And We’re Off!

Spring in the SouthToday, I leave The Boy in the capable hands of Fantastic Babysitter and head south for a week!  Wheee!

Due to a lack of internet access at the new house, my posts may be a bit more intermittent until the second week of April.  (Of course, if you subscribe, or like my facebook page, you’ll be automatically notified when new posts are up… just sayin’…)  I hope you’ll check in anyway and catch up on some older posts (Check out the Archives below and to the right, and the Categories just below that).  And I hope you have a great week!

Love,

Annie

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Our Latest (Recurring) Challenge

The MaelstromThe Boy and I are having issues again with things.  There are things that he thinks he needs to either bring or wear to school or other places, yet he can’t keep track of his things in his maelstrom of a bedroom.  Compound that with the fact that he is unable to search for things, and we have this recurring challenge – he will often stand in his room and look for things, but without picking up any of the million things that are lying on his floor or his bed.  “I can’t FIND it!” he will yell, as if his room is a hidden object game where everything is visible if you just look hard enough…

Getting The Boy to clean his room is like pulling teeth.  Getting him to keep it organized is nigh impossible (pulls out thirteen shirts by not being careful about only pulling out the one he needs).  And then he can’t find what he needs, and the cycle continues.

Adding routines is the answer, although this is easier said than done.  “I have to do MORE chores!!” he will exclaim when I ask him to put his clothes in the hamper, as if he can’t dirty his royal hands with them.  Adding incentives to routines — yep!  Come up with yet another chart and stickers, or something.

Tonight we sort out his room again, to look for the blue striped tie he is missing.  Round and round we go, again…

The Other Part of Our Story: The Final Installment

English: A S'mores made with a half a Hershey'...

It was a messy summer.  He left us without a vehicle for the fourth of July, so I had to rent one to get from place to place, and without my knowing, he had given our grill to a friend, so the backyard grilling I had planned for The Boy and I was almost derailed.  But my mom suggested one of those “disposable”-type grills, and we were able to have our hotdogs and s’mores and watch the fireworks on our driveway.  And we were OK.

I had waited so long at first because I had been raised Catholic – ’nuff said.  And then I waited some more because I didn’t want to end up sharing The Boy.  And then I waited some more because I wasn’t sure I could do it – be a single full-time parent to a child with special needs.

And then I realized I was already doing it all by myself.  I didn’t have to share The Boy, and probably wouldn’t (I knew his dad would fail to keep his side of the parenting agreement).  And frankly, religion had left me out in the cold with regards to my son and his needs.  I knew he needed consistency.  I knew he needed to not be yelled at, and not be spanked.  I knew after the failed counseling that none of this would change, and even though I was scared to do it alone, our trip down south reminded me that it could be better.

The ex moved out at the end of the summer.  We were arguing about who was going to pay what bills (I got stuck with piles of bills that had been left unpaid for years, he got stuck with an extra vehicle in his name).  I attempted to buy a car and almost couldn’t because of the state in which he had left my credit.  His mother attempted to sue me for money she had given us for my graduate school.  It was a messy, horrible time.

And then he moved out of the state.  And then he defaulted on the divorce papers.  And then after four months, we were divorced – the judge waived the normal six month waiting period due to the fact that the ex hadn’t paid any support, and had already moved out of the state.  And I had full legal and physical custody of The Boy.

Financially and emotionally, it was a difficult time.  But I always knew I had made the right decision.  And it just kept getting better and better.  Yes, I still have to deal with the ex’s antics from time to time, but as my attorney recently pointed out to me, I can do whatever I want.  And it is so much better at this end of the tunnel.

Nerd Day

Spirit Days: those days at school where kids dress up according to a theme, supposedly to celebrate school spirit, often planned by the school’s student council or some such group.  Again, I don’t often write about school, but it’s bothering me, and when things bother me, I write.  Wednesday this week has been dedicated “Nerd Day”.  Students are encouraged to dress up as nerds, or as some of the kids are already calling it, “Loser Day”.

