Parenthood watch

We saw the first snowfall at our new house when the parents of Alex’s friend arrived on the chilly autumn Saturday afternoon. It felt rather ominous of what was yet to come, but at the same time brilliant and beautiful.

The other parents were concerned about how much partying our sons were doing. We decided to get together as a group with another set of parents and just talk, a support group so to say for parents of wayward sons. These boys are all good kids really. They just took a detour down the wrong path. They are partying and failing classes. They aren’t picking fights, stealing, destroying property…

I am making an effort to stop lying to myself. Part of that means facing the fact that my son may never go to college. I thought up to a month ago that he was going to college after graduating. Back when he was in grade school, Alex wanted to be an accountant. I had to ask the teacher to give him more challenging math. Then in middle school and high school, he barely passed math. In fact, he is failing his math class as we speak.

I lied to myself. I’ve been lying to myself for a long time. I’ve been telling myself that he is still that boy in grade school that needs more challenging math. But he really is the party boy that doesn’t give a crap about school. If we come down on him too hard for partying, then we fear that he will leave home and not even finish high school. It is very heartbreaking to see him waste his brilliant mind. It is so much easier to lie to myself.

I don’t have any control over the path he decides to take when he leaves here. It has been causing us a lot of grief. I hope and pray that he matures and grows out of it. Until then, now we have a group of parents that are just as concerned as we are. We might not be able to keep them from taking the wrong path, but at least we don’t have to deal with this alone.

Last night we had our first parenthood watch meeting. We shared our stories about our sons which were remarkably similar…

We are going to have a parenthood watch meeting once a month and exchanged numbers. It’s time for us to work together and do what we can to make things better. It’s not a lot of fun to deal with this alone.

 

My psych eval (25 years later) part 3

Alissa described herself as never being able to concentrate during school. She said that she can remember reading things and not knowing what she had read immediately thereafter. She said now she tries to write everything down but at times she will read her notes and not believe that she actually attended the lecture. Alissa will study at home a great amount of time in order to figure out what is going on in her classes. She loses her attention when classes are boring. Her thoughts will wander to thinking about what she has to do and other items. She acknowledged while sitting in class that she will brush and flick her hair back which she feels is a habit that would be difficult for her to stop, as well as picking at her clothes. She denies symptoms of alopecia, or hair pulling.

I had a very hard time concentrating at school.

My home life was chaotic all of the time. It was never quiet. I spent a lot of energy ruminating and worrying about how to fix situations that were outside of my realm of control. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

I remember around that time the doctor gave me the highest dose of ADD medicine prescribed. My ability to focus while medicated was unbelievable and unparalleled before or since.

But at very high doses my level of anxiety was unparalleled too.

One of the biggest things that my brother Matt did to me as a child was pull my long hair. He would pull my mother’s hair or really anyone with long hair. Mainly he would pull my hair and it hurt. I thought he would pull my hair out. This went on for many years.

When I was on high doses of ADD meds, my skin itched and crawled. I was jittery like I had way too much coffee. My anxiety was through the roof and I began to scratch my scalp. I picked at my scabs and small clumps of hair would come out. I was constantly playing with my hair. At the same time, my brother was pulling my hair.

I had to stop the nervous tic. If my brother didn’t pull all of my hair out, then I certainly would. Instead I refocused my energy on plucking my hair off of my pillow or clothing.

Meanwhile, my brother still pulled my hair. One day I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran to my room with my scissors and cut off my long hair. He wouldn’t be able to pull it if it wasn’t there.

But my brother still pulled my hair and I was still afraid that it would come out. He pulled it so hard that my scalp hurt. As long as I had hair, he kept pulling. It was a lot easier for him to pull when it was longer though.

Then I stopped taking my ADD medication and along with it stopped constantly playing with my hair. Sometimes though if I am really nervous I will catch myself playing with my hair.

Thankfully it didn’t seem like I lost a lot of hair.

I can only imagine what I could have done if I had more focus or less problems to worry about.

Fortune cookie wisdom #17

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Let’s talk about wheels a bit today…shall we?

