Animal magnetism…rocking it in seemingly marsupial-style

Either I’ve had a magnet inserted into my body while I was sleeping and J has a metal disc somewhere in him, or we are going through yet another clingy phase…

Don’t look now, but I’m being followed.  Closely.  Relentlessly.  Proof of it is that it’s nearly one o’clock in the afternoon and I’m still in my nightgown and robe, and if John Cassavetes was still around he’d think I’m trying to inspire another screenplay.

Spring cleaning has been postponed until I can do it in peace and quiet; that is, as soon as J leaves for school on Tuesday, I will be blissfully reunited with my bucket, rags, cleaners and I will peel a layer of winter off of our surroundings.  For now all we’ve done is shred piles and piles of paper, move some furniture, make a few bars of soap, start two greenhouses and listen to The Easter Parade until I’ve considered confessing things I’ve never done just to get it to stop.  J thinks, by the way, that this is funny, and he laughs when I stomp out of the room seeking quieter environments.  I’ve found myself prancing around the room like Tom Hulce in Amadeus, sticking my tongue out at poor Irving Berlin (who is, quite clearly, NOT to blame for this atrocious rendition of a perfectly good, when listened to ONCE, song.)

The weather is improving slowly.  Not enthusiastically, but improving nonetheless.  When I look at pictures from last year, I see that we were farther along in the “warm weather” trend than we are this year, but we also had several freeze warnings into April so I will endeavor to be patient.  J, on the other hand, insisted on starting seeds for peppers, tomatoes, spinach, chard, peas of two different varieties and two different squashes.  If they will prosper is anyone’s guess, but we’ve placed them in a sunny spot in the kitchen with hopes of seeing something good come out of them.

Since we still have tomorrow, Sunday and Monday left of Spring Break, we have three more projects to attempt.  J likes mosaic, so that’s on for tomorrow’s schedule after our trip to the store.  TGG has promised a trip to the movies for Easter Sunday while I take a breather from all this togetherness we’ve been enjoying.  Not that I don’t love the kid, but I really am looking forward to taking a shower without  feeling like Lady Jane Grey during her imprisonment.  I feel protected, yes, and I feel loved, but I also would love to walk out of the bathroom in my robe without J standing there with that “well, that took you long enough!” look on his face.

Why is it, I ask myself, that J is totally fine with being left alone when there are two more people in the house, but he isn’t fine with being alone when it’s just me who’s home???  I ponder this as we walk up and down the stairs, my shadow closely following, doing chores.  I ponder this when I manage to go upstairs to the garage without company and suddenly find him standing in the doorway, quietly observing me as I try to get some chore done.  I ponder this when I am brushing my teeth and I hear him sitting on my bed, whipping Slinky around to keep Miss Zelda the Cat from getting too close to him.  I also ponder it when Dada and TGG are home and, should any of us go to where J is, we get greeted with a hearty and dismissive BYE!!!!!!

Theories abound.  I think he just wants to annoy me.  Dada thinks he’s just bored.  TGG thinks he’s being protective of me.  Jane Goodall would probably say it’s not her department as this is not necessarily chimpanzee behavior, and I should consult a marsupial expert.  Either way, if we are koalas, please, let ME ride on J’s back and not vice versa.  I think I’ve earned being lugged around by a youngster rather than the other way around.

As I write this, a dear friend is in the hospital about to deliver her first child.  She was taken in yesterday and they started inducing late last night.  I remember when TGG was born, and I was fruitlessly induced until they decided fetal distress trumped natural childbirth and they took him out.  Twice I’ve received messages from her saying “still nothing,” and -more recently- “this sucks.”  I reply in as light a tone as I can because she’s a first-timer and she’s scared (and who wasn’t, really, the first time around?)  It hasn’t escaped me that my friend, in her late thirties, is currently in a position I haven’t been in for more than 18 years, and that I will never again be in that position.  I don’t mean feet in stirrups, I mean feet in stirrups and pushing for dear life (mine and someone else’s.)  I go to her house, play with her dogs, tell them she’ll be back with a baby in her arms “soon,” and I realize I no longer sound like someone still capable of popping out babies, but rather like someone who is closer to becoming a grandmother…  Strangely enough, this doesn’t pain me at all.  When I consider all the work I still have to do with J, I am glad I can’t add more bodies to our already hectic household.

