The Ex and Summer Plans

The ex has never abided by our agreement which states that he is supposed to give me his intended plans for summer visitation by May 1.  It has never happened in the seven years we have been divorced. This has never surprised me because he has always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants guy, but it is problematic.

This year, we hadn’t heard much from him since April. A week or so ago, he texted me to inform me that his dad had been diagnosed with stage 5 Alzheimer’s, and as a result, he wanted The Boy for the last week in July so that he might be able to see him before it’s too late.

While I feel absolutely awful for my ex-father-in-law, as he is and was rather a sweet guy, our plans for the summer have already been made, and a huge part of that summer includes camp for The Boy.  He has always looked forward to summer camp and ESY as a highlight of his year, and when I asked him if he would prefer to go to Dad’s and miss camp, he said he thought his dad needed to make some other arrangements.  Out of the mouths of babes.

I informed the ex that the last week in July was out, but we would be happy to discuss times when The Boy was not in camp or in school, which left a few weeks in July and exactly one week in August.

He obviously couldn’t get his act together in time to make anything happen in July, but expressed interest in the one week in August, the last week before school.  If you know any child on the spectrum, you know that transitions like going back to school are a huge, huge deal, and just contemplating The Boy making a long trip in that week was making my head hurt.  But I knew in my heart of hearts that probably nothing would come if it anyway – sad, I know.

Sure enough, the ex wanted to bring him back on the first day of school, and I explained that that would not work at all.  He responded by suggesting The Boy fly by himself within an airline assistance program…

Uh… yeah, right.

How friendly are these skies, anyway?

How friendly are these skies, anyway?

In the past when he has suggested this, I have flat out said no.

This time, I didn’t.  I called his bluff.  He wants to pay for a plane ticket, pay extra for special assistance that in all probabliity isn’t even available, all when he is many hundreds of dollars behind on child support? I told him our limitations in terms of airlines that fly into this general area, and suggested he do some research to see if they were even available.  He said he would, and he was excited to have The Boy that week and be able to go camping with him.

Sigh.

What’s Been Going On

Hello, Friends!

This is high season at work, so working a few hours extra is not unheard of, and there’s a lot going on at home, too.  I just wanted to write a quick little post to say “hey!” and to give you an update.  It seems everything happens all at once, and unfortunately, it’s not the right time to write about these things in detail, but…

  • We don’t want to jinx it, so The Man doesn’t want me to write about it yet, but things are looking good in the selling-of-our-house arena
  • This ugly situation has reared it’s head again, and this time, we are speaking to a lawyer…
  • Camp will work out after all, for The Boy, but he’ll have to wait until the end of this month, which happens to coincide with the only week his dad wanted him this summer.  If you follow the page on facebook, you may remember that the ex’s dad has been diagnosed with stage 5 Alzheimer’s and he asked for The Boy the same week camp started, as well as a family reunion we are attending out of state, so I told him we could do another week in July, and have yet to hear back from him.
  • Some friends and I are looking into Rising Tide Car Wash in Florida to see if we can replicate something like that in our area for our kiddos.  We are excited!
  • I answered one of our phone lines at work and connected with a local mom who just moved here. “My son is on the autism spectrum…,” she said, and so the conversation began.  I love it when that happens!
  • Did you know it’s almost the 4th of July? Where did the summer go??

Thanks, friends, for listening and sticking around.  It’s been a tough summer so far, but how do we manage?

Simple. We Just Do.

;)

Who’s Afraid of the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Recently, I have written a few posts venting about my job. I decided to take that risk because I felt it was important to write about what happens when a person like me who cares for a person like The Boy has a work-life balance that is out of wack.  It is extremely overwhelming, and when work intrudes on home life, it can be incredibly defeating.  You need the job to care for your loved ones, but the job is actually preventing you from giving your best to your loved ones.

Today, my boss revealed to me that someone in our office made him aware of this little blog, and he has read some of it.

Luckily for me, I think it gave him some perspective he didn’t have before in regards to my need for more balance, and it was the jumping off point for a refreshing conversation between the two of us.

