Friday, December 31, 2010

The Mirage of Stress-free

I kid myself.

I respond when people ask that it's an awesome thing to have a week where I don't have to worry about the school's caller ID coming over my phone.

Last night, hubby forced me to have a good, long, hard look at this comment.

I'm not complaining; it's been a good week. We have had plenty of outings and meet-ups and downtime and things to do, all I think in a pretty nice balance.

But it has not been stress-free. Not by a long shot. Because every time we go out the door, every time we are in a public place, my back is up and I am ready to deal summary justice to anyone who so much as looks at my children the wrong way.

I wish this were paranoia on my part. When we left friends after an enjoyable lunch outing yesterday, I had a mom make it a point to shadow me all the way to our car (I had actually paused to let her go ahead of me through a snow drift, and she hung back), and let her words to her daughter float ahead to me about what she thought of my kids.

I ordered the boys quickly into the car and shouted to G "QUICK! Close the door! We are surrounded by stupid people!"

I should have snapped a pic of the expression on her face with my phone, but I was too angry and too intent on getting the hell out of that parking lot.

I spent the next hour driving, boys in the back listening to the Arthur CD on the player, deliberately lost in the lower Bucks County snow-covered countryside, calming down, thinking, and wishing I hadn't cussed quite so much in the first five minutes of this particular leg of the journey.

My kids, language police both, know better than to remark on my language after an encounter like that.

And I know they both know that other people's invective is directed at the three of us; them by virtue of who they are and me by virtue of being their mother.

I told my husband that it really didn't matter where we lived; I run into ignorance everywhere, and I feel the need to at best educate and at worst discipline wherever I go.

"I cheated you," I told him. "This is not the girl you started dating 23 years ago."

Sometimes, this fact overwhelms me. I collapse, exhausted, at the end of every day, which for me is 9 pm. Night-owl hubby gets my undivided attention not nearly often enough. But talking to him forced me to analyze the 'why.'

The 'why' is my perpetual state of flight or fight. I do more of the latter these days. I *could* elect to segregate my boys and drop out altogether. But this doesn't work for me; they have to learn to live in this world, and that education is a nonnegotiable.

So, apparently, is the stress.

I thought I managed it okay; after all, I am a stress-eater, and my weight remains well in normal range despite that; I exercise, get the kids out, maintain relationships.

But stress collapses me like a rag doll at the end of every day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blog Gumbo

Having spent the last two days in waiting rooms with nothing but my own head for company, I've had a lot of time to mentally masticate. In the past, I couldn't be left in this state too long, lest I devolve into a sputtering puddle of ...well, it would depend around what axle I wound around on a given day.

But since gratitude became my attitude, my head and heart remain on an even keel, thankfully. Reaching out and making peace by and large worked beautifully. That's allowed me to move on from some things that have been heretofore unresolved. And it's also allowed me to do some much needed physical cleaning and clearing out. The new year will ring in somewhat less cluttered and less complicated than previous years have.

Thinking about love. All kinds of love. Filial love, platonic love, romantic love. Some conversations I've had with Fr M factor in here, and naturally the love I have for my family looms large in my life. My friends rock. My kids are awesome. My hubby is wonderful. I am surrounded by amazing people, and am grateful for each and every person in my life and all the gifts each person brings.

I worry about Fr M. I can't help that.

I had a conversation with another mom in the waiting room today; we both chatted while we filled out our respective stacks of questionnaires, comparing notes from the life autistic. She has tried out a lot more in terms of curative measures for her boys, and we laughed about the autistic super mom sweepstakes, about the times we encountered people who accused us of not doing enough to 'fix' our kids.

"What this taught me," she concluded, "was that the possibilities for my boys are endless--and limitless."

G came in about then, and we went upstairs together to eat our lunch. He looked at me across the table with his intense gaze lasering out of those rock-pool eyes and asked me again when the star in the tree behind our house will turn off for good.

I don't always understand his fears, but I try.

Although he told me endless stories on the ride down to Baltimore, he remained quiet on the ride back. Reflective. He likes the mental work of solving puzzles and answering questions, but he has come of an age where he questions why this is necessary. He is an apt test-taker, and while he appreciates the one-on-one attention these trials give him, he understands that what he has to do is not typical of other kids in his grade or of his age.

He doesn't overtly question. But I saw it in his eyes at lunch today.

And for my part, my motivations are somewhat selfish. I know what I have to work with in both boys. But I need hard data to get them what they need in the classroom.

This gives me what I need to give them what they need.

As long as they both are willing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

As Deep as the Ocean, As Vast as the Sky

The best gifts this season came without wrapping paper or bows.

With Fr M, I prayed for a family that needed strength and union. An email last night confirmed that those prayers were answered.

I asked for peace of mind and heart. And got it.

My yearly reunion with my family at mom's was amazing. And for the first year ever, my uncle went out with friends. Another Christmas miracle. I missed seeing him, but am so grateful on his behalf.

We woke up late yesterday, and interrupted our unwrapping to go to mass. Hubby grumbled loudly, but I reminded him that there would be no unwrapping of anything on this day otherwise and he needs to pay his respects. Grudgingly, he admitted later that it was a good mass and he was glad he went.

I took time to visit my dad's grave for the first time in over a decade, and for some reason, I sobbed uncontrollably from when I first saw his headstone. I spent many an afternoon talking to that rock as a teenager, and in my life until now, I never shed a tear.

I shed a lot of them yesterday.

On to hubby's family, had great food and conversation with the kids. (adults now, but kids to me always, I guess) Nic broke his favorite gift, a whoopie cushion, but managed to get through the day anyway. We came home with lots of good food, the blessing of MIL and good words from BIL.

It really was a perfect Christmas. And it was all about those things you can't buy.

Awesome. Thank you, God.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Too easily thrown

I think what happened this week was emotional hangover meets holiday stress. It wasn't pretty, and it sure wasn't pleasant.

Details matter not. The upshot: G's sobbing at aftercare in the beginning of the week, Nic's illness at the end of the week, throwdown somewhere in between, with a few pointless posturings and landing in a conversation I didn't belong in--these things flattened me, whereas in any normal week it would just be business as usual.

I found creative ways to keep encroaching hopelessness at bay; baking in the wee hours of the morning, cleaning out the downstairs, taking care of business, mending some fences, to name a couple things.

I found myself in the somewhat unusual position of getting shunted off to one side. And I found that I didn't have the energy or inclination to elbow my way back. My inability--or unwillingness?--to engage depressed me the rest of the day. A red tail that flew at eye level within feet of my car in the late afternoon reminded me that I needed to pull it together. G chatted with me from the backseat, and amazingly, everything righted itself.

A good friend showed up shortly after to drop off gifts for the boys, and she sat and visited for a bit. And her visit cheered me immensely, for no other reason than she stopped by to say hello.

Bringing me back to myself, back to my center, and giving me the motivation to finish doing what I need to.

I get by with a little help (and a whole lot of love) from my friends. With them, by the grace of God, all is right with my world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Musing at the Moon

Lunar eclipse on winter solstice underway. Sitting in a chilly living room with my Christmas tree the only light other than the laptop. Feeling fractured and helpless amid my younger son's struggles right now, by turns enraged and defeated.

I want more than anything to say I have done everything I want to do, but today--and a couple other things--remind me that I have much to do. Still. Promises to keep, mostly in the spirit of wanting to eliminate the negative in my life. Which means acceptance of stuff that I have been rejecting--loudly, frequently gracelessly and artlessly.

I feel helpless in the face of my sons' struggles sometimes. Tonight, I sat sobbing on the kitchen floor, and my older son came running from the other room, almost as if he were a toddler again, laughing, kissing my face, hugging me, then jumping up and getting me a glass of water, standing over me, making sure I was okay, then dashing back into the other room, going back about his business.

He is clumsy, but compassionate, and possesses a heart bigger than mine. I smile through my tears, thinking that he is a beautiful kid.

And my little one, also a beautiful child, climbing into my lap and wordlessly comforting me when no one else notices that I need it. These are the reminders I need--that my kids do not want for compassion and empathy, despite the fact that they aren't supposed to have much of either.

My children are the delight and pain of my heart. And for them I want to forgive. And sometimes, that is enough.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweet Breakthrough

The expression above is why I do what I do. This is the payoff.

So, the kids got to ride the bus home yesterday, because it was the last day of drama camp, and I had a special snack waiting for them when they came in from the bus. G changed into the foundation for his costume, and we walked in the bone-chilling cold--at their insistence--to church.

(I love the fact that both my kids would rather walk than ride whenever possible--they are truly my kids.)

When we get there, managed chaos reigns. Containing both boys until proceedings begin consumes me. I order Nic to stop trying to create a 'Mr Bean' disaster. G unknots the belt to his costume and hands the belt back to me.

I settle G in a pew with the other children and send Nic over to Miss T, who gives him a master script and marching orders. Dress rehearsal is a bit scattered for both kids, but they get through it. I border collie the rest of the 22 kids in the project while the three main leads are trying to do their jobs.

Fortunately, pizza arrives, and I shepherd the kids down to the cafeteria, where Nic declares the chicken nugget, french fry and pizza dinner a 'night to remember.' It doesn't even matter to the boys that they are sitting alone at the end of one table--they are happy to be in the group, happy to be sharing dinner, and for them, these things are enough.

