Life On The B Side

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

Sneak Peak October 14, 2018

I have news.  Well, you know how I used to talk about how much I enjoyed my job but I had a long, painful commute?  I’ve given that up and I will start at a new job this week.  It is bitter sweet in that you never know what kind of boss or coworkers you’ll get when you start a new job and I really did like my former ones BUT that drive was simply too much.  90 minutes in the morning and 2 hours to get home.  More than half of that being nothing other than me sitting in traffic.

I will now have a 15 minute commute and I am very much looking forward to the extra time at home.

 

Last Thursday was my final day of that awful drive.  Actually, it was only half awful because I left early and was home by 4pm.  I picked Jay up from school on my way home and since Ace takes the bus he was there waiting for us.  By 6pm, we’d had dinner and cleaned up, the homework had been done and checked, we’d showered, I’d taken out clothes for the boys to wear the next day and chores had been completed.

It was quite a shock to my system since 6pm is usually the time I’d be getting home.  I almost didn’t know what to do with myself then.  Bed time seemed so far away whereas it’s usually the next step once we’ve done our evening routine.

The boys, realizing they had lots of time left, took off running.  As I lay in bed watching TV (something I NEVER got to do at that time before), I heard them laughing and play fighting and chatting.  They were up the stairs and down the stairs.  They were in the kitchen and they were in their rooms.  They bounded into my room wearing their Halloween costumes and I chased them out.  They came back 🙂

We got to just hang out being goofy and silly and it was really nice.  At 7:15, when they had apparently exhausted their immaginations, they asked if they could get on their electronics.  (They don’t typically get to use them during the week).  I said they could for a little while.

 

It was such a lovely evening and while I don’t expect that every evening from now on will be like that, I do feel like it gave me a little sneak peak into what I’ve been missing out on and what it will be like soon.

 

The one downside to this arrangement is that it seems I’ll be the one responsible for preparing dinner since I’ll be the first adult to get home most of the time.  It was kinda nice coming home to a cooked meal every day.

Not THAT nice though.  I’ll take the extra chore of cooking dinner if it means more quality family time.

Wish me luck!

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3 out of 3 October 4, 2018

Last Sunday was a pretty quiet and uneventful day.  To be honest, the entire weekend had been pretty quiet and uneventful.  There was lots of electronics time and lots of time spent in pajamas and lots of “every man for themself” where food was concerned.

 

One of the few times we left the house was when Jay and I went for a bike ride on Sunday evening.  It seemed like a great idea BEFORE we went.  1) Fresh air.  2) Exercise.  3) Bonding Time.

The reality of it was somewhat different.

 

I mean, it was still good, but also:

As soon as we got the bikes from the back yard and brought them to the front, Jay announced that he needed a snack break.  I stood there watching him munch on Doritos.  Finally he put the bag with the remaining chips in his cargo pocket and we were off.  OK good.

Except, I spent a lot of time reminding him to stay to the side of the road – instead of riding down the middle.  We made it around the block one time and then he parked in front of our door claiming he needed to take another snack break.  As he was snacking on more chips, mosquitos were snacking on me.  Not so much fun.  Although it may have been entertaining for any neighbours watching me dance around and flail my arms.

I managed to get him back on the bike after a few minutes where there was more of me working over time to keep him out of the middle of the road.

*Please note it’s not a main road. There’s light traffic in our development and drivers are well aware that it’s a hot bed for kids playing outside but it’s still a little stressful for me as the parent.*

 

We were half way around one more block and Jay stopped riding because he couldn’t make it up the hill, plus he needed water.  Fortunately I had some.

As we walked towards home, he stopped repeatedly to watch a family of geese, to check out a little girl playing cornhole in her yard, to complain about the hill we were climbing, to ask me if I was sure he wouldn’t get run over by a car, to confirm that he’d get more snacks when we got home, to pose for pictures and to wave at children calling to us from their bedroom windows.

 

All in all, we were outside for over an hour and we didn’t go more than 3 blocks.