But now I’m left to wonder… Who wanted to get at me so bad that they would report what I say here to my employer?

This happened to a close friend of mine who had a crazy person create a big crapstorm about her handling of the finances of a nonprofit, contacting the state level people of the nonprofit (who assured her that the finances were just fine), and then even going so far as to contact my friend’s employer, anonymously of course, to insinuate that they had better check out my friend because she was mishandling money.

When you start messing with people’s livelihoods, you have a problem.

And so now, I am wondering about this little blog of mine.  I’m wondering if I still even feel comfortable enough to write here.  I’m not going to get stuck in the cycle of asking myself whether I should have or shouldn’t have posted.  This blog has never been just for you, or just for me.  It has been for all of us. But now that I know someone is reading who felt like it was necessary to take that step, use what’s written here for their own personal gain (whatever that was), and quite possibly in the end, could have hurt me and my family…

I don’t feel “safe” here right now.  And I have to think about that.

Let me know what you think.

Here We Go Again

Last week, I posted about feeling very overwhelmed, and I thank you for your patience.

Most of the reason for feeling so overwhelmed is that my job just sucks.  It does every summer. It is our peak season, and things get hectic, and my boss does not handle stress well, yet simultaneously craves it. My job duties change daily, and sometimes are diametrically opposed to what I was told to do the day before. Everything is an emergency, his schedule is incredibly erratic, and he gives no one the power to make decisions on their own.  A project that is time-sensitive may sit on your desk for days because you can’t get him to talk to you for five minutes to make a decision, and then when it doesn’t get done, the blame is placed squarely on your shoulders.  And somehow, there is always time for blame.

I got a dressing down this past week about lunchmeat, people.  LUNCHMEAT.

I’m to the point where I cry before I go to work (ok, only when it’s that time of the month… usually), and that is a very real sign that something needs to change.  Meaning I need to find a new job.

Yet, it took me five months to find this one, and I’m not exactly a shlub…

So, I look. I do the job search dance. I count the minutes and hours down during my work day. I take solace during the times when the boss is not in the office. I dream of walking into his office to give him notice, and have even toyed with the idea of simply walking out and not going back. And I hope for something better.

I really hate to wish the summer away, but this is really just too much for too little in return.

When I go, I'm taking my red stapler.  Because it's mine...

When I go, I’m taking my red stapler. Because it’s mine…

Treading Water

Hey, friends. I’m having a hard time keeping my head above water lately. There’s a lot going on.  Our busy season at work is here, and the crap is hitting the fan.  Where I work, that means the blame is flying, and my job satisfaction plummets.  The Boy is just about done with school, which means I need to be gearing up to support him with activities and enrichment for the next five to six weeks until his camp starts.  We listed our house for sale today, which meant a weekend of staining the deck and the porch, and painting window trim (and getting a really stellar sunburn while doing it), and now means keeping the house tidy for showings…

When I get overwhelmed, I start to feel like someone or something is sitting on my chest.  I have to remind myself to breathe. I have to engage in a little self talk, and I have to, HAVE TO carve some time out to plan.  Planning helps me to see the possibilities, see the light at the end of the tunnel, and keep things in perspective.

In the meantime, I wanted to say thanks for reading, thanks for sticking around after a week with no posts, and if you get a chance, please send positive vibes my way.  Congrats to the teachers for making it through another year, and remember to be nice to people in the service sector.  We’re not all idiots.  Now, I’m going to carve out some planning time so I can send some really good posts your way this month – I can’t believe it’s June already!

Not Easier, Just Different

Mom & The BoyThe other day, I pulled out all of the scrapbooks and went through them, remarking at how little The Boy was, and reminiscing. I think some people look through old photos and are wistful for easier times…

I don’t know about other parents with kiddos on the spectrum, but I don’t miss those times. They certainly weren’t easier.

Back then, I had to deal with diapers, until the age of five.  Now I have to deal with the toilet clogging on a regular basis (Thank you, Intestinal Surgery!)