After warm ups, we shepherd the kids back to the church and prepare to put on the show. The good turnout surprised the kids more than anything, I think, because the spotlight--not used in any rehearsals--acted like a bit of a stun gun to a good third of the cast--G included.

BUT, it was a good show, the kids had a great time, and Nic just blew me away as he showed off his crew skills--not just to me, but to every person sitting there in the audience.

I couldn't resist an inward smile. And he did a good job putting together the program, too.

So at the end, when the director included awards and acknowledgments, I was one of the people she called up. And this is what she wrote in the card:

Thank you for attending each week and for guiding Nicolas along with the interviews. You have a beautiful soul and I am happy to have met you.

I can't help but feel that my kids have created an awareness and appreciation for difference in this little community. And last night, I flung myself against one particular pane of glass one last time--and broke it.

I feel a little like Anne Shirley from 'Anne of Green Gables.' I always wanted to be her, and the lesson du jour is that you are never too old to become what you want to be when you grow up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Adapt or Die

A couple ideas I had this morning converged in this common theme:

• Wondering, for example, why my kids continue to stick out like sore thumbs in the neighborhood, why it’s so hard for the other kids to incorporate them in their games

• Thinking about the pointed remarks from some one whom I ceased contact about studying the ways of neurotypicals very carefully to treacherous ends

Thinking about the way my little one looked at me this am, how he climbed over to be on the empty side of the bed and how he pushed his big brother over to make room for me. The look he gave me was me, probably at about the same age, maybe younger, and it was him too. He snuggled up under my chin and let me curl around him to warm him up.

Love is wanting to be the best person you can be for some one else, and G is just one of those people I want to be my best self for. Nic and hubby are two more. And the list continues from there.

Thinking about adaptation, it occurs to me that the kids in the neighborhood exclude because it is the natural order; there always has to be a them, and heck, I spent the first 18 or 19 years of my life on the outside looking in, so I should know better. Inclusion is not, despite what we like to think, instinctive. It’s easier to shut out and shut down people who are weird and different.

Which leads me to the second point. This same person has accused me (indirectly) of treachery and not being true to myself by adapting to the ways of the larger world. Actually, adaptation is important, because inclusion is not natural. If you want to survive in the larger world, you have to figure out a way to make your differences WORK in that world.

And I like to think that I’ve done just that. And it’s important that I imprint on both my boys the importance of applying their gifts and strengths in ways the larger world is going to see, recognize, and ‘get.’

I see nothing hypocritical in adaptation, particularly if the alternative is marginalization and death (in whatever forms these things take). If the point is surviving and thriving, the means by which to do these things is to find your gifts, and share them, and be amazed at what those who are open to receive will do with what you offer.

When I look back on this year, adaptation looms large. My returning to corporate after a 10+ year absence demanded much of my family, and they all rose splendidly to the occasion. And the larger lesson here is that I truly believe that they—and I—are ready for anything.

We are blessed. And I am humbled by the sheer magnitude of our blessings.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bean burritos and blessings

Maybe I should call this entry 'Finishing Business,' but I like the other title better; both are equally apt. I am finishing business and bean burritos are the best thing ever. I bring the ingredients to work and assemble them in the kitchen. I had an audience a couple days. It was pretty cool.

I lectored the 7 mass for the Immaculate Conception with boys in tow Wednesday. G did his sprints, and Nic did his impersonation of the drinking bird--which was sort of amusing, since this is a G move, but the whole church could see it, and it took all my self control not to lean over and tell him to stop (he did, on his own, after a couple minutes). After all, I learned the hard way that trying to stop a behavior oftentimes draws more attention to it. The woman I subbed for parted with "I love your boys. They crack me up."

My message made it, unchanged, to its recipient. The voicemail that came in response is one I am going to figure out a way to keep.

Nic is helping to run the holiday party committee, and I am pleased. He is taking on more responsibility on his own. And yesterday, he called first thing in his morning, upset that he forgot his Phillies hat, and could I go home and get it.

I convinced him he could get through the day without it, and coached the SPED director on how I wanted to handle him. She used common sense and consideration--and for her and these, I am grateful yet again for the wonderful people working with my boys.

Things go better with G, but I suspect sugar issues linked to his behavior. Time to dig deeper.

We got through drama camp, but not without some barbs from the teacher. One more week.

Work goes well. I am surrounded by good and good hearted people, and grateful not only that I'm working, but working in such an easy going environment with people who 'get' it.

Circling back, one basic truth emerges. Love, real love, spurns you to be the best person you can possibly be. That's what wires, fuels, and runs me.

I know I am good. But I know I can be better.

So I push onward.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Balancing on Occam's Razor

It begins with G's communication book.

His teachers, aide and I "talk' to one another in this notebook. We keep these notes short and sweet. Generally.

Yesterday's note went two pages. And so hard had the teacher pressed her pen to the pages that they crinkled when I turned them. I began my return note: "Clearly, you had a frustrating day....."

Back this up a bit: make no mistake, G is my good kid. Good to the point that most of my blog posts have been about his brother's struggles. Yesterday, he signaled an end to all that. Attention is as attention does, and it matters not how he gets it.

I own this, as does dad. Nic sucks all the air out of the room, and G is clearly advocating on his own behalf by doing whatever it takes to get anyone's attention. He will be silent no longer.

I thought of all the times in the past week he'd gone into time out for some infraction or other.

I called in to him while Nic finished his homework. He came in, sat on my lap, and regarded me seriously while I talked to him about the note in his book, and some of the things he had been doing. He nodded, answered succinctly, and we promised each other we'd do better for one another.

While Nic went off to scouts, I blew off my committee meeting and spent the evening playing with and reading to G. We had a good time.

Which links into some epiphanies I had riding in to work yesterday morning, namely that my time is short, and I need to be more judicious about the battles I engage. My little one clearly still needs me, and I need to be present for him.

I wrote a letter that will be delivered to some one special today, December 8. I am hoping that the receiver takes the message in the spirit I intended.

Regardless of what happens, I want to make sure all I need to do or say is done. I want no unfinished business this hoiday season.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Fabulous Fr M

Probably the best thing about getting my kids used to attending mass is the fact that I can now attend the mass myself once again. And all I needed to do was to teach my boys to follow the 'script' of the missalette.

G goes off for the Children's Liturgy, and Nic and I read the scripture together as the lector, then the priest, proclaims from the ambo. And Nic likes Fr M enough that he is now willing to tune in during the 'unscripted' (for him) homily. Which is a huge help to me, because I can actually focus on the homily now instead of trying to keep Nic contained.

Anyway, these gifts come for a reason: the yesterday's gospel spoke of John the Baptist and his words to the Pharisees--in short, "You may come here to be baptized, but if you don't acknowledge your sins, be prepared for the unquenchable fire."

Fr M was uncharacteristically blunt in his sermon, basically dovetailing on my previous post about people who claim to be righteous, but are not, and calling them out to reassess their lives and values.

I literally sat there with my mouth open.

I didn't get the opportunity to talk to him after mass, but we saw him again for the parish's carol night; I narrated, my family came to give me notes. Fr M sat with us. I thanked him for his sermon, telling him he knocked it out of the park--again. He is a humble man, and seemed more abashed than usual in thanking me. And I insisted, "No, really, I needed to hear what you said. And I think a lot of people need to hear it, too."

The attendence was low, but it was a really nice service, and my agnostic hubby even agreed that it was beautifully done. G held the holy water and Nic held the flashlight as Fr M blessed the tree out front afterward.

At one point during the service, I sat between T and Fr M, with G on the other side of Fr M and hubby and Nic behind them both, and had a real sense that my family was truly all together at that moment. I wonder if Fr M and T felt that way, too?

So it is this feeling, one of hope, warmth, and love for my family--those of my blood, and those I have chosen--that renews me, fills me with joy gratitude, and keeps me moving forward.....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

(Salt) Pillar of the Community

I can't post the previous without its partner, but I didn't have the time yesterday.

So bookending yesterday's smackdown was one that started Monday evening. I received an email from the drama teacher (you know, the one who professed to wanting to work with me and the boys) asking me where Nic was with interviewing the cast for the program.

I figured this a fair enough question. I checked his sheets, and he had gotten through about 12 interviews, and had 14 to go. I send this information back.

Five minutes later comes back an email: she is concerned that Nic will not get the program done in time, can another boy help with the interviews?

I shrug and answer: sure.

About an hour after that: another email, this time telling me that the set designer would much rather do the program on her own, could I please send drama teacher everything Nic has done?

Hmm. I email her back and tell her I will get everything to her in the am.

SO I type up Nic's notes, send them to her, and get a saccharine note in return. It makes me suspicious enough to send the set designer my notes with an attached message: So-and-so said you'd rather do this, so this is where we are, and we will see you on Friday.

Long story short, set designer was utterly mystified, and asked me when we saw her on Friday if Nic would finish the interviews, because she really didn't have time to do them.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going on here.

I tell Nic he needs to finish all the interviews THIS SESSION. He had 14. And damn if he didn't finish them all.

