Monday, September 23, 2013

You Want Space? You Got It.

It's been one of those days, where nobody seems to have a tact filter or a volume control, where common sense and niceness have apparently taken a long vacation, and where the best decision I can make as a parent is to exile my kids to their bedrooms for the rest of the evening before I say something to them that I'll really, really regret.  

I try to operate on the philosophy that if my kids respect me, and I respect them, we should get along okay, keeping in mind that I'm the parent, and my kids are NOT.  That's never been easy, since from the get-go our son has never seen why he shouldn't have a equal say in everything that goes on in the house, and why he should respect and listen to his parents.  (I've heard that this is a common Asperger trait.  How many of you see it in your aspie kids, friends, or spouses?) 

It's not like we haven't given both kids consistent, regular discipline.  It's not like they doesn't know the meaning of the word "NO."  It's not like I'm a doormat, or a pushover.  But some days Safety Guy just DOESN'T CARE, and lets me have it verbally as if I were his equal, or even his minion, and not his mother.  As our daughter has hit her tween years, she has been acting more and more that way too.  (Which tells me that either our son has ALWAYS been a bratty, know-it-all teen at heart, and that our daughter is just catching up with a vengeance, or that our daughter has been taking notes on our son's behavior all these years and figures that if he can act that way, she can too, and she's making up for lost time.  Either way, it sucks.)

They've had any number of run-ins this past year over their shared "turf" in the bathroom.  Honestly, if I could build a house right now, they'd each have their own bathroom, so they could be totally responsible for them and not blame the other for dropped towels, left-behind socks, or whatever was supposed to be in the little garbage can but is beside it instead.  

Today Safety Guy went ballistic on his sister for leaving socks and clothes in the bathroom when he went to take a shower after his fitness class.  She, in turn, yelled at him for yelling at her.  He yelled at me for not making her clean up her stuff that very instant, and then she yelled at me for not making him pick up the half-dozen toy cars sitting beside the couch downstairs.  I banned both of them from the TV and computers for the evening.  They're upstairs for the night.  I'm done.

Safety Guy wanted space from his sister tonight, and he got it.  The Princess doesn't want to have to deal with her brother's stuff, and that's not an issue for tonight.  Maybe a nice, long, boring evening of nothing but homework and whatever books they find will make a point.  

They wanted space; so did I.  It's not quite how I wanted to get it, but I'll take what I can get at this point.

I just wish it didn't feel so crappy.

Two hours later:  The Princess came down for a bite of dinner, and while I wasn't paying attention, she started making homemade bread.  By the time I caught on to what she was doing, she had the yeast proofed in the warm water, and the bread board out, so I let her keep going, rather than waste what she'd started.  When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm apologizing for my crappy behavior."  Okay, then.  She did her homework and read a book while the bread baked.  It came out of the oven half an hour ago, and we just had some slices with honey.  Safety Guy apologized to his sister (without being prompted), and complimented her on her baking skills.  The Princess apologized to her brother (with a prompt), and all was well again.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Simple Pleasures

Life has definitely has its stresses this week.  A flat tire, which in the course of its repair revealed a much bigger auto repair that needs to addressed soon.  A meltdown by the Princess.   Safety Guy has a chest cold.  A sub job I showed up for, and the teacher showed up a few minutes later - somebody goofed in the scheduling department.  A headache.  A backache.  Just STUFF.  But there have been many good things this week, too.  Sometimes, when life is stressful, the little things mean a lot.

A gorgeous harvest moon, which looked absolutely huge rising over the horizon last night.

Shocking orange zinnias by my front walk.

Sharing plants with friends.

Taking a nap with Cici (my fluffy, bobtailed torbie cat).

Making a nice big batch of spicy jambalaya for dinner tonight.

Organizing a closet.  (Don't laugh - nothing is falling on my head from the shelf now!)

My husband buying me a heating pad for my aching back (and the heating pad helped a LOT).

A couple teachers telling me they requested me specifically for their classes. 

Subbing in a first grade class and getting hugs from several of the students at the end of the day.

And, some things that aren't so little:

The kid who hit Safety Guy in the spring apologized to him, and Safety Guy accepted his apology appropriately, and they shook hands.  (!!!  And I have to say again, !!!)

The Princess has a new friend at school, a girl who just moved here, who rides her bus, shares some of her classes, and has many of the same interests, and who likes my wonderful girl just the way she is, and who lives nearby.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cars, Cars, Cars

Safety Guy admiring a sweet little convertible Austin Healey.

We've lived here east of Syracuse for four years now - long enough to have settled into the local seasonal swing and learn what fun events to look forward to year round.  One thing Safety Guy looks forward to every year is the Mohican Model A Ford Club's annual car show in Wampsville, NY.  It's held at the fireman's field in town, and includes both the auto show (with a several hundred cars or so from the earliest 1900s to the 1980s), food vendors, and a flea market (mostly auto themed, but lots of other fun stuff too).  It's always held the weekend after Labor Day.  Safety Guy and I made our annual pilgrimage to the show last weekend.  Here are some photos from our fun morning:

 We've seen this Bel Air at the show each of the three years we've attended.  
It's one of his favorites every year.

