We shot an arrow in the air…

Yesterday morning, in a moment of pure romantic optimism, Dada and I decided (over green eggs and a cup of much-needed coffee) that last evening we would start reducing J’s med.  We’d hemmed and hawed about this because, chicken-shits that we are, we always worry about timing, but we figured “it’s Sunday…what the heck, right?”

So J went to bed having had .5 mg of medication for all of yesterday, and left for school with usual morning dose of .25, and I’m sitting here by the phone waiting to see if I get a call like in the movies.  You know the call I mean.  We’ve discussed this before: the sounds of Godzilla leveling Tokyo in the background, and a gasping yell “oh, the humanity!!!” on the earpiece of my phone before an ominous busy signal or dial tone that indicates I need to run to school to rescue people.

I HAVE to be anxious about this.  I think it’s required of me.  If I take it too calmly and don’t anticipate any disasters, I will do myself a disservice.  You might think the opposite is true, but I’d rather not indulge in overconfidence and be pleasantly surprised (and humbled) by J’s unexpected success at transitioning.  Lest we forget, we are messing -so to speak- with the chemistry of his body.

Transitions are always a time to take a deep breath and hope for the best.  Today, and for the next few days, we walk on eggshells as we make sure that we’re keeping a close-enough eye on J’s behavior.  This morning we suggested a switch from his winter boots to his spring shoes…he declined; we acquiesced.  The purpose is not to relinquish too much territory, but allowing for any things that might J emotionally comfortable at this time.

My emotional comfort is not a concern at this time.  I leapt out of bed and showered earlier than usual.  I have been a dynamo all day.  That the power went out for 45 minutes sent me into a spin because (egads, Brain!) the phone was out for the duration.  That I didn’t find any missed calls or messages when the power came back on was a huge relief.  I will survive…I’ll be a mess, but I’ll be in one (rather ragged) piece.

It has to be done.  There is no question about this.  J has to be slowly weaned off the medication, and this is the best way to do it.  Like removing a band-aid, but not quite.  I can’t just take him off the med, but I can remind myself that a little less every once in a while will, hopefully, result in no med by this time next year.

Whenever I worry about how taking the med away affects J, I remind myself that the med has always been a temporary solution to a crisis, not a way to modify J permanently.  The med was brought into the picture to allow us to deal with other things that were tripping him up.  We have learned a lot since then, and J has learned a lot more than we have.  I think J knows, quite well, who he is, and what makes him miserable.  Furthermore, I think J knows that what makes him miserable is a combination of things that are inside and outside of him.  I think, and this is the most important fact, that J knows we are on his side without being so on his side that there’s no other side we see.  That is: we are looking at this whole situation from many angles, and our main focus is that he will learn to handle life and himself as best as possible within the circumstances.

The same thing goes for TGG, but his crises are of a different quality, as are his successes and failures.  He is tethered to us for the time being, but we very easily remind him that there’s such a thing as free-will, and that we can no longer do for him what was second nature when he was younger.  To a degree, both J and TGG are starting to confront life with a little less palliative interference; J is working his way out of the med and into self-regulation, and TGG is working his way into not having us there to dust his fanny off when he falls.  For both young people, we know, some days will be easier than others.

That’s where we are.  We are hopeful and anxious; we are bravely cowardly; we are pessimistic optimists.  This will go on until, somehow, we realize that -yes- the bottom of the pool is closer to our feet than we think.  I remember that feeling from when I was very young and I didn’t really realize how much I’d grown from one summer to the next, and walking into the pool carried with it the trepidation of where it was too deep for comfort.  The egg-shaped foam floating device strapped to my back eventually became unnecessary, but until that moment, I always wondered if *this* was the spot where I wouldn’t be able to touch the floor and push myself to the surface.  I was a chicken-shit then, and it has stayed with me to a degree…

J’s stretch marks require attention.  They are empty.  J now has empty ridges of shiny skin on his abdomen, and his face is slimmer, and his waist is getting narrower.  TGG takes him to the gym in the evenings, and he’s up to a mile walking the treadmill.  That J now has exercise clothes, jumps into them when TGG says “let’s go exercise,” and will wear his sneakers or suede booties when out on a casual outing is amazing.  That his summer wardrobe might require replacement when it’s time for shorts is a distinct possibility.  I’m pretty sure that those are 44s in his storage containers…

Wish us luck.  Cross your fingers for us.  Channel some good energy towards J.  It’s all, when we boil right down to it, about the kid, isn’t it?  I have orange blossom water handy for my nerves…my aunts would say “carry the bottle with you.”  I just might!

