Life On The B Side

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

Unscheduled Fun February 15, 2019

We have a lot of fun together as a family. We go to trampoline parks and to shows and museums. We plan beach vacations and camping trips and in the next couple of weeks we’ll be going to the circus. It seems though, that having unscheduled fun with the kids is getting rarer and rarer. You know what I mean by unscheduled? The times when you don’t have a plan but you end up building a fort out of sheets and pillows or making funny hats for stuffed animal toys. The regular – free – EVERY DAY fun.

Now that the boys are 11 and 12 (gasp!), our “at home” time often revolves around making sure that all the things that NEED to be done, get done. The dinner and the homework and the chores. Whatever extra time there is, gets used up with me binging Netflix and them playing video games.

I know that one reason for this is that building forts and making play-doh pies just doesn’t cut it for pre-teens. But I also think lazy parenting is another reason. I’ve been at this parenting thing for 12 years and I’m tired. Tired physically yes, but also tired of putting legos together and pushing trains on tracks.  You parents of older kids remember all the “floor time” you used to spend.

When you have a new baby, everything is so exciting. You want to spend every minute with them. Teaching them and watching them and exploring with them. You love going to the park and pushing them on swings and you love hearing them giggle when you play peek-a-boo. You’d do anything for that giggle. You absolutely love feeding them pureed green peas and seeing the mess they make and you marvel at the green poop that follows. After a while though, you begin to love getting back to yourself. You don’t love your children any less. Not one iota. But you love that your children can now entertain themselves and make themselves sandwiches. You love that you can roam the Target aisles in peace and don’t have to spend any time looking at stupid transformers that cost too much for the 10 minutes that your child will actually play with it even though they are telling you that they NEED it and will for sure this time play with it for eternity.

 

How much together time is the right amount? I want us to be close. I want our bond to be strong. I want the boys to have a joyful life full of sibling and parent interaction. I want ME time.

 

I don’t have the answers. I am playing this all by air. I will say though that last week, Shaunie and Jay baked some cinnamon rolls together. It was nice. Also one day last week, I put my phone down, my feet up and Ace read me a story. It too was nice.

 

Then this week, Shaunie had to go to New Jersey on some family business. On Wednesday evening, Jay and I sat together and assembled candy grams for his class for Valentines Day. While we were assembling, we talked. Just he and I. We don’t get that a lot. With one Mom gone, the remaining 3 of us ended up having a slumber party in my room. We are not a co-sleeping family so this was a real departure from the norm. Plus, it was a school night. (What?!?!) It was such a hit that we did it again last night.

 

I really hope that we’re getting it (mostly) right. I hope we’re not being too hard on them; but pushing them enough. I hope we give them enough of their own space; while not making them feel alienated. I hope we force them out of their comfort zones often enough to spark an adventurous spirit; while honouring their own, specific, interests. I hope we enforce necessary routines; while allowing for (and even encouraging) flexibility and spontaneity.

 

Do all parents feel this way? How do you guys manage it?

 

When the alarm went off this morning and Jay rolled over to me and snuggled for a couple of minutes, I knew I had made the right call in agreeing to the “sleepover”. It was just so delicious. But sometimes the answers are harder to decipher; especially when they tell you that all they want to do is have electronics time.

 

My Advice: Go Get The Answers You Need March 27, 2018

We attended a baby shower over the weekend.  They had one of these things.

advice frame

 

I assumed we were supposed to write parenting advice or give a helpful tip.  My first thought was to write:  “When you want to kill her … Don’t !!!  🙂 ”

I mean … Every parent at some point has been driven crazy by their child and had the thought “OoohI am going to kill them”… Even for a minute.

I walked up to the frame – ready to drop my words of wisdom – only to see that everyone else had written something like “Love you so much” or “XOXO Baby H”.

I headed back to my seat to recalibrate my brain and come up with something else to say.  Clearly we were not being honest – I mean, we all will love her and can’t wait to meet her etc so yes they were being honest but they weren’t being honest HONEST.  You know what I mean.  I went with something more tame: “We’re available to babysit. Love you!”.

 

I’ve actually been thinking about parenting advice a lot lately.  Not because I am an expert, but I do think I am old enough and have been through enough that I have a pretty good perspective on a lot of topics.

The other day a friend expressed to me that she had some concerns about her daughters health.  She wants to go see a specialist.  The problem is that her daughters pediatrician is her mother-in-law who thinks everything is fine and that they should watch and wait and see.  My friend doesn’t want to step on the MIL’s toes or upset the husband by making it seem as though she doesn’t trust Dr MIL’s judgment.

My advice:  Eff that.  Go see a specialist.  And if you need a referral then get one from a different pediatrician. 

