And it’s The Wednesday before The Thursday before The Friday again…

J has made a smooth transition to vacation mode.  No one is more surprised about this than us; we were expecting a little resistance on his part, especially since he usually goes to school the week of finals even if he’s not really required to be there.  That particular arrangement is as much out of a desire for a smooth transition for J as it is for a few precious moments of girding my loins for me.  This year, because we are two days away from J’s Big Dental Appointment, we decided to change our plans and prepare him for this particular traumatic experience by keeping things low-key at home.

On Thursday J returned from school knowing it had been his last day.  There was very little doubt about this as we walked home and I reminded him that school was finished.  Or, perhaps, it was TGG’s heartfelt rendition of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out that did the trick.  This has been the tradition since the first time TGG completed a school year (my ex-husband never understood why I’d want to attach an Alice Cooper song to anything, but he also never understood why I thought Only Women Bleed is a great song, but I digress…)  So by the time we’d reached our doorway, J was fully clear on the idea that school’s done until he goes back for ESY in mid-June.

On Friday we worked on sanding the balsa wood pieces I’d bought for coasters.  J sat and listened to me repeat the same instructions that my dad gave me years ago when he first introduced me to sandpaper and woodgrain.  Of course, we don’t quite get the hang of woodgrain yet, but we are pretty good at testing where more sanding is needed.  The weather was not cooperating on Friday; our walk to the mailbox was chilly and we basically cantered back and  rushed into the warm, welcoming basement level (you KNOW it’s pretty chilly out when J’s full-blast fans in the basement feel warm compared to the breeze from which you’re taking refuge.)  The news announced a frost advisory for Friday and Saturday so, while bewildered by the report and baffled by the late date, we collectively worked to protect our garden.

Saturday morning found us at Farmers’ Market, and there were fewer dogs there, but J didn’t really take to the rather large collie that seemed intent on blocking his path.  By the time we got home, J was ready to change into his comfortable clothes and chill for the rest of the day.  I didn’t blame him; that dog was determined to make his presence known to J, and J put a lot of effort into not freaking out about the whole thing.  J is slowly learning to not overreact to canines, and his relationship with Miss Zelda the Cat has improved significantly.  That, of course, is because Zelda has learned that J isn’t always in the mood to have her near and, in very un-cat-like fashion, she refrains from insisting he welcome her.

Sunday was bright and sunny, and the warmest day we’d had in a while.  J sat outside with us as we worked on putting our garden back to rights.  Armed with wood from the scrap pile near our future townhouse, J made a box for planting.  Mind you, he handled the hammer like a pro, and there were no pre-drilled holes and this was not the sweet kind of compressed wood that do-it-yourself furniture is made of…this was wood, real wood…  J had a GREAT time hammering and making a box for planting.  I reserved another four pieces for later this week…can’t have too much of a good thing, can we?

 

We moved on to the next step in the coaster project: staining the wood.

I gave TGG instructions on what to do.  We had bought a water-based wood stain that dries very quickly and a little goes a long way.  As Dada told me later, when I asked how things were going, “all instructions have been blatantly ignored, everyone is dirtier than they should be and, ergo, all is fun and games with the younger set.”

Monday was dreary.  We mainly worked indoors, and J wanted our company for little bits of time.  It was during one of those bits of time that we emptied the tub of mosaic tiles and let him make a design for the coasters.  He made three that were identical and one that has the same colors in a different arrangement.  We alternated the task of helping him glue them on to the wood.

J's mosaic project

They have been set side for grouting until today when, because the weather is drier and warmer, the grout will set better and more quickly.  The weather is going to be so nice, in fact, that I am expecting the “children” to go outside and stay there for a good portion of the day.