 

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Tumbling into Thursday…where has the week gone?????

I know we’ve been busy-ish, and I know the weather has played tricks (again) on us, but how did we get to Thursday already???????  I could’ve sworn it was Monday!

Anyway, this is -as far as I can reconstruct it- what we’ve done this week:

Monday we went to psychiatrist, froze our butts off because it was colder than we thought, rode a taxi and J went to use the treadmill.

Tuesday it was cold and we stayed indoors, but we cleaned the house, made home-made tortillas and flan, and then we hosted an old schoolmate of mine for dinner.  The entire family was curious because we hadn’t seen each other since 1982, and this person has known me since we were in kindergarten.  To my husband and children this was the equivalent of opening a time capsule.  We chatted the night away with J happily munching on tacos and socializing to the best of his ability.

Yesterday we put together a rather confusing puzzle with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse; we also did laundry.  Since he didn’t want to go on Saturday, J went to watch Muppets Most Wanted with TGG.  The loudest laugh came when J saw Ricky Gervais dressed as a lemur.  I took those two hours to steam and puree more vegetables…as usual, we were running low on everything healthy.  In the evening, J went to the gym with TGG; that he would rather go to the movies and the gym with TGG rather than with us is definite proof that we’re not cool.  We can live with that.  🙂

Today, so far, we’ve put pear slices in the dehydrator, started four little greenhouses, listened to music and danced, completed several chores and, because it is a lot warmer than it has been, took all the containers for plants out of the garage.  Light, thankfully, is streaming through the sliding glass doors and all is right with the world.

We were lucky this time around; we didn’t get any of the nasty weather that has been pounding New England.  We got a sprinkling of snow that lasted the morning, and that was it.  It was done.  It was gone.  And, in much the same fashion, we haven’t had much of a Spring Break; it’s been a break, but it’s hardly seemed like spring, and now it’s almost done.

Because the weather is about to be on our side, we intend to enjoy what’s left of the break.  Monday was supposed to be a day off, but because of all the snow days we have had since the first of the year, that day has gone away with some of the early-releases and such.  I don’t mind.  I think J will be happy to go back to the school routine, and to the things he gets to do there.

Ahead of us is the stretch of time that extends until the end of the school year.  We already know that ESY starts on June 23rd so J’s summer is shaping up nicely with those four days of activity to break up the dullness of being at home with me.  Dada has requested vacation time for the end of July, and we have made a list of day-trips we can take.

I think because we’ve had so much questionable weather over the course of the year, we are making plans for summer with as much discretion as possible.  We know that there will be a period of intense high temperatures because we’ve had one every single summer since we arrived here; we also know that when it rains in earnest, it can last a whole week.  Taking all this in to account, we’re getting ready for it.

We’re also getting ready for being outdoors, for ladybugs and fresh vegetables, for swimming and going for long walks.  We are looking forward to it all, and we know that -because the weather has been so bipolar lately- we have to wait a little longer.  We just hope that what’s left of the school year will go at a pace that J can savor, and that it will go without glitches because we don’t want to add stress or anxiety as the med gets reduced one more time.  (I calculated last night…we might be med-free by this time next year…wouldn’t that be awesome????)

Anyway…it’s time to go outside and work on the back patio.  I want J to sweep, organize and get acclimated to this new space.  I want him to start getting used to the notion of being outside instead of curled up in front of his TV.  I know it’s a while still until he can, but…I want him to start anticipating this change of environment.

Let’s see how well we can segue into Friday…

If this is Spring Break, cold temperatures must be returning…change is in the air.

Seventeen degrees this morning.  The high should (SHOULD being the operative word) reach 39; I’m not holding my breath for that because the other day we were supposed to have a similar pattern and it didn’t pan out.  Yesterday morning, as we packed the recyclables into the car, we realized that a) it was snowing, b) the wind was blowing with a certain unexpected chill in it, and c) it was downright you-need-gloves-a-scarf-a-hat-are-you-wearing-only-a-sweater cold.  Recyclables dispensed with, we rushed home to make tea, and stayed indoors the rest of the day until J went to the gym with TGG.

