Life On The B Side

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

Looking Through The Window October 12, 2017

It’s dark when I leave my home in the morning to go to work.

It’s dark when I get home from work in the evening.

It’s a long, tiring, 12 hour day.

 

When I leave my home for work in the morning, 1 child has already been dropped off at school and 1 child is still asleep in his bed.

I don’t get to spend “start of the day” time with either of them.

This is depressing.

 

When I get home from work in the evening, the children have already showered.

  • And the children have been fed.
  • And the children have finished their homework.

This is wonderful.

It makes my life easier in many ways.

This is sad.

I don’t even get to see the clothes they wear to school each day.

I don’t get to nourish their bodies.

I don’t get to help them exercise their brains.

These things are work – And they are a huge privilege.

 

I eat, I wash all the dishes/pots, I shower, I take out my clothes for the next day.

I ask how everyones day was.

I am home for less than 2 hours before it’s bed time for the children.

 

It feels sometimes like I am watching my children through a window.

There, but not THERE.

 

I like my job – and my coworkers.

This is a blessing.  I am not unaware of this fact.

My job causes me to miss doctors appointments and school functions and I don’t get to stay home with them when they have a day off for Columbus Day or a teacher work day.

My job prevents me from doing after school pick ups.

  • Even if there’s been an after school activity pushing the pick up time back.

This is guilt trip inducing.

Not just guilt trippy though.

It’s not that I feel like I should be there.  I want to be there for everything.

 

For everything I miss – Shaunie is present.

She gets all the days off that the kids get.

Her job allows for drop offs and pick ups and for chaperoning trips and for dinner prep and homework assistance and doctor appointments.

This is a heavy load to bear and it’s sometimes exhausting for her.

She does is all anyway.

My boys know they can depend on her.

That kind of consistency and stability and sense of peace is a gift to them.

The consistency and stability and sense of peace that they have is a gift to me.

For this I am beyond grateful.

 

I try on the weekends to make up for the lost time.

We actively seek out and attend family friendly events.

We play board games and we watch movies and we just hang out talking or doing side by side independent reading.

It never feels like enough.

Never!

Despite the best of efforts, quality family time is not always achieved or achievable – even on weekends.

  • The boys have plans of their own.
  • I am catching up on sleep/rest.
  • I am running necessary errands.
  • I am doing house chores.
  • I have other commitments.

 

Then it’s Monday again.

And I am leaving for work when it’s still dark and with one child already at school and one still sleeping.

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Issue # 4 October 4, 2017

If you’ve been here for more than 5 minutes you know our story.

As a baby he CRIED ALL THE TIME.

He didn’t sleep well.  Or eat well.  Or show any signs of being friendly.

As a toddler, he appeared uncomfortable ALL THE TIME and he was delayed in most developmental ways.

(Probably) out of frustration, he acted out in all the ways.  I know what it looked like to outsiders.

He was a handful (to put it mildly) and he tested my patience and my sanity on every level and in every way.

At age 5, he was not able to speak, read or write.  Forget writing; he couldn’t even hold a pencil properly.

Due to his Autism, he was unable to communicate in a way that I could understand.

He gave teachers and therapists and doctors and camp councilors and baby sitters a run for their money.  Many were not up to the task and crumbled.  Some stuck around and a small number are still here watching him grow and cheering him on.

We’ve been stared at.  Scowled at.  Laughed at.  Commented on.  Judged.  Teased.  Abandoned.  Given up on.

I read and researched EVERYTHING that was remotely relatable or relevant.

I spent YEARS being permanently tired and stressed and sad and worried and anxiety ridden.

I went to therapy my damn self.

 

At age 9, my boy is sweet and charming and a delight.  He’s considerate and loving and affectionate.  He is funny and helpful and interesting to speak with.  He has friends and is in clubs at school and is mostly responsible about doing what needs to be done.  He is well nourished and well rested – And always well dressed thanks to his superb sense of style.

He is happy.

(Except when he’s hungry.)

He is a joy to parent.

My boy wrote and illustrated a comic story.  In fact, he’s writing a series of comic books and has just completed issue 4.

This is not a small thing.

He worked hard to get to this point.  That cannot ever be overstated.

His teachers and therapists worked hard to get him to this point.  They continue to work hard.  The job is not done.   I will forever be grateful to all the strangers we meet at the start of every school year who go above and beyond to help their students.  Not because they will see any financial or professional gain or even get any recognition – But out of a general goodness of heart.

Family and friends have been unwaveringly accommodating and understanding and kept showing up for us and kept inviting us out and made lots of efforts to provide a happy and welcoming environment for him.  No matter what behaviours were displayed.

