A Few Changes

Like I tell The Boy, change isn’t necessarily bad, but it is inevitable.

I’ve done lots of thinking over the past couple of weeks about this blog – you may have noticed my “radio-silence”. SimpleIJustDo has provided me a great place to share and vent, a small community of support, and lots of self-reflection. As The Boy gets older, I am starting to feel like he is becoming the steward of his own story, and although this has always been a place for me to write about me and my experience being a mom to him (and never meant to replace his own story), I feel like I need to take a step back.

Let me be clear: This blog isn’t going anywhere. I will continue blogging.

But, I’m going to concentrate on quality over quantity. I need to balance my need to share and vent, and The Boy’s right to privacy and self-advocacy. I may post less and try to interact more via social media (if you aren’t following on Facebook or twitter, now might be a good time to look me up).

This will also allow me a little bit more time to focus on my long-term writing goals, too, which involves novel-writing aspirations (wish me luck!).

I hope you’ll hang on and bear with me through this adjustment period. We still have lots to share. But we may do it in a little bit different forum or format. As always, thank you for showing interest in our story. I’m still amazed at how far across the globe my voice can go!

Much Love,

~Annie

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Not goodbye. We’ll see you soon!

Everyone’s a Jerk Sometimes

The Man is definitely not an auditory learner. I’ve learned this the hard way a few times lately. In the latest instance, he wanted to order a septic system doohickey for work, but doesn’t have a functioning laptop, and asked me to look up the item in question. After doing so, and me reading stuff I didn’t completely understand from the screen, he said, “Order it!” excited that he could maybe create a few more job opportunities using this doohickey.

When the doohickey came on Saturday, he was amazed at the size. “Well, you did order the 100 foot version,” I said. “I didn’t want that one. I wanted the 50 foot version,” he said. I thought, “What? I read you what was on the screen! What didn’t you understand about it being 100 feet long?” but I said, “Well, we can return it if you want. It would cost us about nine dollars to ship it back.”

“Let me think about it,” he said.

This morning, he threw the box away and attempted to use it at work. He called me and said, “They sent the wrong thing! This thing is a different type of doohickey than I needed!” (paraphrased)

I said, “But it says right here in the description that it is supposed to work with your other doohickey.”

He said, “Well, it’s not the right thing, and I have to buy this other thing which costs $37 and we just need to send it back.” He was clearly frustrated and quickly got off the phone with me (we usually say “I love you” and when he doesn’t, I know he’s ticked off, usually at me).

And I thought, “Well, that was kind of jerky. It’s not my fault you didn’t pay attention and the doohickey isn’t what you thought it was.” My feelings were a bit hurt. And then I remembered back to this weekend when I snapped at him when I couldn’t locate my debit card and he said, “You lost your card?” Ooh, I let loose a little on that one (the card was just in the wrong pocket in my purse, but caused an overabundance of anxiety for about an hour).

I apologized later for snapping, just as he will apologize later for “being a little short” with me. We’re all a little jerky sometimes. You can’t expect your partner to have a perfect record in the emotional management department, especially when you are a little shy of perfect yourself. As long as apologies are forthcoming, and there was no intent to harm, I think you’re doing quite well. You’re doing even better if you can recognize what’s going on and make a mental note to work on that emotional management stuff.

Inclusion Starts with “Hello!”

Thursday night, The Boy and I ventured to one of the marching band rehearsals from which he has been excused, due to logistics and conflicts with summer day camp. We wanted to just stop in and possibly say hi, meet some people, help with the transition. I made arrangements to leave work early so I could pick him up and get him there before it was over. We arrived and discovered the brass section in the band room. I told The Boy we would wait until they were on break to enter, so as not to disturb them. After waiting for a good bit with no break, he wanted to find the woodwind section to see how many of his friends from last year were in attendance.

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He loves it so much..

We found them in the library and were welcomed in by the band director. We sat and listened for a bit, and decided to head back to see if the brass were on break. They were, so we walked in, and The Boy’s middle school director was at the front of the room. I can’t quite describe the look he gave us when we walked in, but it was not pleasant. He didn’t say anything – not, “Hello,” not “Hey,” – nothing. No welcome, and no introduction for The Boy to this room full of kids who didn’t know who he was, save for a few. The Boy, oblivious, walked over to one of his friends and gave her a hug as she sat, and then I suggested we leave again, as our presence certainly did not seem to be welcome. We went back to the library and the woodwinds were being released back to the band room for a full rehearsal. The high school band director greeted The Boy again, and The Boy talked his ear off the whole way back to the band room. We listened for a bit to the full band play, and suggested again that we leave before everyone was released, and The Boy agreed.

