Ask not whether the glass is half-full or half-empty; ask how many glasses you have…

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy listening to Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin’s Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep.)  There’s a reason for that: I was raised by women who thought that regardless of how big your problems are and how small your blessings may be, the blessings will always trump the problems…

Yesterday morning, I admit once more, I was far from stellar in my execution of motherly patience.  I spent a great deal of the day trying to talk myself into understanding that this is, in spite of how stupid it makes me feel, normal.  I am not a poster child for motherhood, just like my children are not poster children for childhood.  To reassure myself, I did everything I could to prove that I am capable, even when I’m not.  (Did that make sense?  I don’t know if it did to you, but it did to me…)

Other people have comfort food that they turn to when they are feeling a little wobbly on their emotional legs.  I will dive into a pint of ice cream, work my way through a bag of M&Ms, crunch away at crisp toast with real butter, sip a seemingly endless cup of tea…but what REALLY works for me is what others might find a little silly: comfort chores.  After I posted my entry for yesterday, I sat on the bed for ten minutes and pondered how to make a day that started out pretty crappy into a better one.  Then the phone rang, we had a minor crisis, and I’ll explain in a moment how that works into the glasses that might be half-something.

To comfort and soothe myself, I roasted vegetables.  The roasted tomatoes, peppers, red onions, garlic turned into soup, and then…

A loaf of Italian herb bread.  Which was more of a chore than I would have wanted, but that’s part of the story…

The phone call was an automated one: this is to inform you that your son, J’s name inserted here, was marked absent from school.  If you have any questions, call blabetty, blab, blab…

I called.  I called and was rather anxious because, well, would J NOT be at school?  Of course, there was the field trip, but WHY WOULD HE BE MARKED ABSENT???  The secretary was not very helpful or, sadly, understanding.  Yes, he was marked absent.  Could he have been late???  How can he be late, I asked, if he rides the bus to school, and he’s a Special Education student?  Crickets on the other side of the line.  You don’t understand, I told her, some autistic kids are runners, and if he’s been marked absent I need to know what teacher and what time he didn’t show up for!  Please hold.  And I held. “Are you aware he is on a field trip?”  Yes, I am…are his teachers aware he is on a field trip?  Crickets.  I patiently -at least, I hope I sounded patient and not just terribly shaken up, which is what I felt like- explained that J has a mental age that fluctuates between 2 and 8 years old, that he is non-verbal, and that if he has somehow found his way out of the building, he will get lost as he doesn’t know how to navigate around town.  Crickets.  Talk to his teacher.  And I did, hours later, and I explained that the Attendance Office needs to call parents of Special Ed kids PERSONALLY because we can probably be more helpful that way than when we speak to a secretary who doesn’t know our kid and doesn’t understand what we mean when we sound like we’re about to throw up as we’re talking to them.

So…to calm myself after this brief crisis (it was the Ceramics teacher that marked him absent,) I roasted vegetables (and fruit, if you’re a purist about the tomatoes.)  Because it smelled so lovely and it looked so delicious, I decided to make bread, and so out came my trusty bread machine that I love, and that makes my life ever-so-slightly easier.  In went the ingredients, and then I cleaned the dining room, cleared up the mess I’d made while cooking (because the task meant to be relaxing and the cleaning helped me tidy up my internal mess, too.)

Dada called to let me know that the biopsy from his colonoscopy indicated his polyps were benign.  And there was much rejoicing.  A layer of worry and weight fell of as the house filled with the lovely fragrance of roasted vegetable soup and Italian herb bread.  I dusted the bookshelves in the basement, added dirt to the plants that we rescued from the neighbors across the way (who left in the wee hours of the morning and told my husband they wouldn’t be taking their succulents so we were free to take them.)  I gathered all the trash so it could be taken to the dumpster near the entrance of the neighborhood…

By the time I was done, it was time to wait for J’s bus.  Off we went, TGG and I, to check the mailbox and collect J.

I took out J’s comm book and read the wonderful news (later confirmed verbally by his teacher over the phone) that J had gone on his field trip WITHOUT HIS HATS AND WITHOUT SLINKY!  Yes…J went on a field trip without either one of his current emotional crutches.  And he had a WONDERFUL time!  He voluntarily left the hats on the table and, when his teacher asked if he would please leave Slinky behind because they would be going on rides and it could be dangerous, J simply kept walking to the door without a single wistful glance at his things.

The teacher, of course, took the things with her (unbeknownst to J) in case some sort of crisis broke out.  Once the trip was done (and the only glitch was J’s horror-stricken look when he climbed into, and then promptly out of, the whirl-a-gig,) the hats were offered to J, and he took them in his hands and held them there until they got to school.

This piece of news was so good, so comforting, so encouraging, that the bread machine bursting into flames (only a mild exaggeration there) and me barely rescuing my loaf of bread is but a minor glitch in the filling of glasses.  The polyps were benign, and a glass filled.  J made a major breakthrough, and another glass filled.  The bread machine waited until we were back to self-immolate…and we still had lovely, lovely soup and delicious, crusty bread for dinner…

Isn’t that a good way to count blessings…and sheep…and glasses?

Now is the locus of our discontent made glorious guilt by self-awareness…or: ugh!

There are days when dealing with J’s demands is easier for me.  I confess it: my patience (which has increased over time) is not yet what you would call “prime quality.”  When J is especially intractable, unbendable and cryptic, I can turn into a puzzled mom of the highest ranking.

Today is Friday.  J has a field trip and should be, by all accounts, raring to go.  For some reason, he went to bed out of sorts and rose from bed out of sorts.  While getting ready for school, he kept pointing in the general direction of where the linen closet is; there was no verbal support to what he was pointing at, so I started feeling clueless right then and there.  General waves in general directions tend to be indicative of general discontent.  I’ve always told my children that unless I KNOW why they are upset, annoyed, irritated, sad, angry, confused, down-in-the-mouth, etc. I cannot really do anything to fix what ails them.  J, dressed in his THE DUDE ABIDES t-shirt, was unwilling to delve into the realm of specificity.  In spite of a healthy dose of caffeine I had just consumed, my brain was cottony enough that I could not compute the data being fed to me.