The program director's voice went up an octave every time she spoke to me. And at 5 minutes to 6, she asked me how many more interviews Nic had. "Because we have plenty of help here tonight.....?"

I smiled at her sweetly. "He has two more," I answered. "And he is doing them."

I had the pleasure of typing up his notes and sending them out yesterday morning. Yeah, I transcribed them, took all of 15 minutes. But he did the hard work of interviewing each and every person himself, taking notes, and making sure he got all the information he needed to get. In total, it took 3 hours of his time.

That's 3 hours she didn't have to deal with him.

You can bet I won't do this again, but I'd like to think that the program director learned an important lesson--that everyone CAN contribute something.

If you let them.

And if you don't let them, they will figure out a way to get it done on their own.

And the other point to this was that I really thought this person was on our side. I really thought she believed in my kids. And to have her turn around and try to strip him of the responsibility SHE gave him (and to try to pawn off that responsibility on an innocent bystander) speaks to a more insidious problem. If you say you are a Christian, this is not the way you are supposed to roll.

And I am certain that this person will find a way to make me look like the villain. Who cares? Bring it. Dealing with people like this is old hat to me, now.

Unfortunately, my kids, also.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ignorance is......

pervasive? Or bliss?

During a training today, I got hit with this 2 x 4:

Trainer: so we had a boy in our troop with Asperger's, which is a form of autism, the really nasty end of the spectrum....

I found myself speaking: "Excuse me, I have two sons on the autism spectrum, one of whom has Aspergers...."

(Once upon a time, I would have just sat in disbelief and fumed for days after. I think I've been in this position so many times that my mouth starts before it checks in with my brain...)

And didn't she start tripping over herself saying what a great kid he was...but he has behaviors and a temper.

And I said, "I hear what you are saying, but not all children with Aspergers are like that..."

So the question, would she have said any redeeming words about this child had I not spoken up?


(In a larger sense, it matters not. You can't unring a bell.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rethinking, Part II

I can't linger here long, since I have to get dressed and herd the boys out to church, but the events of the last few days bear noting.

Thanksgiving at my brother's was awesome. The kids did great and had a great time with their cousins. I remarked to hubby that my family probably didn't notice, because no one notices anything unless something has gone wrong or property damage is somehow involved.

I reminded him we need to catch the boys--particularly G--being good.

We had city jaunts, too. We spent the afternoon in Philly after our clinical appointment for both boys--and they didn't tell me anything I didn't already know about either of them. But we had a fully satisfying walk across town and by the river in the afternoon, pointing out the people practicing for the next day's parade and looking for new places to explore. We found a couple, too.

On Friday we went down to Baltimore for our annual pilgrimage to the B&O RR museum and met up with our friends. It was a fractured visit with K, but the kids had a great time and we discovered more places to visit, and added more places to see the next time we visit. The boys had a blast.

Which brings me to the question I will bring with me to church today--considering how well the boys are doing, how hard should I push this neighborhood association thing? Is walking away the right thing to do? Or is getting my heart ripped out repeatedly a pointless exercise that will be absolutely lost on the people I need to reach.

Part of me says, "No point. You will never reach them."

My niggling little inner voice reminds me: "You might reach one."

Off to church I go. I will be waiting for an answer....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I needed a break, so found myself out in the woods, and found myself in a similar place to where I was, 8+ years ago, walking, crying, bargaining with God. Part of it, I think, arising from the committee meeting, where I knew Nic was discussed when I left, sobbing that it was not fair, and thinking that on his hardest days, when HE is sobbing that it's not fair, that this is what he is talking about.

What's not fair is the fact that this "weird," "annoying" kid is really neither, that he has a disability, but is doubly condemned because no one can SEE it.

And it's easier to slam him than help him. He's a them. And everyone KNOWS there has to be a THEM.

And what compounds my pain is that I was Nic growing up. I know all too well what he feels sometimes.

And his pain turns me into a bird, continually flying into the same pane of glass, because I think it'll earn us both a hearing. It doesn't. But it doesn't stop me from flinging myself against it, again, and again, and again.....

So I came back to my desk and wrote the words, wanting to tell the committee members and all their friends, "HEY! My child may be 'weird' and 'annoying' but he also has autism. A little mercy goes a long way....."

And no sooner did I type this than a message came across my desk top:

Psalm 102:17
he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.

The LORD cares for all the lowly and the outcasts. He is a friend to the friendless and hope for the hopeless; Our God is an awesome God!

Coincidence? I don't do coincidences.

But I am mistaken to expect mercy for either of my sons in these quarters. I will finish my commitments. And then I am done. Because I don't want any part of any community that doesn't want my sons, either.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rethinking Systems Change

I am convinced now that systemic change has to happen with the children. Because their parents are idiots. Ignoramuses. Intractable, prejudiced PITAs.

Without turning this into a multithousand word screed, I had a Eureka moment at about 7 pm last night. I already mentioned that I said goodbye to my soccer team--truly an awesome and amazing bunch of little boys. But by and large, their parents did not impress me. Which is a shame, because in another 2-3 years, they will be just like their parents--their attitudes will be hardened and fixed.

So I had the committee meeting for the neighborhood association at B's house yesterday. Which would have been okay if I hadn't been treated to how much time all the kids spend hanging out together.

That's right. You know my kid is not invited to hang out with their kids. One mom, when I told her Nic's name, said, "Oh, I've heard of him."

I gave her a wan smile and said, "That's right, he is sort of famous."

No response.

I couldn't wait to get the f*ck out of there.

So I came back home from the meeting, pick up the boys and we all went out for a couple hours (nothing big, just checking out a new store, elevator adventures, etc) and I broke down a couple times talking to hubby about the meeting, and really, it's not so much that he is excluded, and talked about, and people STILL don't freaking get it, it's just that in my heart of hearts, I KNOW he is not really ready to go over some one's house and hang out because he is notorious for making extremely bad choices in face of the fact that he clearly knows better.

Hubby wants me to stop volunteering. I tried to explain to him this am is that reaching kids is really my best shot at systems change in our community.

Because the adults just. Don't. Want. To. Hear. It.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

So long, boys

I went for a run this morning before the sun came up, and I am amazed that I have as much stamina as I do. Then again, maybe the endurance I've built up from years of butt-kicking and name-taking I've done on a daily basis on behalf of my kids for the better part of the last 10 years has something to do with it.

Anyway, I went out, still grinding my teeth over the email from last night, and somewhere between miles 2 and 3, that small still voice began nattering at me.

"Yeah, but," it said. "Isn't your problem a good one to have?"

Between miles 3 and 4, I stood in some woods, the sun suddenly up as it often is at this time of year, listening to the chorus of birds all around me, and really absorbing that fact. Yes, I have to work uphill against ignorance and prejudice, yes, I have to work harder to keep my kids motivated, to keep them believing in themselves when the adults around them fail to. Yeah, I know, I GET IT.

But the fact remains, as one good friend points out continuously, as much as my kids have stacked against them, they have as much--if not more--to work with.

In other words, kwitcherbitchin'

Once again, the inner voice shut me down--the complaining me, anyway. Which is fine. That needed to be done. I came home and got ready for the day, which included swim lessons (good ones for both boys), registration, G's last soccer game and a pizza party.

The last two are what have me sitting here, wistful. As stressful as the coaching experience was, I'm glad I did it, glad I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful bunch of little boys, and I guess I am sad because I know I will never do this again, or I might once the kids get older and I have time to volunteer for stuff like this.

I'm sad because I'll miss the kids. I'm glad I got to know them. And I wish every last one of them the very best life has to offer. God speed, little men--and thank you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Damned Faint Praise.

So I had this delight waiting for me in my inbox this evening:

Just wanted to update you and the C family about Math Olympiads.

First, I am delighted to have Nic as part of our "Varsity Math" team. Math Olympiads has only met a few times, but for the most part Nic has been participating and staying on task. He tends to work alone or seek adult help, so we are encouraging team work. Communicating mathematical ideas and trying new strategies is our focus. However, he did become very frustrated during our first meet yesterday. This was due to the fact I could not help or explain the problems.
So we came up with - in Nic's words, "a great compromise." Love it!!
He will come for all the practice sessions and skip the competitions. This way he is exposed to the math, but without the pressure.

I will keep you informed about our competition schedule in the future. Let me know if you would like me to notify Nic's parents as well.

Have a wonderful weekend

Okay. First of all, no one said anything to me YESTERDAY--or even in the preceding week that there was a competition. Second, the quick easy out was a little too quick and easy for my gut. I responded:

"I wish I had know about this and that there was a competition. This is fine, but I am thinking as Nic gets more comfortable working with his teammates that he might be encouraged to try to compete. Of course this is totally up to the discretion of Mrs ****.

I'll talk to him this weekend about it. Thanks for the update and have a good weekend!"

I sound chipper enough, but I am deeply annoyed. I half expect that the response that will come back is that they can't make him. Fine. But I can. And Nic knows it.

Why are people so quick to throw up their hands? I dealt with this less than a week ago, and guess what, Nic took to his new role like a duck to water. And I expect....fully expect.....that I will be heard, and Nic will compete.

But I can't expect it to happen next go round, or even the next one, because, you know, they think he CAN'T.

I can't wait until he proves them wrong. Like I told him tonight, the only failure is not trying at all.