 

We never gave up on him or treated him as though he wasn’t smart or couldn’t accomplish things.  One bad day or minute was just that.  One bad day or minute.  We shook it off and started over with fresh optimism the next day.  Or sat on the floor in the bathroom to take a few deep breaths.  Chin up, smile on, back straight – Try again.

We never spoke about him as though he wasn’t there.  We never assumed the worst.  Only the best.

We kept going out and kept signing him up and kept asking for help.  We celebrated every bit of progress in a big way.  The people who love us, celebrated with us.

 

I’m so proud of my Jay Boogie and so very thankful for the support we’ve had throughout the years.  I just need to say that.  That support made all the difference.

 

Lots of kids struggle – Whether it’s due to their environment or their neurology or their physiology – Or any other myriad reasons.

Lots of parents are not coping well or responding appropriately.

Shaming, bullying, ignoring, abandoning, abusing, isolating our children is not the way.

Shaming, passing judgment, laughing at, ignoring parents who are struggling is not the way.

 

I wish every kid (and parent) who needed help, could get it.  No matter their family situation or their zip code.

What are we doing if we are not helping our children to be their absolute best?

 

 

That’s all I’ve got.

Well … that and a couple pictures of Issue # 4.  It’s freaking awesome!!!

 

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Fun But Tiring Weekend September 25, 2017

It started out on Friday evening with me asking which game they wanted to play.  We decided on a thimble, a car, a cat and dog.  Yup, Monopoly.  It was our first time playing non-junior monopoly as a family and it was pretty good.  We had a couple moments of disagreement about whether something was legal or not and we had someone (NOT ME – lol) who was very gassy, but we laughed a lot which is always my favourite thing.  Jay needed some help with his money math but that was ok.  In the end, even though Ace and I kinda partnered up to take Shaunie and Jay down, those darn railroads did me in.  My last 3 rolls landed me on railroads and cost me $200 a pop.  In the end the Ace/Deenie team lost by about $400.

 

On Saturday we spent the morning hanging out at home and doing some cleaning and tidying.  We also, finally – after FOUR delivery attempts – got our full couch.  We’ve been living with half a couch for about a month because they keep coming with 2 of the same side.

At around 4pm, we arrived at 6 flags in Maryland.  Ace and I had a good time going on rides and Jay had a good time forcing Shaunie to go on rides.  (She’s not a ride lover).  We drove go karts and the kids and I did a bungee drop thing.  It was the first day of fright fest, and I expected it to be a little scary but it wasn’t at all.  If you wanted to be scared you have to pay more to go into the haunted houses.  We opted out because they said it’s not recommended for kids under 13.  In a couple years, we’ll try again.

We spent Saturday night with everyone’s fave – Aunty Juddles.  The adults stayed up till the early hours of the morning talking and laughing and it was nice.

 

On Sunday we attended my jobs annual Family Picnic.  They really did a great job of making it fun for the kids.  Rock wall and zorb ball and mechanical shark (instead of bull), petting zoo, pony rides, bouncy castles, gladiator battle zone, carnival games with prizes, face painting, ice-cream truck, snow cones, cotton candy … you name it.  For the adults, there was an open bar.

 

We got home at around 5 pm and by 7:30 everyone was ready for bed.  Shaunie and I managed to stay up long enough to watch one episode of a show.  It was good and we’re looking forward to watching another tonight.

 

And now, here we are.

Even though they went to bed so early, I still had to wake Ace up this morning.  As we were brushing teeth this morning getting ready for work, I said to Shaunie:  “Another early night for everyone tonight?”  She eagerly agreed.  That one night of decent sleep was not enough to adequately recuperate from the weekend.  But it was fun and definitely worth it!

 

How was your weekend?

 

Back To School – The 4th Grade Edition September 20, 2017

OK.  So.  We may need to ask our tutor if she can increase her hours and spend more time with our Jay Boogie.

If you ask him, he will say that school is going “pretty great“.

It is, if you only consider the social aspect of it.  He likes his teachers.  He and his classmates are getting along well.  He says his best friend is Abby.  He has joined the art club (which I’m very excited about for him) and he’s happy with his before and after care program.

