A Little Guilt…

I was going to start out using a Felicity Huffman quote I found that states, “Motherhood has been an exercise in guilt”. Then I thought wow, that may be a bit too on the nose.  You’ll notice I still used the quote, but mostly because I thought it was funny in that oh shit kind of way.  While parental guilt is not at all funny, at least she did something to feel guilty about!

I learned recently that parental guilt is actually a thing. I had no idea it was so widespread. Sure, it’s always been there, on the peripheral in one way or another.  A friend who feels guilty for missing a field trip.  Someone who feels guilty for how they parented child #1 after child #2 comes along and life situations are different. Parents of adult children who still hold onto shit that was done twenty years ago, which the kid has long since let go of, but the parent just can’t. Or, in some cases, things the kid hangs on to which become destructive all around.  What I didn’t know is that parental guilt isn’t just some obscure little thing some of us live with, but most of us never experience.  Actually, it’s the other way around.  Nearly every parent on the planet experiences it in one form or another, and for many of us, it’s a constant struggle.

The dictionary I keep near my desk defines guilt as “a feeling of deserving blame for offenses”. That doesn’t even come close to touching it, though, does it? Because the real problem with parental guilt is that it is inherently rooted in intangibles. What if me missing this field trip is the thing that eventually leads my child down the path of drugs and addiction?  What if I don’t stop what I’m doing right now to gush over this thing my kid made and he resents me forever? If I yell right now in this moment, will it prevent him from doing something much more harmful in the future, or will it be the trigger that leads to a lifetime of reckless behavior? The really messed up part is that I’m not exaggerating.  At least, not as far as my own guilt goes.

It’s not always.  It’s like a rollercoaster for me.  There are days where I feel completely in control of everything, and I know that none of these people would last five minutes without me. But those days are sadly rare.  They’re good days though, in that I feel like I matter.  I feel like I am where I am supposed to be, and everything will be fine.

On the bad days, however, I feel completely irrelevant in my children’s lives.  Hell, in the lives of everyone around me.  Days where I sit here and wonder if I were to vanish tomorrow, how long would it take them to notice?  Sometimes those days are just my own anxiety and depression knocking at the door, and I know it’s time to take a break. Walk away from whatever has me tied up in knots and take a different look at my life.  Remember who I am, and remember what matters.

But some days it stems completely from my intense and overwhelming feelings of guilt.  I spend too much time working. School is taking too much away from my children.  I’m not making good enough dinners, there isn’t enough variety, Kaleb hates this, Mason hates that, why can’t I just get it right? When is the last time I cleaned the house – I mean, really cleaned it?  I’m failing, I just know I am.  Mason’s school struggles are my fault, I’m not patient enough,  I don’t give him enough time, I’m not paying enough attention. I’m failing at every turn.  I’m not giving my husband the support he needs to get through his own struggles.  I’m not giving Kaleb enough positive reinforcement or telling him how wonderful I think his uniqueness is.  Not enough, not enough, not enough. 

Crazy, right? Or… not so much.

Parental guilt is real. It’s everywhere if you take the time to look for it. There’s an article in Psychology Today that lists the top 20 reasons parents say they feel guilty, and holy crap do some of those hit home. If I had a quarter for every time I lay in bed awake at 3am wondering if going back to school isn’t actually showing my kids how to follow dreams and not give up, we wouldn’t have to worry about bills anymore. I can’t even begin to count how many wasted hours I’ve spent laying there wondering if, instead of showing strength and drive and determination, me doing something good for me is actually detrimental to them? It’s hard to stay out of my head here. When I think about the amount of time I actually put into things like work and school, I panic. I then have to spend the time I should be doing something else reminding myself of all the reasons what I am doing is not wrong. And then I feel guilty for wasting so much time worrying about it when I have so much else I could have been doing.

Seeing the pattern yet?

Parental guilt is huge, silent, and indefatigable. It’s a vicious cycle filled with poison spikes and it takes a constant battle of the will to overcome it, at least, in my world it does.  It even infects good things.  We recently changed Kaleb’s medications, and a lot of good has come out of it.  He’s been better able to handle sugar in his system again, he’s slightly less angry, and some of the self-destructive behaviors have slowed down or stopped altogether. That doesn’t mean I don’t sit up regularly wondering if I made a huge mistake ever agreeing to medicate him in the first place.  Maybe he would have learned to self-regulate without it.  Maybe the binge eating and weight loss issues never would have happened.  Maybe, maybe, maybe. What if, what if, what if. The guilt and the self-doubt have become a terrible drumbeat banging over and over again in my mind.

The first time someone suggested I medicate Mason I lost my shit completely.  No! No way.  You don’t even know what’s going on with him, and you want to medicate him into one of those kids that sits and listens and does his schoolwork without interrupting the lesson with random facts about how platypus’s have venom spikes in their ankles (true fact, btw), or having meltdowns because the dyslexia is bad today and he just can’t cope with what is being asked of him, despite the fact that what is being asked is not only perfectly reasonable but something he’s completely capable of doing… I don’t think so, buddy. No way.

But was my initial outrage because I genuinely believe there is something more going on in Mason’s head and I’m worried if they simply medicate him for being hyper they will be burying the real issue instead of addressing it?  No.  Much to my own guilt-ridden dismay, I will admit freely right now that was the secondary reason.  The primary reason?  The instantaneous guilt I felt over all the struggles we’ve had with Kaleb and the medication dance we’ve had to do over the years.  Bad enough one of my kids has to go through it, I’ll be damned before I let you do it to the other one.

Does that make me a good mom or a bad mom?  I don’t know. Both? Neither? Maybe just a mom who struggles with a shit-load of guilt. A lot of it is my own mind. My own determination to be better, and the constant Pinterest comparison that makes me feel less. The feeling that I may never be the kind of mom I thought I would be.  The worry that I’ll never get my patience back, no matter how many times I start running or do yoga or go to bed early or meditate or whatever.  The fear that I will spend the next 9 years fighting with Mason night after night over some mundane piece of homework and his frustration and anger will lead to lifelong problems and so much incredible potential thrown away because I couldn’t get my shit together enough to figure out how to help him. Or all the time I spend trying to get Kaleb to understand that taking responsibility for your part in a problem means not ending the sentence with “but you…” will lead to him never holding others accountable because I’ve brainwashed him into thinking everything is always his fault.

It. Is. Constant.

The guilt is a cement block tied around my neck.  It’s old Marley’s chains wrapped around my waist. It’s suffocating. It’s infuriating. It’s impossible.

And while so much of it is based on intangibles, things I can feel but can’t see until they have come and gone, some of it is genuine. There are things I regret. Things I wish I had thought through more carefully.  Moments, meltdowns, words, whole days I wish I could take back.  But I can’t. And that’s the real bitch of it. And also the blessing. Because what it means is that looking back all the time does me no good.  Learn from the mistakes, and move forward.  Maybe you repeat a couple of them.  Maybe the lesson takes a bit longer to sink in.  That’s okay.

Parenting does not equal perfection.  Maximum effort does not mean you run flat out all day every day and try to be a superhero.  Maximum effort means you do the best you can with what you have to work with at that moment. Then you move on to the next moment. Because that’s all you can do.  Unless the Doctor swoops in with his (her?) blue box, you’re stuck in time. You might feel adrift, but you aren’t. You’re here. Right here in this moment with your feet planted firmly and time marching forward. All you have to do is march with it.

I tell my kids every day is a fresh start. Bad day at school yesterday?  Erase the board and start new today.  Big meltdown last night? Let it go and try again now. But in reality, every moment is a fresh opportunity. Each minute that passes by presents you with a chance to make a choice. You won’t always make the best one, nobody gets it right 100% of the time. We yell, we lose our temper, we run out of patience, we open the bottle of wine. And then we move forward. Each moment is a gift, and our guilt makes us forget that. Tomorrow isn’t promised. This afternoon isn’t promised. Right now is all we have. Right now is tangible. You’re in it, deep in the trenches of this moment. Look around you. Nothing is perfect, everything is a work in progress.  We are too. And that’s okay. Because we can’t change the past, only the future, and the future can only be changed by paying attention to right now.

The guilt is nerve-wracking. It sends my anxiety sky high and every time it rears its head I can see the impact it has all over my day, my week, my life. But what that really means is that I’m giving power to the monsters in my head, and I don’t accept that. My mindset is mine to change, as is yours. My moment is mine to live, as is yours. So acknowledge the guilty feeling when it shows up.  Hold it for just a moment, just long enough to decide if you can use it to make this moment or the next better, and the let go of it, regardless of the answer. Because it can only be used if you let it go.

TheDigitalArtist

Living In The Moment…

Today marks the beginning of the end of summer in our house.  School starts in exactly four weeks.  Which means we only have four weeks left to do all the things we want to do.  It also means I slowly start to adjust and tighten the schedule a bit, so it feels like less of a shock when the school days roll back around.  This summer has been pretty laid back so far.  I don’t think either of my children has gone to bed before 11pm, and they’re both sleeping in every morning – a massive and unprecedented feat for Kaleb, who typically wakes up with bad hair and a worse attitude around 5am whenever we have nothing to do.

There has, however, been one major upheaval this summer, and it’s making everyone crazy.  I took away the electronics during the weekdays.  Maybe this isn’t a big deal in your house, but in my house, it’s currently the leading cause of madness. Why would I do this?  When my husband and I both work from home?  When the boys only get along if there’s candy or money involved?  It’s like primitive torture.

I like it.

Here’s how this happened…

The first week of summer vacation was declared a universal “do whatever the hell you want just don’t fight about it” week.  They spent hours upon hours plugged in.  Mason simultaneously was watching documentaries about the tree frogs in the rainforest on his television while playing Bad Piggies on his tablet.  Kaleb had Minecraft tutorials running on his tablet while he worked on building and modifying whatever the hell they were doing on the video, on his Xbox.  It was quiet.  It was peaceful.  I sat outside and worked, got a bit of writing done, and occasionally snuck into the pool when no one was paying attention.

And then one day, I came home from yoga, all clear-headed and zen (and super gross because it was a hot Vinyasa class and I had actually spent 75 minutes convinced I was going to die), and I started making dinner while talking to my children.  I listened, as they sat at the kitchen counter and regaled me with stories.  I listened as they talked to each other excitedly, to the point where they started talking over each other, then yelling at each other, then…. Take a deep breath.

In.  Out.  Repeat.