It is the Monday of Spring Break, and we have our appointment with the psychiatrist this afternoon.  After sitting through his first IEP ever (I forgot to check off the box that said he didn’t have to be there,) J was none the worse for wear.  He needed a timer to remind him that this meeting had a finite time allotted, but he actually did very well for the hour and fifteen minutes it lasted.  He did this, mind you, without his hats.

When Dada walked into the conference room J had a brief moment of anxiety.  I’m sure he wondered if he was in trouble (parents and administrators and teachers in a confined space have that vibe about them,) or if we were trying to build a smoke screen to disguise a trip to the doctor.  Once we clarified that we were there to talk “about school,” J relaxed with the help of his iTunes and headphones.  He wasn’t so distracted from our purpose that he didn’t react when the Speech Pathologist said “sometimes I wonder if he’s just giving me the run-around.”  This elicited a look that clearly stated “who???  Me???” and made everyone in the room laugh.

We finished our meeting just in the nick of time, and managed to beat the traffic of school buses, parents and students with vehicles trying to exit the parking lot at the same time on a Friday afternoon.  This was shortly before 2:25 in the afternoon, and we didn’t actually make it back home until almost 5:15.  By the time we sat down to eat the pizzas we grabbed on the way home (I wore heels and grown-up clothes, people, and sat through a meeting and did the shopping…I wasn’t going to cook,) we realized that J had been without hats since before one o’clock, and that he wasn’t going to put them on until he was done with his dinner.

That, my friends, is what I’m taking to the psychiatrist this afternoon.  J can adapt to more situations now with greater ease than he ever had before.  J is very self-aware, and requests his band-aids to remind himself of what hitting his head can do.  J has accepted changes to his diet with a positive attitude.  J doesn’t fret about things that would have pushed him over the edge because they don’t fall into a pattern that is comfortable for him.  J, in fact, has known since Saturday morning (when we updated his schedule for the week to reflect Spring Break) that he is going to see the psychiatrist today; the only hesitation he has shown has been brief, and easily managed by reminding him that “this is the talking doctor; they will check your blood pressure and your weight, and then we’ll just talk for a bit and come home.”  With that, and just a few repetitions of it, he has accepted that it’s part of today’s schedule.

I think we’re ready to cut another .25 mg from his daily dose of medication.  Dada agrees.  J’s teacher, who deals with his ups and downs in a totally different environment, agrees with us.  In spite of the SIB J displayed at different times through winter, we are fairly sure that he has more control of his emotions now, that he is starting to understand that he CAN exert restraint, even if he doesn’t succeed 100% of the time.  In support of J’s newfound but still iffy self-control, I’m not successful 100% of the time either.

We don’t expect miracles.  I think, if we’re lucky, we experience a dramatic development that results from what at times appears to be pointless efforts on everyone’s part.  We don’t think things are sinking in, or that they won’t take root in J’s mind, but then they do.  It’s not that we don’t believe J is capable of learning the many layers of things we try to teach him, but rather that we don’t know for sure that we’re going about it in the right way.  Learning by rote CAN be difficult, especially when there is much to learn; actually comprehending what is being repeated almost to satiety is even more difficult.  There has to be, as it were, a light switch that goes off in J’s head, when it all makes sense and he can connect all the many, widely scattered dots that we’re drawing for him.

This weekend we looked at rocking chairs for the patio.  J liked one made of teak that we saw at the big box store where we are members.  It is a nice, sturdy chair, and he was comfortable and happy in it; we will get it for him in a couple of weeks, when we’re a little more certain (weather-wise) that he will enjoy sitting outside.  We also found a nice little indoor/outdoor rug for his patio area, and this week we will be working on starting seeds for the garden.  While the weather may not cooperate, we’re not letting this stop us from planning for summer.

