Not quite wind, but carrying change nonetheless

The scariest part about being a mother isn’t the process, it’s the anticipation of the process being over and having to ask yourself if you are obsolete.

I am at no risk of becoming obsolescent; I don’t know how comforting this thought really is because, ultimately, it means that J will be living with us -and somewhat dependent on us- for a long time.  In other words: we don’t get to slowly transition into any sort of retirement…ever!

Lately, though, I’ve noticed that J has blossomed in an unexpected way.  We’ve talked before about how he can be SUCH a teenager with the clothes, the music, the independence…and how this tickles us pink because it’s a sign that, under all the gloves, the hats, and such, there’s definitely adolescent brain activity to match his outward appearance.

Let’s add to the mix the little details that have suddenly, and gradually, crept into our day-to-day existence.  I’m talking, namely, about dirty dishes left in the sink, bed made in a rush and -obviously- only to prove that it’s done, tossing of shoes into the closet carelessly, wearing a t-shirt with a stain on it.  J now joyfully bounds up the stairs to get to his room or ignores calls for dinner until we go to get him.  This is not a sign of depression, this is a sign that he no longer feels the urge to prove he’s paying attention.  This is J’s happy “screw it” to the more obsessive aspects of Autism.

I guess I failed to notice this change because I’ve been distracted by life in general.  We moved to this state a few months ago and, as you all know, that leads to a lot of tangents and to falling into an unfamiliar groove that you work at making familiar.  And now it has become obvious, because we had time to hang out together last week, that J is evolving.

We have known for a while that J prefers the company of his cooler older brother.  Let’s face it: the dude has a goatee, earrings, tattoos, a leather jacket, long hair, and turns the volume up whenever their favorite songs play.  We, on the other hand, are…his parents.  We are the ones who name the chores and when to do them, who walk up to his door, knock and say “volume, please.”  We are the ones who are only cool indoors, at home, with the curtains drawn.  It’s not that he doesn’t like us, it’s just that the realization that we are lame has finally caught up to him.

What a relief!

At the same time: what now?

Thankfully, my husband and I are very much a couple.  We are into each other; we enjoy each other’s company; we feel comfortable pursuing our own interests and knowing the other person isn’t going to feel neglected.  We got married knowing that our nest would never be completely empty because, well, J is a given (we have this image of him sitting in the backseat of the car, pissed off because we’re going to the early-bird dinner AGAIN!)

I’ve been a mom for nearly 21 years now, and I’m pretty competent at it (I wouldn’t dream of saying I’m great because I have screwed up left and right, up and down and round-and-round,) but I won’t be “mom” forever.  Well…let me amend that: I won’t be “JUST mom” forever.  I am sure that, in a few years, J will feel I am underfoot if I try to interfere more than is absolutely necessary.  The big difference between J and his brother is that I started getting ready for these changes much, much earlier and with greater enthusiasm.

When I speak to women who have no real experience with a disabled individual in their household or as a part of their work, they ask me what I do for a living.  I don’t quite know how to answer that question.  The word “housewife” seems a little dated; “professional mother and home resources administrator” -my job description of choice- sounds like a joke; “just a mom” makes it sound like I drive a van, cart the kids around, belong to a book club and stuff like that…  “What did you study?”  “Liberal Arts” compels them to go “ooooooooooh,” and “I have  an M.A.” makes them go “aaaah…oooooh” with a lilt of incomprehension and sadness in their voices.  I tell them I’ve worked: I’ve been a teacher, a receptionist, a file clerk, an administrative assistant, a membership coordinator at a museum, a barista, a bookseller…”ooooooh!”  They are never impressed and then, like the dork that wants a bit of acceptance from her not-quite peers, I interject “I’ve always wanted to be a writer…” in a hesitant tone.  “There you go!  You could write a book!  I’d buy it!!!”