 

Listen to me folks.  If it was up to some people in our family, my son probably still wouldn’t have a diagnosis and he definitely would not have gotten the help he needed in the early years.  Due to nothing but my persistence and insistence, Jay began getting therapy at 2 years old.  I do believe it made a world of difference.  Not all the therapists were great (we quit a few) and not everything that we tried suited him, (brushing therapy), but overall, early intervention absolutely gave him and us some valuable tools and introduced us to some remarkable people and helped us see things in a totally different way.

It was not easy financially and it was difficult figuring out the transportation to shuffle him from appointment to appointment.  One of the hardest parts though was how isolating it was because it turned out that we couldn’t talk to anyone about it.  I was told that I was being paranoid.  I was told that Jay wasn’t talking because boys take longer to talk than girls do and because he had an older brother who was “talking for him”.  I was told that teachers want to drug all the kids because it makes them easier to deal with and that pharmaceutical companies and doctors just want to make money off us.  I was told that my son would be labeled and mis-treated just because of the label and that he would never get a high school diploma because they don’t give high school diplomas to kids who are “classified”.  I was advised to give it time and watch and wait and see.  I was told about the cousins neighbours hair dressers son who took a long time to talk but now was fine.  I was told that instead of putting Jay in a self-contained special ed classroom where he would be stuck with other under-performing kids and not pushed to learn I should send him to a “regular” class so he would learn from higher performing peers.  It was constantly pointed out to me all the reasons that Jay couldn’t possibly be autistic.  After-all, he didn’t flap his hands or spin or line toys up.  He had begun to sleep well and he wasn’t bothered by loud noises or the tags on his clothes.  They pointed out all the money I was “wasting”.  People suggested all kinds of herbal/natural remedies and actually told me that it was my fault that he wasn’t eating anything other than cheese doodles.  They made me feel incredibly guilty about thinking that something was different about him and they made me feel inadequate for seeking help.  I  was too soft they said.  I just needed to be stricter with him and he would snap out of it they assured me.

I heard it all.  And then, I ignored it all.

In my mind, I had to just focus on what was best for my son in that moment.  My sons well-being was more important that sparing someone elses feelings or worrying about how things looked.  If I took him to specialists and they said I was over-reacting then all I had lost was $25 in copay; while gaining peace of mind.  If I took him to specialists and they said I was justified in my concern then the sooner I got him help the better we all would be.  Why make my child suffer longer than necessary; just because it strokes someone elses ego or because of someone elses fear/ignorance?

 

We’re a few days away from the start of Autism Awareness Month.  You will see lots of posts and comments and blue lights and puzzle pieces and opinions on Autism Speaks.  I really don’t want to add to the barrage just for the sake of it.  I do however, want to take the time to say this one thing:

 

IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR CHILDS HEALTH OR DEVELOPMENT IN ANY WAY – SEEK HELP!  Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it’s just kind of quietly nagging at you in the back of your mind.  DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE NAYSAYERS OR THE GRANDPARENTS OR EVEN THE OTHER PARENT.  It doesn’t matter if your concern is about their physical, social or cognitive development.  It doesn’t matter if you are worried about their constant throwing up or constipation.  TRUST YOUR GUT.  DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.  ASK QUESTIONS.  TALK TO OTHER PARENTS OR YOUR TEACHER FRIENDS.  All doctors don’t know all things.  GET MULTIPLE OPINIONS FROM MULTIPLE DOCTORS.  GET THE EVALUATIONS.  TAKE THE TESTS.  In the end, this is 100% about being your childs biggest cheer leader and best advocate and 0% about appearances.

 

 

 

Sometimes it’s hard but this is the good stuff March 9, 2018

It’s been a bit of a week.  I’m. So. Tired.

 

It all started last weekend when we left home at 9:15am on Saturday and didn’t return until almost 8pm on Sunday.

 

It was a weekend of tennis lessons for the kids and shopping for groom & grooms entourage suits and a fun game night at the besties house that lasted until the wee hours of the morning and more games and a long ass drive home due to a huge sign falling over on the highway.

 

Then it was Monday.

The work week meant, early morning wake ups and more tennis and my birthday celebrations and track and field activities for the big boy which required a last minute trip to the doctors office and coffee spilled all over the car and tests to study for and – I don’t even know what else.   Now that I’m writing, it honestly doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary or bad, so I really don’t know why I’m so exhausted.

 

By Thursday evening I wasn’t sure how I would make it to work on Friday- but I knew I had to.  Can we say depleted?

Ace was happy to have a little alone time with me so we could read his newest comic book together.