You may remember a couple of months back when I told the story of my son’s new set of wheels…The very night, less than several hours after we got him the car, some small town criminals decided to chase him down because he was squealing his tires. They smashed the front end of his car and took a tire iron to the back of it.

Shortly thereafter, he hit a deer which smashed his headlight. The car was also leaking oil everywhere in big pools. We decided to make an appointment with someone that would fix foreign cars. It took a couple of weeks to get in.

Once the mechanic opened the hood, he took one look and said he wouldn’t work on it. He said that someone spent a whole lot of money to make the car completely worthless. In essence, we bought a lemon. It was their policy that they do not work on modified cars. So here we were stuck with a 17 year old foreign modified car that no one would fix. He did say that it would probably cost thousands to fix the oil leak.

Then we got the estimate for the damages incurred. The damage from the deer cost $2500 and the damage from the hoodlums was $3500. So, technically, the first few hours after my son got the car it was already totaled.

The two offenders are middle aged men. One man was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property. The other was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass to property when he chased my son and his friend into the friend’s house threatening to kill them. We are hoping to get restitution for the damage to the car.

Now apparently the nephew of one of those hoodlums goes to school with my son Alex. We have had problems with this kid before. In middle school, Alex and this kid wrestled in the same weight class. He was first, Alex was second. One year Alex decided he wanted to try harder. He went to summer wrestling camps and signed up for preseason lessons. He got to be really good at wrestling. He was so good at wrestling that he challenged this kid who was first and beat him several times.

This did not bode well with the other kid who was the son of a son of a son of a wrestler whose ancestors have been going to the school probably since the school first opened its doors. This kid got a group of other wrestlers together and started bullying Alex because he threatened his position. The coach did nothing and finally my husband took the situation into his own hands and contacted the parents directly. That was the year my son quit wrestling after doing it for 8 years, the year he wrestled his best.

Now this kid is talking bad about my son to my son’s girlfriend over what happened with the car. My son said that if this kid disrespects him to his face then he will fight him. He said that if he does that, he would probably get kicked out of school. Yeah, that will show them all!¬†Fighting will surely fix the car and all of the other problems. NOT!

The strange thing is that I understand. When I heard about the hoodlums that damaged his car, I was so angry that I wanted to go over there and kick the crap out of those guys myself. I think I have so much pent up anger and rage that I have one good fight in me. Is that bad?? I would never act on it, but that is how I felt.

So, yeah, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.. I talk about my son a lot on this blog. I probably talk about him a lot more than my honor student daughters.

ACT 1

Last week my son got his ACT score in the mail. He got an average score. Although my husband and son were satisfied, I was disappointed. I know he has the capability to do so much better.

I worry about him being able to get into a good college. He got 3 F’s on his report card this quarter, one of them being in band. He wants to go to school for music, that should be an easy A. But he skipped out of some pep band performances which brought down his grade.

In his defense, it seems like band and choir require so much more after school participation than I ever remember. The students are required to be at school in the evenings several nights a week for several months. I think it is a big commitment for a 1 credit class. I probably could’ve sent him with a note excusing his absence, but if he could be there…why would I do that?

Anyway, my son thinks that he can get into college once they hear him play. Maybe, maybe not. He is a very talented musician, I’ll give him that. We have been preaching at him about his grades for years. I’m getting sick of nagging him.

What I really have been concerned about lately is not just being able to get into college, but staying in college. He needs to get through the awful prerequisite classes that have nothing to do with what he wants to do. Without college (and even with), it is going to be hard to get anywhere with a career in music.

My son reminds me of my brother Mark.

Mark is a mechanical/building genius. In middle school, he designed blueprints for a water bed. He built the bed out of wood with his design. He created many things, but that was the most impressive for his age.

Mark struggled with school. Every night my mother would sit down with him and try to help him with his assignments. It often ended with a fight. Mark is very smart, but wasn’t good at school. He had problems reading. Later we found out that he struggled with dyslexia.

As expected of him, Mark went off to college for mechanical engineering and failed miserably. He dropped out by the end of his first semester.

