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Strides

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This morning as I was walking the boys to school I was reflecting on the progress they have made this past year, though really I think the shift has been in just the last few months. I was forced to reflect upon this because Liam wouldn’t stop talking. When we came to the crosswalk he said, “Wait!” And he was yelling at the cars to stop. I said, “That’s right, we have to wait for all the cars to stop.” This made me smile because I’m the one that usually tells them to wait each and every time we approach the corner. I often talk to the boys the entire walk to school even though I may be the only one talking. I know that this is one of the best things you can do to help children learn language and communications skills and with their delays in this area, well, I just keep talking.

This morning Liam took over. It seems that all of a sudden he is bursting with vocabulary that had previously been held in some part of his brain that he didn’t have access to. Sure, he had a lot of words, but now he has phrases, questions, comments, and answers. It’s wonderful. He basically had a commentary going about everything on our walk. After we crossed the street, he looked straight up and said, “What’s that?” I said, “That’s the sky, and clouds,” and he said, “and birds, there are birds flying.” I said, “That’s right! They are waaaay up high. I didn’t see them until you told me!” At the same time, the first drops of rain started to fall. He said, “That’s rain, that’s water from the sky.” Then a woman passed us with a stroller. He said, “Hi baby.” Then we walked up the hill and he said, “There’s a baseball game.” I explained the difference between a baseball game and a baseball field. He was already onto, “There’s a gate. It opens.”

You get the idea. Last night he had a commentary with his dad in the kitchen as the pizza was cooking in the oven. There’s a lot to be said while you are hungry and waiting for your favorite pizza. I could tell Mike was loving it and what I’m realizing is that these are the first real conversations taking hold. With that, I’m noticing that he is finding his voice. For the most part, he is an easy going kid and very compliant, but the other night he yelled at his dad, “Get out of my room!” Mike said, “Okay.”

Finn is making good progress with talking too, but I can probably save his story for another blog. Suffice it to say he has a very strong will and prefers things to go his way. For example, he won’t walk to school without his stuffed kitty. He’s fine to hand it over when we get to his class so I can take it back home though. I’m not sure what people think when they see a grown woman walking with a stuffed kitty in her arms.

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Amanda

It’s two days before Thanksgiving so I’m going to write about my daughter-in-law, Amanda. I am beyond grateful that she is the wife of my only son, Jarrod, and the mother of my grandson.

As the mother of a boy, the only child I have, I often wondered who he would fall in love with, and whether he would marry or have children. When your kids are little, you have no way of knowing if any of these things will happen, but I saw these things in his future.

When Jarrod was growing up and old enough to understand the ways of the heart, I felt it was my job to talk ad nauseam about what a healthy a relationship looks like. I failed him by not living the example. I suffered abuse at the hands of his father, which was a short first marriage, and though I consider my second marriage to be a good one, Jarrod often witnessed the slow unraveling of it. I feel sad and guilty about that, but we do the best we can do.

I mostly felt like a single parent. His stepfather was there of course, but he worked long hours, often worked away from home, and during Jarrod’s high school years, we lived apart because of my refusal to move away from the community where I had raised him since grade 3. I know this wasn’t the best thing for my marriage, but that’s an entirely different story.

So there were things I wanted to pound into that “boy” brain. The “no means no” conversation and “always wear condoms,” came early on, but there is so much more than that. Keep in mind that this was coming from the perspective of a “girl” who didn’t choose wisely the first time around. I wanted him to choose well, but I also didn’t want him to ever be a poor choice. I wanted to raise a good man. Perhaps in this day and age the things I talked with him about should be a given, but awful headlines in the news, and websites such as The Good Men Project are enough to tell you they aren’t. Simplified, here are a few things I remember:

You are equals.
You don’t “belong” to one another. You don’t “own” each other. You aren’t the others “property”.
It’s good to have things in common, but have your own interests and encourage each other in those interests.
Encourage time away from each other to do things with friends.
You will learn to cook, clean, and do laundry. There is no such thing as “woman’s work”.
It’s fine to argue, but be kind and always listen. There are two sides and nobody is always right.
She should probably be an animal lover, like you.

I wonder what Jarrod remembers of these conversations. Perhaps I should have asked him before I wrote this so I could have added an anecdote about it, like him saying, “I don’t remember those conversations,” to which I’d say, “Well, something must have stuck!”