 

The problem is that school isn’t only about your social life.  There is that pesky little aspect of it that involves academics.  Jay has always been the sort of person who learns things at his own pace and when he is ready to learn them.  For the most part, that’s been totally fine by me.  I didn’t stress out about when he’d be potty trained.  Then one day, he just was.  I tried for a hot minute to teach him to tie his shoe laces when he was 5.  Traditionally it would have been the appropriate time for him to learn it but he was not interested and for years we let it go and bought him slip-ons or velcro shoes.  I figured that when he was ready, he’d learn.  This past summer he did.  He was 9 years old.  For the past couple of summers I gently nudged him to learn how to ride a 2-wheeler.  It didn’t go well.  Again, I left it alone.  Lately though, he’s been outside on his scooter and he’s doing a fantastic job of balancing on one foot and steering the scooter down the entire length of the curb; even making turns.  I had never seen him do that before.  I think a 2 wheeler is not far away at this point.

 

For so many life skills, I can follow his lead and bring it up when he seems ready.  That doesn’t work with multiplication and division though.  He needs to know how to do 4th grade math and he needs to do it now, if he’s going to stay in the program he’s in.   The tests are going to come on his teachers schedule – Not his.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not appropriate for all kids to be in a general ed setting with general ed expectations.  It may not be the right setting for him and we may be pushing him too hard and too fast, but my gut doesn’t tell me so.  I think he can do it.  He just needs to put in the work and maybe a little more effort than other students.

 

I know, as a kid, it sucks when other students seem to be learning things quickly and you are struggling.  It does nothing for your self-esteem.  But I cannot let him move to a different class (a special ed class) just because it would be an easier road.

I also know that homework isn’t fun.  It’s never been fun for anyone.  Still gotta do it.  Complaining and whining will not make it better.  Leaving your agenda book (with the assignment in it) at school will not make it go away.  Saying “I don’t know” to everything we ask, will not make us do it for you.

 

We, (Shaunie especially), really do try to help him with his homework and his studying.  Shaunie finds videos that explain things in fun ways and we give him rewards for completing tasks.  We give him breaks and try to cut things into small chunks and we don’t leave things for the last-minute.  (We’ve been studying for his social studies test since last week.  The test is this coming Friday.)   When he finally has a breakthrough we make a big deal about how proud we are of him and the pride he feels is evident.

 

I talk to him and I stress the importance of practice and studying and doing your best.  I tell him that nobody figures out everything the first time they try it and nobody gets all the questions right on all their tests.  I want him to know that getting 3 questions wrong on his “Fact or Fiction” quiz does not mean he is not smart or that he is not a good student.

I tell him that we will do whatever we can to help him.  I remind him that his teachers are there to help, even during a test, so if there is a question he doesn’t understand he can raise his hand and ask them to explain it.

 

What I will not tell him is that I spoke to his Aunty Juddles and she told me that she has Advanced Placement Science students in high school who do not know their time tables and who use a calculator for everything so even though I should still encourage him to learn them, it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t learn them all this year.

 

It’s not the easiest job getting this kid through school.  Shaunie has a  couple more gray hairs and our pockets are about to be a little lighter thanks to extra tutoring, but with some (or a lot of) help, I know he can do it.  And even with all his protestations, I am so dang proud of him for the effort he does exert and all the topics he has already mastered.

 

Send wine or beer.

 

Open Letter To My Mothers Sister September 18, 2017

Filed under: Family,Marriage — The B Side @ 5:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

christian

 

Isn’t that sweet.

You, one of my mothers many sisters, posted that meme on Facebook and I assume you think it’s just lovely and makes you come across as having a good heart and not like a bigot.  You probably thinks it’s the perfect mix of compassion and religious integrity.  With all the talk of love and not judging and friendship and what not.  I mean really, how noble and Christ-like of you to not stand by while we get bullied.

 

I have questions though.

What does “not supporting homosexual marriagemean?  What does “standing up for your beliefs” look like?  Does it mean you would vote “NO” to make it legal?  Does it simply mean that you would not attend a homosexual wedding?  Does it mean that you would teach your children that someone else’s marriage is less valid or is inferior somehow?   Would you allow your children to spend extended time with their cousins who are children of a homosexual marriage?  Would my wife and I not be welcome in your home?  I just wanna know.  Because you see, with all your talk of still being a friend while you “stand up for your beliefs” you are probably being a hypocrite.  You, as a Catholic, happen to follow a sector of a religion that does allow pork eating (which I think is fine) – Never mind that there are parts of the bible that prohibit that – But that’s not my point here.  I’m not trying to influence which parts of the bible you decide are worth ignoring and which are not.  Choose any parts you want to.  Just as 7th Day Adventists can choose to focus on the parts that say pigs are unclean (which I also think is fine).  As individuals people should be able to choose what they want to eat without the government intervening and without other people putting themselves in a position of power over their rights based on personal religious beliefs.

