Tag Archives: college

An Unscheduled Visit…

“Mom?” His voice is shaking – I know he’s crying – or trying really hard not to. “What’s up bud?”

It’s 6 a.m. – I’ve been up for an hour and a half. It’s too early to put out the garbage – I’ll wake up the neighbours with the rumble of the bins. I’m trying not to touch the side of my mouth or the inside of my nose – I have cold sores brewing. How am I doing otherwise? Just peachy…

We’ve gone from a nervous start (at university), to dropping a few courses to lighten the load, to considering dropping out for the semester. Left Brain and I have had several visits for discussions with Henry about his options. I’ve had many more visits with advisors and counsellors to look at alternatives.

Henry was so proud and excited when he started school (was it really just 3 weeks ago?) Then he started doubting himself… Could he do it? Did he make a mistake? Could he handle the load?

Then a Chemistry Lab with an impatient Teaching Assistant, who got mad at him for asking questions (!!!) How does a teacher get mad at a student for asking questions???!!! Isn’t that what we tell our kids to do when they don’t understand something? Isn’t that what teachers are there to do? Teach?!

So… now we’re trying to figure out how Henry can stay at school – because he loves being independent… But he’d have to stay in class – and as he said the other day… “How long are you going to make me suffer through this?” We know we can switch to something else for January – but what do we do in the meantime?

So… we are trying to avert a nervous breakdown in our son. And give him options to make him feel confident and excited again.

And who’s preventing my breakdown, you might ask? Thank God for Left Brain….

Dance Like No One’s Watching!!!

Dance with abandon – with joy – with a carefree spirit! Dance like no one’s watching. Because you can – and you should when there is something worth celebrating. And this is how I feel.

I'm a dancing fool!

I’m a dancing fool!

Now – just on the dance… I did try to upload the Elaine dance from Seinfeld, but I couldn’t find a clip that didn’t come with ads. And I must say – I do a mean rendition of the Elaine dance – but I’ve had to pull back on some of the moves, because I don’t want to put out my back!!!

So – why am I so happy?! Is there a calorie-free chocolate fudge sundae out there? Have I discovered that I actually can eat Blizzards whenever I want without retribution on the scale? Did I shoot 72? Uh – no…. This is even better. We made it!!! Henry and I – that is.

First – Henry. He made it through his debut year of college. He passed everything and gained entry into his program of choice at university. And what is the program? Biological Science… Holy Cow!!! He had to maintain a combined average of over 70% in the math and sciences to get into this program. And this is the kid that I wasn’t sure was ever going to “get” math. When I think of the hours we spent trying to figure out how to explain math word problems. Talk about a double whammy!!!

And he managed residence and living on his own. Was this without some anxiety spells and many calls home? No – but who cares? He stuck with it, put his nose to the grind and got it done.

Secondly – me. My first year with an empty nest. Did I shrivel up and die? Did I drown myself in a mountain of Oreo’s? Although I wanted to at times, instead, I embarked on the “I’m Worth It” project (see https://mypuzzledlife.com/2014/11/). I’m down 30 lbs. and feel fantastic. I feel like me again – when there was just a me. Now I have Super-Duper Me, plus my wonderful boys (FYI – that’s the kids and Left Brain).

So – hooray for Henry! I’m so proud of this kid. So I’m dancing like no one’s watching!!!

Letting Go – Part 1 – The Kids

If you're wondering...  that is NOT me....

If you’re wondering… that is NOT me….

As part of the I’m Worth It Project (see https://mypuzzledlife.com/2014/11/25/im-worth-it/), I assembled a team. Recently, I was in to see my hypnotist, who is also a life coach. (Check her out at http://www.georginacannon.com) As I was speaking about various issues that are troubling me at the moment, she very quietly handed me this poem…

Letting Go

Letting go does not mean to stop caring
it means
I can’t do it for someone else
It is not to cut myself off
it means realizing I can’t control another
it means to admit I am powerless
so the outcome is in God’s hands – not mine.

To let go is not to enable
but to allow the other to learn from natural consequences
To let go is not to blame or change another,
it is to make the most of myself

To let go is not to care for, but care about
It is not to ‘fix’, but be supportive
It’s not to judge to ‘allow’ another human being
It’s not to be in the middle, arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their destiny

To let go is not to be protective but to let another face reality
It is not to deny, but to accept
To let go is not to nag, scold or argue
but to search out my own shortcomings and correct them
And it is not to adjust everything to my desires
but to take each day as it comes
and to cherish myself in it.