Little by little we make progress.  Yes, once in a while, we take a step back, or we stop, or take a bumpy shortcut, but we’re making progress.  A school principal once balked at our statement that we knew J would never be a rocket scientist, taking this as a statement of our lack of faith in J’s intelligence.  We have very little doubt that J is very intelligent, or that he has trouble accessing the stores of knowledge he possesses through traditional means.  Our main concern, because J has challenges that make his progress a little more difficult than one would want, is that he will make progress…period.  So while J may never be a rocket scientist, we do work on making him as independently capable in as many aspects of his life as we can.  Like the transition from Winter to Spring, this is taking time, and a rather circuitous route, but we’ll get there…wherever “there” is…eventually…

Now to make this new med reduction work…

Ah…another go round the mulberry bush…

In this house we lean more to the “reader” than the “TV watcher” demographic.  We will, during brief periods of the day, have the TV on, watch a show, enjoy whatever is being aired, and then we move on to other forms of entertainment.  I don’t deny watching TV, or movies, but I admit that -more often than not- we have music playing in the background, and we are being entertained by conversation, reading, board games, puzzles, or a combination of these elements.

That is my long-winded excuse for not knowing (until someone pointed me in her general direction) who Kristin Cavallari is.  Here we have, albeit supposedly unintentionally, another half of a celebrity couple who has provoked a firestorm of criticism by saying she and her football player husband (I didn’t have an inkling about him either until they were mentioned in that “they are identifiers for each other” manner used for celebrities) won’t vaccinate their children.  After a “who????,” I googled her…

Ms. Cavallari, it seems, has enough gravitas to warrant a question about vaccinations.  She issued an opinion.  Shocking or not, there are those out there who bypass actual research to espouse the causes and opinions of celebrities.  Ms. Cavallari has more than a million followers on Twitter alone.  (Twitter, by the way, is the podium from which poorly/briefly/abruptly/cryptically worded opinions are issued, and from which many receive validation from total strangers.) Through this megaphone she has been issuing a defense for her views on vaccinations.  That, by the way, is more of a criticism of Twitter and its users in general than of Ms. Cavallari in particular.

Here is some of what grabbed me among Ms. Cavallari’s statements:

  1. “You know what, I’ve read too many books about autism.”  (A legitimate question I’d pose is “which ones, and who wrote them?,” but that’s just me.)
  2. “There is a pediatric group called Homestead or, shoot, Homestead or Home First — now I have pregnancy brain, I got them confused — but they’ve never vaccinated any of their children and they’ve never had one case of autism. And now, one in 88 boys is autistic, which is a really scary statistic.”  (“Never” in how many years?  “Never” according to which DSM?)
  3. “Autism wasn’t prevalent — like it is now — years ago, so something is going on, whether it’s the chemicals in our food or the vaccines.”  (Kudos for not using the word “epidemic” because Autism isn’t infectious.)
  4. “Something is happening, and we can’t really ignore that.  I choose to believe that I think it’s in the vaccines but, again, to each their own and that’s where I stand on it.”  (She lost me at I choose to believe that I think.  Apparently she hasn’t read anything regarding the studies concerning a possible hereditary factor.  Refer to quote #1.)

Ms. Cavallari is absolutely right when she says “to each their own.”  As a parent you have the right to choose whether you raise your child in a certain way, and you also have the right to make educated, well-informed, carefully thought-out decisions regarding their well-being.  If you want, for example, to raise your child as a vegetarian, or not watching TV, or as a Muslim, or whatever other decision you wish to impose on them (because that’s what we do…we impose decisions on our children until they are old enough to make their own choices) you have every right to do so…

However…

The choice to NOT vaccinate doesn’t affect JUST your children, your household, your immediate environment.  Closing your eyes to the fact that many diseases that seemed to be eradicated are making a comeback is irresponsible.

The choice to vaccinate or not is not something you should base on reading “too many books about Autism.”   If you’re going to choose to NOT vaccinate, how about reading the most recent reports from the CDC, WHO, and so forth?  Why just focus on your concerns about Autism?  Why just document your fears and concerns with that?  If you’re willing to risk a potentially fatal childhood disease because it has been eradicated and because it might be temporary rather than potentially risk Autism is, and I apologize for this word, silly.

I believe in vaccination.  Not only do I believe in vaccination, I am the mother of an autistic adult who firmly advocates for vaccination.  Everyone in this household is 100% in favor of vaccination, and this is not “in spite” of the Autism we live with day after day, but simply because vaccination makes sense for the general well-being of the population.  A short walk through any old cemetery provides sufficient proof of the devastation caused by childhood illnesses prior to the widespread use of vaccines.  Even if I knew it was the vaccines that caused J’s Autism, and I could travel back in time armed with this knowledge, I wouldn’t skip the vaccines…I wouldn’t run that risk, even knowing what I’d be up against.

