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!

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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.

overwhelmed

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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No Other Love…

So, today is Daddy’s birthday.  It’s also the day he goes back to work.

Of course the boys are being total terrors and we have what feels like a billion things to do while attempting to keep them from going at eachother like a couple of wild cats.

Anyway, I wanted to take a minute and write something for the man who is crazy enough to want to marry me (aren’t you supposed to get wiser with age?).

Eight years ago I met this guy in a bar I frequented after work.  And immediately had the hots for him.  However, life doesn’t work that way, and we were both on very separate paths.  Then out of the blue one evening a few years later I received a myspace message (yeah, that really was only five years ago.  Weird to think about, right?) from this very man, who was out of the country and wanted to hang out when he returned home.  As luck would have it, my friend and I had tickets to a Less Than Jake concert, and one of our friends had backed out at the last minute, so we had an extra ticket.  I asked if he wanted to join us, he agreed, and that was that.

No really, that was that.  In those hours I spent time with a man who made me laugh, challenged me intellectually, gave me goosebumps when he looked at me, and (this was pretty close to a first when it came to my dating history) wasn’t totally insane.  A month later, after meeting a very large portion of my family, we became an official couple.

Over the last five years we’ve had so many ups and downs, highs and lows.  We’ve had good times that were really good, and bad times that couldn’t get much worse.  And through it all, we’ve managed to grow stronger.  Raising children is difficult enough.  Raising special needs children is a whole different beast.  Doing it while halfway across the world is another thing altogether.  Yet we make it work – we make our family work.  It’s not traditional, it’s not anywhere near normal.  But it’s ours, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

I know you often feel unappreciated, and I wish I could find a better way to convey to you just how untrue that is.  We appreciate you more than you’ll ever comprehend.  We appreciate the sacrifices you make for the sake of our family.  I can’t imagine having to spend more time away from our family than with them – and I know you do it for us.  I know you push and work, and struggle to make sure that the kids and I have everything we need, and often everything we want.

I know how much it costs you to provide the way you do – and I love you all the more for it.  But so often we focus on the big things, that we lose sight of the little things.  So, pay attention here because it’s high time the little things got some recognition.

I love you for…

  • I love you for keeping Mason out of the bathroom so I can shower in peace.
  • I love you for listening every time I need to rant and rave about something – even though you’d already forwarned me and I didn’t listen.
  • I love you for not outright laughing at me every time I manage to get myself in a stupid situation.
  • I love you for buying me a guitar based on some random stories I told once (and no, I still can’t play a single chord).
  • I love you for dealing with the flower bed because you know how much I don’t want to.
  • I love you for not banging your head against the brick each time I sign myself up for something, only to discover I overstretched myself once again.
  • I love you for not going crazy every time you run out of clean clothes because I have an absurd aversion to doing laundry.
  • I love you for going along with every harebrained scheme I come up with to help the kids.
  • I love you because you step on a Lego, curse a blue streak, and then walk right past it (sometimes I really think you are trying to get me to step on it).
  • I love you because after all these years you still haven’t learned not to play card games with me.
  • I love you because you’re just as sore a loser as I am when it comes to video games.
  • I love you because as much as you hate the kiddie pools, you let me get one every summer.
  • I love you for every small seemingly insignificant thing you do for me and the boys.

Never feel unappreciated.  The boys and I appreciate everything you do – from big to small.  I know this is a long trip around this time.  And I know you’re doing it so you can be home to marry my crazy self (and yes, it’s too late to back out).

I want you to know, every time you start to feel a little crazy, or homesick, or you just miss the sound of the children screaming loud enough to break the sound barrier – we love you.  We’re here waiting for you.  We know this is tough for you – just know it’s tough for us too, and we aren’t going anywhere.  I could keep writing for the next few hours, but you have to leave soon.

So, I’ll leave it at this.

It doesn’t matter where you are.  It doesn’t matter what drama is unfolding, or if we’re having a spat.  It doesn’t matter if the kids are making me crazy or I have too much on my plate to focus clearly on any one thing.  It doesn’t matter if you’re going stir crazy or over analyzing the world.  I love you.  I have always loved you, and I always will.  WE are here.  WE are your home, and we will hold your heart with pride.

“It’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by”

Happy Birthday Love.  Have a safe trip, and know that we miss you already.

I love you.

marsh13

 

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.

I Fall to Pieces…

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Rollerblading while under the influence of alcohol is officially the most idiotic thing I’ve ever done.

I was basically abused by the pavement – and let’s just leave it at that.  My lack of grace, skill, and balance basically says it all.  It took me three days to get around to writing this, since I was unable to type with my left hand.  Whoops!!