It was one on one time spent outside with the boy though and I still count it as exercise because the alternative was me sitting on the couch so I guess we hit 3 out of 3.

 

Birthday Buddies Bust September 27, 2018

A couple of weeks ago Jay came home from school with a flyer advertising “Breakfast With Buddies”.  Basically, students were allowed to invite someone (a non-student) to have breakfast with them in the school cafeteria.  As a mom who works a full time job, I rarely make it to these kinds of events.  I can’t remember the last time I chaperoned a trip. It’s been years.  I attend concert recitals and I’m always available if there is an issue where I have to meet with a teacher but I’ve never been to a field day or to the annual Thanksgiving lunch – And before today, I hadn’t been to a “Muffins with Mom” or any other fun breakfast gathering.

When the flyer came home, I knew I wanted to go.  This is Jays last year in elementary school which means it’s my last opportunity to engage in these kinds of activities with him.  Lately, I have been feeling a compulsion to make the most of the time we have here.  To NOT put things off.

I asked Jay if he’d like me to go with him and he gave me an enthusiastic yes.  I put it on my calendar and let my job know that I’d be in late.

 

Today was the day.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Jay told me that he hoped there would be bacon.  I told him I didn’t think there would be, but we would see.

When we filed into the cafeteria along with all the other families, Jay disappointedly said, “Aw man, all they have are donuts. Ugh!”

 

Jay got his donut, I got mine and a cup of coffee.  We sat and chit chatted for all of one minute before he said:

“You can go now if you need to.”

 

I told him that I hadn’t even finished my donut yet.  He said “Oh, I’ll sit with you while you finish.”  As if he was doing me a great favour.

As soon as I took the last bite he let me know that I could take my coffee to go.  He was over the breakfast.

Well.  OK then.

 

At least I got to sleep in for an extra 90 minutes – which I very much appreciated.

 

Play Date For 2 September 17, 2018

Ace and Jay have never gone to the same school.  Mostly because they had different needs and the same school was never able to provide each kid what he needed.

 

In our area, there are 20 elementary schools that feed into 10 middle schools.  At the elementary school that Ace attended, the kids split fairly evenly between 2 of the middle schools based on where the kid lives.  At Jays elementary school though, the kids pretty much all end up at 1 middle school.  Jay will not go to that middle school.  He will instead take the bus with Ace and for the first time ever, next year, they will walk the same hallways and eat at the same cafeteria.

 

I say all that to say, when Ace began middle school last year, he knew a bunch of the other students already, but the one boy that he became the best friends with had come from the school that Jay currently goes to, so he hadn’t known anyone there prior to last September.

 

A couple of weeks ago Ace came home telling me that he and Nick wanted to hang out on the weekend so could I please speak with Nicks parents and arrange it.  Sure, no problem.

 

As the plans were coming together, Jay asked if he could hang out with them also.  He too knew Nick even though Nick was 2 grades ahead of him.  When Nick was at Jays elementary school they had both been in the same before and after care group.  They were friends of sorts.  Ace said he was ok with it.  Since the hang out was happening at Nicks house I made sure to clear the extra guest with Nicks parents.  We were a go.

 

At 11 am, we pulled up to Nicks driveway, made sure everyone was good, agreed on a 6pm return drop off and left.

All afternoon my phone was quiet.  That meant things were going well.  Right?

 

Just after 6, our doorbell rang and 2 happy boys waved their goodbyes to Nick and his parents and came bounding inside.

 

Later, I texted a thank you to the parents for having my 2 over and the reply said, “No problem!  They are wonderfully well-mannered boys and they are welcome at our house any time!”

The !’s and the “welcome any time” means the parents weren’t just being nice.  It means the boys really had all had a great time and my 2 really had been well behaved.  If the parents were just being polite the response would have said something like “You’re welcomeglad they had a good time.”  Right?  I think so.

