Change, The Only Constant

A year ago, I posted about my parents moving in. It has been so, so good for all of us. I realize every day how lucky I am to get along with my parents so well. Emotionally and mentally, I am better than I was. I think The Boy is better, as well. We both have fantastic therapists, and are involved in our hobbies (Tae Kwon Do for him, and writing for me).

But change is constant, isn’t it? And when I posted a year ago, I alluded to more plans in our future. Well, things are FINALLY starting to roll. I am purchasing a 35′ camper early next week that is stationary at an RV park nearby. This is where The Boy and I will live for the next year and half!

Downsizing to 285 square feet presents its own challenges for anyone, and for The Boy, we’re considering just which belongings will come to the camper, which will not, and just how we’ll manage all the new ways of being in our tiny home.

We are also selling our current home and shopping for a home about 5 hours away in a college town/state capital that has multiple Targets and even a Whole Foods. Civilization, y’all. Grammy & Poppy and the kitties will move in there and get it ready for us.

I’ve missed living in a city. But more importantly, as my parents age, and my son ages out, I’m going to need some help, some resources, and some respite. I can’t get any of that where we are. The Boy will need to find meaningful work – there’s nothing remotely like that here for him. The people there are diverse and tolerant. The people here are significantly less so.

Today, The Boy’s room gets painted a boring beige in preparation for showing the house. This is his biggest anxiety about our current changes. He loved those Toy Story clouds on blue sky ❤

New adventures for us on the horizon. I’ll keep you posted! blue-sky-clouds-countryside-1048039

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The Real World

The Boy has had a helluva week. That means I have too, by proxy.

After a day and a half at a private driving school class, he was kicked out. Despite assurances to the contrary, the staff was not willing to work with him and for him to make sure he learned the material. They acted like I hadn’t been explicit about what his learning needs were. I asked if he could stay in the class just to get the instruction without taking any assessments. Not only did they refuse, they would not refund my money.

Then I found out that this entire summer, when my son went to the local pool three times a week with his autism camp, one of the lifeguards belittled the kids from camp, even commenting that she didn’t get “paid enough to deal with these retards.”

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I’m not naive enough to have ever believed the “real world” is or ever was prepared for our kiddos. But it’s extremely difficult to watch your child get pummeled by the ugly out there. (And I use “ugly” as southerners often do, to describe someone whose soul is full of hatred, venom, and bile.) It’s even more difficult to watch the “real world” get uglier to “the others” in our society by leaps and bounds, every damned day.

It’s very hard to hold on to hope.

This kid has been rejected, abandoned, and discriminated against far too often in his 16 years on this planet. And he doesn’t deserve it.

Change Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

We are now multi-generational household! Aren’t WE trendy!

Grammy, Poppy, The Boy and I are all living under the same roof now, along with two disgruntled felines, and lots and lots of stuff that either has to find a home, or find its way to the dump. Change is always difficult, especially the older we get, and also especially for those on the spectrum. So while there is lots to be thankful for here (no chance to be lonely in this small house!), there is also adjustment – poor Grammy doesn’t really have a space to her own, and we’re still bumbling our way through setting up boundaries and routines.

But this is all in preparation for the long game. This will save us money, time, gas, and provide a little more support to The Boy and I. It’s also going to help us move toward our next step – something I’ll share more about when we know more. This split has been harder on me in many ways than my first divorce. That one was expected, and a bit of a relief. This one was neither. I didn’t want this, so working through the stages of grief will take more time, especially since there wasn’t really any closure.

The Boy, too, is still struggling, even though having grandparents here is mostly a good thing for him. Change is change in his eyes, and it’s unsettling. But the nightly upsets have decreased, and he gets more time to do what he likes after school because he gets dropped off at home now, which I think he likes.

I’ll post about the normal autism-related stuff we’re going through soon. Can you believe he’s a month away from turning 16? I sure can’t.

Cheers to all of you for hanging in there with us!

 

Back to Single Motherhood

My marriage has ended. The Man finally moved out on Monday, and will now need a new nickname, although I am not supposed to write about him anywhere. It was unexpected, and there was no reason given. It made for a hellish summer. And that’s all I’ll say about that. Now it’s over, and we are looking forward to new habits, ways of being, and opportunities.

It is good (and also sad) that I have experience to fall back on and help carry me through. I’m watching The Boy like a hawk, and have also had him in counseling for other issues this summer, and I think it helps him to have another outlet. There has been much upheaval in his world, both at home and at school, and there is more to come. It’s so hard to be a teenager. And then add autism. And then add people leaving you unexpectedly (your stepdad, band director, favorite assistant principal…). Through all this, he’s been handling everything like a pro. LIKE A PRO. He had one major meltdown this summer. ONE. His transition back to school has been smooth as silk. He amazes me every day, and I am so thankful for him. So thankful.

