Life On The B Side

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

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. 🙂 

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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.  🙂

 

On Advocacy August 15, 2018

Just a little light bed time conversation at 8:20pm on a random Tuesday.

 

Me: How was your day honey?

 

Jay: I had pizza. The other kids had tacos but I don’t like tacos so I got pizza.

 

Me: How do you feel about that?  That you got to have pizza but the other kids had to have the tacos?

 

Jay: I feel lucky.

 

Me: Did any of the other kids say anything to you about it?

 

Jay: Well, Aiden asked me how come I got pizza and I told him it’s because I have a card that says if they are serving food I don’t like I can have something else.  I told him I got the card because my mom got it for me and maybe he should ask his mom to get him one.

 

Me: Do you know what it’s called when you ask for what you want because it’s something you deserve; not just something you’d like to have?

 

Jay:  No.

 

Me: Advocacy.  I advocated for you to get that card because I know that you are not just choosing to be difficult with the food.  You have a right to get other options.  Just like kids who are in wheelchairs have a right to have ramps installed.

 

Jay (rolling the word around his tongue): Avocacy.  Like, I can avodicacy for anything I want.

 

Me: Well, it’s best if you save it for something really meaningful and like I said, something that you are entitled to.  Not just something you WANT.  And you have to know that it’s not always as easy as me asking for a card for you.  Sometimes you’ll get what you ask for and sometimes you won’t and sometimes you’ll get denied at first and then you’ll have to try again and again before you get it.  It can be hard but it’s very important that we all learn how to advocate for ourselves so we can be safe and well taken care of and fully included.  And it’s also important that we learn how to advocate for other people who can’t do it for themselves and may need our help.  Do you understand?

 

Jay: Yes. I am going to tell Aiden to avo avo avocate for himself next summer so he can get pizza too.

 

 

 

*I don’t think he quite gets it – yet.  It’s all about the pizza right now.  That’s perfectly ok. But I want to plant the seeds early so he will grow up in the knowledge that his needs are worth fighting for and that it’s not wrong to advocate for your rights.

 

The Hole In My Lid June 28, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 11:56 am
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Soooo, what’s been up?

It’s been a while since I wrote.

Whatever I’ve missed is going to have to remain missed.  Today, I’m diving into our most recent news.

 

My boys have been away for just about 2 weeks and I feel empty.  I miss them something awful.  I always miss them when they go to spend extended time with their father but for some reason this trip has been extra hard.  I can’t get my stomach to settle.  It could be because we’ve been hit with a series of bad news over the past few months so I am feeling more emotional than usual (which is saying a lot).  It could also be that time is inexplicably speeding up and they are growing up faster than they used to and it’s making me a bit panicky.

Ace happily and artfully sailed through his entire 6th grade year like a champ and it only took about 2 weeks.  It was just last month, (wasn’t it?), that we were touring the middle school and everything about it seemed so daunting.  I was so worried about how my baby would navigate that new environment.  He amazed me in all the ways.  Socially and academically.  His final report came in and I am blown away.  It’s the best report he’s EVER gotten and my heart could just burst.

I haven’t gotten Jays final report as yet, but I have every reason to believe he did a great job as well.  He’s going to enter his final year of elementary school in September and then he too will be off to middle school.  I’m really struggling with that.  Let’s not talk about it.  Thanks.

 

In other news

Shaunie and I went to Jamaica to:

  1. Attend her Grandfathers funeral. It was really great and sad, but wonderful.
  2. See my Aunty. It was awesome and heavyhearted.  I was happy there but leaving was hard.  Really hard.
  3. Attend my uncle’s high school graduation. (My Grandad had a son when he was 72).  It was good but weird.

 

I’ll write a post about the trip later.

In the meantime, while we were gone, Grandma in New Jersey underwent surgery.  Some sad medical news hit my family.  Also, there were big shake-ups at work.  How the work shake-ups may or may not affect me is still to be determined.

 

I know this post wasn’t that interesting but I needed to “stick a hole in my lid”.  You get that reference right?  In a coffee cup lid, there’s the one hole that we drink out of and then there’s the (very important but easily dismissed) hole on the other end that lets the steam out.  My internal steam was building and this blog is my tiny hole.

 

If you are the praying type, please keep our family in your prayers.  It can’t hurt.

 

My boys come back this weekend.  I am ready to see them and hug them.  That’s the good news, so I’ll end there.

xoxo

 

 

4 Square Wars May 24, 2018

The name of the game lately has been conflict resolution – And truth be told, that’s tricky for me.

  1. I’m not great at forgiving people or working through conflicts. I don’t say that to brag.  I recognize it as one of my (many) weaknesses.
  2. I didn’t have these issues when I was in 4th grade so I don’t have any parenting examples to pull from.