 

If you don’t want to socialize with a gay couple I’m actually ok with that.  Well, I think it’s dumb, so I’m not necessarily ok with it but I accept that it’s your prerogative.  If you want to shelter your children from their lesbian Aunt and her children that’s totally up to you.  Would you disown your own son if he told you he was gay and wanted to get married?  You could.  That would be your choice to make.  It would be sad and unfortunate; but it would be your choice.

 

If you think homosexual marriage should be illegal though – that’s a problem.  Believe whatever you want, just don’t impose those beliefs on everyone else.  What gives you the right to put yourself in such a lofty position as to decide if it’s alright for another person to get married or not in the first place?  It’s no different from white people in 1787 deciding that black people should only be counted as 3/5 of a person when determining political representation.

 

It’s not ok to make laws for everyone based on religious beliefs of some.  Or is it?  Would it be right for 7th Day Adventists to make bacon illegal in an entire country and would it be ok for Jehovah’s Witnesses to make it illegal for women, anywhere, to hold any positions of power?

 

How about for you as a proud Catholic with the alter boy son, to make it illegal for men of all religions to get married because you don’t believe your own priests should marry? If there was a way to make pre-marital sex illegal and punishable by law, would that be acceptable?  Wait a second, should divorce be illegal?  I’m pretty sure that’s against your Church rules.  (Rocks and glass houses and all that).  Would it be the right of the government to force the children of non-married people to live with other married family members or in a group home because their biological parents have been sent to prison for breaking the law?  And what about birth control?  Should condoms and pills be illegal?  I’m just asking.

 

How do you feel about womens rights in strict Muslim countries?  I suppose it’s fine with you that Saudi women aren’t allowed to drive and that their girls cannot go to school and that the women are forced to wear bourkas.  I mean, after all, their religion tells them that’s how it should be.

 

If there was such a country where most of the law makers were Scientologists, should they and Tom Cruise cause all psychiatrists to lose their jobs and should all medication that treats mental illnesses be outlawed even for the Christians of said country?  Should it be forced upon all people, in a country led by Mormons, that they “go forth preaching the gospel, two by two” because that’s the law as laid out in the Book of Mormon  (D&C Section 42: 6)?  Or, instead of asking about missionary work, should I ask about the Mormon law which at one point argued for legalized slavery saying God ordained it or the one that forbade mixed-race couples saying blackness was a curse brought down on us as the seeds of Cain?  In The Book of Mormon, it literally says, God inflicts a curse of dark skin on the Lamanites when they disobey him and they become white and delightsome when they obey him.  How could the entire world not agree to and stick to this?  God himself commanded it.  God himself banned black people from voting or holding public office.  How did we allow Obama (who you support) to become President?

 

In the Jewish Torah it says that all males should be circumcised and that a widow whose husband died childless must not be married to anyone but her deceased husband’s brother.

 

Or are laws and restrictions based on religious views, only allowed if they align with YOUR religion?  With YOUR holy book?

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to trick you or back you into a corner, or even convince you of anything.  I am not saying your religion, or any other religion, is bad.  I am not knocking anyones beliefs by drawing attention to them here.  I go to Church sometimes too.  I just want to know, specifically, what your beliefs are.  I want to know about things that don’t fit nicely into your cute little meme.  Maybe saying “I don’t support” is just your way of saying that when you pray, you pray for God to heal me and my sinning heart.  Or for God to have mercy on my soul when I die.  That actually wouldn’t offend me at all.  Pray away.

 

I hope you don’t mind all my questions.  You put the meme out there so I feel like it’s fair game for me to ask you about it.  So, don’t be vague.  Tell me where exactly you stand and IF you believe that because of the Church you attend, that qualifies you to infringe upon my rights?

What you say will tell me a lot about who you are and if I want to be a part of your life or not.

 

With Respect,

Your big sisters oldest daughter

 

One Week In – The Middle School Version September 12, 2017

He was the same person on September 5th (the first day of school) that he was one day earlier on September 4th which will henceforth be known as BMS (Before Middle School), yet things were totally different.

Yes, he is the same person but parenting him is different.

On day 1, I made a plan to go to work late so I could walk him to the bus stop.  It was his first time taking the bus after all.  As we turned the corner we saw the other children at the end of the block already waiting – with nary a parent in sight.    I had to stop walking and bid my boy goodbye before the other children noticed us.  As I watched him walk away, he got smaller and smaller.   He made his way to the curb where he would wait and I saw that it wasn’t all in my head.  He was at least a whole head shorter than all the other students.  It was hard turning my back and walking in the opposite direction.  I never had to do that BMS.