So as I walk around the house with my not-so-little bundle of joy following me around, the neighbor across the way is about to bring to this world her own little marsupial.  Can you feel me sending good vibes her way?  I remember the anxiety with which I entered each of my maternal enterprises, and I am struck by my naivete, my innocence, my youthful enthusiasm and willingness to tackle whatever life put in front of me.  I look back as I sit here and wait for news on my friend’s endeavor, and I am amazed at how I’ve managed to not screw up too badly…

 

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An update on so-called Spring…

First official day of J’s Spring Break…four inches of snow, and working on a few more.  Obviously, it’s going to be Indoor Time until this storm passes, not that I was expecting much by way of Outside Time.  I did hope, however, for a nice walk here and there, and looking at the budding trees and getting J out of the wintry mood he’s hugging tightly to his chest.  No, he’s not depressed, but he’s rocking the Christmas tunes like it’s early December…

Instead, we are working our way through the not-insignificantly sized pile of paper I’ve accumulated for shredding.  I’ve started dividing into smaller piles, and this will stretch out for the whole week.  I’ve been saving for a long time to be able to pull this off…that is: I’ve been saving paper that can and should be shredded since we moved to WV for such an activity to take place.  The shredder was something I’d been meaning to purchase for a while (we killed our old one when we shredded half the world before moving out here) and I finally found one that doesn’t take much space, has a button that warns us when it’s overheating, and has a lock to prevent things like edges of t-shirts or too-long sleeves from being sucked into the blades.  J was clearly happy when he realized this item was coming home with us on Saturday…he loves shredding paper…it’s one of his top ten favorite activities.

Yesterday we went to the bookstore and he found two books he wanted, so we came home with them, and we bought a baby gate that is now blocking our bottom deck’s entryway.  The past week saw a rash of escaped dogs rampaging through the neighborhood; each and everyone of them climbed on our deck and marked territory much to the chagrin of Miss Pipa and Miss Zelda (and much to the horror of their owner who -clad in a hot-flash alleviating cotton nightgown and a red robe- ran outside and nearly flashed all the construction workers in an effort to make the dogs “shoo.”)  Two trips to the hardware store solved this particular issue, and we took some (wasted) time to make the deck look more spring-like.  I have to say it does look less wintry in spite of the four inches of snow it has received so far since last night.

Spring Break is more or less of a letdown every year.  Where I come from, this type of weather is seen only in Milton Bradley jigsaw puzzles and Christmas movies, so we take seasons (or the lack of them) lightly.  Cartoons have accustomed us to a sudden and dramatic change, and we’ve come to expect it; I’ve discovered that cartoons have been gypping us for years, and I’ve yet to get used to being lied to in this way.  So the word “spring” no longer comes attached to “break” as much as it does to “cleaning,” and J and I will be vigorously pursuing getting the house ready to open doors and windows to let the potential warmer weather in…for the time being, though, we are all complaining of how dry the air emitted by the central heating is, and how stale the house smells in spite of my efforts to keep everything clean and fresh.  As kids would have said a few years back, the house smells “so last winter!”

And that is Monday morning.  Monday afternoon includes a visit to the dentist (which will meet with some resistance from J because I think he’s had enough of the experience for the time being,) and some effort at picking out clothes that he no longer wears regularly to add to the pile we send off to people who will use them.

The weather, hopefully, will improve by tomorrow…but we’re not holding our breath (or our little plastic greenhouses) waiting for that to happen.  I believe peppers, Swiss chard and tomatoes will be started before the end of this day…

IwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbusBYE!

