A family's story

Thirteen.

I am the parent of a teenager. A legitimate, literal teenager. Jake turned 13 today at 3:21 am. Our path to the teen years has been full of love, new experiences, firsts for me as a parent, and adventures. Some adventures have been exciting and invigorating. Others have caused us both discomfort, but we’ve grown along the way.

As Jake grows and starts having more of his own private experiences, I have to let go. It is bittersweet. I don’t want to see him hurt, or upset, or failing…but I know that it’s my job as a parent to let him experience all of those things…because that ultimately is how we grow and figure out what we want from life.

I want to shield him from the pain of rejection, the angst of failure, the hurt of loss. And yet, when I look at my life, my experiences, it was in those terribly uncomfortable moments that I grew. It wasn’t easy. It caused my anxiety to flare, and yet, with my mom guiding me ever so gently with some advice, perhaps some nagging, and lots of love, she let me work through it. Often, I had a much better idea of what I wanted and needed in life once I was on the other side of the experience.

I know that the teen years are going to be challenging for both of us, and likely, in varying ways. I promise to be his shepherd, his beacon, to help get him through the storm. I hope he understands that. My actions are always inspired by concern, love, and the knowledge that independence is our endgame.

Happy 13th Birthday, my Jakey-P. I love you.

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An unsure first time mom with her bundle of joy. I feel as unsure as I look in this picture, as we embark on teendom.

The In-Between

The boys start school in 10 days. Another summer has blown past us. It has been an up and down summer, but a mostly enjoyable one. Soon, my boys will be in 7th, 5th and 2nd grade. Amazingly, when I started this blog, my oldest was a 2nd grader…and now, well, my baby is knocking on that door.

School supplies have been organized, and those that needed to be replaced are purchased. Folders are un-creased and crisp and shiny. Crayons still have a pristine tip. We have piles for each in the spare bedroom. Now, we wait.

The “In-Between” can be a bit anxiety producing, I am not going to lie. I am not sleeping great. The boys are each showing their anxiety in their own way. I won’t mire you down in the details, but let’s just say that the apples don’t fall far from the tree, here.

Each of them checks the master calendar daily. New items are being written in often. Jake is allowed to go walk his schedule any time from 9-3:30 on Thursday. Cole has a playdate for incoming 2nd graders another afternoon. Next week, the younger 2 have elementary school “Meet the Staff” day. As we tick off the list of supplies and have our last summer flings with friends, they get more and more aware that (said in a Ned Stark voice), “The School Year is coming.”

Summer isn’t always easy, with it’s relaxed schedules and routines, but in some ways, it is easier for me. No homework battles. No shuffling three children to and fro between various after school activities that range from soccer to religious education to therapists to scouts. And let’s not get into the freedom from IEP concerns.

Yes, we are firmly in the “In-between”, and right now, it’s a mix of emotion. Should I be bummed about the end of the summer? Should I be worried about the school year? Should I be writing summaries for the various teachers as they are new to my child(ren)? Did I remember to get all of the supplies? Did we do everything summer-related on our list? Did we do too much therapy this summer? Too little? Should we try to cram in another summer event?

So, I will sit here, and enjoy my coffee, and contemplate the “In-between”…for soon, we will be fully entrenched in another school year…

Tuesday Ramblings

Sometimes I’m just not sure what to write about. The boys are older, and they want to keep so much more to themselves. Or, well, I know how I would have felt at 12 to have my mom blabbering on about my antics and cute phrases and ways of problem solving. I would have rolled my eyes and been SO EMBARRASSED if she said too much. So, discussing Jake is difficult for me. I will say, 6th grade has turned out to be much better for him than I ever could have thought. I am relieved…and worried for what 7th grade will bring. But isn’t that always the way?

Tate is almost 10. TEN! Gaah! Again, when I was 10 there were things that would have made me flush with unease if my mom shared them. Granted, less would have bothered me at 10 than at 12, but it still would have been cringeworthy to hear her talk about some of the changes going on with my body, my brain, my relationships….I could go on. This year, I have heard from several of Tate’s support staff that he is much more engaged, much more talkative, much more….happy. Considering the roller coaster that 4th grade has been, I will take these little victories. This is a big transition year. No longer a *little* kid, not quite a *big* kid…just kind of stuck in limbo. The academic expectations are greater. Parents and teachers, alike, expect more maturity. Independence has been a buzzword all year. And for a kiddo who is not quite at the same developmental level as others, well, independence is hard, yo.