I’m not looking to reinvent myself; if I’d wanted to be a different person, I would’ve taken a different route when I had time still unfolding ahead of me like a blank canvas.  Right now, my pages are ruled.  That’s my fact of life.  The rest of my days come with built-in chaos that changes in surges and spurts, and I’m OK with that.  I’ve never REALLY been “just mom” because, for the most part, I’ve been paying attention and I know my kids -well…one of them more than the other- are “on loan,” merely spending those last few minutes in the oven to brown enough so that they are ready to be served and look like the picture that came with the recipe.

Right now, at this particular point, I am just happy that -while I was a little distracted by the day-to-day- something changed that made us a little less isolated from the mainstream.  My house is a little messier and I have a few more dishes to wash; I now use the “mom” voice to get J to finish something left unattended mid-task…or to pick something up from the floor…or to not run up the stairs…


Between the overcast sky and the long wait for our appointment, the whole thing did not bode well.  J, of course, wanted to leave and used his standard “go in the car!” request repeatedly, but we all managed to keep our cool.  I explained several times “this is the doctor we talk to…we don’t get poked, prodded or jostled here.”

It is with great relief that I announce it went well.  Obviously not an eco-van sort of guy, but very kind, interactive and soothing.  Of course, we had to tell the whole story, and we had to add a little more because he did ask questions (which was, in fact, refreshing and, until now, completely unheard of) and followed them up with more questions.

I always leave any social or medical interaction feeling I’ve said too much.  I always ask my husband if I embarrassed myself, us, J or the person I was talking to…he reassured me that I hadn’t, and the doctor didn’t seem like he wanted me to take a leap out the window either.  Of course, being a psychiatrist he wouldn’t want me to do that or he’d end up possibly having me as a patient.

We felt reassured.  We were asked about our support network, and we had to admit that WE are our support network.  The doctor expressed concern about our apparent isolation, but understood that we are OK with not having lots of people around, that we seem to be flourishing in spite of…well…everything.

The visit also served the purpose of keeping the med as is, and the doctor understood our reasons for wanting to keep it that way.  Furthermore, both doctors will be working together to monitor J’s weight and help us help him help himself.  (That’s a lot of “help.”)  We also learned that the road we live on is not the best during winter, so we discussed four-wheel drive…the doctor, you see, lived in a townhouse on the same row where ours is until a year ago…this is not a big city, is it?

We talked about the meds, the sign language, the behavioral problems, the boxing gloves (which I’m sure he’ll mention at his next psychiatrists’ conference because, admit it, that’s pretty cool,) the PECS, the chores…we even talked about J’s fear of dogs and how this factors into taking walks around the neighborhood.  This doctor wanted to know how we feel, how we cope, how we keep it together…and didn’t nod while going “hmmm” and typing.  This doctor actually took handwritten notes!!!  Egads, Brain!!!!

By mid-January we will go in for another round of medical appointments, and we will hopefully work our way through a few pounds by then.  I have been very, very, very lax in my exercising…J and I dance together, but I don’t think that’s enough for either one of us.

I woke up this morning feeling like I need to readjust some things.  I think it was the middle-of-the-night hot flashes…for some odd reason they made me think of my aunts and the huge bottle of Jean Naté they used to keep in the fridge.  I woke up thinking of cotton nightgowns and doing yoga.  I wanted to eat frozen fruit…while it is still frozen.  During our conversation with the doctor I had to say out loud that J will be seventeen in January.  Seventeen years old.  My son, my youngest child, my baby…seventeen years old…

So here’s the plan (I always have one, don’t I?)…

I am going to do some yoga (although my husband claims that with me it looks more like combat yoga) and stretch to release some of the tension I’ve been carrying around in anticipation of the holidays and this appointment.  I am going to drink a tall, tall glass of iced water and I’m going to stare intently at the menu board to see how I can pare down the not-so-good meals into something a little healthier.  And, on this cold, rainy day, I will briskly walk down the hill with the largest umbrella I can find to wait for J’s school bus to arrive at 3 P.M.  When we get home, I will put on some Katy Perry and I will get him to happily bounce around for about 20 minutes…

