life on the "j" train

Taking a "busy working mom with 2 special needs kids" life one moment at a time

For You We Always Will June 13, 2017

Well, it happened.  The boy graduated from elementary school.  What a journey it’s been.

I told a friend on the phone … “I made it through without crying.”

His response was the equivalent of … “It’s not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life.  There are bigger things ahead that really deserve to be celebrated and that will probably make you get emotional.”

 

No“, I said, “You don’t understand.  For some peoples kids getting through elementary school is easy.  For mine it was not.  I am just so proud of how he has performed over the last 2 years.  The first 3 were rough.”

 

I remember the days when every single report card came home with a note saying we needed to have a parent teacher meeting.  Shoot, in some cases, I had to meet with the Vice Principal.  I remember when having his own personal chaperone on a field trip was mandatory.  There were times when I couldn’t make it and our Nanas stepped in.  I remember in second grade when they threatened to hold him back and have him repeat due to near failing grades.  I remember, with much appreciation, all the things his teachers did to help him even though there was no legal reason for them to do so.  Bringing in their own personal i-pads to school to use as an incentive for good behaviour.  Allowing him to play with Legos in a quiet office when his body was too agitated to sit through reading time.  Buying books with their own money that they thought he’d like to encourage reading.  I haven’t forgotten the concern over his fine motor skills.  (His writing was all but illegible).  I remember the phone calls I received telling me about the latest injury he received because he fell over in his chair.  I can recall his teachers treading lightly as they attempted to suggest we take him for an evaluation with a specialist.  They didn’t want to offend.  But they saw him struggling.  I remember him starting to hate school and being scared to begin a new year in a new grade with a new teacher.  I remember  his school choosing to put him with a specific teacher in 3rd grade because they thought she would have the skills to reach him and help him.  They were right.  She was a great fit for him and he loved her and learned to love learning.  School, was still not easy, but it stopped being such a scary place.

Fourth grade and fifth grade were vastly different.  There were no more “needs improvement” check marks on the behaviour section of his report.  There was marked improvement in his organization skills.  He began getting A’s and B’s.  He joined, and enjoyed being a part of, multiple after school activities.

 

So you see, while to many an elementary school graduation may not be a big deal, for us it is worth celebrating.  First we struggled and then we conquered.

 

It was a team effort and his support team is stronger than ever.  I will say the one part of the ceremony that almost got to me was at the very beginning when the Vice Principal asked the graduates to turn around and look at the crowd behind them.

That’s your support system.  Those are the people who helped you and will continue to help you.  Lean on them.  They love you.”

And there we were, sitting proudly in the auditorium.  Myself, Jay, Shaunie and CC.  All together for our boy.  When it was his turn to collect his certificate, Jay stood up and shouted “Ace is next” and then he clapped bigger than anyone else.  Shaunie and CC were on photo duty.  I sat up straight, soaking in the moment and beamed.

 

It happened.  The boy graduated from elementary school.  What a journey it’s been.

 

 

 

~*~

When you’re feeling lost in the night,
When you feel your world just ain’t right
Call on me, I will be waiting
Count on me, I will be there
Anytime the times get too tough,
Anytime your best ain’t enough
I’ll be the one to make it better,
I’ll be there to protect you,
See you through,
I’ll be there and there is nothing
I won’t do.

I will cross the ocean for you
I will go and bring you the moon
I will be your hero your strength
Anything you need
I will be the sun in your sky
I will light your way for all time
Promise you,
For you I will.

I will shield your heart from the rain
I will let no harm come your way
Oh these arms will be your shelter
No these arms won’t let you down,
If there is a mountain to move
I will move that mountain for you
I’m here for you, I’m here forever
I will be your fortress, tall and strong
I’ll keep you safe,
I’ll stand beside you, right or wrong

For you I will lay my life on the line
For you I will fight
For you I will die
With every breath, with all my soul
I’ll give my world
I’ll give it all
Put your faith in me 
And I’ll do anything

(For You I Will – Monica)

 

Guilty June 9, 2017

The working mummy guilt is real!

No matter how much you do … There’s stuff you can’t do and it eats you up.

