Friday, June 27, 2014

Dealing with the loss of a loved one.

This is our cat, OJ. She came back into our lives after a long hiatus. This cat had been with me before my husband and I got married, before we were even engaged. I was never truly a cat person. My heart was with dogs. Dogs were fluffy, energetic and goofy balls of love. Cats were aloof and judgemental.

After my ex husband divorced his second wife, he needed a place to take the cat. I was not a big fan of cats. I was not a big fan of taking his cat, as she was truly his. She never took a shine to me. But, knowing her advanced age (21 yrs.) and that she would more than likely pass on in a shelter, I took her in.

The adjustment period was rough. She was a talker. Always a vocal cat, she had no problem letting you know what was wrong. This was a big problem, especially at night, as that when her opinions were heartily expressed. 

I didn't sleep much.

But, as we got to know each other, and she slowly realized that I was her human now, she imprinted on me. N adored her. OJ didn't always want N's affections, but she tolerated his constant need to pick her up. We both loved her.  

In February, she had not been eating and was losing weight. She was diagnosed with kidney disease, and we changed her food to try to get her to eat better. At 4lbs, this was a challenge. N started asking if she was going to die and how he wasn't ready for it. I certainly wasn't ready for it. I researched pets and death and how to approach it with children. They all said the same thing: to be honest, but not gory or scary. But nothing I found specifically dealt with having a child with Asperger's dealing with a pet's passing. I had to begin from scratch. 

 In late April, her tooth abscessed and she was very dehydrated. The vet said she would not survive the tooth extraction and that the medication may or may not work. N was very anxious about her dying. I was, too. This was the first time I was watching a pet until the end. I delayed taking her to the vet to put her down out of fear of how N and truly, how I would react. I always told him that we may have to help her along to the other side, as she was quite old. I was truthful when I told him that her time was close. 

 We were thankful that she did get better for a short while, but it did not last long. Her tooth became infected a few weeks later and her health deteriorated. She was very fragile and weak. Her purring was incredibly faint and she wanted to be held and kept warm constantly. It was then I knew that the time had arrived to guide her over the rainbow bridge.  I had taken a day off to go to an appointment, and then made plans for her later that morning. 

The veterinarians were incredibly kind and respectful of our OJ cat. I was with her the whole time, loved on her and told her how much we cared about her and how much we would miss her.

After crying myself stupid in the car, I had a few hours to collect myself and to pick up N from school. I had to tell him and it felt like the heaviest thing on my heart. He could sense something was wrong the second I walked in. He said, "Mom, it's OJ, right?"

I told him I had taken her to the vet because she was sick and that she died there. I wasn't sure if he could handle the entire truth at that moment, so I didn't offer it. I was prepared to tell him if he did. Then again, I didn't have a choice not to tell him as it would be difficult to explain her absence. 

His eyes welled up but he did not cry at that moment. 
"Mom, did you put her to sleep?" he asked.
I hadn't mentioned that I was doing it, but since he asked me and we are an honest family, I told him yes.
He asked if it hurt, and I told him no. I repeated how I stayed with her, petted her and kissed her and that she was never alone. 

He asked for a hug and he cried a little bit.
"I love OJ, Mom," he whispered. 
"I do, too," I replied.

A few weeks later, as I was driving home, I saw a cat that looked like our OJ. I knew that wasn't possible, but it looked just like her. As I entered our house, a delivery was sitting in our living room. As I opened it, a delicate cedar box with OJ's ashes was inside. N quickly took the box and put her in his room. It sits with her paw print (she was polydactyl, so she had 7 toes on her right foot).

We miss our OJ and sometimes we think we hear her walking our floorboards at night. If she's a ghost, she's the Casper kind: friendly and loving. I don't know if this is how every Aspie deals with death, but this is how we did it here. I hope it helps. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Fruits of Parenting An Aspie

Our school days are winding down and summer is approaching too quickly. How did this year fly by? Wasn't it just yesterday we were both anxious about transitioning into new schools?

N has been having what he likes to call "teenage mayonnaise" as malaise is too difficult and French for him to pronounce. We spend most of our mornings trying to get him to take a shower and keeping him from wandering into NSpace (where he daydreams), which can occupy him a little too much and make him late for school. Another game we play is, "Mom, do I have to go to school?" We've been playing this game every day for about a month. 

I do not like this game. 