I am going to do this every single day until it’s time for the next weigh-in, and maybe a pound or two will melt away slowly by then.  I don’t know how heavy his shoes are…they’re from Lands’ End and they’re squall boots so they’re not light as feathers, but they’re also not heavy…and he was wearing cargo pants and two shirts when he got weighed.  I’m guessing we can subtract three pounds and still be at 248…

And out comes the brown paper bag again…

A very small panic attack, if you please…

We own a new couch.  We’ve had it for about a month now and I haven’t seen it since the day it got delivered.  We paid extra for the protection plan, and we added a slipcover on top of that.  I’ve moved it around the family room several times trying to find the best placement for it, and I’ve yet to decide where I like it best.  This couch is such a huge commitment that it took us 12 years to buy it, and the cats are the only ones who sit on it on a regular basis.  Until tonight…tonight we sat on it for a dry run of tomorrow’s appointment with the psychiatrist…

Q-  What are you here for today?

A-  Our son takes Risperdal (.5mg twice a day for a total of 1mg a day) because of behavioral issues he’s had in the past.

Q-  When did he start taking the Risperdal?

A-  April 20th of 2010.

Q-  And the dose hasn’t changed?

A-  No.

Q-  Do you think the medication is working?

A-  Yes.  It keeps his urge to self-injure at bay without altering his personality.

Q-  What’s with the boxing gloves…the Slinky…the rugby helmet…is that a Rasta hat?

A-  Dammit!

We have to go into the whole thing again.  And we have to go into how, in our previous school district, there was a huge push to make him get rid of all these things, and how the psychiatrist (Dr. Green, he of the eco-van with solar panels and huarache sandals that creaked as he typed on his laptop) agreed that J would divest himself of these “crutches” in his own time.  What if we get Dr. Sharp-dressed-man or Dr. Jimmy-Choos-and-Vera-Wang-for-Kohl’s-with-the-Aniston-bob?  What if they want us to divest him rather than wait for self-divestion (is that a word?)

My husband and I sat on our hardly-ever-seen couch, looking ahead at the imaginary doctor and paused.  This hospital is a teaching hospital; what if, instead of the laid-back Mother Earth, Taos-hum, dreamcatcher school of psychology we get a hard-ass who believes in tougher love?

I am tempted to carry a paper bag with me to either breathe into while I’m hyperventilating or hurl into when the anvil drops.  How empowered will we be tomorrow to say “we don’t want another med instead of this one” or “do NOT increase the dose?”  Regardless of how capable I am when it comes to my son’s education and health, I went to Catholic school and people with notepads and arched eyebrows intimidate me.  I had a surefire list of sins I could use that would guarantee me no more and no less than 2 Our Fathers and 20 Hail Marys; coming up with an increased penance because the priest figured out that I was rotating sins so as never to get more than that was quite a lulu.  I threw in “impure thoughts” and my mother overheard me; on top of 5 and 50 I got grounded and my room was searched for subversive literature of the “impure thought inducing” type.

I can’t embellish and I can’t underbellish (that’s NOT a word…never mind pointing that out,) I also cannot just tell a person who has gone to psychiatrist school that I know better than they do…not at a teaching hospital!  Not when my husband works there as a non-medical person…and my oldest son sits all night watching television with patients who require constant supervision and who, from time to time, will refuse to wear a diaper.

How do I defend all the accoutrements of J’s quirkiness?  I have fought this battle before, and I have made a good case for keeping all the doo-dats he carries around, but this is a different town, with a different mentality, with a different groove…  What if this doctor is researching ways to help autistic kids get over their emotional dependence on certain items?

The one thing that always worries me when J gets new teachers, new aides, new counselors, coordinators, doctors is that my son will end up being the subject of a Lifetime Television Movie.  What I mean by this is that I don’t want J to become the inspirational fiction that someone creates in their own mind to elevate themselves to some degree of celebrity.  As soon as this new person (whatever their title may be) starts waxing poetic about how J might be the next man on the Moon or how Einstein was dyslexic and Mozart might have been autistic…I am ready to grab my purse and run.

