Punky Mama


Christmas List Fun

The boys made Christmas lists last week.  I was proud of them, the lists each contained less than ten items, and were devoid of garbage plastic toys that break on Christmas Day and expensive electronics. Each boys list was so interesting and still they want so many of the same things.

First up is both want drawers near their computer desks. I think that I may have the only 9 and 11 year old boys who request furniture for Christmas. Both of course want footie pajamas which has been their favorite lounge wear since they were little.  Now that Ryan is man sized this gets harder but I found some for him. Books, my kids love books. They want to own the books and read them over and over again. Ryan has been very into trains and I bought him some books on train history and Aaron loves graphic novels. Although Aaron has been reading far ahead of his age he has not been interested in chapter books till recently so and I got him a bunch of those.

Along with the above Ryan wants money to spend on his Roblox game, Nerf guns, and a usb mouse.  He also requests a hug from everyone, time with his Dad, and three feet of snow sometime soon.  The latter warmed my heart, although I am not sure I can make it snow.  Elliott has off from December 23rd till January 5th so Ryan will have plenty of time with him.

Aaron wants ten bottles of this creamy allergen free poppyseed dressing he loves from Brianna’s.  I don’t always buy this, it is a small bottle and he could eat three to five bottles a week at $6 a pop.  I usually buy one a month, but for Aaron that is never enough. I do think he is the only kid ever who asked for a case of salad dressing for Christmas which he puts all over everything he eats. Aaron also wants a Super Soaker water gun, I said kid it is December.  He replied yeah, it will get warm eventually. He also loves Highlights Magazine, he has a subscription but he finishes the books in an evening. I found Highlights on ebay with three years of the magazines plus the puzzlebooks he loves from 2006, 2007, and 2008 which is not too long ago. He finished his list with an art kit.

I was proud to read these lists. They show I have kids who think differently, who are not greedy, and are thoughtful.  They didn’t go overboard and really asked for what they wanted. I am so glad they are my family because they are neat people, not that I am biased or anything.

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So What Are You Going To Do?

I remember a few years back when Ryan was struggling with life. He was in the middle of being abused in school, his behavioral consultant was not doing his job, and we were trying ADHD meds that were leaving him with allergic reactions. I remember one of the Dad’s at swim team said, what are going going to do when Aaron passes Ryan in swimming, in school, well in life?  I got really angry but it was clear to me that this person meant well, but he had a very single minded way of seeing how a child could develop.  Aaron has not yet passed Ryan in swimming since Ryan is so tall and so strong. It is becoming very clear Aaron has bypassed Ryan academically.

Ryan thinks differently. He has a very good mind for how things work. When the lamp in my bedroom stopped working, it was my 11 year old boy who figured out how to make it work again. He wants to know how things operate and he often thinks up fantastical ideas for inventions. Lately his inventions are less fantastical and more practical, I have seen him come up with ideas and when he figured out the idea was scientifically impossible he takes from his thoughts the parts that work and the ones that do not work.  He wants to study physics and we regularly talk about the properties of physics in the car with him Googleing what we don’t know. The reality. Ryan is just approaching grade level in school after entering  his new school two years behind. Typical learning is hard for him because of a combination of his learning disabilities, ADHD, and sensory issues. He has to work much harder than other students to get where he is going but he is starting to have real success.

Aaron can learn from books.  He is an academic kid. He loves his brain to be engaged at all times from the moment he wakes up till the moment he goes to sleep. He likes when I engage him in projects- all projects,  from doing inventory of Thorazine merch, to packing up stuff I sold on ebay, to anything to do with arts and crafts, models, puzzles, all of it is for him.  He is busy ALL THE TIME.  The kid goes to bed with a flashlight, a puzzle book, and a pen.  School comes easy to him and he is a huge fan of the project based learning at the school. He brings home lovely projects that he completes in school.  This year he started 6th grade from his 3rd grade classroom happily ingesting the enhanced content while doing things that are appropriate for a 3rd grader to do. He is a happy,voracious, and busy learner.

Today I kept the boys out of school.  It was a half day and I was not going to have them commute an hour each way for three and a half hours of school since with the flexible cyber charter we could easily do the half day of school at home. Ryan had a question about school and he unplugged his earphones so I could hear what he was doing. Aaron piped up are you really up to just that???  I did that last year! Ryan’s face fell as Aaron walked away.  I said Ryan, don’t let that get you down.  Academics are his strong suit but it does not mean that he is smarter than you.  You both learn differently and are interested in different things. He lightened up but tonight he asked Aaron if he could have one of his puzzle books to work on before bed.  If this pushed him a little I am happy about it, but I never want him to think he is any less than his brother.


