This is news I like to read…

shutterstock photo from articleAnd a quote from the article linked in the picture… “As senior minister, I am often asked to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in my congregation. My denomination – the United Church of Christ – authorizes me to perform these ceremonies. But Amendment One denies my religious freedom by prohibiting me from exercising this right.”

Way to go to those ministers! I love how they’ve flipped the argument that’s usually heard.

 

Pondering the past…

I was lying in bed one night, just on the verge of sleep, and found myself pondering toys or more specifically the toys Jeremy played with when he was a child. I tried to come up with a toy Jeremy had loved, one of those wow gifts… and failed. This wasn’t very conducive to sleep but I couldn’t stop thinking.

I remembered the car wash I’d bought him because he loved dinky cars and loved water (as long as it wasn’t on his face). I couldn’t remember him playing with it. Neither could I remember him playing with all the car tracks I’d bought him. He enjoyed playing with Lego but, again, it wasn’t an “OMG Lego” moment. The closest I could come up with were his stuffed animals and Build a Bear. Buying Pink Bear was definitely a hit. It confused the heck out of the poor teenager who helped Jeremy build it but the bear was a success.

Had he been wanting more *girls toys* and just didn’t know how to ask? I had no idea. And it was now edging close to midnight and I had to be up in five more hours. I tried to get to sleep.

It was hard buying toys for Jeremy. I remember reading a Christmas post on Raising my Rainbow with a touch of jealousy. To compare, this was Jeremy’s Christmas list when he was six years old:

Dinky cars
Lego
Ice cream
Flying reindeer
Cheese
A unicorn (note, he wanted a real one and not a stuffed animal)
The moon (also the real one)

So… dinky cars and Lego. Dinky cars were always a hit, the shinier and more colourful the better. I’ve got a video of Jeremy playing with his cars. He treated them like they were miniature people with wheels, placing them onto a bigger truck to drive them around while warning them to “be careful” and wait “just a second” until the truck stopped and they could get off. And he loved building with Lego too. The flip side was he already had tonnes of both.

It’s funny watching the video now. The whole room is a boy’s room. Navy blue comforter with cars and planes, Spiderman stuffie, big Bob the Builder stuffie, homemade Spiderman curtains, town and road play mat (perfect for driving cars and one Jeremy never used), table covered with car tracks (which again Jeremy never used). And, in the corner of the shot, you can see Pink Bear’s feet and legs, a musical wind up doll, and his favourite glittery picture frame with a picture of himself inside. Somewhere in one of Jeremy’s huge rubbermaid bins of stuffed animals, he has a stuffed unicorn. I never did get him the moon.

We went for a walk the next evening and I asked Jeremy what his favourite toys were when he was growing up. He stared at me blankly then admitted he didn’t remember. He couldn’t remember any of his toys. My heart sank.

With some prompting, he could come up with a few toys but it was obvious that none of them were his favourites. The one we both remembered wasn’t a toy, it was an online video game called Club Penguin. Jeremy could and did spend hours on this website; he absolutely adored it. He’d earn money by doing stunts on an old mine cart then he’d upgrade his house and his wardrobe. Every time Club Penguin updated their catalogues, he’d drag me to the computer to see everything he planned to buy. Unlike real life, he had extensive lists there. Light up dance floors, fancy ball gowns, toys for his pet puffles. Jeremy’s penguin was usually pink and dressed to the nines. It was a safe place for Jeremy. He could dress and act like a girl and no one would say anything. We lived in a large and rather rough complex so reality was quite different.

I spent that night wondering what I could have done different, what toys I could have bought that would have made an impact. What affordable place we could have moved where Jeremy could feel a bit safer. Then I reminded myself, again, that I can’t change the past and slowly went to sleep.

We went out grocery shopping the next evening and, on the way home I finally asked Jeremy what else I could have done. Would he have been happier if I’d bought him more toys aimed at girls?

“Mom, I liked having Emma’s old toys because they were hers. That made them more special. Besides, I was playing with them with her. I wouldn’t have wanted new toys, it wouldn’t have been the same.”

That made me feel a lot better.

Of course now his 17th birthday is in a month and a half and once again I have no idea what to buy him. Jeremy still stinks at suggesting affordable, easy to attain gifts. He wants a brand new, top of the line computer with a web cam and video editing software… like that’s in my price range. He might as well still be asking for the moon.

At least the cake he wants this year is easy, he’s asking for an ice cream jaffa cake he saw at the British shop. Which definitely beats the TARDIS he originally wanted me to make. And, sigh, scratch that thought. I just went to the shop’s site to find a picture of said ice cream cake and couldn’t find it. Neither could I find it on the actual Jaffa Cake website. Apparently Jeremy’s more organized for his birthday than I am. Wish me luck!