I would just LOVE for J to learn to tie his own shoes someday.  I don’t want a thesis written about how he did it, and I don’t want him to take more medication than what is strictly necessary.

Wish us luck…we just want to come home with the same kid we’re taking to the doctor and then dropping off at school.  We want Mr. Imperfect with the gloves he will divest himself of whenever he’s in the mood.  We want just the 1 mg A DAY of medication…nothing more, nothing less…

I will take that paper bag now, thank you…

Monday musings…

The house is suffused with silence.  J’s gone to school.  No Tom Jones ringing in my ears (not that my ears aren’t ringing from the silence…)  J was happy when he left; he offered his cheek for my “have a good day!” kiss with a great deal of enthusiasm and a big smile on his handsome face.  He skipped towards the car…while giggling giddily.

Tomorrow is a big day.  This will be his first appointment with a psychiatrist since we relocated.  We get to go to this new place (hesitate at the door of the building, of course) only to go in and tell the same story all over again.  The story grows with J every year, but I am not sure if -in telling it- the kid that populates it so prominently comes through as clearly as I’d like.

It always starts with his name.  Every record I’ve read says the same thing: J is a Hispanic male…and then the details flow: age, diagnosis, family history.  J’s file is the thickest of all the ones I keep; from one folder it has spawned into categories: J medical, J psych, J school, J certificates and so forth.  J never gets to say his version of the story; we are left to interpret for him.  He knows he is being talked about, and trusts us to say what he needs known.  That’s a hefty responsibility…

A lot of our time is invested in figuring out how to make J real to other people.  The boxing gloves, the Slinky and the quirks are easier to notice than the rest of him. In Will Ferrell’s movie Elf there’s a clip of film that spoofs supposed footage of Bigfoot walking through the wilderness; we laugh because we can picture people who’ve seen J going home and try ing to describe him; those listening probably think it’s a made-up story.  In this world of cell phone cameras: has anyone taken a picture of J and made a snarky comment about him?  What does that say about the person?  What does it say about J?

So tomorrow we will go to spill our guts in front of a psychiatrist who doesn’t know the person he’ll be prescribing medication for, and all this person has to go on is the file from the previous psychiatrist (sweetest guy you ever saw…so…young!) who worked from watching J sitting on a couch while we talked.  The story’s embroidery grows tomorrow with the exodus to this new location.


Over the weekend I took stock of what Christmas presents I’ve accumulated and what I have to pick up from layaway.  Aside from one trip to finish paying the layaway, we are DONE for the year.  The relief I feel is now competing with the anxiety that comes with waiting to see how close or far from the mark I’ve fallen this time around.

Maybe I am the only person who wonders about this, but I’m pretty sure I’m not: should I shop for J’s mental age?  Should I shop for his chronological age?  Is it ridiculous to give him Winnie the Pooh on the first day of Christmas and a Green Day t-shirt on the second?  How do I go about finding things that he will like, that will make him happy and that will not be condescending?  The question often arises “if I get him this, am I saying I don’t believe he’s capable of more?”

What it boils down to is that I am shopping for J in much the same way I shop for my husband and my oldest son.  I want to see the smile or hear the laugh; perhaps I’m just going to see a little grin and his eyes will squint as he motions for me to fully unpack his present, to give him full access to the actual thing without zip ties, tags or anything that says “it’s not yet yours because it still has the trappings of merchandise on it.”  Many years ago, on a trip to the bookstore, J fell in love with two plush toys that we named Pinky and Red…identical, of course, except for their color.  The first thing he did when we got home was dump Red in the toilet and, while we were dealing with that particular disaster, he pulled the tags off of Pinky with enough force to tear a hole on the side.  At that moment Pinky and Red stopped being “store” things and became J things; that’s what I aim for: things that he will want to make his own and that, like those two friends, will still be sitting next to his bed 12 years later.