Teeth brushed, lights off in his room, plastic hangers in hand to be taken downstairs, J decided to plant himself firmly in front of the linen closet and be angry.  ARGH ARGH ARGH and point, more specifically this time, to TGG’s door.  Why, in God’s sweet name, wasn’t J up yet?  Why, if J had to be up and dressed and out the door in mere minutes, was TGG still in bed????  WHY??????

This reaction came garnished with squeals, hand-slapping and head-thumping that I was simply NOT prepared for…it’s Friday morning, for crying out loud!!!  So I opened TGG’s door and said, quite firmly and impatiently, “your brother doesn’t work today!  Your brother gets to sleep today!  You get to go to school so march your fanny downstairs NOW!”

STOMP STOMP STOMP…quick tap dance in the dining room while hand-slapping (Gregory Hines, can you see this from your perch in dancers’ heaven???,) and angry squealing.  STOMP STOMP STOMP towards the hallway closet, angrily grabbing his jacket and backpack in the process and THAT is when I raised my voice and said (half asleep then and very contrite now) “WHAT is your f*cking problem!?  NOT EVERYONE has to be UP and OUT because YOU are up and out!!!”

Big round eyes, arched brow, loud sniff and shrug and J, my sweet-and-sour baboo, turned around and didn’t even say BYE.

I am a bad mother.

I know by three o’clock I will have regained my patience and powers of negotiation, but this morning I am a bad mother.

I cannot take back the impatience or uncouthness of my reaction.  I cannot un-offend J.  I cannot rewind and be nicer; I have to live with my bitchiness and add it to the list of things I’ve said or done over the course of my life that I wish I’d thought through BEFORE their completion.  J is maturing…I seem, in the midst of middle-of-the-night hot-flashes, to be becoming more of a whiner.

Is this why the circle of life brings us to the empty-nest?  Is it that, as parents, we seem to outgrow our ability to deal with our children because our brains are predisposed to “let them go” at a certain stage of maturity?  My internal clock, wired by the patterns of child-bearing, child-rearing, child-to-teen, teen-to-adult, mom’s recovery of self that we are fed through media, books, previous generations (more recent generations -like my mother’s- demanding it while previous generations didn’t encourage it,) is rebelling against the fact that I am heading into menopause and segueing into growing older while still harboring a man-child in my household.  I have friends who have children in the same age-range as mine, and I hear of “going away to college,” “moving out,” “moving on,” and I look at our living arrangements for the next forty years…is that why I am being such a bitch?  I don’t resent my kids, but I feel (and this is completely childish and immature of me, considering the circumstances) that I’m always “on.”  Dada hasn’t said it out loud, but I’m sure he feels the same way…we just handle it in different ways, I guess.

So I will spend the next few hours trying to figure out how to help J figure out his brother’s schedule.  I am thinking, because this is how my brain works, that the best thing to do is take a picture of TGG wearing his scrubs and make a few PECS, and take a picture of TGG in street clothes and make a few more PECS.  We can post those into J’s schedule, even if J doesn’t have to go to work with TGG.  The idea of TGG in pajamas and happily cocooned in his warm bed while J is getting ready for school seems to be confusing to J, but he has no qualms about being in his pajamas early on a Saturday or Sunday, and seeing TGG dressed for work and leaving in the wee hours.  Since I cannot negotiate awareness and understanding, at least I will clarify frequency?  I don’t know…I’ll see how THAT works.

For now, I am going to do my yoga.  I am going to also play Henry Kissinger for the cats who, by turns, hate, despise, dislike, love and cuddle with each other.  Yesterday they took a two-hour nap on my bed, playfully romped around the house in such a delightful way that the only thing missing was the song from The Fox and The Hound playing in the background.  This morning, they hate each other once more and the hissing, growling and batting with paws has resumed.

With the time spent indoors increasing almost exponentially as the cold weather approaches, some sort of peace agreement (or at least a TRUCE, please) must be reached…between cats, between cats and humans, between teenagers and middle-aged people…





“He lost track of his hats…”

The long pants have been brought into the wardrobe right on time.  Rain, rain, rain and cooler temperatures seem to be the order of the day, and a trip to the Buckwheat Festival tomorrow promises outdoor fun galore and the need for warmer clothing.  In the mornings we no longer experience the wistful hesitation of waiting for short pants to materialize…we have, as it were, kissed those goodbye for the time being.

This morning I got a call from J’s teacher to let me know about their field trip tomorrow.  All I hear is how awesome J is and how happily he works all day.  I told her that I’m glad because here we hardly get to see him as he’s constantly shooing us out of rooms.  I told her the A Goofy Movie story and she laughed heartily…oh, my God, she said, that’s so J!!!

A constant drizzle has been falling since mid-morning so TGG and I drove down to wait for J’s bus.  The panicked look of one who thinks he’s going to the doctor immediately took over J’s face.  To prove our intentions were pure, I let him sit in the front seat, and I reassured him we were heading home.  With a sigh of relief and a relaxing of his shoulders, J then indicated to TGG that he wanted music.  The ride home took a minute at most, but J was in command of the radio for that time.  To further solidify the fact that we weren’t going anywhere medical, J announced CLOTHES and then ran up the stairs with such energy and speed that I found myself dreaming of Olympic Games to come.  (If they ever develop an event in which kids come home from school and make themselves comfortable, J is a shoo-in for a gold medal!)