He may be oblivious, but I am not.

While thankful the high school band director at least had the sense to appear welcoming, I’m sad that none of the high school students had the wherewithal to introduce themselves to The Boy. I’m disappointed that not one of the three drum majors, students in high levels of leadership, recognized their duty to welcome a member, albeit a non-traditional one. I’m livid that a professional educator who taught my son for two years cannot even greet him, and would go out of his way to make him feel unwelcome.

And right now I’m at a loss. I knew this wasn’t a terribly inclusive group to begin with, based on The Boy’s friend’s experience last year, who is also on the spectrum, and lacked a single friend in the group even at the end of the season. I knew I wouldn’t gain any friends by forcing our way into the group, even with the weight of the law and human decency behind us. But I have not been so uncomfortable, and made to feel so incredibly unwelcome since I encountered mean girls in my own middle school experience. It was that palpable. Do I try to educate and advocate? Do I engage outside help either from school administration, the autism society, or the state band directors association?

Or do I give up?

Is this really worth it?

I don’t know. All I know is that this shouldn’t be.

Nice to Hear

Yesterday, I emailed the Amazing Camp Director, new member of The Boy’s tribe, to let her know that I would be picking him up today so I could get him to the tail end of marching band practice this evening so he could show his face and begin to make some connections there. I also let her know how much The Boy appreciates her, because I think it’s important to let people know when they’ve touched your life.

She responded: “The Boy is awesome!! Seeing him puts a HUGE smile on my face!! He re-supplies the bubbles & he’s doing a fantastic job! His counselor left early today & won’t be in Thurs or Friday … He was great about asking who his counselor would be, I loved that he didn’t allow the uncertainty create anxiety (he may have been anxious but he knew to ask!!!) I explained it’s always so difficult because everyone wants to spend the day with him but (the substitute counselor) was the lucky one this time😀 he gave me the biggest smile & hug!! He truly brightens my day!!”

I’ve written before about what a mystery my child’s day is to me because he isn’t so verbal about what happens at school/camp. Notes like this not only warm my heart (he really does make fans of everyone who gets to know him!), but give me a glimpse into his day, his thoughts, his personhood. Notes like this are also a sign of a great educator and a wonderful person.❤

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You Need a Village

Yesterday was a classic Monday.  One little change to our routine made me about five minutes behind, which ended up with our leaving The Boy’s lunch on the counter, and my breakfast behind. The night before, we had also realized that we had left his swim trunks and rash guard at Grammy’s the previous Friday, which meant she had to throw them in the dryer so he could change into them when he arrived to her house.

Needless to say, Grammy made sure he had dry swim clothes and a full lunch for camp on Monday. Without her help, we would have encountered major interruption to the day, and in all probability, a meltdown to go with it (maybe two, if mine count).

While I don’t have a ton of friends down here to rely on, I do have my parents, and we need them. Everyone needs a village. When we lived up north, I relied on friends and The Boy’s tribe. There are times when you can’t do it all, when things fall through the cracks, and when you just need a damned break.

It’s a difficult thing to find and build your village, but it’s very necessary. I just don’t know how I could do it without some kind of support (besides my wonderful husband – sometimes even the two of us need additional hands!). And I don’t pretend it’s easy. The very nature of a special needs household may preclude being social with other families on any kind of a regular basis. But there is always a way. Don’t forget that I found Fantastic Babysitter (who is now one of our dearest family friends, and was/is a huge part of The Boy’s tribe) on Craigslist…

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An Autism Registry?

While perusing my usual Facebook stream, I came across an article about two brothers on the spectrum who created an autism registry and are working to make it live in their state with the aim of helping law enforcement understand when a person they need to speak with has autism.