But damn, these people make it hard for me to keep my kids motivated. They make it too easy for them to cop out.

Damn them. I know they wouldn't want this for their own kids.

Damn them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rising trout, November dusk....

I just had a huge WTF moment. I need to put that on ignore and concentrate on a couple other things that are more important.... watching the trout rise in Valley Creek today. I wonder sometimes if I should pack some fishing gear in the back of the van, since the stream is a short stroll from where I work. I stopped by there this afternoon and was mesmerized by a pair of trout rising. One flashed, broke the surface, and was gone by the time the stream settled back into its flow....

and then there is a moment at dusk, maybe 5 years ago, that came to mind while I was in the woods. One afternoon I took the boys to a local park, and some one was flying a remote control helicopter in the field for their kids. Mine blended with his, and as darkness fell, I will never forget G's delighted squeals, his mouth a happy smudge in white as detail was lost in the waning late afternoon light...

and I think of my own life in moments as these, as moments that I can sometimes cross reference to a time and place in my life....sometimes I can't. That's the hard part about getting older, random beautiful moments half remembered like a dream, and the harder you try to remember the particulars, the more it recedes.

Thinking, too, of imprinting, how I am so much like my dad, not necessarily because I remember, but because who he was is somehow bound up in who I am. And how much like my mother I am, by dint of necessity, how tough she is, how tough she taught me to be, and how she influenced my own parenting. I am my father, but I have become my mother, because I had to, and I am not at all sorry.

Thank God I have her laugh. Thank God I have her sense of humor. Both get me through a lot.

But I still ride a lot of it through on dad's shoulders.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yet, I rise

Failure ran thick and fast and furious yesterday--almost fast enough to ruin the whole day.

Drama class went okay on Friday--at least I thought it did. Although Nic came out in the hallway to check on me frequently, he was happy to be there, and of course I know this is G's thing--he is really enjoying it. I say this because it is relevant to what happened next.

SO swimming, usually a good outing, went sour first. After failing to engage hubby ("What do you want me to do?" he asked before burying his nose back in the newspaper), I picked my things up and went for the door, holding my tears until I got outside the balcony. And then wondering where I was going. 'Pool deck,' said the inner voice.

AS a parent, I'm not supposed to go there, but between the steps and the girls' locker room I pulled myself together and became the hardest self I am in the face of Nic's intractability.

And it worked. Another ASD mom was down there, and I am sure she thinks I'm the biggest bitch on the planet for talking to my son the way I did. But I know when Nic gets in the headset that he was in, that THAT is the only thing he responds to--positively.

In other words, I become my own mother. I hated her when she did this to me, but decades later, I get it. And now I love her for it.

Anyway, we turned the session around. And I extracted a promise from him that he needed to do chores for me to make up for his behavior (and I am proud to say he did them).

Meanwhile, G was having his own meltdown. I was unable to do anything about that, but fortunately, the staff was able to turn it around, and by the time I righted Nic's boat, he was laughing with his teachers in the shallow end.

I took Andy and Nic home and then went with G to his penultimate soccer game. We were down three kids, so I moved G down, one of the K's up, and the K's got pounded. Which wouldn't have been quite so bad if G and one of his teammates didn't start fisticuffs in the last 5 minutes of the game. I spoke sharply to them both; G made a face at me, and the other kid ran off the field in tears.

I took G over and made him apologize and I apologized too. But I felt awful.

So I get home and find a phone message from the drama teacher. And I know what's coming; she wants me to take Nic out.

Deep breath, sit in my happy place, dial the number. Yes, it turns out that I am correct, but I talk her into letting Nic stay in, with the promise that I will more closely direct Nic and that he will help them put together the program, by interviewing all the kids (with my help). That's an hour of my life I will never get back, so I would like to think it made some difference to other kids like Nic she might encounter.

Worked with G on his Sunday school homework, then took the kids to soccer. It was good to see Nic play so well with his friends, and I loved how he sat with his team, joking and talking as he ate pizza with them afterward. They look just like any other bunch of kids having a good time. (and I wonder, why can't this happen at school for him? Why?)

Hubby insisted on going to mass with us after, even though he had work to do. And it's clear he has a lower set of expectations of them than I do. He brought in a book for G that he and Nic tussled with. I looked right at hubby and said, "aren't things hard enough, or do you really think you need to make it tougher for me?" He didn't answer, and I got Nic to follow the mass in its entirety despite the distraction. G, not so much, but I will have another opportunity next weekend.

I was exhausted by the time they headed out to the sleepover. Despite two offers to go out, I stayed in, made a fruit and cheese plate that I enjoyed with some wine, and watched The Big Lebowski. Today, I enjoy another glassblowing class and a beautiful fall day.

For everything else, I am simply recharging for the next round of battles. Because you know there will be plenty more.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I had wished myself a normal day as I left the house early this morning.

What I got? A stand out, awesome, incredible, amazingly good day. You know, one of those days where if you dropped dead in the next 5 minutes, you'd be out on a high note.

I had the usual queue of work to handle when I arrived; called home to make sure the boys were up and answered a few emails. And then had back to back meetings.

Which all rocked. I am amazed at how much change I was able to influence either directly or indirectly over my short tenure--and how much more I can still help along. I carried some of the successes of that meeting into my boss--and passed him a baton, which felt pretty good, and that would have been awesome if that were all there was.

Actually, there was more; our team went to lunch for our monthly outing at a great sushi place nearby. I would have been happy going to a deli, but I was thrilled to go out for sushi.

"What's that?" One of my cohorts stared at my plate.

"Eel," I grinned. "Want some?"

She declined.

So if that weren't enough, we came back to a greeting from our collective new boss, who was thrilled to report that he had a glowing report from the Brand team about our work.

I was floating by this time. I stopped in his office and went just short of doing an end zone dance.

I head back to my desk, grinning ear to ear, because I haven't felt this level of success in literally years, and the pounding I have taken on behalf of both boys the last few weeks has left me desperately needing SOME indicator that I wasn't a complete loser. And here I had validation.....and one more piece came over email right before I left work:

Lunch recess today was a success! Nic played appropriately with his buddy and some other students. He seemed to enjoy playing football with the others. He was not interested in reading and wanted to continue playing the game.

Hello! Peer buddy? My idea. Only took two weeks, but they listened, implemented, and BAM, success.

Sushi, high marks, awesome day for Nic, I almost feel like I can die now.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It all began with "Holy crap!"

Actually, it began before that, but this was where I came in. Nic said it when we came home yesterday, then several times over the course of the evening. I said nothing, thinking a) he could be saying worse and b) if I drew attention to it, I'd hear more of it. Finally, hubby (with a mouth on him like a longshoreman) called Nic on it shortly before bed.

While he lectured, I thought about it and asked what I thought was a logical question. "So where did you hear that, Nic?"

"From the kids in my class who are not my friends," he answered. "They say it when I chase them."

Hmm. "Okay, so what are you doing chasing these kids who aren't your friends, Nic?"

Oops. Nic shuts down, realizing that he may have incriminated himself and thinking I'd forget about it.

He forgets who he is dealing with.

I send a short, sweet note to the team, requesting an update to the recess situation. A phone call follows, wherein I hear that Nic lost minutes off lunch recess today and yesterday for....chasing other kids around the yard, then yelling at his aide.

"Look," I tell her, "I have a really hard time doing the pull-through at home if you don't tell me these things the day they happen. He loses the computer for the rest of the week, but you all have to really have to keep me up to date if we are going to make the lessons of consequences stick." I said this or some variation of it three or four times, thinking that I shouldn't have to explain how consequences work.

I call hubby, update him, and have to break the news to Nic that he loses computer--again. He is not happy.

"You don't get to do whatever you want," I told him with finality. "The same rules that apply to everyone else apply to you, too--more so, because you have more people watching you, and higher expectations."

He impressed me. He didn't even say "it's not fair" once.

Because he knows better.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life Lessons Learned

In volunteering for multiple things, I've learned a couple things that I am good at:

1) I've been pretty good at coaching soccer; my gift has been finding what my players are good at and assigning roles that work for them. As a result, they've been a pretty good team. Even Gabriel had things to bring to the table.

2) I'm much better at teaching Sunday school now than I was four years ago. I was all about the book four years ago; now I bring hands on activities for the kids and make them think of their spirituality in analogous terms. And this is working for the boys, too.

3) Not taking to den leadership so much, but I only had one meeting.

And I still lector and do as much as I can in other ways. I find it keeps me honest and on my toes.

I was stressing about something this afternoon that ultimately is nothing to stress about. Almost in response, I noticed the brilliant light against the charcoal clouds as the sun set, reminded yet again that I can't fret too much over things in this world. I was excited about the skies, and the colors, and couldn't wait to pick up the boys so I could show them.

Nic was happy to see me, and he and G gathered up their things and patiently humored me while I went on and on about the skies. Nic ho-hummed until he saw the rainbow.

G stood up and looked at it for a long time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hope springs eternal

SO I just came in with the boys from the Saturday/Soccer/Swimming Scramble and found this note from the drama teacher waiting for me:

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for going with the flow last night.
The first night is ALWAYS a challenge and we just get to know each other.
I believe that with the transition both Nic and G made after a while last evening, you will be given a break the week after next.
I truly do!