When I pulled out the comm book, I got the same reaction that usually accompanies this action: J looked over my shoulder as if he could read the back-and-forth commentary his teachers and I provide for each other.  Because he can’t read, J then stares intently at my face until I am done so he can tell from my reaction whether he’s in hot water or not.  He is usually relieved when I either laugh or turn to tell him “you’re cool, J…nothing to discuss today.”  I know, J’s level of sophistication wouldn’t call for “discussing,” but that’s the word I use when he’s done something he shouldn’t and I need to address it, so the sound of discuss is specific enough to not taint the meaning of “talk.”

Today the news was excellent.  “J spent most of the day without his hats.  In fact, he lost track of his hats for quite a while…”  J lost track of his hats.  In much the same way he started losing track of his boxing gloves, J lost track of his hats.  I know, mind you, that this might be a rare instance of J being engaged and distracted enough to forget about his beloved headgear, but I am hopeful that, little by little, he will fall in love with the idea of not covering his head constantly. Just like he fell in love with the idea of not carrying bulky boxing gloves around…just like he fell in love with the idea of not sleeping with music playing constantly.

The thing that gets me, though, is that J achieves all these things of his own volition.  We encourage him to make the choices, and he takes his time, but he chooses without our help.  Oh, how we’ve wished we could hide the gloves one by one until they disappear from his consciousness.  In hindsight, if we’d given in to that urge, we might have encountered some tantrums, some discontentment, some aggressiveness, some disappointment.  We accepted the gloves for as long as J wanted them, and he chose when to put them down and use them as decoration on his bed.

Maybe, in a few months, we’ll be saying the same thing about his hats.  Maybe it’ll take a year or two.  Maybe these hats will be replaced by other hats.  I don’t know.  I’m just happy that J is not feeling pressured to mature at a rate that is not his own.  I am glad that I don’t accept the pressure that is sometimes put on us to move him further along than he’s ready to be.  I didn’t experience that pressure when I was growing up, at least not until I was outside of my home.  My aunts, bless them, always reminded me (and anyone who would criticize my “childishness” to their faces) that each person grows up at their own rate and that once you become a grown-up you don’t get to go back and be a child.  If TGG has felt a little more pressure than J, it has been because TGG often balks out of fear rather than lack of maturity or ability.  So often he fears people will laugh at him, and in that he is unfortunate compared to his brother: J doesn’t give a flying fig what others think.  If they don’t like his Slinky, that’s their problem.  If they think his pants are funny, well big whoop-dee-dooh…  J, in his own way, is a lot more self-assured and comfortable in his skin than TGG is, and that might be because J is unaware of the social code, but…the social code pretty much screws us up early on if we pay too much attention to it.

J lost track of his hats today.  They’re firmly planted on his head right now, but for a good long while he didn’t worry about them.  That is progress.  Inch-by-inch progress, but progress nonetheless.  I cannot complain.  Just as I was ready for the boxing gloves to make a comeback after the brave act of giving them up, I’m ready to live with the scrum cap and the Rasta hat for as long as J wants to wear them, but I’m glad he knows the choice is his…

Un-belling the cat…

Zelda’s hellion-like qualities are dissipating…and J is slowly (very slowly) getting used to her presence.  Zelda’s failure to endear herself to J stems from the suddenness of her spontaneity.  Of all the cats we have owned and known, we cannot recall a single one that will simply be completely and utterly at rest only to spring into full-speed, relentless action.  Seriously, Zelda seems to be on a hair trigger or booby-trapped.  The big yellow eyes and the jet-black fur don’t help…someone commented a few days ago that she is the perfect Halloween cat.

In the mornings, J greets this new animal quite dutifully.  Pats her on the head, scratches behind her ears and sends us on our way.  In the afternoons, he says HELLO, pats her on the head, scratches behind her ears and, generally, is perfectly happy to see her until she’s in motion and there are witnesses.  All that J requires is an audience, and then he will emote as if what is running towards him is not a kitten but rather a violent, blood-thirsty, evil shark.  Even Miss Pipa has been seen rolling her eyes at this display.

In light of this, I opted for the removal of the bell.  If he cannot hear Zelda approaching (especially when instead of a rhythmic jingle she sounds more like the deafening cacophony of bells that precedes the appearance of Jacob Marley’s ghost,) J cannot really anticipate freaking out.  So far this has worked quite well, but he does prefer a five-foot radius of cat-less peace and quiet.  I still think it’s the claws.  Kittens are a lot freer with the clawing than older cats are, and when they come running at you and take a leap onto your lap, the likelihood that they will latch on for dear life is rather high.  (I have gone through quite a bit of antibiotic ointment since last week.)

In spite of this particular stressful bit, J is very settled into his school routine.  The long pants are now par for the course (amen and hallelujah for that one,) even though he still prefers sandals (with socks) to closed-toe shoes.  I suspect that, as soon as he has to walk up to the house with rain lashing at his face and seeping into his socks, he will revise his current policy.  The weather report shows nearly relentless rain for the rest of the week, and -perhaps- this will contribute to another adjustment in the wardrobe.

If the green cargo pants were the affaire de coeur of last year’s cold weather months, this year J is absolutely enamored of a white long-sleeve compression shirt with a worse-for-wear short-sleeve blue polo shirt.  If he could wear them every single day, he would.  When these two are waved away by mother’s hand (because we don’t want to look like we have nothing else to wear,) he opts for any of his other long-sleeve t-shirts with a striped t-shirt he positively hated when I brought it home from the store.  The disdain with which this particular t-shirt was treated was quite painful to watch.  J actually emitted a loud “bah!” and pushed the garment to the deepest, darkest corner of his four-foot wide closet (ok, it’s not very wide, but -trust me- that shirt was treated as if a thick coat of stinky goo covered it,) and no matter how hard I tried to persuade him to wear it, I would get turned down with a miffed expression.  And then, one morning, the shirt got the “well, well…what have we HERE!??! treatment; J grabbed it, stared at it as if he’d never seen it before and gave me a look that said “you’ve been holding out on me!  Where did this GORGEOUS garment come from????”  I was so happy that I waited until he was wearing it and out the door to sit, head in hands, asking myself “what the heck was THAT about???”