 

On the weekends we try to spend time with the kids and plan fun activities for them.  Last weekend alone they got to zip-line and rock wall climb and do a rope adventure course.  They saw a movie and did a craft project and were treated to donuts.  They loved it.

 

In May, we took a week long trip to Jamaica – And it was awesome – And I’m sure they will have happy memories of it for a long time.

 

But that trip meant taking 6 days off work; which means I won’t be able to take another day off for a long time.  That’s where most of my guilt comes from.  The stuff I miss because of work.  Ace had his field day (fun day) at school and neither of us made it.  We don’t chaperone field trips and we don’t drop by to read stories.  I’ve never done a “breakfast with mom” and I even missed the awards ceremony when Jay got a certificate for being a good artist.

I can’t take days off for all that goodness because I need to save them for when someone is sick.  I need to make sure I leave time for the very most important events such as graduation and the first day taking the bus to middle school.  We need to coordinate so that when there is no school due to snow or election day, one of us has the time available to take off.

 

Not being an active participant in school activities also means I haven’t developed any relationships with the other parents.  That in and of itself doesn’t bother me but it does affect my boys … Ace and the rest of the graduates have the opportunity to go to a water park next week but each kid needs to have an assigned chaperone – Even if it’s someone who is there watching their own child as well.  Neither Shaunie nor I can make it and I don’t have any “mom friends” who I can ask to take on that responsibility in my stead.  Ace will not get to go to the water park with his class.

 

I know I am lucky in a plethora of ways.

I’m not a single parent.  Today, it’s Jays turn to have field day at school and Shaunie was able to go and I’ve gotten pictures and videos and he seems very happy.

When I do take a day off work, I still get paid.

I don’t work any weekends.

I have heat in the winter and AC in the summer – Heck I even have a parking garage so I don’t have to get wet walking across a parking lot when it rains.

I have a boss who is understanding if I need to leave early to take a kid to the doctor; Or if I get to work late because a kid had to poop just as we were walking out the door.  (It helps that she’s a single parent.)

I actually like what I do.

 

My being lucky in so many ways though doesn’t diminish any of the guilt for the things I do miss.

I’m sure being a stay at home parent has its challenges.  I see the social media posts … “School is out for the summer. Send help! And wine! Lots and lots of wine!”  <- I just made that specific post up.  … Feel free to use it if you are a stay at home parent and it resonates.  I get it.  Kids can be a handful.  I get to use the bathroom at work without someone staring at me.  I can sip my coffee in the peace and quiet of my car while I listen to the radio uninterrupted.  I have adult conversations over lunch.

In a more serious scenario, I’m not forced to stay in an unhappy marriage because I can’t afford to leave.

 

But gosh darn it, if I wouldn’t prefer to be sweating in the hot ass sun, swatting away bugs, putting band aids on bruised knees, getting my toe run over by a scooter and watching a bunch of loud, not always well behaved 9 year olds run around with spray bottles and trying to toss a frizbee into a net right now.

 

That Kind Of Week June 1, 2017

Came home to see that all the pretty flowers Shaunie had planted in front of our house had died.  Or had been eaten.  They looked like they had been eaten.  Shaunie hates doing yard work so this was particularly offensive to her.  (1)

 

Had to deal with an issue at Ace’s school.  There were problems between him and another student.  I was peeved that in speaking with the principal, I had to pull quotes directly from the “Code of Conduct” guidelines (which is prominently posted on the districts website) in order for him to step in.  I suppose there are parents who attend meetings or make accusations or request action without doing their homework first.  I am not that parent.   I assure you, I know the school year is winding down and you just WANT it to be over.  I get that.  But.  I NEED my son to be safe and to feel comfortable coming to school every day.  Right down to the last day.  Thanks!  (2)

 

We have to move in a couple of months.   It’s unexpected news.  Moving is inconvenient.  And it’s expensive.  Also, it might force us to cancel our summer vacation which we were really looking forward to as it involved a plane ride to somewhere neither of us had ever been and it involved a beach.  Also worth mentioning is that it did not involve children.  (3)

 

As I was leaving home for work I noticed that Jay had gone to school without his glasses.  When I relayed that information to Shaunie she said:  “Oh yeah?  He also went to school with mis-matched socks.  It’s just that kind of day.”  (4)

 

 

Basically, what I want to know is this: Is it the weekend yet?  I’m ready.

