Life On The B Side

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

How Did We Get Here? January 10, 2018

I started looking through old photos.  I was looking for the one that felt like the right one to post online today.

 

There are a lot of things I will always remember about raising my boys.  There are feelings I will never forget having.  Good and bad ones.

Looking through the old pictures, I was hit with an unexpected wave of emotion.  It’s been such a long time since I got misty about Jay and his maturation.

 

He’s ten years old today.  I can scarcely believe it.

According to Google, typical 10 year olds, have pretty well developed gross and fine motor skills.  They are also getting to the age where peer pressure may become an issue.  They tend to prefer friends of the same gender and they are getting better at handling their emotions.

 

By these accounts, I’d say Jay is a typically developing 10 year old.  There are no concerns about his motor skills.  He has oodles of self-esteem and a generally good sense of himself.  He notices and is aware of what other people are wearing and what games they are playing and he is interested in joining in and being part of the crew – but he is not afraid to do his own thing.  He’s not a “follower”.   He’s empathetic.  When he and his brother have been fighting, he tells the story in such a way that makes him look like the innocent one – *spoiler alert* – He’s not always the innocent one.  He’s mostly friends with other boys.  He likes video games.  He hates homework and chores, but he does them.

 

The old pictures though – They tell a different story.  They show a little boy who focused on things no-one else cared to notice.  A single blade of grass at the park.  A chip in the wall at the museum.  A butterfly outside the Church at my sisters wedding.  A broken piece of glass in the sand.

They show a little boy who experienced the world in a totally different way from other children.  In a bouncy house, he is sitting in a corner watching his beloved Thomas train bounce up and down as other kids jump.  In Jamaica, he is mesmerized by the ants on the sidewalk.  At the aquarium, he holds his hand up to the sun and plays with the shadows it makes.  At the camp site, while the other boys are racing, he is drawing circles in the dirt with a stick.  At the bowling alley, he is on the floor, staring at the swirls in the carpet pattern.

 

The pictures (and Shaunie) reminded me of the time we stopped at Walmart and he decided he wanted a bag of cheese.  He didn’t eat cheese then.  He doesn’t eat cheese now except on pizza.  But he wanted the bag of cheese.  He got it and it made him happy.

The pictures reminded me of a boy who would not wear short sleeved shirts or shorts no matter how hot it was and a boy who would rather roam around the produce section of a supermarket than the aisles of a toy store and who would be happier playing with a bag of carrots than a transformer.

 

He is not that little boy anymore.  I kind of miss it.  It’s a weird feeling – Me missing that Jay.

It was not an easy time.  But it was a time filled with a total and complete love.  I was consumed by him.  I thought about him and worried about him every minute of every day.  Now, of course, I still think about him a lot, but it’s different.  He’s growing up and he doesn’t need me in the same way anymore.  In a way, I feel almost like I have lost something.  But I have my pictures (and this blog) to hold onto – and even as I have lost 1 thing, I have gained something more precious in it’s place.  I now have a son who is happy and content infinitely more often than he is sad or frustrated or angry.

 

He asked to have a birthday party this year.  He’s never asked for one before.  I had to do it.

This Saturday we will host a sip n’ paint party for 13 kids.  7 of them are kids from his school who I have never met.  They’re his friends.  He made a list of invitees (5 boys and 2 girls) and we made invitations which he handed out.

He’s very excited about the party and I hope all goes well with it.  There will be no singing of the birthday song.  But there will be presents and cake and art and goody bags buckets.

 

When I stop to think about it, I truly do not know how we got here.  Everything we did and everything he learned seemed so pain-staking; yet, it has all happened so quickly.  But here we are.  Here with a 10 year old who is ready to tackle all that being a pre-teen has to throw at him.  Here with a 10 year old who has an amazing support team.  A 10 year old who makes me laugh constantly and who gets on his brothers nerves and who wears bow ties to school and who tells it like it is and who has secret goodnight handshakes with Shaunie and who now needs to get his passport renewed for the 2nd time.

I am so thankful to him for taking me on this parenting journey.  It’s not a journey I could have ever imagined and a few years ago, it’s one I would have said I didn’t want to be on.  It has, however, been the single most transformative thing to ever happen to me and I wouldn’t change it, or him, for all the beef patties or Chick-Fil-A in the world.

 

Happy Birthday Jay.  You are loved – Beyond!

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Mean Moms December 19, 2017

 

christmas-tree-with-presents

(Not our tree)

 

It started by accident.  One of Jays gifts was the first to be wrapped and put under the Christmas tree.  Then one showed up there with my name on it.  The kids started to get excited.  Jay more than Ace since there was actually one there for him.

A couple of days later we wrapped and put the ones for Jays teachers and the boys tutor.

Everyday Ace would check to see if there were new additions and everyday there would be at least one – Still none of them had his name on a tag.

He half jokingly/half nervously asked why there weren’t any gifts under the tree for him as yet.

That’s when the “mean mom gene” kicked in and we decided to make it a thing.

 

The next day one more showed up for me and then a couple for Shaunie.

Everyday Ace would complain and we would crack up laughing.

Jay got concerned and suggested that maybe we (the parents) didn’t know what to get for Ace and maybe Ace should help us out.