I listened to my children talk for a week.  They talked while I cooked.  They talked while we walked through the grocery store.  They talked while we drove to doctor’s appointments.  They talked in the waiting room of the dentist’s office.  Because really, my kids don’t actually ever stop talking, even when they are alone.  Regardless, a pattern had begun to emerge, and it was starting to disturb me.  My kids had spent all of this time talking.  Every moment that we were together, they were gabbing and yammering on and on.  And not one time, in that whole week, did either one of them say anything about anything that was real.

They spent the entire week talking about videos, games, Minecraft, Skylanders, Youtube, and Portal.  No mention of chemistry (Kaleb’s current science love).  No mention of the bugs in the backyard or the frog on the mailbox.  No mention of going to the beach, or riding bikes. No harassing me about going back to the zoo, or the science center. Just virtual reality. Fake life.  I sat there, and all I could think was “Jesus.  Ready Player One really was a freaking cautionary tale.  What have I done?”  This is not the first time I have looked at my kids and wondered what I had done to them.  Nor, I’m sure, will it be the last.  But that doesn’t make the feeling any less jarring.

I sat there, half listening as Kaleb made Portal Gun noises and Mason talked about Granny (still not 100% clear on that), and I felt very, very sad for my kids.  Why isn’t Mason outside making mud pies?  Why does Kaleb have three chemistry sets that have never even been opened?  Here again, is another glaring example of how I have let things go the easy way, because I didn’t have it in me to fight through to the better way.

So.  I decided to put a stop to it.  I sat them down and calmly explained that we were officially banning electronics Monday through Friday from this point forward.  Even at night.  Even at bedtime.  Kaleb handled this like a champ.  He shrugged, said “Okay” and walked away.  Which was simply stunning in some ways, but also kind of expected.

Kaleb doesn’t tend to lose his shit over things like that, unless he’s actively engaged in something and I take it away right that moment.  If that is going to happen, I need to spend five minutes pumping myself up in the hallway like I’m in the locker room right before the Superbowl.  Bouncing on my toes, going all King Kong on my chest and telling myself “You’ve got this!  You’re going to go in there and kick ass!  Yeah!”  It usually ends with us both in tears.  Kind of like Tom Brady after facing The Eagles.  Only a lot less enjoyable for me.

Anyway.  Kaleb handled this concept well.  Mason, on the other hand, did not.  He was flabbergasted.  Boggled.  Disbelieving.  Shocked and downright angry.  It has been over a month of this, and still, Mason doesn’t believe I’m really doing this to him.  Every day we have a slightly varied version of the same conversation.  That conversation goes like this:

Me: “Good morning Mase-face!”

Mason: “Hi Momma!”

“How’d you sleep?”

“Good.  Can I have my Roku remote?”

“No.  Did you have any dreams?”

“I don’t know.  Why can’t I have my remote?”

“Because it’s (insert day of the week here), and we don’t do electronics on week days, remember?”

“No it isn’t! It’s Sunday!”

“No lovey, it’s not.”

“But why can’t I have it?  Why can’t we have electronics on weekdays?  That’s stupid!  I want my remote!”

“Sorry kid, there are plenty of other things to do.”

“No there isn’t!  I’m not coloring! Coloring is stupid!  And I’m not swimming alone!  I can’t go outside, I’ll get bit by the bugs!  The LEGOS always break and I have nothing to do!”

“Cool it, Mase.  You’re not going to die of boredom.”

“You just hate me!”

“Huh.  That was certainly very dramatic.  I like the little foot stomp you threw in at the end.”

“Please, Mom?  Please?  I have an idea! Why don’t we do this instead?  Why don’t I get my Roku on Mondays, and then I can have my tablet on Tuesdays, and I can have the Xbox on Wednesdays and the PlayStation on Thursdays, and on Friday I’ll have nothing.  Won’t that be good?”

“First of all, we don’t own a PlayStation, so I’m not sure where that even came from.  And no, that will not be good.  That defeats the purpose of no electronics on weekdays.  Having a different electronic on corresponding days of the week is not how this works.  Go find something to do.”

*Sobbing loudly*

“Why don’t you ever want me to have anything I want?  You don’t want me to be happy!”

“Seriously Mason.  You’re riding on my nerves now.  Go find something to do.”  He huffs.  He puffs.  He crosses his arms, slams his little body in the chair next to me, and audibly pouts.

**Fast Forward Five Minutes**

Husband: “Where’s Mase?”

“Outside.  With his bug kit.  Torturing the local wildlife.”

Mason: “Mom!  You have to come see this!  I caught a lizard!  He doesn’t have a tail!  This is SO cool!”

Me: “Looks like he didn’t die from electronic deprivation.”

Husband:  Snorts a laugh and walks away.

Guys.  This happens every day.  My child goes through the stages of grief every single morning when I tell him he cannot turn on the television set.  It’s insane.  And a bit frightening.

Every morning, as Mason goes through his grief stages, that scared, damaged girl in the back of my mind pops her head out of the fog and whispers “Just let him have the damn thing so you can be left alone”.  And every morning, I have to Whack-A-Mole her ass back where she belongs, because I don’t want to be left alone.  That’s not the person I want to be.  It’s the person I was, and I’ll carry her, and her shitty baggage around with me.  But she doesn’t win.  Not as long as I remember to keep knocking her back down when she springs up.

On the upside, the Legos have been dusted off.  The books on snakes and reptiles Mason found in the Reference section of the library are well read.  We’ve done science experiments. Mason has gone from barely swimming to the king of the pool.  Kaleb has made a pretty sizable dent in his summer reading list.  We finished Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.  Now, he’s reading me a book titled Willpower, and we are researching the failure stories of successful people for life-goal inspiration.  We spent more than five hours on the fourth of July playing catch and doing crossword puzzles.  No phones.  No tablets.  And no complaining.

As I said earlier, this has been a lazy summer so far.  It’s also been loud, and messy, and dramatic.  Yet somehow, my kids are happier than they were that first week of summer.  The conversations that float to me while I’m making dinner now are about the similarities between crocodiles and dinosaurs.  About the origin stories of the elements on the periodic table (for real, that’s really a thing that has been happening.  I didn’t know the elements even had origin stories, but they do now).  There’s been more laughter, more silliness, and less irritability.  Also, less Portal Gun noises, and that is always a win in my book.

Fourth Of July

Watching the fireworks

 

*End Note #1*

I thought I should add a list here of ways in which Mason has actively tried to earn his electronics back in the last week.  Just for fun.

  • Mason: “Mom!  Come see my room!”  So I do.  I stand there, having no idea what I’m supposed to be looking for.  It looks pretty much like it always does.  “Look!  You didn’t even have to ask me!  It’s clean!  Look at my bed!  I made it!”  I nod approvingly.  He did make his bed.  Kind of.  In the sense that there is now a small space not occupied with stuffed animals that he may or may not be able to fit in.  I congratulate him on this achievement.  He beams at me.  “So….?”  I look at him questioningly.  “Well?  Can I have a reward?  Like my Roku stick?”  I left the room.
  • “I am NEVER going outside again if you don’t give me my electronics!  I will stay inside forever!”  I shrug.  This has no bearing on me.  I work from the porch.
  • “If you give me my tablet, I promise I’ll never pee on the toilet seat again.”  Even Kaleb rolled his eyes at that one.  Let me just apologize in advance to whoever ends up marrying my kid.  He will likely pee on the toilet seat for the rest of his life.  I am sorry about this.  On the plus side, he’s an excellent toilet scrubber.
  • “Mom!  Kaleb is making Portal Gun noises!  It’s really annoying!  You have to give me my remote so I don’t have to listen to him!”
  • “Mom, want me to read to you about these snakes?”  I say sure.  He proceeds to spend twenty minutes making up insane and utterly impossible facts about the photos of snakes in his current library book. Snaps the book shut with a triumphant grin.  “Aren’t you proud?  You learned so much about snakes!  I deserve a reward.”  I inform him that practicing reading is its own reward.  I am given a death glare that would certainly make Vader proud.
  • “Fine!  I guess I’ll just lay here and be bored until I die!”  This lasted approximately four seconds, because the dog licked him in the face.
  • He asked his father at least a dozen times to intervene on his behalf.  Thankfully, I married a very smart man, who promptly shut Mason down, saying “Oh no, leave me out of this.”

 

*End Note #2*

My intention last week was to have this post be about self-care, something I will be writing about.  However, Mason’s epic grief tantrum this morning was more inspirational than usual.  So, next time.  Probably.

 

Starting Over…

I used to write a blog about my life, and the hilarity that ensued when attempting to turn wild little monsters (AKA, my kids) into mostly decent people.  I also talked a bit about the struggles of being an “autism mom”, though the actual struggle was severely downplayed.  People loved this blog.  I’m not saying that because I personally wrote it and think that anything I’ve written naturally comes with a dash of amazing. I’m saying it because I was told repeatedly by people I barely knew, or had never met, how much they enjoyed it.  It was funny, they would tell me, these strangers.  It was so nice and refreshing for someone to look at these difficult things and find the humor in them.  And, I guess, it was.  For them.  But I wasn’t laughing.  Not really.  I was locking myself in my closet and crying for hours.  I was silently wishing that someone, anyone would just make it all stop.

Then one day, I stopped writing.  I don’t just mean on the blog either, I mean I literally stopped doing the only thing I had left that gave me a sense of self, altogether.  Because I couldn’t find the funny anymore.  And when I wrote about the moments that hurt, when I wrote about the things that scared me so badly I couldn’t sleep for days, nobody wanted to read it.  I’d get asked, “When are you going to start writing about all the funny things they do?”  Well… there’s only so long I can pretend that cleaning my kid’s shit off a ceiling fan like some sort of twisted zookeeper is funny, my friend.  People were, from my perspective, disappointed.  So, I stopped.

Because my struggles were not funny anymore.

Now, that’s not entirely true. And I am writing this to be entirely truthful.  With you, whoever you may be, and with me, most of all.  I am determined to live my own truth.  It wasn’t that there was no humor to be found.  It was just that I couldn’t find it.  I was angry, and sad, and confused, and lonely, and hurting so deeply in some places that I was convinced I was going to hemorrhage and die. Postpartum depression split me open from stem to stern, and without any real idea of what was happening to me, all of the things that I loved the most about myself silently started slipping away.

What I didn’t know at the time, and what I have since learned, is that postpartum is a hellacious beast.  And, just like the more than 3 million women it affects every year, it comes in an unending variety of shapes and sizes.  In the seven and a half years since my youngest son was born I have learned a lot about this disorder, and it is very likely that I will share what I have learned on a future post.  But that’s not what I’m here for today.