I’m coming down off a high of a three day visit with these guys, including my two-month old grandson, Larkin. The last time I saw him was the week he was born, when I traveled to Oregon for his birth and stayed a few days to help. I had no doubt that Amanda would be a good mother, but she was in a fog of sleeplessness and new motherhood while I was taking care of the house, the cooking, and walking the dog so that she and Jarrod could become acquainted with this new little creature whose arrival had changed their lives forever.

It was this most recent visit that has made me appreciate how very fortunate we all are to have this girl in our lives. Larkin is a calm and happy baby, and perhaps that’s just his nature, but I suspect it has something to do with his mommy, whose confident and easygoing demeanor coupled with pure, sweet love for her baby boy made this first-time grandmother feel immeasurable joy.

I realize I didn’t write all that much about Amanda, but in a way, I actually did. Sometimes, it’s all in the subtext.

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Another Round

Today marks another Day 1 of 40 Days of Writing, which is a good thing because I need a jumpstart to turn what’s in my head into something readable. It’s been a struggle for quite some time now.

An old friend died the other day. And before that I received sad news from another dear friend. And before that a very young man in town known and loved by so many died in a tragic accident. And before that a baby was born to a young couple in town with a rare heart condition that has kept him hospitalized to this day. And now terrorists.

I don’t have any words of wisdom about any of this. There are things that I can’t comprehend. Life is full of bad news and none of us are immune to very sad or even horrific things happening to us or to the people very close to us.

It’s all so very precarious.

This blog feels like a jumble. It is.

With tears holding steady on the brim of my lower lid, my thoughts were sad as I sang Finn to sleep last night. For some reason, the sound of my terrible voice singing a mostly made-up rendition of “Hush Little Baby” puts him in a trance and when you combine that with hair petting, he’s usually out in less than five minutes. Last night it took a little longer. Perhaps he sensed my sadness. He kept opening his eyes back up and looking at me and when I would gently brush my fingertip against his eyelid with a closing gesture, he would giggle.

Bedtime can be a battle with Finn. Liam never resists, but Finn will often get out of bed over and over before finally giving in to slumber, which is why the bad singing has become a routine when the boys are with us. Mike will say, “Are you ready for the dulcet sounds of Jodee?” That’s my cue. It was discovered by accident one night when I just started singing the song to him and he fell asleep in seconds. I kind of like it because Mike is their favorite, but this is my thing with them, or at least with Finn. Liam is on the bottom bunk while I stand singing to Finn on the top, but he doesn’t object to it like my own son used to. “Mommy, don’t sing,” Jarrod would say, which always amused me.

Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird won’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
It that diamond ring won’t shine,
Mama’s gonna buy you a glass of wine.
If that glass of wine is yuck
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new truck.
If that truck won’t go very far,
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new bar.
If that bar burns down to the ground,
Mama’s gonna pick you up and twirl you around….

You get the idea. I change it up sometimes too…

I don’t really have a point to this jumbly blog. I’m just grateful that my bad singing can lull a precious 4-year old to sleep.

Finley

Finley

 

 

 

I’m a Noni!

The first moment...

The first moment…

Part One

On Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 9:50am I became a grandmother. I’m not even going to attempt to write about what that feels like. I can use a list of adjectives such as incredible, wonderful, and amazing, but none of these words come close. For the women reading this who are grandmothers themselves, then you probably get it. But for me there was the added element of wondering if the chemotherapy treatment my son received as a young adult would have an impact on his fertility. From the time he was 20, until just this year, his sperm was stored at California Cryobank for a whopping total of $7,200. He banked it prior to treatment just in case. It turns out he could have had the specimen discarded a long time ago, but until there was a viable pregnancy the traditional way, it’s best to keep those swimmers on ice.

Larkin

Larkin

I spent a week in Oregon with Jarrod and Amanda for the birth of the baby and tried to make myself as useful as possible. It was a very special time. Watching my son and daughter-in-law in the role of parents to their newborn was very gratifying. I wanted to hold the baby the entire time, but instead I took cues from them. I was there if they needed me to tend to him, but mostly I wanted to be sure there were meals made, the laundry was done, and the dog was walked, so they could focus on bonding with their baby. Amanda and I fell into a little routine where I would take the baby after the 4-5am feeding so she could get a couple hours of sleep. It was my favorite time.