The first repair of the season was completed yesterday.  The cuff of J’s red hoodie had come undone and, since he wears it every single day, I mended it.  J sat next to me and supervised me; that is: J hovered over me like a helicopter, making sure that I was going to fix the seam and replace the jacket in the hallway closet.  My children, after so many years, have not yet realized that I’d much rather mend something than get rid of it, and that for purely that reason, I have enough thread in many colors, needles and a tin of buttons that will assist me in these endeavors.  Why they assume that I will take their torn, ripped, button-blind, etc. etc. etc. garments and call them “trash” is beyond me.  So J made sure I finished stitching and then he escorted me to the hallway closet, hung the jacket and closed the door behind him while shooing me back to the kitchen.

Reports from school are good.  J has a new part-time aide of whom he has grown fond quite quickly.  The feeling is mutual.  She is very good at persuading him to do things that he will not do for anyone else, and so we now go to lunch hatless, negotiate sharing things more easily…  She has six children at home, and I’m sure she has developed skills that, because of the reduced child population in our household, have escaped me.  I am teaching him to say and sign her name; that the name is quite musical and lovely to say helps a great deal.

Dada tells me that, once more, he will be traveling in a few weeks.  I am hoping snow is not yet in the forecast by then.  The colder and stormier it gets, the greater the chance that flights in or out will be delayed, and the more I will fret about things while he’s gone or in transit.  Waiting for the bus in the mornings already requires a lantern and, on very rainy days, two umbrellas…if snow comes in early November (which we’re told sometimes happens,) waiting for the bus at 6:30 a.m. might be more than J wants to do…

We’ll see…


I am victorious…for now.

The long pants were worn this morning.  After a careful and detailed search of closet, drawers and laundry hamper, J realized he had no other choice…and the trusty, tried-and-true, weatherbeaten green cargo pants were donned.  I can tell you, from this very small event, that J has grown significantly since last Spring, and that he has lost weight.  Last winter, with his snow boots on, J’s pants would slightly drag under his heels, and there was snugness around the waist.  This morning, wearing his sandals (hey, one piece of clothing/footwear at a time, please!,) J’s pants allowed a glimpse of the top of his feet as he walked.  There was also no need to suck in the gut before buttoning and zipping up.  I hope that the pants I bought will be long enough to not need letting out, but I have moved my sewing box closer to where I sit in the evenings just in case I need to fix anything.


J came home from school happy.  Everyone, according to the comm book, complimented him on his long pants.  J, who is very proud of his sense of style and his looks, was very flattered and happy.  (Isn’t it lovely when people pull together to achieve a nice, smooth transition for your kid?  Not that he doesn’t look handsome…of course he does!  But the fact that everyone knows how he was rejecting the long pants and helped encourage their use…priceless!)

Of his own volition, J is changing up the order in which he does things when he gets home.  We hit the same marks, just in different order…like a choreography that has been fine-tuned to please the dancer.  I have discovered that he enjoys the walk through the lawn and coming in through the bottom level better than he does the front door.  I have also noticed that he prefers putting my cell phone in my purse; he knows that I only use it for the bus to call if there’s a problem, so J takes it to the front room and places it in a pocket inside my bag.  He hangs my keys, empties his school bag, hangs our jackets and then changes his clothes.  Food, I have discovered, comes into the mix once he’s comfortable and ready to settle in for the afternoon.

Today I was upstairs putting away my shoes and I’d left Zelda the Hellion Cat roaming the kitchen level.  J was in the basement with the door closed and Zelda was circulating freely.  J now knows that the closed door indicates Zelda is not in the garage, and I heard the door open and J walking around.  The cat, of course, was happily jingling away on the stairs and, with a nary a peep to be heard or sensed from where I was standing, J walked past the cat and up the stairs into my room.  He has a tendency to check what I’m doing, if I’ve changed into “at home” clothes, and he was checking up on me then.  Zelda was going up and down the stairs, playfully, happily, unconcerned with the big kid that screams when she’s running around.

The fact of the matter is that J was totally unconcerned, too.  It’s not that he didn’t see the jet black ball of fur that was traipsing around him.  It’s not that he didn’t hear the persistent jingling she makes as she moves.  No, J simply was totally fine with Zelda…BECAUSE I WAS NOT AROUND!

Two minutes later, we walk downstairs together, and there is Zelda (eyes big and yellow) and J starts squealing like a stuck pig and running in place like he’s just seen an evil spirit.  Of course, the dead giveaway that this is all fabricated drama is that he is looking at me out of the corner of his eye, and getting louder as I ignore him.  I simply scooped Zelda up and said “come here, J.  Pet the cat!”  Absolute, sudden silence, and J moves towards me…huge hand stretched out and gently patting the furry black head.

The ice has been broken with senior feline and resident hat-wearer alike…happy days are approaching us…

This evening I went downstairs after dinner to fold laundry.  I was going to carry the basket upstairs and work in the dining room, but then I figured “what the heck!”  So I spilled the contents of the basket on the family room floor and set to the task of folding.

J cleared his throat.

I looked up and noticed he was holding out a movie.  I leaned and grabbed it, cleaned it and popped it into the DVD player after insisting on a specific verbal request for help from J.  A quick roll of the eyes was followed by I NEED HELP WITH MOVIE PLEASE.  Ok, done.  I sat on my heels and continued working.

J cleared his throat.

I looked up once more and noticed he was staring at me.  Yes, I asked.  The movie he’d chosen was playing in the background, and J kept going back to the same scene over and over.  I paused and looked at him.  J rolled his eyes, messed with the remote control again and back to the same scene.  I squinted at him and shrugged.  Another roll of the eyes, a clearing of the throat and back to the same scene.