Today, I am here to admit some hard truths.  Today I am writing this in the hopes that my struggles; past, present, and future, may help someone else.  Today I am writing this as a tool to help me become the best version of myself.  Because I have changed.  Dramatically.  I am not the person that I was all those years ago. Not by a long shot.  And I’m not even close to the person I want to be tomorrow.  Seven and a half years ago I began a downhill slide, one so subtle I didn’t even notice it was happening. Until I was so deeply buried, the idea of digging myself out seemed impossible.

So many things contributed to this drastic and terrifying change.  I am sure that over time I will dissect those miserable memories, even when I don’t want to.  But here is what it boils down to.  Here is the place I was in when I finally woke up. I was suddenly blinking at my strange new surroundings and wondering to myself, “Where is this, and how did I get here?”. 

I was angry.  I mean, really angry.  Not just mad, not a bit irritated.  I was absolutely furious.  With everything.  With everyone.  With my husband, with my kids, with my friends and family.  But above all else, I was so very angry at myself.  I cannot think of a single point throughout my entire life that I could say I was filled with such unyielding self-loathing.  I hated what I had become.  I hated who I had become.  How could I let this happen to myself?  Where did I go?  What have I done to my life?  I was also terrified.  I’ve never been so bone-deep frightened. And that’s saying something, given some of the things my kids have put me through.  Who am I supposed to be now?  How am I supposed to be that person?  Where did I go?!

The unnecessary anger wasn’t new.  My shameful lack of patience wasn’t new.  I had been living in some weird fog for so long, and now I’ve woken up to discover that I have damaged the people that I love the most in this world.  I have allowed hurt and anger to spread through my house like some 14th-century plague.  I’ve got one kid who is half convinced I hate him.  I’ve got another one who is so incapable of handling his emotions he never would have made it through the last school year if he hadn’t won the grand prize in the lottery of teachers.

I did this.  I let this happen.

So, now what do I do?

Answering the question is the easy part.  Actually following through is where the going gets tough.  Now, I have to fix it.  Now, I need to face the demons I have created.  Now, I need to climb my ass out of this hole that I have dug, so I can face the mountain before me.  Now, I need to be the person that not just my family needs, but that I need me to be.

Sounds easy enough, right?

I had experienced a few little snaps back to reality over the years, but every time it happened, I would find myself so overwhelmed by the immensity of it that I’d slide right back into my familiar fog.  Until one day I didn’t.

My first real, hard snap back to reality happened about two years ago.  My husband and I were fighting.  Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what we were fighting about.  The constant push and pull of conflict was such a commonality in our marriage at that point that we could have been arguing about him forgetting to put something on the grocery list. Now, don’t get me wrong.  We weren’t screaming obscenities at each other, or screaming at all for that matter.  We weren’t being abusive or mean, we just weren’t getting along.

I opened my eyes one morning, and he wasn’t there.  He wasn’t there because he’d left for a trip that had been planned for quite some time.  It wasn’t that he was gone that bothered me.  It was that he’d left without saying a single word to me.  My first reaction, petty and small though it may be, was relief.  I thought, at least we won’t be arguing.  And then it hit me.  Hard.  This was my life.  I was laying in my bed, with my children sleeping in their beds, and I was relieved that my husband had left for a week without saying goodbye to me.  How is okay?

It wasn’t.  It isn’t.  And I knew it.  Right then, in that moment, I knew my life was not okay.  I spent that entire week running around like my hair was on fire.  Taking in the state of my life.  My kids, my marriage, my whole self.  When reality finally crashed down around me, it hit hard.  I threw up.  A lot.  I was violently, painfully ill.  I had to keep sticking my head between my knees and silently willing myself to breathe as the full breadth of my life hit me with the force of a mac truck falling out of an airliner.  I didn’t sleep for two days.  Images of my life kept playing on forced repeat in the front of my mind, and I thought I might actually go crazy.

I didn’t go crazy.  And eventually, the panic attacks stopped.  Which is when the thinking started.  My life had to change.  I had to change.

Now, let me stop and be clear on something here.  I was not, by any means, suddenly fine. I did not just wake up and suddenly everything was clear and focused. At this point in time, I barely registered the changes that were happening in my children.  This is a horrible, heartbreaking, sickening thing to admit, and I can’t even type the words without crying.  So many things were going on in my boys’ hearts and minds and lives that I was not connected with.  Oh sure, we went places, or did things, and I was there at school functions and IEP meetings, and all the other necessary things a stay at home mom is expected to be at.  Once, I even tried to be PTA secretary, which by the way, was an unmitigated disaster.  But I was not there.  I was coming back, I was waking up, but I still had such a long road to travel.

I spent that week doing some of the most intense soul searching I had ever done in my life.  Was I happy?  Uh, no.  Clearly.  Was I doing my family any favors by being so unhappy?  No, definitely not.  Why was I so unhappy?  Oh man, don’t get me started.  The list of reasons I gave myself that day for my own self-loathing and misery were embarrassing in many ways, enlightening in many others, and some of them, quite frankly, were freaking ridiculous.  But again, I remind you, I was still encased in a shell of depression that had only just started to fracture.  So, I’m going to give myself some grace.  Because what really matters here, is that it had fractured.

Over the last two years, I’ve taken many steps forward.  And I’ve taken quite a few steps back.  When my husband got home from his trip we had a meeting of the minds the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a long time.  There was, and still is, a lot of damage.  There’s scar tissue, and hurt, and resentment, and anger on both sides.  But there’s also love.  And a determination to fix the problems, and build a future.  Together.  That week I made a decision I had been playing with for years.  I decided to go back to school.  And I did.

Some things changed.  I started taking classes, which I’ve wholly enjoyed.  Except for the moments when my true inner monster rears her ugly head, and I start to convince myself I cannot possibly do it. What right do you have to dedicate so much time to this ridiculous endeavor?  You’ll never finish anyway.  And seriously, your kids have eaten hot dogs like three times this week.  This is how you become a better person?  Really?  Those moments are real, and intense, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be rid of them.  But for now, every day, I win the small internal battles, and I push on.

And while I will take those moments of triumph for what they are, I have come to realize that a lot more things haven’t changed.  I’m still impatient.  I’m still angry and resentful.  I am nowhere near the person or mother I want to be, and I have only just realized how much my words and actions have impacted the hearts and minds of my children.  I started a yoga challenge last month.  60 days of yoga, in the studio, every day.  I signed up because I thought it would be nice to give myself an excuse to get out of my house and away from my family, since we are all piled on top of one another at the moment (yay summer vacation!).  What I didn’t realize, was that I would find such striking clarity while doing so.

I did not change over the last two years.  Not in the ways it matters most.  My internal dialogue is still filled with such vitriol, it’s appalling.  My kids are constantly at each other’s throats, and the anger I see in them is a direct reflection of my own.  I’m impatient, all of the time.  Once again, the lightning struck, and reality crashed in.  Only this time, I wasn’t a sobbing mess on my bathroom floor.  I was laying in savasana, listening to the guy next to me breathe like a leaking firehose.  It took everything I had not to sit up and shout to the room “This is NOT me!  This is not who I am!”  And it isn’t.  I refuse to let it be.  I will not allow this miserable bitch who has invaded my mind exist anymore.

I am done with her.

So, I’m not who I was.  And I’m not who I am.  Where the hell does that leave me?

With a long journey ahead of me.  I need to consciously shift my perspectives.  I need to stop seeing my children with a critical eye, and start seeing them with a loving eye.  I need to stop telling myself how horrible I am, and start giving myself the grace I need to heal and become the woman I am meant to be.

Which leads me to this blog.  And you.  If you managed to get this far, and really, give yourself a pat on the back for that, because this is one really long post.  I’m starting my own happiness project.  If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry.  I’m not one hundred percent certain yet myself, and I read the book.  But I’m going to find out.  Maybe we will find out together. Because I’m revamping this blog.

This place where I used to hide my pain with laughter.  This place that was both weirdly sacred, and a cause of personal torture.  I’m taking this place back.  I am going to give it new life.  I am going to put myself out there, warts and all.

This was the hardest thing I have written in a very long time.  It’s not fun to peel back the curtain and expose all of your shortcomings to the world.  It’s harder still because some of the readers may be people I know personally.  Maybe you?  I had initially planned on this being posted anonymously, because I’m terrified to think of someone I know and respect reading these thoughts and thinking less of me for them. But, I am living my truth.  And that means no more hiding.  So, if you know me, and even if not, I only ask that you reserve judgment.  Because this isn’t an easy thing for me to do.  But I think it may be a necessary one.

Life can be hard.  But it is so much harder when we are horrible to ourselves.  When our perspectives are so skewed in the wrong direction we can’t even see what we are doing to ourselves and our loved ones.  It doesn’t have to be like that.  We don’t have to be like that.

I refuse.

The Sound Of Silence…

First off, it is colder than hell outside.  And while you may think that’s an obvious (and somewhat stupid) statement – let me just say that for some people (*ahem, me) being cold is a whole lot worse than being hot!  And yeah, I’m in Florida.  No, thankfully it is NOT snowing.  Yet, YES, I am still bitching.  I’m cold when it’s 80, you can bet your fluffy down comforter I’m freezing when it’s 30.

Anyway, I started off saying a first, so let me get to the second.  I’ve finally figured them out.  My kids.  Frighteningly enough, part of the riddle has been solved.  No, really, it’s actually pretty scary.

Oh, and yeah, third.  I’m back.  Again.  I’ve been remiss.   Yada yada… busy, busy.  Life and all that crap.  So, I offer no more empty “I’m back for real and gonna make this a weekly thing” business, because I’m being honest, and I honestly cannot guarantee when I’ll actually write anything.  But I’m writing this, so I’m going to go ahead and be happy with that.

Back to the second.  The boys.  My favorite Monsters.  Holy realization moment.  Kaleb is me.  Mase is totally Daddy.  And while they both have parts of us in some ways (I’ll man up and take blame for the road rage) – it isn’t the same.  Allow me to explain…

I need recognition for things I do well.  No kidding, serious verbal recognition.  I thrive on it.  I will keep doing the things you verbally recognize and appreciate I do.  If you don’t … well.  I tend to stop doing them.  Because I feel like they (and I, by extension) go unnoticed.  I need visual stimulation.  I need to be able to escape from reality though books, music and other such things when I get overwhelmed with life, because otherwise I end up over-thinking everything and my anxiety gets bad enough that I stop functioning like a normal person should.  I require step-by-step instruction when introduced to something new because otherwise I will totally go off book, and let’s be honest – that never ends well.

I don’t respond to hounding or constant reminders – that feels more like a piano hanging over my head by a string than a motivation to remember something.  My memory is lax when it comes to a lot of things because there is almost always something bigger and more imminent looming in the forefront of my mind, even if that particular thing seems small to anyone else.  Threats never work with me, because it isn’t real if it isn’t right there in front of me.