 

 

Shaunie may not be ready though because while I’ll be relaxing by the beach, she will be single-parenting the 2 boys – One of whom has run out of ADHD medicine and cannot get in to see his doctor for a refill until Monday.

 

 

(1) The hanging basket of flowers by the front door is thriving and looks beautiful.  Also, our grass, which had seen worse days, is looking good again.

(2) I think (hope), it’s been sufficiently handled and there will be no further issues.

(3) We have good friends who have offered their services in the form of helping to pack and move items and to even provide boxes.  Re the vacation, I said, “MIGHT” affect.

(4) He doesn’t have any tests today and it’s not picture day.

 

Thoughts On Parenting May 23, 2017

While we were in Jamaica, we had the opportunity to visit a home for teenage girls.  These young women all have sad stories.  Many have been abused.  Due to inconsistent schooling, it’s not uncommon for girls to go there who are 11, 13, 15 years old , but functioning academically on a 2nd grade level.  None of it is ok.  Fortunately, at the home they are being well taken care of and many have made amazing progress, both academically and socially.  My Aunt has been volunteering at this home for a long time and as such we wanted to bring some goodies for “her girls”.

One of the things she told us was that one girl who she has taken a particular interest in was having a hard time lately because she didn’t understand why her mother didn’t even come to visit her, as is allowed.  She was so disgusted with her mother that she didn’t want to use her last name anymore.  My heart broke for her.

As someone who was raised by her Grandparents I have a small understanding of what this young girl is feeling.  I had a great life.  I’ve said it at least 100 times that I could not have asked for a better childhood.  There was nothing more my Grandma and Grandad could have done.  Yet, there was still, that part of me that wished if I was being raised by my parents and not my Grands.

 

I used to make excuses for other people’s crap parenting, but once I had my own children, I was no longer able to do so.  I couldn’t look my baby in the face and rationalize a way out of his life.

I have no interest in anyone who puts a spouse above their child.  No acceptance or understanding for  parents who treat one child with TLC and another child with disdain.  Don’t even get me started on anyone who stays in an abusive relationship that their child then has to witness or  worse, get drawn into.  There’s no tolerance for anyone who sees their child hurting or in need of help and stands idly by.  I don’t get, on any level,  parents who do not want to play an active role in their childrens lives and by extension their grandchildrens lives.

I’ve heard all the “reasons” why someone might not be the kind of parent they should be.

They’re too busy.

They don’t know better because they themselves had a bad parent.

The child stopped reaching out or the child did something to anger the parent.

They are doing the best they c an and loving the best way they can.

One kid needs them more than another.

There may be some truth to some of those – But they still don’t carry much weight with me.

 

The minute you made that baby, you had one job.  One.  To love and be there for your child no matter what and in whatever way is necessary.

It doesn’t matter what your expectations were or what your financial situation is or how big your childs support system outside of you is.

In addition, the moment you chose to marry someone who had children you made the decision to swallow your pride and treat their child as your own and do whatever it takes to love and support that child.

 

Being a stand up parent isn’t glamorous.  It’s not about the days when you dress up and take professional family pictures.  It isn’t about the funny things you get to post on Facebook.  It isn’t showing up on graduation day when you haven’t shown up to one parent teacher meeting.  It isn’t buying Christmas presents or spending big for a fancy new drone.   It’s about the throw up you cleaned and the nights you didn’t sleep and the days when you were too tired to say yes but said yes anyway.  It’s about making sure that any new person you introduce into your childs life is going to love them and be a positive influence.  It’s about calling just to say hi and to see how their first day on the new job went.  It’s about making them feel like they always have a home where you are.  As they get older, it’s about including them in what’s happening in your life – good or bad.  It’s about being a shoulder and a cheerleader and a relentless truth teller when they are about to make a bad decision; even if you have made the same speech too many times before.

It’s about showing up in all ways.  I know Websters disagrees but “Parenting“, much like “love”, is a verb.  An action word.