Mark is now employed as a machinist. He is a hard worker and loves his work. Right after high school, he bought a lathe machine so he could work after work out of his garage. He learned everything about machines. Not only does he know how to operate them, he knows how to program, troubleshoot, and fix machines.

Mark has an eye for detail. He painstakingly makes sure things are done right. He was the main visionary for a big remodeling project up north on the cabin that has been in the family since the 1950’s. He created a blueprint to build his own house. He is a mechanical genius, but just wasn’t cut out for college. That’s okay, it wasn’t for him.

Sometimes I wonder if we are taking a square peg and trying to make it fit into a round hole.

But how can someone be marketable as a musician without an education??

Maybe he could work in a music store selling instruments. Or he could learn how to fix instruments. Would he be happy doing that and being a small town musician in the evening?

It is really up to him now. We have given him all the tools for success. We’ll see what kind of life he can build out of it.

A brilliant mind, a truant heart

The other day I got a call from the school, during an office lunch, telling me that my son didn’t show up for school. WHAT???

I was almost done eating when I got the call. Good thing because I lost my appetite after I saw that the school was calling. To think, we were actually having a nice conversation about our children. I smiled and waved at another high school mom sitting with a stranger at the next table. Things were going well. I had a lot of stories to tell.

We were listening to our sales guy tell the story of how recently he made evening plans with his adult son. His son called him multiple times but he did not answer. He was at a sales networking event and forgot his phone in the car. His son thinking his dad may have had a heart attack, tried to enter his dad’s house from the unlocked back sliding door on the deck. His son in a rush slipped on the ice, ended up falling through the deck, and broke his leg.

Then the call came from the school. What? My son is not at school? He left early for school today. Why would he get up really early to not attend? Did he run away? Did he get in a car accident and die? He has to be there. Please check again.

I called my son. He said that the school marked him as absent, so he left. I might as well not be there if they say I am not there. That mentality almost makes sense.

Let’s back up a little more.

My son was working on his solo and ensemble pieces before school. Sometimes his practice would spill into first hour. Music means everything to him. Timeliness, not so much. He was working on some very challenging pieces. Last year he was the only sophomore in the history of the school to ever get a perfect score at state in band for his solo. This year the second chair, a senior, played his solo from last year and totally bombed it. It was too hard. This year he picked a graduate level solo. We were really worried that he took on too much. He was feeling the pressure.

My son has a great passion for music and puts everything into it. Although I admire his dedication, I wish he would save some for math and science.. He barely passes although he has the capability of being a straight A student. It is sooooo frustrating.

That morning while his practice moved into his first hour class, he was marked as having an unexcused absence. This could have been easily resolved at the office with the vouching of his band teacher. But instead, my son walked out.

I remained cool, calm, and collected through the whole incident. Although my son admitted that he made a mistake, he still needed to have a consequence for his behavior. This is where things get tricky. In a few months he will be 18. If we punished him too harshly then he would rebel. If we were too lenient, we would be unhappy. Truancy cannot become acceptable.

We ended up finding the fine line through a lot of thought on our part. He did admit to his mistake and said it wouldn’t happen again. If he didn’t admit to the error of his ways, we would’ve had a big battle on our hands. That would’ve changed things.

That evening we had a very long discussion with Alex about his future. What will colleges think when they look at his transcripts and see bad grades in the core subjects plus truancy? We talked to him about our concerns. Surprisingly, we had a very mutually respectful conversation. It was the best heart to heart conversation in a long time. I’m glad I kept my cool. I think if I didn’t handle it right, we would have had completely different results. It was not easy.

Maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay??

Someday I will look back and laugh at this. Yes, probably when he has teenagers of his own.

 

Thailand, Day 8

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We left Ayutthaya this morning and were heading to Pattaya. After breakfast, Paul decided to stay downstairs. It seemed a little out of character for him. The elevator was old, small, and rickety. It would not go anywhere at all if the weight limit was exceeded. A big guy could almost feel a little trapped.

I don’t know how many times I tripped going into the bathrooms of our hotel rooms. The bathroom floors in most hotel rooms were lower than the regular room floors. If it was dark and you were trying to make your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, chances are good that you might have to catch yourself from falling. In this hotel’s bathroom, the shower was built for someone 5 ft tall. Paul wondered how he was going to fit under it.

