Why The Vanity?

Lately, I’d say in the past 2-3 years I’ve really felt and think I look like “a mom”. I notice at work there are co workers that are the ages of my children. We don’t discuss age at work thank God, nor do they treat me like a parent but every now and then I get this kick in the gut that I’m old enough to be their mom; it’s odd. I’m glad we don’t discuss age. When I’m chatting with co workers about common interests we will talk about whatever and I feel that we’re equals, just 2 people talking. It’s nice. And there are different common interests with different people. One of my co workers has special needs children. When we do have time to chat I feel like we can talk forever; we don’t really discuss our kids we seem to talk about everything under the sun and it’s nice, I think we would have gotten along even if we didn’t both have our children in common.

When I’m out with my children however I totally feel like a mom. Probably because they are older adolescents and young adults and there’s no mistaking that I’m their mother. I feel like the “uncool” one of the bunch. Don’t ask why. Tommy and I began our family when we were relatively young, we were both 26 years old when Thomas was born, Alyssa 2 years later and Lelly 2.5 years after Alyssa. Samantha was the last 5 years after Lelly. I never minded running errands with everyone when they were younger, during stable times with Thomas. Going to stores, grocery shopping, etc… I weirdly enjoyed watching people count my kids, yes they did that, I used to want to make sure they were correct and yell out, “yes there’s 4!” But of course I never did.

I never felt like “old” when my kids were younger, maybe because I had them young? I was an expert on Thomas’ diagnosis’ and treatments and meds. At the time I could give a lecture on the side effects of lithium as well as appropriate blood levels. I always had one foot in the special needs realm and one foot in the typical child world. Raising children is not easy. I used to tell people they throw the manual out after you deliver the baby. There were so many times I felt I wasn’t taken seriously when it came to Thomas, especially during his younger years. I learned really fast that I had to speak up for him whether my opinion and knowledge was appreciated/wanted or not. That never happened with my girls. Because they were typical children there was no need to search out help or diagnosis’. Or wonder what was “normal”. Although there is truly no such thing as “normal”.

I think I feel oldest when I’m out with my girls. Not so much with Thomas. I’m thinking it’s because I can’t help but compare myself at my current age and how I look to how beautiful and young my counterparts are. I guess it’s just a part of life to feel this way. And part of me wonders why so vain?

Good Bye Tompkins Ave

Those of us who worked the summer session left the building yesterday for the last time. Walking through the hallway, down the main staircase and out the main entrance. It was so bittersweet for sure. This is where I began my career that I didn’t know I would love so much as a District 75 nurse. This is where my son began school when he returned to Staten Island after residential school. Where I came to train after being hired by the city and when the principal was told I had a son who had attended this school said, “Oh, she’s a Hungerford mom, we want her.” This is where I met the staff that I really hit it off with. All sorts of positions too, paraprofessionals, teachers, social workers, you name it. I’ll never forget it took me 3 years to get a particular para to just say hello to me. She is tough, man. Then one day she brought in a student with a suspected fever and she swore this student was feverish. I didn’t say anything, took the temp and she was right! I gave her mad props for picking that up and ever since she’s said hello, and talked to me, joked with me. It felt good!

I’m excited to see the new school and start new beginnings, with most of the same staff of course. To see the new nursing suite that I’ll be working in, to be able to decorate a bit. We return to work September 6 and the students return on the 8th. It will definitely be a busy time for us to get things put away, set up, enter new orders in the computer. Have I mentioned I was told we will be getting new work computers? The one I’ve used for the past 5 years is older than dirt. No camera, no microphone, big honking tower on the side. To participate in a remote meeting I had to use my cell phone. Good times …. So yes new office equipment will be absolutely welcomed and appreciated.

Vacation Here I Come!

Friday, August 12 is the last day of summer session, I’m really happy about that. We return on September 6 and the students return September 8. It will be an exciting back to school time; my school is moving to a brand new building. We’ve been packing up the nursing office this summer and it’s been interesting what one finds when cleaning out cabinets and closets. There was a large box of medical supplies that the packaging had turned yellow as well as the item itself. They were obviously expired and unusable, so off to the trash they went. Those supplies go way back to before I was hired, I can only imagine how old they were. And why so much? There are some nurses who hoard supplies. I’m thinking my predecessors were such hoarders.

When I first began packing I thought we would have just a “few” boxes. Ha! I couldn’t have been more wrong. At last count there were 18 boxes and I’m sure there will be a few more before the end of the last day. I had to call parents to pick up their child’s medications. They, the parents understood we were moving and couldn’t leave meds with us until September so they came today and other parents will arrive tomorrow.

