Mostly word problems in math and he needs to start reading some higher level books but overall, I’m so happy with all that came out of our meeting.

 

Rock on little homie.