Tuesday, September 30, 2014

At One with Fall!

Fall has been hectic and sometimes challenging, but lots of fun.  I have this love/hate relationship with fall.  I absolutely adore hot weather.  I don't even mind humidity.  We joke in my family that I must have lived in the caribbean islands or something in a past life. Because the northeast is not exactly known for that type of weather.

This summer had even less heat and hardly any humidity.  So it is even more challenging for me to know that really cold weather is coming.   Yet fall, how can I dislike fall?  I adore bright colors and watching the leaves turn is always a joy to me.

Watching the kids harvest the horse chestnuts in the back yard from our old tree is a tradition that always makes me smile.

Decorating for Halloween and planning a Halloween party.  Fun!

So despite the hectic life we are leading, despite the cold dark days lurking around the corner, I am embracing fall!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ferry Beach

We are back from our final "camping" weekend. Actually it is a gathering of our church and another sister church that happens annually.  One can rent dorm rooms but that would be pricey for our family. Tent sites are MUCH more affordable and also allow Chet to have a place and space that he can decompress in.  This is important.  The sounds of dorm life are minimal to those of us who are neuro typical. To my eldest son, it is a cacophany and he can't tune it out or turn it off.

It was chilly, And yes, it rained, making all but one of our campouts have rain at some point.  Kind of a weird record but there you go!  Still, it was a lot of fun. It was very relaxing to me because there is not a lick of cooking or cleaning that one does while at this event. Zero.  I repeat, ZERO!

The kids have a zillion friends, as do I. And they were all off doing their things while I chatted with mine.  We had a family beach walk when we first got there, but other than that, mostly everyone did their own thing.

I love to talk with people.  What inspires people, what upsets people, what makes them tick--it is all interesting to me.  So I did a lot of talking and even more listening.  I also had a lot of time to read. I brought my kindle and had more uninterupted reading time than I have had in years.

I helped provide supplies for the Saturday night bonfire--that was fun.  The weather was not warm enough for swimming but it was great for kite flying, playing on the beach, finding ducks looking for their dinners and more.

Saturday night is also the talent show.  KC played a piece he wrote himself.  Lissa did a gymnastics routine she worked out with her BFF.  Rob was his usual easy going self, hanging out with teens and adults alike.

But the star of this weekend was my Chet.  And I am beyond thrilled.  Chet's actual presence there was in jeopardy a few weeks back as his behaviors were wildly out of control.  I don't know why.  Sometimes I know a trigger but not always.  However we had a long serious talk and made a specific action plan of what he needed to change in order to come to Ferry Beach.

I was worried.  Often when he wants something the most is when he shoots himself in the foot with poor behavior choices. But this time, he pulled it together and came with us.  He did well at the restaurant we had supper in on Friday night.  He was relatively calm during the set up of our campsite.

He loves to be "bell hop" for the church members and friends who arrive through out the evening.  He knows the room assignments and helps people unload and get to their room.  He has done this for years and folks really look forward to it.  This year he also took on a role in the dining hall, bussing dishes for people and helping to wipe down the tables.

His efforts were noticed and the weekend coordinators asked me if they should get him a gift card or something to thank him.  I said no, that for Chet being able to be there, and to contribute in a postive way was also a gift for him.  He gets great emotional value from the experience and did not need a gift card.  Instead, they asked him to stand after breakfast and gave him a formal thank you and a round of applause from the 100 or so people there.  He glowed, and I gave thanks.

So many times in Chet's life, I have to explain.  Explain that he didn't mean to be rude, or that he has challenges understanding personal space. Explain the unusual facial tics that sometimes happen when he is stressed. Explain the fact that he doesn't get social cues and know when to end a conversation or a topic.

But this weekend, I didn't have to do any of those things.  Most of the people there have known Chet for a long time.  This helps them to see beyond the quirks so to speak and see the giving nature that is very much a part of his personality. This is a gift I will remember for a long, long time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Adapting to Fall schedules

Although fall has seen a real ramp up of our schedules I have counted myself lucky as things seemed to start in a staggered way.  Rob's first week of school was only 2 days and homeschooling that week was only 4 days due to the Labor Day.  The second week he had his regular 3 days of classes and we added Girl Scouts.  Next week, we will add 2 of the three dance nights and church school.The week after that will have everything full time.

It is sort of crazed--my google calendar and our home wall calendar are color coded so I don't forget who needs to go where and when. But it is  good.  We are adapting, week by week.

This weekend we have our last camp out. It is a gathering of our church friends and family at a conference center in Maine.  I tent there because it is less expensive than the dorms and because it allows Chet a quiet space to be if the excitement of so many people begins to spiral him out of control. It isn't really "camping" per se as we just sleep in the tent but it is a lot of fun and we all look forward to it.

It will be cold and it might rain, but we don't care. We will have fun and then regretfully will pack away our gear for the last time.  Fall is really truly here when the tent gets stored!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More ranting about white privilege

I rarely discuss anything of substance on Facebook.  It really has not been my experience that this is a forum for anything other than sort of brief connections.  Sharing a favorite photo--yup, share a micro re-cap of a book or experience--yup.  Air out that one is a liberal who is heavily invested in a variety of social action issues?  Um, not so much!

But this week my brother in law posted something awful about the situation in Ferguson MO.  I rarely respond to his posts as he is so narrow minded  conservative that we see eye to eye on nothing except our mutual love of family.