 

My boys are not always happy with us.  Sometimes we’re the bad guys.  That’s ok.  We’re here and involved and active and we go on field trips and we plan trips to amusement parks and we make study guides and we  enforce rules and we get angry and we get silly and we make fart jokes and we do last minute school projects and we buy books at fairs and we practice bike riding and we suffer through movies we don’t like and we hang bad art on our office walls.  We give medicine and we talk puberty and we listen to endless stories about Nexo Knights and we make birthday hats for stuffed toys.  We get annoyed about lost items but we buy new ones.  Even though we already know the way and it takes them too long to find it, we allow them the space and time to read the electronic monitor at the airport so they can figure out which gate our airplane is leaving from.  We celebrate every milestone and achievement and good report card.

 

I’m sure the parents of the girls in the home have their own sad stories.  I am sorry about that.  I assume in many ways where the girls are now is the best place for them – just as my Grandparents were for me – But that doesn’t make it any less unfortunate for them.

As inconvenient and aggravating as parenting can be, there is no way to describe the rewards of seeing – up close – your child grow and learn and struggle and overcome and slip and succeed and cry and find their way.

The young girls at the home are understandably feeling pain over their situation, and they can’t see it now, but from where I sit today, it’s their parents who are losing out.

 

Vacation In Statuses May 22, 2017

I tried writing a post about our family vacation.  It sucked.

Not the vacation.  That didn’t suck.  That was awesome.  The post sucked because it didn’t really do a good job of showing the fun we had and how nice it was to spend time with our Jamaican family.

 

While we were away I never updated my Facebook status.  Partly because there were a lot of times that I was without wifi access and partly because I was enjoying my down time and I just wasn’t that interested in updating my profile.

 

Anyway, my new approach to writing about our trip is to take what could have easily been quick statuses and putting them here.

 

I love waking up in Jamaica.  I love the sounds and the smells.  I love sitting out on the verandah (porch) and having people say good morning as they walk by on the street.  I love looking out at the mountains in the distance and the mango trees in the yard as I sip my coffee.

 

Another morning and another pleasant start to my day.  Mr Foody came by with his cart full of produce.  I thought the kids would be taken with the man selling fruits and veggies gate to gate and with the man chopping open coconuts to pour out the water and then us scooping out the jelly to eat but no … they were taken with the lizards crawling around on the ground and in the cart.  I did love to see them outside barefooted though.

 

Had a great day in May Pen.  Spent a couple of hours at the pool.  (I love seeing my boys and Shaunie enjoy a place where I grew up and have spent hundreds of hours having fun).  Got to see Uncle C who was as funny and welcoming as ever.  I love listening to his stories.  Also got to see my girl Cissy and my 15 year old uncle who is now taller than I am.  Ate some road side food and even managed to get a punctured tire.  All part of the fun I guess.

*Yeah, I have an actual uncle who is barely older than my kids.  Our family is interesting*

 

Special Needs traveling tip – When on vacation, keep some things normal for your little one.  We still did pizza Friday and maintained their normal bed time schedule.  We gave as much advanced notice about the days plan as possible and scheduled down time.  An overstimulated kid does not make for a pleasant companion.

 

Convo and laughs and food and drinks with people you have known since you were 11 years old is always a good time.

 

BEACH DAY!!!

 

Went out on Saturday night – Got home at 5:30 am – Showered and got dressed for 6:30 am Church.  Yup.  Sure did.  I’d do anything for my Aunty and us all going to Church is #1 on her list of things she likes us to do when we’re together.

 

People know Kingston and Ocho Rios, but have you ever heard of a place named Swamp District?  Don’t let the name fool you.  It’s pretty cool.  Best part of being there as far as Jay was concerned?  Seeing a cow poop.  Smh!  He also, got to pet a chicken and I introduced the kids to “Touch Me Not”.  It’s a grass like thing that closes up when you touch it.  I love country life.  P.s.  Shaunies family is quite large and they were all super warm to us and we ended up staying longer than we had initially planned because we were enjoying their company.  We even got freshly squeezed sour sop juice.

 

Hello North Coast! (aka, Touristy part of the island).  Left the sun block back in Kingston so don’t be too rough on our American skin ok?

