The darned boots were worn to school this morning…
I don’t want to discuss it; not now, but maybe later when I’m no longer irritated by this minor defeat.
I sort of expected it, but I was holding fast to the hope that the boots would stay home today. I should have known this was going to be the combination of steps we’d be dancing when J flatly refused to let me take his shorts and short-sleeve shirts out of storage.
To quote Scarlett O’Hara: after all, tomorrow is another day. The only reason I’m quoting a character I don’t like from a book/movie I don’t particularly like is that J’s reaction was all too Rhett Butler-ish: frankly, my dears, he didn’t give a damn about our Boot Agreement of last week.
Off I go to lick my wounds (not really…that sounds gross,) and take some chosen “cold-weather” items out of J’s closet. In the face of direct attacks, I go for surreptitious sabotage.
So sue me…I’m a mother, not a strategist.
On Monday, J and I had a long discussion about his snow boots. It was a rather one-sided discussion, and it seemed to go well until Tuesday morning. In spite of his tacit agreement about the beloved snow boots going into hibernation until the next time it snows (which, hopefully, won’t be until a month that starts with D,) J requested the boots for school.
We went back and forth, and I relented. Was this a chicken shit move? Probably, but I figured a Tuesday is never a good day to start anything, and I then told J that he had Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to wear the boots. On Friday, as soon as he arrived from school, the boots were going into storage. We shook on it, and I’ve been reminding him of when the boots are bye-bye since then. This morning, without much ceremony, I reminded him that today’s the day…
I am hoping today’s the day. I admit I’m not too positive that this will work, but I’m going to try my best to achieve this goal. Why can’t I be sure? Well, basically it’s because I’ve learned to pick my battles, especially when we’re still in the first month of reducing medication. I think this transition will become easier once we take out the shorts he wears in warmer weather, and that has been sketchy so far; temperatures in the mornings have been dipping to an uncomfortable level, and I think it’s easier to peel off a jacket (or two) when he arrives from school, than to carry a blanket and a dog sled to bring him home. (No, it hasn’t been as bad as all that, but I also know that J would play it to the hilt with the drama if the day turned out colder than expected by three o’clock.)
We are slowly drifting into warmer weather, sunnier days, earlier sunrises and later sunsets. J likes this. He likes walking to the gym while the sun is still out, and coming home with plenty of time to take his shower and have dinner before the sun sets. It won’t be long now before he insists on sitting outside after dinner, taking in the increasingly green view that he commands from there.
A trip to the grocery store last weekend jarred us massively. Add to that the fact that it also depleted our resources more than we expected, and the garden becomes an imperative. At this point (and considering the price of any kind of meat,) we’d keep chickens, ducks, goats, a pig, and a cow if we could. Since we can’t really do any of that (the Home Owners’ Association frowns on urban poultry and such,) we have to make a good go of vegetables, herbs and any bee-attracting plants. Our lettuce, spinach and mesclun are making good progress, and it’s time to start transplanting our cucumbers, chard, and so forth. I have some tomato plants heading this way from a grower that sells them online, and I’m putting a new hybrid variety of corn intended for containers that I’m putting down today (this will also disguise the rather bulky A/C unit the builder opted to place on the deck.)
Making waffles and freezing them individually has worked quite well. Yesterday I had to make more, but it does save money if we do that, and the waffles are fresher, healthier, and bigger than the ones we get at the store. The store-bought waffles come packaged in such a way that they easily get freezer-burned once the box has been opened, and no amount of syrup brings them back to life. Believe me, the kids have TRIED! With the home-made waffles, once they toast them using the FROZEN setting in the toaster, very little syrup goes a very long way. The waffle iron (which we’d been on the fence about for weeks!) turned out to be a very good investment. We have an assortment of triple-berry, chocolate chip, and banana waffles to choose from, and this makes the morning rush much easier, and much more delicious.
J continues to be happy with what he is fed. I hardly have any cheese in the fridge because I hardly need any cheese to feed him. Making his “mac and cheese” with veggie broth, pureed pumpkin and less than two ounces of whatever cheese he chooses is satisfactory to him. He has also learned that he, too, can spelunk through the fridge for whatever leftover chicken, beef or pork there is from the previous night. Instead of leaving only enough for Dada’s and TGG’s take-to-work lunches, they now leave a container with leftovers for J. He feels like he’s part of some secret society with a very cool members-only handshake.
J enjoys TGG’s company. He looks forward to the gym because it’s TGG who goes with him. I can understand this, and I encourage it because if going to the gym with his cool older brother motivates him to show off and walk two miles on the treadmill, it’s all good. When I go with J, and it’s just the two of us, he has that “oh, crap…I’m with my MOM!” look on his face. That there are two cute teenage girls who either leave as J and TGG are arriving, or show up in the middle of their workout isn’t hurting either.