 

Jay has been coming home from school complaining about the kids in his before and after care program.  To hear him tell it, they call him names and are mean to him; basically, he’s being bullied.  I know my kid though.  I know sometimes his communication is a little off (due to his autism) and I also know that sometimes he’s the instigator who then only tells one side of a story (due to his winning personality).  I needed more information before I went barreling into the school to demand action.

 

Flash back to a couple evenings ago

Jay hops into the car and immediately complains to me about “the mean kids”.  When we get home, he doesn’t stop.  He sits on my bed and continues.  He no longer wants to attend that program he tells me.  He’s over it – and them.

I ask him a bunch of questions so that I can get a full, and accurate picture.  Is he being singled out?  Is the staff aware and what have they done about it?  Has anyone hit him or otherwise physically assaulted him?  Does he say mean things to them or is he unreasonably difficult/bossy first?  Is the main perpetrator encouraging other students to be mean to him also?  How old are the kids he’s having problems with?  Do they understand what is expected of them?

The answers only leave me more unsure.  He says what he’s supposed to say to make his point and to validate himself as the victim, but …

There are little smiles and smirks (that he tries to hide) when I ask about him being mean or difficult.  He shifts his body and holds his head down, sneaking glances at me when I ask if he’s really being bullied, or if he just doesn’t like not getting his way all the time.  To the question about the age of the “problem kids” he tells me that one of them is in 1st grade; that makes him 5 yrs old compared to Jays 10 years.  (That doesn’t excuse him in Jays mind)

 

We spent most of the time talking about one child in particular.  This is someone who was (is) his friend.  Being my son, Jay is ready to end this friendship due to their misunderstandings at after care.  Apparently this friend, accused Jay of something.  Jay then proved he had not done that thing.  The friend apologized but Jay was having a REALLY HARD TIME forgiving the friend for accusing him in the first place.

We had a lengthy talk, and (fighting my personal inclination) I told him that people deserve 2nd chances and we talked about accepting genuine apologies and about how being a good friend works 2 ways.  Being forgiven and being forgiving.  We talked about how mistakes do happen and there are misunderstandings that happen between people all the time; whether they are friends or brothers or wives or coworkers.  I reminded him of times when he needed to be forgiven by his brother and reinforced that if we never acknowledged our own errors or our role in mix-ups then we would go through life being very lonely because we will push everyone away.  We talked about being understanding but not so much that we are being taken advantage of or opening ourselves up to be abused.  I told him that this is something he will have to deal with many more times in his life so he needed to learn how to handle it in a way that was healthy.

He was resolute.  The friendship was over.  He absolutely could not forgive the offense.  He was too vexed/hurt.

I felt him in that.  I know that stubbornness well.

I suggested that he not make a decision right then but take the rest of the evening/night to think about it and to see if he had it in him to talk to the friend the next day and fix their relationship.

 

I am happy to report that the next day he initiated a conversation and he and the friend “were able to work it out”.  Jay even told the friend that he was sorry for not accepting the initial apology.  I thought that was very big of him.

I also had a talk with the staff at the after-care program.  They gave me some insight.  He’s not being bullied.  Apparently all this fuss is over a game called 4 square.  It has become a real problem.  It’s all the kids favourite game, but it also brings on some intense arguing/shit talking/accusations of cheating etc.  (Jay confirmed this as well).  The staff did agree to facilitate a talk with the kids and act as mediators.  Since it has become such an issue, if this mediation doesn’t fix the problem, they will ban the game from being played altogether.

 

I honestly don’t remember anything like this in my elementary school days.  It’s a little crazy to me but here we are.  Wish us luck going forward.  I don’t want Jay to have such a hard heart when it comes to forgiveness.  I also don’t want him to get bullied for real, so there is a part of me that’s happy about him not taking anyones crap.  I don’t want him crapping on anyone else either though and by all accounts, he’s dishing it as much as he’s taking it.  All the kids are.  Yikes!  What a balancing act this whole raising children gig is.

 

Letting Off Steam May 2, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 10:13 am
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I just need to vent a little.  Let off some steam if you will.
So, I have this “aunt” who is a vocal fan of #45.  I put aunt in quotes because neither her nor my uncle who she’s married to are biologically related to me.
She posted this whole thing on Facebook about how he’s the greatest president ever.  Apparently his accomplishments include lowering taxes and wiping out ISIS.
I was itching to comment on it.  I typed up some questions for her and then deleted them all.  Partly, because I promised Shaunie that I would cool it with the politics on FB (due to her job) and partly because I feel like there is no reasoning with people like her.  If she’s confident enough to post that crap knowing all the other horrible things there are to know about him, then, hell …… what could I possibly say to her that would make a difference?
I checked back on her post a couple of times to see if anybody else (especially anybody I knew) had either “liked” it or commented on it.  So far, nothing.
The thing is, I don’t feel good about leaving it alone.  I feel like a fraud.
I feel like leaving things alone is a huge part of the worlds problems.  Nobody wants to rock the boat, or cause a stir, or get into an uncomfortable argument.  I get it.  But it’s frustrating as hell too.
……………
*Just so when I read this again years from now, I’ll remember what happened – Kanye West made some comments to TMZ (a celebrity gossip site) and among other asinine things, he said that for slavery to have lasted as long as it did, it seems to him, that people chose to remain enslaved.*
That to me, feels kinda like a coworker I had who once told me that Jay (who is autistic and has a lot of struggles and challenges associated with it) was so lucky that he got extra time to complete tests in school and that it wasn’t fair to her son (who is neuro-typical and fully capable, but kind of lazy) because he didn’t get extra time.
Her and Kanye are both totally clueless about real life shit and they can both eff all the way off in my opinion.
 