 Hello chrome!  This gorgeous Cadillac Eldorado practically glowed in the sun.

 For the life of me I can't remember what auto had this wonderful hood ornament.

 Of course we saw some really great hot rods, too.

 Safety Guy admiring a Hudson.

 The hood ornament from a '53 Pontiac - it really caught my eye, 
with the hood up against the clouds.

 A '69 Chevelle Malibu SS - almost exactly my first car.  My old Chevelle was handed down to me from my grandfather, and wasn't an SS, but a regular 307.  Plain vanilla as muscle cars go, but oh how I loved that car!  I called mine "Beast," because even with the smaller 307 engine, it was still a muscle car and had that wonderful eight-cylinder roar.

A sweet Corvette Stingray - the ultimate 70s car in my mind.  
I've always wanted to ride in one.

And Safety Guy's favorite car of the whole show - a Delorean.  
This one, unusually, has been painted.  Originally they were all matte stainless steel.  
And, of course, it had a mock-up of a flux capacitor in the back.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Spinning Plates and Acting

I really shouldn't complain - we appear to be on a fairly even keel in the house right now, in spite of the inevitable, predictable ups and downs of Safety Guy's anxiety related to going back to school.  But, appearances can be deceiving.

The kids are managing okay, but I'm just keeping up a nice facade.

Have you ever felt like your life was a series of spinning plates in a circus act, and you were running around trying to keep everything going at the right speed and balance so that nothing fell, crashed and broke around your head or under your feet?

Yes.  Like that.

I'm afraid I've been very good for many years at hiding my struggles.  I'm a decent actor in that respect, although I would rather die than be on a stage.  I keep my cool most of the time, especially in public.  I smile, I do my job, I get stuff done.  I try to appear competent, in control, and ready to deal with everything.  I work hard at it.

The problem with that life-long lie is that sometimes, sometimes more often than I'd like to admit, I'm not in control.  I'm not well-balanced.  Things are crashing and breaking all over the place, and I'm just picking up the pieces and hiding them and moving on to the next crisis, where I do damage control all over again.

But that kind of act can't be kept up forever.  Eventually, the facade cracks, the mask falls off, and everyone who's paying attention can see that I'm just a mess, and my life is in massive disarray.  By that point, it's a real crisis.  (It's like a cat, who will hide that it's sick until it's desperately ill and just can't hide it any more.)  The trick I've needed to learn is to ask for help BEFORE all hell breaks loose.  I'm a slow learner in that respect, often held back by the fear of judgment by others over my struggles.

This year has been the peak of trouble after many years of troubles.  Some friends and family knew some of the difficulties in my life over that time, but nobody knew the worst hurts, the deepest wounds, or the hardest battles, or how often I struggled.  Things have changed since earlier this year, and finally I'm sharing what I need to share with people who need to know, and who can help me.  People who will be gentle with my heart, or tough on my misperceptions, or kind about my regrets, or angry on my behalf, or wise in their advice, or quick to weep with me, as the situation dictates.

It's taken me a long time to learn to ask for help.  And I've learned that I have to be honest with some people in my life to really get help, with the ones whom I can really trust with my broken places, my screw-ups, my sins, my hurts, and my worries and my fears.  There are people that don't need to know my deepest hurts and hardest struggles.  Either I don't know them well enough, or I don't think they want the additional burden of knowing my troubles, or I'm not sure how they'd handle the knowledge.  But everyone needs a few people they can be honest with and trust with their heart.  Thankfully I have a good handful of people like that in my life.  They wonder why I waited so long to confide in them, but they also haven't heaped judgment on me about that.

Everyone needs people to lean on in their life, but that kind of vulnerability requires trust, and when your trust is already broken, it's hard to reach out for help.  But I'm learning.

Last night I spent hours "talking" with my sister using a chat feature.  We covered a lot of ground, from baking and making chocolates, to our cats, to our hurts.  It was such a relief to talk to someone who truly understands what's going on my life right now.  That acceptance and understanding was priceless to me, and by the end of our rambling chat I felt that my burden had been eased and shared.  THAT is what we all need from time to time.

Thank God for professional counseling help from someone who also shares my faith (but is much wiser than I am).  Thank God for friends and family who have been willing to listen and be here for me on this road.  Thank God for everyone who has been praying for the kids and I, and for my husband.  There is hope after all, and healing, and grace like water in the desert.  This won't be an easy road, but it's a necessary journey.  It's good to have friends along the way.

There is hope.

Friday, September 6, 2013

So Far, So Good

September 5th, 2013 - sixth and ninth graders!!