I am getting back into my writing, and it feels amazing. I’m preparing for NaNoWriMo this November, and have been selected as a Municipal Liaison for my region (which means I help coordinate events and support for others participating in NaNoWriMo). I’m also taking a writing course offered to NaNoWriMo participants through Wesleyan University in Connecticut (online), and it has been an awesome experience and quite validating.

As always, my closest friends, and my incredible parents have been my rock and have seen me through to the other side. Thank you all for being so patient. Onward and Upward, or as my favorite Doctor (#10) from Doctor Who says, “Allons-y!”

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The Boy and I at a bowling party hosted by our local Autism Society Chapter this summer

All Quiet on the Northern Front

On Father’s Day, we were up north, but I made sure The Boy called his dad. He spoke with him briefly, spoke to both of his uncles briefly, and spoke to his grandpa briefly. The call lasted 7 minutes.

I tried to think back to the last time they had spoken, and couldn’t think of a time since he had dropped The Boy off with us in January, at the end of his winter break. I checked my phone bill and I was wrong.  He did call once in March, and they spoke for 9 minutes.

For those of you keeping score, that’s 16 minutes in 6 months.

There hasn’t been any attempt to get any time with The Boy for the summer break, and there has been no discussion of when the next visitation might occur. Maybe it’s because I told him unequivocally in January that The Boy flying alone on a plane wasn’t going to happen any time soon. “It’s not a good idea,” were my exact words.

Is this the beginning of the end? One initiated contact in the past 6 months?

I don’t have any words. Just sadness.

when the school calls...

Today is the Day

Today is The Boy’s last day of 8th grade, of middle school, of being anything but a teenager. He’s excited. I’m excited. We’re all excited. And a little wistful, too. Even The Boy exclaims, “How did we get here?” and “How did this happen?” I tell him time flies, and if you blink, you miss it. I tell him all those old cliches, those that have been around so long they must be true. It sure feels that way.

Where is the 5 pound 6 ounce baby I was holding in my arms yesterday?

Where is the toddler who got away from me in the department store and hid in the middle of a clothes rack?

Where is the preschooler who couldn’t wait for the water to warm up to get into the small pool we had bought, and whose smiling lips turned blue?

Where is the 2nd grader who kicked his classmates?

Where is the 4th grader who sang the Star Spangled Banner at the high school football game with his choir?

Where is my 7th grader who began to have crushes on girls?

Who is this extra man in my house who is taller than me, requires shaving at regular intervals, and has hands and feet bigger than his dad’s? Who can barely fit on the couch if he stretches out on it? Who “practices” driving every time we get into the car?

Ah, yes. He’s my son, even though I can’t possibly be old enough for it to be true. My son. And me over here? The one with a bit of dust in her eye? I’m one proud mom.

finding our own path

 

Scheduled Time

I lost one of my two flute students to gymnastics this week.

When I was a middle school band director, I lost more than a few to hockey and dance.

But when I was a kid, this wasn’t a thing. Sure, kids were in soccer and I even took ballet in kindergarten. But this every-night-of-the-week-for-four-hours-a-night-oh-and-four-hours-on-Saturday-too was definitely not a thing. Neither were the moms who got mad because the rest of the world couldn’t accommodate their insane schedule. “What? You mean I can’t get a dentist appointment at 3am on a Sunday because that is the only time my kids are not in dance/gymnastics/swim/horse back riding/AAU badminton??”

*dragging over large soapbox*

*standing on said soapbox*

When I was a kid, we did this thing called “playing” with the neighborhood kids. We even had a game called “Ghost in the Graveyard” for when we were out past dark – shocking, I know. We rode bikes, climbed trees, ran through each other’s houses like packs of wild animals looking for fruit snacks, and then back out through the other door. I “taught school” to some younger children (for as long as they would stand it) on the hill in a neighbor’s yard across the street. We rode bigwheels back and forth down the street. When we got a little older, we walked across a small field (with garter snakes!) to the convenience store to buy candy.

We were not scheduled within an inch of our lives.

I think today’s parents have control issues. IMHO you should not be involved in any activity which eats up 24 hours of your free time per week at the age of 9. It’s wrong, and there will be long term consequences. Don’t you trust your children to any degree? Do they get any say in how they spend their waking hours?

Autistic kids aren’t usually much for team sports, and for this one small blessing, I am thankful. But even if The Boy were not on the spectrum, I would not be raising my child on scheduled time.