Yes, we are easing into new ways of doing things because the weather, once more, seems new and invigorating and surprising. The joy of watching a seed sprout is again an everyday treat. J looks through the bowls where I keep the packets of seeds, and walks around the containers we’ve yet to fill, and I know he’s starting to relish the idea of “outside,” even if it comes attached to the idea of “no school.”
April is winding down. TGG’s birthday is a week away. It all gets warmer, sunnier, more outdoorsy from there…
The boots MUST go! The boots WILL go! And then the down-jacket…for sure!
Of all the things you learn early on when you have a child with special needs, the amount of paper that will come your way, will require review, and will stick to you like gum on your shoe is the one thing that never ceases to impress…
After the sudden appearance of, and in spite of the absolute inaccessibility to, some of the child support J’s biological father owes, we are now under a deluge of paper and phone calls with Social Security. It doesn’t matter if J can’t access that money (short of flying out to an ATM that accepts the card, and withdrawing it,) this money represents income for March (which J has to slowly re-pay to Social Security, and a resource while it remains in that account. No amount of explaining or trying to reason with a government agency (either where the money comes from, or here) has led anywhere…so we’re at an impasse.
Heaven forbid we should ever GET that money because if the “idea” of it is wreaking havoc, the “reality” would make the world implode, I guess. You may ask WHY we can’t get the money, and my only answer is that I have no one I can trust to receive the card, extract the money and actually convey it to J.
One of the ways we have of making this money disappear, as it were, is by finally proceeding with Dada’s adoption of J. This is easier said than done: because J cannot “consent,” we have several hoops to jump through. At least, or so he says NOW, J’s biological father is willing to do whatever is required of him to make this happen. The cost of the whole thing, of course, is yet another thing we have to juggle.
I spent the morning wading through binders full of receipts so I can complete yet another report of J’s expenses over the course of the past year. My head is swimming in numbers, and I think I got a brain cramp a while ago. I’ve revisited J’s whole financial year, and I can see that his food habits have changed significantly, and that he now buys more books for entertainment than movies.
Yesterday was a no-school day (isn’t it funny how J’s vocabulary, or -rather- his way of understanding things seeps into our lingo?) so we enjoyed the lovely weather outside on the patio. A second- (or third-) hand table someone gave us a few months ago was refurbished over the weekend, and J now has a nice solid surface to place his iPad on while he sits out there. TGG had chosen a rather bright turquoise shade, and it happens to fit in perfectly with the decor J has chosen; it contrasts with the teak of the rocking chair, picks up a stripe from the cushion, and pops nicely against the white privacy wall. J loves it!
Yesterday was also haircut-day. In honor of the occasion, J happily parked himself in front of the mirror, held the trash can and grabbed chunks of cut hair to throw away. Moving his head from side to side, he would check how well I was doing. He was, thankfully, happy with the result, and asked for less of a sideburn than he’d been requesting a few months ago. Let’s face it, he had the Brian Setzer vibe going for a while, and I guess he realized that it was starting to encroach on the goatee. So we shortened the sideburns, and we trimmed the mustache and goatee to a manageable length…it left us with more of J’s face visible, and we took a picture to send Dada (who was at work because not everyone gets as many days off as J does.)
At that moment it struck me…I pulled out a picture from early in November, and I e-mailed them to Dada…side by side. The change in J’s face is noticeable when looked at in this fashion. We simply had not truly noticed how much his face has slimmed down because we see him every single day, and we are used to his looks. Trust me: J is considerably slimmer.
Now, I am the type of person who needs empirical proof of these things, so I weighed him, measured how tall he is, and then looked at the pictures again. J has definitely lost thirty pounds, not grown enough in height to make him appear more slender than he is, and his face has definitely lost that “full moon” thing it had going on before we started this new approach to food.
Slow and steady wins the race. Little by little we make progress. Drop by drop the bucket gets filled. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And all this paper will be processed, filled out, submitted, accepted, reviewed, regenerated in yet another guise. And another legal process will begin, go up and down and round and round, and we’ll figure it out.
That’s what we do…we commit to a child and it’s not the clear-cut process that some envision when their heads are full of the romanticism of parenthood. We commit to a child and they are more than just the being we love; they are a patient, a student, a consumer, a legal entity, a sibling, a passenger, a liability, an asset… But we commit to a child because we love that child, and we will do what we do every day, and we will figure out whatever entanglements arise along the way…
It’s what we do…and to all the trees that are felled year after year in the name of this paper trail we call J, our beloved son, I apologize on this Earth Day. Rest assured I no more enjoy the bulky envelopes, the paper cuts, the pointless ring-around-the-rosie than I would taking an axe to a mighty tree trunk.
The bees are back; the spinach has sprouted, as has the lettuce. We see more sunshine and leaves than we did a few weeks ago, and we’ll soon be done with one round of paperwork to leave the opening for the next round. This is the tedium of parenting…the rest (even at its worst) is a lot less boring and frustrating. Well…maybe…
We are home for the Easter holiday, and J couldn’t be happier. The weather brought us a quick round of snow that, thankfully, didn’t stick, but that proved to us that Mother Nature has her whims and will see them through.