On day 2 the students were assigned their lockers and Ace was given a top locker but he’s not from a family loaded with tall genes so he couldn’t reach it and they had to swap him with another, taller, student.  He’s still not quite grown.  Yet, he was so excited about the freedom he now has to roam the hallways in between each class.  We talked about how it’s now his responsibility to get to all his classes on time and to collect, from his locker, whatever books he will need to bring home in order to complete homework.  None of this was an issue BMS.

3 days in, I was getting questioned on whether or not he can take a cell phone to school because he is apparently the ONLY one who does not have a phone.  He was asking if friends could come home on the bus with him after school.  (Ahm, no. Friends can’t come over when no adult is home and we need to get their parents contact info – Same as BMS.)  After just 3 days, he was asking that we not wake him up so early in the morning and he’s taking it upon himself to make his own dinner.  Mind you, it’s microwave mac and cheese but still.

 

I believe there’s an upcoming school dance, which I’m sure parents are not invited to.  I know they will have teacher chaperones but I don’t remember going to a “no parents allowed” school dance until I was in (the equivalent of) 9th grade.  He’s getting jokes now that he didn’t used to get and he’s more concerned with how his outfits look and his little brother is no longer allowed into the bathroom with him at any time.

 

All these developments make my brain go a little haywire.  I think about the time I went to a school dance and had promised to meet my Grandma in front of the school by 11pm but I was too busy on the dance floor to notice the time and the next thing I knew, my Grandma was there, in our auditorium, looking for me.  How embarrassing!!!

It’s a good memory (now), and I love getting those triggers, but it makes it very real to me that this time with my Ace is going to go by very quickly.  Looking back at it now, my teenage years FELT like the longest ever at the time, but they were over in a flash.

I think about the lyrics to a song from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack where his mom sings to him:

 

And I knew there would be moments that I’d miss
And I knew there would be space I couldn’t fill
And I knew I’d come up short a billion different ways
And I did
And I do
And I will

 

He’s growing up and the truth is, even though it’s scary at times, I do love to watch it happen.    He’s the same person, but now that he’s in middle school, it’s calling for a different kind of parenting.  I will try to do it all right.  But I haven’t.  And I don’t.  And I won’t.  All I can do is my best and hopefully he will look back and say his memories are good ones.

 

*Note*  He’s one week in and he says it’s been great.  He swears that Middle School is better than Elementary School and much to his own amazement, he thinks he will enjoy History class.

 

Phone Calls September 6, 2017

Last week Thursday I got a phone call.

It was not a call that I wanted to receive.

My Aunt had been hospitalized.

I was sad and worried – But mostly concerned about her and her comfort.

I spent the weekend either calling or anxiously waiting to receive a call to get updates.

Good news! – She was treated and released.

I am still worrying because I know she will not follow the doctors orders to relax.  It’s not who she is.

It’s hard being an immigrant and living in a different country from your loved ones and not having easy access to help them.

 

Last week Friday I got a phone call.

It was not a call that I anticipated.

The boys step mom was in the hospital – Getting ready to have her babies.

That call altered/canceled any plans we had.

We had to go pick my boys up late at night and prepare a bed for them.

I got to see them sooner than I expected which made my heart happy.

Good news! – Everyone is doing well and my sons now have twin sisters which they are very excited about.

The new mom is an immigrant and all her family live in another country.  I’m sure that’s not easy for her.  I hope she gets the support she will need; one way or the other.

 

Last Sunday I made a call that I did not want to make.  911.

Shaunies Grandma needed to be taken to the hospital.

We were scared and worried.

We had to cancel plans to attend an engagement party/bbq for good friends and instead spent the weekend making sure that she was as comfortable as possible.

Good news! – She was treated and released.

We still worry because she’s home alone quite often and is not good about letting someone know when she’s not feeling well.

If necessary we are only a 4 1/2 hour drive away.

“Only” is relative when it’s your Grandma who you love more than anything and she needs you.

 

Last Sunday was Ace’s birthday.

We made the best of it – Even though much of it was spent at a hospital – And we had to cancel plans for him to see Nanas.

Shaunie brought home a cake just as the kids were going to bed but they were allowed to stay up and have some.

We made a plan to take him to an amusement park.  His choice of an activity.

He received calls and messages from family and friends near and far.

He received more cash gifts than ever before and more gifts yet are on their way.

I expected him to hear from all the people who should love him – and he did hear from most – but there was one phone call that never came.  That message was received loud and clear.

I am disappointed but he’s fine.  He knows who his family is and that it often has nothing to do with blood.