When you go on TV to promote your new project (“The Fabulist”…and, to be truthful, I almost gave her credit for possibly being engaged in something that brought to light the rich fables of Aesop, Samaniego, LaFontaine, Thurber, Orwell, and so forth) and you are asked about vaccinations, you SHOULD expect your opinion to make waves.  Saying later that it’s not something you wanted to address publicly doesn’t really work; if you didn’t want to discuss it publicly, you could have said “I think that’s a personal and private matter for our family,” and go back to talking about whatever it is that you’re trying to sell.

You can’t say you weren’t trying to drum up controversy in much the same way a bullfighter cannot say “I didn’t know the red cape was going to make the bull rush me.”  Not all bulls are Ferdinand, and using Autism as an argument against vaccination based on blogs and literature that squarely support your beliefs is not really making a properly-researched decision.  Using Autism as an argument against vaccination is, whether you or any other anti-vaxxers admit it, an indictment of those parents of autistic individuals who opted to vaccinate their kids.

“To each their own” is all well and good, but because of your other statements, and the fact that you brought up “too many books on Autism” there is a tacit indictment of those who have chosen to vaccinate and have an autistic child.  You are kinda, sorta saying “serves them right.”  You are, whether you admit it or not, blaming them for their child’s Autism.

Instead of reading fear-mongering books on Autism, how about reading some actually informative, enlightening, educational books on the subject?  The thing you seem to be so scared of is not that scary at all; it’s labor-intensive, not-at-all glamorous…lasts longer than mumps, measles or rubella, but the child is totally worth it.  Trust me, I am actually rather well-read and hands-on experienced on the subject.

We go ’round and ’round the mulberry bush so often…it doesn’t get old, but the misconceptions do…

J < 260

Imagine our surprise when, after a few days of inactivity and laziness due to his bout with the pesky common cold, we weighed J and he rang in at under 260 pounds (or 117 kg.)  Here we were, after giving him a rather long-winded but kind speech about falling back into his old habits (because he wanted Pringles, and I said “ok, yes, but…”,) ready to go See????  You can’t go back to resorting to food for entertainment because THIS is what happens…and the Wii (an apparatus that has, in fact, been very accurate with J’s weight) made us look like overreacting ninnies…

Serves us right.

We seem to have developed a certain degree of the anxiety we didn’t want to develop regarding J’s weight loss.  We started out just wanting him to lose weight in a “change your lifestyle” sort of way, and we panicked because he had a cold and had some comfort food, and didn’t exercise since Thursday.  Shame on us.  That was unfair and pretty silly…

J has learned to eat right.  He still gets his little luxuries, but he no longer fights about them, and he knows when he’s had his proper serving size.  A few months ago it would have been impossible for me to negotiate with J, and now it’s par for the course.  For example: he wanted his pasta with cheddar cheese today, but he wasn’t interested in having the cheese sauce I make with veggie broth and pumpkin…he wanted his pasta straight up with the cheddar cheese, and I served him a small amount of cheese, a small amount of pasta and plenty of leftover roast chicken.  When he had three forkfuls of pasta left, the cheese was basically gone, and he moved to ask for more.  Flashback to October and this would have been a long, drawn-out argument with an intractable, stubborn individual.  Today it played completely different: J, if I’d made the sauce, you’d have had better coverage with the cheese, but since you wanted just the shredded, that’s all you’re getting.  He looked at his plate, considered what I was saying, sighed and said THANK YOU before finishing his pasta.

Why wouldn’t he want the pumpkin sauce???  Well…for the same reason that I sometimes want Catalina dressing on my salad rather than a simple vinaigrette; it just wasn’t what he wanted at the time!  This is what we have to keep reminding ourselves: J is not that different from us when it comes to food.  Eating right is not a struggle, but it also isn’t something that he will want to do without fail. We all want the cookie or the ice cream from time to time; we want butter, chips or French fries.  The trick is to just not make them the only thing we eat.  If they sneak in there among the good, healthy stuff then we’re going in the right direction…and J, I’m happy to report, is definitely on the right track.