I will be quiet about many things, But I can't be quiet when someone I love says that this is all blown out of proportion and that the person who was shot was a bad person, ergo they should die.  I wrote that my children have been followed in stores when they were separated from me. I wrote about a memorable incident when Rob was about 9 and Chet was about 19 when they were accused to stealing from a gift shop.  They left the store because I was holding the items they had wanted to buy.  Instead of cashing me out, she had run after them screaming that they needed to "pay for their things." It was my first racism in the open type of experience.  Up here in the Northeast I find people tend to be less open about it. It exists, it is just usually less blatent.

BIL responded that he was sorry that happened but that didn't mean my kids were going to be targeted as adults and killed.  No. It doesn't. but it is a symptom of a pattern of injustice and inequality.  The white kids who left the gift shop were not run after and hollered at.  Only the 2 kids of color. 

The thing is, if one has not experienced it, I guess it is easy to dismiss. To see it as an isolated instance, not a symptom of something that is wrong. Something we need to fix,because I very much believe that this is fixable. But we need to understand that cute little black boys who love to skateboard grow up into handsome black men. Who still like to skateboard incidently, but are now suddenly kicked out of the area you let them skate at when they were little and cute.   The area in question is not posted for no skateboarding. The kids were not making noise or destroying anything.  I truly believe it was that suddenly, they were not "little" and there is a cultural perception of threat when kids of color become young men. 

We need to understand that hoodies don't mean thugs. And just as my BIL would want me to believe that all drummers in heavy metal bands are not druggie losers (which he most definately is not) we need to see people not stereotypes.  When we do that, more mamas may worry less about their sons coming home at night.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reindeer take the wheel!

KC and Lissa have a plethora of stuffed animals.  They call them "their kids" and they are very very real to them.  Certain kids like to go camping with them. Others are for sleeping with.  And then there are others that have the most amazing adentures.

Reindeer is a stuffed puppet that my mom got them two or three Christmasses ago. This was the conersation last night as I braided Lissa's hair.

"Ooma, you won't believe what happened!"

"What happened Lissa?" responds clueless Mom.

"Reindeer had a car accident . . . AGAIN!"

"Oh really?  That sounds bad.  I didn't know she was old enough to drive."

I am sure there was an eye roll here that the braiding hair mom could not see.
"Well yes, she is 20 you know. And it is her third accident, can you believe it?"

"Hmmm, but driving is a big responsibility. Maybe she is not quite ready for it yet?"

"Oh, she's ready all right.  It's just that she has these little hooves, you know.  And they slip off the wheel when she is driving because she can't really hold it.  I don't know what she's going to do know--I am NOT buying her another car!"

At this point it took all I had not to convulse in laughter.  And interested readers will be happy to know that a dangerous reindeer is no longer crashing along the highways and byways.  She has made a journey to the Arctic and enrolled in flying school!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The College Guy!

Thus far, it has been a pretty smooth entry into college life for our Rob.  He only had classes two days this week because of the Monday holiday.  That made it a bit easier for him (and the parents) to start adapting to the new schedules.  K and I bring him to the train station in our city as it is not in walking distance and pick him up at night.  Once in the Big City he uses the T to get around.

Yesterday when I picked him up he said he had met another student who enjoyed skateboarding and who said there was a skate park not far from the college.  Rob has a big lag between two classes one of the days so he is looking to bring his board and skate for a bit on that day with his new pal. He had all ready found out that the college has lockers if we give him a lock to bring so his laptop and school books would be safe while he does this.

The majority of the evening pickups and nne of the morning drop offs fall to me because of my wife's work schedule and the fact that the train is pretty consistantly late. My Mondays will be insane as I will be juggling KC's dance class, Lissa's Girl Scouts and getting Rob from the station.  But I think I have a carefully planned scenario that allows all of this to happen

I am just happy that he seems to be enjoying college and has, as I had hoped, jumped in with both feet. The house is much emptier when he is gone--it is a lucky thing for all of us that a couple days a week he has no classes this semester and is home!

Monday, September 1, 2014

My son, My young adult

I think it is hard for every parent to step back and let their teens and young adults make their own choices.  However, for me there is an added layer of concern.  My son is a strong handsome black man.  He loves to skateboard and wear Bob Marley T's.  He loves smooth jazz and hiking in the woods. He is helpful, especially to seniors and so easy going that young children and animals are nearly always drawn to him.

But that is not what it is likely to be seen if he is stopped by law enforcement, or if a stranger saw him walk down the street.  I have always thought about his safety, but somehow I was less aware of the fact that he is now  seen as a man and not a boy.  Probably it is that "mom" thing.  Our kids are always our kids.  The treasured memories I have of him as a young boy influence how I see him.

Yet on a recent camping trip to NH, this  was brought home to me.  Others from our city were also camping in the same place.  Most of those folks were related and were part of a family reunion. Apparently one of the reunion  families said that they knew there was another family from our city camping there. (meaning us of course.)  "I think they are in that tent in the back" she was told.  The woman answered-- "Oh do you mean the white lady and the black man and those two little kids?"

I know this because later the parties involved saw me en route to the washroom and decided to share this with me.  That was the first time that I thought of people seeing Rob as a man, not my son.  I am in a relatively progressive area of the country but "relatively" is the key word.  There are many studies done about how young black men are perceived as threatening.  There have been incidents in our community in the past, there have been horrific things that have happened in a myriad of locations around the country.  Ferguson is sadly not as isolated an incident as we would like to believe.

We speak often, he and I about the things he must do to stay safe.  But tomorrow he goes off to college and for the first time is making most of his decisions on his own.  I pray for a fulfilling and safe college experience for him in the big city.