A glimpse of Jeremy

Jeremy had his LGBTQ youth group on Tuesday evening. It was quite warm during the day but it’s getting dark before he gets home so I warned him he’d need to wear pants. He ran into his room then ran back out seconds later; too soon to have taken his shorts off and put pants on.

“Jeremy,” I sighed. “Go back and pull your shorts off. You can’t wear shorts under your pants.”

“But Mom, I wanted to show everyone my new shorts too,” he retorted. “They have to see my whole outfit.”

I blinked in surprise. That was not the answer I’d expected… which in itself is pretty common so I’m not sure why I keep getting surprised.

“What exactly are you planning on doing? Stripping in group to show off your shorts?” I asked drily.

“Pretty much,” he agreed then he headed out to catch his bus.

As my friend Lenny pointed out, at least he’s not thinking every gay male in the group is automatically fancying him.

He called while he was waiting for the first bus home, happy that group went well but disappointed that no one immediately noticed he was wearing a brand new purple polo shirt. And yes, he did strip off his track pants in group so he could show off his new silky soccer shorts. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall.

“There was a transgender person on the bus,” Jeremy announced as he walked through the front door.

I packed the last item into my lunch bag. “Was the person someone from your group?” I asked as I shut the fridge. He shook his head. “So how did you know?”

“Well, he had boobs but his voice sounded low like a mans and half his hair was long and half was short.”

My mental image flashed between someone with a mullet and someone with long hair on one side of their head and short on the other. Before I could ask him to clarify, Jeremy continued.

“He was taking the bus then hitch hiking and he thinks my plan of having a purple bus with purple headlights is cool.”

All that information meant Jeremy just walked over and started a conversation. Although, to be fair, I do this on a regular basis too. The kids grew up thinking I knew everyone. And Jeremy, despite being a bit over 6ft tall, is not threatening.

I’m discovering there’s two reactions to Jeremy. One is extremely positive and mainly from children. I was joking with him a few days ago that if I ever need to find him in a store, all I need to do is follow the children’s voices yelling, “Wow! Mommy look, he has blue hair!”

I get a similar reaction on a forum I frequent. I shared a picture yesterday that I took of Jeremy on our spring walk, all decked out in his new clothes, and got a bunch of replies such as…

Wow, that’s a colourful son. Keep feeding him rainbow cake so he stays that way!”

He is clearly an original; creative and artistic. Keep on keepin’ on!!”

And one I really needed to hear…

May I just say “Thank you!” for not stifling his creative expression. Seriously, that is an amazing thing in a mother.”

The flip side is the negative comments, usually screamed from car windows, and The Look. The Look is given by older men. It’s a deep level glare from an almost expressionless face.

We walked over to the elevators downstairs this evening and an older man was already there waiting. He had The Look perfected and glared at Jeremy our whole way down the hall. Jeremy was oblivious.

“Remember the woods near where we used to live?” Jeremy asked. “With the trees that had all the knotty roots.” I nodded and his mouth widened into a grin. “I’d go skipping through those woods with a whole basket of potato chips on one arm and a whole basket of iced tea on the other. Oh, I hope I wouldn’t lose them all.”

Skipping with baskets. Right. Any other time I’d have asked if he was planning on being Little Red Riding Hood but not while the old man was boring holes into the back of Jeremy’s head.

Jeremy chattered the whole way up and the man had almost cracked a smile by the time we got off.

I started making dinner and Jeremy wandered back into the kitchen.

“Maybe, someday I’ll write a love story,” he mused. “It’ll be between the molecules of a Wal-Mart, except they move so quickly, they never get to know exactly who’s who…”

“Right, so a love story between random, unidentified molecules,” I retorted and Jeremy grinned.

“Right,” he agreed. “Except maybe they’d be used to moving that quickly so they would know each other. But someone wanted to bomb that Wal-Mart and the molecules have to convince the molecules of the bomb not to go off so they can stay together. Do you think anyone’s written a story like this before Mom?”

“I can pretty much guarantee that one hasn’t been written,” I assured him. “That story’s unique.”

Just like Jeremy.

Victim mentality…

I called Jeremy on my way to work this morning, reminding him to eat breakfast and pack his lunch. I gave him several suggestions. We have apples, tortilla wraps, cooked pasta, cooked and seasoned strips of tofu, vegan mayo, peanut butter, chocolate peanut butter, Wow nut butter (which I find disgusting but Jeremy will eat), purple grapes, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I also explained (again) how to make hot chocolate. One tablespoon cocoa powder, one tablespoon granulated sugar, one tablespoon icing sugar, and one cup coconut milk.