Now that we know that J uses the band-aids for comfort we can better gauge what his day will be like.  There are mornings when it’s easy to tell that he’s preparing himself for a slightly more emotionally hectic day at school.  It is the equivalent of our having that second cup of coffee before we tackle a long to-do list at home or at work.  That J can now recognize this, and that he understands we are supporting him and letting him ride out his displeasure with the little things that make life more difficult, is an awesome development.  J used to get frustrated because, as people tend to do from time to time, he thought he was in this alone, that no one understood he was struggling with people and situations that irritate him.

I like to think that we have proactively contributed to this new way of living that J has adopted.  I think, however, that it is as much feeling our support and accepting our guidance as it is the natural course of maturing that every individual ultimately follows.  Why J has been more willing to listen and be guided than TGG was at the same age is anyone’s guess.  Maybe we are each wired differently in that department?  At the age of 19 TGG knew everything.  I kid you not…TGG was the wisest, most-knowing and knowledgeable individual on the face of the Earth.  That this was in his own mind and not perceived by the rest of us mortals is completely beside the point.  When the fall came, immediately after pride because that’s how it’s timed, TGG’s newfound humility was nowhere near as malleable as J’s.  For every NO, J has resisted, but he has learned from the times we’ve said YES…TGG has, as a rule, been pretty obstinate in this department.  If we had to describe them in some way, TGG would be the happiest happy-go-lucky Eeyore ever known to man, and J would be the most observant and serious Tigger.  That Dada and I haven’t developed a drinking problem is a minor miracle…

Since we decided, with the doctors’ encouragement and the mutual support we provide each other, to grab the proverbial bull by the horns, we seem to be inching forward with a little less melodrama.  This morning I spent the better part of two hours calling the child support agency back home, the local child support agency, and the Social Security Administration and everything I heard was, to put it mildly, contradictory, frustrating, confusing and overwhelming.  J walked in and out of our office area (oh, it’s a snow day, people…again…for three inches of snow…so…yeah…) without once getting the impression that I was near a meltdown.  I was, I was definitely near meltdown point, and -for the first time in a long time, I decided to take it as yet another string of administrative messes that won’t be easily untangled, and will -ultimately- take a very long, long time, and won’t be untangled to satisfaction regardless of how much effort we put into this.

If J can, with two band-aids, gird his loins for a rough and frustrating interaction at school then so can I.  Maybe it’s because of all the vegetables, but I’m calmer…even when I don’t seem to be.  Maybe it’s because of the fact that we’re all getting enough fiber, and drinking plenty of water.  Maybe we’re all just getting older and figuring things out.  Maybe TGG’s obstinate nature is inherited and, of all the people in this household, I have been slowest to pare off that layer in spite of my strong conviction that I don’t have that layer…maybe I’m just repurposing that layer, not really shedding it…

But the thing is that J, with his occasional serving of Pringles and the laziness that came attached to his recent grappling with the common cold, continues to slowly shed the weight that had been impeding so many things for him.  And, of course, even though his abdomen is still rather large, I know it’s because of the med, and I know that once we go down another .25 milligram, it’ll get better.

That’s the thing…it’s all getting better.  Little by little.  Some days we don’t notice it.  Some days we don’t see it.  Some days we can’t believe it…but it’s happening.  And even though it snowed last night, and Kierkegaard called this morning, Spring is just around the corner…two days, twenty-one hours and counting…

 

 

The weather see-saws one more time…

Here we are…another beautiful day.  We have a few clouds, but there’s a nice cool breeze lacing the warmth of this gorgeous Friday, Pi Day…  Never mind that yesterday it was cold all day, and that what blew was a bracing wind that made us close the doors and hug ourselves afterwards.  J’s misery with sinus congestion has abated somewhat, but -as usual- this is the sort of malady that takes a few days to completely leave you.

This morning, after his shower (which DID help him feel better,) I sat down with J to work on “nose blowing.”  Yes, we had a lesson in how to blow our nose, and -barely effective though it was- J thought it was fun and funny.  Maybe it was the fact that I sat there puffing up my cheeks like a blowfish and then demonstrating letting air out through my nose…or maybe it was just that he got giddy because of the lightheadedness that comes from doing this repeatedly.  At the end of our session, J had managed to blow his nose ONCE.  It must have provided some degree of relief because now he tries to do it whenever I walk into the room.  OR…he thinks I will once more look absolutely hilarious when I model the behavior for him.

