Goodbye 2014

Here is my obligatory end-of-year post.

2014 was what it was.  7th grade brought new issues for The Boy, and by extension, for us at home.  We never stop learning. And we never stop being amazed at how much we have to learn.

This time of year is a natural time to reflect and plan, and I have much to be thankful for from 2014, and much to look forward to in 2015.

I’m thankful for my good-paying job that does much to support our family in a fairly comfortable fashion, even though it makes me absolutely crazy in the summer.  I actually really enjoy it in the winter, so we shall see what the new year brings.

I am so extremely thankful to have The Man in my life.  He is my rock, my partner in crime, the one who holds me at night, and cracks me up during the day.  There is no one on Earth I would rather have by my side than him.

I’m thankful to have my parents so close after being so far for so long.  It’s a joy to see the relationship between The Boy and his grandparents so strong.  We are lucky to have that, I think.

In the coming year, my first priority is to find more balance.  I’ve been struggling with this.  I work more hours now, for less money, and much of my off-time is wasted in front of the TV.  I plan to use more time in the evenings to work on the necessary things that fall by the wayside too often, as well as the things I’d like to do, which also get pushed to the back burner. This may not be a welcome change at first for The Man, who sees our TV-watching time as time spent together, but in the end, I hope he’ll see it as necessary to my sanity, and therefore a good thing for our relationship. 🙂

I also need to spend more time with my parents, and I already have some plans  in the works on how to accomplish this.  Time is so dear, but it marches on, as well.  And I don’t want to wake up ten years from now and wish I had done more and taken more time.

Thank you, dear readers, for hanging in with me this year.  I know I haven’t been posting as regularly as I have in the past, and that is another priority for me in the coming year.

Have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve, and enjoy your loved ones.

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An Open Letter to the Ex

Our son is thirteen now. I wonder if you are shocked by how much he has grown every time you see him. The last time it had been over a year. This time, eight months. I know he’s grown because I have to buy him new pants for every band concert. The size 18’s from last spring were way too short last week so we bought some 29/30’s. I wonder if headlines with autism catch your eye, or if you’ve ever read anything about it. I wonder if you remember anything from the year and a half between the diagnosis and when you left. I wonder how you spend time with him when he’s with you – do you try to connect or do you just coexist? Feeling a little schadenfreude as I hope you experience some of the pubescent rage we have witnessed this fall. But not too much because I wonder if you could handle it, and know I’d rather not find out. In a few years we will have been divorced longer than we were married and the boy will have lived longer without you than with you. That should scare the bejesus out of you, but it doesn’t seem to even register on your radar. Shocking to realize his speech teacher at his school last year who saw him once a week spent more time with him than you have in the last year, and knows him infinitely more than you do.

I wonder a lot, but it isn’t my place to know. That’s between you and him. The question I will never get an answer to is how. How do you live without him?

So I shake my head, sigh, give him to you for Christmas and cross my fingers. This never gets easier.

We Are Destroying Our Children

On the news last night, they featured a music program in a California school system that was funded by a grant because there wasn’t any money in the school budget for it.  This is not new, this happens all the time, but while watching this program I began to cry.  Not like, “Oh, that’s so sweet, and isn’t that great for those kids.” No, this was different.  These tears were more like, “This is completely and utterly unacceptable that our schools cannot afford arts programs.”

Do you know where the money is going?  It’s going to Pearson, and companies like Pearson who charge for their testing programs, for their test prep materials, even for their “professional development” programs – “experts” that they have chosen to send to schools willing to pay enough for the wisdom on… you guessed it, how to get the kids to pass the test.  How to teach more, faster.  How to determine what not to teach, so that you can teach the really important stuff – you know, the stuff that’s on the test.  How to get kindergartners to sit still long enough to take a standardized test.  Test taking strategies to teach to the kids to increase their odds of getting a correct answer… on the test.

Let me be clear – testing is not education.  But our kids and our teachers spend so much time on testing, there is very little time left for actual teaching and learning.

And in the meantime, we wonder why the rates of kids with anxiety have gone through the roof.  We wonder why kids are so mean to each other.  We wonder why our kids get addicted to video games, and their phones, and technology in general.  And I hate to say it, but in ten years or so, we’re going to be shocked at the rise in suicides and mental health issues in our youth.

They don’t know how to play anymore because they don’t have time.   They don’t have hobbies anymore because they don’t have time.  They don’t find joy in music or art because it’s not in their school day anymore, and you guessed it – they don’t have time after school.