I am trying to not worry too much about Friday.  The fact that we have to keep J from eating or drinking for eight hours previous to his procedure is something we can work around nicely.  The fact that we have to walk into the hospital’s reception are to check in is another matter entirely.  In the past we’ve had difficulties keeping J from reacting in the way he usually reacts in hospital settings: vomiting or attempting to vomit.  We know it’s that he’s conditioned: going to the hospital means he’s sick.  He wants to oblige us by hurling if it’s at all possible.  Tomorrow, of course, I will start telling him that we’re going back on Friday and there’s no need to hurl because we’re stepping into the hospital lobby.  Hopefully, this part of the process won’t cause him more grief than is absolutely necessary…

There you go…that’s the best summary (I know it’s not the best-best, but it’ll have to do) I can come up with for the first few days of J’s vacation.

Oh, and he’s been going for walks WITHOUT his hats on…

Hatless J

 

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The Wednesday before The Thursday that comes before The Friday…

Two “quick” medical appointments later, we are home.  By all accounts, judging by how long the actual face-to-face with the doctor took, we should have been home no later than 11 a.m.  At Pre-Admission everything went smoothly…in and out in less than half an hour, leaving us with an hour and a half before the next appointment.  Per J’s request, we took him to the store, and then to eat something.  We were back at the doctor’s office with the requested 15-minutes-before-your-scheduled-appointment leeway, and we waited five minutes before being shown into the examination room where we waited…

and waited…

and waited…

and waited…

until, after much I’M FINISHED, BYE, THANK YOU, GOOD MORNING, BATHROOM, and such from J, Dada rang the button to request service.  Rather non-chalantly, a male nurse popped in and asked if we needed anything.  Dada pointed to the timer by the door.  “We’ve been here over an hour.  When will the doctor see us?”  The sign by the light switch read “we want to serve you promptly.  If you’ve waited more than fifteen minutes, press the call button.”  We waited the fifteen minutes and then some; the doctor, the male nurse informed us, would be five more minutes.  I didn’t say a word.  If I had said a word, it’s very likely, security would have been called.  So I kept quiet, but continued to pace back and forth, physically expressing the same frustration J was using his Proloquo2Go to express.

During our breakfast, we had sat companionably, sipping our drinks and saying CHEERS! with as much enthusiasm as one can display in a fast food restaurant without attracting attention.  J liked this game.  He was soon lifting his cup and softly touching it to Dada’s while saying a hearty CHEERS!  This became the word he latched on to while we waited…every once in a while, he would say CHEERS! and -after about an hour of waiting- I was ready to ask for a drink.  On both sides of our exam room babies and toddlers were wailing in degrees that varied from “plaintive” to “downright hysterical.”  J tensed up several times during this waxing, waning, peaking and ebbing of sound, but held up fairly well.

When the doctor finally came in, we were all ready to go.  At best, J can sit through an hour of waiting and being seen…two appointments in one day, adding up to 2 and a half hours, and two of those hours in a confined space while children scream nearby, was a wee bit much for our friend.  Fifteen minutes after she walked in, she walked out and I told Dada to just wait for me outside.  J almost sprinted out the door…

We’re home now.  We have relaxed and changed into our “not going anywhere” clothes.  Tomorrow is the day when J says goodbye to this school year and starts his vacation.  If the appointments had not sucked the life out of our morning, we would be a little better prepared for the transition, but I’m sure with a little effort we’ll be 100% ready by tomorrow when the bus drops him off at 3 o’clock.  Today’s prolonged process was just a hiccup, and -as with every other case of hiccups- if some sort of wacky remedy doesn’t resolve it, time will.

We walked away with good news.  J’s blood pressure has improved.  He has also lost a bit of weight.  Mind you, not as much weight as he should lose, but a bit, and we know summer always makes him more active and the pounds slowly shed away.  Perhaps if the med starts being reduced little by little this will become a little easier.  This morning, over coffee, Dada, TGG and I discussed the main points to consider when it comes to agreeing to reduce the med.  I asked them both to carefully consider several things:

a)  Is the concern about J’s ability to handle the potential changes or OUR ability to handle the potential changes?

b) Considering that I will be bearing the bulk of the weight of the situation, how much support will Dada and TGG be able to give ME when they get home from work and during weekends?

c)  What, exactly, do we fear will happen?  Are we afraid we’re going to get Old Mean J back or are we afraid we won’t know the person that he is without the med?