However, my resolve is stronger than his and reminding him that his computer privileges are just that, he tends to turn it around. I find it humorous and ironic that for someone who gripes so much about school that he excels at it. Then again, his new computer has been the cause of his malaise, ennui and general pre teen beast like behavior. I would like to set it on fire.

 But lessons must be taught. And limits must be set. And good behavior must be rewarded. 

N has to do a book talk each trimester. Nothing gives me more gray hair and anxiety than the child in the midst of a typhoon panic about an assignment due. But, like the lighthouse on a rock I am, (or at least how I imagine I am) I am able to help N through those times.

This trimester we were able to find a book he liked. Ironically, it was one I had picked up for myself. N gravitated towards it and swallowed it up.

Instead of a traditional book report, N used Powtoon to make an interactive powerpoint presentation. 

The day before grades were due (which, in even more irony was Friday the 13th,) N calls me up in a anxious froth. "OH MY GOD, Mom, I have 2 projects due TOMORROW!" This was a surprise to me, as I didn't think he had anything due. He was beside himself and using evasive maneuvers to avoid anything resembling work. I was able to talk him off the proverbial ledge and told him to do a blog post, (as I figured this would take care of at least one of the two assignments and something we could easily go over together) I would pick him up from school. 

As I am entering the school, the SPED liaison catches up with me in the parking lot. She said, "Wow, N's book talk was SO amazing! The teacher was very impressed." She also told me that N didn't have to do the two other book talks. We both agreed to let N do the blog post as additional work. I ran into the teacher when picking up N and she echoed what the liaison said. "What an interesting and creative talk. N had the whole class engaged and asking wonderful questions. The class didn't know that he had Asperger's and he was so brave to share it with his peers."

 Feather, knock me down. 

N looked so sad and forlorn when I finally saw him. "Mom, I'm so depressed. My teenage mayonnaise is acting up again." I took his hands in mine and shared with him what I heard from his teachers. That little impish smile curled up on his lips and his face scrunched up into little boy like glee. 
Then he asked for more computer time. I laughed. I said, "How about pizza and pink lemonade instead?" He agreed. 

I asked him how it felt when he took the time to do his work, do it well and then get praised and rewarded for it. 

"It feels awesome, " he beamed.  For me, too, kiddo. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Transition like WHOA.

It's become very obvious my child is growing up much faster than I would like. Or to be more clear, he's growing up faster than I am able to mentally prepare for. 

This adolescence stuff is damn challenging. 

He started it last summer, where his pediatrician said, "Well, he's in the midst of puberty." I smiled to myself and nodded heartily, as yes, he was. He's grown about 6 inches this past year. His voice has dropped 19 octaves and his appetite is out of control. Welcome to almost 12 years old. 

I want to congratulate myself for getting him this far without doing any major damage. (Yay!) But I know I'm in a not so sturdy spot as I am not well prepared for this transition. (Whoops!) Top that with the Asperger's component, and well, it's not a well spoken about subject. I'm doing a lot of research.  

I'm doing a bunch of personal reflection, too. I recall my younger days and going through the same change. It was so awkward and tinged with shame. I recall the day I got my period and that night my mother walked in the door with a brown paper bag full of maxi pads and announced to the house, "You're a woman now."  I was 10 years old, by the way.  I was ushered into the bathroom with three other female adults. I sat over the toilet with my underpants near my knees, getting instructions on how to use a maxi pad. I wish I made that story up. Awkward. 

The sex talk I had with my mother at around age 14 was down right awful. Her advice? "Sex is dirty. Men are only after one thing. Wait until marriage."   That's all I got. I couldn't ask my older siblings, as they both got pregnant or got someone else pregnant early and they didn't wait until marriage, so I knew that advice was a little faulty. I would never ask my father.  I had to find out through friends what the heck was up. 

So...I said to myself that if and when I had children, that I would make sure that their experience wouldn't be shameful or awkward, or at least significantly less than what I went through.

And the talks have commenced. It's never at a convenient time or place. For me it was as I was walking to my car after work and my son says, "Mom, I need to tell you something." I could tell by the tone of his voice that it was serious. I asked, "Is this something I need to sit down for?" He started to tell me something he said he had been hiding from me and he wanted to be honest. One thing that I always have stressed with him is that being honest is always the best route, even if it is the more painful route. 

Ho boy, he was honest. 

I responded calmly with understanding and grace. He responded with calmness and a clarity I never thought he could muster independently. He was so articulate and raw, but with a genuine understanding of what he was saying. I was so very proud of him. I was also honored that I was the first person he told and that he was comfortable enough to talk to me anyway. Because, well, you know...I'm his MOM. 