 

I am so pleased that Ace has a good friend who seems to be a good kid from a delightful family.  I am so pleased that Jay had a good time with them and there were no attitude problems or meltdowns (I hadn’t told the parents about Jays autism).  I am so pleased that next year, Jay will know at least two students at his school – even though he will probably only see them in the hallways or the cafeteria.  Hopefully he will find his own Ace, just as Nick had.

 

Claim Your Place September 10, 2018

I am not a stranger to the dark

“Hide away,” they say

“Cause we don’t want your broken parts”

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

“Run away,” they say

“No one’ll love you as you are”

{All italics are lyrics from the song This Is Me in The Greatest Showman}

 

 

People get uncomfortable when they come face to face with – different/new (or new to them).  People don’t like to be uncomfortable.

 

A woman should be cute and quiet and lady-like and know her place.  She shouldn’t be loud and assertive and stand up for herself.  

Black people shouldn’t bbq in the park and gay couples shouldn’t publicly show affection for each other.  

Tattoos and piercings don’t belong in board rooms or operating rooms or holding a gavel.  

And definitely, people with disabilities/physical abnormalities should not be brought out into public spaces where they might disturb other – normal – patrons.  They are loud and people want quiet.  They are fidgety and people want stillness.  They speak in an unusual way and people want what they are used to.  Their wheelchairs take up so much space.  They move at their own, maybe slower, pace and people want to rush through.  They look funny with their protective helmet or dwarf fingers or extra hairy faces and it might scare the children. 

 

 

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

“What are they doing?” Jay asks as we lie in bed watching The Greatest Showman. 

“They’re putting up posters because they’re looking for interesting people to join the show,” I tell him.  

A few minutes later, he’s back with more questions.

“Why are those people ripping the posters down?” He wants to know.  I am in my element now.  Well, I say, those are people who want to be in the show because they have something special to offer so they need the poster since it has all the information on it. 

 

 

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

 

 

I continue softly, “Those people were all told they were weird and now they can join a show that celebrates them.”

 

One of the most fierce and powerful scenes is the singing of This Is Me when they are denied access to the high society party.  They were done with being hidden in the shadows and were ready to claim all their beautiful weirdness.  I loved it.

 

Look out cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me

 

 

If I could make one song the anthem for my family, this would be it.  Oh how I want my boys to be strong and secure in who they are.  I don’t want Ace’s sensitivity to make him shrink away from speaking up.  I don’t want Jay to purposely exclude himself out of fear that he’ll be called weird.  It takes a lot of bravery to boldly say, this is who I am, just deal with it. 

There were so many times when there were people who probably wished that they didn’t have to deal with the likes of us.  The day at the supermarket when Jay had one of the biggest meltdowns he’s ever had.  The day at his neighborhood school where we fought over him zipping up his jacket himself.  The morning at Church where we both left sobbing.  In classrooms where Ace put his teachers through the ringer.  Going through security at the airport.  Trying to leave the zoo.  At my own wedding.  You name it. 

We never quit trying.  I didn’t have it in me to stifle my boys adventures because I was worried about making other people comfortable. 

Yes, we went to autism friendly movies and we chose aisle seats for Thomas Live so we could make a quick and easy get away if necessary and we turned down some invitations and Jay was in a self contained special education class for a while and Ace got help for his ADHD but every single one of those things were for US and to make my childrens lives better.  NOT to appease strangers. 

 

 

Another round of bullets hits my skin

 

 

On Facebook, my friend tagged Shaunie and I in some pictures from her wedding.  In 1 of the pictures from the photo booth, we were kissing; just as most of the couples who took booth pictures had done. 

Two women kissing is still weird for many.  “We love you guys and we want you to be happy,” they say “we support you, but why do you have to be so public about it?”  How easy would it be to ask the friend to untag us or take the picture down altogether.  As easy as it was for Zac Efron to let go of Zendaya’s hand in the movie when his father saw him with her; a “beneath him” circus performer.  In that moment it was easier for him to love her behind the curtain, out of everyones view.  In the end, his love was strong enough to drown out his shame and he loved her openly and proudly.  That.  That’s what everyone deserves.