Cole is plowing through first grade. I can’t get over how mature his face has gotten this year. That baby face is gone. *sniff* It is also such a different experience with Cole. EVERYTHING is a different experience. He is much more typical than not. I often find myself asking teachers and other parents if this is “typical”. I don’t have much to compare Cole’s experiences to, as his brothers’ trajectories are just different. I’ve been assured that Cole is exactly where he is supposed to be. Of course, I will always be vigilant and watching out, but I find myself worrying less about development with him, and more about how he deals with peer pressures and wanting to be accepted and all of that jazz. (Honestly, that gives me more gray hair and worry lines than the other issues, at times…)

I am doing okay, too. The winter, while not anything like the past 2 years, wore on me. We all had the stomach flu this winter season. All five of us. That was horrid. I hope we don’t do that again…ever. Then came the colds. And strep. And colds. And sinus infections. Let’s just say that I will be so very, very happy to see spring-like temps and weather this week, and going forward. We need “Cold and Flu” season to bid us adieu…SOOO done!

Despite all of the battling of germs that we have done, I have been relatively consistent with my exercise. I get in about 35-40 minutes during each weekday. Weekends are a little more relaxed, but I still get in most of my 10,000 steps. With sports starting, I will likely get up and move more…walking the fields, lugging chairs and coolers and umbrellas and sunscreen.

I am hit or miss with my quest to lose weight. I want to be healthy and lean…but damn, cheese and french bread and cookies are soooooo good.  I am working on using moderation!! Ironically, I find myself using “if, then” in terms of my diet. “If I eat well 5 days during the week, THEN I can have a treat on Saturday…” HAH!

I am also trying to let go of things I cannot control. This is SOOO hard for me. I want to CONTROL ALL OF THE THINGS. This is a work in progress.

 

Semantics

This morning as I was chugging along on the treadmill, I decided to scroll through Facebook to entertain myself. The impending change in weather made it onto a few of my friends’ pages. (Mine, included.) There were posts about Lady Gaga, posts about Leonardo DiCaprio, posts about Chris Rock and the Girl Scout cookies, and posts about John Oliver discussing Trump. #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain (That’s as political as I intend to get here.)

I noticed that a friend of mine had posted something on her page about autism and “gut” bacteria. I debated just letting it go, but I decided to read it. It was an almost two-year-old article about the link between autistic behaviors and “gut” issues. I read it. It’s information that has been churned out several times. I don’t disregard that many autistics have issues with their GI tracts and such. I have seen that. I’ve experienced that. But the headline of this particular article baited readers into thinking that “gut” imbalance CAUSES autism and a “simple” daily probiotic would make challenges disappear…. Pffffftttttt.

I did respond, saying that while there may be some correlation, autism is neurological in nature, and really is the way the brain works.  I noticed that someone had posted about the fact that “wouldn’t it be great to do a combination of behavior therapy and probiotic to help autism, which proves it isn’t caused by vaccines and is a “birth” defect.” I knew what the person probably meant, but, I took a little umbrage to the use of the word, “defect”.

Now, my son has challenges. He has deficits as compared with like-age peers in terms of comprehension, language, processing, etc…but “defective”? I can’t buy into that. When I looked up the word “defect” in the dictionary, it stated, “a shortcoming, fault, imperfection”. Aren’t we all a little defective, then? I mean, really.

I then looked up the word “disorder”. When applied in a medical sense, it was listed as, “a disruption of normal physical or mental function”. Well, we all know “normal” is just a setting on a dryer. Does my son follow neurological development of other children his age?! Hells no–so yeah, I guess disorder applies. Further down, I saw a definition of “disorder” as a verb listed as “disrupt the systematic functioning or neat arrangement of”. I chuckled at that definition, especially when I consider how routine-dependent my son can be. And have you seen the way he lines up his Paw Patrol guys?!

