Is there something going on at home?

Ugh. I hate this question. I honestly, truly do. Who wouldn’t? I called Maria’s school today to see how she was doing, and I swear it’s only the second time I’ve done it, only because she was crying as her dad was taking her down to the car. She’s been lining up her dolls and telling them to “shush” for a while now and because I know kids tend to imitate, I just wanted to know if maybe she’s imitating practices at the school. Maybe they have some kind of “naughty chair” practice for kiddos that are acting up. “Well, we don’t do that” the school’s director answered. Neither do I! If anything, Maria is boss at home! We hardly ever scold her, even when she’s drawing on the walls with her eraseable markers and crayons I just figure that comes with the territory. This is an autism home, mess is just a part of our lives whether you’re autistic or not. So after I hung up, and feeling like I was the one that got the scolding I figured I would go down to the school myself, I would go and demand either an apology or some freaking answers. So I did, and I’m glad, in a way. And to my surprise, I was met with an open heart, and some kind words.
As soon as I was escorted into her office, this lady who sounded so judgmental over the phone told me how much in awe she is of me for raising my son with autism and his typical sister, for doing so much for my boy and for having such a bright little kid like Maria. Yeah but what about the “Is there something going on at home?” question. I mean aside from living in a home with a brother who won’t speak or play with her, because of his autism, what else could be going on? I’m constantly playing with them, both of them, helping them, caring for them, doing my best to make up for the time I spend away from them due to work, why did this question make me feel like such a failure? And most importantly, why is Maria constantly scolding her dolls? Maybe she’s just taking out her ‘stress’ from us not scolding Panayioti when he sometimes hits her? Or, maybe it’s just part of her bossy character, because she is kind of bossy to be honest. The other day I was singing while she was sitting at her table and drawing on her drawing pad for once and she looked up and said “Mama, shush” all with a very serious expression on her face. Ok, she doesn’t like it when I sing sometimes, oh well. Also, she won’t let me do stuff for her like put her milk in her bottle. Nope, she wants to be the one to open the fridge, take her milk out, and pour (with just a tiny bit of help from me at this point) the milk into her bottle. “No, me!” she yells if I try to do it. So yeah, she’s bossy alright. But, in a good way. The only thing is, she’s bossy with Panayioti too but I think that’s mainly our fault. When he’s giving out little shrieks, and running from one end of the house to the other, I’ll say something like “Maria, tell your brother we don’t do that”, or “Maria, bring your brother to the table so we can eat”, or “Maria, help your brother take his jacket off”, and the constant “Maria, hold on to your brother’s hand tight so he won’t run away” when we’re out and so on and so on. Come to think of it, it’s all our fault. Maria thinks she’s the older of the two because we’ve been making her “take care” of her big bro and now she’s just so used to it she’s doing it without us asking her to. Poor baby . . .
I felt really down leaving Maria’s school and when I got to work I was literally counting the minutes till I got home. I wanted to be with my babies, to hold them and squeeze them in my arms. All I could think of while at work is that Maria is growing up with a non-verbal brother and how unfair it is for her. But she’s growing up with so many people that love her to bits, including her non-verbal bro.