Jay came home really excited to tell me that he’d be having pancakes and pizza the next day.  Much more nonchalantly he was like, “Oh, yeah, I was named student of the month for being overall, very respectful.  What???  There is no way to be down, annoyed or overwhelmed when your kid gets rewarded for being respectful.  Especially when it’s THIS kid.  I cannot say it enough – We have come so far and he has accomplished so much.  It’s truly mind blowing.

Ace too had gotten a note from his teacher saying that he’d done a good deed and helped out a classmate who was sick.  *high five kiddo*

We took it easy on ourselves and threw some beef patties in the oven for dinner.  Jay was a little concerned about how many would be left after we all ate because they are his fave and he doesn’t really relish sharing them with the rest of us.

We teased each other about our feet and teeth and fat bellies.  (Don’t ask, just go with it).

It also turns out that some of us – ok I – have “thick thighs but dainty ankles“.  That thigh/ankle one was supposed to be a compliment – I think.

We laughed and hugged and did the things we do every night – take out clothes for the next day and brush teeth and sign school paperwork and answer questions about topics discussed in health class and then this morning everyone woke up healthy after a good nights sleep.

This is the normal, regular, every day stuff. This is the GOOD STUFF!

 

It’s Friday now.  Ace has more track and field activities this evening.  There’s tennis again tomorrow.  Shaunie and I are going to a show.  We lose an hour.  Laundry from 2 weeks ago needs to be folded and put away and we definitely need to go grocery shopping.  Looking ahead to next week; work will continue to be busy since my department is down one worker, there are dentist/doctor appointments that either need to be attended or rescheduled and Jay & I have a “Shake Your Shamrock” party to attend at his school.

The truth is though, I’m ready and looking forward to it all.  I recognize how fortunate I am to have this life I have.  Being tired just comes with the territory.

(Don’t call me on Sunday afternoon however, I’m gonna try to sneak in a nap.)

 

In The Bedroom Down The Hall February 1, 2018

We had a talk.  You and I.  There were tears and hugs and realizations and assurances.  It was hard on my heart because there is so much more I wanted to say but it wouldn’t have been right.  I will take all the blows I need to take for now in order to shield you.  One day, maybe when you are a parent, you will see all the things you cannot see now.

 

Sometimes there is no easy answer.  Sometimes being the bigger person means you are not seen as the better person and that’s a tough pill to swallow.  It’s tricky water to navigate.

 

It’s hard loving and listening to and trusting two people who have different ideas about what you should do.  I know.  It’s especially hard when one says what you want to hear but in your heart you know it’s not what you need to hear.

I fear it will get harder before it gets easier.  I know it will get harder before it gets easier.  For everybody.

 

But here I sit  thinking back on your cherubic face from years ago.  Back then you didn’t know any heart ache.  Your world was full of toy trains and Nick Jr.  Back then it was easy to keep you happy, even in the midst of a {figurative} storm.  We’d play hide and seek or go to a park.  Oh how you loved the park.  You preferred the slides and the climbing apparatus to swings but your favourite was making new friends and playing tag.  No matter how long we stayed, it was never long enough.

 

As you grew, there were big life changes and there were diagnoses.  You had a lot to balance.  You had to sort through a lot of emotions.

I thought I knew some way that I’d get through to you.  Remember?

In the bedroom down the hall, we fought a war where no-one walked away a winner.

Cause everyday you pulled a little more away.  Remember?

Saw the counselors and the clinics and the cures a mother tries.  Cause maybe they could take away that anger in your eyes.

Except, in your case it wasn’t anger.  It was mostly confusion and sometimes, sadness.  

 

We need to have another talk.  I don’t know yet how it will go, but I know it will include what I said the other day – I’m not going anywhere and everything I ever did, everything I do, is all for you.  Anything to make you be your best.  Anything at all.  Anything for my boy in the bedroom down the hall.

 

 

 

 

*Post inspired by and the quoted block are some of the lyrics to the song “In The Bedroom Down The Hall” which was cut from the show Dear Evan Hansen.*

 

On Hamilton – A Family Affair December 15, 2017

I have a bit of a parenting dilemma and I’d be curious to know what you all think about it.

 

I am a big fan of live shows in general.  Musicals, plays, concerts … I’m into all of it.  There are several Broadway shows whose soundtracks I know by heart.  Les Miserables.  Chorus Line.  Aida.  Dear Evan Hansen.  Rent.

I also know all the lyrics to Hamilton.  I mean, as much as is reasonable to expect.  It’s a VERY wordy show.  I don’t want to call it verbose because that implies that some of the words aren’t necessary.  I wouldn’t get rid of any of them.