Not that you were begging for one, but I can see that Nic became
attached to Kathy very quickly and that G moved in nicely soon afterward.
Your sons are precious, God Bless them!

Let's have you stay for a little while next week and if it's ok with you,
why don't you hang out outside the classroom after a while and see what happens.

Terry and I had dinner after everyone left last night and discussed the art, the plan, etc. now that the surprise of 24 students is over...HA!

I believe that if we split up the children so they keep busy, we're going to be golden. God always has a plan and for that, I am very grateful. You won't believe how smooth it gets by the third week.

Take care! You're a wonderful mother, God Bless you!

And me for the record: it is stuff like this that keeps me from the edge of the abyss.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Never Say Die, Defeat, or DONE (even though evidence indicates otherwise)

Yesiree, nothing quite like the autism smackdown.

I need to write this before I lose it, in spite of the fact that I have both boys clamoring for attention, dinner warming in the oven and all the other thousand little things that are niggling in my periphery, needing to get dealt with. I've been struggling for quite some time, despite working, despite my teaching Sunday school, coaching soccer, taking on G's den if all these things are proof that I am just like everyone else, that my kids are just like everyone else.

Who the fuck am I kidding? Really?

I signed my kids up for a drama mini camp, thinking it a good creative outlet for them both. The call I got at 5 pm to come get them both shouldn't have surprised me.

I called hubby to let him know what I was doing and to add, "I am so sick of my heart getting stepped on."

But I opted to walk instead of drive to the school. And in the walk, I felt everything harden, like it does when I am getting ready for some kind battle that involves either or both kids.

I decided, in the space of my footsteps, that the boys are not leaving. They will stay until the end of the session.

They both greeted me in the hallway; I sent G back in and told Nic (crying) to go wait in the hall until he could pull himself together. And he did. And G participated. And I stood there and recalibrated how this all was going to go down, but basically deciding that both boys are going to do this even if it means me shadowing their every move.

Meantime, Nic bonded with one of the teachers. And he decided he was okay to be there.

We argued some as we walked home, mostly me telling Nic all the ways he needs to help me out.

"You just want to tell me what to do," Nic groused.

I stopped and said, "No. You know what, I don't want to tell you what to do because you are such a freaking pain in the ass. Do you think I like listening to you complain? No. But I do need to tell you what to do because I am your mom and that is my job."

It resonated. He made me a nice little card and put a Hershey Kiss in my pocket.

And his face and eyes were red when he handed me the card.

I hugged him, willing my own eyes not to well up.

Because if I start crying, I will never stop.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I learned a few things from the wild and woolly week from hell:

1) EVERYTHING looks hopeless through the lens of PMS
2) My kid still looks for loopholes, and I need to shut those down
3) The new principal ROCKS! She has taken ownership of her school and insists that everyone else does, too--in short, she totally walks the walk...AWESOME!
4) I can still be articulate and polite in the face of my own emotional meltdown
5) I need to lean on EVERY ONE to get this house to roll a little differently.
6) Some people will tell you exactly what you want to hear to get you to do stupid things. And even if you DO stupid things as a result, most people will give you a bye, but ALL people will definitely give you a bye if you OWN it.

I am grateful for the leaf drop that happened this week, because I love the hard physical work out that comes with raking leaves. It really helps my head when my body gets a good work out.

It all comes out in the wash. One way or another.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Bully Zones Are No Place for the Defenseless

I sit here with my heart hammering in my chest in the wee hours of the morning, wondering what damage I've done to my older child.

You see, in working with the school to make sure Nic behaves, he has been losing computer privileges at home every time I get a story about his mouth with teachers or behavior on the playground. For the record, he has been awesome in the classroom 99% of the time, so by and large he has been losing computer over recess.

Well, that's not going to happen anymore.

Because you see, something awful happened on Tuesday that ripped the cover off the facade of what the school purports they have been doing for my son. The principal assured me her first responsibility was creating a safe place for all students.

I discovered yesterday that her school is NOT, as it stands right now, a safe place for my son.

What happened on Tuesday was bad. But the upside of what happened was that I had a 40 minute conversation yesterday with the other mom. Who told me her son told her "Well, everyone throws wood chips at Nic." And "Everyone teases Nic."

And gives all those times that Nic told me "it's not fair!" gravitas.

So when I told Nic that I talked to the other boy's mom, and told her what he told me, his whole face lit up in that rare and beautiful way it does when I have done exactly what I needed to do for him, and he was not able to articulate what he needed.

He will hang in there. Because he is tough, beautiful and brave.

And I will, once again, arm for battle and get him what he needs.

Part of me is torn up beyond words, but I am only going to use that to get me where I need to go.

Yet I am human, and what the bigger world does to me and my family keeps me up at night.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


It's been a number of years since I woke up in a cold sweat, fearful of the future and of everything else.

Today, I got to dial it back to zero, because there I was. Although the job goes fine, I had some feedback that made me sufficiently anxious; add that to two full-on meltdowns from Nic--or should I say two MORE--plus the usual money/bill/rest-of-my-life stuff had me staring at the cracks in the ceiling in the dark.

After about an hour of this, I said. "I leave this to you, God." I rose, dressed, and walked out in first light to lector, replacing some one at the last minute.

Once again, I am grateful for being in the right place at the right time. The readings spoke to my anxiety, the visiting brother gave a great homily, and I was invited out with Fr M and our visitor for breakfast. And as usual, we ran the conversation from seedlings to pine trees, and as usual, I was grateful to be included, and reminded of what's important.

They dropped me off, and I went inside to dress the boys and bring them to church. Nic followed about 60% of the mass again, and I introduced the boys to Br H at the end of the mass, then off for me and G to PREP.

I figured out how I need to run that room. And if anyone thinks they can do it better, they are welcome to do so. But it was a good class, the kids were well behaved, and we all had a good time.

I don't know why a lot of these people who volunteer have such a lousy attitude, though. Really, if you call yourself a Christian, let's act like one, shall we? Sheesh.

Came home, spent three hours clearing ivy, branches, weeds, and leaves away from the house. I am tired, but settled. And satisfied.

Nothing cures a soul of anxiety like good company, good friends, and hard work.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Constant Motion

We've had a long intense week. Too much reflection here will cause me to curl up sobbing and fetal under furniture, which is not useful or productive.

The good news is that I think I figured out a solution to my faith formation problem, which came from the unlikeliest of circumstances. And I made a conscious decision to stop apologizing for Nic's behavior--he's at a point where he can (and should) own it.

Make or break moments come unexpectedly; I believe this qualifies. And he actually came through it magnificently.

The most important thing we all learned this week is that Nic's underlying issue is his anger at my returning to work. And as I told his team, he needs to accept that we all work or go to school, we all do the best we can, we all treat one another with respect and dignity, and all behavior counts at all times.

I believe my words made a difference, because he turned a corner yesterday at school.

He'll be fine.

So will I, if I survive him.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pride goeth.....somewhere

So I was thinking that we are at a good place in life if I am at such a point that I can think of both boys' faith formation. Sunday provided me a couple nice surprises, namely that Nic can and will follow mass if he has a missalette (he followed more than half the mass last Sunday), and that Gabriel already knows the Hail Mary.

PREP is a challenge for G, though. The room is loud and echoey, there are kids who are loud, and the teacher can't throw her voice to all corners of the room. Suboptimal sitch, but we'll work with it.

So lest I get too full of myself and my kids, Nic's had a rough couple of days at school. It's partly him, partly everyone else. He's going through a touchy period that makes it hard for him to roll things off his back as usual, and it's gotten him in hot water two days running.

Hoping tomorrow is better. Some days are like this. Just hope it's a short streak.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I need to start running again. Walking doesn't cut the mustard. Metabolism post 40th is not a pretty thing. And I can't believe that walking 6+ miles a day isn't making a damn bit of difference.

It's been a pretty intense week here at autism central. Hubby's been in Asia, and we have been full of nonstop karate-chop action since last Thursday night; soccer practice, dinner out with friends, pizza and Phillies with bro and SIL, swimming, soccer, more soccer and overnight tent camping with the scouts, church, Sunday school, Franklin institute, elevator adventures, FWSP and the Hawk Platform, more elevator adventures, TOPSoccer under the lights, boys to work with me, Valley Forge, KoP, and I HAVE LOST MY VOICE.

I'm so glad the nor'easter canceled soccer tonight. I wouldn't have been able to coach with this frog in my throat, anyway.

Just a few notes on the coolness of the boys. Nic and M had some nice interactions at camp over the weekend. That was such a nice time that I wish we did that every weekend. The boys had a great time. And I talked to M's dad, and things are cool there. I think there is an opportunity for the boys to be friends, but it's not something I am going to try to force.

Nic saw B at TOPSoccer the other night (his mom was running the snack stand), and was very pleased to introduce B to his TOPSoccer buddies. How cool is this? Nic was proud of his friends, and I love the fact that he doesn't differentiate his friends by their abilities or labels. He just does not see people that way. What a wonderful world it would be if all people could see the world like that--no us and them, just us.

Love it.

G has decided he is done with the small bus. And I am making sure that he and his decision are supported on all sides.