Author Unknown (with grateful thanks)

The last paragraph of the above is a killer – for any parent. Having children changes your life forever…There’s a great line from the movie, Carnage, uttered by the character played by John C. Reilly (and forgive me if I don’t get this absolutely perfect); “Kids suck the life out of you and leave you with nothing.” Now I don’t share his sense of doom when it comes to having children. I can’t imagine my life without them – they have brought me so much joy. But let’s face it – we’ve parented our children quite differently than our parents did. I don’t think my mother had much trouble Letting Go when it came to me and my siblings. But there’s definitely got to be a middle ground.

Even when your kids are out of the house, you still worry. But you have to let them live their own lives and make their own decisions – good or bad. That’s the only way they’re going to learn. But upon reading this poem for the first time, I thought to myself – how does a parent of a special needs child let go? I don’t think we can ever truly let go – especially when there’s been so much work and advocacy from Day One – that just doesn’t end. But there are degrees to which we can let go. Saying goodbye on the first day of school, walking behind him the first time he walked to school on his own and darting behind street signs (as if those poles hid me!) so he would think that he was, indeed, walking to school “by my own”; letting them go on a sleepover (where you keep your phone handy and don’t go out or drink anything because you might have to pick them up at a moment’s notice); waving to them as the bus for sleep-away camp pulls away (and then sobbing pitiably for 2 hours after – and of course, pre-posting cards and care packages so they’ll be there when they get to camp…); and the big and most recent Letting Go – moving him into residence at college.

And of course, there’s a trust issue when you’re Letting Go. You have to trust that you have laid a foundation that will enable your kids to find the correct, and more importantly, the right path, for them. Who knows how it will turn out? There will be more instances of me having to Let Go – but I will always, always be there in the background for both of them. And hopefully, they will not ask for my help.

A Bump In The Road

Watch Out!!

Watch Out!!

A couple of weeks ago, Henry was jazzed!  A friend of his from camp had been accepted to his college for next year.  They hatched a plan…  They would be roommates.  Great – I’m thinking – a known quantity….

Then of course, I started asking specific questions.  Has she even asked her parents if this is OK?  Doesn’t she want to live in residence for her first year?  What is her budget per month?  He tells me she’s flush!  She has a job – so no problem!  Of course, Henry’s idea of flush is $100….

We started some research into 2-bedroom apartments in the bustling metropolis of The Shwa.  Surprisingly (but maybe not – this seems to be a trend for college/university towns)…. a 2-bedroom apartment is quite expensive.  Then he said, OK – I’ve talked to my friend and we’ll get a 1-bedroom and take turns sleeping on the sofa!  Uh… no.  That would get old pretty darn fast. Then – the proverbial bump in the road…

Her parents don’t think she’s ready to live on her own (she is also on the spectrum).  And then I find out that she lives in a nearby town, so can bus to school.  Not surprisingly, Mom wants her to live at home in her first year at college.  So – what’s the big deal you say?

Well – kids on the spectrum don’t make friends easily.  In fact, upon gently quizzing Henry, I find out that he has not really made any friends.  Acquaintances and congenial classmates – yes.  But somebody that he would feel comfortable asking to be roommates with him?  No.  So – aren’t there housing campus services that would help him find a roommate?  Yes – there are.  But would you trust an unknown person, arranging for an unknown roommate for your kid with special needs?  No – I didn’t think so.

And this makes me feel very bad for Henry… and sad.  I have lots of friends that I can call on in times of need – but my son does not.  I don’t need things to be easy all the time – but do they always have to be so damn hard?

 

I Can Do It “By My Own”

He is, indeed, doing it "By My Own"...  nothing a hose couldn't take care of after!

He is, indeed, doing it “By My Own”… nothing a hose couldn’t take care of after!

“By My Own…”  This is a phrase that Henry used regularly when he was a little guy.  He couldn’t quite get the phraseology right…  I would patiently remind him that it’s, “I can do it on my own,” or the ever popular, “I can do it by myself.”  But I’ve gotten used to the By My Own phrase – because he still uses it.

Towards the end of his last semester, he was required to pick his courses for semester 2, all while studying for exams for semester 1.  Was he stressed?  Uh – yeah!!  He is registered with the Center for Students with Disabilities and has an advisor.  As well, we connected with his guidance counsellor so that he could discuss his options.  So – courses were picked, he studied and wrote his exams.

Fast forward to his return to school.  His first week back, he attended one of the selected courses, Chemistry, and decided he didn’t like the class (or the prof, or the vibe or whatever…)  So he wanted to drop the course to lighten his load – given that he’s taking two math courses this semester (and math is always a challenge) – this would give him more time to work on math.  Great idea…  But let’s meet with your guidance counsellor or disability advisor first just to make sure we’re making the right move.  He agreed.  And then could not get a meeting fast enough before his next Chemistry class to drop the course.  Anxiety and a sense of urgency (on his part) started to set in.