Singing along with show tunes is usually something I do when I’m alone in the car.  It’s not really the coolest thing to do (apparently) and people can be judgy.  Not that I care what people think but I can’t exactly dive into my most emo self during ‘On My Own (Les Mis) the way I want to while someone is in the room rolling their eyes or putting their fingers in the ears.  I also cannot belt out ‘Tits & Ass (Chorus Line) while my children are in the back seat for obvious reasons.

*Side note* – One of the people who judge my love of show tunes is a fan of techno music so there goes all her credibility. 🙂

 

So anyway, in school, Ace was introduced to Hamilton.  He came home singing the opening song.  It’s kind of a Cliff Notes version of Alexanders life.  It made me happy.  It made Shaunie roll her eyes even further back into her head and stick her fingers even further down inside her ears.

 

I think it’s great that schools are using the show to get kids interested in learning history.  We all know that history class has a reputation for being boring – But it doesn’t have to be.

In drama class they also use it.  The kids were broken into groups and given a part of the show to recreate.  Ace got the role of Philip Hamilton at the time of his duel.  I gave him some back story and then we had fun imagining how Philip would be feeling in that situation and then practicing how it would play out.  So much better than math homework.

 

I’ve said a lot so far without actually saying much of anything.  Talk about burying the lede.  OK, here’s my concern:

Ace has taken that inch he got at school and gone the whole mile with Hamilton.  He is now interested in knowing all the songs.  He’s only 11 and the show does cover some adult-ish topics and includes some adult language which I don’t know if I’m comfortable with him singing about/along with.

 

But is one little “shit” the worst thing if he’s also learning the meaning of words like anarchy and intransigent and unimpeachable and deniability and civility and quagmire and abrasive and reticent?

Is a fairly mild wading into the topic of adultery so bad for him to be exposed to, if, because of this show, he’s also curious about other historical figures and events?

Is him singing “pain in the ass” really so bad if it means we are doing a duet?  Me playing the role of all the women and him playing the men in ‘Take A Break’?  It’s quality time and I love having someone to share my love of history and show tunes with.

Lately the 2 boys have been listening to ‘Aaron Burr Sir’ over and over and over and yes there’s a line in it that says “it’s hard to have intercourse over 4 sets of corsets”, … *yikes* … but I don’t think they really know what they’re singing when they get to that line and Jay absolutely delights in it when Ace gets to the part where he sings “Ooh who are you? Who you? Who are you? Ooh, who is this kid? What’s he gonna do?

The no-fighting bro time is worth it … Right?

 

Help me out here.  Tell me that it’s all fine and that I should just go with it.

 

 

 

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P.S.  Lin-Manuel is killing me.  He put out a new song about the life of Benjamin Franklin.  I was super excited because:

A) Lin-Manuel and B) Another cool way for the kids to learn about yet another founding father.

Except, I listened to the song this morning and it’s great and very educational but he drops more than a couple F bombs.  Like, a lot of them.  That’s a hard no for me.  Come on Linny;  help a mama out and make some kid-friendly history songs.

 

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.

 

On Maturity March 17, 2017

Some kids mature faster than others – That’s not news.

If I look back honestly on my own childhood, I do believe I was a fairly easy child to raise in many ways.  I was a talker for sure, but I didn’t talk back.  I wasn’t destructive or defiant or a liar.  I was polite.  I excelled at entertaining myself through reading or playing with dolls or attempting arts and crafts projects.  I pulled good grades and kept good company.  I was dutiful as the granddaughter of a public official when we either hosted or attended official functions.

That said, I also don’t think I was particularly mature mentally.

Among the many things that Ace has inherited from me – That’s one of them.  Overall, he’s a good kid;  But, he’s not the most mature for his age.  That can be good in that he’s holding onto his innocence and we all know that it can hurt once you realize that the world is not a nice place – but it can also be frustrating as a parent when you feel like you are constantly correcting behaviours that your child should have outgrown due to natural maturing.

 

This is something that we have been working really hard at over the last couple of years … Breaking Ace out of some of his more childish (?) interests and ways of thinking or acting.  We have upped the “tough love” and we talk excessively about how he’s becoming a man and he’s not a baby anymore.  We remind him that he’ll be in middle school later this year.

 

For me, it’s one of the more difficult aspects of parenting.  I don’t want to be hard on him.  It’s not my natural tendency.  I am the soft landing.  The nurturer.  The boo boo kisser.  I also recognize much of him in my younger self so I understand how he feels – But I wish if someone had tried to help me instead of leaving me unprepared for adulthood.

 

Recently, we told him he could not do something.  He was not happy about it.

Later that evening he said the following:

“Mom, can you sit down please.  I’d like to talk to you.  I know you said no (to that thing earlier) but I don’t understand why.  I really don’t see how anything bad could come of it.  Can you please explain to me what the problem is.”