The thing is we DO know J.  We’ve seen him at what we understand was his worst, and we know how hard he has worked to improve his coping skills and mechanisms.  We know that a lot of his anxiety over the past few months was a response to his dental issues (I’d have been HOWLING and breaking things if it had been me,) and because of Cabin Fever…no matter how much you love your couch, at one point or another, being inside will get to you.

All we want, deep inside, is to see J happy, and we know that every human being goes from happiness to worry to sadness to anxiety to enthusiasm to boredom to every other point in the scale of FEELING and then back again.  My father has always said that sadness is a way to know that you’ve been happy, and vice versa…  We don’t want unrealistically jolly J because that would just be weird and not at all like him.  Because he is a teenage boy, it IS normal that his life will, from time to time, seem to suck bricks through a cocktail straw.  That’s what life is, right?

So…the round table discussion continues, and this will all be resolved before June 4th…

 

And here it is…the last week of school…

Monday is here.  Inevitably, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will follow.  Unless something truly cataclysmic happens, J’s first full day of summer vacation will be on Friday.  A week after that he will have his next appointment with the dentist, and he will be sedated and all of Santa Claus’s workshop will be in there, looking for whatever needs to get done and getting it done.  My teeth hurt just thinking about it…my pocket is already numb, but that’s beside the point.

The point is…I am as ready as I’m ever going to be for J’s summer vacation.  I’ve been to the arts and crafts supply store; I’ve been to the book store; I have enough seeds to plant a sizable garden if this one we have going starts losing steam.  The supplies we ordered for the great “mozzarella cheese-making experiment” have arrived.  The community’s pool is open.  The projects that J is going to help with in preparation for our move across the street have been lined up.  The rest of what needs to get done will be fine-tuned as I go along, but that’s par for the course.  Any prolonged period of J being at home requires constant revisions and a certain degree of creative thinking.

One question lingers in our minds: is THIS the right time to start weaning J off his med???  We are on the fence (as usual) and the fence gets taller or shorter without warning.  Are we reacting like this because we are afraid of what might happen?  Are we reacting like this because this year has shown us that J can still meltdown with the best of them???  Are we just plain chicken-shit and can’t commit???  This requires some thinking.  Some serious thinking.  J, after all, has an appointment with the psychiatrist on June 4th and the Big Question for that day is: to wean or not to wean.  I’m sure that Gertrude would have had this discussion with Claudius if Risperdal had been prescribed for Hamlet; after all, the kid WAS seeing his father’s ghost, and obviously had some anxiety issues, right???

The truth is that we have one more hurdle to get over before we even discuss this with the doctor.  The anxiety attached to another dental appointment will be important in determining whether we venture a reduction in dosage or not.  Do I mean J’s anxiety or our anxiety?  I’m not quite sure yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I start figuring this out.

 

Summer vacation churns towards us…

The sleeplessness of Wednesday night/early Thursday morning did very little to improve my chances of getting caught up with life yesterday.  I, cowardly creature that I am, crawled back into bed at 8 a.m. and did my best to (fitfully) sleep until 11 a.m.  It did little to improve my demeanor…I was a useless, cranky woman for the rest of the day.  I would like to tell you that I know what kept me up all night, but the only thing my accusation-happy finger will point to is a laundry list of menopause symptoms.  I don’t recall any middle-of-the-night hot flashes for this particular incidence of sleeplessness, but I’ll go with it, if only because it conveniently takes care of “trying to figure out why.”