I know, to an extent, how much this sucks for the people in my life who want to convey important things to me.  Because while I can spend hours, days, or weeks consumed with fictional worlds, I cannot genuinely envision my life without the things that are already in it.  I forget simple tasks, silly things people ask me to do for them, things I usually start to do (because they mean a lot to people who mean a lot), and then I get bogged down by other things.  Those big important things that are consuming my thoughts like endless riders on a Merry-Go-Round.  Or I get overwhelmed.  I don’t know what to do first.  I start a million things at once and finish exactly… none.  I let people down constantly.  I let myself down constantly.  Because the minute my mind leaves one topic, another crops up, and the one that is right there is the one that ends up being most important.  I can’t imagine how petty and selfish that must sound to you.

Honestly, it sounds horrible to me, and I’m talking about myself.

But this is me on my most honest level.

***Okay, I know I said before that I need recognition – but not on this.  I’m not looking for validation here.  I’m looking to be brutally honest with myself as a person.  So the first person who tries to offer me an excuse for the behavior I have just admitted to will be promptly showed the door ***

I’ve been like that forever.  Ask my mom.  She could ground me for weeks.  I would shrug and walk away.  What did I care?  But to take my most prized things?  My books, my music… the world would all but collapse as far as I was concerned.  I was actually a decent student. I did my homework.  Every day… but I’d forget to turn it in.  Every day.  I’d forget to put it in my bag.  It wasn’t because there was something else I wanted to do; it was more because I would finish that task and move on to something else that was now a big deal.  But even then…when I’d really get in trouble (and believe me, I totally deserved it when I did.  I was a sh*t), I’d scream, and I’d cry – but to what end?  Did I actually do what I was supposed to have done in the first place?  Eh…. Usually not.  I had the kind of attitude that would send people running for the hills faster than you could say “Call SuperNanny!”

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Kaleb’s like that.  He’s stubborn.   He has a few interests that really encompass him.  And he has a few passing interests, ones he could do without, but they entertain him when all else fails.  He’s got an incredible imagination, and an admirable amount of determination.  Add that to his confidence in himself and his growing skill-set… in 20 years he will be a force nobody will want to reckon with.  But as a child…

I want to go back in time and pick up every hair I must have caused my mother to pull out of her head.

His attention span is exactly that of a dead gnat – unless what he’s looking at involves a book of LEGO instructions, Marvel Superheroes, or something that will piss off his brother.  He forgets to do something about five seconds after you tell him, unless it is either A. written down; B. directly in front of him; or C. beneficial to him in some very literal way.    Everything is a personal attack.  And I do mean everything.  It is your fault he’s screaming, because you told him to use his napkin and he didn’t want to use his napkin, so therefore it is your fault he’s screaming.  See the logic?

That’s the thing.  You have to actually see the logic to understand him.  His world consists of exactly two things, and two things only:  What makes him happy, and What makes him not happy.  I wasn’t quite that bad as a kid.  But, the more I think about how he thinks, the more I understand it.  For Kaleb, everything is immediate.  We can put him in a five minute time-out, but at the end of that five minutes, his mind has wandered all over the place, and he genuinely might not remember why he was in trouble.  Sure he can remember every name of every Spiderman Nemesis – but that is inherently important to him.  At least, it’s a whole lot more important than remembering to use a napkin.

Then again, there are the times he just screams – I mean really, really screams… I think that’s honestly just to make me completely crazy.  Mason had to have taught him that.

I keep asking myself how do I get through to him?

The honest answer is…. I probably won’t.  I probably won’t be the one to do it.  For me, it was a couple of incredible teachers who banned together and changed a great many of my perspectives.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still a total shit when I was at home.  And my mom never stopped trying.  She never gave up on me, or the future she wanted for me.  I was just not ready to listen to her.  At the same time, for once she wasn’t the only one fighting for me.  I worked a bit harder for my future.  I responded to people differently.  I stopped forming so many arguments against my mom in my head and started listening to what she was saying, even though she didn’t know that (and still probably thinks talking to me is the equivalent of talking to a stack of bricks).

But as I pointed out in the beginning of all this – I am in many ways still who I was a kid.  I’m a more grown-up version, sure.  The problems have changed, they’ve gotten bigger, more challenging.  They aren’t just my problems anymore.  They’re the problems of everyone I love and care about.  Myself included.  But it’s sobering to realize as a parent, that there might be a lot more to that old saying about taking a village to raise a child.  Kaleb’s teachers get through to him in times when I can’t.  There are days when they ask me how we handle X, Y, & Z when all I want to do is ask how they got past A & B.

Then, there’s Mase.  Ooooohhhhh The Mase Bug.

It started off as a totally absurd Dora-Inspired nick-name.  The kind of thing that starts because it’s too late for the hospital to do anything but batten down the hatches and tell you to hold on.  An hour later you find yourself face-to-face with this little dude (who may just have the most expressive eyes on Earth), while silently still singing the song Dora sang to help the Mommy Bug-a-bug find her baby bug-a-bug in the episode you fell asleep watching with your toddler.  Or… maybe I wasn’t singing so silently.

Now, I actually think it might be a thingThe Mase Bug.  He’s cute.  He bats those ridiculous eyelashes over those big brown eyes and you want to smoosh his little cheeks.  He says goofy, silly things, and makes absolutely no sense, and you just adore it.  Despite the fact that he’s four, and has a perfectly functional vocabulary he is completely competent in using.

My curious, destructive, charming, deceptively smart boy.  He is his daddy’s clone.  He’s too smart, and too distracted.  By everything and nothing.  He may not being paying attention outwardly, but he is fully tuned in when you think he isn’t.  He wants everything his way, otherwise, well… you can just kiss that cute little butt of his and wish him safe travels – ‘cause he will cease existing in your world the minute you stop making sense in his.  Now, to be fair, both boys are very much like that.  But Kaleb lets you know when you’ve stepped off his planet (usually by screaming that you are wrong).  Mason just checks out.  He won’t return the key – I swear he’s a time travelling Muse for The Eagles.  He’ll check out any time he wants – but he won’t ever leave.

You can sit with him and talk and talk and talk to him until you are rainbow colored.  But unless what you are saying consists of certain key words or phrases, you could be talking ancient Greek.  ‘Cause he is not listening.  He’s thinking about a hundred different other things.  He isn’t building like his big brother.  He’s not dreaming of LEGOs or colored pencils.  He’s thinking about how one car went faster than the other, and he is wondering why.  He’s ripping apart brand new toys just to figure out where things are, where they’d be better suited, and why other things are missing.

He wants to watch me cook, because he wants to figure out what the difference is between a raw egg and a scrambled egg.  Start to finish, he has to understand the entire process or he is not satisfied.  He wants to know why the dome light comes on in the car when the door is opened but turns back off when it’s closed.  He doesn’t just want to know, but needs to know the how and the why.  He wants it faster, louder, and bigger.  And if he has to rip something apart to see what was different inside this toy, versus that toy – he will do it in a heartbeat.

He’s singled minded, and determined.  He’s brilliant, but stubbornly makes everyone show him how to do everything multiple times before he’s satisfied knowing he can do it himself.  He’s loving, but only to certain people at certain times.  He’s distant, but he feels so strongly for those he loves, it’s almost become a defense.   By all accounts – he’s just like Daddy. Smart, sweet, stubborn, with an insatiable curiosity, and a unique, yet disquieting way of viewing the world.

They are us.  Our product.  Both of them.  Beautiful.  Strong.  Stubborn.  Isolated inside a world filled with people that love them, but don’t quite understand them.  Sometimes angry at the hands they’ve been dealt, when they played so much better than everyone else at the table.  Loyal.  Fun.  Joyous.  Intelligent.  Underestimated.  Overestimated.  Such a delirious mix of light and dark.

I forget as a parent (a lot), how I was as a kid.  How singled minded I was.  How absolutely focused I got on the things that interested me.  The things that gave me joy just by doing them on my own.  The things that made me… “Me”.  I’ve become so focused as an adult on making my kids “well rounded” that I forget that a part of becoming an adult is honing those solo interests.  Screaming when you feel like you’re going to explode.  The tantrums and the fights about the fairness of life.  Those things that make me so mad as a parent – I honestly couldn’t count how many of those I put my mom through when I was growing up.  They’re a part of growing up.  You don’t just wake up one day and realize “I’m 4, I should be potty trained.”  Or, “I’m 7, I can tie my shoes.”  Those are things you learn as you go.  Things other people teach you.  Frustration, anger, sadness, confusion – that’s part of life whether you’re a child or an adult.  You only learn how to channel and process those things by watching the adults in your life.

Of course, no matter how much I kicked and screamed I still had to do my math homework – but I was a hell of a lot more prone to do it (and turn it in…) if that meant I got an extra 20 minutes to do something I genuinely enjoyed at the end of the day.  Some days that was watching Gilmore Girls with my mom (Yes, I just did totally out you Mom, sorry).  Some days that was sitting on the kitchen counter picking apples out of the pie mix Nana was making when (I thought) she wasn’t looking.  Or going upstairs and getting lost in a story.  Every day I was a different version of myself.  Some days I wanted companionship, some days I didn’t.  Even as a small child.  That’s an easy thing to forget.

I think maybe it’s time we all take a few minutes to remember ourselves as kids – our HONEST selves.  How we really were, not how we like to think we were, and try to imagine applying it our lives now.

Think about what motivates you now – what motivates your spouse – what motivates your kids…

And I don’t mean money, work, grown up crap.  I said think like a KID. A little kid.  Little kids don’t think about money – at least not in concrete terms.  They think about the abstract.  If you could do one thing at the end of the day for twenty minutes, what would it be?   What about your spouse?  Your kids?  Not a group activity – save that for the weekends or holidays.  Not some sibling activity to force your kids to get along (BTW, if you have one of those I am beyond open to suggestions).  Not something for someone else either.  Be selfish, be abstract.  Think like a child.  Find a true, free, honest reward for surviving the day.

I’d spend twenty minutes writing.  Or doing something to further it.  Research, outlines, whatever – something just for me.  I’d give Daddy twenty minutes of complete he-man time – no phones, no kids, no email, nothing but peace and the understanding that comes with a perfect match of man and machine (just for the record, if this wasn’t an abstract, I’d give him twenty minutes a day flying instead).  I’d give Kaleb 20 minutes of LEGO time.  I’d give Mason twenty minutes to talk about, throw, drive, or destroy any 3 toy vehicles of his choice.