My kids hit the proverbial wall with all the busy-ness of the week. I am letting them veg and making pizza. Which won't help my carb argument, but tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's going on?

I need to expand more on the blog I wrote last week about the boy in my son’s grade. All these stories about the violence that results from bullying has led me down a path I've been avoiding. What was particularly jarring about what happened is that I had a vague memory of a story that happened a few years ago. I just looked it up and found it here.

A few things stick with me. That the parents were engaged and involved. That the boy was troubled. But the single most enduring image I have in my mind of this boy is him, wrapped in a blanket, crying. The other is the outreach of the community to his family after the fact.

After the fact. I can’t help thinking this could have been avoided if there had been community involvement BEFORE it happened. Because if there were, very possibly, this boy could be home with his folks, and the other boy would still be alive.

Instead, he’s in jail with no hope of parole. Both families have lost a child, forever, in two different, horrible ways.

These events are what came to mind with what happened on the school yard a couple weeks ago. Have I headed something off? It’s too soon to tell. But only by raising awareness can we all take ownership of our kids, their safety, and their well-being.

It’s the least we can do.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Vaya con Dios

I walk with God.

There, I said it. I've always been a deeply spiritual person, but it took a near-death experience for me to really OWN my faith, to proclaim it, and not be afraid of whatever consequences may come of that.

Granted, I am not a bible thumper, nor am I church lady, nor am I holier than thou. Rather, I live in such a way that I have a clear conscience; I understand that the good in me will out, even over what other people may say about me that is untrue. I live as if every day is my last. Because whenever that will be, I will be ready to meet my maker.

By the same token, I don't judge anyone else, because that's not my place. Or my business. Plus, I lack the bandwidth.

I live with an attitude of gratitude. And I am teaching my boys to do the same.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Turning the other cheek on a new moon

I hate when my Do Not Engage alarm goes off.

I went to bed last night thinking it should have been Friday night instead of Thursday, since my week starting Sunday has been tense and emotionally fraught on every imaginable level. It's been an awesome, beautiful and rewarding week, but intense, emotionally charged and exhausting.

The email that came at noon yesterday iced the cake, from a former friend who betrayed me six ways to Sunday, to whom I gave multiple chances, and she blew every last blessed one. I thought I had said goodbye to her for good years ago,

Yet she shows up via email, ostensibly to tell me something I already knew, probably looking to dig up and throw more dirt.

So I asked my network, what would you do? How would you respond to some one who has exhausted your goodwill in every imaginable way?

Half told me to delete. The other half told me to rip her a new one.

I did neither. I was proud of my response, which was short, sweet, and on point.

And I strongly suspect was not what she was looking for.

Oh well. Have a nice life.

And go pick on some one your own size.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Through Another's Eyes

It's been a meeting kind of week.

The one that weighs most heavily on my mind happened on Monday. While my boys and I were with another waiting for our pack meeting to start last week, the boy waiting with us drew a pair of stick figures, one holding a gun on the other, and made it a point for me to see it.

And I made it a point to not react.

Until I got home to my computer and read about an altercation that happened between Nic and this other boy earlier in the day. Then the picture took on a more ominous tone.

After all, was Nic the figure on the business end of the gun?

So I met with the teachers on Monday, agitated, concerned, and they responded in all the correct ways. I kept it together until I made the parking lot. And burst into tears.

Mourning. My own child. And this other child. What would become of this boy?

And then a voice told me to stop it. Just stop. After all, nothing has happened.


Suddenly, I was seeing the world through his eyes. How hard it must be for him to not have any friends, to not know where to start, to be so frustrated because no one else seems to get how hard it is to be him.

How desperate he must be if he was reduced to drawing a stick figure holding a gun on another. And to make such a point of showing it to an adult.

Who he was certain would share this with other authority figures.

So I wrote this note the next day to the support teacher:

Thanks for taking the time to meet with me and my husband yesterday. I've been thinking long and hard about what we talked about, what happened in the school yard, all the events leading up to that and the drawing, and what I come up with is that the drawing was a cry for help.

The more I think about it, the more I think he wanted to be called on that picture--WHY else would he had made it such a point to show it to me?

I know I am wandering into school counselor territory, and that this is NOT my child, but I see him (who is quite different from Nic in many ways) as a child who really wants friends and just needs help in the delivery. I'm thinking peer buddy? Nic has had a number of kids work with him over the years (B, J, not to mention the girls too many to name) that have played a huge part of his development socially. And Nic is not always the easiest kid to get along with.

I'm just throwing this out there. I know you can't force kids to be friends with one another, but everyone has to learn to work together and cooperatively, and I'm thinking, perhaps, pairing with a peer buddy will help kids get to know him and discover that he really is a good kid and worth getting to know.

I know this is not my place, but I am writing you as an adult who was once a child very much like him.

Thanks for listening, and if there is anything else I can do to help here, please let me know.

Maybe I can make a difference in this child's life. Sometimes life throws you these opportunities to see what you'll do with them.

The teacher wrote me a note back saying that she and the school counselor were working on making my suggestions a reality for this boy.

I hope. And it might fall on us to do more. But that's okay. Maybe this is why it happened.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


As I was sitting in my church with my family today, it occurred to me that I am about 95% of the way finished on my life's short-term to-do list. G is enrolled in PREP. My family attends church together every Sunday (and a special hat's off to my agnostic hubby for not only taking them to church, but also G to Sunday School the weekend I was gone--I know his heart's not in it, but he knows how important this is to me, and that he's on board means more than anything to me).

The last in my short-term to-do's is to have Nic do confession and communion this year. I also need to write a Letter of Intent for both boys (wills and special needs trusts are complete and signed--and hopefully we will never need the latter, but it's in place if we do), which I will do in the next week.

I'm trying to instill the idea that if we have time to play, we have time to take a few minutes every day to thank God we can, and thank God we can enjoy life, and to pay back whenever, wherever, and however we can.

We have a ways to go, but the seeds are planted. I just hope I'm around long enough to watch them grow.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grab bag of stuff

My packed weekend segued straight into a packed week.

Good stuff abounds. but township soccer has me disgusted, since they put all the experienced kids together (it seems) and put all the newbies together, therefore my poor little team keeps getting pounded. Seriously, I thought we were there to have fun, yet these little grunts are out there to win win win! (Note, we are not supposed to be keeping score, but that the other team does and the score is always 6-0 should tell you something).

Yet we went to TOPSoccer, and Nic has been playing with the same kids every session, and they are out there playing, the way the game should be played, and have a great time (G is also on an independent field, but he was doing his sprints. And then he wandered off and for 10 minutes we had no idea where he was. Turns out he absent mindedly wandered off and followed some one to their car instead of heading up for snacks. I think he thought that was where he was going.)

That won't happen again.

And then there was the popcorn sale for scouts. Both my boys are enrolled this year. Nic doesn't care what anyone thinks and was quite the little sales guy. I think that was really apparent when we were selling popcorn. Just about everyone who passed us as we sold outside our local supermarket somehow knew Nic.

But G was too cute in his Tiger uniform--all he had to do was open his mouth and money flew out of wallets. Between them they raised $450 in four hours. They did awesome.

And a funny development. Some of the kids who harassed Nic earlier on in his elementary career are now palling around with him. Why? Because Nic's friends are girls. My boy, the babe magnet :P

So, school is going well for both so far, and I took them out for haircuts and dinner before the pack meeting last night. I'm trying to figure out how to deal with an ongoing situation between Nic and another kid who obsesses on the fact that Nic doesn't want to be his friend.

My work sitch is good, and I am happy with it. I finally had enough hair to donate, so had it all cut off last night. Nic tells me I look like Sabine from Mr Bean's Holiday; hubby says I look like my sister.

Headed for root canal this am. Meh. I don't care, I just want it done.

Friday, September 24, 2010

No Drama Zone

Hubby says I overcommit. And that yes is my favorite word.

He might be right. But the only way I can get buy-in from my kids to do their various activities is that if I participate on some level. So I coach soccer and teach prep, and serve as swim coach as needed, when needed.

Doing these things bothers me not; dealing with some parents and the drama that involves does. It literally sucks the joy out of any kind of involvement I have.

As I look forward to this weekend of coaching that begins with border-collie-ing my family out of the house, I feel dread.

I need to reset, put my game face on, grit my teeth, and just plow.....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stepping Outside My Box

Hubby steered me into walking my walk last night.

It all begins and ends with the ladies' neighborhood organization. When we first moved here 8 years ago, I waited for an invite that never came. By the time it came, I had found other things to do.

That is, until yesterday. Two of my neighbors extracted a promise from me on the bus stop on Monday that I would be there. I responded that hubby was my limiting factor; if he made it home, I would certainly be there.

Remarkably, hubby walked in a half hour before it started. And as we sat at the dining room table, I ticked off all the reasons I shouldn't go, ending with "and people will look at me and say, 'So, you're *their* mom'."

Shouldn't have gone there. Hubby smiled knowingly and said, "Well, then, that's your mission, isn't it?"

*sigh* I put on my game face and shoes and headed across the street.

I felt oddly like I was infiltrating enemy territory.