So…where do I go to find presents for the young man who has everything?  Here’s a short list with a little comment to help you along:  The name tells you the gist of it: this site caters to geeks, and to the geek in all of us.  You will find items with a sense of humor, with panache and you will have a laugh in the process.  Toys that appeal to everyone; I have found things here that allow us to play with J for long periods of time, and they don’t require batteries!  I’ve also found toys that keep my husband busy…  Different Roads to Learning is a website where you will find educational materials and items that will make your life a little easier.  This is the little shop we took J to this weekend; you will find a good variety of toys here and you’d be shopping from a lovely, little small business.

Well…I have papers to gather for tomorrow…



A week’s worth of vacation is almost over…

A little late in the day, but we have put up the weekly schedule and gone back to the usual Sunday routine.  Perhaps by tomorrow at noon I will have been able to extricate the constant din of Tom Jones’ What’s New, Pussycat? from my addled brain…

Yes, that has been J’s fixation for the past couple of days.  The Green, Green Grass of Home was replaced by Mr. Jones’ saucier musical stylings…and I’ve done everything I can to cope with it graciously.  There’s been the interpretive dancing, the sing-along, the sign-language version and the sudden popping-out of the closet doing the wo-oh-oh-oh-OAH! parts…  In spite of all this enthusiasm, I am ready for it to be over.

J is ready to go back to school.  I am a poor substitute for people his age, but I have given him plenty of fodder for the week.  I’m sure if someone says their mother was driving them nuts, J will roll his eyes and do his own version of “YOU think you’ve got problems?  MY mother…”

Our greatest successes this week have been of a simple type: J liked the toy store we took him to yesterday (a huge stride towards finding a place where he won’t get overwhelmed,) he found Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline (yes, he loves Madeline) in a size that felt right for him and bought it; we also went to see The Muppets and we all enjoyed the movie, although J hogged the popcorn and there was some bickering (albeit good natured) between the brothers.

In a few weeks we get to do this all over again: we get to be home for Christmas and that will last two weeks.  We had plenty of rain this time around, and perhaps we will have the same thing happen during the Christmas vacation.  In the meantime, we have already told him that next weekend we’ll put up the Christmas lights outside and that we will arrange his room so that his inflatable Snoopy can keep him company.

What?  Your kid doesn’t have an inflatable toy in his/her room?  This toy is not ever so slightly shorter than your kid?  Why…I thought EVERYONE had one of those!  I am only grateful he didn’t buy the doghouse with Snoopy sleeping on top of it…THAT would’ve been a wee bit much, I think…

Tomorrow, if anyone is paying attention, a word or two about where we shop for J’s Christmas loot…

A pain in the arse by any other name…

Once in a while I wonder if  I’m going about this all wrong.  I wander into support pages online and I find myself scratching my head at some of the stuff I read.

I think J, my darling hulk of a son, is precious…when he’s not being a pain in the ass.  I also think it’s ok to admit that he can be a pain in the ass.  If I can say that about his older brother, I can say it about J.  Not saying it about J would mean, to my mind, that I am discriminating against him because of his disability, and I firmly believe that J has a right to be thought of in the same way as his brother.  The only essential difference between them is that J is autistic and his brother is not.

When I first meet other moms of disabled kids I hear a lot of “he/she is such a blessing.”  Yes, J is a blessing because he has provided us with experiences that build our character as individuals and as a family, and he’s allowed us to learn a lot about what we can/cannot, will/will not do to move our life along a more or less successful path.  Having said that: J can be a royal pain in the ass…

Is it that we, as parents of developmentally-disabled individuals, fear we will be thought of as “bad” if we admit we would not mind having a “normal” kid for a little while?  Do we think it makes us “evil” or “uncaring” or “bad parents?”  I think there’s a lot of that in there; we tend to immediately recant any expression of dissatisfaction or frustration that we express, especially if the parent we are speaking to says “oh, but so-and-so brings me such joy!”  Immediately, like something propelled by David’s slingshot, we say “oh, so does so-and-so, I wouldn’t change A THING!!!”

