Monday, July 21, 2014

Finally, a Diagnosis.

Mason at 16 months doing what he loved best, going for a stroll
 around the block.
Ever since Mason hit the one-year mark, there was "something" that was different about him. We'd ask the pediatrician and she'd insist that he was just a normal toddler--he was "too advanced" and knew his numbers, shapes, and looked at you when you called his name. Jason and I were fine with those answers for a long time, or at least we just accepted them. When we dug deep down though, I think we always "knew" it was "something".

Mason had a few words he used by one year. He said "mama", "dada", "ball", "book", all the usual words little ones start to utter at that time. He seemed pretty typical; just a quiet, easy-going baby.

Then, it all just... stopped. He stopped using those words and said "gah" for everything. He pointed though--he pointed as he said "gah", so it couldn't be, ya know, that. He looks me in the eye. He smiles. He's too loving. It can't be that.

But he'd never actually play with toys, though; he'd play with parts of toys for hours. He hand-flapped.  He'd run crying from other kids and would rather walk around the block with me than play at the park. He'd scream when family came to visit. He showed interest in things like speed limit signs and would want to walk to the one by our house and just "stim" in front of it as long as we'd let him. He barely spoke. In fact, he didn't utter another single word until 2 1/2 years old.

Looking back, it is so painfully obvious. But we'd ask family and friends' opinions and they'd all assure us he was fine. Our pediatrician was also ready to discount any concerns we had, because well, he was just "too sweet" and "too smart". We believed all of that, probably because we wanted to. We were happy with the "quirky" label.

Everything changed when Mason started school though. There was no denying he was not a neurotypical child. There was no denying he was struggling and needed help. It got to the point where his teacher would actually call me at home when he was absent to make sure he was really absent and didn't just wander from the bus on the way to class.

I finally demanded our pediatrician send out a referral for an evaluation. We had that long awaited evaluation this past Friday, and the results were as I long suspected. That "something" has a name.

Mason has autism.

Just typing those words is strange. It's strange because I knew it all along. I guess it's like now all of his struggles and differences are finally being recognized and I am not just an overprotective mother "reading into everything". Everything makes sense now. 

As I looked at him though the one-way mirror last Friday, I couldn't help but feel guilty. There he sat in that room with two strangers, answering their questions and doing their puzzles like some rat in a science lab. It was difficult to see him struggle like that. I was a fly on the wall for the first time; how often do you get to observe your child through a one-way mirror? It really dawned on me then how much he struggles socially, and I just felt sad for him. People can be so cruel, and he has a long life ahead of him--one where he'll one day have to navigate all on his own.

Nothing has changed though. I don't feel any less love for him; he is who he is. The only thing that has changed is that there is a socially recognized name for his behaviors, and most importantly, now we can get him help. He is still Mason. He is still my beautiful son.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Embracing the Chaos of Summer

With the kids out of school and the school-year routine that was finally perfected shot, summer can be a little chaotic (and boring). This year though, I am making an effort to embrace the crazy and just go with it; I'm not sweating the small stuff. We are keeping ourselves busy with playdates with new friends and weekends with family, and I'm actually finding this summer is flying by.

This past weekend we had my sister Angel and little niece Vera over for a few days. The kids had fun playing with their cousin and I had fun catching up with my sister. We had a cookout, made smores, visited our new favorite dessert spot and went strawberry picking. The weekend before we saw the annual lake fireworks, and I realized it might have been our last year enjoying them. Definitely bittersweet.

I also made the effort to avoid my phone except for, well, actually calling or texting someone, and avoided perusing the social networking sites, only signing on to share some photos. It feels great to simplify things for a while.
While waiting for the fireworks to begin, we had this amazing show to watch.




Waiting for the fireworks to begin

Mason's attempt at photography

Then Hannah wanted to try. She took a great shot!


Cousins!







At our new favorite dessert spot: self-serve frozen yogurt. It's fun and the kids LOVE it. They were really excited to treat Angel and Vera.



We told them to sit still...

Berry picking!
 











Hannah with the fruit of our labor.

Our loot, including THE BEST strawberry jam I've ever tasted!


Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Last Suburban Summer?

Mason blazing the trail at our favorite hiking spot.
Once again, summer vacation is upon us. Today was Mason's last day of first grade. He unfortunately didn't make it to school though, as he was throwing up all night and this morning.