 

It was such a grown up thing for him to say and I was really proud of the way he handled it.  I sat and we talked and I got him to see it my way.  I even shared a story about something similar that I went through when I was in high school.  Me sharing my own stories like that help him to understand that we are not being hard for the sake of it and help to show him that we do understand where he’s coming from but we have some added knowledge based on life experiences that he doesn’t yet possess.

There was no attitude or raised voices or pouting or shutting down.

 

We hugged it out and I breathed in his freshly bathed scent.  It’s not easy raising a sweet little boy clad in snow man pj’s to be a strong, confident, adult man of integrity.  So often I wonder if we are getting it right.  So often I feel like I’m not the right person for the job.  Every so often, I feel like we will all be ok.

 

Early Start September 26, 2016

It’s not October yet – Fall officially began only 3 days ago – But we’ve already gotten our fall fun underway.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to hold onto the summer for as long as possible.  I do.  However, when you find good deals on Groupon you go with it.  Plus, there weren’t a lot of crowds and I get to post my pictures before everyone gets tired of seeing pumpkins all up and down their timeline.

We made a very beautiful drive out to the Shenandoah Valley this past Saturday and spent the day at a farm.

The farm was set up with a lot of different areas where kids can have fun.  Once inside, you roam around and enjoy each thing at your own pace.

 

There are no pictures of the first stops we made.  Jay ventured to the petting zoo area with Shaunie while Ace and I went straight to a giant air pillow that you could jump on like a trampoline.  It was pretty cool.

 

Following those things, the boys decided to try their hand at roping a cow.  It didn’t go well.  I mean, it well well for me because I got a good laugh but it didn’t go well for the kids who really wanted to get the rope around the cows neck.

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They had a little section with sand for digging and playing and also a couple of farm vehicles to climb into and pretend drive.  They had a tether ball pole and “pumpkin tic-tac-toe” and corn hole type games.  The boys didn’t spend much time there.  I did take a minute to pose for a picture or 2.

 

(My hair looks crazy becasue it was windy.  Not because I have unruly hair – Which I kinda do but that’s besides the point.)

 

Those were taken after I decided to sit ON instead of walking ACROSS the tires.  They were not as sturdy as they looked.  If you think that means I nearly fell off and embarrassed myself you’d be absolutely correct.  The following is me laughing at myself following the near fall and sighing relief.

 

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OK so after my foolishness it was Hay Ride Time!

Who doesn’t love a good hay ride?  And a scavenger hunt one at that.  We had a list of things to spot as we made our way around the farm.  All the kids that were on our ride worked together to find and then announce the items.  Jay didn’t want to take any Hay Ride pictures.  He was too concerned with us sitting carefully and not being silly while we were moving.

 

 

Up next was some see-sawing … Which I hadn’t done in years and some spinning in a barn tunnel thing.  I have video of us spinning in the “Twister-Barn” but it also shows other peoples kids so I’d rather not put it here.  Just imagine pushing that black part around and around like a hamster wheel and then falling once you got too close to being upside down.  The kids had a blast in there tumbling all over each other.

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Ace shot small pumpkins out of a cannon blaster and Jay went down a Mega Slide.

Both boys jumped into a corn pit which works just like a ball pit.  They had a lot more fun in there than I would have expected.  They did cannon balls off hay stacks and made corn angels and rained corn kernels on each others heads.

 

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Wait a second … I forgot to tell you that we did a corn maze.  I’m not typically a fan of mazes.  I get nervous.  This place had an easy one and a hard one.  Guess which one we did?  They apparently do a haunted maze in October.  Yeah NO!  I have no interest thank you very much.

 

(Inside the maze)

 

OK … Where were we?  Pumpkin Blaster, Mega Slide, Corn Pit.

Also, there were pig races and pumpkin smashing.  Ace got selected to help open the gate for the pig race and they were up front and center for the pumpkin smash so of course they got pumpkin juice all over them.  Fun stuff!

While all that was going on, we were taking selfies.

 

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Before we moved on to the next thing I tried to get a good picture of the boys together.  This is what I got.  I know it could be worse but Jays’ face isn’t exactly what I was hoping for.  A Mama can try though can’t she?

 

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What we thought was gonna be the last thing was picking a pumpkin.  There was much debate over what size pumpkin we were going to get and how many of them.  Shaunie and I were on Team ONE, NOT TOO BIG, ONE and Ace and Jay were on Team GET WHATEVER YOU WANT AND HOWEVER MANY YOU WANT.

We compromised and got one regular sized one (for Jack-0-Lantern making) and each kid also got one personal sized one.  I have no idea what they are going to do with the little ones but for $0.84 it was worth it to make them happy.