While I applaud the ingenuity and self-advocacy of the brothers, and understand the intent, this still strikes me as the wrong way to go. Unfortunately, many law enforcement personnel in this country do not yet have CIT training (crisis intervention training), which is the basic understanding that people they deal with may have mental health or neurological issues, and need to be approached in a different fashion. It’s a very real problem with those on the spectrum ending up arrested for refusing to identify themselves or lashing out at officers. This was a major reason we spoke with the sheriff’s department ourselves when the MHP owner reported The Boy to them for things he did not do. The Boy got to see the inside of the Chief Deputy’s vehicle and now he knows him by name and sight, and the Chief Deputy has a relationship with my child so if there ever is a situation, he will hopefully be seen as a person with special needs rather than a perp.

A registry has scary connotations, and possible unintended consequences. My child is not a danger to others, which is what most registries are used for. Registries are also used for public reference, like the sex offender registry. Will people be able to access this registry so that they can choose whether or not to purchase a home near a child with autism?

The premise of a registry is that the people on it are different and need to be classified. While I accept that those on the spectrum may not be neurotypical, they are now 1 in 68 of us – is that really so different?

And finally, I keep coming back to this question in my current battles with the schools. Would you do the same to a child with cerebral palsy? juvenile diabetes? Down’s Syndrome?

Rather than settle for a second-best precaution, I think we need to spend more time and effort on getting all law enforcement officers CIT training. If the premise in education is that any intervention that helps a student with an IEP could help (and probably will help) children without one, shouldn’t that premise extend to law enforcement? That any intervention extended to a person with special needs would benefit a person without them? If we approach each other as people first, many of these issues would not exist.

So, no registry for us, thankyouverymuch. We will stick with building personal relationships within our community. You?

The Angry Ex, 8 Years Later

numbers-time-watch-whiteIt’s been just about eight years since The Boy’s dad walked out and I filed for divorce. It’s been so long since The Boy’s dad lived with him, I wonder just how much he remembers from those years. He was only six, after all, when his dad first decided to live downstairs, and then decided to move four states away.

For a time, we were both angry. Then I lost interest, and he remained angry. But even if time doesn’t heal all wounds, it does mellow you out, a bit. I’m not going to say he still doesn’t have flashes of angry – it was only a couple of years ago that he cancelled the night before a visitation because he suddenly didn’t like our drop-off arrangements. And I wonder what will happen this spring when he realizes I really mean it that The Boy will not be flying by himself. I saw a flash of the old fire in his eyes when I told him that at drop-off a few weeks ago.

The truth is, probably nothing will happen. He may get annoyed, he may even get angry. But he probably won’t shout at me on the phone or send me a nasty text – both of which he loved to employ in previous years. Maybe he has reached a stage where he is indifferent, as well.

In any case, most of our dealings are what you could call “cordial”. Of course I wish he would make more of an effort with his son, but I realized a long time ago that I have no control over that, and it isn’t worth my energy. As long as it stays that way, “cordial” is just fine by me.

Yet Another Schedule Change

schedulesIt seems that several times a year since The Boy has been in middle school, there has been a sudden inexplicable schedule change. Sometimes it’s the same teacher, same class, but he has been moved to a different hour.  Sometimes, the teacher changes, and sometimes, everything changes at once.

I’m not sure why the school thinks this is appropriate, especially for students who are in the special education program, and whose anxiety is triggered by any small amount of change, let alone massive schedule changes. And the changes in this instance affect only special education students in seventh and eighth grade – the very populations for whom you should be striving for continuity!

The principal was explaining to me when we met that there were few on staff who could “get through” to The Boy, explaining that his TA was excellent, and was the only one who could do this consistently. It seems counter-intuitive then, to remove a teacher from his schedule entirely, one with whom he has built a relationship, when up until now she has taught him math and social skills.  How does a child form relationships with adults when he doesn’t know how long he will see them on a regular basis?

It may seem small in the whole scheme of things, but moves like this make me question if the decision makers know anything at all about students with special needs, and especially those with autism.

I’m Struggling with Time

The Boy and I have been here for almost two years – I can’t believe it.  It seems like only yesterday we were packing up the rental truck, and tossing the huge TV to the curb in preparation for our big move.  And I’ve been at my job almost a year and half, too.  That I can believe, but that’s a post for another day…

I’m still adjusting.  And the biggest adjustment in all of our life changes has been time.  I have a constant feeling like I do not have enough time to get anything done that I need or want to get done.  Something is always slipping through the cracks.  It is true that I simply work longer hours.  But this is misleading.  Of course my school day was shorter than my current work day, but I was often in after school meetings, doing concerts, grading homework, and doing other school-related things well into the evening. I don’t often have evening obligations now. So while I technically work longer hours, I don’t think this is a big part of the issue.