Now he is totally okay and even eating doughnut holes. Kids are strange.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is tomorrow is the official start of summer; it's finally here. The kiddie pool gets dusted off, the squirt guns come out, the fireworks and backyard barbecues commence. And then it dawned on me: this may in fact be our last suburban summer--one that isn't filled with the stress of brokers, open houses,apartment hunting and packing at least.

It's a little sad--and shocking maybe-- but in a way I hope it is. I can really enjoy this last summer here and the good things this place has to offer. I can enjoy kicking the kids out in the backyard when they get too rowdy; We can head out back and barbecue anytime we want; We can hop in our car (that is in our driveway) and take a quick drive to our favorite hiking spot for an impromptu picnic; The kids have their own (albeit small) pool; I could totally revel in the total seclusion of the backyard and walk around naked if I wanted to (not that I would).

These suburbs--they have their perks.






Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Following the Road

Yesterday started off stressful. Summer classes had started and as I looked over both courses (both online), I realized they are going to be lots of work (like writing a paper every week work). I have come to realize I hate online classes because I have trouble setting time to get the work done, not to mention they are always more work--at least that has been my experience. When I have a traditional class, I get up and go to class which naturally carves out time to get work done, and the homework is nowhere near as abundant as these damn online courses.

Then, the phone rang. It was Mason's teacher. Again.

This time she had told me his behavior has been more difficult lately, and she had the school psychologist talk to him. Apparently he is starting to get up and just leave the classroom, and he will wander the halls, or as he explained it, "getting a drink of water". In the morning the other students have to help him walk to his classroom from the bus because he will wander off if not redirected. He is easily distracted and has no sense of danger.

This is why (well, just a few reasons why) we are having him evaluated next month. It cannot come fast enough.

The psychologists also came to the conclusion that she thinks the recent spike in his behavior has to do with anxiety about upcoming changes--summer vacation, second grade and moving. Mason has some problems with change, so I was surprised that I hadn't thought of it myself. Of course I realize moving is stressful and scary, but all along he has showed that he is okay with the idea--even excited. I had no idea he felt that strongly about it. I thought letting him know about moving so early on would help him lessen the anxiety. Maybe I was wrong.

Last night Jason and I sat him down and had a long talk about it. We talked about it with Hannah too. We explained to them moving and change can be scary, but it can also be fun. We told them we are moving to have more family time, that daddy misses us and we miss him. We told them they can talk to us about it any time they need to. I think the talk helped a lot. We're going to try our best to get these kids involved in the moving process as much as possible: picking apartments, rooms, visiting the schools, etc. We will continue to visit the city when we can too, so it becomes more of a familiar place.

I'm still worried though. Not only just the normal worry of moving, but how Mason will deal with it. I hope it will be a positive change in his life. I hope we are able to find more resources for him there too.

One good shred of news Jason just shared with me is that he will be able to work at his Brooklyn office two days a week, and at home one day. This means going to Jersey City just two days a week. This is great news, and even more of a reason to love Brooklyn. He hasn't had a commute that short or able to actually walk to work in years. The last time we were able to walk to work is when we lived in Boston. I loved it. That'll be nice to have him home in the morning and at a normal hour in the evening.

Overall, this move just keeps sounding more and more positive. This is where we need to go. And we're going with all of our fears, worries, hopes and dreams. This is where the road is leading, and hand-in-hand we will follow it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Making Changes

I can see how it happens now.

That once healthy and fit person slowly surrenders and gives in to the unrelenting hurdles that life throws at you as you age, have a family, career, aging parents. It's just so fucking easy to prioritize other things that are "more important". It's so easy to sit there on the couch and eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's while watching Million Dollar Listing New York (yup, been there. Many times) because you're just treating yourself after a long stressful day, right?

Nearly everyone in my family is overweight and terribly unhealthy. We were poor; grew up on junk food. I'm noticing that as everyone ages, they're getting more unhealthy and overweight. Then come the health issues: diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and depression. I see it starting to happen to me, and I don't want that. I don't want to live like that. And I can control that.

I have always been someone who was pretty physically fit. I've always been active and loved to walk for miles, run, play badminton, and hike. Luckily, Jason was the same way and we'd always be out on the go on the weekends hiking, running or simply walking around our neighborhood aimlessly. I took pride in my body. Looking back I didn't realize how fit and healthy I was at the time, because now I know what it's like to be not physically fit.