We also refer to autism as a disability. Sooo, I went to look up the word “disability”. Dictionary.com says, “A disadvantage or deficiency, especially a physical or mental impairment,that prevents or restricts normal achievement.” (emphasis is my own) My son approaches the world from a different angle than most. I wouldn’t say he’s wrong. Just, well, different. As long as he has success and happiness and support..well, I think the kid’s gonna be all right. I will concede that it may take him longer to arrive, but he’s going to get to the finish line. He will.

I guess what I’m getting at is, if that person says, “potato”, I say “potahtoh”. She says “defect”, I say, “Unique vision and approach to the world.” And let’s just leave it at that….

 

Something New

So last week I took a step out of my comfort zone and tried a cardio kickboxing class with a fellow mom from my boys’ school. It was a small group at a tae kwon do center, and I liked the work out. Everyone was friendly and no one said anything about my jiggly middle and offbeat moves. It took me a couple of weeks to get comfortable with the idea, but I’m glad I made the change.

Today I returned for another class. This week was a little more intense, but I enjoyed it again. It’s good to step out and try new things. I need to remind myself to do that more often.

I often talk about my boys and their rigidity, but I am a creature of habit, myself. I like sticking to what I know versus trying or attempting something that I may not be familiar with. Know that feeling?

I know I drive my husband crazy with my hemming and hawing…and my resistance to change. Case in point??? Our dryer decided to bid us adieu this past weekend. I opened it so that I could leave the house and the motor decided to not work so much anymore. Waaah! I know it’s a 12 year old more basic model dryer, but still….couldn’t it hold on a while longer?!

We started to look at new appliances. Hubz isn’t sure that he can fix the problem sufficiently. In our search, we noticed that all of the fancy washer and dryers that we prefer won’t fit in our laundry space. See,  our house has a small laundry room off of the garage entry. It *should* have been made bigger and been a dual purpose mudroom/laundry room, but that isn’t the way it was set up. The house was built in 1988. Appliances were smaller back then. Soo0…that means we will have to move our laundry area to the basement if we want the cool see-through top loader and dryer–which we DO want because (a) it has larger capacity, (b) it’s more efficient and (c) Tate absolutely LOVES washers and dryers. We’ll have to get someone in to do the electric and water and gas hook ups. Hubz wants to put in a utility sink. BUT this means I have to go up and down TWO LEVELS to do our laundry. I know me. I know our kids. I’m afraid that our laundry will end up lying around in the basement getting musty and stinky.

I also am overwhelmed at the idea of having to convert the laundry area into a mud room. It should be easy enough, but it is full of stuff. We have way too much stuff around here. Most of the items in that laundry room should probably be donated or thrown out. And it definitely needs to be painted. And do we put in a bench or just a couple of chairs? Do we install a few cabinets or do shelving? What color should we paint it? While we are in there, should we clean out the mini-closet that is full of MORE STUFF?! (Yes, yes we should.)

But it’s all change. It’s all different. It’s all going to change our routine and the way I handle laundry. It really makes my heart race thinking about it.

Hubz is going to try to install a new motor in the dryer this weekend to give us a little time. Give ME a little time to visualize and get comfortable with a new set-up, new appliances, new look.  Change is good, right?!

Where I ditch perfection…

Today I turn 40. There were no trumpets. No confetti. No big proclamations or cabana boys jumping out of cakes. Really, it has been “just another day”. And that is okay. I don’t need the flashy kind of birthday. I’m not flashy. I like quiet. It’s really just enough that my family and friends remembered and wished me well. And, well, Jake gave me the biggest hug this morning and a sweet happy birthday wish. (Considering that he’s 12 and most days I annoy him more than anything, that was one of the best gifts ever.)

I always get a bit retrospective on my birthday. With this being a “milestone” birthday and all, I have been thinking about my 30’s quite a bit. What did I learn? Did I come out ahead? One thing for sure, my 30’s had a lot of change, experience, and pivotal moments.