So today I am working quite enthusiastically to get ready for the looming reality of J’s constant presence at home.  (I know: how can I be working enthusiastically at it if I’m sitting here typing.  Well, I am…when I’m not typing.)  The patio is 100% ready for J; the pantry is full and organized; I have shelves of activities carefully arranged for easy access to one thing each day.  The powers that be in the entertainment industry have already provided us with the first 2 hour and 12 minute opportunity for J’s viewing pleasure: Star Trek Into Darkness is in theaters, and not a moment too soon.  Monsters University dangles happily ahead of us, something for the entire family to look forward to in June, and -provided with a nice enough incentive (like a pail of popcorn the size of his head)- J might sit through Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel.  No one in the household is particularly enthused about the last two, but we all know that summer movies are a good opportunity for J to go out and have fun in a place where the heat and humidity won’t affect him as much.  As a wise man (TGG) once said “if he sat through Space Chimps, he’ll sit through anything!”  I always remind TGG that, thanks to his childish insistence, I sat through Twister, Jurassic Park 2, Judge Dredd, Batman and Robin, Super Cop, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and another slew of less-than-three-stars entertainment.  It wasn’t until the advent of Jack Black’s School of Rock in 2003 that we felt there was hope for us in taking pre-adolescent TGG to the movies.  The response to this is always “point well taken.

With J, of course, the story is a little different.  Pixar is our savior.  If there’s a Pixar movie coming out, we can breathe easy…we WILL be entertained.  That he has finally accepted such things as Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Kirsten Stewart as Snow White as viable forms of movie-viewing fun make us happy.  I don’t however, see him wandering into Lars Von Trier or Richard Linklater territory.  If I never could persuade TGG to go to the movies with me for, say, Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday or Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!, it is highly doubtful that J will join me in watching a marathon of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset ahead of going to the movies for Before Midnight.  I will be dragged along to Despicable Me 2 (which I don’t mind,) but I will have to negotiate heavily (and possibly offer TWO buckets of popcorn) for a trip to Austenland.  Ain’t it always the way????

I can’t complain, though.  I am feeling ready for summer.  (Famous last words???)  I have projects lined up, the garden is doing nicely, J’s apparently ready for this transition, and we’re going to get the Big Dental Procedure out of the way in a couple of weeks.  Barring anything disastrous, we’re in good shape.  After much careful thought, I’ve reached the (perhaps overly optimistic) conclusion that moving across the street won’t be too much of a problem.    The room-by-room approach seems to be the way to go, and I say this after having analyzed the situation from every possible angle and, yes, using props, charts, and worst-case scenarios.  It may seem like I’m jumping ahead of schedule with all this planning, but it’s already May 17th and the projected day for completion on the construction is August 15th.  So, basically, that’s how much time I have left before J goes back to school.  Seen in those terms, it’s an eternity, but in the context of moving a household across the street when there’s an autistic individual whose comfort, tranquility and well-being are involved, I’m kinda behind, aren’t I?

Tomorrow morning we will make the trek to Farmers’ Market.  After the first Saturday’s overwhelming canine attendance at 8:30, we have determined that 9:30 is the right time to take J.  We’ve been making progress accepting dogs as friendly creatures.  Please, feel free to imagine J as a one-man Bruce, Hammer and Chump from Finding Nemo and repeating “fish are friends, not food” in more of a “dogs are friends, they don’t consider me food” line.  I can feel him tensing up as we walk past dogs, but there’s no longer a frantic effort to scream and run away from them.  That is what I’d like to think of as maturity, and it makes me feel good.

J’s favorite bakery has closed down for good.  Our second stop tomorrow morning is a donut shop we’ve been trying to locate since we moved here nearly two years ago; someone finally gave Dada what they claim are sure-fire directions to this place, so we’ll see if we can find it…

Other than that, my friends, I can only say that this last weekend of the school year is gearing up to be as hectic and action-packed as we’ve come to expect of warm-weather weekends.  As much time as J wants to spend indoors in winter, as much time as he wants to spend outside when it stops being long-pants weather.  I can’t complain.  Summer is, after all, short for some things and long for others…might as well start enjoying it while we still are enthused about the whole gig, right???