WHAT, I said, are you trying to tell me????  J nodded towards the TV and cleared his throat while rolling his eyes.

Two minutes later, as I emerged from the stairwell with a heavy basket full of laundry, my husband asked why I was laughing.  “Your son,’ I told him, ‘basically smacked me down through a video.”  The puzzled look on Dada’s face warranted more detail so I sent him downstairs with strict instructions to sit and make himself comfortable.

Five minutes later, he burst out laughing and I heard him make his way to the dining room.  “Did it to you, didn’t he?,” I asked.  Yes, Dada answered.

J, who people often think is so clueless, played over and over again the scene in A Goofy Movie where Max and Goofy are in the car and sing that song (On the Open Road) where Goofy thinks it’s an awesome idea to go camping with his son.  All the while, Max is talking about how lame his dad is.

Smacked down?  Indeed.  But our consolation is that Max eventually realizes his dad is not so lame…until An Extremely Goofy Movie.

Who says J doesn’t know how to communicate?  Certainly not us.

A brief recap of the onset of autumn…

The first day of autumn had every intention of making its presence felt.  Out came the jackets and what was left of the garden was taken into the garage (where it is doing quite well, thank you.)  We spent the morning (while football traffic waxed and waned) getting things organized at home.  J rose early and enthusiastically, and we thought for sure we’d have problems when we discovered he was dressed and ready to go out before ten a.m.

As it turned out, J was amenable to the idea of hanging out (dressed to go out) while we completed chores, and then he was happy to wait for us in the kitchen area while we waited for the game to start and a significant-enough lull in traffic to make an outing something less than a Cecil B. DeMille production.  This newfound patience of J’s is quite refreshing and comforting.  Suspicious, yes, but refreshing and comforting.

The only glitch in the weekend was trying to persuade J to wear long pants to school today.  As a courtesy, I had left one pair of shorts out, but was pretty certain that -once he realized how COLD it is in the mornings- J would lean towards wearing the long pants.  I was quickly and firmly disabused of this notion.  Out the door he went at 6:15 wearing shorts…heavy shorts, but shorts nonetheless.  Did I mention it was in the low forties at the time?  So today’s plan is to store all the shorts in the plastic bins in the garage.  Even the ones he’s wearing to school.

Today I am also expecting delivery of his new shoes.  Remember how the shoes I’d bought and saved for this time of year didn’t fit him?  The pull-on ankle boots with side-zip will be delivered today.  I have been stalking them on UPS.  Once those arrive, I am sure it will be easier to persuade J to wear long pants with them.  Correction: once those arrive I am HOPING it will be easier to persuade J to wear long pants.


The boots have arrived.  They fit beautifully…everywhere except around J’s rather beefy calves.  I am sure if I stuff them with paper and if he wears them for a few hours, they will develop further suppleness and pliancy.  Correction: I am hoping if I stuff them and…I’m just hoping.  They are very soft and very attractive, and he didn’t have any trouble putting them on, but there’s always the possibility that my son -he of the substantial calves he has inherited from only the Good Lord knows which side of our ancestry- might find the boots to be constrictive in all the wrong places.  We shall see…

In the meantime, not a single pair of shorts is available for J to wear tomorrow morning.  How this will work when it’s time for him to leave remains to be seen.  The young man is set-enough in his ways to insist on skimpy pants when the weather begs for more than that.  I am willing to negotiate, especially since I received news that today he -drumroll, please- took his hats off and went to school lunch bareheaded.  I don’t know if he is thinking ahead and hoping this will bear witness to his willingness to mature, and that it will make me more simpatico to the fact that he might insist on shorts two mornings in a row.

The truth is that if J can think in such a sophisticated manner and is prepping the ground for some early-morning, not-enough-caffeine negotiations, he deserves to wear the shorts until he’s ready, and…he will be ready soon enough.  Once he feels cold (which he will…by the first week in October, I’m sure,) J will happily trade his cabana shorts for his old, tried and true green cargo pants.  He knows they’re in the closet because he saw them this morning, and he insisted on putting them back…

So, yes, we are in yet another transition period.  We seem to get a lot of those around here, but they become easier to deal with the more J is willing to negotiate.  We consistently walk in and out of stores without a single purchase being made, and when I reorganized the pantry this weekend, J seemed very aware of where his snacks are being stored and how much of each is left.  The arrival yesterday afternoon of a new wire shelving unit for the garage made J very happy and he then proceeded to assemble it (I’m thinking to demonstrate his hammer-wielding skills to Dada) and then to help put things away on it.

The resident teenager, therefore, is settling into autumn in small doses.  Even though we no longer have the central A/C going because it no longer is necessary, J has yet to accept that he doesn’t need the second fan he keeps in his room.  It sounds like a windstorm in there, but he feels comforted by hum of the apparatus.  He has added an extra blanket and no longer wears short-sleeve tees to bed, but he will not give up his fan.  This is, I suppose, a different version of the shorts and sandals he insists on keeping in the rotation.  I can only go with it for now, but I will have to keep a close eye on the weather and start pressing a little more insistently as autumn progresses.

We resumed our family-time Wii run today.  J, running in place to the tune of The Black Keys, was happy and full of energy.  TGG did pretty well, especially considering that he had just come home from work.  Dada and I?  Let’s not talk about it, shall we?  We definitely need to get into a groove and quickly.  I spent more time with my tongue sticking out and mentally praying for deliverance than actually running…

Yes, autumn starts with a bang, a whimper…and several squeaks that indicate now is the time to get moving before winter arrives, sets in and we are DOOMED to those extra 10 pounds inactivity will easily pile on us…

The last gasp of summer…

Colonoscopy Day has come and gone.  In spite of the unpalatable nature of the colonoscopy cocktail, the hurdle is now overcome and we move on to the next thing…

J, for one, is pleased that Dada is now circulating among us as he is used to rather than in the disjointed way prescribed by the preparation for the test.  I, also, am tremendously glad as I don’t have to juggle everyone’s medication, drink, hydration, supplies and so forth more than what is normal.

