Things Are Quiet

I know that I haven’t blogged in weeks.  Things in my life have been busy, mostly in a good way, and not much news or anything eventful has happened.

For a few minutes my husband talked about the possibility about moving overseas.  But as has happened every other time this topic has been brought up, the talk faded and nothing happened.  This time he dangled Budapest and Shannon, Ireland in front of me.  Neither are exactly on my bucket list or anything, but still, the thought of spending a few years as an expat in Europe seems like an amazing opportunity for us as a family.  I was a little disappointed when the opportunity was snatched away.

The kids finished up the school year.  My youngest, the one on the spectrum, finished fifth grade.  In our world this means transition to middle school.  I spent several weeks planning meaningful gifts for all who have looked out for him and helped him grow over his time at the school.  It’s still hard to believe he’ll not be there next year.  When I look at him compared to the other kids his age, I wonder how he’ll survive; he seems hopelessly immature.  But he has always risen to the challenges life presents to him, so I am confident he will to this as well.

My son and his wife spent last weekend here, the first time we’ve spent any significant time with them since they were married in April.  It was nice to just sit and be with them, although I felt slightly guilty for not really having anything planned to do with them.  They had actually come to see our favorite priest, because he has been sent to a different church and we won’t be seeing him very often anymore.  Their visit was a sum total of 26 hours.  But in that time I got to see that they do seem to be smoothing out each others’ edges and getting along quite nicely.

My web design business is still puttering away.  It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to keep me occupied.  Two projects this summer are being worked out via the barter system:  I get services in return for my services.  It’s a nice deal that would only happen in a small town like the one I live in, so I’m grateful for it.

For now, it’s summer and the living is easy.  We are visiting the pool, the Farmers’ Market and loving the bounty coming from our garden.  There may be a family trip, or there may not be.  Either way it’s fine.  Things are quiet and content for the most part.  Sometimes quiet is good.  Right now, it is.

Summer Is Nearly Here

The sun is shining and it is nearly summer.

No, really….it is.  The kids will be out of school next Wednesday, and each day in that direction will be less and less like school and more and more like a party.  The weather is warm and the air is ripe with the anticipation of what wonders will take place this summer.

For the first time in seven years, my youngest will not be attending summer school.  He is doing well enough at school and is at grade level in all subjects, so the academic summer school isn’t necessary for him.  He’s been going to school for a few hours each week day in July since he was three years old.  I’m not entirely sure how we’ll deal with the change.  He needs structure, and routine, and he can’t be allowed to backslide on his school work.   My current plan is that we’ll have a little academic time each weekday morning, work on the homework sheets that are supposed be sent home with him.  We’ll participate in the local library’s summer reading initiative for real this time (usually we start it but it falls by the wayside by week two or three….) since he’ll need to be reading a little bit each day.  We’ll have time to do lots of outdoor things together, because his sister is going to theater camp.

My daughter is spending four weeks in theater camp, for four weeks Monday through Friday, six hours a day.  At the end of the four weeks, there should be a full fledged production of Grease to witness.  Her girlfriend did this last summer and raved about it so much.  We went to their performance, “Bye Bye Birdie” and both my daughter and I were blown away by how good it was.  I am hopeful that this summer camp will introduce her to some new people and give her a place she feels comfortable.  For all of my relief earlier this year when she fell into a group of girlfriends, that has all changed (as it often does with middle school girls).   I’m not entirely sure what has happened, but it seems that the other three girls in the foursome she used to be a part of no longer want her to be involved….and it all came to a head the last two weekends, when she discovered she’d been excluded from two of the girls’ birthday parties.  So, so, awful.  She is so insecure, like me, and makes so many social mistakes to try and cover that insecurity up.  I hope that this program will give her both some confidence and a fresh start.

This is my favorite time of year; the days are long, the weather is warm and there are flowers everywhere.  I hope it doesn’t all pass by too quickly.

Adrift…And….Feeling Stupid

You know what I hate?