 

I have water babies.  There’s no denying it.  From wake up time to bed time, this is what they did.  Play in the pool and then go to the beach and then back to the pool.

 

According to Ace, he loves Jamaica because it’s all pool and beach and free food and people cleaning up after you.  He doesn’t understand that if he lived there he’d have to go to school and he’d have chores and he wouldn’t live in an all-inclusive resort.

 

OMG, the time goes by too fast.  There are people I didn’t get to see or didn’t get to spend enough time with.  There are places I didn’t make it to and food I didn’t get to eat.  Breadfruit and an icy bag juice come to mind.  I did get cane and jerk and peanut porridge and ackee and cherries and (Jamaican) apples picked right off the tree and Devon House Ice-Cream and fish on the beach and festival and bammy.  Even got oxtail tacos and curry goat egg rolls.

 

I tried really hard to stay away from American news while I was on vacation, but just about everyone I spoke to wanted to know what the heck is up with my President.  Wish I knew.

 

We all got tanned pretty well.  I’m sure the peeling will start soon.  That means I can’t wear any make up for a while.  For one, I don’t have any that matches the colour I now am.  For two, make up on peeling skin just looks gross.

 

Down to the wire – Ate my last mango in the airport – After we checked in – Before we went through security.

 

When I think about the trip, one of my favourite memories, hands down, will be that of seeing my nearly 90 year old Aunt help Ace with his math homework.  He took no time at all figuring out that she was the best person to direct his questions to.  She’s a former math teacher and high school principal.  I love her lots and I love that she was able to spend some quality time with my 2 young men.  I want them to have good memories of her.

 

Jay left his glasses.  We wouldn’t be us if someone hadn’t left something.

 

I don’t know when we’ll be back in Jamaica.  Every time I go I say I won’t let so much time go by before the next trip, but …. Life.

Before this visit, it had been 2 years since we were on the island but 4 since we got to spend quality time with my Aunty.

 

Wouldn’tcha know it, with all the pictures we took, and there were a lot, the best one we got of all 4 of us together can’t be shared with anyone.  It was taken on the beach.  The sun is shining.  The sky and the water are all shades of blue.  There are palm trees on a small island in the background.  The scenery is gorgeous.   We’re all smiling and happy.  Alas, Shaunie and I are in bathing suits and neither one of us are comfortable having bathing suit pictures posted online.

 

Until next time Jamaica – You will always be #1 in my heart.

 

When The Kids Are Away April 25, 2017

Miss me?  I’d love to say I’ve been quiet because the kids were away and when the kids are away we party.  Hard!  I want to say there was no time to blog because we were having too much fun.  The truth is that, things are kinda regular and quiet when they are away.  Nobody wants to hear about (and I don’t want to write about) us going to work, coming home and eating dinner and going to bed.

 

We tried to live it up a little bit.

On Monday, we went for donuts after dinner.  Yup.  We did.  We even took pictures to mark the grand event.  Donuts on a weekday – Even though it would be dark soon.  Boom!

On Tuesday we went to a local brewery and tasted several beers.  We are not beer drinkers.  And we learned we are definitely not stout drinkers.  We did learn about hoppiness and roastiness and that beer can smell like chocolate; so there’s that.

On Wednesday we really went all out.  We … wait for it … Went to work, came home, had dinner and went to bed.

On Thursday we planned to go to a movie but didn’t make it.  Instead we had Chick Fil A and walked around in Sears.  I got a winter jacket for only $5 and we bought 2 pairs of kids pants for $0.86.

 

We made and followed through with the biggest plan on Friday.  We met up with a couple of friends and did a sip and paint.  I always love an opportunity to spend time with friends and to laugh.  And if alcohol is involved that’s ok too 🙂

 

Our boys are back now and note-worthy things are already happening.

Jay ate lasagna – and liked it.

Ace had chicken soup – and liked it.

Both those things are major.

 

We made a vacation plan which I am really looking forward to.  Ace is busy readying his mind for middle school.  He’s concerned about being the “3rd smallest 6th grader” and is wondering when he’ll have a growth spurt.  He’s also thinking about which clubs he is interested in.  So far, the track team is still on the table but the step team is a heck no.  The Lego club is an oh heck yes!  Jay is lobbying for a pair of prescription sunglasses and learning how to confront social challenges head on.