And here is the weekend…

Tomorrow there is a football game so we will not be navigating through town until it’s over.  This is just as well since the anesthesiologist ordered Dada to refrain from driving for at least 24 hours and, optimally, for 48.  Between tonight’s Homecoming Game for J’s school, tomorrow’s college football game and all the traffic both generate, it is a good period of time to spend in the sanctity, quiet and relaxation of our own home.

Autumn-like weather has started to become the norm, and we are happily observing the leaves turn in the nearby hills.  Next weekend will be a good time, weather permitting, to go on a drive around the countryside.  The pumpkin patch will have to wait until October, and better yet until closer to Halloween.  By then we will require jackets or sweaters, and stopping for ice cream will be a thing of the past, but stopping for tea or hot chocolate will be wonderful.  J, in preparation for this transition, has been visiting with the Peanuts gang in their Thanksgiving classic: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  This, of course, is not as much of a masterpiece as A Charlie Brown Christmas or Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and don’t come back!,) but J seems to be getting into the autumnal mood by watching his friends re-enact the crossing of the Mayflower (sea sickness and all.)

In the midst of all the other events that have been unfolding I have failed to mention several things.  The most important of these things is that we finally got J’s school pictures earlier this week.  I know he is my son and I am tremendously biased, but I cannot help saying he is amazingly handsome and debonair.  The red polo shirt he wore was definitely an inspired choice and his hair and smile were absolutely stunning.  Many other mothers might balk at the Rosie O’Donnell smile J opted for, but I think he looks stellar and spectacular.  As of this moment, this particular picture wins for Best School Picture J Has EVER Taken.  When I asked him what he thought, there was quite a bit of hand-slapping of the happy sort and he blushed when I mentioned how handsome he looks.  He danced.  He shuffled.  He is happy with his picture.

Second thing I might have forgotten to mention: we have placed J’s iPad (FINALLY!) on layaway.  TGG and I had been putting away $20 each for the past few weeks and we managed to put down half the cost as a deposit.  So we will be able to comfortably pay the remaining balance by the time the cut-off date comes around in mid-December.  We are hoping that we will be able to collect it from the store in late November so that we have time to load it with J’s iTunes and the APPS for PECS and such that we would like to get for him.  That way, we think, once we hand it over and the surprise and awe are over, he can immediately use it.  These are the things that now occupy our thoughts.

The Christmas shopping is almost done.  I was waylaid by several small crises that arose over the summer months.  By my count, we still need to come up with four small gifts for J (two of which are movies and the Katy Perry concert movie, quelle surprise!, is obviously one of them.)  TGG is a little more difficult, but I’m working on a few quirky little things that will make him laugh and Dada, well, how do I make up for the colonoscopy?  I’ve yet to think of the seven small things that are yet to be acquired for his basket, but I’m working on it.

The cats, on the plus side of things, are improving their interactions.  We refer to letting Zelda run free as “releasing the Kraken.”  This is not as much of an exaggeration as one might think.  Maybe she has ADHD?  J has tempered his reaction to her but continues to prefer her when she’s not in motion.  Quite honestly, so do I…Miss Pipa is developing some sort of feline PTSD and she thinks she hears the menacing jingle of Zelda’s bell in her sleep.  I think I hear Zelda’s jingling bell in my sleep, too…

I know what you’re thinking: the cat seems like a mistake.  I would say she’s more of a mis-timing or mis-step, but not a mistake…I could have planned better, but I am not famous for doing these things (the ones that will throw the whole household into chaos) after too much thought.  I will consider the right slipcover to choose for the couch more carefully than I will bringing a living creature into our midst.  I give more thought to inanimate objects than I do living ones.  Does it throw us into a tailspin?  Yes.  It does.  But we are a family (a weird, spastic, ready-for-anything? family) and we will…gulp…gasp…sigh…adjust.

Until then, J will alternate screeching in mock-horror (because you can’t kiss the top of a cat’s head tenderly if you really hate it and fear it,) and saying PLEASE PUT CAT AWAY.  Until then, Miss Pipa will alternate between seeking out her new “companion” and hissing at the Kraken when it approaches her.  The gap that Miss JuJu left has not been filled completely, but there seems to be something else (hysteria? panic? horror? distaste?) filling it for the time being.  Zelda the Hellion Cat will become an everyday fact and J will go back to giving Miss Pipa the “hey” shrug in greeting.

And let autumn begin…we’re ready!


A hodge-podge of updates from a harried woman…or business as usual.

I have not had coffee.  Coffee has been made, but I’ve yet to sit down and enjoy any.  I had a sip.  Aside from the coffee brewed at gas stations, I have yet to taste worse.  Maybe the person having the colonoscopy cocktail should not be charged with making the coffee on the morning of the colonoscopy?  I would have made it, but the bed refused to release me with any sort of oomph this morning.  My pillow was whispering softly “you don’t want to get up, so why bother?”  The answer should have been “because the coffee grinder didn’t sound as chirpy as it usually does and because I can’t smell coffee.”

I don’t blame Dada for not being more enthused about the java this morning, but I also don’t blame myself for needing that jolt on this particular morning.  Another batch of coffee, this one infused with as much caffeine, flavor, aroma and emotional comfort as I can put into it, will be made and I -who spent the night making sure a very reluctant and tired man didn’t get dehydrated- will awake.


My kitchen now smells the way it should smell every morning.  I’ve made a lovely cup of coffee.  I even frothed some milk.  Then I set to the task of briskly walking up and down the stairs to start bringing Dada his colonoscopy cocktail every ten minutes.  We will both lose weight but through different methods this week, and we will have cleared one of the major hurdles of middle age: the dreaded test that awaits us all if we reach the age of fifty.