I hate when you go and read someone’s blog and you discover that, through their own words and takes and experiences on life, that you really don’t like them.

This doesn’t happen often to me, of course.  I go to blogs that are written by people that I am sure I would like, if I met them in real life.  I like the way they write, their take and view on the world, I see in them something I connect with.

But there’s this one blog I keep going back to (no, I’m not going to say whose it is), and I am not sure why, because I really don’t like the woman who writes it. There’s something about her that bugs me.  She seems to take for granted all that makes her life wonderful, and envy worthy.  She judges others and makes a living off of doing it.  She complains about her weight, even though she seems perfectly healthy and fine.  She is far too focused on material things and awfully preoccupied with having that which others have that she doesn’t.

I honestly don’t know why I keep going back.  I discovered her blog last summer when she was dueling with another blogger (whom I *do* like), and it was like the train wreck that you can’t stop watching.  I just kept going back to see how much more cringeworthy she could get.  And she didn’t disappoint.

Fast forward to Just. This. Second when I typed into this blog a whiny little post about how I ferry my kids around and how I drink too much and how my husband isn’t nice enough to me and how running is the only thing I seem to be doing right these days when it hit me like a freaking Mack Truck.

I’m her.  I’m the whiny blogger that doesn’t appreciate all that she has and how lucky she is.  Here I am whining about how all I had to do today was run to Target and do some laundry and ferry some kids around.  Sheesh, not a bad life, right?   Who complains about that?  I titled it “Adrift And…?”, a nod to one of the ridiculously too many Grey’s Anatomy episodes I had plenty of time to watch this weekend in my free time.

When I clicked off of my blog entry, the next page I clicked on was a BlogHer entry from Shannon Des Roches Rosa.  About a parent of an autistic child so stressed and so freaked out that she went all Crazy Insane Person and killed her son and then herself.  Me?  I read a book back and forth aloud with my autistic son and then we had dinner (steak and salad and bread) and then he willingly put on his shoes and got in the car so I could take his sister to play practice.

There are lots of people out there with problems.  My whiny, angsty boredom is not a problem.  It’s a blessing.

Consider my ass duly kicked.

 

Fighting the Rain

Outside it is pouring rain.  My son pointed out, as we waited in the warmth of my SUV at the end of our longish driveway for his bus this morning, that pouring rain is his least favorite weather.  For him, it is because his sensitive sensory system makes the wetness that results on his skin and on his clothes feel like sandpaper, or fire, or some other horrible sensation.  He can’t focus anymore, he can’t breathe, because all he can feel is that awful, awful feeling.

I dislike the rain too, but for different reasons.  The dark clouds that gather, the heaviness from the damp….it muddles my mind and brings out the darkness that lives inside me.  Always, always, rainy days bring back sad thoughts and hard memories.  I look through the window with the rain streaming down, imagining I’m on camera somewhere, and a soundtrack soars in the background giving life to my internal grief.

I haven’t been writing here lately.  I think the catharsis of putting my thoughts into words is something I’m missing.  But it’s hard because I’m not sure which words I should be choosing for this space now.  I’ve completed my mission, my task for why I set up this blog.  To go through my former life, my stories, my path that led me to where I sit now.  So what now?

The question is one I’m asking myself not just about this blog, but about my life.  With my son finally doing well in school, I’m less and less needed during the day while he’s at school.  Most stay at home mothers arrive here at some point while their children are in elementary school.  It’s an enviable place to be:  we don’t really need an extra income right now.  Sure, my being at home makes everything easy for everyone:  the laundry is always done, the food is always bought and cooked, the beds are made and the dog is walked.  But there are hours and hours left over.

These are the hours I’ve previously filled with writing, or volunteering at school,  or working on freelance websites or at the art studio.  But with the art studio closing and my two current clients in “wait and see” mode, and the kids getting older…I find myself thinking….now what?  There has to be a way to transition into something new, something different.  I mean, I can’t possibly spend the next eight years folding laundry and watching endless loops of my Grey’s Anatomy DVDs in the downtime, can I?