If we all stopped looking at life like a race to be won, a battle to be waged – and started thinking about how to encourage the people next to us to be better, happier versions of themselves, instead of constantly trying to make everyone be like us, think like us, want what we want – just imagine how much better and happier we would all actually be…

Everything Is Awesome…

So, I’m not going to lie, today’s IEP meeting was…

Freaking AMAZING!

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I am so pumped right now, I can’t even begin to describe it.  This was honestly the best IEP meeting I have ever had, and I could not possibly be happier.  It’s such an awesome relief to finally find a school with teachers and staff who really, genuinely care about my child and his progress.  Going from last year to what he has now is such a huge difference.

First of all – despite the events of the last two weeks, everyone previously agreed that Kaleb hit a bump in the road – but considered it a temporary set-back (one we are actively working on fixing), and they are getting rid of the harness!  I cannot wait to see the look on Kaleb’s face when he hears the news he’s been waiting to hear for months.  Second, he graduated out of OT!  I simply cannot believe it.  He’s been in Occupational Therapy since he was 2.  Now he’s finally met all of his goals, his gross and fine motor skills are up to par, and he’s good to go!  That was so unexpected, it’s still sinking in.

Another piece of awesome news?  Kaleb gets to keep his teacher next year!  He will technically be in first grade, but he will stay in the EBD classroom with the Godsend of a teacher he has now.  I am beyond relieved.  The thought of hashing out next year’s arrangement, dealing with a new teacher who may or may not understand how to work with Kaleb has been haunting my sleep for weeks.  To find out that he doesn’t have to deal with any of that (and neither do I!) is an incredible relief.  And let me just tell you a little something about this teacher, while I’m on the subject.  This is the kind of person who went out of her way to consult with a Gifted teacher (despite the fact that he won’t get the classification until at least next year) to figure out the best ways to challenge Kaleb’s strengths without going too far beyond the scope of what he’s able to handle.  She’s willing to go above and beyond to help him avoid potentially overwhelming situations, without stifling him or making him feel like an outcast.  She’s a freaking gift is what she is, and I’m so glad we get to have another year with her.

We talked about the gifted program (especially when the Gen-Ed teacher was consulting, and was visibly shocked by some of Kaleb’s reading and math abilities).  We hit a bit of a snag because they cannot test until at least a year has passed since the last test.  That wouldn’t be a big deal, except the school psychiatrist that Kaleb has spent the year working with and building a relationship with has gotten a promotion, and they’re bringing in someone new.  So, it was decided that we’d wait until the fall to re-do the test – giving Kaleb an opportunity to make sure he’s got his feet firmly planted under him, and he has a relationship with the new psychologist.  On a plus note, I asked if I could have our Developmental Pediatrician do a test of his own in June when we go for our yearly visit, and they all strongly encouraged it.

And, on top of everything else – the school nurse is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to administer Kaleb’s mid-day medicine.

Seriously, this school needs to win some “Everything Is Awesome” awards!

So, overall, this was the best IEP meeting ever.  I left feeling happy, a bit lighter, and definitely reassured that my child is in excellent hands day in and day out.  I can honestly say that’s never happened before.  I’ve always left feeling deflated, slightly disappointed, angry, or slightly sick.  This was such a breath of fresh air, and so desperately needed.

I want to say thank you to this school.  Your amazing teachers, support staff, therapists, behavioralists, and administration have taken a load off my mind, improved my child’s life every day, and I truly believe there aren’t enough ways to say thank you for that.

Schooldays…

Okay, we’re one week into the new year, and my personal resolution for this year (aside from not going insane or turning into Bridezilla – a frightening possibility) is to get at least one post out a week.

I haven’t really been on here in months – to be honest, I haven’t really been on the computer all that much in general.  There’s just been too much stuff happening in our real space for me to jump into cyberspace.  But I’m getting back into it – starting now!

Today is the kids’ first day back to school after a very long winter break.  Really, really long.  Seriously, I am not one of those parents who laments the kids going back to school.  No way.  Bring it on! 

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Give me a couple of hours in the day where I can actually have a phone call without sounding like a schizophrenic.  “I’d like to make an appointment for… No!  Get that out of your mouth now!”  And don’t get me started on food.  It’s a beautiful thing when I can make myself lunch, and actually get to eat it!

Did it suck standing outside for fifteen minutes in freezing cold waiting for Kaleb’s bus?  Um, yes.  Very much so.  But that’s why we wore layers.  Because for the first time in nearly 3 weeks, my house is still quiet at 7am.  There is no screaming, singing, dancing, jumping, pounding, drumming, laughing 6 year old standing at Mason’s gate doing everything in his power to wake up his baby brother.  Mason is actually sleeping in.  He might be a pleasant person today.  For the first time in almost 3 weeks he might actually go a morning without screaming like a banshee and throwing cars all over hell and creation.  I.  Love.  School.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my children with all of my heart.  But boy is it nice to actually drink a cup of coffee in less than six hours.

On the flip side of that, I’ve started to hit the panic button with this wedding planning nonsense.  Who knew there was so much crap involved?!

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The look on poor Daddy’s face when I said “I’m probably about to make you completely insane for the next few months” – well, the look said it all.  At least he’ll be in good company, as I’ve already hopped onto the crazy train.  I’m honestly finding myself stunned at the amount of money people can get away with charging for certain things.  I should have gone to pastry school.  Or hell, I’ll just open up a business making bouquets with silk flowers.  We’ll be rich I tell you!

Okay, enough of that.

Originally, I was going to talk about this whole new bout of Jenny McCarthy madness that has swept up the cybersphere again, but I’m not going to.  The woman gets around enough without me adding to the chaos.  I will say this though – it saddens me to think of how many kids are catching so many easily preventable diseases based on the words of an ex-porn star and a disgraced ex-doctor.  It’s one thing when the beliefs are your own.  It’s another thing when they’re the beliefs of idiots and you’d just rather follow along than look for your own solutions.

Moooooving on…

Seriously, writer’s block.  I’ve got nothin’.

Oh, wait!  Yes I do!

Mason has a new favorite “thing”.  It isn’t a toy (we’re still obsessed with cars, people.  I have no hope of that changing).  We can’t figure out where it came from, but I have to admit, it’s ridiculously cute.  Ready for it?  It’s… “Dot Com!”  Now, just hold on a second and I’ll explain.  That actually is his new thing.  For some unknown reason, he’s following up names now with “Dot Com!”  It’s “Dusty Crophopper… Dot Com!”  and “Milo David… Dot Com!”  And yes, apparently now the dog shares Mason’s middle name since apparently Mason has decreed it so.  It started out with Daddy calling Mason a monkey.  Mason said he wasn’t a monkey.  Kaleb said he’s a person.  Mason said he wasn’t a person.  We asked Mason what he was if he wasn’t a monkey and he wasn’t a person.  He said “I’m a Mason David!”  True enough.  He then went through the house saying “Mommy —– Dot Com!  Kaleb —– Dot Com!  Daddy —– Dot Com!  Mason David Dot Com!  Milo…. David!  Dot Com!”

But it’s not just names.  It other things too.  The garbage truck (Dot Com!), lunch (Dot Com!), diaper (Dot Com!)… all this and more.  He’s definitely a goofy child.  If only we could figure out where on earth he picked this up!  Anyway, as far as updates go – not that much has changed in the world of Monsters.  Daddy has Mason watching Dukes of Hazard and Kaleb watching (more like obsessed with) Tree House Masters.  I got a Doctor Who tee-shirt for Christmas I want to live in.  Daddy got a new workstation.  And Milo is still going insane every single time the neighbor’s dog goes out to pee.

That’s it.  That’s pretty much all I have at the moment.  I probably only have about twenty minutes of quiet left before Mason gets up, so I’m going to go eat something, guzzle another gallon of coffee, and pretend like it’s not ridiculously cold outside (that’ll be the only time I bitch online about the weather today, as at least it’s not snowing, raining ice, or in the negatives).  Have a good week cyberfriends (how many times did I use the word cyber today?).  Till next time!

Overwhelmed…

So once more, we’ve had a really hectic couple of weeks.  Mason started school (yay!), but for the first week and a half I had to drive him to and fro.  Of course, this was insanely chaotic considering he’s in pre-school.  Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  It was only kind of chaotic.  The problem is, the school pick up lines in this town are INSANE.  I mean seriously, where do all of these people come from??  There’s like five elementary schools in a 10 mile radius of us – and there are that many people picking up their kids in the afternoons at one school?

Yeesh!  I guess the town really is growing.

So, since Mason’s in preschool his day starts at 11:30 (unless it’s early release Wednesday, in which case it’s 11:00.  Speaking of, can someone PLEASE for the love of God tell me what the heck is the point of early release?  Other than to make my life complicated because I forget it every single week?  I legitimately don’t understand why my children get out of school an hour early every Wednesday.).  His day ends at 2:05.  Kaleb’s bus arrives at our house at 2:30.  Mason’s school is a 10 minute drive from here – under good, hit every green light conditions.  I don’t have that kind of luck.  I hit every red light from here to that school every single day.  Even when I take the back roads – which is way worse because those lights take forever to change.  So, call it an even 20 minutes.  Which gives me exactly five minutes to grab Mason, throw him in the car, and rush home to get Kaleb off the bus.

What this means is that I have to be in the front of the ridiculous parent pick up line.

Which means I have to arrive at his school no later than 1pm.

Yep.  I have to get there an hour early in order to pick my kid up from school and have a chance at getting home before Kaleb’s bus.  This is what I call INSANE.  So, for a week and a half I dropped him off and went to hang out with my mom (who legit only lives 10 minutes from the school) for an hour before turning around and going to get the Mini Monster.  Then we’d rush home and wait for Kaleb’s bus.  Finally, Mason got a bus schedule.  They pick him up here at 10:25 (even though the stupid sheet says 10:45) and drop him off at 2:25 (even though the stupid sheet says 2:38).  That’s four whole hours all to myself!  OMG I could do yoga!  I could ride my bike!

I could sit on my couch and watch grown up tv while the sun is still up!  I could eat ice cream in the middle of the day!  I can shower and pee all by myself!  Hell, I could dance around naked!  

Okay, I won’t dance around naked.  First, I don’t dance.  And if I did, I certainly wouldn’t do it naked.  I’d probably hurt myself – and how do you explain that to a paramedic?

But still.  Maybe it sounds horrible of me to be doing happy dances because my little dude is going to school – but if that’s what you’re thinking…. just wait.  Your day will come.  Your kid will get on that bus, and after the initial “I’m going to miss him so much, I hope he’s okay, what will he do without me, what will I do without him” moment, you will walk back into your house, and it’ll hit you.  That moment of I’m alone! I’m really truly alone!  will come.  And I’m willing to bet you consider dancing around naked too.