Daddy came home Wednesday and, after the boys being on their best behavior for the first day, has gotten himself basically bitch-slapped by the reality of life with the Monsters again.  I’m so used to the screaming, the fighting, the constant back and forth, I forget how insane it really is.  They make me crazy and I’m with them 24/7 – I can’t imagine how high Daddy’s blood pressure must be after being thrust back into the Monster’s den!

There have been two poopcasso incidents – one that had me scrubbing inch after inch of Mason’s room with one hand.  That of course, was after Daddy walked in on the mess and I found him standing in the hallway with a look of utter horror mixed with absolute confusion on his face.  After a few “I don’t know where to start!” exclamations I sent him off to bathe the mini-monster while I put on my Poopcasso face and went to work.  I swear, the kid’s room is going to have a faint odor indefinitely, no matter how much we scrub.

In hindsight, this incident is what preceded our less than brilliant actions later in the evening.  Daddy decided he wanted to rollerblade to the bar in the neighborhood.  We called a sitter for the boys, and off we went.  Well, off he went.  I went down.  A lot.  And it was in no way graceful.  At one point I think Daddy was legitimately considering going back to the house to get me Kaleb’s bike helmet.  A few days earlier I had finally gotten a new phone, and my genius self had placed my shiny new device in my right back pocket.  The first time I fell, Daddy said my pinwheeling before I went down was something frightening to witness.  Most of my weight hit my left knee – successfully ripping a hole in one of my only good pairs of jeans.  After that, each tumble landed me either on my left knee, hip, or hand – because even in such a precarious situation one has to protect her phone.

While you sit there laughing at my clumsy and disturbing adventure there is something you should know.  Daddy got me rollerblades for Christmas.  This was primarily because usually while he uses his rollerblades I would ride my bike and he wanted me to blade with him.  Well that’s all great and dandy – I loved rollerblading as a kid.  I repeat, as a kid.  It had been 12 years since I’d been on rollerblades, and my fearless and effortless ability vanished when I realized that I was not invincible – at all.  Save for the day we got them, I have never been on them without something to hold on to.  The buggy I got a couple of years ago for the kids to sit in while I ride my bike came with an extra wheel so we could detach it from the bike and push it.  I’ve been pushing the kids around in the buggy while wearing rollerblades consistently for six months.  With their weight in front of me keeping it steady, I’ve never had a problem staying on my feet.

Obviously, I have learned I did not earn my confidence on wheels the way I thought I had.  At one point that night I was going down, and I knew I’d be going down hard, and without thinking I grabbed for Daddy to steady me – successfully bringing him down with me.  Of course, he was wearing shorts, so he got a bit cut up.  That was pretty much the end of that.  Well, kind of.  We took a trip through the neighborhood cemetery on the way back to the house (yes, there is a cemetery in the neighborhood, and yes, I’m odd enough to have really wanted a look at it).  At some point during this little detour my phone fell out of my pocket.  We were already halfway home before I realized this.  I had just taken Daddy down with me, and when I went to check and make sure the phone was good, I discovered it wasn’t there.

This was a big problem.  Daddy told me to sit where I was and he would go find it – and off he went.  After waiting for what felt like forever, I felt really guilty and attempted to go after him to help.  Thus falling twice more, the second time hard enough to jolt my wrist pretty badly.  Defeated, I took my rollerblades off and started to limp back toward him.  About two minutes later he came back around the corner, phone in hand.  He took one look at me and started laughing.

I’m pretty sure he’s still laughing.

Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson.  And even though I basically wrecked my left side for a few days, it was worth it.  Because by the time the Monsters are done with him, Daddy’s going to need that memory of me bedraggled and bruised to laugh at in order to ward off the men in little white coats.

There have been positives and negatives to Kaleb being home full time.  On the plus side, Mason will actually work with Kaleb, so his language is really starting to blossom.  On the down side, not all the language he is picking up is good.  “I said NO!”  tends to be a favorite amongst them both.  Or, depending on what it is they want “I said YES!”

Then of course is the constant battling between them.  Mason refuses to keep the door to the porch closed.  Kaleb closes it.  Mason screams.  Mason opens it, Kaleb screams.  The vein in Daddy’s forehead begins to throb visibly.

The living room is clean.  The living room is trashed.  Mason lines up his cars, Kaleb demolishes them.  Kaleb builds something.  Mason makes attempts to reach, eat, grab, kick, touch, knock over, or take it.  Kaleb screams.  Mason laughs.  Kaleb screams louder.  Mason laughs louder.  Kaleb screams at the top of his lungs and lunges for Mason.  Mason screams.  I’m pretty sure that vein in Daddy’s forehead has its own pulse now.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are a constant battle.  The dog is getting fat from Mason throwing him food, my ears are going to bleed, from Kaleb screaming over one particular issue or another – not enough ranch, asparagus is too mushy, etcetera and so on.