“Yeah, I know,” Jeremy muttered. Then he went on to talk about some mod on his game.

“Look, just get something to eat,” I urged. “And make your lunch.”

I got to work and began serving customers. It’s a crap shoot. I try to call Jeremy close enough to 8am to say goodbye but early enough to give him a chance to pack lunch if he’s forgotten. Flip side is, I can’t leave the floor to call him if there’s a line up and we can go from dead to a line up to the front door in under a minute. That line up can last for a few minutes to a few hours. There’s been days that I waited just a few minutes too long then didn’t get another chance to call Jeremy until a half hour after his bus already left. I got my chance at 7:48am and ran to the back.

“Hola,” Jeremy said cheerfully. We live in Canada and he doesn’t know Spanish, he just thinks that sounds cool. “I’ve got 12 minutes left until I need to get ready.”

“Have you packed your lunch?” I asked, straining to hear any customers. So far it seemed quiet.

“No,” he replied. “I’m not even thinking about it until 8am.”

That gives him 10 minutes to pack his lunch and find any items he deems necessary, which isn’t a lot of time. But there’s not much I can do from another city.

“Have you at least eaten anything?” I asked.

“No,” came the immediate reply. “I’ll eat at school.”

His school does not have a breakfast program. Apparently that hasn’t stopped him from counting on them to serve him bagels and cream cheese. I have no idea who’s paying for these items. I had no idea until today that he was even getting them. I was making him breakfast before I left… then was finding the untouched dried remains of breakfast sitting beside the computer where I’d left it. Sometimes there just aren’t easy answers.

I told him to listen to his teachers (again) and to drink a quick glass of calcium fortified orange juice (again) then got off the phone, relieved he was at least in good spirits. Hopefully he’d have a good day.

I was in the middle of serving customers when one of my coworkers came over with the phone.

“Michelle, it’s for you,” she said as she stuck the phone against my ear.

“Hello, Michelle? It’s Mrs. Teacher…”

And there I stood, with the phone in one hand and my other hand on the register, dealing with two conversations at once. One customer had been in the middle of giving an order. I quickly keyed it  in then turned to my coworker.

“Take over the order please,” I said then I bolted before she had a chance to refuse.

Once again I was in the back of the store, hanging out with the supplies and listening to Jeremy’s teacher. Once again he was on his way home. And, once again it was over something ridiculous.

Jeremy brought tea bags, a packet of hot apple cider mix, and a small container of honey to school today. He wanted his teacher to make him a mug of hot apple tea with honey. No problem, except the last time she made him a hot drink, he grabbed the mug from her hand and accidentally scratched her. Then he refused to apologize.

“I hope you can see where I’m coming from,” she said urgently. “I was making him drinks as a special favour but I’m not going to continue if he’s going to hurt me then refuse to apologize.”

I agreed that was fair. I wouldn’t make him tea in that case either. Jeremy’s response was to tell her that if she wasn’t making him tea then he was going home. And he left, refusing to attend school today and refusing to sign out at the office. He just picked up his bag, grabbed his coat, and walked out.

I called him on my break and told him to wash dishes and take out the recycling. If he’s going to be home, he might as well do something useful. He did both without arguing, thankfully. I’m exactly one week into a crappy cold and spent last night coughing myself awake. My big plans for today involved going to work, coming home, pulling on pjs, eating leftovers for dinner, and crawling into bed before 8pm. They did not involve arguing with an angry 16 year old.

And that’s where I run into problems. Jeremy adamantly will not see the other side. There are three main issues we’re dealing with right now. One is his near constant arguing with the teachers. He’s currently fighting his gym teacher over safety rules. Jeremy feels their outdoor portion of gym, which includes using a swing set, would be much safer if they swung using only one hand on the ropes and is refusing to sign a safety statement explaining why he needs to swing holding on with both hands. Another is his refusal to apologize for his own misdeeds, like scratching his teacher. And the third is his inability to see how his actions affect how he’s treated. Jeremy wants to get into more interesting classes but cannot see  how his current trend of screaming at his teacher and/or principal then walking out and going home is stopping him from leaving his primary class and moving into optional classes with less support.

I got home then sat down on the couch, pushing aside a storage container filled with folded and empty tortillas.

“Jeremy? What are these for?” I asked, momentarily sidetracked from my planned conversation.

“Oh, they’re my lunch,” he replied. “I didn’t have time to pack one.”

Right, he didn’t have time, when I’d called him twice to remind him AND detailed exactly what we have to eat.

I listed my concerns and Jeremy exploded. I don’t know what it’s like to be him. He has to listen to his teachers talk for an hour about all the wonderful things they have, then they do reading, and then they do a little bit of math… his voice trailed off. He dismissed scratching his teacher because she told him to take the mug and didn’t leave him anywhere to grab the mug without scratching her.