 

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By the time we had done all that – We were hungry.  We decided to head out and hit up a Chick-Fil-A.

We found snacks in the car though so we delayed our Chick-Fil-A stop and did some apple picking.  Why not?  Most of us had fun with it.  We ate a few apples while roaming around the orchard and checked out the cows in the nearby pasture.

“Someone” … (Not me or Ace or Jay) … spotted a dead possum in the grass and got a little freaked out and tried to pick the rest of her apples from INSIDE the car.  It didn’t work out so well but makes for a funny story.

 

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Overall, we had a really good day.  It never gets old having wholesome family fun with the people I love.

Happy Fall To All.

 

Science And Music? What? September 21, 2016

Sitting around the corner and listening to Jay study science with *Shaunie.
He’s learning it folks. About condensing, melting, freezing, the physical properties of matter, atoms, molecules etc.
He’s learning science!!!! At grade level. It’s not easy for him but he’s trying so hard.
He may not get an A on his test but he’s really learning and I couldn’t be more proud.
I made the mistake of thinking back on when I never in my wildest dreams could have ever imagined this. I couldn’t have imagined anything even close to this.
I don’t have the words to explain this feeling.
Too emotional.

 

 

That was my Facebook status the other day.  Our beloved Nanas commented that she always knew he’d get here.  I can’t say the same thing.  I always had high hopes for him.  Of course.  But I’d be lying if I said I always knew my son would be in a general education classroom studying the physical attributes of different kinds of matter.  I dared not assume that he’d ever be able to answer the question “What is an atom?”  Yet, that’s exactly what was happening.  

I had to dry my tears when I heard Jay get up and I realized he was making his way to where I was perched on the stairs.  

Later in the evening, I lay on the couch with him for a few minutes.

I wished him luck on his upcoming test and asked him if he liked science.  He said yes.  I asked him about math and reading.  He said they were OK but math is hard.  He said he prefers science to both math and reading.  I asked him what he thinks about his art class.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that he LOVES art.  

Lastly I asked him about music class to which he said “It’s loud in there and makes my ears hurt.”  

Jay doesn’t have a lot of sensory issues.  If he did have one though it would be related to sounds.  He’s not a fan of out-of-tune singing for example.  I asked him if he’d like me to talk to his teacher about music class.  I told him it was possible for him to do something else instead.  I thought for sure he’d take me up on that offer but instead he mulled it over for a minute and then said “No.  I will stay.  I think I can handle it.”  

These types of back and forth conversations will never NOT be a miracle to me.  

I am blown away by this child.  

 

September 4 years ago, I published posts where the big news was that Jay sat and listened to his first story.  I published posts where Jay was getting kicked out of 2 different social skills classes.  He wasn’t yet reading.  Heck, he wasn’t yet speaking in sentences.  Not even 2 or 3 word ones.  He definitely wasn’t able to take any kind of standardized test at school.  He was in an autism class where they were just trying to get through the day without anyone getting yogurt dumped on their head.  

Before bed last night, I hugged him tight and told him how amazing I think he is and how brave I think he is.  He shrugged me off.  He doesn’t get it.  To him, I’m just a Mom being mushy and weird.  That’s alright.  He doesn’t have to get it.  

 

To all the families who are currently where we were 4 years ago … I know it’s rough.  I know everything seems impossible or implausible.  I know all you want is for your child to say your name.  You don’t even know what your baby’s voice sounds like.  How can you think about science or music class?  Your brain is full – And tired.  I know you want one night of uninterrupted sleep.  You’d do anything to be done with diapers – After all your baby is now 5 or 6 or 10.  If you could just get them to eat 1 new thing you’d be happy.  You’re not asking for much.  It doesn’t have to be cauliflower.  You just cannot make ONE MORE grilled cheese sandwich.  But you will.  Cause that’s all your kid eats.  You don’t want to hear other people telling you to stay hopeful.  You sure don’t want to hear about how their child is also a picky eater.  You don’t want to hear about the things you should be doing or what worked for their neighbours kid.  You don’t feel like you are doing anything right.  You don’t want to fight with schools or insurance companies anymore.  You just want things to be easier.

My God, I get it.  

But hang in there.  It may not happen at the same rate as my son or anyone elses son.  That doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that you don’t give up.  Keep looking.  Keep trying.  Keep working.  Keep talking.  There’s no magic pill or therapy or device.  It’s HARD.  It’s ok to cry.  But just keep keeping on.  

ASSUME THAT YOUR CHILD CAN LEARN.  ASSUME THAT THEY ARE HEARING EVERYTHING YOU SAY AND ARE AWARE OF EVERYTHING YOU DO.  ASSUME THAT THEY ARE BRIGHT AND CAPABLE.  