A Food Allergic Girl Walks Into A Bar…….

The bar I work is a smokey dive bar.  The air is so thick at times it is like you are like you are walking through fog.  It’s a cash only, smokey, old man’s drinkin bar with fancy beer cheap.  A woman walked in and declared, I am allergic to wheat.  Can I have anything and still be safe?

She didn’t realize she met which is probably the only dive bartender in Center City Philly who has first hand knowledge on how to keep her safe. She wanted the cider on tap and I told her there was no way I could guarantee that there would not be cross contamination so I steered her toward a cider in a pub can.  I then took her glass went to a sink where we don’t wash beer glasses and washed her glass with soap and warm water, finishing it off with cold water as so not hand the woman a hot glass.

She thanked me and said, I never expected to get this level of caution for my well being in a dive bar.  I laughed and I said oh friends of the food allergic lurk everywhere. Then I told her about Aaron and we chatted for a while about how restaurants are so much better trained then they used to be.  She found bars lagged farther behind. She then asked the nights I worked because she said, if I am ever in this part of Center City again I will drop by when you are working.

So many people in Aaron’s life go out of their way to make sure he is safe. I felt great to give back.

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Assistant Coach

When I moved to Philadelphia I worked at a Jewish Community Center.  I was a lifeguard, a swim instructor, a swim coach, and an assistant diving coach. It was a great job for a college student but after I found West Philadelphia and punk shows I left coaching and teaching behind. I remember it being so rewarding. I taught a 75 year old woman who was undergoing cancer treatments to swim. She regretted never learning when she was young and by the end of her sessions she knew how to do three laps on her own, which I swam with her. The celebration was so sweet and I will never forget her. She passed six months later.

I have not been involved with aquatics since that time. My life started to focus more on music and things in West Philly. When my kids started to swim I volunteered at the meets but they have PLENTY of coaches who are way more qualified than I am. I am happy my kids love the water and I am usually on deck during meets helping line up the kids plus I am the webmaster for the team.  Elliott runs the computer at the meets. We help how we can.

Two weeks ago at the diving practice Ryan was really off task so I had him by the side of the pool and I started helping kids with their entries to the water which is legs straight, toes pointed,  tight body position, and vertical.  It helped Ryan stay on task and the other kids around me started working with me.  By the end of the practice the coach asked me if I wanted to help all the other divers when they are not on the board. She is the only coach and she sure looked like she needed some help many nights since you can’t focus on everything at once. This past Tuesday was my first practice and I was introduced as Coach Jo-Ann! It was the first time I was Coach since I was in my 20’s.

Hey since I have this fancy dancy Kinesiology degree and the memories of how to dive in my head I might as well help, but it felt really good. I worked with a young girl who was terrified to do a back dive after she smacked her legs on the water. I had her doing back dives off the side by herself but she was still reluctant to do this off the board. She will get it next week.

Till then Coach Jo-Ann over and out.


Trust and the Orchestra

Last night we were in the car going to swim team. A friend called, yes I used hands free, to ask about where to park downtown near where the orchestra plays.  The bar where I work is near the venue so I told her where to go.  As I got off the conversation Aaron started asking questions about the orchestra.  He was asking the names of the instruments, why they were called what they are called, and if I had ever met anyone in an orchestra. I answered his questions, we talked of brass instruments, stringed instruments, woodwinds, and I told him stories of orchestra members who used to frequent the bar and how storing their instruments was always a hassle. He went on to ask can you take me to the orchestra sometime?  I immediately said yes and made a note to look for the free or family orchestra events.

The whole time we talked Ryan was disruptive. When we talked about brass instruments he talked about brass knuckles, he went on and on to say the orchestra is dumb I would never want to go to that.  He got increasingly negative the more we talked till I had to say Ryan this is not your conversation. Time to be quiet if you have nothing positive to add to what we are saying.

A couple miles later Ryan blurts out.  I can’t see the orchestra.  The orchestra reminds me of my old music teacher.  The old music teacher who singled him out and kicked him out of chorus. He went on, my old teacher always played orchestra music. I said Ryan, I appreciate you telling me about this. How can I help?  He said I don’t know but the thought of going to the orchestra makes me very anxious. I then said well maybe we will talk to your therapist about this?  He agreed and before he changed the conversation I said, Ryan, thanks for trusting me with this information. The more you tell me when stuff like this bothers you the more we can help you. He smiled and the conversation switched.

He astounds me that at such a young age he is able to know why and how he is feeling something. I am so proud of him.



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