I feel like shit.

I am so weak. I'm out of breath carrying the laundry up and down the basement stairs. I feel tired, stressed-out and depressed. Even my clothes from last year don't even fit me; I wear my fat pants every day, which are reeeallly stretchy jegging-type skinny jeans. I'm sick of feeling tired and having to wear loose shirts because I'm self-conscious about my midsection.  I'm soft and flabby and I know this is not healthy. This week I promised myself I'd change all of that. I've got Jason on the bandwagon too. We're overhauling our diets and motivating each other to get off of our asses.

Every day this week I've hit the treadmill and started up with weight training. I am so sore but I love it. I'm making better choices with food (no more Ben & Jerry's!).  I miss feeling like this; I miss the rush and feeling of accomplishment; I miss actually feeling my body getting stronger and healthier, and dammit--I miss looking fucking amazing.

Yesterday was miserable. I didn't get sleep at all and to top it off in the morning I was dealing with more of Mason's school and everything that entails. After I put Ethan down for a nap and Hannah was having her "quiet time", I wanted to just curl up on the sofa in the sunroom (where else?) and take a nice long nap.

Instead I made myself go for a run on the treadmill. I pushed myself to run 2 miles. Afterwards I felt awesome, and it gave me the energy I needed to get through the rest of the day. I also urged Jason to do the same and he did.

I realize nobody else can do this for me. I need to stop making excuses and start moving. As for a goal, I don't have one other than get healthy and in shape. I don't care about the number on a scale, and I don't want to look like a fitness model. I just want to feel better about myself.

I don't want to be an ailing grandmother like my mom was--I want to be that grandma who is out with her grandkids kicking soccer balls around. I want to be able to travel the world with Jason when our kids are grown and no longer need their asses wiped. I want to give myself a good shot at this stuff, anyway.

I will definitely update on my progress here. Maybe I'll eventually be brave enough to post my before and after shots too. Perhaps I'll even inspire some of you to change the way you're treating yourself.

I'm actually looking forward to my workout later today. I can honestly say it's been a long time since I've felt that way. I've neglected myself long enough. It's time to find my way back through the maze and haze of diapers and playdates, and think and do for myself.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Weekend Please

This weekend we had lots of family time, and Jason and I had a much needed date. We went to a local German restaurant. The food was good (and came in massive proportions), but I don't think we'll be back though; I guess we're just not fans of German food.

We drove to my sister's house and saw everyone we haven't seen in a while--even my dad. It was nice, even with the sudden severe thunderstorm that pelted us with hail.

On Monday we had our own little cookout in the backyard. We set up the kiddie pool and Jason and I finally got to cleaning out the basement. It was disgusting. We cleared out the junk, swept and mopped the floors.It looks so much better and now I don't feel so skeeved-out when I go down there.

I'm really loving the weekends lately. The shitty weather is gone and now it's time to get out there and enjoy it. We had a three-day weekend but it goes by so fast; it always does. Now it's Tuesday and back to the grind. School starts up for me again next week and ends for the kids. Summer is almost here, finally!




The roast beef was amazing.

Loved the ambiance. It felt like we were in a quaint little German town.

Hail!

He is the only one who likes to take pictures!

Watching the new fish with cousin Brianna.


Mason teaching Hannah all about the Titanic.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Things I will Miss: Our Sunroom

If anyone needs me, I'll be in my office
When we bought this house I had no idea how much I'd grow to love this sunroom. At first glance, it was cool, but it was just an afterthought at the time.

Now I practically need it.

On those days where the kids are home and whining endlessly, I can get them occupied with something--anything--and then quietly retreat into this space.

On those warm (or cool) summer nights, after the kids are in bed, I can sit here with Jason on the sofa, enjoying an oversized glass of wine. All the lights are turned off; all of the windows open. The constant chirp of the crickets and the slight summer breeze are the backdrop. Then we  relax and slowly shake off the day.

On rainy days we can sit, watch the rain, hear the rain, but not get wet. We can feel like we're outside without worrying about bugs.

It's a playroom. A family room. It's a date night room.

We eat dinner in here often--especially in the warmer months. On winter days when the sun reflects off of the snow, it can be especially warm and bright and makes you want to curl up on the sofa like a cat. Without a single care in the world.

I can go here to write; to do homework; to think; to nap. It's where I like to drink my morning coffee and make plans for the day.