J was very happy to see Dada up and about (in the common areas of the house) this morning.  In the middle of a routine-shattering planned event, J found a shred of his usual day-to-day.  He has segued seamlessly into wearing his red hoodie in the mornings (something he usually balks at while still wearing shorts,) and I think he will soon be more willing to put away his summer wardrobe.  His beloved green cargo pants are once more in the closet lined up next to two new pairs of the same model; these, I’m sure, will have to undergo strict beatings-up to reach the same level of beloved-ness, but I am hoping that they will be acceptable stand-ins when the green cargo pants are sidelined by the necessary process of laundering.  Perhaps if J has a mound of rocks that he can beat the newer pants against to properly age and deteriorate them?

The shoes I had bought him a few months ago no longer fit him so they came out of the box to be passed on to Dada.  This morning, after much analysis and research, I purchased for J a pair of ankle boots (size U.S. 11 and Wide EE) from L.L. Bean that will serve him quite well.  They have a zipper on the side, and they are a lovely shade of chocolate brown that is insulated and water-proof.  They are very similar to his slippers, and I am hoping he will love them as soon as they arrive.  And, yes, remembering last year’s bout with athlete’s foot, I am ready for that development.

Today…the afternoon will be a slippery slope.  I have calculated delays and complications into the schedule for the alien-probing (which is what my husband, in his most melodramatic moments, has been calling the colonoscopy) and I am hoping we will be home by 5 P.M. at the latest.  I would love to sail out of the hospital at three and come home to let the “victim” relax and to resume our usual routine.  This, I am aware, is most optimistic and almost risible…but a girl can dream, can’t she?  Even if she’s in her late forties and long-past the “girl” stage?

On the Zelda the Hellion Cat front, J is still getting used to her.  Yesterday, after much squealing and screeching, I managed to sternly inform my beloved son that such emoting was unnecessary, and that a simple PLEASE PUT CAT AWAY would do.  If she is being held, J is completely fine with her presence.  He will pet her, talk to her and even “kiss” the top of her head.  If Zelda, however, is frantically bouncing off the walls as she is prone to do when she’s loose, that’s another story.  PLEASE PUT CAT AWAY is usually abbreviated to PLEASE CAT, and one of us obliges.  Age and maturity, hopefully, will reduce Zelda’s desire to celebrate her newfound freedom, and J will be ok with her navigating the house without a grown-up chasing after her while J says PLEASE CAT rather loudly.  The basement-level family room continues to be off-limits for Zelda, and a profound sense of kinship is blossoming between J and Miss Pipa as both consider Zelda’s full name to include the words PEST, MEDDLER, NUISANCE and PAIN IN THE ASS.  (A quick round-table discussion between TGG, Dada and myself concluded that had we not been so fond of the name Zelda, we might have taken a page from Young Frankenstein and baptized her Abbie Normal.  Yes, Zelda has done quite a few things that have left us scratching our heads, and walking around with a full head of garlic in her mouth is among the least of them.)

All in all, this week of self-inflicted maladies (cat, colonoscopy, visit to attorney,) has gone fairly well.  Our wedding vows are intact even if our tomatoes have frequently rolled across the floor and J has climbed on furniture that hasn’t benefitted from the strain.  And, by the way, J IS losing weight slowly but steadily, and he is also quite proud of the fact that he has to hitch up his pants more frequently.

And now…the colonoscopy cocktail has been consumed in its entirety and, being mom and wife and home-maker, I am off to take care of those things that -my nurse-duties expended for the time being- require my attention.  There are loads of laundry to wash, fold, put away, and a shopping list to finalize before sending TGG to the store.  Then I will go to hospital and wait…

Let’s hope for smooth sailing from here until tomorrow morning…

A web woven by the Amazing Spider-Man…

Zelda the Hellion Cat has started to mellow, but not so much so that you would deem her domesticated.  She’s just not irrepressible anymore.  This, I regret to say, has come as a result of many broken and knocked over things, but the men in my household are being gentlemanly about their accusing fingers…

Tomorrow is, oh frabjous day, time for Dada’s colonoscopy.  I am advocating adding this to anyone’s marriage vows.  “In sickness and in health” doesn’t quite have the ring to it that “before fifty and at colonoscopy time”…togetherness of this sort is something young people cannot begin to fathom when they think of “loving forevermore.”  I have mixed four liters of a disgusting fluid that must be consumed over the course of two days, 8 ounces at a time at ten to twenty minute intervals.  We started at four and before six P.M. the question I asked most was “feeling dehydrated?”

By this time tomorrow, hopefully, this will be a thing of the past.  Of course, after googling the after-effects of such a bodily invasion, I am expecting gas to be passed freely.  J has been a little more observant of what’s going on than usual because he’s not at all accustomed to Dada being mostly in our bedroom, and mostly heading towards the bathroom.  Our schedule (with the pre-colonoscopy cocktail) got slightly thrown off and supper was way later than usual, bumping bath-time into nearly bedtime.  TGG, fresh from a 12-hour shift, came home to augment my efforts and, as I type this, J has turned off his light after protesting about the world being off-kilter.

The other important thing we’ve done today (aside from get acquainted with, so to speak, the underbelly of medical procedures) was speak to the attorney regarding the guardianship process for J.  It will not be as cut-and-dried as we’d hoped, but it also won’t be as convoluted as we’d feared.  There seems to be, in our immediate future, this whole probing the inside of someone’s colon followed by mountains of paperwork and probing into what is best for J.

I will tell you more when I am no longer feeling so tired.  Even though I’m not the one being subjected to prying eyes tomorrow, I’ve been on the go since this morning.  Tomorrow will not be much easier: the next two liters of the colonoscopy cocktail need to be dispensed starting at 6:45 in the morning as Dada can have nothing-by-mouth two hours before his appointment.  We sign in at 11:45 and, if all goes well, the invasion to J’s schedule will be minimal.  TGG has taken the day off to be here for Dada, for J and for me, and our neighbor is lovely enough to sit with J if something is needed from TGG once the kid is home from school.