Anyway, Mason finally started school.  And considering I was able to do yoga in my living room uninterrupted for the first time EVER, I’m going to go ahead and say this is awesome!

Truthfully, over the last few months, life has felt completely non-stop. I haven’t been sleeping, the kids haven’t been sleeping.  Drama and meltdowns everywhere.  This responsibility and that obligation.  I can literally count on one hand how many times in the last three months I’ve even attempted to apply makeup.  Wedding plans (who knew there was SO much crap to think of?!), this kid to that doctor, that kid to that therapist.  IEP meeting for this one, evaluations for that one.  I’d already put my plans to start my own non profit on hold for lack of time.  What it all comes down to is that I was overwhelmed.

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For a while I muddled through – because I couldn’t find a reason to be overwhelmed.  This was my life.  These things have always been here, and odds are they’re going to get a lot worse before they get better.  The meltdowns will get bigger, the responsibilities will only get heavier… so why was I all of a sudden drowning in the things I’ve come to think of as life’s constants?  Then one day it hit me – like the proverbial ton of bricks.  Where the hell was I in all of this?  I was completely lost in the rush of everything and everyone else.  In doing so my family was suffering.  I was miserable.  My relationship was suffering because I wasn’t put the time toward it I needed to.  My kids suffered because mommy was tired and cranky.  Even the dog was suffering.

When was the last time I did something for me?  I couldn’t remember.  I was so busy running around like a lunatic with all the other crap I’d basically neglected all but my most basic needs.  Clearly, something had to give.  So, I swallowed my pride (which I was frankly surprised to find I had so much of) and, despite my extreme hesitancy to do so, I backed out of some pretty big obligations.  In truth, I was terrified to do that.  I put my name on this.  People are counting on me.  This is my reputation.

But what’s a reputation when the whole world is crumbling around your ears?

I’ll tell ya what it’s worth.  Absolutely jack s**t.

I knew there was probably going to be some fall out – I probably put a really good friendship in jeopardy, and I’m feeling the sting of it.  But it was time to do something for myself.  So what did I do?

I planted a freaking garden.

Yes.  You read right.  Me – Captain Black Thumb planted a garden.  I’d wanted to do it for years.  I’ve been muttering and complaining about having to buy fresh herbs at outrageous prices only to have them go to waste because I only needed one sprig for years.  So, I planted a garden.  And it’s doing AMAZING.  As I write this, there’s a chicken in the oven full of my very own thyme and parsley.  I put some more focus on my relationship and am glad every day I did.  I put some more focus on my kids – and I’m still glad every day when they get on the bus!  But more than that, I made myself a goal.  It’s an outrageous and probably impossible goal, but I’m cooking my way toward it one day at a time.  And no, I’m not saying what it is until it becomes a bit more attainable!

So, I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing all this now.  I guess a part of me is upset because I think I really did put a big kink in a friendship that meant a lot to me.  And I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to fix it one of these days.  Another part of me is proud (there it is again) – because I finally took the best piece of advice ever given to me when Kaleb was born:  take time for myself.

Instead of running around at night and trying to catch up on work I couldn’t do during the day, I’m doing the work during the day, instead of a million other things.  And at night?  I’m sitting on the porch, listening to Frank Sinatra and Etta James and reading any book I please for as long as I please.  I’m happier.  I’m happier at the butt-crack of dawn when I get up to get Kaleb on the bus.  I’m happier in the afternoon when I get both boys off their respective busses.  I’m happier after a failure of an IEP meeting.  I’m happier when I’m pulling the kids apart while they try to rip each other’s throats out.  I’m happier watching the same episodes of Little Einsteins over and over again.  I’m happier when my soon-to-be husband is home.  I’m happier.

So, sure I can’t be super mom.  I can’t chair walks and be on the PTA board, and start a non-profit, and run all over hades and back for everyone who asks anything of me.  But what I can do is raise two healthy, happy boys on the spectrum.  I can have a healthy(er) relationship with the love of my life while I plan our wedding.  I can do a better job of getting and staying in touch with the friends and family who have had my back since day one.  I can spend time in my garden and read books.  I can go to pumpkin festivals and blues festivals and enjoy my life.  Because as important as all the other stuff is – my family is the reason I was doing it in the first place.  So why would I do it if it was making my family suffer?

This actually wasn’t as difficult to write as I thought it would be – because I really mean it.  To all of you who told me it was important to take care of me – I digress.  You were right, I was wrong.  And I’ve never been happier to discover how wrong I was.

To all of you out there worn down, weary, and worried about the same crap – all I have to say is…

Stop.

Who is going to take care of everyone else if you’re locked in a padded cell after holding yourself to this ridiculous standard of parenting?  Being involved doesn’t mean doing everything that walks across your path.  It means being sane and stable and happy enough to do the fun stuff.

I’ve got to go pull my (hopefully) delish chicken out of the oven so I can feed my kids and get them off to bed.  Then I’m going to go watch something asinine on television with my love and I’m going to enjoy every second of it.

I hope you have as good a night as I’m going to.

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Bug-A-Boo…

September 21, 2010….

I went into labor.  For approximately one hour and thirty minutes.  We barely made it to the hospital on time – and the poor kid who had the misfortune of working the ER door that night probably wet himself at some point shortly after our arrival.  Sho-Sho was intimidating…. but Mommy was a woman possessed… and you WERE COMING right that very minute, no matter what anyone said.  Of course, Mommy’s big, bad act was kinda stolen from her by your need to have immediate bathroom access.  Oh, well.  It won’t be long before Mommy gets years of practice at yelling at complete strangers – part of that yelling will be on your behalf, by the way.  

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Mason,

Happy Birthday Sweet Bug!

I’ve been trying to write this for a couple of days – but it’s just not easy to list all of the amazing things that make you, you!

I can’t believe you’re three.  I can’t believe you started preschool yesterday.  It seems like two days ago you were a little snug bug who was perfectly content as long as you were in Mommy’s arms.  I can still remember the way you looked at the world around you with such intensity and curiosity.  I just can’t believe you are three – I can’t even wrap my head around you some days.

You entered this world with some serious gusto, and you have taken life on in much the same manner.  Bull by the horns, so to speak.  You are one of a kind, my boy.  Every inch of you – from your head to your toes – from your unwavering love of cars to your hilarious dance routine every time you ask to hear “Radioactive” AKA “Mason’s Song!”.  You bring light, laughter, and joy to everyone who crosses your path.  All it takes is one smile, one giggle and you have the attention  of the whole room.

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You see the world in such a unique way, and it’s such a blessing to be able to look through your eyes.  You have always had this way of studying the things and people around you – I’ve honestly never seen a child so intently observe the world.  Daddy and I love to watch as the gears in your head turn as you observe and figure out the workings of everything you see.

You’re sweet, and smart, and funny, and oh so very entertaining.  I wouldn’t change a thing about you – and I hope you never want to.  You’re a beautiful, exciting, chaotic little boy, and every inch of that is what makes you so wonderful.  I have so many dreams for you, so many things I cannot wait to watch you achieve.  I hope you’ll always be true to who you are.  I hope you’ll always listen to that part of you that is so creative and curious.  I hope you never bring Poopcasso Jr back.  I hope you never flush another dinosaur down the toilet.  I hope you continue to love cooking with Mommy and watching Monster Trucks with Daddy.  I hope you always keep looking up at the world above you, as well as the world around you.  I hope you put that killer arm to use on a baseball or football field and stop pegging me in the head with cars.  I hope you always have a silly streak.  I hope you never let go of the joy you find in simple things.  I hope you stop eating markers, and your brother’s Legos.  I hope you never stop “collecting” memories.  I hope you never lose passion for the things you love.

In short – I hope you always remain exactly who you are – no matter who you grow up to be.

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I cannot wait to see what you do as you grow.  The things you will learn, from everyone and everything in your world, and the way you apply those lessons will surely make an incredible man one day.

For now though, I want to you to stay little.  I want you to remain a child for as long as you can, in a world that forces our children to grow up too quickly.  I want you to pull out your pretend binoculars and look for birds in the sky.  I want you to ride around on your “lawn mower” every Monday morning when the neighbors have their lawns cut.  I want to watch Cars with you over and over again.  I want to chase lizards in the front yard and butterflies in the back.  I want to see your excitement each time you spot the moon.  I want to see your face light up when someone gives you a “ring pop ring”, or when an emergency vehicle drives by.

Be good to your brother.  He’s the only one you have – and while you two have your ups and downs, you should always remember to be there for each other.  You will make each other crazy, but at the end of the day, you will always have one another.

And no matter what – always, always remember that Mommy and Daddy love you.  We want the best for you – we want the world for you.  And we will do whatever we can to make sure you have the best life we can provide.

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You are one incredible little boy.  I love you.  I’m so crazy proud of you.

Okay, I guess I’m done now – you can stop yelling at me, I’m coming to watch Cars right now.

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The Wheels on the Bus…

I’m baaaaaack!

Kinda.  There’s no guarantee on that until Mason starts school in a little less than two weeks.  But still.  I’m back for now.  I’ve been meaning to write about Kaleb’s new school for a while now (actually, I have written about Kaleb’s new school – and a million other things – you should see the list of drafts in my folder!).  Today though, I’m not writing about the school.  Well not much.  Just to say this:  I REALLY like his new school.  And I REALLY like his new teacher.  She’s tough, but she’s compassionate, and I think we made the right decision in pairing them together.  On an overall scale I am exceptionally pleased at how it’s turned out.

Transportation though?  That’s a whole different ball game.

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Allow me to give you a little bit of insight into our history with the Transportation department for our county’s public schools.

When Kaleb was three he started going to School A.  He went five days a week from 11-2.  That first year I drove him back and forth – which was a pain for many reasons.  First, our car does not get good city mileage, and his school was a good 7 miles from our house.  In this town, that’s a minimum 15 minute commute if you don’t hit any lights (and I’m cursed, so I always hit the lights).  Second, Mason was an infant – and it was always a nightmare to try and juggle Kaleb’s drop off and pick up times with Mason’s nap schedule (which was WAY important!).  Third, Kaleb really wanted to ride the bus for some reason – but this is one mommy who wasn’t immediately cool with the idea of my baby getting on a bus and being driven around this touristy town by a stranger.