Poor Daddy left one war zone for another.

But boy am I happy to have someone here to join me in combat!

Only Mama Knows…

Today is Mother’s Day.

Growing up I never thought I’d celebrate this day for myself.  Motherhood wasn’t in my ‘plan’.

And then this perfect, screaming little person turned my entire world upside down, and in the blink of an eye, everything changed.  My hopes and dreams were no longer for me – they were for him.  My actions were no longer a reflection of me, they were his.  Being awake at 3am held a whole new meaning.  I was able to fit the whole world in my arms, and each time I did I found myself less surprised by how absolutely right the fit was.

I watched, encouraged, molded, shaped, and spent my every waking hour loving this little person.  I was there to clap and cheer the first time he sat up on his own.  I took video after video trying to capture him standing up in his crib blowing raspberries.  I listened as he squeaked and squealed and cooed in his swing.  I barricaded my living room off day after day just waiting for him to crawl from one side to the other.  I watched him cover himself in blueberry pancakes for the first time, and laughed as I cleaned the mess.

I waited patiently for his firsts.  First time holding a bottle, first steps, first words.  Some of those came later than others.  Some came early.  And I cherished every single one.  I watched as little pieces of him developed into the independent, sweet, quirky child that he was growing to be.  I soothed and sang through the night terrors.  I watched as some of his quirks became more defined, and less ‘typical’.  I spent hours with therapists and specialists, reading books and sifting through article after article.

I fought with friends and family over things they weren’t able to see.  I fought with this perfect, screaming little person.  Most of all, I fought with myself.  Was I making something out of nothing like everyone seemed to think?  Was I overreacting?  Was I doing something wrong?  Was I doing the right things for my little person?   And then the day came – three years ago, the day finally came.  My little person finally said something I’d been waiting all his life to hear.

 “Mommy.”

And I knew.  I knew I was doing what was right.  I knew I was fighting for the right reasons.  And my first real spark of confidence in myself as a mother was ignited.

Four months later I was handed another perfect, screaming little person.  And all of the worry I had carried with me for the long nine months was instantly eased.  How could I possibly worry I wouldn’ t have enough love?  I didn’t have to be afraid that my heart wouldn’t be big enough – because it grew twice as big as soon as I saw those little eyes look at mine.

Now I was given a whole new set of hopes and dreams.  Ten new fingers and ten new toes to tickle and count.  A whole new little person to mold and shape, to teach and play with.  I watched with awe as he studied the world around him intently.  As he fell in love with cars and balls.  I watched as he took his first steps and laughed with him as he promptly landed on his diapered rump.

I tuned in to the quirks and oddities as he grew bigger.  I heard intuition whispering that things weren’t quite as they should be – and I listened.  And when my own fears and worries were acknowledged by the people who had fought with me the first time around, I felt the flames of my confidence in myself as a mother grow brighter.

Over the last six years I have laughed, and cried.  I’ve celebrated and commiserated.  I’ve learned what it means to be a mother, and a friend.  I’ve learned how to teach and be taught.  I’ve discovered what it feels like to truly love someone with all of my soul.  I’ve found a strength and an inner fighter I never knew existed.  I’ve been introduced into both the magic and the cruelty of the world we live in.  I’ve developed a patience and compassion I never thought myself capable of.

I have been changed by my children, by motherhood.

I have grown to understand and appreciate all of the mothers that have walked into my life.  And my children have benefited from the traits they have given me.  The fierce protective love and loyalty that my grandmother instilled in me.  The welcoming love and acceptance that was shown to me by the mothers of my friends, both as a child and an adult.  The humor and light shared with me by my aunts.  The honesty and faith given to me by the mothers I am lucky enough to know as friends.

All of the amazing mothers I have had walk through my life have molded the mother that I am today.  They all have had a tremendous impact in how I raise my own children.

But more than anything, the love given to me by my mother.  The respect, guidance, and endless love I have been given.  The unwavering faith and hope shown to me through tough times and through joyous times.  The laughter and the tears.  Through the wins and the losses, she has stood by my side, even when I thought I was alone.  I would not be who or where I am without her.  Without all of the amazing mothers I know.

As I sit here on Mother’s Day, tired and sore from a long night of battles with my boys, I have never felt more blessed.  Even when my heart is bruised and battered, when it’s hard to find the silver lining – I am the luckiest woman alive.  Because I have the most amazing family I could ask for.  The difficult times make the wonderful times that much better.  The triumphs made more brilliant by the tragedies.

I never thought I’d be a mother.

And I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you beautiful women out there.  To those I am lucky enough to know – you are an inspiration, and I couldn’t imagine walking this unknown road without you by my side.

I love you all.

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