Paul found black marks on the wall near the outlets from sparks. “This whole place could burn down at any moment and we are on the top floor!” exclaimed Paul. Surprisingly, I didn’t worry all that much about anything, which is a big role reversal for Paul and I. I thought the hotel, although old, was charming. It was hot in the hallway when I was waiting for an elevator down. I noticed that the window nearby was wide open without a screen and took the picture above without falling.

The first stop of the morning was to a public grade school. In general, the kids in the public schools are poor. They don’t need to get a high school diploma and sometimes leave before reaching high school to work. The tour group we used has a foundation that helps support the public schools by covering extra expenses such as computers. We were encouraged to bring school supplies, but not to give the children money directly. After the anthem, flag raising, exercise time, and morning meditation a child would take our hand and bring us to their classroom. We read a story in English to them and they read to us in their language. It was a very moving experience.

Our tour guide said if someone is born poor that it is very hard to leave their station. If they get married, the man has to pay a dowry to his future bride’s family. Our guide had to pay $30,000 US dollars to marry his wife. A poor man cannot afford to marry a rich girl. A very attractive poor girl has a higher dowry than a poor girl that is plain. People rarely divorce, they marry the family.

After the school, we visited a gem factory. We went on a small tour ride then were taken past the workers making jewelry. Soon we entered the biggest jewelry store I’ve ever been in. I bought Paul a new wedding ring with a Topaz gem. He broke his first ring and lost his second. The third time’s the charm. Right?

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We got into our hotel rooms in the late afternoon. Pattaya was not at all like I was expecting. It was a bigger city than I imagined it to be. We decided to sit by the pool for awhile. I ordered a drink that I thought would be like a bloody Mary. But it was more like unsalted tomato juice with vodka, very different.

That evening we were invited to go to a restaurant with another couple from the tour. They said that it was supposed to be the best in the city and it certainly was. If you are ever in Pattaya, you have to go to Bruno’s. Paul and I thought it was one of the top restaurants we’ve ever been to. The food was out of this world. The service was unbelievable. They even transported us to and from our hotel which was quite a drive through traffic.

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Tomorrow we will be exploring Coral Island and Pattaya.

What to expect when you’re not expecting…

This weekend didn’t go the way I expected it would.

Arabella came home from school early on Friday sick. She had a fever all weekend and has one still. I ended up calling the doctor’s office Saturday night. By the time her Tylenol wore off in the evening, her temp was at 104.1. An hour after I gave her medicine, her temp was still rising and peaked at 104.5. The nurse said she probably has the flu. Thankfully, Paul and I got flu shots for our trip over a week ago. I am hoping that being coughed on, and taking care of a sick child in general, will have no effect on me.

The nurse told me that I should give Arabella a lukewarm bath. I prepared a bath for her and let her get in the tub herself. A 14 year old is too old to be bathed. I felt frustrated when I felt the water after she got out. The water that I added was too cold for her so she added hot water. Eventually her temperature decreased despite being in hot water. I finally felt like I could go to bed without worrying too much, but still got up during the night to check on her..

I am not surprised that Arabella got sick. She gets sick literally every time that she is planning on going somewhere, Paul and I are going away, or if we take a family vacation. This time she was planning on spending the weekend away on a church youth group trip.

My plans really didn’t change much because she was sick. I still blew off that party I wasn’t planning on going to. I finished my fall cleaning. I spent around 6 hours creating the perfect 2018 calendar of all my favorite photos and memories of 2017.

But that is not all that happened this past weekend. I noticed that Alex was acting a little strange. His patterns were off. I asked what his plans were with Baylee for Thanksgiving. He told me that they broke up. What??!??!? They were dating for almost a year and a half. They just went on the same college campus tour last week. I may have mentioned the word marriage last week. I even gave Baylee a fake name on my blog. We really liked her.

Alex seems to be doing well. So this holiday season, both Alex and Angel are single. It will make things a lot easier as far as holiday parties go. Last year they left our Thanksgiving party early to go to the family of their significant others. I could almost understand how the family of divorce feels. My kids shared how much fun they were having with the other family when I just wanted them to be home with me.