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Mommy Issues

I was asked over the weekend which is harder: being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. And hands down I believe and feel that being a stay-at-home is much much harder. It’s harder for many reasons, one of them being that there is no guilt involved. As a working mom, even if there’s tons of work to do, you’ll still get your lunch break. There’ll be some downtime where you’ll have about an hour, sometimes even more, to check something out on the internet, to chat with colleagues, to grab some coffee, to have a ciggie, to talk on the phone. And all this, without the fear of the baby waking up, or climbing on your back or crying or whining for some reason. On Mondays I work the evening shift which means I leave home around 11 so as to be there by noon and work until 8. I won’t get home until 9 and then it’ll be time for bed soon. I will have seen my kids for about an hour. Guilt. Every day my husband drops me off at the station where I grab the train for work and on the way to the car and sometimes while inside the car, my son wants to hold my hand the whole entire time. Guilt. He’s non-verbal so he lets out little sounds when I get out of the car and looks both sad and a bit lost like he’s thinking “where is mom going?”. Guilt. It kills me. It really, truly does. And because I only have the weekends to do chores like clean the house, cook a whole meal, or iron our clothes, his grandpa comes and picks him up around 10 in the morning and we get separated again because someone has to do all house stuff and that someone is me. He doesn’t always go willingly. There’s your guilt, again. I told my husband last night that I should ask for a day off to spend some time with our son. To go pick him up from school and then take him out somewhere fun. I feel like he misses me, that he’s trying to tell me in his own way like refusing to go to bed and constantly ‘asking’ for hugs and sometimes even by his unexplained tantrums that what he’s really trying to say is that he wants to spend more time with me. I quit my job last year so that I could be there for him, and him only. And I did. I was a stay-at-home mom for a little over a year and the majority of that time I was with Panayioti. Now I’m part-time with everyone, Maria, Panayioti, my husband and even me. Sometimes I feel like a robot when I’m home. There’s stuff to do that if I let my guard down even for a minute they won’t get done and things will spin out of control. I have to change into my sweats as soon as I come home and make their beds, get their clothes out for the next day, get Panayioti’s lunch for the next day ready, read both Maria’s and Panayioti’s notes from their teachers and make them dinner. Of course, tidying up is a constant ritual of mine. And then it’s time for bed which is a whole other routine: Showers, pjs, getting them calm for bed, etc. But reading over this post, I realize just how hard being a working mom is too even without the guilt. So I guess both scenarios are hard. But if you’re happy, love your kids to bits, are in love with your spouse and tolerate your job (because I can’t truly say that I love my job) then everything is manageable. Everything.

It’s been one whole year.

It’s been a year since I started this blog. I was in desperate need of an outlet, a creative outlet, a rant outlet, a way to let off some steam, be myself, write about our lives, my life, my son’s life, our pressures, our problems, our good days and our bad days. I had quit my job in order to be a stay-at-home mom and take care of my son and become even more involved in his therapies, help him and myself work through our issues and I think it did him a whole lot of good. He was, and is, in a very good school, and his behavior has improved immensely. But I wasn’t happy. My husband wasn’t happy. We were always strapped for case, although we didn’t change much in our day-to-day activities, we were always worried about what the day would bring tomorrow. What if something major happened and we just didn’t have enough cash to cover it?? K was constantly ranting about that. As an accountant, worrying and planning about the future is basically in his blood. You need to go back to work he’d say to me all the time. And it’s not like I wasn’t looking. But if you don’t live in Greece at the present where the situation out there is beyond horrible then you just don’t know how hard it is to compete with girls fresh out of school. I mean, with all my studies and credentials and experience I actually got upset when I got turned down for a job as a waitress at a cafe! What does that say about us? Anyway, I’m working now, full-time and it’s still tough, though not as tough financially because the pay is good. But we put little Maria in daycare, more for social skill building reasons than anything else really. That has been tough on me because I still feel like she’s too young to be away from home for such long periods of time during the day. She’s a trooper though, and she’s adjusted beautifully, made little friends too. Like I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, she knows the drill. She’s been awesome in helping us with Panayioti and she’s always helping me with her brother when some days he just wants to be in his ‘zone’. There are days when I think she’s the older of the two.

Last weekend I took the little guy to cirque du soleil, vip seats and everything. I wanted him to be right up-front to get the full effect of the show. It was OK though. He seemed more interested in his popcorn (playing with eat-not eating it) and sniffing his vip pass, than anything else and not that interested in the acrobatics, something that surprised me knowing how much he loves to climb things and hang off stuff. Kind of regretted the 140 euros I gave, but oh well. And then yesterday I dragged the whole familia to a very, very northern suburb of Athens for a day in nature. The company I work for footed the entrance tickets for 4 adults and kids got in for free. There was tons of stuff to do there but it was cold and windy, Miss Maria has a tiny bit of a cough, and Panayioti just whined the whole entire time. I think the only time he enjoyed himself was when it was just the two of us and we sat in this quiet little corner and listenend to live musicians playing soft Greek music. When it was time to leave he kept looking back at the musicians and I thought how much if he could talk he’d say that he wanted to stay.