 

“But I wrote a list.  A LONG list!”  Ace argued.

We laughed even harder (to ourselves) and asked if he had been good all year.   Before he could even answer Jay jumped in to say yes he had.  He even provided a specific example to support his argument.

 

It’s been over a week since this started and every day the number of presents under the tree grows and still there aren’t any with Ace’s name on it.

 

I know it’s awful of us to do that to him – But it’s just so funny to watch him squirm.

 

At the end of the day, in his heart, he knows we’re just messing with him and he knows he’s not going to get jipped.

And I think he’ll love the feeling of seeing all his stuff magically appear all at once – But it’s still giving him some anxiety in the mean time.

 

Maybe we’ll let him wake up to all of them on Christmas Eve.

 

 

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.

 

Halloween Recap November 9, 2017

It’s been a while.  What to say?  What to say?

 

Things have been.

That wasn’t a mistake of a sentence.  That’s what I meant to write.  Things have just BEEN.

 

I’ve been trying to get through each day with as much cheer as possible.  Some days it’s easier than others.

 

Let’s talk about Halloween though.  That was good.  It lasted for 5 days.  As a matter of fact, I could probably count up to last night because Jay was still wearing and playing in his costume.

The Friday before Halloween we went to a Trunk or Treat at Ace’s old school.  I’m not sure if we were technically supposed to go or if it’s only open to current students but we did go and the kids had a good time.  Ace said hello to a few of his past teachers but forgot that they couldn’t tell who was under the mask.  Jay got lots of compliments on his costume.  He was in compliment heaven.  It happened every time he went out in it.

Speaking of Jays costume.  He decided months ago that he wanted to be a character from his favourite video game.  A costume for said character is not available in stores so it had to be made.  Here is a side by side of Ace & Jay in costume and Jays costume inspiration.  I think we nailed it.  And by we, I mean Shaunie.

You can’t see the flames on his head very well, but Ace is Ghost Rider.

 

PhotoGrid_1510244226648.jpg

 

After the Trunk or Treat we went to a festival at the local YMCA.  There were games and bouncy things and a haunted house and a hay ride.  The plan was to leave at 7:30.  Pushing the kids past their bed time is not usually a good idea but everyone was having a good time and behaving well, so we stayed until nearly 9pm.

Saturday found us at a Celtic festival.  I don’t know how or why.  It just happened.  Kilts and iron workers and giant turkey legs and bagpipes and Highland Games.  It was cool.  Then we went to a cute little shopping district in Richmond that was hosting a Halloween thing and a zombie walk.  THEN we went to a mall that was hosting yet another Halloween thing.  We skipped out before the movie started.  (Hotel Transylvania).  We just couldn’t take anymore.  We, being the adults.

 

Then on Tuesday we did the traditional trick or treating around the neighbourhood.  It was nice.  The kids got way too much candy but that’s kind of the point I guess.

 

On November first, Jay announced that this Halloween had been the best ever and was already musing about what he’d dress up as next year.  When I told him he should give it some time before making a decision he said:  OK, I’ll decide in January.

 

Before Report Cards Come Out October 30, 2017

I was so nervous about Ace going to middle school y’all.  About the social aspect of things because 11 to 14 is a weird age group – but also, about the school work and all the class juggling involved and time management necessary.

Last weekend, I was sorting through some papers and came across his school picture from 2nd grade.  He was a CUTIE.  Oh my gosh.  He really was a beautiful baby and a gorgeous toddler and just a handsome kid.

I also came across one of his report cards from kindergarten.  Not so cute.

Please schedule a time to come in.  We would like to discuss our concerns about his classroom behavior.  He struggles with sitting still and focusing.”

Back then I read those words and my heart hurt.  As hard as it was to read, I knew they were being as polite and gentle in their delivery as possible.  I knew him.  I lived with him.

 

I am not taking anything away from his elementary school teachers.  They were great and really did try everything they could to make school a happy and productive place for him.

 

But here’s the thing …  At the risk of jinxing anything, I really think that the middle school format suits him better.

More physical movement and more mental/visual stimulation.  Different teachers in different classrooms with different teaching styles for each subject and even different kids and a different seating arrangement in each class.

It just seems to work better with his brain.  Sitting in the same room all day listening to the same teacher and looking at the same faces all day was hard for him.

 

Ace has exams this week as the marking period comes to an end.  We checked his grades portal last week and he’s heading into the exams with straight A’s.  I don’t know if he will end up with straight A’s once the exams are done.  I don’t even care.  I mean obviously it would be awesome but I’m purposely making sure to post this before we get those grades because I want it known that I’m really proud of him either way.  School has been a struggle for us for a long time and has never come easy to him.  We’ve never looked at a report (progress or final) or a grading portal at any point in the term and seen straight A’s.

 

I guess what I’m getting at is that in this moment, today, I’m just a Mom, sitting in front of a computer, hoping that my boy knows that no matter what happens the week after next when the final grades for term 1 of his 6th grade year are posted, I will be incredibly proud of how well he’s transitioned into this phase of his school life and hoping that he continues to believe in himself and to work hard and to live up to this full potential.

 

 

 

*Happy Halloween tomorrow to everyone.  I hope all your kids have a great time and get to enjoy it in whatever manner means the most to them.*

 

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.

 

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?