When I think of my mom, I'm usually sitting in here and it's at night and very quiet.

I'm writing this very post from this room.

I will miss this room so much. I wish we could just pack it up and take it with us. But we cant. I don't want to give it to somebody else. But we have to. But for now, it's ours.

Mason, age 2, checking out the view from his new sunroom



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Things I Won't Miss: Late Dinners and Dinners Without Daddy

Last night was similar to many weekday nights: there was a delay on the train,causing Jason to miss the 6:00, which in turn meant home after 8 PM. So, again, the kids and I had dinner without him.

To some families, this might not even be a big deal. To us, it is. The kids love having all of us together when we eat, and so do I. Jason hates being the dad who misses the weekdays with his kids; he said he feels like a weekend father and hates it. I hate it too; it means much longer days for the both of us.

I also loathe eating late, which for us is 7:30. The kids are almost ready for bed, tired, cranky and hungry. I am pretty beat at this time too, and the last thing I want to do is cook a nutritious meal from scratch (which I try to do most of the time) that all three kids will eat. Sometimes the kids are already in their pajamas while eating dinner. I try to make dinner earlier so we can just eat without him, but the kids always end up saying they want to wait for their daddy. I would love to eat at 6:00 like we used to. When you eat dinner earlier there is time afterwards to go to the park or out for dessert instead of off to brush teeth and read a bedtime story. Not to mention another downside of him getting home so late is the kids get really excited when he walks in the door, which makes it harder for them to settle down to sleep. It can be pure craziness sometimes.

This brings me to perhaps the most anticipated positive of moving closer to Jason's work: More family time. He won't be MIA during most dinners, we won't be eating at bedtime, and they'll be more time together during the week. You cannot get any better than that.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Weekend

Just another PITA
This weekend started off not-so-great. We noticed that part of the floor in the kitchen was peaking and buckling. At first we thought it was due to there being not enough room allowed for the natural expansion of the flooring, but as we took the floor up, we saw it was from water.

It's alllllways something. Always.

After removing the fridge and pulling up the floor, we realized the water was coming from a crack in the fridge's water tray. Oh, that and the outdated copper pipe that fed into the water dispenser had a pinhole leak (that soon turned into a massive gaping and gushing hole as we moved said pipe) that we needed to repair as well. So, we had to do just as we did after the plumbing issue in the bathroom: rip out wet and damaged flooring, let it air out, and lay down new flooring. We also had to repair the moulding again.

Hannah was a great little helper!




After all of that work, I was feeling a little motivated so I bought some new planters and flowers for the breezeway entrance.

Flowers always make everything better, don't they?

Mother's Day was nice. The kids gave me their school-made (adorable) presents and Jason made me breakfast in bed. We went to our favorite park and went for a hike. Last year we tried this same hike and it was a disaster. Ethan was in the stroller and just not having it. It just sucked. This time we purposely left the stroller at home and he did fine. It was really fun, actually. Then we had a picnic lunch. Unfortunately I had left my phone in the car, other wise I'd have some nice pictures to post. 

That was my weekend.

I have to say I notice I'm posting more about the house. It's taking up a lot more time lately, most likely because of getting it market-ready but also because it's just a house and houses are pains in the asses. I hope I don't need to post about another house issue ever again. I mean, what else could go wrong, right?














Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Weekend Yardwork.Yay.

Thee's something that really sucks when you're forced to do yardwork on a yard you really don't care about anymore. Yardwork is tedious. Yardwork is strenuous. Yardwork takes away time and money from something else that's fun and interesting. Give me a concrete slab with a few patio chairs in the back, and I'll be just fine. Easy peasy upkeep.

Regardless of the suckage, Jason and I finally got to cleaning out the leaves and debris from the front of the house and planted some shrubs. Hannah and I planted begonias in the window boxes and Jason power-washed about half of the roof (it takes foreverrrrr). Mason and Ethan were somewhere in the backyard totally over any digging and planting. Sweat, tears and a few hundred dollars later, we had ourselves some decent-looking curb appeal. We still have a good amount of work to do: like plant grass seed, repainting shutters, finish power-washing the roof, clean windows and screens, more potted plants and some Adirondack chairs or something, but it's a start.

Now I am incredibly sore, but feel accomplished that we're continuing to make those steps forward. Forward and out





Some little helpers

Before. Looking very tired, dry and dead.


After. A little greenery makes a world of difference









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