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The grand-dog and I out for an adventure

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was also torn. They were willing to have me, but I couldn’t take too much time off of work and I also worried about leaving Mike, the boys, and the cat for too long. Not that they couldn’t manage without me, but with Mike’s work schedule it falls to me to get the boys ready and off to school two and a half days a week. I reluctantly left my grandson in the capable arms of his parents and anxiously made my way back home. I mean anxious in the way that I missed those guys I left behind in California.

Part Two

Mike managed. We only talked on the phone twice, but were texting often. This was me texting Mike right about the moment the baby was born! Obviously Mike was just waiting to say this.

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Here was the first morning he was on kid duty without me. Yes, that was smugness on my part.

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Later that night he found company. Sidenote: We are shopping for new couch.

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I worried about Maeby, my cat.

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The day before I came home.

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And finally, this was the sky that greeted me the final hour on my way home.

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Retraction

If you haven’t read my previous blog, you should read that first.

Jojo is a boy.

Mike went to Open House at Liam’s school last night and I received this text:

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I guess I’m not used to seeing little boys with high ponytails. I know guys where high ponytails these days. They also wear eyeliner and barrettes. It’s a free-for-all and I like it that way. Maybe that’s why I thought he was a girl. I pictured her with four older brothers and wearing their hand-me-downs and not caring about looking girlie. I liked her that way. But now I like him that way too. He’s probably the only five-year old boy at school with a high ponytail. Go Jojo!

I’ll close with a photo of David Beckham.

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Mondays with Liam and the other Jojo

I’ve written in the past about Thursdays being my morning with both boys, but I haven’t written about Mondays with Liam. I actually have both boys with me on Monday mornings, but their grandmother comes to take care of Finn at our house so it doesn’t matter if he wakes up or not. I don’t have to get him up, dressed, fed and ready to go anywhere. I only have to get Liam up, fed and ready for school. The difference between getting only one boy ready as opposed to two is like the difference between getting one boy ready and twenty.

I like Mondays with Liam. He usually wakes happy and on the rare occasion he’s grumpy, it never lasts. He eats the same breakfast every Monday morning; a fried egg sandwich with mayo, and he loves it. I’ve tried to switch things up on him, but then he says, “egg sandwich.” He’s easygoing and we never feel rushed.

I like my time with the boys better when Mike isn’t around. It’s totally fine when he is there, too, but they like me better when he’s not there. Perhaps it’s because of shared custody and him not being in their lives 100% of the time, but when they are with us, they can’t get enough of him. It’s only when he isn’t around that they take more notice of me. It’s not that they ignore me when we are all at home together, but they are much more affectionate with me when he’s not there. I don’t think he believes half the stuff I tell him that they do with me because he’s never there to witness it, except the time Liam said, “I love you,” to me and Mike burst into tears.

After our typical morning at home today we piled ourselves, his backpack, and my two bags full of all the stuff I schlep to work everyday and began the 7.4 mile drive to his school. I usually talk to Liam throughout the drive. With his limitations in communication, he doesn’t always talk back, but that doesn’t stop me from babbling to him.

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I park my car behind the school which means we have to walk a little bit of a distance where the path winds around a baseball field and then across the big playground to the Number 20 square where his special ed class meets before the bell rings. Teachers come out to their designated class squares when the first bell rings and the children follow him/her in a line to their classroom. I always wait for the teacher or her aid to come and get the kids. When he’s in my care, there needs to be a hand off.

Since about the second week of school, Liam has insisted that I carry him from the car to the square. He’s gained a few pounds since September and this task is becoming more and more difficult for me. I try to encourage him to walk, but he insists I “carry you.” I always say, “you want to carry me?” He lets me put him down when the big black cat is in the path so he can pet it, but then I have to pick him right back up. Despite the 40+ pounds of him and his backpack putting a strain on my back, I love the way he moves my hair from my shoulder so he can rest his head there. As soon as we are within 10 feet of the square, I put him down and he’s fine.