It’s the chicken and egg question all over again…

An article in the New York Post reveals that wealthy families have been hiring handicapped tour guides to get them ahead of the line at Disney World.  For an hourly or daily rate, these families are accompanied by an adult in a scooter who takes them to a special entrance that gets them into the rides without the pesky wait period that plagues the rest of those attending the park that day.  This service, apparently, costs them less than the VIP passes offered by Disney.

One argument being made is “hey, a job is being generated!”  Another argument is “hey, the ‘disabled’ are offering this service.”  To both I say: WHAT?????  REALLY?????

J has never been to Disneyland.  He’s been to Knott’s Berry Farm…many years ago.  He insisted (in that way that J has of insisting and beseeching with his big puppy eyes) on riding the GhostRider, one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world.  Because J was so insistent, Dada took advantage of skipping ahead of the line and off they went.  The park was pretty full that day, and no one made a fuss about J, TGG and Dada going ahead escorted by a park employee.  They got on the ride and I could see them from where I was standing, waving at what must have looked like ant-sized me way down below.

Two minutes later, a pale, shivering J was escorted off the ride by Dada and TGG.  Their shirts were wrinkled from where J had clung to them tightly, so tightly that the fabric was wadded up into a little protuberance that didn’t quite flatten out until we rode the Bigfoot Rapids and got so soaking wet that wrinkles were the least of our worries.  From what Dada and TGG yelled at me (thinking that they were speaking in a normal volume because J had alternately screamed his head off in their ears during the ride,) J had not realized the horror he was in for until the first dip in the ride.  That’s when he said BYE…and it was too late.

Lesson learned: rides look a lot less scary and more thrilling from the ground.  J never again has wanted to ride on something that isn’t either completely horizontal (like the merry go-round) or vertical (like the Ferris wheel in the kiddie section of the park.)  Anything that looks like it might gather speed, J turns away from or finds a bench to sit on while Dada and TGG go on the ride.  I spend a lot of time pointing at the ride, telling him about what might be happening up there and trying to isolate which screams are coming from Dada and TGG.  J eats cotton candy, looks around to find the next innocuous thing to ride on, and then steers us in that direction.  Because he got to cut the line to ride in the roller coaster that one time, we have decided that it’s best to make him wait with everyone else and thus have the chance to think twice about what he wants to do.

At the County Fair in Orange County, CA, J decided that he was officially toilet-trained (he was 8) and that he didn’t need his Radio Flyer wagon to move around.  This meant we towed the wagon around the whole day for no reason other than no one wanted to go back to the car to store it “in case J changed his mind.”  When we returned to Knott’s Berry Farm a few years after the roller-coaster incident, J didn’t even make a move in its direction, and we patiently waited for our turn on each of the rides he wanted to explore.

The same happens at restaurants.  We wait for a table.  If J gets fussy, we find a place less crowded to have our meal.  If we’re at the store and J gets upset waiting in line, one of us takes him out.  At the movies, we don’t expect to be ushered in before the rest of the crowd just because of J.  The only place where I really prefer having a clear-cut waiting time is at the doctors’ or dentists’ office, and that’s because I know that J will get anxious if the wait is too long and he has time to anticipate whatever it is they’re going to do to him once inside.

“The ‘disabled’ offered the service, and made money…there are no losers in this proposition!”  I beg to differ.  We are the losers; those of us who don’t play the system that way end up being measured with the same yardstick as those who do.  “That is absurd!”  No, not really.  This question is legitimate, and consider the implications of the scenario I’m describing to you: we have to report any income J receives, and this -if it exceeds a certain amount- affects his disability benefits.  We need to keep strict records of what he spends, how he spends it, and this reflects on his benefits, too.  They counted, when we applied for his disability benefits, room and board as an income, and we had to provide them with a letter stating that J pays rent and buys groceries so that he would receive his entire allotment.  When the time comes, J will no longer be considered a dependent for tax purposes and will have to file his own tax return.  Every two years or so, his status as a disabled person will be reviewed to determine if he is still eligible for benefits.