Taken for what it was, it was a nice evening; my neighbors genuinely seemed happy that I showed up, one caught me up with gossip from school (I told her she ought to be thankful she had a kid that talked about these things lol), and I established my territory in a corner of the room near the food to ensure I had a constant stream of people with whom to chitchat (that strategy worked well lol).

B's mom was there, to my surprise. Not to my surprise, she ignored me, but I pretended I didn't see her, either, and that worked out fine. I sneaked out early with two other neighbors, since we all had to be up working early, and we chatted a few more minutes before heading to our respective homes.

So, I'll sign up for this year, and see where it takes me. I think if nothing else it might strengthen a few ties I already have. There is much to be said for stepping outside of one's area of comfort, and just looking around the room last night, I am reminded how much the outlier I am--in so many ways.

In other parts of the forest, I am absolutely thrilled with Nic's teacher this year. She *gets* it. Priceless.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Just got back from an overnight with my sister in law, who is the most awesome person on the planet. Can't say we did more than walk, talk, eat and sleep, but what an amazing time doing these things, catching up, taking in the sights and sounds of the shore, and looking ahead.

Talking through the past and present has an amazing way of putting the future in clear relief. Even mass in another parish was enlightening, although I miss Fr M and look forward being back in my own run and congregation next week.

Sitting in the backyard, trimming a bamboo shoot with thoughts of cane rods for both boys, SIL laughed at me while she tried to start her lawn mower. Fate decreed that she would do a quick and dirty once-over with the weed whacker. Simple joys in good company.

On to another week....and what a fun-filled, action-packed week it will be.....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thought for the Day

This is the true joy in life - being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. ~George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Picture the Mind Takes

I read a column by Anna Quindlen years ago, years before my own kids were born, about the dangers of seeing life through a camera lens--video or static, at that time. The message--to see with your own eyes those special moments when your kids are young to better engrave those memories in your heart--resonated.

Hubby documents our lives copiously via visual technology, in much the way I explore the emotional and spiritual geography of our lives via the written word. Between us, we cover a lot of ground. He natters at me sometimes for not taking more pictures and video, and I natter back at him for not living enough in the moment.

But there is a moment I captured with my eyes--and heart--about a year and a half ago. The boys and I had visited their doctor--I believe it was a well visit for one or the other of them--and at the end of the visit, she pulled out a bag of lollipops and offered for them to each take one.

*Click* I see it front of me as clearly as I see this screen. Dr. R holding open the bag in front of the door that leads up into her house. She is smiling, looking down at Nic (has to be two years ago, since now he is nearly her height) and G while they fish around the bag for the flavors they like best.

I remember my breath catching in my throat at that moment, because the lighting in the room was such that everything had a sepia cast, including my kids and Dr R. Like I was framing a moment that would be lost forever, and understanding in that moment, that sooner or later, Dr. R would be part of our past.

And so. That moment came yesterday, as I picked up my boys' records. Dr. R is retiring, bringing another chapter of our lives to a close. And I took a picture of them for posterity....but it will not be the picture I think of.

The real picture for posterity is the one I took with my eyes that afternoon a couple years back.

I cry, but I'm not sure why. We've had our differences, and God knows we've raised our voices at one another more than once in the last eight years. But be that as it may, she was a very important part of our lives.

I'll miss her.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Wide World

I feel as though I have taken a can opener to my perspective.

We had a rough start to aftercare--Nic did, at any rate. On Tuesday, I told him if he gave me a better day Wednesday, we would go back to my old neighborhood for elevator adventures.

It's amazing how little it takes to get good behavior.

The original hegira I planned was simple; Toys R Us (because that's what G wanted to do) Sears, and the library. That is, until Nic noticed the top of the Macy's across a sea of one-story buildings.

"That's an outdoor mall, Nic," I told him, thinking that would be the end of it.

"An outdoor mall, cool!" Nic replied. "I've never seen that, before."

So we explored. It's easily been 20 something years since I've set foot in it. I pointed out some of the things that used to be there, things that have changed, but very little has stayed the same outside of the physical layout of the mall. I regaled both boys with stories about how I used to go the library on my own when I was Nic's age, as well as coming to the mall.

Nic looked at me doubtfully. "Grandmom lives a half mile down that road," I told him, pointing. "I used to walk and ride my bike up here all the time."

We walked along in silence. Then Nic asked. "Why don't we live in the city."

"Because the schools don't have what you need," I answered. "The schools where we live do."

He sighed. "Where we live is boring."

I have to agree.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


So from one end of the day to the other today, we had

1) The neighbors invite our kids over to play. First time in 8 years. And they played an hour and a half.

Which in it of itself is pretty amazing, awesome and wonderful. But then you chase it with

2) Nic riding over to the library on his own

3) A great soccer practice that Nic helped coach and ride herd on the little kids and

4) An impromptu dinner with friends that was good for all--moms and kids.

It was a pretty freaking cool miraculous day. :)

You read it and it sounds so mundane, so normal.

This is how far we've come. We really are just like anyone else.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bouncing off that wall into a new week

Just got back from CampEmerge (Year 5) and think this was the best year ever. G had an awesome volunteer working with him, Nic was off riding his bike, climbing the rock wall, playing billiards and shuffleboard, and dad and I got to fish (although he made fun of my rig, which consisted of a spinning reel, bobber, swivel and a fly, it was effective: I caught three bass--two of them about 15 inches--and a pan-fish-sized pumpkin seed sunny).

I spent maybe a half hour after the group pic sitting on a swinging bench overlooking the pond when I saw a very big bird come gliding toward me over the pond. As it approached, I saw it was a red tail hawk and that it was going to glide right past me. And it did, passing less than 20 feet from where I sat, apparently unaware of me.

What a gorgeous bird. And a good omen for what's ahead.

I have to buckle down and write today, and finish up paperwork for the boys, and figure out the rest of this week, which is going to be crazy on a few levels.

For right now, I have to get the chicken finger production line going. The rest will sort itself out.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Fully loaded week. The short list

Monday-NYC with my team for an agency visit
Tuesday-had dinner with friends
Wednesday-Fr Mike and one of my good friends came for dinner
Thursday-visit to see new teachers; team lunch; work; coached my first soccer practice; picked up uniforms
Friday-Exhaling. Grilling. Some imbibing.

I blew a deadline, but I'll make the time up over the weekend, get the article written and out as I usually do. I pissed off a family member. Had the best visit ever with Fr. Mike. Made a decision with regard to aftercare and G's bus. I found out to what degree that Nic was tormented on school property by that bully--with no consequences. Jesus, no WONDER that went on as long as it did. It's a good thing that principal is gone, or I would have been in her office, reading her the riot act, as to HOW she failed my kid because there were NO consequences--this kid was given tacit permission BY THE SCHOOL to torment my kid.

I am hot. Thank God I have a long weekend to cool down.

Other news: Fr M's visit was the best of the bunch, very relaxed, and mellow, and he was really himself with us in a way he's never been. He and my friend C connected in an awesome way, good to see when people 'get' one another. Ah, it was nice.

Got to bond with a couple of my coworkers this week, one on the train ride to NYC and another over lunch. That is just such a good sitch on so many levels, I am too grateful for words. And I am having another lunch this coming week to figure out what I'm doing in a new opportunity. Again, one won't interfere with he other, and I figure both situations will ultimately benefit from what I learn.

So instead of a heavy week, it's been light, as has been my heart. I had three six-year-olds run me all over the field at soccer practice last night, and another friend contacted me to train for next triathalon season.

So despite my intermittent vertigo, I am pressing forward, doing new things, and having a great time.

It's a good life, even with the challenges. Because overcoming the challenges makes it truly awesome.

Both my boys are ready for the new year. And so am I.

Bring it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Some One to Watch Over Me

So as I lay me down to sleep, I found myself rethinking and remembering what I could about the events of 36 years ago. And sort of reconstructing what I knew and experienced around the facts.

I know dad was buried on September 4, which was a Wednesday, the first day of school, which we missed because my mom didn't want the funeral on my sister's birthday, which was the third, a Tuesday.

For the longest time, I thought my father died on August 28, but the mass card said the 29th. The 28th was a Wednesday; my Uncle drove me up from Long Beach Island that day, for reasons I wasn't entirely clear about. My sibs minus my youngest and mom were at Beach Haven with my cousins. My younger sister, homesick, wanted to be home with mom, so left after a week.

I didn't understand why I was in the car with my uncle. I had been having a good time and wanted to stay the rest of the week with everyone else.

I talked about everything we did down at the shore, what fun it was, and my uncle said little.

I can't remember what my reunion with mom was like, only that I went to the carnival that evening with neighbors and rode the ferris wheel for the first time. And that our neighbor was at our house, watching me and my younger sisters. while my mom was at the hospital.

I remember waking up at one point and going to the top of the stairs. The Tonight Show was on, and our neighbor watched, smoking a cigarette, apparently unaware of me peering down at her.

Instead of going back to my room, I went to my parents room and fell asleep in their bed.

This was a big deal and major offense. My parents' room door was always closed. This was THEIR territory. But that night, I opened the door, went into their room, curled up in the middle of their bed and fell asleep.

So the first thing I saw the next morning was the sun streaming in on my mother's exhausted face. She was smiling, but the sadness in her face was bottomless.

"Daddy went to heaven last night," she told me.