By the time I tucked J in, he had firmly, insistently and unequivocally expressed his desire to go to school today.  In case I had missed the gist of his soliloquy, he reminded me…persistently…of his most ardent wish.  He used his words.  He used ASL.  He used his iPad.  If he had been in the mood, I’m sure he’d have Isadora Duncan-ed the whole thing.  Lucky for me, I found this endearing and charming, or I would have run out to the street screaming uncontrollably.  After four back-to-back sing-alongs of our Going to the Yellow Bus song, J asked for lights out and, parched and exhausted from all the vigorous singing, I went to bed…

Next thing we knew, the hallway lights were on and J was happily roaming the hallway, waiting to see signs of life in our room.  I don’t know where I got this, but I’m pretty sure one should react to these things in much the same way one reacts when encountering a bear in the wild: play dead.  Or, in this particular case, play asleep as loudly and obviously as you can.  One hour and eighteen minutes after the light started going on and off, and the hallway floor creaked with the not-too-discreet steps of a certain J the Toothless Wonder, we gave up our pretense.  Dada went to take his shower (the sound of which propelled J towards our bedroom door as if carried on the wings of a mighty eagle,) and I raised my arm to greet J in the semi-darkness.

Iwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbus

Yes, dear…I’m getting up…

Iwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbus

How’d you sleep?

Iwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbus

How’s your tooth?

(Silence…hesitation)  TOOTH?

Yes.  How’s your tooth???

Iwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbus

I’m going out on a limb here and guess that your tooth is just fine.

TOOTH!  Iwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbus

I asked him to please get my robe, and as I dragged my limbs into its sleeves and shuffled out of the room, J’s constant, cheerful, excited and relentless chanting of Iwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbus continued.  The same kid who requires multiple calls, peek-ins, lights-on after he turns them off and complains like he’s being forced to work in a quarry all day, dragging granite from the stone wall with his bare hands, was not only up and about by 4 a.m., but had US up and about (without coffee, mind you) by 5:18…

The next hour was hectic.  There weren’t enough things for J to do, but what little we found was done with the same joy and energy that Pollyanna applied to everything.  If we didn’t know better, we’d think there’s catnip in his antibiotics.  J bounced down to the pantry to fill his snack box, then he bounced up the stairs to get his snack bag for school, then bounced down the stairs again, then bounced back up, then went to put some laundry in the dryer and a new load in the washer, he cleaned the counter, he sorted dishes, he giggled, laughed, chortled, guffawed, all the while singing his bus song…

At 6:18, Dada and J headed out the door to wait for the bus.  He hugged one and all with such enthusiastic affection one would think he had joined the French Legion to get away from a most annoying woman who was pressing him for marriage.  He waved like he was about to leave on the grandest, most fantastic journey…Phileas Fogg wasn’t as into going around the world in 80 days as J was about going ten minutes away from home to school.  If he could have left in a blaze of glory or through a rainfall of ticker tape, he probably would have…

As I closed the door, I could hear the giggling and sing-song of J’s voice as he climbed in the car.  He was alternating the Bus Song with IwannagotoschoolgotoschoolgotoschoolschoolschoolschoolbusschoolbusschoolbusBYE!

If that isn’t a sign that he’s recovered from three molar extractions over the course of a month, I don’t know what is…

The Toothless Wonder rides again…and -hopefully- retires…

We are back from the latest round of tooth extractions.  We survived.  A little worse for wear, but that is to be expected.  There were a few tears (ours,) a little high-pitched screeching (J’s,) and then it was over.  J bounced back quickly.  We’re still waiting to bounce…of course, we are older, and we’re the ones who plunked down a good amount of cash to pay for this.  We’ll live.  We always do.  The important thing is that J is healing, albeit with fewer molars than he had this morning.

Another important thing that happened today was that J learned to associate things that used to be more abstract in the past.  For example: I WANT CHIPS not two hours after returning from the dentist.  A swift NO from us elicited a tantrum (during which J proceeded to punch his own face…on the side where the extractions were done,) and I firmly sat him down and, with his Proloquo, showed him DENTIST, DENTIST CHAIR, SHOT, and asked him if he wanted to go back…  In a true moment of “pick your battles,” J accepted that there was an utter lack of wisdom in his insistence…he backed down.  I felt triumphant, and it might be hyperbolic, but that’s exactly what it felt like to have him realize and accept the potential consequence by adding 2 and 2 with a minimal amount of prodding on my part.