Back then, I had to deal with The Boy wandering and getting lost in department stores.  Now I have to deal with getting him to get some fresh air and come out of his room.

Back then, he was obsessed with Wubbzy and Mat Man.  Now he is obsessed with Sonic the Hedgehog, and the dome lights of cars.

Of course, our history isn’t entirely one of struggle. Luckily, the blessings of that little Boy continue to make him my joy today.  He is still (even at thirteen!) affectionate, at least at home. He still has a wonderful sense of humor, and is a lot of fun to be around. He is still able and willing to participate in the world around him (as soon as he finishes his game).

Nope, I don’t miss those days — OK, maybe I miss the smell of a baby, the giggle of a toddler, and the ability to pick him up and carry him out if he started fussing. But I don’t miss not having a single clue about autism, or a single person to talk to about it. I don’t miss the what-ifs and constant worry that is only lessened with experience and time.

I’m not saying it’s easier now.  It’s just different.  And now, even if I don’t have all the answers, at least I have a clue. ;)

Did You Know? I Turned the Big 4-0…

And it wasn’t easy.  40 was tough for me to celebrate because it somehow seems so adult, so “sunset years,” and I still don’t feel like an adult, let alone middle-aged.  Now, this happened in October, so why am I wiring about it now?  Sometimes it takes things awhile to process – go figure!

  • When my mom was this age, she had a six year old.  How in the hell she did that, I will never know, because if I had to be chasing around a first grader right now?… I just don’t know…
  • When my grandpa was this age, my dad wasn’t even born yet.  Different times back then, but still… YIKES.
  • The Boy is now a teenager (technically, and physically.  Even a little mentally, too).  He will have turned 20 by the time I “graduate” to the next decade… YIKES.
  • The Man will be in his 60s by that same time… YIKES.
  • Half a lifetime ago, I was in college.
  • I have been a mom for as long as I was in public school.

All of this adds up to me feeling much more mortal, and it’s not an easy feeling. Couple that with feeling more aches and pains than I used to, an amazing ability to put on weight, and getting tired more easily, and I wonder sometimes how much longer I have.

But The Man is happy that, at least for the next few years, we are in neighboring decades.  And when I’m with him, I don’t worry too much about how old I am. :)

Why I Make “Homemade” Lunchables

I’ve been making homemade lunchables for awhile now.  At first, I hesitated to do it myself because many times, as those of you with kiddos on the spectrum well know, even slight changes to foods can make them “inedible.” This can include packaging, and many times The Boy notices things about food that I do not, so there could be textures that are slightly different between a store-bought and homemade lunchable.  I don’t rightly know, because I’m not a big lunchmeat fan, myself.  But luckily, The Boy didn’t seem to care that what I put together myself came in a green plastic (re-usable) box, rather than a bright yellow cardboard box.

Here’s why I decided to try it.  Lunchables run $2.74 right now at my local grocery store.  $2.74 times 5 days per week equals $14.62 including tax (in our state).

Purchasing the parts myself, and putting in a little prep breaks down like this:

Ingredient Costs include:

Hormel Pepperoni, 84 slices, $2.98 (enough for 14 lunchables = $0.21 per lunchable)

Generic Mozarella Cheese Slices, 12 slices, $2.74 (enough for 12 lunchables = $0.23 per lunchable)

Ritz Crackers, 120 crackers, $2.50 (enough for 20 lunchables = $0.13 per lunchable)

Capri Suns, 10 puches, $2.98 (enough for 10 lunchables = $0.30 per lunchable) *note: I upgrade to the 100% juice version*

This adds up to $0.87 per lunchable, times 5 days equals $4.64 including tax.

I save about 10 bucks a week.

I don’t contribute quite as much trash as a lunchable (I encourage The Boy to return the baggies and re-use them).

I don’t send in any candy or sweet treat, which is always included in the lunchable.