So…there you have the web woven by Spider-Man and me dangling (by the feet) from it.


Children and cats are not good advisors…but it’s all basically really MY fault

Since Miss JuJu disappeared, Miss Pipa had been increasingly despondent.  Cats are melodramatic by nature (when they feel like it,) and we were all concerned about her apparent depressive state.  More and more in recent weeks we’d noticed her sitting on one of the posts for the railing on the third floor balcony.  The only thing missing was “goodbye cruel world” floating above her head.  The cat that used to lounge on the “Man Chair” with sensuous abandon had taken to imitating Will Ferrell in Everything Must Go (good movie if you ever want to watch it…Mr. Ferrell is quite pleasantly surprising although Christopher Jordan Wallace steals the movie.)

But I digress…

To summarize: Miss Pipa looked despondent and depressed, and J kept saying the word CAT.

Enter Zelda the Feline Hellion.

It’s all my fault.  I admit this much.  I’ve been admitting this much since yesterday afternoon when we, literally, let the cat out of its container and unleashed it on an unsuspecting world.  J was still in school so Miss Pipa was the first one to become acquainted with the new member of the family.  If cats could speak, I’m sure Miss Pipa’s facial expression would have been accompanied by “WHAT did you DO?????  WHAT is THAT?????  WHY do you HATE ME????”

Despondency flew out the window.  Sadness was replaced with contempt for…well…ME!  Everyone in this house knows who is the root of all cats.  I cannot escape my reputation no matter how hard I try.  Yesterday was no exception.

Miss Pipa, who had been receiving extra-doses of love and affection, was being pampered and petted almost constantly, still looked like we were not enough.  Now it appears Zelda is too much…  Even I am beginning to think Zelda is too much. Remember Snoopy’s next-door neighbor cat?



It’s kind of been like that…lots and lots and lots of antibiotic ointment has been dispensed since yesterday, and Zelda now sports a rather large bow (red with white polka dots) and a rather large jingle ball to announce her location.  That we hear the jingle now in the kitchen, now in the garage, now on the stairs, now in the hallway, now in the bathroom, now in entryway, now in the kitchen, now in our bedroom, now in the dining room, now in the hallway…is beside the point.  Zelda, like every other rescue animal, had been caged since early July…  Dada now asks “didn’t it tell you something that no one had adopted this cat since over two months ago???”

Now, I told him, is NOT the time to mention this!  At the adoption center this should have been mentioned.  Did you notice, he interjects, that hers was the only cage that didn’t have a sheet with information?  I glare.  Didn’t the guy at the desk say she kept tearing it off???  NOW is not the time to bring this up, I grunt.

In the car, we told J “we have surprise for you at home!  A new cat.  A baby cat!  Her name is Zelda!”  And J was happy.  Oh, CAT!  Oh, BABY CAT!  Oh, ZELDA!  And he bounced out of the car and towards the door…joy and happiness emanating from him…

And then Zelda leapt out of the garage with her large bow and her large jingle.  She is, I swear, the size of J’s foot.  This cat is small and light as a feather…but she is also very furry and has, as you can see in the picture, big yellow eyes.  And she’s black as if she’d rolled in coal dust.

Have I mentioned how light on his feet J can be?  Yesterday he was even lighter.  The idea of Zelda the Baby Cat was one thing, the experience of Zelda the Hellion Cat was entirely another.  AH-AAAAAAH!!!!  and dash!

Because J cannot speak clearly, all we heard from him was running commentary that we could not decipher, but that sounded quite a bit like an old man grumbling about how he can eat whatever he wants and when he wants and how he wants and he doesn’t need anyone to tell him what to do because he’s old and he’s earned it.  This was the soundtrack of J’s emergence from his room, his egress towards the family room and his arrival at the couch where, looking at Miss Pipa on the Man Chair, he seemed to suddenly feel a tremendous sense of camaraderie with this particular feline.  Stomp, stomp, stomp…AH-AAAAAH! and slam the door that leads to the basement…his steps back down there were muffled by the closed door.

By seven P.M. J was more willing to not be horrified by this new presence, but he still protested whenever the cat seemed to cross the line of where she was allowed to roam.  For the record, Miss Pipa has the run of the house…the whole house…she’s not using it.  We have sat her down and, while gently and lovingly petting her, told her quite clearly that she’s the alpha and this is her house.  Zelda is limited to the kitchen level and the top level, but she’s not allowed in any bedroom other than ours (this simply because I spend more time in my room than anyone else does in theirs and I don’t want her to scratch at the door begging to be let in.

Last night, in an attempt to let them get acquainted with each other, we made both cats sleep in the garage.  Both had pillows (on opposite sides of the room,) and we left water, food, a scratch post, the litter box and a radio playing AM news at a low volume.  Miss Pipa was the one who asked to be let into the house early this morning; Zelda was more timid.  Miss Pipa got to come in and circulate while J had not yet left for school; Zelda remained in the garage until J left.

Last night I worried briefly that J would want his boxing gloves.  He hasn’t.  I also worried that if he uses his Slinky like Indiana Jones uses his whip to prevent Zelda from approaching him, Zelda will think he’s playing…she hasn’t.  Miss Pipa, well, she hisses and makes that deep internal roar that cats make when she sees her new companion do something that is not considered appropriate, but -so far- no blood other than mine has been drawn.  (Yes, I am the recipient of the antibiotic ointment.)

I know what you’re going to say…how stupid am I?  I am very stupid.  Trust me, I have told myself this a million times over since yesterday, but I think it will eventually work itself out.  If not, I’m sure there’s plenty of room for me to sleep in the garage also…