Here we are…at almost seven o’clock, and J is perfectly happy.  Doesn’t seem logical, reasonable or even plausible, but he is happy and giggling frequently while watching Disney’s cartoon about Johnny Appleseed in French.  He laughs even more when he’s listening to Little Toot in French.  I’m so happy that, to quote Sting, I can’t stop crying…the kid should be, for all intents and purposes, quite sore and uncomfortable after having two molars pulled out of his lower jaw.  I know for me that has been excruciating, and he is -perhaps by virtue of his youth- recovering quite nicely.

It doesn’t hurt that I made him flan.  It doesn’t hurt that I made him the kind of cornstarch cream my aunts used to make me when I was little.  It doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t know there are more powerful drugs in the face of this planet than Children’s Tylenol.  It doesn’t hurt that he is content with a ziploc bag full of half-melted crushed ice to press against his jaw when it bothers him.  All these things go a long way to make him feel better, and he smiles like he means it, and he hugs us like he’s relieved from his pain.

I will tell you this much, my friends: we don’t know how we got this lucky.  We’ve discussed it a few times over the past year, and a few more today.  Dada and I always wonder how two people could possibly be fortunate enough to have their individual and combined worries addressed by any and all powers of the Universe.  Three years ago (ok, two years, 11 months and 2 days ago,) we weren’t sure we’d get out of the dark hole of J’s anxiety and self-injury, and today he sat at the dentist’s office, anxious and concerned, but capable of focusing on the purpose of the visit.  He squealed.  He screeched a bit.  He was me without the maturity that prevents me from biting the dentist…only HE didn’t bite the dentist, something that I did when I was four and -I’m pretty sure- will not live down EVER!  J was afraid (of course he was afraid…they were going to use big, hard pliers to pull out TWO permanent molars, for crying out loud!,) but he kept as much of his cool as possible.  J is the child of a woman who heard from the receptionist in her former pediatrician’s office “you bite!  You kick AND you bite!” when I called to ask for TGG’s newborn assessment nearly 22 years ago.  J has only reacted in an extreme way when he didn’t yet have the ability to understand that we were trying to help him heal, and now…now he just wants yogurt, flan, and the comforting hugs that say “this will be just fine.”

While J was under they did a quick check of the rest of his mouth.  It looked good.  Thank GOD!  The thing is that we don’t have to just accept that a quick glance says all is good because the medical insurance has approved coverage of a visit to the OR so that J can have a thorough cleaning, more X-rays to determine what else might pose a problem down the road, and this opens the door to better care for J’s remaining teeth.  That, my dear friends, only took two phone calls from the dentist’s office and one from me…that is 1/10th of the calls I’ve had to make in the past…and a miracle of sorts…

So…the Toothless Wonder will have his bath in a while, his Tylenol before bed, and he will go to school in the morning to taunt his friends with the gaping hole in his gums.  And they’ll laugh about it, and life will go back to some sort of normalcy that varies slightly from the one we had before…

because that’s how we roll…we roll over normal and make it change constantly…like cats, we fall on all four feet…even if we have NO idea how or why.

Notes from the land where someone’s tooth feels much better…

Thursday…once we get past this weekend (and St. Patrick’s Day,) J will have his next appointment with the oral surgeon.  There was a marked improvement in his demeanor and state of mind once he started the antibiotic.  The fever disappeared, taking with it the surly disposition that we know cones attached to toothaches in general.

On Monday I attempted to persuade our medical insurance carrier to cover the OR so that J can have a full cleaning, full set of x-rays and the extractions done.  If you hear from them, please let me know…it’s been radio silence on this side since then. If it doesn’t happen, we’re fine with that, but we’ve started to view J’s mouth like a 30-year mortgage at 25% interest rate…and we fear we’ve bought a clunker.  But, as my aunts used to say, why waste time complaining when one needs time to address the issues at hand, right???

Personally, I think complaining is healthy, but I won’t let it get in the way of the many things I have to do before Spring Break rolls around, and -yes- this comes in the heels of all this dental drama.  I am looking forward to a weeklong vacation that doesn’t involve ziploc bags with ice, urgent trips to the dental clinic and liquid acetaminophen.  With this hope in mind we traveled to the hardware store and the arts and crafts supplies store on Sunday.  We were motivated by the absolutely fantastic, glorious spring-like weather that lasted exactly until Monday; during that trip we acquired J’s greenhouses, more seeds, materials for soap-making, etc.  As I made my way to the bus stop yesterday afternoon, the wind and snow were making my progress difficult, but I was seriously latching on to the thought of Spring Break and GREEN things…every time I see snowflakes on the website where we check the weather, I whimper…yes, we want warm weather that badly.