Then some other strange things happened. I found a permission slip on the table to join the math club. I automatically asked Arabella about her interest. She said that it wasn’t hers. What?? We both agreed that the Alex couldn’t be joining the math club. Could he??

Alex used to be the grade school math whiz. I had to ask his teachers for more challenging material. Then middle school hit and he barely passed math. The early high school years weren’t much better. My son fell into a rough crowd that was headed down a dark road until he met Baylee. Then he turned his life around, not without a few mistakes. His grades didn’t improve until this school year. Right now he has a B+ average up from a D average. He joined the chess club and now he is joining the math club. Wow! What??

Maybe he is finally growing up!

Then this past week I received a postcard in the mail from Arabella’s biology teacher. It read: Arabela *name misspelled* is putting little effort into biology class. With a bit more effort, she could be doing much, much better. Time management, writing down deadlines and studying outside of class will make all the difference in this class.

I felt rather irritated by the teacher’s form of communication. Seriously, a postcard?? Anyone could read that….her brother…For crying out loud, the postal carrier. Arabella is typically a high achiever. The postcard announced to everyone in bright colors that she was a slacker. How humiliating. She just told us a few days before that this teacher doesn’t like her. Should we be concerned? I wasn’t expecting this about her. She is getting a B in the class…so it must be frivolous??..Right?!??

Change is inevitable….what was I expecting??

 

Acting like everything is alright 

I am sorry things did not go according to your plan. When you asked me why God did this to you, I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to fix things for you. I wanted to make you happy again. Instead I just listened. I asked when you would rather know, now or later. Maybe God has a better plan that we just can’t see right now.

You said that you were a great actress. You went to play practice with a smile on your face. Then you came home and cried. The odds weren’t in your favor this time. Out of the hundreds of talented kids that auditioned, you weren’t in the handful of those selected for the musical theater program at the college you will be attending. You cried even more when your brother told you that they didn’t know what they were missing. 

The truth is that your musical theater talents are lopsided. You are a phenomenal singer, great actress, and below average dancer. Even though you have the shape of a dancer, your body fails you. I am so sorry that you seem to have my lack of gracefulness. 

I was the little girl that they laughed at during the dance recital because I danced to a different beat then everyone else. I was the scrawny little kid that was always picked last on the team. I was the little girl that had to do extra credit to pass gym class. I had to write about sports because I couldn’t do them. While other kids could do flips and splits, I remained rigid, tight, and inflexible. Why do you think I am a runner? It requires grit, the only thing I have.

There is one gift that I am happy to have passed on to you, your voice. When you sing, people feel the emotions you are singing about. A happy song puts everyone in a good mood. A sad song can change the audiences laughter to tears in a few sweeping moments. When you auditioned for the vocal performance program, they complimented you on your voice and told you that they wanted you. I know that you will find a home there. 

I know it is hard right now. You have been eating, drinking, and sleeping musicals for so long. I am impressed with your optimism despite a few minor road blocks. 

It does not mean that you can never audition for musicals in the big cities. This is your journey now and I am excited to see where it takes you.

Autism’s sibling, journal 2, part 3

My mom said that Matt was a smart baby. He was speaking and knew the alphabet. Until he turned 2, that is. Then he quit talking altogether. Instead he screamed. He slept fitfully and had nightmares. For many early childhood years, Matt was nonverbal. Then something strange happened, he started talking.

Previous to the home bound years, my brothers and I attended the same grade school. I remember Matt being in the special ed room that was shared with the library. He spent a lot of time in the naughty box between the two rooms. He kicked and screamed in this box while the kids laughed when we went in for library. He also went out with us at recess. Some of the older girls mocked his bizarre movements and laughed at him. It made me very angry, but they were older and there was nothing I could do about it.

One day Matt told my mom that he didn’t like school. He said that the teacher was mean. He told us that she put him face down on the floor and sat on top of him. He said it was hard to breathe. The teacher also put him under her desk, then sat down squishing and trapping him inside. My mom asked me if this could possibly be true. By the time he could tell us what had happened, the teacher had already quit. The turnover was high and I am sure my brother didn’t help with that.