This is just the first step in many steps up this hill of being a teenager. I know that it won't be easy and will progressively become more difficult to navigate. I do know that we have a very strong bond between us and that we can sail through any storm. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

All The Homework: An Asperger Ninja's Unofficial guide to Homework ( now with extra meme!)

As you may or not be aware, dear readers, is that my son doesn't like to do his homework. Not only does he not like to do it, he was actively HIDING it from me. 

Now, Aspies tend not to lie very well, as they are for the most part, logical beings. The concept of lying doesn't come to them easily. However, the fact that my son is not only lying but actively lying is an impressive skill. 

Impressive, but not one that I want to encourage. 

But...he's still doing many things to escape work. Like hiding it. "Forgetting" it. Blaming Asperger's for it. Having to "take care of the cat". 

So, I feel alot like this:

and this:

and then N responds with this:

And of course, this: 

Welcome to Executive Functioning Deficit! This is absolutely true. Given a due date for a project, N will not do any work, until the DUE DATE. It's very frustrating and anxiety inducing. 

The biggest culprit is his Social Studies class, where the teacher says, "Hey kids, here's this packet that's due every Friday." N is like, "Whoohoo! No homework! I'm ready to tear my hair out. Giving an assignment like that to an Aspie and ADHD kid is like giving him a bag of angry wet cats to deal with. 

That cat is going to murder your face. Now what do you do? 

Needless to say, his grade went down significantly in this subject. We do have a plan. Or an old plan we're revamping. But a plan!

Custom Built Binders.

I took a workshop with Sara Ward, who is an expert on working with kids with EFD. As the homework for kids is already a chore, imagine the organizational processing that has to go with that. She recommended a custom binder. 

(sorry, couldn't get these to rotate!) 

This is the cover. He was fond of the recent Keanu meme I made so he wanted this for the cover. It makes it personalized and gets him engaged in making it "his" binder. 

This is the inside of one of his subject folders. Each one looks the same on the inside. It has a DO side and a DONE side. All work that is due ( or to do) is on the left. It only goes on the right when it's DONE. 

I added this into his school homework book (which I am not a big fan of, as it is too stimulating and has too much information, but I can manage). I want to let him know that even though he's growing up, a little encouragement from mom is good. 

MCAS is this week for 6th grade, so a big sticker to remind him that he has two days of testing. He literally had NO idea that it was happening this week.

This system seems to work for us. I've had other parents ask me to guide them through it and they have also been pleased with the results.  It's not perfect, but its better than the alternative.

I keep on forgetting that N is still a KID. I know he doesn't look or sound like one, but he is still only 11. He's growing up and being bombarded with a tsunami of emotions and hormones and his mother nagging him to death. 

I remembered to take it slow with him and give him some space and not be so harsh on him. There are some things he does need to learn, but he doesn't have to grow up right away. I'm not ready to let that go. We both have a lot of learning to do. 

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bombs and Balms

Last week the daily to do list was daunting in this domicile. I am still taking stock of the situation and staying serene in spite of our snarling psyches. 

Check out my word use. I'm throwing down some LEARNING on all y'all. 

The other day, N was eating breakfast and he picked up my lip balm. If you're not aware, I have a lip balm problem. A BIG lip balm problem. At any given time, I have about 10 - 12 lip balms around the house. Two in my car. Three in my purse. Two at work. Just in case I don't have one handy. 

To give you some context about how SERIOUS a problem I have, after a surgical procedure and I was coming out of some heavy sedation, my first question to the anesthesiologist was, "Where is my lip balm?"

Yep. That bad. I also have a serious problem with pens. But that is for another day. 

N said, "Hey Mom, this is your lip bomb." 
I laughed and said, "Did you say bomb?"
He replied, "Yeah, bomb." 
I said, "Bomb is B-O-M-B, like Boom!  Balm is B-A-L-M,"
"They sound the SAME, Mom. Really?"
"Yes, for real."
"Ugh, you're so lame." 

Everyone is a critic. 

As we already knew here at Camp Sheridan, N is not going to be the next Hemingway or J.K.Rowling. He just isn't. Unfortunately, N thinks that this gives him liberty to not learn how to navigate the English language and 
 develop critical thinking skills. Just a few necessary things to pass High School.

I got a call from the school today that N wasn't feeling well and was dizzy. I was a little concerned that this was ANOTHER avoidance tactic from my son, but when I talked to him directly, he did sound not quite himself. Leaving work early, I manage to get there in about 15 minutes. 