 

 

Well, fire away cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in

We are bursting through the barricades

And reaching for the sun

We are warriors

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

Won’t let them break me down to dust

I know there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

Parents coach and remind and give advice all the time.  Among the most important of these is for me to teach my boys to be true to themselves.  To not be followers.  To not dim their shine to make someone else happy. 

Boys:  Don’t hide away.  Not even the supposed broken parts.  The right people will love you as you are.  Be a glorious warrior.  There is space enough for you.  All of you.  March to your own beat.  Don’t be scared.  Be seen.  Be you!

 

Oh and the last thing … Be sure to make fun of your moms singing by howling like a wounded dog every time she dares belt out a tune. 🙂 

 

Letting Go – Holding On September 5, 2018

Real quick, before I launch into my actual post for today.  I want to jot down 2 quick takes from our last Target run.

 

Ace (waiting for me to be done browsing the book section) :  Are you going to actually buy any books or are you just going to critique the ones you’ve already read?

 

Jay (after I suggested that we buy a puzzle so that we’ll have a family activity to work on the next time it rains) :  Why would we do a puzzle just because it’s raining if we still have electricity?

 

 

Moving on ….

I realize every parent and even every generation of parents has things they struggle with and worry about.  Some are universal and some are more unique to your family and situation.  I find myself in a situation that my grandparents (that’s who raised me) and the parents of my closest friends/cousins didn’t experience.

To give some perspective, I did an illustration.

home

This is kind of how my neighbourhood looked when I was growing up.  My driveway was like 1/4 of a mile long.  My Aunt, my 1 cousin and I couldn’t even see the main road from our houses.  There wasn’t anything on the other side of us either really except a large piece of land.    Since my drawing skills are lacking, it looks like my other cousins house sat right on the main road.  That’s not true.  There was another smaller road that turned off the main road before you could get to her driveway.  We were tucked away pretty nicely.

You’ve heard me talk about the boys Aunty Juddles before and I’ve said a million and one times that the people I am friends with now are the same people I’ve been friends with my entire life and how much I love them.  Just look at that picture.  We really were very fortunate to have that set up.  We had no need really to venture out into the “real world” or to arrange play dates outside of our bubble.

 

We had lots of space to ride our bikes, roller skate, play croquet, swing, picnic.  (See all the private driveways?)  We had trees to climb and shaded patios to choreograph shows.  All our houses – even those of my Great Grandfather and Aunt were always open to us.  We roamed from house to house and yard to yard having a great time.  Our parents never had to worry about where we were; even though this was pre-cell phones.  Once we were sure that everyone had finished their homework, we had free range.  My 1 cousin had a pool, another cousin had a Nintendo and a satellite dish.  My yard was good for baseball.  Juddles was good for swinging on the tire or board games.  My house always had sweet home-made lemonade or fruit-punch.  We were allowed to have soda at my cousins and Juddles’ mom often had baked goodies.  My Aunt next door made jello with fruit cocktail in the bottom and, when we asked her to, she paid us for doing little chores around her house.  There were lots of sleep overs with ZERO worries on our parents part about whether or not we’d be safe.

 

I value my friendships so much I can’t even put it into words and I’ve always wanted my boys to have strong friendships as well.  The kind that last a lifetime.

 

Ace came home from the first day of school asking if he could ride his bike to his friends house.  He had met this kid over the summer and they’re in the same class now.  Say what?  Ahm … Uh …

 

We live in a safe area, but it’s not Jamaica in the 1980’s and we are not sheltered from the bad guys.  I don’t KNOW the parents of my kids friends.  Heck, I may or may not even know the neighbourhood kids last names.  We’ve had kids sleep over at our house before and I’m totally fine with that but I haven’t allowed my boys to sleep at any of their school friends house.  It’s just too worrisome.

 

I did let Ace ride his bike across our townhouse development to go and chill with his friend.  After verifying with the kids dad that an adult would be home and reminding Ace about being careful crossing the street and that he’d better keep his phone turned on and get back home at the appointed time.