Another part of it is having a husband to spend time with.  Before we moved down, I spent time with The Boy, but I had alone time, too.  I don’t get as much of that now, and nor would I want to be alone that much now that I am married. I enjoy spending time with my hubby!  That does mean less time for solitary activities, though. And if I have a choice to spend time with The Man or do things like the laundry, The Man wins every time – that’s a no-brainer.  But when it comes to reading or writing… well, it gets a little tougher.

I think the final piece of the puzzle is drive time.  It takes forever to drive five miles, and most destinations are a half hour away.  I leave work at 5, and pick up The Boy at Grammy’s, but we are often not home before 6. Most of that is wait time for The Boy who needs multiple timers to get him to leave, but it is also drivers who like to go 10-20 miles under the speed limit, and a default speed limit of 35 on two lane roads.  The grocery store takes 20-30 minutes to get to on a Monday evening… and so on.  Up north, when I picked The Boy up at 5, we could often get to the grocery store, do all of our shopping and still be home before 6.  It’s a big change.

I miss my idle hours

I miss my idle hours

During the summer I go to work earlier, and therefore leave earlier, so I think it’s a little easier to budget my time during the day. It is our busiest, most stressful season at work, but I also get a little down time to myself before the evening begins.  Everything is a balancing act, and although slight changes may make things easier, time will always be a struggle. At least spring is here, which means more sunshine and warm weather – they make everything a little easier.🙂

Benefits of Being Married to an Older Man

The Man turns another year older today.  Last week, he commented, “I’ll be able to collect social security in another 4 years, and you have to wait another 20 plus!” I almost threw the pillow at him.  But this is a rare occurrence when our age difference really comes up. OK, it also comes up when we tend to settle on the 70s XM radio station in the car… but besides that.😉

We’re almost two years married, and past five years together, and the age difference just hasn’t been a big deal like he thought it might be in the beginning.  Sure it’s irritating when he gets mistaken for my dad, but I think it’s happened maybe three times in those five years.  Like I told him, that won’t happen for too much longer, because men like him seem to stay the same age, almost impossible for a woman.

Mine is young at heart.  He doesn’t act his age, by any means, and anyone who knows him will attest to that.  And although his body has begun to give inklings of not being what it once was (i.e. after a day of hard, laborious work, he may complain that he isn’t 25 anymore…  Nope, you’re not even 52 anymore!), he still runs around with the neighborhood kids, still has wrestling matches on the futon cushion with The Boy, and still surfs for hours on end in the summer.  We just hiked the dunes at the state park this morning!

Mine knows himself quite well.  He knows how stubborn and pig-headed he can be, and is quick to apologize for it.  He knows his “triggers” and can give me a heads up if the kitchen counter is getting too cluttered for him before it becomes an issue.  He can read me like a book, too, and knows before I even say anything that I’m upset.  Having experience in relationships can be a good thing, if he’s learned his lessons well.

Mine is responsible.  I don’t need to worry about him going off half-cocked on someone because he’s angry.  I don’t need to worry about bills going unpaid, or cars being repossessed. I know that when he tells me something, it’s the truth.  I know that for the first time in a long time, he feels responsible for me and The Boy, too, and that he enjoys that responsibility.

Mine likes to teach me things.  It can be irritating, living with someone who is almost always right.  But he is, and that just leads me to trust his judgement.  He also likes to teach me stuff, and I like to learn, so it’s a win-win.

Mine is experienced.  My mom reads this blog, so I won’t go into this too much, but trust me.  It’s worth considering an older man just for that.  Yes, indeed.

Mine knows how rarely you get a second chance.  He’s careful with me because he knows how wrong it can get.  He knows how lucky we are to have found each other and to be such a good fit.  When you spend a long time being alone, you don’t say things that can’t be unsaid, and you don’t do things that can’t be undone.  You cherish the ones you love.

He makes me a better person, and I can only hope I have the same effect on him.  There were so many reasons it shouldn’t work between us, with the difference in our ages being one that seemed a big deal five years ago.  But we were younger and less experienced then.  We’re older and wiser now.😉  Happy Birthday to my one and only Man!