When I watched the video though, I couldn’t help but notice all the people in the TMZ room who heard the crap Kanye was saying and just stood there, with no rebuttal.  The ONLY person to say something was the 1 black guy who was there.  All the white people in that newsroom are just like all the people who heard that comment about Jays “good fortune” and just sat there silently, even though they knew the situation.  And unfortunately, just like all the white people I’ve known in my life who have heard their friends and family say racist crap but chose to ignore it rather than speak up because they didn’t want things to be uncomfortable. Well, guess what? It was uncomfortable for me.  I guess that was the lesser of the 2 evils to them.  
Vent complete.  Happy friggin Wednesday.
 

Cash Crops Coming April 24, 2018

The other day I posted the below on Facebook.  (Real names edited to protect the innocent)

 

Me: I should get some more plants for in here. I love them so much. All that greenery. It’s just so beautiful. Yup, that’s what I need. More plants. Give me all the pants. All different kinds of plants. Big ones and small ones. I’ll take such good care of them. It will be great. And our air will be so fresh and clean. MORE PLANTS!!!

Shaunie: Nope. I’m not living in a jungle. We have enough.

Ace: Nope. You’ll just kill them like you did all the others. It’s not fair to the plants to be left in your care. You are a plant murderer.

Jay: Go ahead Mom. Do what makes you happy. Get your plants if you want to. I believe in you. You’ll keep them alive this time.

#MyLife

 

 

I have an update.

In social studies, Jay has been learning about Americas first colonists and about the revolutionary war.  It’s actually pretty cool that we live in Virginia because so much of the story played out in our back yard.  We have a couple of famous battlefields right in our town.  The house that George Washington was raised in, is a stones throw away.   Thomas Jeffersons home of Monticello is a history lovers must-see and interested visitors can tour the Yorktown Battle field which was the site of the last major battle of the American Revolution.  Around these parts, kids take school field trips to places like Jamestowne and Colonial Williamsburg.   But I digress.  *My kids get their chattiness honestly*

Like I was saying, Jay has been learning about colonial Virginia and you can’t talk about colonial Virginia without talking about tobacco.  He has learned that tobacco was a “cash crop”.  You know what that is … A crop produced so you can sell it and make money as opposed to a crop produced solely for the owners use or enjoyment.

 

What does this have to do with my love of plants you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.

First though, you need to know that Jay came home very excited because he had found a 4 leaf clover so of course that meant he would have good luck.  In an effort to protect his 4 leaf clover, he placed it inside a zip loc bag (not sealed so oxygen could get in), then he placed it by the window where most of my plants are so they can get adequate sunlight.  Since he was over there, I asked him to water my plants; and he happily obliged.  Somehow this led to the boys counting my plants (7 thriving) and Ace having a grand time teasing me, yet again, about the sad state of one of my bamboo plants.  I had 2 and only 1 of them is currently doing well.  Jay was quick to come to my defense.  I love that kid.  The 4 of us got into quite the lively and funny conversation about whether or not I should get more plants.  Clearly I need to replace the 1 dying bamboo so that the 1 that’s doing well can have a buddy.  Jay was ready to fund it with his piggy bank money.  Ace and Shaunie were totally opposed to the idea.

THEN, I had the BRILLIANT idea of asking Jay if HE would like a plant (or 2) of his own that HE could take care of.  He was quick to say yes.

LOOPHOLE!!!!!!

 

Shaunie couldn’t say no to Jay having his own plants to tend – even if she gave me a wicked side eye while agreeing.  She did make a slight alteration and suggested that he grow something besides flowers.  Something like tomatoes maybe.  Jay was all for it and said “that’s a great idea, instead of just flowers, I’ll grow a cash crop and we can sell what I grow”.   So now, we have a plan to go to the store this weekend and purchase all the necessary things to grow tomatoes … (and maybe carrots and bell peppers as well cause I think those are pretty easy and I have a hard time just buying 1 thing when I hit up a garden section … but don’t tell anyone I said that).