The rain outside the window today makes me think I can.  I need to fight the rain.

 

How Did This Happen?

Bizarre.

There are days that I can’t believe this is my life…today feels like one of them.  I am killing time before my morning PTO meeting at the middle school.  I’m going there as a member of the “Executive Board” which sounds impressive but basically means that I’ve branded myself as a sucker that can be asked to do a multitude of tasks and I’ll actually do them.

Upstairs I hear the cleaning women wipe down my bathrooms and change the beds.  My siblings and friends back in Michigan, where I could barely afford to pay my Target bill each month, give me that “harumph” when I mention that we have cleaning people.  It’s not something I advertise; I pretty much feel guilty and one step short of the crazy “Real Housewives” that have like six nannies so they can go to lunch with their girlfriends and workout all day.  Not guilty enough to step in and fire my sweet women who clean better than I ever learned how to do or anything, mind you.

Speaking of ladies who lunch, last week I hosted a luncheon for eight of my favorite girlfriends.  During the day.  I spent days baking and cooking and buying the booze for Bloody Marys (a girlfriend brought the fixings for Mimosas) just so I could spend three hours eating and gossiping with women I know and like.  You know, instead of doing something productive like laundry or say, earning a paycheck.

Although I did do that last week, too.  I work at the studio of one of my freelance jobs.  It’s sporadic, but every so often provides me with some work and a small check.  I don’t need to work there because R’s job is enough for us (the job that has kept him at work past 9 every night for three weeks, but I digress) but I do because there are days when I feel that I will simply go crazy with nothing outside of my children to call my own.

I went over to a girlfriend’s two nights ago to plan our Religious Education lesson.  I’ve taught at our church going on five years, and I taught at our church in Ohio for a few years before that.  I didn’t even have a religion growing up.  There are times when I’m sitting in church, mystified by the the stories and not knowing the details, and I wonder:  when will they figure out that I’m an imposter here.  Then again, they have wine at the Catholic Mass, so it kind of makes sense.

Being available for my kids…active in church…great girlfriends…a comfortable life.  These are the things people dream of.  But there are days…like today…when I wonder if this is really, truly all that there is.  It should be enough.

Right?

Wondering

“So Mom, do you think that you’ll be going back to teaching or something now that Michael is doing better in school?” asked my eldest son, home for the in between of his college days and his working days.

I understand why it’s on his mind.  He has spent every day since his graduation last May searching for a full time job.  He worked hard for four years, graduated with top honors, and is ready to strike out on his own.  I remember the feeling; I was so excited to be “near the end of the tunnel” at the end of my college experience.  Since I’d moved home when I had Z, I looked forward to that rite of passage of graduating, getting my first job and setting up my first apartment, just me and my little boy, finally self sufficient and on our own.  My end of college and subsequent job search though ended up getting intertwined with my mother’s illness and then her passing, so life and plans and expectations changed.

But Z, he has a clear path.  And he’s very focused.  So I can imagine that he looks at me, the former teacher with a degree and a certificate growing yellow around the edges in a file cabinet in the basement, with some confusion.   He’s seen me work as a teacher when he was young, and then still pursue it in the evenings when he was an early teen.  But that all fell by the wayside when we moved here and my youngest was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  I needed to be available during the days, because sometimes things happen.  And over the years we’ve lived here, R’s job has made him less and less able to help, until we’ve gotten to the point now where it truly is all on me, all of the time.  If R’s around it is a bonus, but I pretty much expect that I am the one in charge of all things related to the children.  It truly is my job at this point, and everything else plays second fiddle.

It’s not where I thought I’d be when I was standing where Z is right now.  I thought I would work and have children and be married and share all of the home and children responsibilities equally with my partner.  I made all sorts of black and white statements, the kind that kids that age make when life hasn’t thrown them too many curveballs yet.  But yet somehow, here I am.   I’m OK with it for now, after many years of struggling and chafing at the thought of being “only” a mom.  Watching Michael do well in school or Melinda push herself because of something she’s seen me do or say helps me stay in the game, seeing Z prepare to take on his first real job after college and start his life.