A lot has changed this past year. But a lot of things are the same and that’s fine with me. The little guy is still non-verbal but so much more cooperative and communicating in other ways. And way more independent when it comes to the bathroom. I was calling out to him the other day and got no response so of course I panicked. But then as I passed by the bathroom I noticed the door was ajar and saw two little feet dangling from the toilet. He actually pulled his pants and undie down and sat on the seat all by himself! That’s huge. He didn’t take my hand and lead me there and wait while I help him like he always does. He did it by himself. Everything. Just another ‘tiny’ proud autism parent moment.

And work has been ok. It’s only been 2 1/2 months and I’m slowly finding my pace, focusing on what I’m good at, shaking off the negative vibes from certain people and the snickering and snide remarks due to the fact that I’ve never been someone’s personal assistant before so I can’t really compete with others that have been there for over 10 years, and although I have been in Greece for a while now I still have unknown words, and phrases but I ask and I ask. And every day that goes by I realize that I’m stronger than I thought and that’s always a good thing, right?

Did I mention I started working?

Oh it’s not anything grand, or special, or super wow, or anything really fancy but in this day n’ age, and in this economic crisis, it’s sort of like a miracle really. There is so much competition out there, so many people vying for a job, any job, some people with degrees and a lot of people without degrees and lots of single women without ‘strings’ which in Greece means kids and husbands to take care of. But here I am, almost 35, with two kids, one of which is special needs (which I mentioned in my third interview – mostly because I was sort of fed up to be called in for yet another interview and kinda wanted to push their buttons) and a husband to take care of. I need the money bad though, we all do. Who doesn’t need money, right? Only if you live in some sort of bubble can you not be in need of cash right now, especially in Greece. And I’ve been sort of lucky this year. Yeah I was broke a lot of times and borrowed money, mostly from my sis-in-law whom I always paid back, who’s got tons and probably is one of the very very few people not affected by the crisis thanks to her shrewd money-saving skills from a little girl basically, but I’ve been lucky, way lucky. I still went out with my kids, I still bought them stuff, and managed to fulfill my Sephora addiction to high-priced creams, perfumes and lipsticks, I still kept my monthly manicure/pedicre appointment, we still went out for dinner and ordered out and stuff. We still made it this year on one income alone and didn’t touch any of our savings, what with all the therapies Panayioti has going on. I mean, we took OT to once a week instead of two and I was his OT at home, basically doing his therapies for 1 1/2 hours every day to make up for that but nothing changed in Panayioti in a bad way. He didn’t regress. If anything, he improved. So, mommy not working and not having tons of money didn’t affect my kids. Husband whined a bit though, because he hates being late in paying our maintenance bill lest the superintendent sees us in the hall or at the entrance and makes some sort of embarassing comment like “when are you going to pay your bills?” and stuff. But, oh well, we’re two months behind in that. And Eurobank keeps badgering me ’cause I haven’t paid my credit cards since January. Again, oh well 🙂 These things don’t affect me. I probably wouldn’t have paid even if I did have a job. But I do now. So maybe I will go in when I get paid at the end of the month and give something their way. But mostly my first month’s pay is going to go to P’s school which I’m behind in, for the first time mind you, and maybe buy a new dress for work 🙂 I’m nervous though to be working full-time and not seeing my kids as much and trying to be perfect at everything but I’m giving it my all because I want to impress my boss and prove that I can make it even with all my ‘strings’. Just once this week my flight instinct kicked in and I wanted to make a run for it during my lunch break. I kept thinking: what would happen if I just took the Metro home right now, right in the middle of my working day? The old Georgia, no strings attached Georgia, would so do it. Especially on Thursday when, without any training whatsoever, I was asked to do things, draw up documents that I had no idea as to how to even begin constructing. I told hubby this and he just looked at me like he didn’t recognize me. “You can’t quit”, he says to me. “You have kids”. So that’s it basically. I got a job and I should be happy and grateful, which I am because it’s a really nice job, no heavy lifting or serving. A nice office job for some high-profile people, that pays well considering we’re right smack in the middle of a recession/depression. I am super lucky, indeed.

I laughed so hard I cried.