I met up with the SPED liaison, who is tremendous. She thought the same thing about N. I gave her the run down about the previous week. Sympathizing with my pain and anguish, and there was much anguish, we're going to meet up soon to go over some new strategies. 

I met up with the nurse and saw N on the cot, he looked a little weak to me. He said he was happy I didn't come in and make a big fuss about him. We left after he had drunk some water and cleaned out his locker. Note to self: Get locker shelves and clean out locker more often. 

Look, Mom, I'm READING...

I think what is becoming more apparent to this parent is the level of involvement required to ensure your Aspie's child success. It does get more intense as they age. They need you more. They struggle more. They get anxious more. They are not done being "raised".  I am certainly working to give him those independent skills, I'm a huge proponent of that. But I have no delusions that when he's 18 he'll be off to college completely prepared.  It's a life long commitment.

So, we managed to get through trimester 2 of 6th grade and we're preparing for trimester 3. I just finished my homework for my class at 6:38 AM and am now going to rouse my tween. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I dislike Asperger's sometimes.

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I'm not a big fan of Asperger's Syndrome right now. The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging and incredibly stressful for the both of us. The previous week I was going through those monthly changes that you sometimes get as a woman. I'm lucky that for the most part, I'm not affected by the horrific side effects. 

Notice I said for the most part. 

Last week was such a drain on my resources, both mentally and physically. It felt as if I had to scrape myself off of the floor most days. My moods were incredibly erratic and I felt out of control. 

One Thursday last week I had a very trying hour with my local bank over my 403 b which I was attempting to roll over. How I managed not to be a homicidal maniac after that episode, I'll never know. I went home and saw N and started to weep. He asked, "Mom, why are you crying?"

I honestly didn't have an answer. I told him, "Well, buddy, sometimes we need to cry and we're not sure why. I think I need a blanket."

N understood that so he went into his room and got me what he calls "N Therapy", which is covering me with blankets, pillows and some of his stuffed pets. I think I stayed under the covers for almost an hour, weeping intermittently. 

I like Asperger's like that. 

I don't like Asperger's when its mixed in with hormones, which I where I am with N. It's a monumental climb right now.  

His biggest challenge is homework, of course. The executive functioning piece of it is so overwhelming for him. I completely get that. I do my absolute best to give him all the tools to be able to break down his assignments into absorbable chunks. These chunks make it easier to get through long term projects. 

However, Aspie brains don't always understand this. 

The Aspie brain sees a three month project with three books needing to be read and three ways to report it (book talk, blog and book cover art) as IT ALL NEEDS TO BE DONE ALL AT ONCE! RIGHT NOW! OH MY GOD THE HORROR!

This trimester, N panicked. He came to me three weeks before the books were due and said, "I'm two and a half books short." Which, of course, set off BOTH of our anxieties. I quickly came up with a plan to have him read for an hour each day to get it done. He ignored it. He said he did do it and he really hadn't. Typical avoidance behavior. I took away his computer time until he got all of his work done. Then he would "forget" he had homework after he had gotten his screen time. More anxiety and frustration ensued. 

This week I tried a new tactic. I said, "Read x number of pages per day." This seemed to work. It's less of a challenge for him time wise, as his sense of time passing isn't strong. He was making progress. And then he began to lie about needing to go home. "Mom, I'm hungry." "Mom, I don't feel well, I need to go home."  "Mom, I did all my homework and now I'm going to go and tend to the cat." 

All of these phone calls and texts during my work time. I encourage him to text me, as I can discreetly take texts at work. But not phone calls.  If I don't answer immediately, he'll keep calling back and he'll panic.  I couldn't argue with him over the phone, so I let him go home. 

Finally, after 4 days of him abusing his privileges, I have to lay down the law. I told N that he would have no privileges until his books were read and one of the three projects was done. 

He went completely ballistic. Hysterical crying. Self deprecation. Hitting himself in the head with his book. Threatening to harm himself. Declaring he wanted to never exist. His rigidity as he's gone through puberty has only increased. He's miserable, sad and confused. 

I'm doing everything I can to remain calm and neutral, but my insides are screaming to tell him to stop. Yelling to tell him to think about what he's saying.  My heart beats faster and rapidly fills with ice. My anxiety is raging. N's anxiety is through the roof. But I'm removing attention until he self regulates. 