His second year at School A I finally caved and allowed him to ride the bus – for everyone’s sake.  The bus would pick him up at the end of the street around 10:30 and drop him off at the end of the street at 2:30.  This was mostly fine and dandy, save for the whole “end of the street” part.  Kaleb isn’t the most observant child in the world when it comes to his surroundings.  Now, he’ll pick up on every tiny nuance that the grownups around him don’t want him to notice – but a car coming down the road at him?  Not so much.  Turns out, at that point, his running into traffic was the least of our worries.  One morning Kaleb was having a rough time pulling himself together, and it was one of those I really hope he calms down before school days.

Not that he actually made it to school.  The bus got two minutes down the road and I got a phone call informing me I had to come get him off the bus.  I’m still not 100% on what happened to set Kaleb off – but what was very obvious, was that Kaleb had a total meltdown.  In the process of this, he got out of his seat and kicked his bus aid in the back – sending her to the E.R. and placing her on medical leave for about a month with a spinal injury.  Kaleb was 3 years old.  We called an IEP meeting and began to implement a harness on the bus – for his safety and the safety of everyone else on the bus.

Of course, shortly after this, Kaleb was transferred to the full day program.  Because we did not want to transfer him from School A to School B in the middle of the year, we got a variance and kept him at School A until the end of the year.  Now the real fun begins.  Because we have a variance, the bus will no longer come to our street – let alone our neighborhood.  Nope.  For the following half of the year I had to pack up little Mason, hustle both boys in the car, and every morning drive Kaleb two miles away from our house to wait at a bus stop in another neighborhood.  At 6:30am.  Pain in the butt?  Absolutely.  Did I consider just driving him each day?  Absolutely.  But when it came right down to it – the total fifteen minutes in the morning it took for us to get to the stop, get Kaleb on the bus, and get home was still better than the cash we’d spend in gas driving back and forth to the school.  Even if it was at the crack of dawn.

So, enter year 3.  Now Kaleb is officially in the full-day Preschool program.  One more year until Kindergarten (his birthday is past the deadline to start kindergarten at 5).  So, on to School B.  You already know all about School B.  More than 17 suspensions in three months time.  Constant battles over IEPs, Testing, etc.  School B was a nightmare of epic proportions.  But it all started with Transportation.  We were back to Kaleb getting picked up at the end of the street.  Better than two miles away?  Duh.  But still highly dangerous.  Not to mention the added level of danger with having soon-to-be two year old Mason out on a main road when he’s OBSESSED with chasing cars.  Yes, you read that right.  My dog chases his shadow – my kid chases cars.  We’re definitely abnormal around here.

For the first few weeks the bus is stopping at the curb.  Once the bus driver realizes that there is heavy traffic on the road he started to turn down our road and stopped in front of a house at the end of the street.  Every day when he would pick up Kaleb and drop him off, he’d drive right past our house.  Aside from the fact that we were still way too close to the main road for my comfort, now they were driving right past the house!  I was getting more and more frustrated each day – as Kaleb got more daring each day and was darting further into the road.  And I’ll say it again for good measure – they were driving right past our house!

So, we call a meeting, where I request to have the transportation altered to pick him up at the house.  For his safety, Mason’s safety, and just plain common sense.  After a 45 minute meeting, I am informed that Kaleb does not have a “physical disability” so therefore they refuse to offer him curbside service.  Are you kidding me?  Being unable to control himself when he gets overwhelmed or overstimulated and running into traffic despite my best efforts to prevent him is not considered a physical disability to you people?  Oh no.  According to the Transportation department the safety of the child at the bus stop is not their concern – it is a concern for the parent, and is therefore the parent’s problem.

These are the people who my child depends on for safe transport to and from school?  Jeez, he’d find more compassion on a Brooklyn subway car.  I wanted to stand up and yell at the guy.  All I could think was “Have you ever had to chase down a 4 foot tall 50lb autistic child with Hulk-like strength tendencies while keeping a grip on a 2 year old who wanted to chase the same car that was in danger of running down the first child?  No?  You should try it sometime.  Take it from me – it’s no picnic.  Hell, it’s nearly impossible.”  I didn’t yell (I might have said some of the above though).  I kept my temper.  I didn’t even cry.

Instead, naturally, I did what any other parent in their right mind would do.  I left the school, came home, ranted, raved, yelled at the sky, and finally it hit me.  They said I need to have some form of doctor’s note that coincides with my belief that he has a physical disability.  Well, it just so happens we had an appointment with his neurologist due to long suspected seizures coming up pretty soon.  So for the next week I held my tongue and bid my time.  When we got to the neurologist’s office I explained the situation, and found that he was in complete agreement with me.  This arrangement was dangerous and it would not do.  So, he gave me the note I requested, and then did one better – he informed me that if anyone at the next meeting gave me so much as an ounce of trouble about it, to call him on the phone while in the meeting – inform his secretary who I was and why I was calling, and he would immediately answer and make sure they understood in no uncertain terms that things could not keep going the way they were going.

Two weeks and another (of course, this turned out to be just the first few of MANY) IEP meeting later, Kaleb had curbside pick up and drop off.  Now, I had mixed feelings about Kaleb’s bus driver.  I liked the aid plenty, but the driver himself I was on the fence about most of the year.  He was nice enough – but it didn’t take long for me to realize he was pretty short on patience.  But, by the end of the year, I had bigger things to worry about, so that got shoved to the bottom of my list of worries.

At the last meeting we held last school year, the one that decided what school Kaleb would be moving on to (School C), my first question was about his transportation.  I wanted to make sure he held on to his curbside service, as I didn’t want to be dealing with the mess again next year.  I was assured that his transportation wouldn’t change.  Wrong.  Sigh…

When I was given the information for Kaleb’s bus schedule at the beginning of the school year I was sincerely angry.  After everything we had gone through last year, couldn’t we just once catch a break?  Please??

I call Transportation, who calls the school.  Now, on this, I really have to give a hand to the Assistant Principal of School C.  He jumped right on it – calling to let me know that he had spoken to transportation and would do everything he could to fix the problem.  Ummm… what?  You’re going to help me??  Really?  Really really?  Am I being punked?  I mean seriously, I’ve become a bit jaded toward public school administration after the last year.  Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do.  Somehow somewhere some line got crossed and his curbside service was trumped by a special stop (meaning the house at the end of the street).  UGGGHHHHHH.  How did that even happen?  He explained to me (I kept my frustration in check seeing as how I actually liked the guy, and appreciated his willingness to help), and I requested another IEP with Transportation to get this straightened out.

That was about three weeks ago, and I still hadn’t heard from the facilitator.  However, I had actually decided to let it go – for two reasons.  The first, there are actually a group of kids at our bus stop now.  They’re all Kaleb’s age, and he really enjoys playing with them each morning.  They go to a different school (the one we’re actually zoned for, but doesn’t have any ESE or gifted classes), but their buses come around the same time, so it’s something Kaleb looks forward to.  Not to mention, we’ve been in this house for five years – and in all that time, I’ve only met one of my neighbors (and they do not like me at all).  I enjoyed having adult conversations for a few minutes each morning with people who actually live on our street.

Second, Mason starts school in 9 days.  He will be in the afternoon class at School A, just like his brother.  While I’d be willing to drive him, he’s in love with the idea of riding the bus.  So, his afternoon bus will drop him off at the same corner as Kaleb at the same time.  I certainly can’t have one child being dropped off in one spot, and another somewhere else.  So, it would just be easier to have them both dropped off at the corner.  Daddy and I were both pleased with this solution, and were willing to drop the whole issue.

Until Thursday.  I was informed Wednesday morning by Kaleb’s bus driver that there was going to be a new driver on the route, so that was her last day.  A part of me was sad about this – change is hard for Kaleb, and that didn’t give me a lot of prep time.  However, this particular bus duo had refused to put Kaleb in his harness during the first few weeks of school, and as a direct result he freaks out whenever they put him in it.  Is he getting too big for the harness?  Maybe.  But I don’t appreciate a bus driver who has only known my child a couple of weeks suggesting I call a meeting and remove the harness from his IEP because she doesn’t like having to put him in it.  That particular piece of equipment is there for the safety of EVERYONE – and above all else, the safety of my child.  He may not like it – but if my now 62lb five year old has a meltdown on that bus, there’s no way to know what kind of harm he can cause.

Anyway, we get up Thursday morning like usual.  We leave at 7am to walk to the bus – now, our normal stop time is supposed to be 7:15 but she was consistently late, so Kaleb usually got about 30 minutes to play with his new friends.  His bus ALWAYS came before the other kids’ bus.  Not yesterday.  Yesterday the other kids all get on the bus and we’re still waiting.  Mason is all over the place, Kaleb is getting really antsy, and I’m starting to get worried myself.  By 7:35 I’m calling the dispatcher at Transportation, asking if something is going on.  We’ve been out there since 7am – that bus should not be anywhere near our house before 7:10, but you never know.

After sitting on hold for 8 minutes I’m getting agitated (come on, really?  I gave you the route number, how does it take this long to radio the driver?).  Until she gets on the phone and tells me he’s not listed on that route.  Ummm come again?  He’s been picked up by this bus every day since school started – how could he NOT be on the list?  Two minutes later she’s found him – his bus route has been COMPLETELY changed.  His route number is now ###, the bus will be coming at 6:45 instead of 7:20.  What the hell?

So, let me get this straight.  Someone in Transportation deemed it not only acceptable, but wise to alter my 5 year old’s bus route so he has to wake up almost a full hour earlier, memorize a new route number, and nobody thought to tell me???? 

For the second time in a month I look around and wonder if I’m on Candid Camera right now… if so, there are going to be a lot of bleep! noises.  I grab the kids and we race back to the house, where I basically chuck Mason at Daddy, throw Kaleb in the car and race off to the school so Kaleb isn’t late.  Of course, it was only as I was en route that I realized not only did I forget his smoothie money, I’m in my freaking pajamas!  Ohhhhh man.  Pajamas are cool for a bus stop.  They are not acceptable attire for the PTA driven mom-tropolis of your child’s elementary school.  Crap.

I get Kaleb to school on time (barely).  I explain what happened to his teacher – who was just as confused as I was as she’d had two other children switched to Kaleb’s old bus route, but had gotten no notification of Kaleb’s route changing (I’m not the only one being kept in the dark here).  I then rush out of there with my baseball hat hiding my tomato colored face of shame as I’m openly gaped at by a bunch of super moms (I know I should not care – but really, of course I do.  Eventually I’m going to have to interact with these women, and I’d prefer not to be known as the one who shows up in jammies).