But here’s the thing…  Certainly, there are many things that we can all do on our own – but we don’t have to.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help.

On Wednesday morning, my lower back spasmed while doing a yoga pose.  And you can bet that I didn’t hesitate to ask for help and call in the professionals as soon as I got home!!  But it took me a long time to learn this lesson – it’s NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help!!!  For a 2-3 year period when I was looking for a school for Henry, and then we began the arduous process of trying to get a diagnosis for Henry, I became slowly and more overwhelmed.  After his diagnosis, I had a crisis of sorts.  It all caught up and came crashing down.  It was at this time that I sought help – and realized and learned in the process, that I needed to ask for help.  (This is a long story and worthy of several posts….)

We ALL need help from time to time.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a team together to achieve a desired goal.  How about peace of mind?  So…  Henry; and I; will continue to do it “By My Own”, with help.

“The Uniform”

That was Robin's cape - we also had Batman & Superman...

That was Robin’s cape – we also had Batman & Superman…

“I’VE BROKEN MY BELT!!!!”, he bellows in a panic.  Now, this is a key part of his uniform – but having said that, I guess I wasn’t picking up on the immediacy of this problem!  Let me explain about “The Uniform”…

Since Henry was a little guy, he has gravitated to the same thing every day – whether it’s his attire or what he eats.  When he was little, he wore a superhero cape everywhere!  He especially loved running and looking behind him to see it fluttering in the breeze (there was also an Acadia hat that was worn…)

When he was a little older, there was an Acadia sweatshirt that his grandparents sent one Christmas to Left Brain – which was sized for a 12-year old…  This got worn until it fell apart – even during the heat of summer at camp.

Notice the toque... This was an accidental overlap of the whole hiphop-gansta thing...

Notice the toque… This was an accidental overlap of the whole hiphop-gansta thing…

Then the age of the baseball shirts – even though he hadn’t the slightest interest in the sport…

He had the Blue Jays, the Tigers & of course, the Yankees...

He had the Blue Jays, the Tigers & of course, the Yankees…

Then came the age of plaid shirts, jeans, belt cinched as tight as possible, and the ever present hat – which is a good thing, because it coincided with his proclivity to laser part his hair, and plaster each side down…

IMG_0010

 

So, having one part of his uniform on the IR (“injured reserved”), was causing him stress.  So, I reasonably asked whether or not his pants were in danger of falling down.  “ARE YOU CALLING ME FAT??!!”  Uh – no….  Then I asked him whether or not he could wait until Christmas break to get a new belt.  That idea was NOT flying…  After some conversation, we got to the root of the problem.  Although he is fastidious and dogmatic with his “The Uniform”, there were other bigger issues causing him stress and anxiety.

With exams approaching, he was worried about getting a high enough mark in math to ensure he gets admission to his chosen program at university.  Also, in the next week, he had to select all of his courses for semester 2.  So, after some calming discussion and problem solving together, he was a little more calm.

However… having said that – the next Saturday, I drove to The Shwa, with a new belt, a pizza and a big hug.

 

Peace in the Universe (Part 2)…

So, I didn’t really think there was going to be a second instalment to this story, but there is!  After our uber-successful shopping expedition, I went on the hunt for more of these fabulous undergarments!  And so, last Saturday, I made my way to the Shwa to deliver the goods.

Saxx Success!!

Saxx Success!!

Of course, no visit would be complete without the accompanying

images

The little rotter met me downstairs at the car, took the bag of underwear (plus his gloves, scarf, and too smallish winter jacket), and the box of pizza.  A big hug curb side and off he went.  That was the visit….  However, he did have a smile on his face…

I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

OK - I know the song is not from this album, but it's the best artwork....

OK – I know the song is not from this album, but it’s the best artwork….

I’ve had a shitty week – there’s no other way to sugar coat this.  I’ve been seriously disappointed by some colleagues, and that’s not a life lesson that I needed to learn.

So, I had an overwhelming urge to talk to my kids.  Henry always manages to make me laugh (even though he’s not always trying…)  I called him first.  “Hi Henry…  I’ve had a rotten day and I called to get cheered up.”  “WELL YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE CALLED ME THEN!!!!  Because I’m having a bad day too!”  OK then…  Guess we’ll talk about this later.  Coincidentally, John (#1 Son), was driving through town on his way to Guelph for homecoming.  And of course, there was a required stopover for cash…  But I have to say that #1 Son is a great hugger, and I felt better after he’d been through.