I started out that decade with a plan. I always had a plan. I was going to carpe me some diem. Or whatever. I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to work, we were going to add to our family, I was going to rock the professional and personal work/life balance thing. It was going to be amazing.

Looking back, my 30’s reminds me a lot of the game Perfection. Remember that game? I was going to get all the pieces put in just the right spots, with plenty of time to spare, beat the buzzer and win!

 

Jake had been born a couple years before. His arrival threw me because he was early. I was expecting Tate a few months after my 30th birthday. I was prepared. Even if he came early, we’d be okay. Nursery was done early. Clothes were washed. Bag was pack–EEEEEEH!!! The buzzer went off before I got those pieces put all together. Tate came 3 weeks and 1 day early, I had an emergency c-section because he was breech, and he was diagnosed with a heart murmur the day after he was born.

Tate’s first couple of months were the typical blur of having a newborn. We threw in some specialist appointments (turned out the heart murmur was minor and he would be okay). But damn, that kid WOULD NOT SLEEP. EVER. He was a fussy little guy, and hated to be snuggled. Hated being on his tummy. He threw up at seemingly odd intervals. I went back to work, barely getting enough sleep at night.

We moved on. The boys grew. We were finding our way. It wasn’t smooth, but it felt like the pieces were starting to fit a bit better. I was going to beat that buzzer. Yea—EEEEEEH! Buzzer went off. Damn! The head of our daycare called and expressed concerns about both Jake and Tate and their development. Whaaaaa?! She suggested autism in relation to Tate. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, listen. How? Why? Not my baby!!

We made appointments with Early Intervention. Tate was evaluated. He was severely delayed in speech, both receptive and expressive. His pragmatic skills were nil. What did that even mean?! Jake was speech delayed. He started services with the school. Tate started meeting with a speech pathologist. He then was evaluated for OT and developmental therapy. I felt like some new pieces were added to the game, but we were playing, and just about winning.

In 2009 we found out we were expecting another little boy. We were prepping for our transition to a family of five. Hubz finished the basement. The game of Perfection was getting closer to comple—. EEEEEH! Buzzer went off again. I went into pre-term labor at 33 weeks. It couldn’t be stopped. I had excessive amniotic fluid. I wanted to have a VBAC and, well, the baby was on his umbilical cord. A c-section was going to have to happen. Our little guy, Cole, was born 7 weeks early. He was small. But he was strong. He spent 3 weeks in the NICU. It was a rocky period, but we made it through.

I picked up those pieces, organized them differently, and started again. One piece went in so easily. Cole was flourishing. He was meeting milestones ahead of schedule, which was a relief. Tate was in Early Childhood preschool and was talking more and more. Jake was doing pretty well in kindergarten. I decided to stay home with the boys for a year or two, and I quit my job. I became a room mom for Jake’s class. I was figuring out how to navigate the parent gig with school and being home. My mom and I were talking about how much fun we were going to have once Jake and Tate were in school full days. Yes! I was figuring it out. These pieces weren’t so hard, after all…only a few more, and I’d wi—-EEEEEEEH!

My mom got sick. So, so sick. She was hospitalized. Then a stroke. Then a diagnosis…Pancreatic cancer. Terminal. How was I ever going to get through life without her?! The summer of 2010 was, and remains, a blur. I shuffled between caring for the boys and caring for my mom. I was truly sandwiched. The pieces of were scattered everywhere. I couldn’t even remember how to put them in the right way. That damn buzzer was going off. September 2010. The buzzer blew so loud and so fast. Mom was gone.

The pieces were everywhere. I think I lost a piece or two. I had enough to attempt to start over, so slowly, ever so slowly , I picked them up, and started placing them gingerly into their places. One. At. A. Time. I learned about things that were important. And I learned to let go of some things that weren’t. We also realized that as much progress as Tate was making, something wasn’t quite…typical. Six months after my mom died, we found out that our Tater Tot was autistic. No one I knew had a kiddo with needs like his. Hubz and I thought our game was totally busted. During that time the game sat on a shelf. The buzzer was jammed. I had other things to worry about.