But still, I wonder too, where I will go from here.  I thought of the times in my life when I didn’t have a choice.  All of the choices that life took away from me.  But I realized:  I’m lucky to have choices now. And I realized that I have plenty of time to think about it and make the right choice for me, whatever that may end up being at this stage in my life.

“I don’t know yet,” I answered Z, honestly.  “I think I’m fortunate to be able to be here for all of you now, and to be able to decide which job I want as opposed to which job I need just to survive.  It’s a blessing, and I’m grateful to be in this place now, because so many people don’t have a choice.”

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

“You need to come to the school and pick him up,” said the voice of my son’s special education teacher on the phone.

We’d been riding a positive wave of good news as far as Michael had been concerned.  His last conference had brought me to tears; he was working on grade level, in the mainstream classroom.  He was doing well socially, making friends.  There were days when life wasn’t defined by his autism; we’d traveled to Florida by air last month without asking for the special treatment we used to to avoid lines and waits and things that my son didn’t used to be able to handle.  But now, now Michael gave us hope that someday, things would be just like everyone else for him.

But all the good didn’t come without a price.  Michael was doing well in school because he had a team of teachers pushing him this year; he didn’t like to be pushed.  I’d been asked just now to come and pick him up from school because he was too agitated to get on the bus, having spent most of the day in the school office after a tantrum in his classroom.

I walked into the school office five minutes later to find Michael underneath the principal’s desk.  I wanted to cry.

“It’s OK, he’s fine under there,” she reassured.  “Let’s talk about what happened today.  Michael was upset about the difficulty of his reading lesson, and so during class, he decided it was time for him to go home.”

I clasped my hands together, pressing them firmly in order to avoid the screaming I really wanted to do.

“He gathered up all of his things, and put on his backpack and coat, and tried to climb out the window.”

Oh, God.

“But he couldn’t get past the screen, so then he bolted down the hallway and out the front door.  Don’t worry, we were able to get one of the male teachers to stop him just five steps outside the door, but he’s getting too heavy now for most of the women teachers to handle that.”

Sweet Jesus.

“So he told us when we finally got to the office that there would be no consequences today, that he was just done with school and not coming back here ever again.  He kicked his aide and tripped her on the way down to the office,” the principal added.

Red.  I was seeing red and black spots in front of my eyes.

“He finally calmed down about an hour later, and we have been able to get him to do some work down here.  I’ve told him that he needs to come straight to the office tomorrow, and when he’s calm enough, he can go to the regular classroom.  It’s a shame; the kids really feel badly for him, know he’s having a hard time, and miss him when he’s not in class, so hopefully tomorrow he can pull it together and have a better day.”

I looked at my son, who had come out from under the table upon seeing me and hearing that his day was being described in detail.  He looked sad, and embarrassed, but also a bit angry too still.  “Sorry,” he said in a melancholy voice with downcast eyes.

I’d forgotten that mixture of fear, helplessness, anger, sorrow all stirred with a hint of shame and insecurity that came with my son’s disorder.  We’d gotten to the place where we did the therapies without even thinking about them, put the proper program in place at school, and thought we were reaping the benefits.  I felt it all crumbling and crashing down around me as I stood there, surrounded by Michael’s team, all of them apologetic and optimistic for him.  I needed to be his mother in that moment, one of the perfect ones you see on TV who knew just how to handle this type of thing.  But instead I felt like a child myself, wanting to yell and scream and have a different life, a normal life where you didn’t have to get called into school because your child couldn’t handle getting on the bus.

“Thank you all,” I said to the group assembled, trying to put on the mask, all the while with tears pricking the corners of my eyes.  “We’ll have a long talk about this tonight and come up with a plan going forward.  Now let’s get our things, Michael, and get home.”

Two steps forward, three steps back.

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