 

The reward just might be your kid acting like it’s no big deal that they know what the volume of a mass is because in their own matter of fact way they will say “Yeah, I’m smart“.   

 

Love No Matter What August 31, 2016

 

When Jay was a baby, we struggled mightily.  There were many sleepless nights and many more tears.  He was uncomfortable and fussy a lot of the time and nothing could soothe him.  Now, when I tell people about Jay being a difficult baby, we laugh about it.  It makes for funny stories.  Back then I was falling apart.

When we got his Autism diagnosis, it was awful.  We didn’t know what that meant or what the next step should be.  I didn’t want it to be real.  I wanted him to out-grow it.  I wanted him cured.  I wanted him to have been mis-diagnosed.  As a part of his evaluation, we took him to a well-respected hospital for a hearing test.  I remember sitting there hoping that my 2 year old had a hearing problem.  Not Autism.  Hearing loss would be easier I thought.  Teach him to sign.  Give him hearing aids.  No problem.  We can deal with that.  Not Autism.  The only things I knew about it were bad and I felt ill-equipped.  And cheated.

 

For a very long time I couldn’t bear to say the word.  It would get stuck in my throat if I even tried.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  I felt like since Jay didn’t have it bad, we could hide it and that would be the best way to go.  I would cry – In my car and in the bathroom at work and while taking a shower.  The shower was my favourite place to cry.  I was embarrassed at myself and my weakness.

 

At the time, I had a coworker who had an Autistic teenager and he talked about it very openly.  I admired him and his wife.  In speaking with that coworker one day, he mentioned that even though it had been a tough road in many ways, if someone was to somehow hand him a magical pill to make his sons Autism go away, he didn’t think he’d give it to him.  As he saw it, the son he had raised and knew and LOVED so very much would then be gone.  Taking away the sons Autism was akin to losing his son altogether and being handed a brand new person.  He didn’t want a brand new person.  He loved the son he had.

That blew my mind.

I thought he and his wife were better parents than me because they were so accepting and at ease.

 

I worried.  I hid.  I bargained with the universe.  I messed up at work and almost got fired.  I barely scraped by.  I smiled and laughed when I was outside.  I was angry.  I was sad.  I told everyone that things were fine.  I felt lost.  I didn’t let anyone in, but I felt abandoned and alone.

I healed.

 

Eventually I got comfortable.  I bonded with my child.  Learned him as best as I could.  Tossed out my own agenda and insecurities and fell head first into what he liked and responded well to.  We put things in place to help him.  We developed good relationships with teachers and started talking honestly with family and friends about what was going on which allowed us to have a support system.  We found our happy.

None of it has been easy.

I wouldn’t change it if I could.  I don’t want a different child.  I love the one I have and I don’t wish for him to be anything other than what and who he is.  I want the same thing for him that I would want for any child I have and what all parents (should) want for their children – For him to be happy and for him to be the best person he can be.  I will do anything I can to help him.  I will guide him.  When it’s appropriate I will take his lead and listen to him.

 

 

When Ace started school we began to see that he was different.  The other kids were able to sit and do their work.  They didn’t talk or move constantly.  They formed and maintained friendships easily.  They weren’t quite so clumsy.  He stood out.  We made all sorts of excuses.  He’s the youngest in the class, boys will be boys, he never went to day-care so he’s not used to this kind of setting.

Then he went to first grade and things were still bad.  He actually stood out more.  We were called in for numerous meetings with his teachers.  We tried all sorts of things.  We tried to explain away his behaviours.  We hoped he’d mature over the summer.  He had another birthday.

Second grade was worse.  He got into a lot of trouble.  He started to feel badly about himself and his lack of ability to function in school.  His teachers got more and more frustrated – but they tried.  His grades started to slip.  Then came another summer where we hoped he’d mature.  Another birthday.  Third grade didn’t bring any relief.  He had his favourite teacher to date.  She was great.  He loved her.  She was trained in special education and had wonderful ideas and strategies about how to get and keep him engaged.  Nothing worked.  Other kids were breezing through.  Of course they were.  It was elementary school after all.  I thought back to my time in first through sixth grade and they were wonderful.  A real cake walk.  I saw and heard my friends brag about their kids academic accomplishments and I smiled politely.  I was resentful of (what I perceived to be) their easy road.  My kid was failing classes.  He was struggling to get through soccer practice and karate class.  We ended up quitting both.  This was not the life I had imagined.  Online I shared funny things he said and cute pictures I’d taken.

 

We had come to the end of our rope and had to make some difficult decisions if we wanted to help him.  Not decisions that any parent wants to make.  He was only 8 years old.  A baby.  MY baby.