It takes a few hours for him to truly be at a 1 so that we can talk about what is expected of him. He is truly very intelligent and smart. This is not an academic issue. It's an executive function issue coupled with anxiety and with a sprinkling of hormones to make it pretty. And it's ugly and messy and confusing. I feel like I'm completely out of my league. 

And I'm being reassured that this is NORMAL.  So, since Asperger's is in the mix, I'm going to have to triple that result. 

I'm currently not a big fan of Asperger's right now. It's part of my life and I've been through hoops of fire more challenging than this. I'm truly surprised that I have all of my hair left. But, I'm a Sheridan and as I tell N and as I remind myself, we never give up.

 I'm preparing for the Asperger's Zombie Apocalypse with more books, more understanding and more tools.  Homework will be broken down even farther, with color coded charts to help him see his progress and document his success. He's doing very well in his Social Skills group and that is helping him build confidence, which will continue through the Spring. Through all of the turmoil, there is always the love and understanding we have for each other. I'm a lucky mother that my son still says he loves me almost every day. I will continue to encourage him to work hard to be and love who he is and I will strive to be worthy of such a special and unique soul and to love even harder this gift from God. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Seeing the Light

A long time in between posts, but now is a good time to share all the wonderful things that have been happening in our lives.

Middle School happened. We both knew it was coming, but didn't really have the concept of what that meant until the first day when it was the first time that he was coming home by himself. And with his own keys. And with his phone. (Well, MY phone, but you get the idea). I was beside myself with worry when he didn't text me the second he got out. I had my neighbor check in on him. Safe and sound.
I have a new job. I am working in an elementary school as a SPED teaching assistant, but that's a limited description. I do whatever they tell me! (haha!) I could be working with a variety of kids from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Each day seems to fly by. I LOVE it. 

His transition to a man is happening. His voice is dropping. He's much taller. He's putting on weight. (We're at 2 gallons of milk a week just for him). He's more active. His brain is expanding with all the homework that he's doing. 
He's able to handle stressful situations better. There are days he'll have struggles, but for the most part, it has been smooth sailing. 

Until there was homework. 

And the stress of homework. And coming home and having to DO it. And me hovering over his shoulder and (no doubt) adding to the cloud of doom that followed him when he got home to do it. And the organization piece. And the studying for tests. (Which he has a natural recall, and doesn't really HAVE to study, but he didn't understand why studying was a part of homework). And also him running home to play on the computer ad nauseum. 

Some days it took an hour. Most days it was 3. Add hormones to the mix and Whoa Nelly. (He was also avoiding work by skipping work and taking detention. What kid actively chooses detention? Apparently mine. It took me about a week to figure this tactic out.)

The other day we were talking about how he has two diagnoses and that each one contributes to the way that he is. He's working so hard to be seen as "normal" but also he doesn't want to lose his own unique and awesome individuality. He's seeing more often how his challenges are more visible to others and that can be a source of frustration for him. 

Last week we had an epic blow out about homework. I had asked him to revise his writing (common site words and basic punctuation), and he just lost it. Threw his bedclothes on the floor, took his mattress and hurled it across the room. Door slamming. Screaming , "Why can't I be a normal boy? Why is this so HARD?"  Both of us were at wit's end. We were crying out of frustration. We had to reevaluate our house rules and decide on more clear expectations. Homework club was introduced the following Monday, where he leaves school and goes directly to work on homework. There are teachers and assistants to aid him with his assignments and he gets CHECKED multiple times. Computer time is limited to 1 hour a day and more can be earned with good behavior, study habits and grades. He was not fond of this plan, but was flexible to do it. 

The first day after homework club, his smile had returned. All of his homework was done and you could visibly see the anxiety had been removed from his shoulders. The second day was a repeat of the first, just positive results and almost no anxiety. 

Today was his IEP meeting and never have I had such a positive and glowing review.  He's reading AT grade level. A year ago he was reading at a low 4th grade level. 

All the comments from his teachers are: "He's a pleasure to have in class. He's engaged and interested in learning"

He's a B student. A B STUDENT. I was truly expecting low C's due to his lack of interest and verbal distaste of school. I was flabbergasted. His Language Arts teacher was impressed by his ability to retain information and his desire to learn. He's doing almost 9th grade vocabulary. 

My kid? Honor roll bound? I say hell YES! 

I almost wept. I was so overwhelmed with my son's achievement. But, truly, deep down, I knew he has it in him. He just had to be properly motivated. This shot of independence and a hearty growth spurt has done him a world of good. 