Matt was very hard to handle. He was so violent in the school setting that he had to be homeschooled for several years right around the time of puberty. We stayed at home 3 years, then Matt went back to school with me. My mom sent my youngest two brothers to two different schools. Some of the teachers at school gave my family a hard time for my autistic brother. They looked down upon us. Some of the kids weren’t much better. Like we wanted this? Or caused this?

When I came back to school my junior year, I was the first person in the school district to return to high school after homeschooling. They did not know what to do with me. They would not accept my transcripts from the accredited correspondence school. Some kids teased me by asking if I took off from school to have a baby.

After awhile Luke ended up going to high school with Matt. They graduated together. Mark graduated from a different school entirely. Matt took the short bus to school everyday. There was always a boy that would terrorize Matt on the bus. Sometimes he would get off of the bus with Matt and threaten to kill him. Mom was a little worried last summer that he would make good on his threat once he made parole for his violent criminal offenses.

After I graduated from high school, I came back to be Matt’s teacher’s aide. My best friend Shelly was his aide at school until she pressed criminal charges against Matt for assault when he pulled her hair. Matt was escorted out of the school in handcuffs. That was the end of Shelly’s employment and our friendship. The charges against Matt were dropped after his competency eval.

Then I was employed as Matt’s teacher’s aide for a short period of time. In the classroom, Matt had his own separate cubicle. Every time that I would try to get him to read or write he would grind his teeth and hit his head. Or sometimes he would hit me. He never did learn to read, write, or do basic math.

 

A storm is brewing

I feel the edginess right before the storm hits. The peacefulness and calm from my vacation is leaving slowly like a summertime tan. I feel the wind surround the emptiness inside of me, trying to find a void to fill with cold icy snow. The warmth and sunshine are gone now. Sorrow, darkness, and anger encapsulates me. I cry out to God, but He doesn’t seem to hear my prayers. I feel the tug of emotions trying to drown me in a river of despair. I am alone. I want to be alone. I don’t want to talk. I really don’t want to do anything.

It has been a hard start of the year. I miss my neighbor and friend that passed away a couple of weeks ago. Every time I look at her house, I think that she is still there. She will pull her car out of the driveway and wave at me. We were supposed to do something together next week. But guess what? I can’t go. I looked over the old messages that she sent me. My heart tells me that she is still alive. She just can’t come outside. My brain tells me to stop being such a fool. Stop pretending that things are fine.

Last summer my best friend moved to Florida. I had the opportunity to spend time with her while we were there on vacation. I didn’t realize how much I missed talking to her and seeing her. I miss her. I don’t feel like talking to anyone else. In 4 months, my oldest daughter will be leaving the house. I am excited for her to start the adult chapter in her life, but I am at such a loss. I started crying while she performed her solo and ensemble song for me. It bothered me that she sold her junior prom dress. It just seems so final.

Then yesterday we found out that my mother-in-law has stage 4 terminal lung cancer. They are giving her around 15 months to live. Wait a minute, I am not ready to deal with the loss of our parents yet. I have been having a hard time with this since I saw her last week. I have been feeling sad and angry. With all of the people that were praying for her and my friend that passed away, why didn’t God heal them? I don’t have any control. Why should I expect miracles? I feel helpless. Who can avoid death? It has given Paul time to say goodbye to his only parent. That has been good for him to spend time with her.

This morning my son got suspended from school. He got in a fight with someone in the hallway. It has been no secret that my son has been struggling with school for the last couple of months. He has been begging us to switch schools for a couple months now. Apparently a boy called him a faggot on facebook back in December and has been bullying him with some other kids. My son got in his face today. I suppose that it shouldn’t surprise me that the day after my son finds out that his grandma is dying that he confronts this other boy. Words were exchanged between my son and this boy. They were pushing and shoving each other in the hallway. Then I received a call from the school that my son was suspended for 3 days. He was trying to provoke the other kid that was picking on him. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we can finally resolve this issue head on.

We are expecting a snow storm today. We should be getting somewhere around 8 inches of snow with blowing winds. It just started to snow.