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Over the course of the school year, I’ve seen him blossom. He used to tuck himself right next to me until the teacher showed up. Now he ventures out to either go get a drink at the germ drinking fountain, or he goes to the wheelbarrow full of jump ropes and grabs one to play with. This morning was something different. He started walking through a bunch of other kids from different classes and walked straight up to a little girl in a bright green Ninja Turtles sweatshirt. If she hadn’t had a high ponytail, I might have thought she was a boy because there was nothing girlie about her. She took off running and Liam began to chase her. This happened over and over with some other little boys joining the chase, too.

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While I stood on the square watching Liam, one of his classmates (I should know his name) walked up and stood close to me with his back to me. This little boy has Down Syndrome. I put my hand on his shoulder and said “Hi.” He turned around to face me and put his arms around me so I put my arms around him. We stood like that for a few moments. Then he looked up and said, “Is Liam your little boy?” I said, “He’s kind of like my little boy. I live with Liam’s daddy and his daddy is my boyfriend.” He said, “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Just then the bell rang and Angie, Liam’s teacher’s aid, walked up. When Liam ran up, Angie said, “Liam, are you playing with Jojo?” He just grinned. I said to Angie, “Her name is Jojo?” Angie nodded. I squatted down to get eye level with Liam to say goodbye and said, “Of course her name is Jojo.” He looked right into my eyes and laughed.

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Crossing Paths

I like unexpected surprises. Good surprises, of course, but those little things that happen in your life that make you take notice. I also like to think about how our paths cross with one another. Coincidences? I like to think not. I had an unexpected surprise two Saturdays ago while working a wine club event at the winery where I normally work a regular 9-5er, Monday through Friday.

I’ve worked many weekend events in my almost five years of employment there and they are mostly enjoyable. I say mostly because you are working with the public and not everyone is nice, but really, most people are nice. The perk of working on a Saturday or Sunday is a comp day during the week so I always volunteer if I don’t have anything going on.

Anyway, my unexpected surprise came by way of the young man I was paired to work with at the Rosé of Pinot Noir station. He poured the wine and I served up a tart of salmon, goat cheese and leeks. Alex was also an employee at the winery, but he worked in the Tasting Room and we had only met a couple of times and really didn’t know each other. This may sound strange because we work at the same address, but those of us that work away from the part of the winery that the public visits might as well be in another town. Weeks will sometimes go by before I venture up to the other side of the property for one reason or another.

I said Alex “was” an employee of the the winery because within five minutes of our polite hellos and a discussion of who would do what at our station he told me that the following Thursday was his last day because he and his girlfriend, Ashley, are quitting their jobs and traveling the world for six years. WHAT?!!

In between our polite greetings and small talk to the attendees of the event, I had a million questions. And Alex was more than happy to tell me the story. I was thrilled to hear that they have a blog and Facebook page so I could follow their many adventures. Who doesn’t dream of being able to do something like this? And good for them for figuring out how to go for it!

What Alex doesn’t know is that the night before the event I was hanging out with Sarah who would also be working at a station. She was paired with a different employee. I said, “maybe one of us could trade and you and I could work together.” She agreed, but on the day of the event neither of us took the initiative, and I’m so glad we didn’t! I hang out with Sarah all the time. I think I know pretty much everything about her. But I knew nothing of Alex and would have missed that opportunity of getting to know him, even for just those few hours.

Here is a link to Alex and Ashley’s travel blog. And to their Facebook page. Check it out! Follow! Like!

Undeniable

The first time I laid eyes on my son Jarrod’s father, he was standing on a stage playing a guitar and singing into a microphone. I was completely captivated.

Fast forward to a 10-year old boy trying to teach himself how to play guitar with no encouragement whatsoever from his mother. In fact, I had hoped it was a passing phase. It most certainly was not. I’m slightly ashamed when I think of my indifference to my son wanting to play guitar back then. His father and I were no longer married, but his stepfather had an old acoustic laying around and from the moment that kid picked up the guitar, he never put it down.

To this day.

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In my own defense, I lived through the crazy years of his father playing in a band. We piled all the equipment into station wagons and caravaned all over the San Francisco Bay Area. They played one dive bar after another. Occasionally there was a good venue, but mostly these were places that had seen better days and didn’t care that I was underage, though I carried a fake ID just in case. We partied too much, we slept too little, and we made no money. So it was all of that that I wanted to keep him from.