Enough about work, I’m itching for the hours to fly by! My day hours at school usually pass pretty quickly, it’s the after school program hours that get me, especially lately. I’m just antsy to begin my summer vacation time. I took the day off yesterday and Tommy, Lelly and I went to the beach. It was really nice, the weather was clear and sunny and hot. The sand became very hot later in the afternoon, the kind of hot that makes you want to hop from one foot to the other or just run across the beach right into the water. Tommy and I walked very, very quickly down to the water which was so refreshing. I have to say though, taking a day when you have 2 days left before you are off is like a tease. Plus I felt like I was playing catch up when I returned to work. Whatever. It’s over and done. And after today we have one day left !!

Going Backwards for a Minute

I was talking with a coworker today about the parents of the students we care for. We talked of the fact that many parents do not make arrangements for their child after they leave the school we work for. I remember Thomas’ first IEP meeting at my school years before I even dreamed I would work there. The school team asked Tommy and I what our plans were for Thomas in the future. I remember feeling very unprepared for that question and we didn’t know how to answer them. One person said, “I suggest you write down group home placement; this question is your plan for when Thomas leaves this school.” Tommy and I were in agreement that that seemed logical and agreed. In the meantime one of the pastors from our church who has an adult son with autism had phoned me to gently suggest we place Thomas on the waiting list for group home placement. Thomas was 12 years old. Pastor Larry said he knew how old Thomas was but time passes fast and the list was long. Tommy and I agreed and I called the appropriate agency to ensure he was placed on this list. It was probably one of the best things we did for Thomas at that time.

When I was telling this to my co worker she mentioned how hard it is for parents of special needs children to open up to social workers, case managers, IEP personnel, etc…. Life is hard enough caring for that child; you then had all those people up in your business asking a ton of questions just so you can access services for your child that he/she is entitled to. I mentioned that it took years for me to allow an outside worker in my house. But that when I did allow a direct service provider in to my home it was a great experience for not only Thomas but my girls as well. I hadn’t thought of my hesitance to allow an “outsider” in my home in years. And I also hadn’t thought about all the interviews and in depth, personal questions I answered and endured just to get the worker set up to work with my son. Our conversation took me back and I didn’t realize it until I returned to my office and sat at my desk and was “back” to my now reality.

This was the second conversation I had with someone I work with about Thomas. How decisions Tommy and I made years ago were not about us as his parents. They were decisions made for what would be best for Thomas and our other children as well. Every family situation is different. However one thing that is constant and universal is that none of us are going to live forever. And that reality stings and is scary. I do not expect our girls to take care of Thomas when Tommy and I are no longer here. That is one of the many reasons why Thomas is in a group home. Planning for the future when that future is not what you had originally planned for is difficult. Tommy and I were fortunate that we had people in our lives who had the incredible, caring nerve to tell us what we should do for our son for his future. We are also fortunate that we chose to listen to unsolicited, well meaning advice. That we didn’t balk and get upset and rebuke people who were really in our corner.

I find there are parents who refuse to discuss the mere thought of group home placement. As if the words “group home” are not to be mentioned at all because their child will “never” be in a group home. The same goes for day programs, Thomas likes to go to his program, it gives him a purpose. Yet when I mentioned which program he attends to another parent, that parent shut down the conversation because that program wasn’t what that parent wanted for their child. We all want the best for our children. Whether that child be special needs or a typical child. And there are limits to what some day programs can provide. On the other hand there are criteria that must be met for the student to attend certain day programs. There is no one size fits all.

I found the conversation with my co worker and the emotions it brought up to be a reminder that some experiences shape the future if you let them.

Sunday’s Starring Thomas

Thomas comes to our house every Sunday. It’s his schedule, every Sunday from about 1:30/2:00 to 6:00. He doesn’t like to come any other day but Sunday. I once had him over for dinner on a Monday evening when Sunday didn’t happen. I picked him up after work. It didn’t go well. He was more high maintenance than usual, very needy and I think we all couldn’t wait for him (Including Thomas) to go back to his house after dinner. After that, Thomas told me, “ no more Mondays mom…no more Mondays. Only Sundays.” No problem. And we’ve stuck to that schedule ever since.

Today after I picked him up, Thomas told us all about his Saturday. The staff took the residents to the Safari at Six Flags and then to eat. I thought that was really cool. I’ve never been to the Safari, I enjoyed hearing about the animals they saw.

Some Sundays are more challenging than others. Even though we only see Thomas once a week he still knows how to push buttons. And on more than one occasion the short time he was here seemed like forever. I love my son don’t get me wrong but he can be a handful. He has a memory like a freaking elephant and will hold nothing back to tell you his perception of things that have transpired in the past. Last week Thomas blamed me for calling an ambulance for him years ago. His memory that is usually so fail proof must have blocked out that he was out of control and violent and I had no choice but to call 911. I reminded him gently that I had to call an ambulance for him and why but he would’t hear it. I on the other hand refused to be blamed for defending myself. I dropped him off feeling a bit, I don’t know, not traumatized but more defensive I guess. I know what I did was the right thing to do at the time.