I know that there are more challenges coming and that we are not out of the woods. I do know that if we stick together, hold hands and adjust to the dark, we can better see the light before us.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Growing pains

Late August tends gives me anxiety. It's that time where things change whether I like it or not. New schedules, new routines, and now, a new school for the boy. Middle School hangs over us and we're both affected by it.
He's grown physically about an inch since he graduated at the end of June. He's much taller and leaner. He's started the transition from being a boy to being a young man. It's awkward being the female in the household sometimes. It's awkward being the parent of a pre-teen. It still does not compute in my brain how much time FLIES. Wasn't it yesterday he was spinning my rings like a prayer wheel as he fed from his bottle? I get what feels like a meteor just ripped a hole in my chest when I think of it.

I'm trying so HARD not to miss it. It is not lost on this mama that my time with him wanting to hang out with me is potentially if not guaranteed to be limited. I'm not as cool as he would like me to be, but I'm trying different ways of having that good old fashioned "quality time", without it being or feeling forced.

Ice cream helps. We went out the other night and we talked about our family, my family and my parents, whom he has never met. I try to talk about them so that he knows I had parents and wasn't hatched from an alien pod.  We chatted about why he was an only child and how he felt about it. He asked if I wanted another one and I said I had. I had always dreamed of two.

 I had two miscarriages before Nate was conceived (one was particularly hard) and experienced birth trauma after Nate was born. It felt like I had done something wrong to make me not deliver him naturally and had denied us the possibility of siblings. It came out in therapy years later. I didn't explain this to him.

I said, "It was not in the cards for me to have more than one, but I am so grateful the Universe blessed me with you."
He smiled. That's all I needed.

We went away to visit my sister on the Cape this weekend. I rarely get away time during the summer. It's starting to grate on my soul. I can't recall a summer where I wasn't working the entire time. 

Me and my sister. :) 

We drove down early on Saturday and we had such a ball in the 24 hours allotted to us. A visit to the Edward Gorey House.   (Which I have been delaying going to for years)Lunch at Chipotle, playing with her menagerie of animals. A walk on the beach. Dipped cones. Just what summer is about.  It was incredibly refreshing for the both of us. The boy spent a good deal of time with his cousin, laughing, playing, rough housing, eating every bad thing in the house.  I also got 6 loads of laundry done for free. A true vacation. :) 

We left early this morning, as to not get stuck in traffic. I managed to leave my purse at my sister's house, but she caught me just as I was going over the Sagamore bridge, so she met me at the rest stop. (Thank goodness!)

This week he is finishing camp with me at my site, which is a change of pace. He's with peers his age, and they are neurotypical, so a new scenario for him to handle. He's been amazing. He jumped right in. He's fumbled a bit socially and it can be awkward, but a "normal" awkward. None of the kids have come up and asked "What's wrong with him?" or "Why is he so weird?" He's navigated most of the situations on his own. I am there only to assist, not to tell him where to go. That is one my goals in life. To give him the guidance to follow his own path. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Horribles Parade

Remember that lovely and touching post about how amazing my son is and how we've overcome major obstacles to get to where we are? How I talked about how very hard he has worked? How polite he is? Wasn't that Sunday?

Monday was not that day.

Monday started at 5:40 AM with the cat doing her caterwauling thing. She does this at the top of the stairs and there is a convenient gap in the door to my room where the noise seeps down the steps and into my ears. I immediately grab my phone, see that it is 5:40 and groan thinking it's much too early for this animal to be making any noise.

60 seconds later, the boy wakes up and immediately opens the door to my room, with cat in tow. She is mewling at being held against her will. He jumps in the bed with the cat and he lands on my bladder, which is a lovely way to be startled out of sleep.

 The cat wants to cuddle and she does so. Against my face. With her butt. Cat drool commences and I am overwhelmed with it, as it's ice cold. The boy decides now's a good time to pet (aka torment) the cat, and pets her vigorously. Cat pushes her butt towards my nose and then she shakes, so I'm covered in feline poop stink and drool.

It's 5:46 AM.

I make an executive decision to get the heck out of the bed, as it's WAY too crowded for me. The boy then says he wants to eat. I figure since it's early I can make pancakes and I do so. I feed the cat, and she sticks her nose up at the bowl. I make a mental note that she probably hates this food, too.