*crawling down off soapbox, albeit ungracefully because I only had the one year of ballet*At the Cape

Risk

I’m not going to get into the habit of writing about work, but I wanted to let you know that my new situation is really, really good. And there’s a reason I’m sharing this with you today.

My old job, the one that “brought me to my knees” was a decent paying job, especially for our area. And it took me five months to get it. So for a year and half, I was miserable, thinking I couldn’t leave because I really had it pretty good, except for the screaming and yelling, the unreasonable demands, the constant checking up on the weekends… What does that sound like to you? An abusive relationship? Because it was. I saw it in all of the other people I worked with, too. “It’s not bad all the time,” or “It’s much better when he’s not in the office/ in the winter/ when he’s in a good mood,” or “There’s just nothing else out there.” Scary stuff, right there.

In my big picture way of looking at things, I see a parallel. This is another time in my life where I took a risk and said enough was enough. Life is too short to be so miserable everyday. And it wasn’t pretty. It was hard to be a single mom. And it was hard working retail for minimum wage. I did a lot of soul-searching, and it was painful. There were times in both cases where I thought, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” But there were benefits to both, too. At least I was free from a toxic relationship. At least I could do things the way I wanted to. At least I had an opportunity to learn a great deal. (And I ended up loving being a single mom, except for being lonely).

And then, something wonderful happens that changes your life around. And you realize your instincts were right. There are really, really good men out there who know how to treat others. And there are really, really good jobs out there where you actually get a lunch break with a side of respect. My advice is this: trust your instincts, and take that risk. It may not be sunshine and lollipops immediately, but life is too short to miserable. You deserve more.

In the midst of winter, I found that there was, within me, and invincible summer.

Rigidity Again, but Better

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having my own sort of meltdown when we had a two-hour delay for school for no apparent reason. I resolved at that time not to get stuck again, and the next time this happened, I would stick to my normal routine of getting up at 6am to get myself ready.

It happened again yesterday morning, and I think the fact that the delay was utterly ridiculous added fuel to my fire. But that is another blog post… I did what I had resolved to do, and woke up at 6am, got myself ready. I still had a little bit of a time crunch – I’m really not sure how – but the process of getting everyone ready was much smoother.

BETTERMORNINGSAt one point, I was putting together The Boy’s lunch, and The Man stood in the kitchen, a little warily, I suppose, and asked if there was anything he could do. I told him no. And I realized I needed to have a yes answer to that question. I need to allow him to help me when it gets down to it. I was a single mom for so long that I get into that mode sometimes, that I-am-fierce-I-can-do-it-all-on-my-own-and-no-one-can-stop-me mode. But I’m not all on my own. And it’s OK to ask for help. It might take a little training for everyone involved, but it would be better for everyone involved if everything didn’t fall on me in the morning.

And another big part of that is that The Boy can do some, too. So much of what I do for him is just routine left over from when he was eight years old. Now he is fourteen, and much more capable of handling responsibilities. I need to step back and let him.

So, I guess it’s time for a morning training plan. I’ll get that on my list of things to do, and I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes. 😉

A Couple Ways to save for next Christmas

This year, we didn’t have a whole lotta extra funds for gifts, and I thought I’d let you in on a secret – I got a couple of gifts for free this year.

How?

  Two apps. The first is the Walmart Savings Catcher. If you go to Walmart with any regularity, there’s no reason not to use this app. It is quite simple: You scan your receipt when you’re done shopping. If the app finds that a competitor has a cheaper price on pretty much anything on your receipt, it will credit you with the difference. Most of the time, it’s 50 cents on the whole bill, but every once in awhile, it’ll be a couple of bucks. And over a year, that adds up. You can redeem for a gift certificate whenever you’re ready, or use it towards your grocery bill or anything you buy in the store. Easy peasy.

The second is Shopkick. This one works in various stores, and will notify you when you are near a participating store if you let it. The stores I get credit for are mostly Walmart and Best Buy (because we do not have many of the others in our area), but there are many more stores for which you can get credit, so you should check it out. Again, you get “kicks” just for visiting the store sometimes, and if you have some time to kill, you can get kicks for scanning certain items. When you are ready (and have enough kicks to be eligible), you can redeem them for gift cards, movie tickets, gasoline… lots of different things! Some are a pretty good deal, others are not, but you’re getting something for doing something you would do anyway, so in my book, anything is a good deal. I actually got two gifts (one from restaurant.com for $100, and one from GameStop for $25) from this app this year, but I think I’ve been accumulating kicks for longer than I’ve been using the Walmart app.

In any case, I got three free gifts for zero dollars, and it helped a bunch. If you’re the type to plan ahead, check out these apps now, and you just might be able to save some cash next year. (I’m not affiliated with either of these apps, just glad I was able to save by using them.)