A person who “rents out” their disability to help others skip the line should then be obligated to report the income generated in this fashion and be taxed for it, shouldn’t they?  I don’t have a problem with -as one person put it- “making a buck out of rich people with no patience to wait in line,” but if we are trying our best to help our child adjust to the world as it is (which is NOT DESIGNED to accommodate him,) I find it hard to advocate this type of “business” without wondering how it affects a population that is already deemed by many as “dependent on the government,” or “filled with a sense of entitlement.”

I don’t think it’s right for the wealthy parents of neuro-typical children to teach their brood that it’s fine to hire a handicapped person to help them skip the line at Disney World, but I also don’t think that being handicapped should BE a business.  Being employed, generating an income (regardless of how small it is,) having an occupation…they give individuals like J a sense of pride and accomplishment that boosts their self-esteem and helps them move forward.  Using a disability or handicap to cut in line to benefit rich people who don’t even seem to understand how demeaning this is?  That just strikes me as wrong…

Any thoughts???

 

Why Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter…

“Angelina Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy,” Dada said to me as soon as I stepped into the kitchen this morning.  In spite of his male admiration for the obvious assets Lara Croft displayed in two movies, he didn’t sound as if he was disappointed for the absence of the celebrated view.  If anything, he seemed to be in awe.  We sat there, sipping our coffee, as TGG came downstairs, ready to have his breakfast and head to work.  “More Benghazi in the news?,” he asked.  We nodded half-heartedly, muttered something about the AP, the IRS, and then someone on the news show we were watching mentioned Angelina Jolie’s breasts…or lack thereof.  A banana muffin came to a screeching halt halfway to TGG’s mouth, and he gaped at the TV while shaking his head in disbelief.  If J had been home, he would have done a double-take.  (What?  You didn’t think he watches Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for the dialogue, did you???)

I waited for the immature response.  I’m still waiting.

“That takes balls,” he said.  “Which she doesn’t have…technically,” said Dada.  “Well…you know what I mean…” they looked at each other, and then they looked at me…the only person with an ample bosom in the household.

A couple of months ago we found a lump.  I say “we” because Dada felt it, too.  I have famously “dense” breasts and this has happened before.  It’s no less scary because it’s a common occurrence.  Every time I go in for a mammogram I have to ask myself if this time it’s not density.  Every time we have the same conversation.  Every time we reach the conclusion that my breasts (much as I prayed to get some when I was in middle school and seemed to be surrounded by Jayne Mansfields) are expendable.  Considering they didn’t really “sprout” until I turned 40 (apparently God had me on the no-priority list for middle-school prayers,) they have done their job and done it well.  Babies have been properly fed; dresses have been properly held up; cleavage has been displayed, and so forth.  But if they have to go, hey, we’ll wave them goodbye without an ounce of regret.

Ms. Jolie opted for a preventive double mastectomy.  She acted on scientific data that informed her of the presence of genes that increase her risk for developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  The piece she wrote on the subject indicates that she decided to deal with the breast cancer risk first because it was higher and the procedures are more complex.  This hints at the possibility of a similar decision in the future for a hysterectomy.  Having lost her mother to cancer at a relatively young age (and I say that because 56 no longer sounds middle-aged to me,) and realizing that she has six children she wants to see grown up and living their own lives, and possibly see grandchildren…well, I seriously doubt she took this lightly.  Not only is surgery always risky but this woman has made her living being observed, scrutinized, criticized, drooled over…

A few people have said “well, she HAD reconstructive surgery.”  I’ve also read “well, she didn’t HAVE cancer.”  Both points are true.  Ms. Jolie had reconstructive surgery and didn’t have cancer.  She *simply* had the majority of her breast tissue removed and replaced with implants that are now fodder for the masses.  There’s no more wondering “are they hers?”  There’s no more saying “are they real?”  Ms. Jolie has opted to put her fears on the table, to discuss her decision to take the bull by the horns, and to cosmetically replace the lost tissue.  Over the course of three months, Ms. Jolie and her family dealt privately with what was probably a pretty hectic and difficult decision.

Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter because they are expendable, and she has admitted it publicly.  Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter because she has said (for all the world to hear) that your health is more important than your looks, and that it’s ok to worry about your looks, too.  Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter because they were part of the “moneymaker” she shook to entertain the masses.  Think of it: Lara Croft, Jane Smith, Evelyn Salt, Fox…they all were powerfully sexually attractive, and their breasts (her breasts) were a big part of what men remembered about those characters.  For years to come, those breasts could have continued to generate a sizable income for Ms. Jolie.

Ultimately, those breasts were not as important to her as all the other things she occupies her mind, her time, her soul and her heart with, and that’s not even counting the fact that she doesn’t want her children to face the same loss she faced insofar as she can prevent it.  No one can guarantee that Ms. Jolie will see her children grow up and thrive and move on to their own lives and so forth.  However, the one thing she could do, she felt empowered to do, she did.  That, as TGG says, takes BALLS.

As women, we all feel a certain pride in what our bodies are, what they can do.  Having blossomed long after I wished I would, I now find my breasts to be inconveniently in the way, and a hindrance in my search for flattering, comfortable garments.  The women in my family ail in different areas, areas that I couldn’t function without, actually.  There’s nothing I could remove that would better my chances of not getting cancer; nothing that I could live without.  It’s not a secret that I often wonder what will happen when I’m no longer around, who will take care of J, etc.  My reasons are different, but I do as much as I can to make sure I am as healthy as possible…

Why do Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter?  One of the most beautiful women in the world just admitted that she is concerned enough about her health to dispose of her God-given charms to stave off a horrible illness.  One of the most beautiful women in the world, who is partnered with one of the handsomest men in the world, has publicly stated that her femininity doesn’t depend on her mammary glands.  A woman who has traveled far and wide, earned admiration for her beauty and humanitarian endeavors, earned scorn for her -granted- sometimes exceedingly quirky behavior has just made the decision to get rid of two things that men really, really, REALLY love so she can focus on getting OLD…

I see nothing to scoff at in her decision.  Better health begins with being proactive…now: go be!

You spelunk your way…I’ll spelunk mine…

What better way to spend Mother’s Day than doing something for your children?  I don’t just mean cooking (which, by the way, I’ve been on a roll lately and getting rave reviews,) but also clipping toe nails and trying to persuade J’s ears to expel the ball of wax he seems to carry around with him.  Persuade, cajole…whatever.  Either way it was unsuccessful.

Many years ago, J had a teacher who -as a solution to J’s hypersensitive hearing- suggested earplugs.  They were bright neon colored plugs, malleable and  easy to put in and out without causing anyone any grief.  Until the day they did.

Being the saps that we are, we never got a clear explanation of HOW the earplugs ended up all the way in J’s ear canal.  There was panicky call saying that J was very upset and fussy, and that he needed to be taken to the doctor because he seemed to have something in his ear.  Wilma Rudolph would’ve looked like she was casually jogging compared to what I must’ve looked like dashing out of our apartment and burning the sidewalk all the way to the school (a couple of blocks away.)  When I got there, breathless and with my heart pounding in my ears, I was too engrossed in helping J (who wasn’t as fussy or upset as they said, but certainly seemed uncomfortable and anxious) with his ears.  A peek at the neon orange substance that seemed to be blocking his ear canal was all I needed to grab the kid, dash out the door and head home to call an ENT.  A chorus of “it wasn’t me,” “we break the earplugs in half, see,” “it’s never happened before,” “will you take him to the doctor?” was quickly dismissed as I herded the poor child home.