Here’s a little more info on that … Apparently he thought he was unfairly treated by a staff member at his school so he was mad and decided he was not going to speak to that person ever again.  We had a conversation about that not being the best way to handle the situation.  I told him that maybe there was mis-communication and that if he spoke to the staff member and explained how he felt, the 2 of them would be able to talk it out and come to an understanding.  That was hard for him to accept.  With some prodding though, he (VERY reluctantly) told her how he felt and they were able to fix their issues.  So big!!!

 

So there you have it.  We’re doing alright.  It’s been raining for several days which is yuck and this will be a busy week with work stuff and school meetings and such.  I squeezed in a knitting class which meant I didn’t get home until 8:30 but it’s all good.  I feel pretty confident in my abilities to make a blanket now.

 

I’m keeping up with current events and a lot of it makes me mad and/or sad and/or angry.  I’m anticipating the release of Hulu’s The Handmaids Tale since I need a new series to watch.  We’re putting summer camp things in place which includes a 3 night sleep away camp which will be a first for both boys.  Don’t ask me how I feel about it.  *Hint* – I’m nervous.  I’m plotting on the dinner that’s currently cooking in our crock pot all while dreaming of a day when just thinking about eating right and exercising will produce the results I want.

 

 

Telling Our Stories April 18, 2017

 

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ― Anne Lamott

 

 

I remember the very first time I ever read the above quote.  Even though the book was written in 1994, I hadn’t heard of it till 2012.  I had just written a blog post in which I said some things that I wondered if I should have.  I had hit “publish” and then spent the next few days thinking about various people who may see it and wondering if it was my place to say some of the things I had said.  I deleted one line of that post.  Then I came across Anne Lamotts quote and I thought, “damn right” so I went back and re-wrote the line.  It was the truth.  The person had done what I said they had done and it had affected me.  Why should I protect them?

 

I recently had a conversation with someone, I’ll call him Keith, who was struggling to understand why he was receiving the treatment he was receiving from someone else.  I knew why – and I share that persons views.  Not the views towards Keith directly but, I share the views.  I’ll leave it at that.

If I were to enlighten Keith, as he wanted me to, it would mean shedding light on some unsavory things about someone he loves very much.

It is a tough position to be in.

 

I have said some unflattering things but I don’t think I have ever said anything defamatory about anyone on my blog.  I have been honest about the relationships in my life.  With my father there is none at all.  Has been none for 10 years.  Before there was none, it was strained.  With my mother, at this moment, it is luke warm. With my grandfather it was awesome except for the times it most definitely was not.  With one sister it is good, with another it has soured to the point of being non-existent and with yet 2 more sisters, we were doomed to be strangers from pretty early on.

In a lot of ways, my family life as you can see, is not the best.

 

I love to write about our lives.  It’s medicinal almost (to me) and I think it will be a gift to my boys when they are older.  I put a lot out onto the internet.  Even so, there is so much that I keep close to my chest.  Sometimes it hurts and I feel like if I were able to just say it, I’d feel better.  But would I really?  The only thing that would heal much of what hurts me is a change in the other persons behavior and one thing I have learned is that you cannot make people be who you want them to be.

Also, are any of us completely innocent of causing pain to someone else?  Have we always done what we were supposed to do for the people we say we love?  Would we want all the people whose hearts we have broken or who we’ve gossiped about or who we ignored in a time of need to come out of the woodworks and share with the world all the ways in which we could have been better?  I don’t.

 

On one hand I whole heartedly agree with Anne.  (And if someone else wants to write their story and include all the ways in which I failed them then I would deserve it.)  On the other hand, I don’t want to be a jerk.  I try really hard to balance telling my stories – because I do think I am entitled to them – with being as respectful as I can with other peoples stories – because those are not mine to tell.

 

Also, as I have come to realize, on more than one front, keeping some truths hidden isn’t about protecting the “wrongdoer”, it’s about protecting the innocent who love them – even if it is a difficult pill to swallow or the hidden facts make other people get credit they do not deserve.