I’m sure we had something similar when I was in school, and that is where my deep-rooted dislike of this type of spirit day started.  You see, I was a nerd.  Still am. Think about the number one accessory you need to dress up like a stereotypical nerd.  What did you come up with?  I bet 90% of you thought, “glasses”.  Yep.  So I didn’t even need to dress up for nerd day – I was already in costume, whether I wanted to be or not.  Whether I wanted to be identified as a nerd, or not.

I thought the trend was to help kids get away from stereotyping their classmates and people in general.  So it’s OK to do it, if it’s for school spirit?  Can you imagine if they had a “jock” day, or a “Mean Girls” day, or a “Sped” day…  Instead of embracing and celebrating everyone’s differences, we encourage the school to dress up as a stereotype.

Now, as I said, I am still a nerd.  I prefer books to people (in general), dislike partying (in general), was always studious and smart, and enjoyed rather off-the-beaten track music, movies, and senses of humor.  I cried last night when watching the last episode of Dr. Who with David Tennant as Dr. Who, OK??  I’m a nerd, and I own it, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing!

But kids?  Kids are self-conscious, sensitive, undeveloped globs of anxiety.  I think we should put more thought into stuff like this.

*stepping down off my soap box*

What do you think?  Am I overreacting?

***Update: we just received word at the end of the day that tomorrow’s theme has been changed to super hero day.

Do Men “Nest”?

English: a bird nest Français : un nid d'oiseau

a bird nest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, so no babies involved here, but The Man is super excited about working on our house to get it ready for The Boy and I.  So far on the list:

  • New front door
  • New siding
  • replacement windows
  • planting shrubs
  • fixing and possibly siding the shed/garage
  • replacing insulation under the house

He knows there’s no way all of this will get done before we arrive, but it’s rather sweet that he wants to prepare our new home for us.  And I really get a kick about talking through things together with him, planning and making decisions.  For instance, we had almost decided to finally pick up and plant the shrubs we had bought last year (!) while I am down there for spring break, until I realized that if he was going to re-do the siding, we had better wait on that.  Good thing we talked that one through!

All of this is exciting and actually makes me feel very loved.  It also feels like I’m part of a team, and that we’re working together.

Thanks to my Village

Our crisis-of-the-week has apparently averted. Fantastic Babysitter is doing me a huge favor and providing The Boy a place to stay for a night and transportation to meet the ex on the day he requested.  The ex has relented (and apparently forgotten the crazy-making way he treated me/us) and has agreed to pick The Boy up according to the new plan.  How could he say no?

SmileIf left to my own devices, this would not have been possible.  If not for a friend at work who suggested the plan and insisted that I was not “giving in” to the ex if I were able to make it happen, I would have resisted making any concessions, or lifting a finger to aid that man.  If not for Fantastic Babysitter, it wouldn’t even be possible.

And before you raise an eyebrow and think to yourself, “But what if he doesn’t show up?”, we got that covered, too.  Again, thanks to Fantastic Babysitter (Now do you see why I call her that??).

Thanks to my friends who help me whether I know I need it or not.  Thanks to my village, that helps me raise my child and be a better mom (and a better person).  Thanks to them, this will turn out OK.

Self Advocacy via PowerPoint

The Boy has a love affair with PowerPoint.  He could whip one up faster than just about anyone, and it would be engaging (if you were interested in Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario and Luigi), and you would say, “An 11 year old made that?”  In fact, I had no sitter during an evening school event the other night, so I set The Boy up in a quiet office space with my computer and PowerPoint primed and ready to go.  Not only was he self-sufficient the whole time I was occupied, he wasn’t ready to go when I was done because he wasn’t finished.

Our kids (those with autism) have so many fascinations, that those of you with kids on the spectrum are saying, “Yeah, so??” because your own kids have talents and abilities, and often they don’t seem to have any real purpose, right?

This past week, I got The Boy’s report card (pretty stellar, besides the “need improvement” in doing homework part – haha!), and his IEP progress report (again pretty awesome), and had parent teacher conferences with both his ASD and general ed teachers.  And I was made aware that The Boy’s writing has developed by leaps and bounds this year.  Writing is difficult for kids on the spectrum, because they have a hard time creating and voicing new ideas.  For example, when asked to give characters a name (even back when we bought a Webkinz!), he becomes almost paralyzed until you suggest something, and then he will automatically agree to whatever name you suggest.  Creating new ideas is hard.  Also, staying on topic is hard.  But The Boy is doing extremely well, and even developing his own “voice” in his writing, which is something that even NT kids (and adults) have a hard time with! (I am SO excited about this, being a writer-type myself.)