We have also done turkey and american cheese, which breaks down like this:

Ingredient Costs include:

Turkey, 16 slices, $2.78 (enough for 16 lunchables = $0.17 per lunchable)

Generic American Cheese Slices, 16 slices, $2.88 (enough for 16 lunchables = $0.18 per lunchable)

Ritz Crackers, 120 crackers, $2.50 (enough for 20 lunchables = $0.13 per lunchable)

Capri Suns, 10 puches, $2.98 (enough for 10 lunchables = $0.30 per lunchable) *note: I upgrade to the 100% juice version*

This adds up to $0.78 per lunchable, times 5 days equals $4.16 including tax.

Maybe there are people out there who want to spend an extra 10 bucks so that they don’t have to pack a lunch, but I think I’ll put in the effort.  And here’s some other cool stuff about doing it this way:

  • You can get a week’s or a month’s done all in one shot and refrigerate/freeze them
  • You can freeze the ingredients in between packings, so that they don’t go bad
  • It takes me about 10 minutes to pack a week’s worth of lunches all in one shot
  • If you get your kiddo to help you, they are learning skills for independence

To me, it’s a no-brainer, and worth a shot if you have’t done something like this.  We have recently upgraded to 8 cracker/pepperoni/cheese square combos per lunch, because The Boy is growing after all.  I also include a fruit cup, which Lunchables conveniently leave out.  But I think it’s a pretty healthy lunch for less than a dollar a day.

EC Planner: editorial calendar

Recently I sat down to figure out how I could back in the swing of things here at Simple. I Just Do.  I re-read some resources I had, and began planning (my favorite thing!), and realized I needed a space for an editorial calendar.  Then I realized I already had the perfect space, and it was under-utilized – the month-at-a-glance portion of my EC planner!

I had seen posts of others using the daily portion, but it didn’t really work for me.  So I sat down, did some brainstorming, analyzed some analytics, and came up with a whole slew of post topics, and even made up a little code for types of post.  I broke out the post-it notes (my second favorite thing!) and began “scheduling” these posts, making sure to plan a variety of types of posts, as well as topics.  Whatever posts that were not scheduled were put off to the side for revision and use in the future.  And if I get an idea for a post, now I just jot it on one of these small post-its, stick it in there, and it’ll be ready for next month’s planning session.  They are also really easy to move around – I had a different post planned for today, but it wasn’t ready, so I moved this one up a few weeks.  Easy peasy.

I’m also able to schedule my social media posts and interaction, linky parties, etc.

It may not be the most beautiful or elegant thing ever, but for me, the most important thing is it WORKS!  And I can make it beautiful later, when I get some time (yeah, right).  This is not an earth-shattering idea, but it’s always good to take a moment to reflect on what has worked in the past, think about what resources you have, and try to marry the two.  No sense in re-creating the wheel when you don’t have to. In fact that’s something good to do in just about every area of your life.  Sounds like a topic for another blog post… now where are my post-its?

5 Tips for Autism Parents for “Dealing with the School”

autism & schoolI’m a latecomer to this.  We were very lucky with The Boy’s elementary school, and his elementary teachers, in particular his ASD teachers who really acted like caseworkers, made sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.  They advocated for the kids with other teachers and with administration, they handled little problems as they came up, they didn’t think the world was ending with every not-so-good day, and thank goodness they were the foundation, the bedrock if you will, of The Boy’s education.

They spoiled us, but they also showed us how it was supposed to be.

When we moved south, I was shocked at how bad a school could handle it’s special education students.  So I fought to get a better placement for The Boy, because I knew it existed, and I knew we would lose him if we didn’t.  And we got it.

Better, but not perfect.  If you follow my blog regularly, you know that even now we have issues with certain teachers who just don’t get it, strange schedule changes that don’t make sense, and administrators all too quick to wash their hands of anything that comes up. In short, I still have to “deal with the school” from time to time, and the following are some of the best strategies I have found over the years for getting what you want from them.