It’s always good to get out of the house, sans kids. To get out and meet people, nice people, funny people. Even weird people. I had the opportunity to work for just three days at a convention taking place in a swanky and luxurious hotel in Athens. The hours weren’t too long, the pay was crap, but still it gave me the chance to get up and out of my sweats and into some nice clothes for a change. To get dollied up, a bit. And at this event I met some very interesting people. People that made me laugh so hard I was literally doubled over and very much close to tears. Just in case he’s reading this, I won’t say what he said that was so funny that made me both cringe and cry with laughter. It takes a special kind of talent to do that though. This person, that made me laugh so hard, is another parent and our kids are close in age. It’s funny but he is the only person I’ve met so far that when I told him about my son’s ASD said “I hate it when kids [have something]”. You know!! That’s how I’ve always felt whenever I’ve heard about kids being sick, with anything!! I’ve never thought about the parents and how hard it must be for them, because you know what? It sucks for the kids the most!! I of course had no intention of mentioning anything personal to anyone but for some reason, his and my experiences as parents just seemed to click. And when I mentioned I write a blog I felt I would be half-lying if I didn’t mention what my blog was about. In any case, the pharmaceutical group of guys (all Indian) I was helping out with hostessing was cool too, except for maybe one guy that just seemed to go out of his way to give me stuff to do they were all pretty decent. I got to learn some Indian culture stuff I didn’t know about which was interesting, like Indian guys all dye their hair black until they get married because white/grey hairs are considered extremely unattractive for single young (Indian) women. Some, even after they’re married. As I looked around at the 10-12 men surrounding me it struck me just how black, and shiny, their hair was. This little bit of info could only mean that George Clooney must be at the bottom of the sexiest men alive list in India. I’m telling you, it was fun, I was cracking up laughing. Plus, I got told I was pretty at least 5 times per day and that’s always a good thing, right? 

Back to square one

On Monday I went to work. My first day working for a news site, covering stories, uploading stories,researching stories, transcribing interviews, the works! I did all that all in an 8-hour shift and towards the end of my first day at work I found out a few things: #1 – I would not be paid the first month (actually, this is the only thing I did know) #2 – my salary after the first month will be exactly 500 euros and WITHOUT insurance coverage(yikes!) and lastly, I have to bring my own laptop to work. What can I say? I did not go back on Tuesday and I honestly feel as though I did the right thing. It wouldn’t have worked out. This is one experience I don’t need at this point in my life. I’ve learned to pay attention to the internal warning sirens when they go off and there were definitely bells going off right from the start. Oh well. But feeling as if I have to do something to find a job, even if that means to beg, because at some point our funds will run out eventually and we won’t have money to pay for Panayioti’s therapies and I am not about to cut anything, I made a few phone calls. First phone call to my old witch of a boss. Now when I say witch, I mean the wickedest witch there is. A woman who loves to put people down, who relinquishes seeing other people squirm, who gets some sort of satisfaction from the pain of others. I sound melodramatic, don’t I? Um, just ask anyone who works for her. She’s a major publisher of ELT books, by the way. This woman is the most horrible boss ever. For starters, she makes up stuff about her employees. Actually spreads rumors about the people who work for her. Who does that? Oh, and did I mention that this woman wears fishnet stockings to work? Seeing a 70 year old woman in black fishnet stockings in the daytime is some sight. Seeing a 70 year old woman in black fishnet stockings, sky-high hair, and arms full of gold bracelets yelling at some poor employee in the daytime, what a sight!! Anyway, I called her. As soon as she heard my voice the iciness in her tone practically froze the phone on my ear. I said, in all honesty, that I’ve mustered all the courage that I have to call her personally and ask if I could have my job back (which by the way the editor-in-chief said was mine if I ever decided to come back when I quit). She replied that there are no vacancies. I thanked her and hung up as quickly as I could because for some strange reason I just balled. I couldn’t control the tears, they were flowing like crazy!! And poor Beba was just watching me all puzzled ’cause she’s never seen me cry, at least not like this. I cried and I cried and tried to talk myself out of crying but I couldn’t stop. Eventually I did, the hugs from Beba calmed me down. And then I felt silly. I mean when I left from that hell-hole I felt sooo happy. Why would I ever want to go back there? Because of the money. She paid well. And on time. A rarity in Greece at the moment. The next two phone calls to people that I know about jobs were of the same outcome, but at least I didn’t cry this time. There are no vacancies, anywhere. Something noteworthy and kind of bizarre:every time I get down about not finding a job Kosta, my aloof, somewhat indifferent husband, becomes really caring and affectionate. He actually hugged me when he came home and told me all will go well. Yeah, I guess so.