How do we deal with the blues?  On this occasion, I felt like I’d been through a battle – I was exhausted.  I needed to sleep, but couldn’t.  And when I could sleep, I’d wake up with the same dark feeling.

I’ve reconciled myself with what happened to cause this feeling.  I need to move on with my life and I refuse to let this get me down.  I’m blessed to have a partner who is unwaveringly supportive and loving – Left Brain’s “Momma Bear” instincts came rushing to the surface to protect me.  He was as wounded as I.  So, as a team, we, and I will prevail.

Does Henry know that he is not on his own?  When he’s feeling overwhelmed, anxious, agitated and/or “down” – does he know that all he has to do is reach out?  This worries me – he’s made some friends/acquaintances, but I don’t think he’s surrounded at school by people who always have his back.  I plan to connect with his disability advisor in the next couple of days to get a sense of how she thinks he’s coping.

And what was bothering Henry when I called him?  He’d been assigned a partner to do an assignment in one of his classes.  He could not connect with this other student, and was stressing about failing an assignment.  In the end, he completed the assignment on his own and handed it in….

The Anxiety of all the Newness….

So, this past week, I checked in with Henry – I am making a conscious effort not to call him too much – he’s told me that I’m being annoying…

We had deposited a significant amount of money into his account so that he could purchase his books.  Then we had to wade through the bank’s policies regarding how much he could take out in one day or one week…  We will be getting him a credit card to deal with such contingencies in future.  However, we did ask him for an accounting of the books thus far.  It turns out that he didn’t need quite the amount he had originally asked for.  In fact, he only needed about half the amount.  Now – most people would think they had been scammed…  But Henry does not have these artifices – he doesn’t know how to lie and if he tries, his face becomes so contorted that he gives himself away in a nanosecond!  But by his reckoning, the money was already there, so why mess with that?  (Take a moment to think this over, if you like…  a sip of coffee or bathroom break…)  I know that that logic made perfect sense to Henry, and indeed, probably to any teenager/young adult.  He was flabbergasted that we would expect the overage back!

So, then on to the next phase of our conversation, which was – he was spending cash on purchasing meals on campus.  This after a significant investment in a food plan – which is mandatory when you live in residence.  After a confused and panicked exchange of words, in which I directed him to get a little more information about where he could use his student card to swipe for meals, we hung up.  After which I received this text….

IMG_0073

 

Now – I’m no Svengali or mind reader, but I think he was upset!  So I called him back (obviously before Henry’s recommended time period).  He was extremely upset and sounded on the verge of tears.  I calmed him – let him know he was not going to starve; that we would work out an acceptable allowance; that he would have enough money to get by; that we were all figuring out this new situation and we would work it out.  News flash…  There is a happy ending…

IMG_0074

Moving Up – Part 2…

So, it’s Sunday night…  We moved him in this morning.  Henry was tense – I was tense.  He was “snappish” with me – although, to be fair, trying to put a duvet into a duvet cover is an exercise in patience and frustration…

When we left, he walked out to the car with us, where there were prolonged hugs.  I got in the car and started driving, and thought – OK!  I’m good!  This is an exciting time for Henry and a new chapter for me (and Left Brain).  This is what you work for, right?

We decided to golf today – why not?  Beautiful day – no reason to have to rush home…  We met a group of friends who immediately asked about Henry – thankfully, I had my sunglasses on.  The problem with writing a blog is that everyone knows what’s going on in your life – which is also a good thing.  But today – all I could do was nod – “yes – Henry’s good – I’m fine” – and then I had to go to the bathroom where I began to cry in a piteous way.  And I’m afraid I’m one of those “ugly criers”…  I had to do this privately.  Once recovered, I rejoined the crowd (with my sunglasses firmly planted on my nose – no need to share my swollen, red, puffy eyes…)  Later, my eyes would be red and puffy because of the pathetic “play” on the course, but that’s another story…  Just as an aside, I have to send big thank you’s to all my Mom friends, who have been so supportive and understanding during this time.  They all “get” what a big thing this is for Henry and for me.

I kept my phone on today, just in case…  Henry hardly ever calls me, unless there’s a money emergency!  He called three times today.  I was pathetically glad to hear from him.

So…. my baby’s gone for good.  But even worse, what if he comes home?  Will he make friends? Will he leave his room for fun stuff, and not just to eat?  Will he have a good time?  When you’ve spent so many years controlling an environment for your child, this loss of control is excruciating.  I know I have to let go, but jeez – it’s hard.  I have a headache – think I’ll take two Advil and go to bed….