J was about six or seven years old at the time, and he was not only skinny and short, but you wouldn’t have thought he had it in him to gather enough strength to push a full-grown ENT, a medical assistant and his mother across the room when they removed those earplugs at the doctor’s office.  Oh, yeah…it was in BOTH ears.  They took ONE earplug, broke it in half and managed to wedge it into each ear canal to the point that an ENT had to use long, curved tweezers to remove them.  And J bled.  And threw us across the room.  And never has forgiven me for putting him through that…and I don’t blame him.

Ever since then, the child who used to only cover his ears when noise was overwhelming to him, now covers his ears whenever he sees ANYTHING near them.  This could be a hand, a hairbrush, an otoscope, headphones, ear drops.  He has learned, through patience and self-control, to allow the nurses and doctors to view the magnificent wax stalactites and stalagmites that occupy his ear canals.  We regularly hear “you really should have his ears cleaned.  Do you think he’ll let us?,” and we look at each other, smile and say “oh, do go ahead and try.  Have at it!  We’ll be right here!”

Shrieks, blood-curling screams, quick movements that not even a ninja could manage without someone detecting them, and the fastest shoulder-to-ear reaction ever witnessed by man quickly ensue.  The word “relax” used in the context of ear inspection, ear cleaning, ear anything has the absolute opposite effect.  Never has a neck been more tense; a mighty oak would seem fragile compared to the column that holds J’s head up…you try to get him to relax his neck and what you get is a whole body, as straight and unbending as a steel rod, leaning to the side while issuing anxious WAH-WAAAHS.

I looked in his ears yesterday.  It took some persuading.  I showed him that the little flashlight was innocuous and that I was holding nothing else in my hands.  After fifteen minutes of proving my honorable intentions, I was allowed to visit the Great Caves of Waxdonia…  Another hour of high-stakes negotiation allowed me to put no more than three drops in each ear, and to gently place a cotton ball to prevent them from seeping out.  This was all done while J continued his incessant and soft WAH-WAAAHs throughout.  The box with the drops indicated that “several minutes” were needed for the liquid to take effect and loosen the wax.

HA!

J scared the liquid out of his ears.  No matter how long we let his ears soak, the most we got out of the Great Caves of Waxdonia was insufficient to produce the desired effect.  J, however, was happy that it was over.  And since he had, with gritted teeth and a heavy heart, allowed me to have my way on Mother’s Day, he was satisfied that we were DONE with the ears.  Fingers on ears, he used his elbow to motion towards the nail clippers and lifted his feet, landing them on my lap.  He knows he gets a foot rub out of this particular part of his ablutions.  He had his bath, got his shave, used his after-shave balm, looked at himself lovingly in the mirror and was happy.  This was at around 3 P.M.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to see if anything was seeping out of his ears.  I wasn’t allowed to come close.  If I was going to approach J, I had to do it face-to-face, not from the side.  Every kiss on the cheek was accompanied by a hand strategically placed to block my view.  I tried giving him unrestricted access to my ears.  He wasn’t buying it, and I don’t blame him; the trauma of being intervened with when one doesn’t want to be is even more overwhelming for a person with Autism.  In hindsight, I should’ve made heads roll when the initial incident took place, but…how would that have helped???

This morning, as he was getting ready for school, J turned his head from side to side to show me his ears.  He let me take a cotton ball to wipe the outside of them.  That’s as good as it gets…

The Great Caves of Waxdonia are safe from human hands for now…but -eventually- something WILL have to be done.  I’m just glad it won’t be me.  I couldn’t sleep at night if I thought I had to face the mighty J to go spelunking there.  It’s just too overwhelming for him.

On second thought, I would STILL like to make heads roll…even if it doesn’t help!