They have hours – HOURS! of homework. Even in Kindergarten. They have shortened recess because the class didn’t get everything done.  They have silent lunch periods where they have to sit boy-girl, boy-girl so that they do not socialize and cause “trouble.” They are not allowed to have a real vacation – some teacher will assign a project, because kids will just get bored over break, right?  Why not use that time to get some more standards in?

I cried at that news story out of sheer rage and helplessness.  I left education in large part because it was heading in a very wrong direction, and it is only accelerating  toward that really bad place.  And it will have devastating, crippling effects on this generation of school kids that can only “socialize” and escape via technology.

What do we do? I do what I can. When my kid’s teacher assigns homework over break, I tell him it may not get done, and I might tell a little white lie about why.  My kid deserves a break, and he will get it if I have anything to say about it.  When a school in my district enacts these stupid policies about recess and lunch (and yes, those are real policies in place in an elementary school in my district), I will write letters to principals, superintendents, and school boards. And I will speak loudly to anyone who will listen about testing, and what it is doing to our kids and our educational system.

I do what I can.  It may not be much, but it’s better than crying at the TV.

What Stress Does to Me

I’ve mentioned how stressful the fall has been.  Know what happens when I get stressed?

First is my back-shoulders-neck-head. Mostly shoulders-neck-head. Tension-soreness-headaches-migraines happen to my shoulders-neck-head.  It can get bad, where I need to consciously lie on back at night (normally, I’m a side sleeper, curled into a fetal position), take too much tension headache medicine, be in a darkened quiet room, etc.

Second is my stomach.  Polite way of saying I need to run to the bathroom every two seconds.  Again, not fun, but uncontrollable, and a sure sign that something (or someone) has me stressed out.

Third, I begin to shake.  Somewhere between a shiver and a quake. Deep breaths help, but again, it’s uncontrollable.

All the while, I worry it, shake it like a rag doll in my brain.  In other words, I get a bit obsessive about whatever or whoever it is in my brain, and I can’t let go.  Probably one of the reasons, “Don’t worry about it,” sounds just as awful as nails on a chalkboard to me. It’s just not even practical, not even a realistic goal. Shut up.

Why do I know this much about how stress affects me physically? Because I was a teacher for over 17 years.  No, that was not a sarcastic answer. It’s the truth. And I’ve paid attention to my own body.

What helps alleviate some of these? Regular yoga (oops, need to get back on that wagon, too). Me-time. Deep breathing (goes along with the yoga). A massage now and then. Reading (to some extent). Being able to vent to someone about my source of stress (but not too much, because that can get me ramped up again). And a realization that This Too Shall Pass. I forget that a lot. Maybe I should get it tattooed somewhere I’ll see it all the time.

What does stress do to you? What do you do to alleviate it?

On-Again, Off-Again Dad

The ex has called a couple of times over the past month or so, after a couple of months of not calling. He said, “I get him for Christmas this year, right?” Ummm, ok. So after making use of your liberal visitation schedule for two weeks out of the last 104, you want to stake your claim? Sure. Yes, you actually are supposed to have him starting on Christmas Eve, as it is an odd year. “I’ll try to get some time off, then,” he said. Sure, I thought.  Like last Christmas.

He called once more, spoke to The Boy only for a little while, and that was the last we heard anything about Christmas.  The Boy’s birthday was Wednesday, and his mom had sent gifts, one from her, and one from his dad. Her card said they were looking forward to seeing him at Christmas.  But the ex didn’t even call his son on his birthday.

What?

My mom told me that recently, she and The Boy were at Walmart and he said he really hoped he’d get to see his dad at Christmas, because he hadn’t seen him since April.  Yes, it hurts him more than he’ll admit to me, and yes, he does keep track.

As The Man says, kids are only young once. He’s going to miss it completely.

Angry for The Boy and pity for the ex. And partly angry for me too, really, because I have my own life and family that will be affected by his inadequacy. But mostly angry for The Boy.

Life Gets In the Way

I wish I had a better excuse for not blogging. I wish I could say I won NaNoWriMo this year.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes, and, well, we’ve been having a rough go of it lately, behaviorally. It’s hard to write when you have no idea what is going on with your kid. It becomes harder to find time when you struggle to get him to do any homework at all, and really homework is torture for you, as well, and you just need some downtime.

But I’m not one for excuses, except to say that it is what it is. I have missed blogging, and it is something I need to do for my own well-being. Ergo, it shall be done. I may not write every day, but I will write, and I just hope that there are a few of you still out there to read it. If not, that’s ok, too.

Be prepared, though. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Puberty + Autism = Nothing for the faint of heart. I sure hope puberty is the culprit here, because if this isn’t temporary and transitional… I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Thanks for sticking by me. I’m back on the wagon again.