The feeling takes a hold of me once in a while.  My husband admits the same thing.  There are times when we just get in the car to go somewhere and we say “that kid is driving me BANANAS!  What is it with the new quirk of doing this or that?????”  Once in a while I tell J “you need to go to your room and I need to go to the garage to just be away from you, but I do love you.”  Other times I just tell him “NOT NOW!”  In my defense, there are times when J just doesn’t want me around either, and he’s angry and he’s forceful about telling me so…there’s no hate involved, but we do need to get away from each other.

I once met a girl (and I call her a girl because she and her child were significantly younger than J and I) who thought of her autistic son as a “crystal child.”  He was a lovely little boy, with eyes like a doll and pale skin.  When he smiled I kept wondering what he was seeing that made him so happy.  There was something ethereal about him…when she told me what diet she had them on I started wondering if he was just hungry.  His name was something rather basic, a name that just about anyone would give a baby boy, but she called him by his astral name.  When this kid started to complain about something, she pulled out a stone and rubbed it on his arms and forehead.  The way she spoke to him was the way in which one tries to extract information out of a flower or a butterfly, and the boy smiled and looked at everything with no connection to what was happening.

I felt like a bad mother because I knew, as I observed her, that I would’ve sat J down, talked to him firmly but kindly, made as much eye contact as possible and tried to find out what he wanted.  “Use your words,” “look at me, please,” “I cannot help you if you don’t help yourself,” would poured out in a steady yet calm stream.  If he had said (using the usual methods) “I want burger fries,” I would’ve felt like I’d just put the final touches on Mt. Rushmore and I would’ve fed him, even if a Happy Meal is not a paragon of nutrition.

Am I a bad mother because I don’t think my child is crystal?  Am I too pushy and annoying?  Should I believe less in persistence and raising the bar?  Should I aim to find out what J’s astral powers are?  I wanted to hug that girl and tell her that lovely child’s going to grow up and things will get harder, but I controlled myself.  If I’d said what was on my mind, I would’ve been one of those disapproving people who doesn’t believe in magic and I’d have…what?  Crushed her?  Been discussed at the support group as a rude non-believer?

If I believed in crystal and indigo children, I’d have to admit that J is rock!  There is no astral enlightenment in him.  J listens to Metallica and does a head-banging movement while smiling like he’s discovered butter after years of consuming margarine; he rolls down the car window and laughs happily when the wind runs its rough fingers over his face as we motor down the freeway.

If there are crystal and indigo children, J is clay…  Do I want to admit that?  Does that mean that I have failed him?  Can I live with the knowledge that might have failed because I didn’t seek out the special magic in my son?  I’m willing to admit  there are days when, as much as I love him, I could punt him off the balcony because J is sixteen going on seventeen and he still throws a tantrum if he wants something very badly and I’m not acquiescing.

Small Business Saturday…$20 in Slinkys mean J can enter a drawing for an iPad.

Off to town we go!

Then, suddenly, The Holidays…

We woke up to frost on EVERYTHING…car windows were stuck when my husband left for work and, according to our oldest, it’s cold enough to sleep all morning (of course, he worked the night shift so he IS ready to sleep all morning!)  J has rolled out all the Christmas CDs (no prompting needed, thank you, he’s Mr. Christmas) and is happily listening to Baby, It’s Cold Outside.  Of course, in spite of the frost, cold and Christmas music, he’s running the ceiling fans…go figure!

There was a time when the thought of The Holidays approaching elicited something akin to panic.  Christmas morning meant we’d be faced with a meltdown of unpredictable severity.  It didn’t matter how much forethought we put into anything regarding this ritual, Christmas morning was a time of profound sadness for J and great frustration for us.