1.  Listen and watch to determine who your allies are.  Before we moved here, I contacted the local autism society who put me in touch with the autism specialist for the county. She was supposed to be this fantastic resource, but I’ve watched her and listened to her, and to this day, I don’t consider her an ally.  She almost prevented The Boy from switching schools, and I’ve seen how she has handled other situations with other parents, and I’m not impressed.  On the other hand, through that placement process, I was impressed with the assistant superintendent for special education – she cut through the bull on the second day of our IEP meeting (with 14 members present), and brought some chart paper to illustrate that this really was a no-brainer, and the best placement was at his current school. If you watch and listen, you can determine who might be a good resource, and someone to turn to when something’s not right.

2.  Never trust anyone 100%.  Unfortunately, you always have to be wary, because in a school setting, people are not always at liberty to say what they really want to say, and sometimes, due to the nature of autism, they will bend the truth about something that happened (or didn’t happen), or not tell you at all.  A friend recently had a conference with two teachers, one of whom was a revered special ed teacher.  The friend and her son walked into the meeting, expecting to meet with cooperative teachers trying to find a solution, and the revered teacher began to yell at the son for disrespecting his mom at home.  My friend was so taken aback, she asked her son to leave the room, and in her words, “if that was supposed to be support for me, it definitely didn’t feel like it!” People are people, and they make mistakes.  They also change, and teachers get tired. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but just because you could depend on someone “on the inside” in the past, doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

3.  Don’t belittle the teachers.  I read on another autism blog’s Facebook page recently something about actual quotes from IEPs she’s been involved in, and it said something like “I am a taxpayer and I pay your salary!”  Ummm, no.  As a former teacher, this is just about the worst and most alienating thing you can say. Many times, teachers’ hands are so bound by mandates and the wishes of the district and administration that they have little to no power, even over what happens in their own classrooms.  Saying things like this ensures that they will not be your allies, and that can turn out really badly, in the end.

4.  Keep a poker face.  It’s ok, and even advisable to play dumb from time to time.  Earlier this year, The Boy got in trouble for making noises when entering his last class, which is supposed to be a social skills class with his autism teacher.  She had decided it was going to be a silent class, and you can imagine how well that went over with The Boy, who understandably feels like he can let loose a little at the end of the day in his little autism community.  And his teacher escalated the situation, making him more and more angry and upset.  She emailed me with a long list of all the things he had done.  Rather than retaliate, and explain to her about autism (as she clearly had forgotten all of her training for that hour), i suggested that The Boy may have needed to *insert any usual autistic reaction here*.  I could have gone off on her, asking her what the hell she was thinking, and didn’t she know that kids on the spectrum stim and make noises, and to make a social skills class a silent period is the definition of stupidity, but I didn’t.  I simply let her know that The Boy may have had a hard time with it.  Don’t tell them how to do their jobs, even if you know better than they do. Play dumb, and remind them that your kid is a kid, and will make mistakes from time to time.  Together we have to teach them what’s appropriate sometimes.

5.  Pick your battles.  Most autism parents are very familiar with this, but realizing school is not the be-all, end-all was a big a-ha moment for me.  I don’t care so much about grades, because they are based on a standardized norm, and my kid is not standardized, and definitely not the norm.  I care if he learns the content more, but again, our home life is more important than the Types of Energy and the Pharaohs of Egypt.  I have given up on the science teacher this year, who rather than modify assignments, is choosing to give my child grades based on effort.  I can’t teach him science, so I guess he just won’t get much out of the class this year.  Disappointing, but not the end of the world.  The teachers (even the autism teacher) are still giving us only a day’s notice about tests and quizzes, so when that happens, we do what we can but I don’t stress. He usually does pretty well, and what do tests show, anyway? Sometimes you bang your head on a brick wall until you realize it hurts, and then you move on.

Some of these tips seem contradictory, but they aren’t.  They’ve all helped me navigate for better resources and understanding for The Boy, and I hope you can use them too.  Do you have any tips of your own?  Share them in the comments, please!

Shared on amamasstory.com – visit her Mama Moments Monday Link-up!