Outside of my repeated "What do you mean? What are you talking about?" I don't remember much. There's so much I want to say to the bewildered child I was, not that it necessarily would have helped. I hadn't KNOWN that my father was sick, let alone terminally ill--no one ever said anything to me. And I wish some one did. Because I literally have no idea when the last time I saw my father alive was.

I never got to say goodbye.

So I sit here typing these scattered thoughts, 36 years later. Today, as of this day, my father is dead longer than he was alive. Hubby pointed out that this is true of us all, eventually.

But even so, all those memories of going to church with him, his steadfast faith, his odd but endearing sense of humor, all these things I share with my boys, who know their grandpop in ways I missed when I was younger. Well, I didn't miss it if I am living it, but there was much I didn't understand.

But I like to think that I am living the life he would have wanted for me, in the way he would have wanted me to live it. A lot of his beliefs and values inform the way I roll.

So, in a very real way, he continues to be with me, and with my family.

The irony, of course, is that he would have gotten my boys in a way few do, because they-particularly my Nic, who shares his birthday-are a lot like him.

His last words to my mom were about me, because he understood me in a way no one else could--or ever would. And he knew how hard it would be for me.

That I am still here is probably the strongest testament to the fact that I have ALWAYS had some one to watch over me.

And as my boys grow up, I know they have some one to watch over them, too.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Overnight sensation, 10 years in the making

So I thought I was going to lunch on Thursday, and that it was going to be a social outing. Instead, I found myself chewing over an offer for work.

Which I am taking, after careful consideration, since as of right now this isn't a 'law of physics' situation where this and my other sit are mutually exclusive situations occupying the same space at the same time. No, this stuff as of right now can be handled in my discretionary free time (HA!). But it's too good a learning opportunity to pass up, so I need to give it a try. I don't have to worry about breaking anything, and the very worst that can happen is that I learn something new.

No downsides, in other words.

And in other stretches of the world, we've had fun--dad will take the boys fishing while I attend a training and present (I was asked to present less than 24 hours before the presentation was slated to happen, so I just updated my slides and am hoping for the best. In any case, I don't expect to bomb too badly, and it's a friendly room).

A lot distracts me, but I can't escape the fact that tomorrow is the day that casts a long shadow around all the days around it.

Fortunately, the kids keep me smiling.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on the single most important thing I learned in sociopath purgatory--the whole ownership thing. You know, how everything is somehow everyone else's fault?

Nic brought that home to me in a big way yesterday afternoon. He greeted me through clenched teeth that I was late, it was my fault he had a bad time from 4 o'clock on, and somehow all the other kids were at fault, too.

I sighed. And made him apologize to Miss J and the entire class.

Then I told him he lost his computer until he can own his own temper.

He wailed. Screamed. Blamed me.

"You have no one to blame but yourself for carrying on like this," I told him. "You alone can control how you act and react, and you choose to carry on like a toddler."

"I am not a toddler!" He howled. I retorted that we wouldn't be able to go into the library if he carried on like that.

"Why am I being punished?" G piped up. "I want to go to the library."

"G is never punished for anything!" Nic wailed, renewing his volume.

"Oh yes, G does get punished, for different things," I retorted.

"That's right!" G agreed.

"So you can stay here and cool your jets," I told him as I parked the car. "And if you come in there and are a howling embarrassment to me, you lose your computer until December. Got it?" With that, G and I gathered up our books and headed to the door.

"Nic really annoys me when he screams like that," G confided.

"Me too," I said.

Nic came in a few minutes later and tapped me on the shoulder. "I'm calm now," he told me. "Can I stay here?"

"Sure," I answered, and he went off to gather up some books to check out. Convincing me, once again, that theatrics play a huge role in how he responds to things. It's all in how people react to his reaction.

That's also kind of how sociopaths roll, although their theatrics are carefully calibrated to their victims. I don't want Nic--or either kid, really--to manipulate others. They are essentially good people with native gifts who are good enough to go without smoke and mirrors. I want them both to be able to man up and own everything they do, and I never want to hear either boy blame some one else for the way he reacts to some one or some thing. Cooler heads prevail, and everyone is looking to push your buttons.

Last week wasn't the first time and the only way it's happened, and it won't be the last. But it served as an important reminder to me to mind my own armor.

After all, a friend of mine reminded me a couple days ago, the kids watch me, too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Swift-kicking Sherpa

I love my Sherpa.

Actually, she is one of two who guide me along in life. As it happens, both were out last week, but my onsite one has an awesome way of kicking sense into me and doing it with a smile and compassion. But she does it, just the same.

She helped me autopsy a couple situations today, work-related and otherwise. And of the work-related thing, she told me "you know, you're hanging onto this. You have to let it go."

I tend to perseverate on things without realizing it, so having an interested third party kick me in the pants is a good thing--and a gift.

I have some irons in the fire, and some connections I made over the last few months yield some good things. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain. I love that it's all happening now, in late August, typically such a grey time for me. So when Sherpa told me to let go, I heard not only the instance to which she referred, but everything else as well, including the strain of sorrow that has run through every August for the last 36 years.

So you know what? I am letting it all go.

And it feels pretty good.

Onward, upward, and thank God I can.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Self-cleaning Communication Breakdown

I'm just shoehorning those two ideas together because that's the way I roll, and both have been top of mind. I think the biggest reason the whole noisy breakup from last week looms so large is that I haven't had a break with anyone that big or noisy since, well, 24 years ago, and not surprisingly, a very similar personality was involved.

I had adopted a philosophy of appeasement in the earlier situation-basically covering over parts of my personality to make the other person happy. I realized--fortunately--that this methodology is unsustainable in any relationship. (And really, it doesn't bode well when the song some one dedicates to you has the line "sometimes I'd like to break you and bring you to your knees." Really?) As for the latter, I thought that was done and over, since I had no contact with the parties involved for months.

This has never been an issue. Most transitory relationships have a way of quietly fading away and no one is any more the worse for it. Real friendships can withstand just about anything. It's those relationships that can't, well, they served some purpose for both parties while it existed.

I think most people are reasonable when relationships end. But I guess it is also reasonable for people who are the beneficiaries of a relationship to be bitter.

And the other thing I keep coming back to is that I can't understand how this person thought this relationship was any more than it was.

But, some people are just takers. And that's the way they roll.

And I for one, just would sooner roll out of their way. Life's too short.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Standing Down

This weekend delivered precisely what was needed: good times, perspective, and a swift kick.

We spent Saturday reconnecting as a family, which culminated in a great canoeing/kayaking/fishing trip down the Delaware. The first time I had ever gotten into a kayak was 11 years ago in the Bahamas--and fortunately, I have improved since then. I scouted out fishing spots for the boys, and they caught a couple (hubby lost a 3 lb bass he will mourn for months).

While I birded down river, the quiet gave me the time and space to reflect on the previous week. And put that in its proper place and perspective.

I continued these reflections while I ran 4.4 miles in the rain the next day. Hubby reported that he saw me smiling as I walked up to the house.

We herded the boys to mass a little while later. Fr M was replaced by an African missionary, who knocked it out of the park; who reaffirmed to me that kids DO learn what they live, and that we are heading in the right direction. Hubby's disappointment that this man wasn't joining our parish was palpable.

As for those screeds and the resulting baggage brought up, I'm reminded that sheer volume doesn't make anyone else right--or wrong. All feedback is ultimately valuable in one way or other.

Even the most vengeful. Trouble is, you have to dig a little more to sort the wheat from the chaff. AND withstand the stench. AND get your hands dirty.

S'alright. No one said this life wasn't messy.

Friday, August 20, 2010


“People always blame their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.” ~GB Shaw

It's not the difficulty that defines us; it's how we deal with it.

In the immortal words of my beloved spouse, I attract trouble. For the longest time, he was convinced that I sought it out. A couple for instances:

Once in Penn Station about 20 years ago a homeless woman approached me in the bathroom. At that time, hubby was in grad school, we were barely paying our bills, and I had totaled our car with no replacement in sight. The woman asked me for money, and when I responded I had none, I exaggerated not.

Then she grabbed my arm and told me not to give her any of that sh*t.

Then I threw her up against the wall and quietly repeated that I had none to spare.

When I came out of the bathroom shaken up, Hubby told me I had done something to bring that on myself.

About four years after that, I was walking along the northern outer boundary of Grand Central Station, headed from the East side to Penn Station to hop the LIRR home. Immersed in my own thoughts, I emerged to notice that a large man, at least 7 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier than me, was walking in my path. I moved out of his way. He moved back into mine. I moved out again. He stepped right up in my face and swung at me, telling me "wipe that sh*t off your face."

Without thinking, I blocked his punch (which otherwise would have hit me square in the jaw) and squared off with him. He was momentarily stunned, but he hurried away. It all happened in less than a minute, and I don't even think anyone on that crowded sidewalk blinked.

That time, hubby didn't accuse me of starting anything.

But he did notice that I had a weird way of attracting the walking wounded and all variety of predator. And usually, I'm able to thwart, evade, or otherwise parry as necessary.

But I do get caught off-guard occasionally, and it happened again this past week. I guess things were just a little too happy and quiet.

It's all good. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger...and I might add, wiser.