Once we had a diagnosis for Tate, we got things moving. I figured out insurance. Hubz dealt with HR. We found ABA. Tate got more services. His IEP was beefed up. He started to make REAL progress. I pulled out the game, looked at it to decide whether I should try again. I flipped the pieces between my fingers. I could do this. Those pieces could fit. I could still win at Perfection. I got pretty close, but then, as usual, the buzzer went off, again, and I was no where near perfection.

As is the norm, the buzzer sounded a few more times in my later 30’s. I’d get SO. DAMN. CLOSE. Then…EEEEEH! Buzzer would go off. I kept trying, though. Then, one day, while I was putting those pieces in, I started to realize that maybe this game of perfection wasn’t where it was at. At 39, I put that perfection on the shelf. As it collected dust, I realized that I have friends whom get this roller coaster life that we lead. They have helped me see that perfection isn’t always the end goal. My family is fantastic the way it is. We can always work for BETTERING ourselves, but perfection??? It doesn’t have to be the end all, be all.

So, as I turn 40, I am chucking that stupid game into the garbage. I have finally realized that those pieces will NEVER all quite fit into their precise spots in a dictated timeframe. Life just doesn’t work that way.

This decade, I hope to work to achieve a balance. I know that there will be joy. There will be pain. Perfection is a word in the dictionary. I cannot and will not use it to dictate how my life should be. Perfection isn’t how I will measure my children’s successes, either. We are perfectly imperfect, and it suits us well.

 

Fabulous at 40?

So, in 20 days I will be 40 years old.  I’ve seen so many memes lately about “I don’t feel 40 until I go out with people who are 20 and then, yep, I feel 40”. Okay, maybe not EXACTLY that wording, but you get the gist. You guys, it is SO true. When I am THINKING and PONDERING and possibly PERSEVERATING on various things, I don’t feel a day over 25. For real. But then I try to do something physical, like, oh, I don’t know, open a jar of pickles, and gosh darn it, I FEEL the pain. That twinge in my thumb. A creak in my wrist. Oh, man…..

In my efforts to “get fit by 40” (which, news flash, I didn’t), I have been walking for 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. I’m proud of myself for having walked more than 10,000 steps a day most days of the week, and for maintaining regular exercise. However, it isn’t the most rigorous. And I definitely eat too many calories. (Sidebar: Why do bread, bagels and cheese have to be soooo damn delicious?!)

So, I find myself sitting at the higher weight (holiday candy and cookies be damned!) and needing to step up my fitness game. Sooooooo, I am taking the 21 Day Fix plunge. Eeeek! I did it last year and felt better. This year, I will do it again, but I will remember to do the MODIFIED workouts to start. Even with modified workouts, I know that for the first week, possibly two, I will be so sore, and Advil will be my friend. If you see me hobbling around, or having trouble getting down into a chair, no need to worry. It’s just that I’m so out of shape. I just need to tell myself that this is better for my body in the long run!!! I will also try to aim for the 10,000 steps a day. It keeps me active, even if I am slightly a slave to the Fitbit.😉

Also, I keep reading about the devil that sugar is to us humans. C’mon, man! In addition to bread, bagels and cheese,  I also love candy, ice cream, flavored lattes, etc. But, I am sure that sugar in the amounts that I consume it is not the best, so I will work on cutting down on that sugar consumption. I’m not happy about it, but I will. I will work to appreciate fruit as a dessert. (Insert eye roll here.)

Part of being fabulous means working the mind, along with the body. To achieve this, I plan on writing more this year. It is a good outlet, and I love rereading some of my old posts. It’s like a diary that I share with the world. But it is a good record of my life and happenings. I think I may also try my hand at writing a book. It may never be published or shared for public consumption, but really, I just want to see if I can do it. Wish me luck!!!

Last year I worked at trying to find my happy. I lost my way a few times, but overall, I think I did find it more than I had been in the past. That is my goal for my 40’s. I want to find my happy. (And for this conflict-averse, people pleaser, that is going to be HARD. But I’m going to do it. Just watch me!!!)

So, yeah, I may not be “fabulous by 40”, but I’m hoping to work on being fabulous IN my 40’s. That’s a good goal, right? I have 10 years to get it right.

 

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