J’s appetite waxes and wanes when he’s sick, so I’m making sure he eats small, nutritious meals scattered over the hours when he’s awake.  My aunts believed in “feed a cold, starve a fever,” but they always said it was mostly because a good bowl of home-made chicken soup when you have a cold will help you feel better, but eating when you have a fever usually ends up making you feel uncomfortable.  I give J lots of fluids, feed him smaller meals, and let him call the shots as to what he wants to eat.  OK…he tells me what he wants, and then I alter it to a healthier version.  Today he wanted mac and cheese and shrimp for lunch, and I made mac and pumpkin with a sprinkle of cheese and popcorn shrimp.  The meal was smaller than usual, but he was satisfied because, let’s face it, after a while of eating with a stuffy nose you sort of get tired…

I am hoping that J will start feeling better by tomorrow morning, and then he can rest and recover fully by Monday.  I can tell he misses school because, while he enjoys the things we do together, I can’t offer him the variety of interaction that his classmates make available.  We all agree that J feels compelled to keep ME busy, and hardly notices that I’m doing the same with him.  I don’t really mind this because it’s as close to “normal teenager” behavior as it gets.  I remember humoring my grown-ups with a kernel of attention and participation here and there.

The only other rather ominous news in the grapevine shouldn’t be ominous at all: taxation and revenue back home garnished my ex-husband’s refund and some of the child support he owes was paid.  The ominous part is that now Social Security has to determine how this will affect J’s benefits; because this is supposed to be a $200 a month income and it hasn’t been paid for nearly three solid years, whatever comes in will be in spurts that are “sizable.”  That is: there are now 1738 dollars that weren’t there before, and some of that money was supposed to be child support for TGG who had not yet turned 21 when it was owed.

I put a call in to our local SSA office yesterday, and they will research the details and call me back.  I explained to the person I spoke to that, actually, this might happen once a year, and it will represent money that J has already spent on groceries, medical bills, etc.   Last year, in May, we paid 1200 dollars for the dental procedure J had done at the hospital, and I’m not complaining…I’m simply stating a fact.  J didn’t have that kind of money, and neither did we, but we came up with it.  Since July of 1999, the kids’ father would have had to pay 35,000 dollars worth of child support.  It is, sad to say, the proverbial drop in the bucket: less than 2400 dollars a year for BOTH kids…

The other day my ex-husband called while getting ready to file his taxes.  They’re going to garnish again, he said.  I sighed.  Well…I don’t really know what to say about that; the child support law back home indicates that, while TGG is no longer eligible for child support because he is over 21, J will be eligible forever because he is disabled.  Call me a sucker, but I don’t quite think this is going to work out to anyone’s advantage.  I’ve never asked for a revision, mind you, but it’s because he has two children with his now ex-wife, and I think (because they are both still minors, and the oldest is autistic) that they need more of his money than J and TGG do.  That we are trapped in this Sisyphus-like endeavor seems silly.

So…I called the child support agency and I explained my quandary.  Short of calling me a sucker to my face, the employee who answered my call said that I’d have to travel to file a motion to close the child support request case.  To the question “what if traveling is not viable for me because of my son” I got a very vague answer.  “What if my husband adopts my son?”  Why would I want to do that…that was the answer.  I basically said “because he has wanted to since we got married, and the only thing impeding it was the fact that the child’s biological father was very attached to the notion of what about my last name rather than to the child himself.”  Silence…a long pause…that might do it.

I wait for the weekend with a vaporizer going, half a bottle of Mucinex gone and a young man who, while applying the puffer-fish technique, can now sort of blow his nose.  It’s always something, isn’t it?  But we plod on, and things do get better…like the weather…and they get worse…and back to better…and then everything balances out…

Right?  Right…

Into every household a little common cold must fall…

People REALLY do take blowing their noses for granted.  Every time I see J trying to figure this simple action out, I am amazed at how something so run-of-the-mill can be so overwhelming for him.

Going with old wive’s tales, the sudden changes in weather have definitely affected everyone.  Not just this cold that is being passed around (yes, yes, I KNOW it’s a virus, but viruses thrive and dwindle with temperature changes, people…we’re all walking, talking petri dishes,) people have been buoyed and then sunk by mock-Spring and mocking-Winter.  Because I am getting older, and because I grew up in the tropics, I tend to bundle up even when the locals are dressed as if for a summer picnic.  I get a lot of weird looks, but I sincerely do not want to feel cold unless it’s absolutely necessary, and I’ve yet to think it’s necessary.