Well, we survived the first two days of school.  Over all I'm quite pleased with how Safety Guy's schedule and classes have worked out.  The student who assaulted him last year isn't in ANY of his classes (some sort of miracle), and two other kids he had run-ins with last year aren't there now.  He likes all of his teachers, although he's a bit nervous about the increased work load, and downright grossed out by the idea of dissecting a fetal pig in the spring for science class.  I'm hoping, really hoping, that whatever struggles he has this year are minor compared to last year.

The Princess is also happy with her teachers.  Sixth grade here is like "junior high lite" - the kids start switching rooms for different subjects during the day, although they have a home room they start and end the day, and where they have one academic subject and keep all their stuff.  She sees her friends in different classes, although her closest friends have different home room teachers.  She's off to a good start, and I hope she has another good year.

I've already been called for a handful of sub jobs over the next two weeks.  I like it when I'm pre-scheduled, since I'm really not a fan of early morning phone calls.  (Those calls can happen anywhere from 5:30 to 6:15, although sometimes I'll get a late call around 7:15 with a frantic secretary saying, "Ack!  We need you here in 15 minutes!  Please!"  Good thing I live close to the schools.)

Safety Guy has had some backlash each afternoon or evening after school, which we expected.  He's processing a lot of change and anxiety in a short period of time.  His stress comes out most often through sharp, snarky, or mean comments or swearing, often directed at his sister.  It's unpleasant, but not unexpected, and I count my blessings that he's not acting out physically at this time. Time alone seems to help restore his balance, so we remind him to go to his room, or just plain send him there if he doesn't take a polite hint or two.  His special interests have been all over the place the past couple weeks as he stressed about going back to school, very intense and persistent.  I'm hoping that he'll ease off for a little while.

I don't know about every person with Asperger Syndrome, or other autism-related issues, but I could pretty much mark up the school calendar to tell his teachers when he'll have the most difficulty.  In fact, I think I might actually DO that - get a copy of the calendar and share it with his resource teachers so they can track his behavior.  He swings up and down with his anxiety and moods fairly predictably.  Anxiety builds up to a peak before each major transition or holiday - back to school (huge), Halloween (not as bad), Thanksgiving (not too bad), Christmas/Christmas break (BIG), winter break (with seasonal affective issues - nasty), spring break (the "I'm sick of school!" meltdown), and the end of the school year ("Thank God it's over!") are the easiest ones to predict.  Then there are less regular anxiety-inducing events:  doctor/dental appointments, family trips, and special events.  SG is due for wisdom teeth surgery this fall or winter.  THAT will be the mother of all anxiety storms, I'm pretty sure, combining Safety Guy's fear of gagging/throwing up with surgery, which he's never had before, and needles, which he doesn't like either, in his MOUTH (that gagging thing again).

So, while I'm hopeful for an overall positive year, I also know I'm in for the long-distance roller-coaster ride of life with Safety Guy.  I hope the ups are good, and the downs are short.  For all of us, this year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

'Twas the Day Before School Started. . .

Cici, just because.

Tomorrow is THE DAY.  I'll officially have a freshman in high school, and a sixth grader.  They're both excited.  They have their new clothes, new shoes, and a crazy amount of school supplies that the schools no longer furnish.  The Princess has had her first day outfit picked out for a week (including snazzy tall boots, and hair chalk - she's going a bit "steampunk," if you know what that means, with some gamer-girl thrown in for good measure).  Safety Guy hasn't said anything about his fashion choices, aside from not wearing ANY of his new stuff until school officially starts.  But he's easy:  T-shirts with funny sayings, jeans or athletic shorts, new sneakers, and a baseball cap.

I heard back from quite a few of Safety Guy's new teachers, in response to the letter I sent to them last week.  We even went to the school to meet the two teachers who were not at the freshman orientation.  They were both friendly and asked SG directly about his likes and dislikes, stresses and calming techniques.  I feel a little better about school now, although the proof will be in the first few days, when he sees who his classmates are for each subject.

I've already been called for subbing - 4 1/2 days in the first two weeks of school.  That's good.  No full-time opportunities on the horizon, but I just have to keep looking around and see what comes up.

I think I'd enjoy this last day before school starts a lot more if I didn't have the stomach and intestinal flu.  (Blerk.  Enough said.)

I've had the appliance repair guy here, working on our dryer, which pooped out on Saturday of the holiday weekend.  At least I had most of the laundry done before it went kerflooey.  Anyhow, it was a simple thermal fuse ($12.50) and the charge for a service call and labor ($69).  It took him about 20 minutes to diagnose and fix it.  I think I'm in the wrong profession.

So, a day in the life.  Safety Guy seems to be fairly relaxed at the moment, unless you know that his obsessive talking about favorite topics is a sign of anxiety.  He's handling it fairly well over all.    The Princess is getting her supplies together, writing her name in the folders and binders.  The fun of new school supplies; the anticipation of another year.  I hope tomorrow goes smoothly for both of them, with no unpleasant surprises.