In any case, here’s the point of my rambling, the “why” of this whole thing: The Boy used PowerPoint to help himself become a better writer.  He developed his own graphic organizer using PowerPoint to help him with paragraph structure, and uses it daily to write his journal.  He doesn’t need to be asked, and he didn’t get any help.  And it is working.  And I am so incredibly proud of my self-advocate.

PPGO

As Prepared as a Boy Scout

To-do list book.

To-do list book. (Photo credit: koalazymonkey)

I have done what I can to prepare for possibilities.

  • I have prepared The Boy for the possibility of coming with me rather than going to his dad’s for spring break.  “But I’ll miss the cats!” he whimpered.  After a few minutes, he was OK.
  • I have offered the ex a way to pick The Boy up on the day he prefers, and he has not responded.  You see, I have deflated his sails, and he doesn’t know how to respond without losing face.
  • I have contacted my attorney to make sure we are as prepared as possible if (and that’s a big if) he decides to follow through.

I can’t do any more besides try to let the anxiety go. (As Grandma always said, “Do your best and that’s all you can do.“)

Today, I am back to running errands, planning to do taxes, getting an oil change.  Taking care of things that need to be taken care of before a trip, and in so doing, attempting to let the stress of the last week go, come what may.  I am as prepared as possible.

Threats and Knots

Binder's knotYou know how some people thrive on conflict, and when they can’t find any create some on which to feed?  Yeah, that’s not me.  When my parents (very rarely) argued when I was little, I would crawl under tables and hide in closets and they weren’t even shouting at each other.  Conflict ties my stomach in knots and makes me head for the bathroom.

The ex is one of those that thrives on conflict.  He also has anger issues, so things can escalate quickly, loudly, and threateningly.  Today, he has threatened to contest our move down south.  Not when I told him we were moving in December.  Not on February 10 which was the last time he spoke to his son until Monday.  Nope.  Today.  Why?  Because he isn’t happy that I am unable and unwilling to adjust my vacation plans (i.e. cut my vacation short by 2 days) to accommodate his inability to pick up his son in a timely fashion for his visitation on spring break.

Luckily, this escalation was all via text, and he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.  My side: all business (the parenting agreement states… I can meet you on these dates…  it is your visitation, so you need to make the arrangements).  His side:  all bluster (expletive… don’t you dare threaten me…  I will contest your move… you might be very nervous come this spring).  All in text, all documented.

And my stomach is in knots.

And I’ve contacted my attorney.

Does Anyone Else Cry When They Workout?

I’ve been working out a little bit, as you probably know, and I’ve been waking up early to ride the bike a couple of times a week.  I really, truly thought this would be hard to do, but to tell you the truth, I kind of look forward to it now.  I put on the noise canceling headphones, turn on some perfectly-timed music on my phone (thanks to the fantastic app “Cadence“), and ride for 20 minutes.  I can sometimes catch up on emails and facebook, but mostly, I listen to the music.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have always been a sucker for a good turn of lyric.  Lyrics are poetry to me.  If you don’t write well, I probably don’t listen to you (unless your song has an earworm-worthy beat and is inescapable in society).  Suffice it to say, even the music that has a tempo of 135 (my setting for my morning rides) on my phone have meaningful lyrics.

And I’ve been listening.  And crying.

What the-?

I don’t know if I’m more emotional because I’ve just woken up, or it’s because I am completely alone, or what, but something has been triggering these tears.  They aren’t always sad tears, either.  Just emotional.  And before you ask if it has anything to do with my cycle, please realize I would have figured that out by now if it did.

Nope.  I think this is not only a workout, but a cathartic release of stress, and I don’t mind it.  I feel more in tune to my big picture starting my day this way, bike facing my mantel, and the myriad pictures of the most important people in my life.  Reminding me why I’m riding, and more philosophically, where I’m headed.

Looking Ahead