Today Thomas was a pleasure to be with. No deep reflections on the past from him or me defending my actions. Mostly talk about the Safari trip and telling us how much he enjoys his new clothes that he purchased with recent birthday gift cards. You know, I don’t dwell on the past with Thomas. Things happened that I’ll never forget, but I have forgiven him. I would never be in the place I am now without forgiveness.

Almost Done…

There are 5 remaining days to the summer program; but who’s counting; everyone. I’m counting definitely since I signed up to work the after school program from 3pm to 6pm. And it’s only until 6pm when all parents pick up all their kids on time. When the parent runs late I have to stay until the last student’s parent arrives for them. I’m still astounded at the rudeness of certain parents who take advantage of coming late to pick up their child. Especially since their child has been at school all day and until 6pm. Seriously?? You’re late again??? Omg. I’ll say nothing more.

Other than the daily parent rudeness I don’t mind working the extra hours. It’s extra money which is always nice so no complaints there. I am tired though. I’m antsy for my summer to begin. Summer program lasts until August 12 which falls on a Friday, WhooHooo! None of that last day being on a Monday bull shit, thank goodness. Samantha and I are going to the Jersey Shore for a few days the first week that I’m off. We’re staying at a bed and breakfast about 2 blocks from the ocean. It’s going to be nice. The town we are staying in is quiet without a loud boardwalk, Yayyy! And Samantha and I are both cool with that. Asbury Park is a 10 minute walk away so we visit the boardwalk there. It’s not crazy busy and loud and that’s ok with the both of us.

The Youngest Child

My youngest child turns 16 years old tomorrow. I feel as though time totally slipped away from me with her and just went so so fast. I remember my pregnancy and her birth crystal clear. Samantha is actually my rainbow baby, I had 2 losses before her. As my husband said, 3rd time’s a charm, and she was the one who stayed with me. I don’t know why I wanted a 4th child. Even when Thomas was at his worst people would say jokingly, “So you’re done right?” Haha…. And I would truthfully answer No, I’d have another. And the weird side glance looks would ensue. But whatever, I had my life to lead and I wasn’t living for “them”.

Samantha’s due date was July 31. And all my kids before were born on exactly their due date; go figure. So that day, 16 years ago I was impatient. My sister figured that she wanted her own month since Alyssa, Tommy and Thomas all have July birthdays. Well she was right. Samantha entered the world August 1st at 11:37pm.

Sam, as she likes to be called, is absolutely her own person, marches to the best of her own drum, or whatever other cliche that’s said to describe someone who breaks the traditional mould. She never was a girly girl and still isn’t. When high school opened to in person learning Sam jumped at the chance to play sports. First volleyball then wrestling. I was like wrestling? Ok. Whatever makes you happy. She ended up placing 2nd in the city her first year. Pretty great.

Samantha talks to me. I’m honored actually that all my girls talk to me. But being that Sam is so different than her sisters I’m really glad she trusts me and feels comfortable enough to let her guard down and be open and honest with me. I don’t judge but I will give my opinion solicited or not.

Sam did not want a big party. It’s her birthday and we never pressured our girls to do what we thought was “right” when they had other plans. Right now she’s enjoying her friends in our backyard after celebrating fairly quietly with close family yesterday afternoon.

Happy birthday to my last baby, the one who teaches me to accept people for who they are, not who I want them to be. The one who God blessed me with. Actually I truly believe God granted me my wish for a fourth child and He said, “ You want a fourth? Oh I’ll give you a fourth…”. And here she is now 16 years old. We traveled a different road of parenting with this girl than our older girls. It hasn’t been a terrible road, just a road that has a different terrain. And Samantha led the way.

Taking a Day/Man or Woman?

I had a doctors appointment this morning. Nothing serious, more of a check up. But trying to schedule an appointment when your working hours for the summer are 7:30am to 6pm was a little difficult. First I thought I would go in to work late with my appointment early in the morning but the more I thought about it the more I leaned towards just taking the whole day off and so I did. Here are my thought while I sit on the beach on my day off:

When I gave birth to my first 3 children I used a midwife practice for my prenatal care and deliveries. The midwives were wonderful and very low intervention/low risk pregnancies. I chose to have the epidural with Thomas and hated the after effects of it so when I was approaching labor with my next 2 children I kept an open mind and told myself I would try to deliver without pain meds but it was an option should I change my mind. I didn’t change my mind, I didn’t use pain meds and Alyssa and Lelly were wonderful births. I was up and about right after I had them, no waiting for anything to wear off and no side effects. That was my experience. With Samantha I was pregnant after 2 miscarriages and chose to go to a male obstetrician who was the midwives back up doctor. I adored him and I can’t imagine me getting better care from anyone else. I gave birth to Samantha without medication or interventions as well.