The rest of the day is normal – as normal as we get anyway.  Then I get a phone call about five after two.  Kaleb missed his bus – because he made a big mess and his teacher made him stay to clean it up (I don’t care that this slightly inconvenienced me – I love this lady!  Way to stick to your guns!) – so she’ll call me when he has cleaned his mess so I can come get him.  The whole drive home from the school I discuss with Kaleb what it’s going to mean to have a new bus.  It’ll be a different bus, a different number (he quickly memorizes it), a different driver, and a different time.  We’re going to have to get up super early so he doesn’t miss his bus.

In the end our conversation doesn’t really matter.  We get up Friday morning, both of us dragging (I know it’s ridiculous, but that 50 minute difference in wake up times is a bitch).  Kaleb is in a wretched mood.  Bad enough that I stick a note in his folder trying to give his teacher fair warning that he’s exhausted and crotchety.  We eventually get out of the house around 6:35 (the walk to the end of the street only takes two minutes).  We stand outside chit-chatting for about two minutes before the bus comes around the corner.  Already I’ve noticed a few things I don’t like about this new arrangement.  First, it’s crazy early for a five year old with sleep issues.  Second, it’s crazy early for a mommy with sleep issues.  Third, it’s DARK outside.  And if it’s THIS dark in September, just think about how dark it’s going to be in December.  But, I grin and bear it, because that’s what we do.

Then the real trouble arrives.  The bus gets to the stop, and instead of stopping about 30 yards from the corner where it has been stopping all year – it turns down our road and stops at the first driveway.  Already this has got Kaleb in a tizzy.  He’s tired, he’s miserable, and the bus is doing it wrong!  I remind him that it is Fun Friday at school, and if he misses the bus he’ll be missing that – and he’ll spend the day cleaning his pigsty of a room instead.  Well – that at least gets him to walk up to the bus.  The doors open, and for a split second we are both so stunned we freeze.  Then I glance at Kaleb and I see the change happen right before my eyes.  Oh no.  This is going to be big, and very, very BAD.  

Have you figured out who is driving Kaleb’s new bus yet?  That’s right.  The driver from last year.  From School B.  Where Kaleb had what I hope will forever remain as the absolute worst academic year in his history.  I see it on his face the minute the thought hits him.  He thinks we’re making him go back to School B.  At this point my heart is automatically broken for my kid.  But we can’t just up and walk away from this.  We have to push through it, no matter how miserable it is.  He immediately reacts.  He starts crying and screaming, so distraught I don’t know how I’m going to get through to him.  “This isn’t where I belong mommy!  This is wrong!  That’s not my bus!  I don’t belong on that bus!”

He’s so completely upset about this I want to take him back home and curl up on the couch with him until he’s better.  This just sucks.  But I can’t do that – I can’t set a precedent like that.  He has to get on the bus, he has to conquer this and get to school.  I pick him up off the ground and start to maneuver him onto the bus – no easy feat when there’s 60lbs of uncontrollable muscle fighting me with everything he’s got.  Twice I think I’m about to go flying backwards, I can just see my head smacking into the pavement when I land.  Luckily, I’ve got just enough strength on him and I manage to get him up on the bus.  From there, it takes fifteen minutes for myself, the bus driver, and the aid to get Kaleb into his harness and buckled in properly.  About halfway through the struggle to get him strapped in, I’m wrestling him like a pro and he’s screaming that he doesn’t belong on this bus – the bus driver pipes up.  Wanna know what he said?  To my autistic five year old who is currently under the misconception that he is going back to a place he deems very, very bad, and in complete meltdown mode?  “Well I didn’t want to be here either, but they made me.”

WHAAAAT??? Did you really just say that?  Really??

If I hadn’t had my hands full of Kaleb at that moment, I might have had my hands full of bus driver.

Instead, I tuck it away for later, and finish getting my kid safely buckled into his seat.  Eventually we manage to get him properly strapped – and I step off the bus.  I watch as they drive away and Kaleb is kicking his shoes off screaming like a lunatic.  My first course of action is to grab my coffee cup off the ground – which is when I realized how badly I was shaking due to the coffee I was spilling on my foot.  My second is to call a friend and vent all of the pent up aggression I’ve managed to accumulate in the last twenty minutes.  Then I call Kaleb’s teacher.  The odds of this day ending badly are high, and she needs to know that he’ll be running with a hair trigger today.  She also needs to understand just why this was such a traumatic event for my Monster.

I’m simply floored by this latest little incident.  Someone took Kaleb’s previous driver and swapped her route with this driver – and I want to know why.  I called the school and requested an IEP meeting to discuss this development.  If they’re going to be picking Kaleb up at the crack of dawn he is no longer going to be able to enjoy his new little friends in the morning – which means I want the curbside pickup reinstated.  I briefly toyed with the idea of driving him in the mornings, but immediately dismissed it.  First, he likes the bus, that would be unfair to him.  Second, Mason’s going to be in the afternoon class when he starts school.  Meaning, we have to start keeping him up later and having him sleep in longer in order to avoid him being a tired and miserable terror by the time he gets to school.  In order for me to drive Kaleb every day I’d have to have both kids up and awake by 7:20am – a full hour and forty minutes before I want Mason to be waking up.  That just won’t work.

So, I leave a message with transportation (I’m basically on a first name basis with this woman by now – she has to be getting tired of me), requesting a call back to discuss the latest development.  Hopefully I’ll hear back on Monday.  Now I have to go find some more caffeine and make some breakfast – which I’m sure Kaleb won’t be eating since he snuck into the fridge this morning while everyone was still asleep and stole my entire banana cream pie (along with two mini chocolate cream pies).  Apparently he figured out that Daddy put locks on all of the cabinets containing food yesterday.  I don’t suppose I’ll be making any more deserts that require refrigeration.  At least he didn’t find my ice cream cones.

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Food, Glorious Food…

Kaleb has become a midnight snack thief.

This has been going on for about a month now, and it’s going to make us crazy.  I’m not talking about a little light nibble here and there either.  I’m talking about the half a box of donuts left over from breakfast stolen off the kitchen counter.  Snack containers full of teddy grahms and Chips Ahoy! taken from his grandmother’s kitchen window sill (none of us know how he reached them).  More donuts.  An entire package of birthday cake oreos stolen from his great-grandmother’s kitchen.  Boxes of fruit snacks that were hidden on the tallest shelf in a snack cabinet (don’t know how he got those either).  An entire container of chocolate covered marshmallow cookies (btw, can we say gross??).  Ritz Bitz taken out of Mason’s backpack.  Lollypops snuck from the bathroom (they were being used to unsuccessfully bribe Mason to sit on the toilet).  A gumball machine full of M&M’s also used in the game of Let’s Bribe Mason to Pee!

And the night before last, after Daddy and I each only got one small square before bed, Kaleb stole an entire tray of brownies.

First of all, don’t judge me.  I realize this is a lot of junk food – but the truth is, we usually only keep one dessert like item in the house at a time unless it’s sugar free or healthy in some way.  This does not include my secret candy cabinet (it took Daddy forever to figure out how I kept magically appearing with a Snicker’s bar in my hand) – but that’s for the grown-ups.  More so, that’s for me.  After having Mason my blood sugar tends to plummet randomly, so I keep secret sugar stashes.  But in reality, the kids eat a whole lot more fruits and veggies (thank goodness, because they are complete nightmares when it comes to feeding them meat) than they do junk.  Which makes the secret snacking that much worse.

I know that Kaleb’s meds have been known to increase his appetite, and I have never hesitated to feed the kid when he’s hungry (unless it’s right before dinner – in which case he can wait the twenty minutes).  But I’m completely worried about what this is going to do to his blood sugar levels.  I can just see it now – when he goes in for his blood work in two months and his doctor tears my head off over the amount of sugar Kaleb has been ingesting.

I have no idea what to do about this.  I’ve cleaned out the kids snack cabinet.  If I have to get a padlock and lock up all the snacks at night I will.  Because this has just gone too far.  When he took the lollypops he managed to stash half the bag before he was caught – for two days we found him and his brother with empty lollypop sticks all around (at least he was sharing, right?).  When I found the brownies yesterday morning I didn’t know whether I should scream or cry.

The first thing I did after getting Mason up yesterday morning was head to the kitchen – where the first thing I noticed was my missing brownies.  I’m not really a junk food junkie (okay, that’s kind of a lie.  Offer me a double quarter pounder and fries and I’ll take it over a salad in a heartbeat.), but still.  Don’t mess with my brownies.  It’s right up there with eating the last piece of cheesecake and attempting to even touch my Carvel ice cream cake (seriously.  I will do harm.).  Unless I offer to share with you, the only exception to this is Daddy – and even that’s not a guarantee since there have been times when I’ve looked at him with the promise of horrible things to come if he touches that piece of cake.

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So, I immediately go on a brownie hunt.  the first thing I do is check the fridge, in case for some unknown reason Daddy stuck them in there (I have no idea why, but just go with it).  It’s not there.  Now I pretty much know Kaleb took them, but I’m not going to say anything to him until I have proof – on the slight chance he didn’t and it’s some cruel joke the universe (aka Daddy) is playing on me.  Plus, I really don’t want it to be Kaleb.  He hasn’t snuck anything in almost a week since I told him that from now on each time I caught him sneaking food he was losing a day of snacks and treats – he could have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and veggies to munch on.  But no fruit snacks, no crackers, etc.

I walk into his room and it’s decimated – like Thor came crashing down from the heavens into Kaleb’s closet and went a little hammer crazy.  I’m actually stunned.  Every book is on the floor.  The curtain has been ripped off the dowel.  The sheets are ripped off the bed.  The drawers are pulled out of the night stand.  The lamp is dangling by it’s cord.  My mind can’t even process the destruction.  I don’t even know where to start looking for the brownies.  I tried to step in the closet, but there was no way to do it without clearing a path.  My first thought is “booby-trap” Goonies style.  My second thought is misdirection.  There’s no good spot for him to sit and scarf a tray of brownies.  So I move on.  After tossing the room, I eventually find the brownies hidden under the bean bag chair.  And they’re just as decimated as the bedroom.

Which is so much worse.

After coming to grips with my lost chocolatey heaven, I sat Kaleb down and informed him that he would be cleaning that room today, no excuses, whining, screaming, throwing, hitting, or door slamming about it.

That was at 8am yesterday morning.  It’s now nearly 10am today and his room is worse than it was yesterday morning, and he was in there basically all day “cleaning”.

Of course, what makes this all so much better is that within the same week I both crashed the car, and slammed the back hatch of the car on my phone – thus completely destroying the screen on a phone that is only 37 days old.

I would stuff my face with brownies in an effort to drown my sorrows – but I can’t.  Because my five year old stole them.