The only upside to the cold weather we’ve been saddled with this week has been that I’ve made significant progress transferring slides into our computer.  As a result of my father in-law’s move to a smaller place, we took on the project of working our way through carousel after carousel of family photos.  I’ve been prancing, leaping, bounding, jumping, skipping, hopping and waltzing down someone else’s memory lane.  That I have known my husband’s family all my life, that their faces, expressions, features, histories are familiar to me has made the project even sweeter.  I’ve seen my parents in-law as very young people, entering married life with all the vigor and energy of youth; I’ve seen them have children, age, travel…  I found my dad in a few pictures of a Christmas party thirty years ago.  I’ve yet to find a picture of myself, and I am sure this is great part due to my horrible aversion to cameras and any other equipment that might perpetuate my funny-looking face at any age.  The weird thing about aging is that, as we look back, we can ask ourselves “how old were our parents in this picture?  Wow, they were our age!  OH, WOW!!!”  I blame a lot of my unkemptness and deterioration to J, but I know that it’s more my nature than the so-called careworn nature of our day-to-day lives dealing with Autism.  I have wrinkles, yes, but they all stem from -strangely enough- laugh lines I’ve earned over the years.

My mother in-law was a beautiful woman.  I wish I had known her much better.  I wish she had had time to get to like me.  In truth, I always liked and admired her, and I now (thirty-three years later) understand why she worried about the crazy girl who fell madly in love with her quiet, handsome son.  In hindsight, I would have wanted me to stay away from him, too.  Looking at her pictures, at her evolution, at the loveliness of her being, I really miss her…I wish life had thrown us together at a better moment, and that she could see me NOW rather than then.  I think, and I might be sorely mistaken, that I have improved with age…perhaps not my looks (heavens, no, most certainly not my looks and those were nothing to rave about for starters,) but definitely my character.  I wish my mother in-law had been able to see stand-alone me rather than me as an extension of my mother, a pear not far from its originating limb…

Dada tells me that his mother would have loved me.  I like to think that he wouldn’t lie about this.  I like to think that he’s not pinning false statements on his mother’s memory.  I think we would have understood each other.  For one, I admire her handiwork; not only is her son handsome beyond all description, he has a tremendously noble character, a deep intelligence, a fantastic sense of humor and he’s a great dad.  That is the result of the beaming parents I see in pictures, still in love thirty, forty years after saying I do.

What is more: I think Dada’s mom would have loved my kids.  I think she would have thought we’ve raised them well.  I think she would understand where we’re coming from and what we’re doing, and -seeing her pictures and remembering her from when I knew her and through what Dada tells me I know she would have been involved with J’s development.  I know she would have asked the intelligent questions that my mother didn’t ask.  I think she would have, yes…and I would have been tremendously grateful…

As we looked at pictures on the computer yesterday evening, J stood quietly looking at all these familiar faces that seem so YOUNG to him.  Dada with a full (and unruly) head of hair; his uncles with hair and clothes that scream 70s and 80s…  It made me wonder how he remembers me, us…and I hope we manage to create a bank of fond memories for him, even if there is some of the tiredness and anxiety interspersed in it…

And the bad, painful teeth are certainly in there, but -hopefully- trimmed with our desire to help him feel better…

Mamma would buy you a mockingbird, but they’re not recommended for toothaches…

This morning we sent J to school with A LITTLE PAIN and some Children’s Tylenol.  The molars have reared their ugly heads once more, but -in their defense- they were subjected to a weekend of reckless abandon.  Or as close to reckless abandon as J can get now that he knows there are types of food that cause pain when he overworks his poor, battered molars.  We have a week to go, and the pained look on his handsome face is making us wish we could take care of this sooner.  When will the test of our mettle in terms of dental problems end?  We have no idea, but we would love to see the light at the end of the tunnel sooner rather than later.