Winter, at least around here, is definitely petering out.  This last bout of cold is undoubtedly equivalent to a toddler’s tantrum when it’s time for a nap.  I can see it.  There are buds on the trees (or there WERE when I walked down to the corner to wait for J yesterday,) and the birds are returning…more and more colorful birds with each passing day.  I’ve seen bees, and we had more rain than snow yesterday.  Let’s face it, a few weeks ago yesterday’s rain would have been snow and would have accumulated significantly on the ground around us.  Last night’s snowfall was, at best, a half-hearted attempt at reminding us it’s a week ’til the official start of Spring.

All this change in weather patterns leads to another transition period.  J will soon enough have to accept that the comforting layers of scarf, gloves, jackets, and so forth will be shed until he’s back to shorts, sandals and t-shirt.  The first few days when the weather stays warm consistently are not easy for him.  If we don’t slowly work our way through the closet and remove all the fleece, therma-skin, and so forth, J will insist on dressing as if he’s going on a Himalayan expedition even when summer is in full swing.  Notice, please, that summer is not yet Summer; its personality, although well-known, is still non-descript, and so far in the future that we cannot treat it as a major force…that, hopefully, will change sometime late next month.  🙂

The smaller-size pants don’t count as transition garments.  Those are just necessary, and J accepts them as easily as he does the belts that he suddenly requires to keep his pants from falling.  The new, lighter-weight shoes (suede booties) are not as easy to introduce.  For one, shame on us, they have laces!  For another, shame on us, they’re not sandals.  J’s closet is now full of clothes that don’t fit properly (t-shirts that billow around him where before they hugged him snugly,) and winter clothes that will have to go into storage, only to possibly get donated by the time cold weather rolls around again later in the year.  The sneaky suspicion that J’s shorts from last summer will be all too big for him this year is ever-present these days.

J’s appearance hasn’t changed dramatically, but that wasn’t our plan to start with, was it?  All we wanted was to change J’s eating habits, get him to exercise and, little by little, see a difference in his weight.  If the weight is slowly being shed, the good eating habits are more obvious.  We calculated the other day, and we’re going through our veggies a lot faster than we ever imagined.  They are no longer being disguised; they are being added, in plain sight, to all meals.  J gets excited when he sees it’s Pumpkin French Toast Morning, or when the eggs are green, or when the jar of wheat germ gets trotted out as dinner is being cooked.  If it’s good news that J is now on the bandwagon, it’s even better news that TGG has jumped on it, and can now be found spelunking “for more broccoli” at dinnertime.  We now make a salad, and EVERYONE has some.

The measuring tapes and quad-ruled paper have been trotted out, and even J is interested in our ideas for the garden.  Maybe what he’s dreaming of is the quiet corner in the back patio that is always reserved for him, and his fake-dironack chair and his music.  Maybe he’s thinking that he can have fresh spinach.  Maybe he’s just thinking it will be warm and he won’t have to be indoors all the time.  Like the rest of us, J has been looking to blue skies and only one jacket with a big smile on his face, but in the early morning hours, when it’s time for the bus in the not-quite-yet-light-of-morning, J wants his coats, his gloves, his scarf, and the comfort of all protection against Winter even if we tell him “it’s already 50 degrees, dude!”  Winter, I suppose, is a two-faced liar in J’s book.

Little by little our problems ebb and flow, and isn’t that the way it is for everyone?  One week everything seems like it’s engulfing us, and the next week we’ve whittled (or wrangled) things to a more manageable size.  As with the Hydra, one thing goes and two more take its place…but that’s the way it is for everyone whether we like to admit it or not.  Our problems and our joys are as common as the common cold, exacerbated in importance only because they are localized.  Today, for example, if snot could be counted as currency, you’d think we won the jackpot.  I’m sure there are plenty of mothers out there in the same situation.  J cannot possibly be the only kid in the world who doesn’t know how to blow his nose, but the fact that he IS nineteen and, well, BIG does make the problem a little less run-of-the-mill.

Ah…I see the sun streaming in through the sliding glass door.  The temperature hasn’t really gone up that much (we’re still at 15 degrees with a windchill of 2,) but the sun is shining…  Time for more cold medicine…of the strictly mild, purely-for-mucus-control purposes variety.  Let the thing run its course, and -like Winter- it will…