“Then you shouldn’t have grabbed it,” I said firmly and he scowled.

“She was holding it hostage,” he protested.

“Jeremy, you need to grow up and be a responsible adult,” I snapped. “You are smart, you are capable, and you have a lot of skills but you need to learn how to act like the 16 year old you are and treat the people around you with respect. You need to go to school…”

“I just need to kill myself,” he yelled back.

“Seriously,” I blurted. “That’s not being responsible.”

And I’m tired of that threat. He’s told his counselor he’s not suicidal and yelling this during an argument seems like more of a distraction than any serious issue.

The argument went in circles and nothing got accomplished. I’m badgering him to follow the rules without arguing. None of the rules are dangerous or offensive. He’s demanding special treatment, wanting a laptop which another student received for severe communication issues, and demanding to use an MP3 player during class while working on school work. And I’m in no way certain he’ll follow the rules, not when he knows breaking them means he can run home to where he feels safe. Breaking them spectacularly by yelling at the principal means he can stay home for two days. And the school will not have him stay if he’s acting up.

We’ll be working on a letter of apology to his teacher after dinner but I’m struggling with what I can do on my end. It’s not like I can ground him. He doesn’t go anywhere but youth group and, while he enjoys it, he wouldn’t be hurt by staying home. He’d rather stay home and hide.

And he’s got a whole victim mentality. His teachers are being mean. They won’t teach him, they won’t let him go into different classes, they keep changing the rules and making them harder. He refuses to see how his own actions are keeping them from placing him in outside classes, how they can’t teach him when he’s storming out the door, how the rules are going to keep getting harder when he’s constantly trying to break them. Lenny pointed out his black and white thinking is common with autistic people, which is true. I still don’t know how to change it though or how to help him see things from their side.

The sun’s now out and it’s a not so balmy 8C (46F). I’m going to drag him out for a walk as well. He seems hell bent on becoming a hermit, maybe getting outside in the fresh air will make a difference. At this point I’ll try just about anything.

Spring clothes

It’s spring, the time of year when many women are shaving their legs and painting their toenails in preparation for wearing shorts and sandals. Jeremy is busy growing out his leg hair and removing his toenail polish for the same reason.

Two days ago we were getting ready to go to our family Easter dinner and I told Jeremy to pull on a clean shirt.

“No problem,” he assured me. “I’ve got one on the couch.”

He’d worn that shirt three days in a row already, we had a problem.

“Jeremy, pull on a clean shirt,” I insisted.

Then he told me he had no other shirts which fit and demonstrated a couple… and he was right. We found one that was a reasonable size but it was obvious I needed to take him clothes shopping. Which we did yesterday.

A few months ago, I complained at work about my struggles to find clothes Jeremy would be interested in wearing. My young coworker Brian suggested going to Superstore to check out their Joe Fresh line. I’m so glad he did. This is their mens t-shirt section…

shirts at Superstore

We ended up picking out four bright t-shirts here and several silky soccer style shorts at Wal-Mart so he’s pretty much set for the summer. Their selection for boys was just as colourful. My only wish is they’d been that colourful when he was younger. He was happy enough seeing the shirts now but he’d have been over the moon excited when he was around 8 years old.

Happy Easter!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think Jeremy might be the only 16 year old who asked for a pizza slicer for Easter. Not just any pizza slicer, as you can see, but one that came with an attached pizza slice lifter.

Jeremy divides the year into holidays, planning half a year for Christmas and half a year for his birthday, with Halloween and Easter spread in between for smaller treats. He’s had his birthday planned since the middle of January and we still have two months to go until the actual day. The pizza cutter was deemed too small to be a birthday gift and he started begging for it as an Easter gift back in February. He also asked for a solid milk chocolate initial because apparently you can’t have a holiday without one. This would be the white box, which I turned around. Just pretend it’s a letter J.

We spent Easter with my family and the day went very well. My Dad doesn’t like Jeremy’s hair but thankfully said very little about it. Meanwhile Jeremy hung out with his cousins and took them on a bike ride to the park. Then he stuffed himself on burgers, ice cream, and way too much chocolate. It was a good day.

You need to be strong…

I went into work on Thursday and saw a coworker of mine, whose Dad had just died. I had no idea at all what to say so I simply gave him a hug.

A short while later another coworker came in. “How’s your mother doing?” she asked.

“Fine,” came the immediate reply. “She’s doing fine.”

The coworker placed her hand on his shoulder and leaned close. “You’re going to have to be strong for her.”

We are doing a grave injustice to our children. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a link to The Representation Project.