I finish the pancakes and put some dark amber agave on them, which I have done before and he has eaten before. He takes a tiny taste and immediately HATES the whole plate of food. He WILL NOT TOUCH IT. I have flash backs of him not eating anything with a color race through my brain. I think I'm getting dizzy. I'm upset I have to chuck a whole plate of food. He says he's still hungry. I told him I already fed him once and now he's on his own. He pouts and grumbles at me. He asks if he can eat the three remaining  plain pancakes. I tell him yes. I proceed to stuff my face with my pancakes, as I need the energy to be able to deal with him and my other 40 afterschool kids. I already know that it's going to be a long day. 

We're supposed to go to the beach, but there is not a chance I'm going to win that battle, so I choose to not go. I make the appropriate phone calls. I tell him that we're spending the morning at home, but I do have to go to work. The rest of the morning goes relatively smoothly. I get him settled and go out for an iced vanilla americano, which was like the best thing ever that day. I figured I needed to be caffeinated or I would become pretty grouchy and / or surly.

We head to work, I have my meeting without incident. We get in the car to get some lunch. I know he hasn't eaten since 6 AM and I am craving Burger King. We get there and the line is long. He's usually good about waiting, but he will sometimes jump all over me if he's bored or he'll keep touching me until I'm annoyed. Yeah, he did both. Hard to order a sandwich with a hyperactive 10 year old waving his hands in my face. 

He takes a sandwich, unwraps it, inspects it and deems it not worthy to eat. I look at it and realize he's unwrapped my sandwich. I tell him to unwrap the other one. He does, and without taking off the top bun, he bites into it. 

The horror ensues. 

"THIS SANDWICH HAS CONDIMENTS ON IT!" he exclaims loudly after biting a huge chunk out of it.
I take a gander, and yes, it does does: ketchup, mustard and pickles. The dreaded trifecta of stuff on a burger. He is horrified, which is strange as he's been very flexible about me just wiping it off with a napkin. Which I offer to do, and I do. He turns his nose up at it again. 

My son's worst food nightmare

"I won't eat it, " he warns. "That's okay. You can either eat this one you have right now, or you can go in line and get yourself another one."
"NO," he threatens. He's testing me now.
"That's okay, too."
"Mom, it came with STUFF on it." he pleads.
"I know, buddy. Who ordered the burger?"
He thinks for a moment. "I did."
"Yes, you did. And did you remember to ask them not to put stuff on it?"

I see defeat in his eyes, and he's sad now. Which is not where I wanted him to go. He starts to shame spiral to himself and bang his head on the table a few times. I try to calm him down and he's not listening. I'm finally able to get him to focus and to remind him that if he's ordering for himself, he needs to remember that burgers always come with stuff on them and he has to request them plain. It's not a terrible thing that happened and that it is not the end of the world. 

I manage to get him in the car and I go to work with him in tow. He's still a ball full of energy most of the day. He tries to interact with some different 5th grade girls and his behavior is all excited, which means he's usually showboating or doing some kind of behavior to bring attention to himself, which is repetitive. It doesn't go well and the girls ignore him, which makes him feel sad and shameful, and he's on his hands and knees, his head to the ground, crying. I go over to see what's going on and he won't talk to me. I tell him I want to help him, but he has to let me in. He does manage to get up and start playing with different friends, which is a relief.

I spend a good deal of time redirecting him, as he's interacting with a variety of  peers and getting them all riled up. He's testing his boundaries, of course, and seeing how far he can go since Mom is in charge. I give him some leeway, but not much. My exhaustion is at its peak and I'm so ready for another coffee. I tried to remember my mindful mini meditations, but I grabbed a piece of chocolate instead.

We finish the day and I am thankful that he and his pals get to run around some more before I take him home. This helps burn off any excess energy, which he apparently had in spades.

As soon as we walk in the door, he's starving and proceeds to eat at least one of each type of snack we have in the house. When they say boys can eat you out of house and home, oh my goodness, they were NOT kidding! I tell him he doesn't have too long on his computer, as he needs to go to bed early, which fortunately, he does.

He went to bed at 9:15 PM after having been awake almost 16 hours.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

This was the end of your first year in school. You were 4 years old, going on 5. You were the youngest in your class. Pre-school was a difficult time for you. Leaving me was tough. Listening to instructions was even harder. You were still in a hitting / biting / pushing phase. You cried. Alot. I cried, too. We both cried over a variety of things.  I recall many times after dropping you off I would hear your pleading voice ghost down the hall way and I would be crumpled up in a ball around a big cement wall, steaming tears pouring from my eyes. I wept mostly because I felt like I was doing the wrong thing and I wasn't a good enough parent.