All in all all is well…we can’t expect much more than what is going on right now.  Trying to reason with J when it comes to food can be a difficult task, but he has learned to self-regulate a lot better than we expected.  Our wish, of course, would be that he self-regulates based on a desire to not gain more weight (which he has finished doing for the winter, thank goodness) rather than on the notion that eating hurts his mouth.  Stubborn as he is (and we REALLY have NO idea WHERE he could have gotten the stubborn gene…of…course….ahem,) he will continue to make every valiant, gallant, pig-headed attempt possible to eat what he shouldn’t, but he has put aside the more obvious pain-inducing requests.  There is no way, you understand, that he will ADMIT they cause him pain and he is giving in because of this; J will act as if he’s being magnanimous towards us, as if he’s given us a token of his respect in not asking for peanut brittle, Laffy Taffy, popcorn, pizza and such.  The treasure trove of forbidden candy sits untouched in the cupboard, the subject of sighing and loving glances that scream of unrequited love.

The worst part of all this is that he’s not his usual self.  He’s not even angry and throwing tantrums; J’s just miserable right now, and seeing him like that is so difficult!  I’m losing sleep, yet that is not the problem.  I’m stressed out, and that is not the problem either.  I feel tired and anxious, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s bothering me…seeing J with his sad eyes and his very quiet demeanor is just, well, heart-smooshing.  That I cannot sit him on my lap and rock him back and forth in a soothing manner is even sadder for me…

I admit that I found running my fingers through the kids’ hair and sitting them on my lap for a hug and a good cry quite comforting.  I didn’t kiss boo-boos…I always told them that soap and water were necessary to make the boo-boo better and the kissing would come later, when the first-aid part of the incident had been properly addressed.  When I sat on the rocking chair, though, there wasn’t a song request I wouldn’t happily satisfy if it made them feel better.  Once, when TGG was in the hospital with pneumonia (during his only-child days,) I sat up all night performing every single Disney song he requested; although I tried to keep quiet, I expected the mom who had a kid in the bed next to TGG’s to complain.  At one point, when I stopped singing, the kid whispered to his mom that he wanted “the one about the magic carpet from Aladdin.”   Through the curtain I heard a soft “would you mind?  Please?”  The next morning she told me that she had to learn more songs…The Wheels On the Bus is not a very soothing melody, her son had told her.

These days things are slightly different.  TGG’s heart and ego get bruised more often than his knees or lungs; he doesn’t want to hear ME singing…he’d rather listen to John Mayer’s or Ryan Adams’ heartbreak anthems…or he goes for something loud and cacophonous that will reflect in sound what he’s feeling (bashing something fragile with a baseball bat.)  When J is sad, I am faced with a 250+ pound baby who doesn’t know if he wants me to hug him, rub his back, sing, shut up, be in the room, leave the room…and I cannot be soothed if I’m not soothing.  Helplessness is by far more toxic to the mother’s soul than the potential embarrassment of being overheard singing or being crushed under the weight of their adult autistic “child.”  I’d take the pain on the legs any day over not being able to help him feel a little better…just a little…

So this is where we are.  J is sitting on the couch watching cartoons while doing his best imitation of Droopy Dog…his eyes hang like Droopy’s, he is reclining on pillows and looks at me like I could never ever understand why he is so miserable, but he appreciates the mild attempts at offering the consolation of an ice pack, Tylenol, a blanket, a shoulder rub, a new Rasta hat (I actually got a smile with that offer) and fish kisses that he welcomes, but which do little to alleviate his discomfort. I want him to feel better so badly that I actually made another batch of home-made gnocchi for him to have for dinner tonight because he seemed to enjoy them last night.  They are soft, velvet-like, and they will melt in his mouth very quickly, even with the melted Parmesan cheese.

One whole week.  By this time next Monday, J will have passed through another ordeal at the dental office.  I know the last one wasn’t bad, and I’m not trying to hyperbolize that experience, but…I would much rather not have him go through another so soon after.  I would rather not have him accepting the dentist’s ministration to heal pain, but rather to maintain that beautiful smile that I see all too seldom these days…

Sigh…