Presently, being at a time in my life where I still requirement care for issues that woman have to deal with I’ve had experiences with both men and woman practitioners. And personally at this stage of life I prefer a woman doctor. The doctor I saw this morning was a woman and absolutely incredible. She explained every little detail of my visit and had a very gentle touch. She cared about what was going on and the procedures she needed to do.

I’ve heard conflicting experiences from close friends. Some who say woman doctors are cold and uncaring and also those that say the same about male doctors practicing within a woman’s specialty field. I feel as though I’ve experienced the best of both worlds. I’m not a male doctor hater, far from it. I used to love to have a health visit with nurse practitioners. They were usually kind, extremely thorough and gentle both in touch and mannerism. However the last 3 times I’ve used an NP for either myself or one of my children I was highly disappointed in the care we received. Talk about cold and condescending. I was so so surprised. I’m not painting all doctors male or female with the same brush nor do I feel all NP’s are cold practitioners. These have just been my recent experiences and mo one was more surprised than me. I am very open minded.

Sometimes I Wonder/And Thomas

There are many times I post in my blog and I really wonder if anyone’s reading it. I suppose that could be thought of by anyone who writes something for the world to see. Thank you all to those who responded to my last post and thank you also for the “congratulations” I received for passing the certification exam. I really appreciate every single one.

It’s mid morning Sunday as I write this. My week days are so long with working the after school program I’m happy to do nothing or just catch up with laundry on the weekends. Yesterday Samantha and I hit the thrift and did well so that was really nice. I vacuumed yesterday, it was glorious if you can believe it. One of our dogs is half golden retriever/ half golden lab and she’s a blonde so you can only imagine the shedding we try to keep up with. She’s an amazing, sweet girl so she’s worth it.

Since it’s Sunday Thomas will be coming over. He only wants to visit on Sunday. I would say that it is odd but it’s soooo Thomas. I have no idea if Lelly or Samantha will be home for dinner so it looks like it could be just him and I. And that’s ok. 2 weeks ago it was Thomas’ birthday, he turned 26 years old. I seriously wonder when that happened. His childhood into adolescence; as his parents, was one great, not so pleasant roller coaster. It’s only in the past say 8 years aside from him being a baby that I really enjoy him. And even then there are some Sundays where he’s so high maintenance I’m done after those few hours. I love him, he’s “mine” as I’ve declared so many times but he’s Thomas. It’s funny because I’ve been told by many different people how polite he is, great manners, that he is really a nice person, that he’s not mean. I appreciate all that. And of course grateful to get feedback that he isn’t “mean.” However as his mother I didn’t get to experience what a nice person he is until fairly recently. All the violence he displayed to me was due to him being mentally ill and primarily brain damaged. In other words it wasn’t his fault. I know that logically but living through what I’ve experienced from him caused harm that took a long time to heal from.

So today I’ll pick up my son and we’ll hit up TJ Maxx so he can spend gift cards Thomas received for his birthday. At first he blatantly said he didn’t want the gift cards; Thomas is well aware what a gift card is (thanks kid…) but I think it sunk in that he could go shopping with his own money and he eventually changed his mind. He now wants me to take him to TJ maxx today. Thomas likes to shop. And if he’s not doing the shopping he will be more than happy to enable and encourage you to buy whatever it is you are on the fence about purchasing. It’s actually fun to go shopping with him. He picks out his own clothes and he chooses nice things (thank God). He has no issue with trying clothes on either. It’s sweet that I get to spend time with this nice guy I raised.

After School Program In The Summer

I’m working at my school this summer as I’ve mentioned before. I was hoping for an after school program to open up for extra hours. Unexpectedly an opportunity fell in my lap, I couldn’t believe it. I work at my school from 8 am to 2:30, travel 10 minutes to another school that is participating in an after school program and there are D75 students attending. I’m at the after school program from 3pm to 6pm. However due to parents who do not pick up their children on time, I stay late. I’m not to leave until the last student is picked up and that has been anywhere from 6:30 to 6:45. Annoying, to say the least and totally rude in my opinion. Last evening we waited 2 hours. You can’t make this shit up.

Aside from the pick up issue it’s a good side gig. I’m responsible to provide nursing care if any of the D75 students have any health issues. Most of my time is taken up with one student who requires care and nursing procedures and that’s ok. That’s why I’m there. Besides it makes the time go faster. I’d rather be busy or have a schedule to follow than do nothing.

This past Saturday I sat for the National Certification of School Nurses exam. I scheduled it months ago and have been studying off and on. Mostly taking practice tests. I’m proud to say I passed!! 200 questions. It wasn’t the most difficult test I’ve taken but it wasn’t the easiest either. A lot of growth and development questions, first aid nursing interventions for various situations, and many other scenarios. Studying and taking those practice tests was definitely the way to go. I am proud of myself for this certification.