I wasn’t nervous about it at all.  I’m totally lying.  I definitely wanted him to enjoy himself, but ….

Times are different.  But he’s 12 and I can’t stifle him.  But he’s a good kid and hopefully what he’s learned so far will serve him well and hopefully he picks good friends.  That’s so important.  But there’s still so much he doesn’t know or understand about the world at large.  But he’ll never learn if I don’t give him some space to experience things.  My God this letting your kids go business is hard.

 

You’ll be happy to hear that he came home, with 5 minutes to spare on the curfew that I gave him and he was in one, unharmed, piece.  He tells me they played fort night and talked.  Great!

 

I know it’s only going to get worse.  Or better, depending on how you look at it.  He’s going to want to spend more and more time out with friends as he gets older.  I will have to let him go; with some boundaries and stipulations of course.

 

This thing that I want so badly for him is also a thing that’s bothering me more than I expected it to.

Test your wings my little one.  Just don’t fly too high yet ok?  I love you and I’m scared.

 

Exactly the Labor Day, Birthday day that I needed September 4, 2018

The last couple of weeks have been good in some ways but trying in others.  Even though I share a lot, there are some things that are way too sensitive for public consumption so my blog has been quiet.  Ya know; while I stewed and processed and deep breathed and soaked in the fabulousness that was getting to spend time with my best friends from near and far.  That part (the time spent with best friends) was truly awesome.

 

Yesterday Ace turned 12 years old (Yay!) and it was exactly the Birthday, Labor Day, Unofficial End of Summer day that I needed.

Shaunie had left out 2 new boxes of Legos and a new book for them the night before so they’d have something to occupy them until we woke up.  At 7:45 on the morning of the birthday, I walked into Ace’s room, to find him and Jay in his bed, reading the new Dog Man book and laughing together.  Swoon.  I wished my boy a happy birthday and then Jay told me that he had offered Ace his new Lego as a gift.  Seriously … How sweet!

Next, we revealed Ace’s real gift – A PS4 gaming system.  To say he was happy is putting it mildly.  He then opened a birthday card containing a Game Stop gift card so yeah, later in the morning, after he came back from getting a fresh to death haircut, we went to Game Stop and then to Target where Jay spent his own pocket money buying Robux (video game currency) and Ace splurged on the biggest Nerf gun they had.

Back at home, everyone just kinda hung out.  The boys were happy to play with their new toys, I was happy to have them home and know that they were happy.

In the afternoon, we hit the pool for a bit, made a cake, had a Nerf war, played a board game and chit chatted as we all got ready for the next day.  Jay wants to be something scary this year for Halloween.  Possibly that guy from Scream.  Ace initially thought he wanted to be a paper boy, but has now switched to Dead Pool.  Quite the pivot.  Jays really big news is that he has expanded his food repertoire and now eats rice, chicken, sausages, scrambled eggs and corn.  What in all the hell???  For the first time EVER, we all sat at the table and ate the same meal for dinner.  This is great but I’m still kind of stunned.  Ace will need to change clothes for gym class this year and he’s not excited about that but he IS looking forward to all the other things that 7th grade has to offer.  School did not used to be a place he felt comfortable.  How far the boys have come.  I love it.

 

I spent a little one on one time with each boy before they went to sleep and everyone was out like a light by 9pm.

It was a simply delightful way to spend a day.

 

This morning, Ace was up and ready.  Jay let me know that he would not be posing for any pictures because he was not happy about going back to school and this was not a day to celebrate.  *spoiler alert*  He posed for pictures because this mama is not above bribery.

In the end, he was glad to see his old friends and the day started just fine.  I got my first pumpkin item (a muffin) of the season and there are no work events on my calendar for this week so it shouldn’t be too bad in the office.

I’m looking forward to seeing the boys later and hearing about their first day.  Oh, and also, eating more of that birthday cake.  🙂