It was hard.  I cried.  I messed up at work.  I almost got fired for a second time.  Or maybe it was the fourth time by then.  Work suffered a lot.  That also stressed me out.  I couldn’t afford to lose my job.  I Googled symptoms and treatments and therapies.  I searched online for other parents experiences.  I told everyone things were fine.  We signed him up for social skills/OT groups.  Even there, among other special needs children, he stood out.  I didn’t eat well.  I worried.  It was all I thought about.  It hurt.  I hugged him.  I prayed for him.

I healed.

Fourth grade was his best year yet.  We are relaxed heading into fifth.

The bottom line is that I love my son and I wouldn’t change him.  I don’t want to make him into a different person or wish for another son instead of the one I have.

 

I don’t pray or raise funds for a cure.  I don’t sit around wishing Jay didn’t have autism or Ace didn’t have ADHD.  To me, now, that’s like saying I wish this child I had was not here and I had a different child.  Even on the hard days.  Even when I think back on the hardest of days and nights; I would not wish these particular children away.  I cannot imagine my life without them (exactly them) being a part of it.

 

 

I read excerpts of a book by Sue Klebold and listened to an interview she did.  Her son was one of the Columbine shooters.  I am paraphrasing here but essentially what she said was:

 

For a while after it first happened I used to wish that he had never been born.  I wished that I had never gone to that college and met that man and gotten married and had that child.  If I hadn’t done any of that then this terrible thing would not have happened.  With time I came to realize that I love him no matter what.  I love him so much that I don’t want to imagine living my life without him being a part of it.  So even though the pain that he caused to others cannot be forgiven, the pain he caused me can be forgiven.  And while I recognize that the world would have been better off without him, it would not have been better for me.

 

Even the worst of us are someone’s child.  She talked about receiving threats and about how people treated her as if what her son did was her fault and feeling unwelcome when she went to the memorial site.  She knows that people are hurt; And rightfully so.  But she is hurt too.  Her son died too.  She’s not excusing or justifying what he did.  But she loves him still – No matter what.  I understand that kind of love.

 

I watched a documentary of a family who are raising a transgender child.  The parents share their pain and worry and the internal battles they fought.  They talked about how the relationships with some loved ones changed and how incredibly difficult the whole thing has been on them all, in every way.  This is not a life they would have ever chosen and it certainly is not something that they are pushing onto their child as has been suggested by some people.  They fought against it for years and put him in counseling and tried everything to make their son feel like a boy.  She said she got to the point where she would go to Church and spend the entire time praying for her son to “only be gay”.  That would be easier than him being transgender.  This was her baby.  When the mother, through tears, talked about her then 4 year old son contemplating suicide or saying that he couldn’t wait for his parents to die so he could grow his hair and wear a dress it broke my heart.  She looked at the camera and said “If your child, at the age of 6, talks about mutilating their own body so they can feel right, you get on board with what’s going on.  You stop pushing against them.  And if that’s not your way, then screw you.  My child won’t be one of the 41% of transgender children who attempt suicide.  Not on my watch.”  He is now a she.  (Socially not physically).  And happy.  It’s still hard.  Every time they leave their house, it’s a minefield.  But she loves her child and is there for her every step of the way.  No matter what.  She no longer wishes for her son back.

 

Whether you’re the parent of a girl with Down Syndrome or that of a robber or murderer.  The parent of a gay or transgender child or that of a blind boy.  The parent of a drug user or prostitute or someone autistic.  Parenting is hard and none of us have all the right answers.  We nurture them towards a certain type of life, but ultimtely we don’t get to choose what we end up with.  The bottom line is that it’s not about us or our comfort zones or our dreams.  We either love our children or we don’t.  When they need support, we support them.  If they need help, we help them.  If they need protecting or defending, well, you get it.  There is no gray area.

The love is all-encompassing.  Visceral.  Deep.  Fierce.  Tender.  Abiding.  It can render you completely broken and helpless.  Yet, even in the most broken of broken-ness; you love.  Still.  No matter what.

 

I’m not saying I don’t want life to be easy for my children.  Of course I do.  I don’t want them to suffer or be in pain or have to deal with bullies and prejudice.  I’m not saying they can do no wrong.  I am not and will not always be proud of the choices they make.  What I am saying is that at the end of the day, while I may need to adjust to some things, there really is nothing that my boys could ever do or ever be that would make me love them any less or distance myself from them.  NOTHING.  The love I have for them is automatic.  It’s a done deal.  They don’t need to earn it or maintain it.  It just is.  There is no pain or stress or cost that would make me wish I had never had precisely them.