Turn on the TV right now and you’ll find some sort of programming designed to make you feel like your Christmas is “all wrong.”  There will be movies about people who chose career over family and are given the chance to lead an alternate life (at Christmas, of course) so they can see the error of their ways.  There are movies about people who’ve lost the spirit of Christmas and, by some miracle, find it because of a child, preferably a sick one who will be saved by love and Christmas.  You’ll also run into a movie where the whole town pulls together to achieve a miraculous Christmas for a person/family who has lost all hope.  The news won’t help: CNN and company are covering the hordes that have run into stores trying to buy themselves some Christmas miracle.  If I sound jaded it’s because I don’t think getting  a TV is going to improve your quality of life any more than getting Fisher-Price’s Power Wheels Barbie Jammin’ Jeep Wrangler would.  I’m one of those people who thinks playing with the kids -rather than watching them play- counts for more…but I’m not here to give THAT speech.

We’ve been told Christmas is a time for miracles so we often fall short.  Every year more and more parents join the surging wave of those who work hard to make their kids go oooooh-aaaaah on Christmas morning.  This wave is only challenged in size, intensity and population by the ebbing one of those who are deflated by their kids’ reactions on Christmas morning.  Hey, I’m not judging…we’ve done that!  Then we were forced to re-think the whole thing, not because we wanted a Christmas miracle or had a change of heart, but because -quite frankly- it made sense.

J’s parents, namely us, were at a point where spiking the coffee, the orange juice, the eggnog and even the water once Christmas morning’s cataclysm had run its course was an alluring idea. In spite of all the love, good-will, happiness and togetherness we feel on a day-to-day basis, we weren’t getting the Hallmark Christmas movie feeling; there was no miraculous or inspiring denouement to follow all our preparation.  What we were getting was Krakatoa, West of Java (the whole East of Java thing is a misrepresentation…but never mind the nerd who would bring that up.)

So…how did we get rid of the disastrous Christmas meltdowns?

Did we get rid of Christmas?????

Did we dash the children’s hopes and dreams?

Did we run over the sugarplums dancing around in their heads?

Did we tell them Santa Claus was a sham?????

No. We got rid of the unrealistic expectations about the season.  Yes, it is a “season for miracles,” “the season of giving,” “the season of joy,” and all that good, peppermint candy-coated stuff, but we have redefined miracle, joy and giving.  We didn’t change the meaning of the season, we simply stopped using the commercial one and gave Christmas back to J, saving our sanity to boot.

Your kid, you’re thinking right now as you read this, is LISTENING TO CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!!  Yes, he is…and very contentedly, too.  J is happy, but he’s not anticipating the presents; what he is thinking of has more to do with us as a family.  It’s not that he’s an enlightened individual, J’s just not focusing on the presents because it’s not on the schedule yet.

Yes, there IS a Christmas schedule (thanks for asking.)  We refer to the gift-giving portion as The Twelve Days of Christmas because the song is there and we might as well put it to good use.  This doesn’t mean that on each day we give each other the amount of presents the song indicates or that every present is of the same caliber and worth; it means we pace ourselves, and get to enjoy one item each day.

In J’s case, he can play with his present, find a place for it in his world.  We take time to understand the meaning of the moment we’re living.  Everyone gets one very nice present  which isn’t a car with a bow on it, but rather the one thing you REALLY wanted and were NOT expecting.  We also get a lot of very simple things that entertain us…like wind-up chattering teeth, a wind-up poopin’ penguin, a cat-a-pult (which is a catapult that shoots plastic cats), a chocolate bar not of the kind that you get by the register at the grocery store, and such.  Books…movies…music…knick-knacks you will carry with you for years to come and tell people “oh, THAT…well…this one Christmas…”  Mostly, we give each other a good laugh, maybe a little cry, a hug, an “I can’t believe you remembered!!!”

On Christmas morning we open one last thing, after breakfast, while laying on the family room floor, and wearing our pajamas.  There is no pressure and J, having had time to SAVOR the bounty in spoonfuls rather than by the tray, is perfectly pleased with Christmas being over.

But it all begins, of course, with the search for The Tree…