But I couldn’t.

There is no doubt that there have been years of him partying too much, sleeping too little and not making much money from his music, but it’s nowhere near the same. I’m not sure why, but it just seemed dirtier, and reckless, and more volatile back then.

And so, not going to college wasn’t an option for him as long as I had anything to say about it, and I had plenty to say about it. Off he went to San Diego, and eventually so did the rest of the band he was in, but he graduated in four years. I felt my work was done (wink).

I didn’t come to love his music until he was almost through with school because I wasn’t really into death metal, but eventually that went away. The guys grew up, and so did their music.

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I’m grateful that Jarrod has figured out a way to balance the responsibility of being an adult with pursuing his passion. There was no denying the boy and his guitar.

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Here’s a link to some new stuff. Barefoot Girls is my favorite.

 

No good deed…

I am not a fan of people “walking” their dogs while they are on a bicycle. I realize there are certain breeds that need a ton of exercise who might benefit from running alongside a bike and that there are safe ways to do it, but mostly what I see are dogs panting and struggling to keep up. They aren’t happy with this form of exercise. They can’t pee, sniff flowers, or look up at you for reassurance in any unforeseen situation that might arise. Also, it’s dangerous.

Yesterday brought me almost face to face with a culprit. I was making a left turn at a very busy intersection on my way to the gym when I noticed a woman on a bike with TWO dogs on a leash. One was a good sized pitbull mix and the other was a puppy that looked just like the bigger one. She wasn’t riding. She was on the sidewalk straddling her bike with her feet on the ground trying to get them to move forward. Both dogs looked very confused. What the fuck?

While I sat there at the stoplight watching her struggle to control both dogs, my thoughts immediately went south. Idiot. What the hell is wrong with that woman? But right after those thoughts I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she bit off more than she could chew. Maybe there’s a reason she needs to get somewhere with those dogs and she has no car. Maybe she needs help.

Given that I had 20 minutes before my spin class, I decided to see if she needed help. I have a bike rack on my car and I could drive them all home. Or wherever. I made the left turn and parked my car on the side of the road and waited to see if she was coming in my direction. She managed to cross the street and started toward me on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. It took her at least five minutes to get close enough to me. While I sat there waiting on this busy stretch of road, I watched a runner go by them, which prompted the big dog to lunge at the runner. It seemed more out of curiosity than an aggressive move, but it was further evidence that she had no control of the dog. The puppy seemed to be limping and walking in circles completely clueless as to what it was supposed to be doing.

When she was almost up to my car, I got out, crossed the street and started walking toward her. There were about two car lengths between us, but I saw the big dog alert to me so I stopped.

“Do you need help?” I called.
Her tone and body language were immediately defensive, “What?!” I asked again if she needed help.
She yelled, “No, I’m not hurt!” We were competing with noisy traffic.
I said, “No, do you need help with your dogs? Do you need a ride?” I gestured toward my car.
“I don’t need any help. I’m training the puppy to walk with me on the bike.”

I held my tongue, which was hard, but there was a big dog staring at me and I wasn’t confident that she could or would hold onto it after I pissed her off with my rant. I walked across the street to my car mumbling all those initial thoughts I had.

April 7, 1955

My first husband would have turned 60 today if he were still alive. I thought of this on my drive to work this morning. 60. Wow. Joe and I would have been married 35 years this year if I hadn’t gotten the hell out of Dodge. I thought I would write about him on his birthday. On my lunch hour today I wrote four sad paragraphs and with the cursor at the end of the fourth paragraph, I put my finger on the backspace key and watched the letters disappear one by one.

That was easy to do. But I can’t delete that part of my life, nor would I want to. That union gave me the greatest gift of my life. My son. And though we were never meant to stay long in the journey that was Joe’s life, we were meant to pass through it. We were meant to step up onto the stage and have staring roles. We were in the second act, but by the third we were gone. We were meant to leave and find our own path, or journey, or a stage that only had room for two. It starred a young mother and her son.

There has been and will continue to be a lot of living between then and now, but that was our beginning. It was the beginning of life for me as an adult and it was the beginning of life itself for a baby boy. And so I honor that part today with this small mention, and a happy birthday, and a hope for continued restful peace.

 

 

 

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