 I have felt this way most of your time here on Earth. Anxiety will do that to you, as well as doubt, fear and shame. You have dealt with this on sometimes a daily basis, and I have done my damnedest for you not to see it. Alot to ask of any child.

We've struggled financially, which has always been on the forefront of my mind. When I left your father, I had no plan, no goals, and no money. We had to radically change our way of living in order to keep the house from going into foreclosure (and some miraculous intervention with my personal pleadings to the loan officer) before we sold it. We wore many layers of clothing to keep us warm and kept the heat down as low as we could stand it without risking the pipes freezing. We ate the same thing for 4 to 5 days in a row. We unplugged every electronic thing we owned if we weren't using it to save on electricity. We didn't go out to eat at all. I thrift shopped for your clothes or took donations of old clothes from friends. For about 18 months I bought no new or used clothes. My sneakers had holes in them. I bought food and produce from the day old racks. There were days I had to shamefully ask co workers for $5 for gas so I could drive the car home.  I never showed you the additional tears I spent late at night fretting over which bill I could pay or how much I felt like I wanted to throw in the towel.

But...I always managed to keep you in clean and neat clothes and happily fed, albeit simply fed. We laughed at movies we watched on Netflix and played the same board games endlessly and laughed the whole time.  We baked cookies and you loved eating them right out of the oven. We drew endless pictures and made up stories about them. We read I SPY at night with a flashlight. We went to the park, to the library, to a coffee shop..places that were both fun and free. I went without many things, but never a complaint passed my lips because I wanted you to have so much when we had so very little. Truly, there was no other choice. We HAD to survive. Survival was our only option and I've always believed in it. We could do it. 

  It took me until this year to realize that I will never make mountains of money with what I do for a living and that is OKAY.  The other day in the car I had expressed concern that I wouldn't be able to take you on a trip that you had expressed alot of interest in (and that I had experienced huge anxiety about not being able to provide) and you said to me,

"All you need to do is be true to yourself and be a good mom"

The tears were immediate and fierce and I covered my mouth to stop myself from openly sobbing. Where does that kind of wisdom come from? You're not supposed to know how to say that kind of stuff. But aren't you? Haven't I been instilling that type of confidence in you from the time you were small?

 I asked you, "Have a been I good mom to you?" He said, "You're the best mom for the best kid in the world."


I don't know if I deserve that title every day, as I am sure I can be a pain in the behind. I have things like rules, and manners and expectations. :) I can also delve right back into an anxiety spiral of epic proportions with or without warning. I  graduated from therapy earlier in May after having dug deep into my own painful and colorful psyche for over 2 1/2 years. I did it without any medication. I did it without the help of Diet Coke (which I drank like it was my JOB). I did it while trying to live our crazy and hectic life, journalling away as I could, going to school, writing heavy papers on the unspoken details of my life, dealing with super challenging kid behaviors (including yours), navigating complicated but loving relationships, working as many hours as possible, trying to stay organized to keep us from imploding every morning as you struggle to find your shoes at the tips of your toes and I struggle to find my sanity at the bottom of my yogurt cup.

I realized that not addressing my demons and my skeletons was making life harder for the both of us. I struggled through all that confusing and difficult mess to get to a place where for the first time in my life, I am finally feeling a genuine sense of peace. And I am passing that along to you and to us as a unit.
We have become stronger, closer and more open to each other. We are not afraid to share how we feel, which has always been a touchy point with us, but definitely not as much as before.

This week you graduate from elementary school. In the grand scheme of the world this is not a big deal, but to me, it is a big deal. You may not realize or comprehend how absolutely HARD you worked to get here. In the beginning of your academic career, there was concern that you wouldn't be in a regular classroom and that you would never be integrated. You quickly surpassed that hurdle and now, you are headed to Middle School with some supports still in place, but only if you need them. You're ready to take on many subjects and care for the animals in the classrooms. You want to stop taking trumpet and take up Chorus (where you feel you can express yourself more). You're doing Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert and Sullivan, no less) this summer with me, which will give you more of an education in vocal training than anything out there. You'll be a senior camper at your summer camp, and you're excited to go and try out new things.

But mostly, I think this time is for me to reflect on things and see what an incredible kid you always have been and that you got here on your own energy and determination. I was told so many things were not possible about you: emotionally, physically, academically and we proved them all wrong. You are ready for this transition. I believe and have faith I raised you right.