Today the sun is out, and the cloud cover isn’t so thick that we can worry about it lingering. The lettuce seedlings actually survived this brief cold snap, and look to be ready to grow, grow, grow. Everything else we started in J’s little greenhouses is following that example, and J is excited about this.
With this last four-day weekend we stretch into the final leg of the school year. From here until Memorial Day it’s go-go-go, and that tells me this year is going to fly by in a hurry. We’re already on the skinny side of April!
J has been happy. I think it’s the warmer weather, and the fact that the patio area is available to him. My only concerns in that area are the habit of one of the neighbors of walking his rather large (and unfriendly to males) dog right up to our deck railing, and that kids have taken to lurking and leaping where our outdoor area is laid out. Vegetation, I’m hoping, will go a long way to mark off the space, and J will get some of the peace and quiet he yearns for when he’s out there.
Little by little, green has started crawling back into the picture. The trees that were gray and bare a few days ago now have light green sprouts on them, and the birds are happily coming to the bird feeders to partake of the seed we put out for them. The wind chimes no longer sound like they’re chattering with cold, but dancing in a cool spring breeze. All is good…
Every afternoon, J jumps up and asks to go to the gym. Yes, he’s still doing this, and he’s doing it with joy and enthusiasm. Not only is his slowly peeling off some weight, he’s getting TGG to stick to an exercise routine. Dada and I call this “date-time” because, for an hour, we get to be by ourselves and do whatever we want. Unless you have someone in your household who often overwhelms your day to day activities, you can’t really appreciate how precious that one hour really is…and this means a baby, an older parent you care for, a convalescent patient, a disabled child whose needs are quite imperative. It is quite a lovely treat!
And, finally, Good Friday is here and Easter looms ahead. We had Family Craft Night on Tuesday, and J was very much entertained by Dada and TGG attempting to put together some of the bunnies and chicks we’d bought at the crafts store. While J is a master at “THIS is how much glue you need to make pom-poms stick,” Dada and TGG are not quite as adept. J chuckled at their modesty while applying glue, and scoffed at the drooping pom-poms that resulted from this.
Dada and TGG were not trying to make J feel better. They REALLY have no clue about how much glue will make pom-poms stick on anything. J’s bunnies and chicks were perfectly put together, perfectly lined up on the dining table, and he patiently went over the loose pom-poms, re-gluing them.
Today TGG is off from work, and we might take J out for a spin in the car. I should REALLY go to the store and buy all the things we still need to replenish our freezer. We go through so many vegetables now that it’s hard to keep up with that part of our supplies, and we really need to get more fish because J really, really likes it. His weight-loss has slowed down, but that is something we expected. The first layer of unnecessary fat has been consumed, and now we go to the part where exercise and good eating habits are crucial for long-term results. Health continues to be our main focus, and J is on the path he needs to tread to get to where we want to go. We are, drumroll, closer to 250 pounds than we have been in a long, long, long time…
As we get deeper into spring and head towards summer, things are looking good, and J is happy. We are down nearly thirty pounds from his heaviest; the med reduction finally has kicked in, and warm weather is becoming the norm…
What more can I ask for? A freezer without tumbleweeds in it, but that’s another story…
Yesterday’s mail arrived in a stream of sunshine. I sat outside reading all morning and well into the early afternoon; the weather was just too nice to spend the day indoors. I took the opportunity to also research how the light hits the back of the house, and how this would affect J’s sitting out there in summer. As a result of my research, I moved the patio table and its umbrella to a spot where it can easily provide some respite from the sun for J. I also decided that the corn is going in a corner of the deck, and that the strawberries can be planted near the step.
With that order of business completed, I sat on J’s rocking chair (part of the research) and tested the cushion and the view. He will be VERY happy with the spot he has chosen.
Yesterday would have been my great-aunt’s 104th birthday, and this is usually an emotionally-testy date for me. She loved birthdays, and always referred to herself as “the girl who was born ten days before Halley’s Comet streamed across the sky in 1910.” When the comet came around again in 1986, she awaited the event as one who is about to see a long-lost friend. My aunt was the most pragmatic and yet deeply romantic person…she didn’t have birthdays, she had “Aprils!” I think of her and I think of exuberant flowers, perfumed talc, bijouterie, pretty dresses, jet black hair in a chignon. I also think of her rosary, her love of ankle socks and sneakers, her baby blue ’55 Cadillac, the apron she wore to drive, and her love of coconut candy. I can hear her, and I can feel her rocking me back and forth as I sat on her lap.
In yesterday’s mail, which arrived in a flood of sunshine and warm air like we haven’t seen in months, there was a pouch with a CD my cousin mailed a few days ago. Last week I got a surprise phone call from him. We hardly ever speak; our family (our extended family) is spread far and wide, and -as close as we seemed to be when the older generation was still around- we are not very close these days.
Correction: other people communicate amongst themselves, and I -antisocial and cantankerous being that I am- stay in my corner and let everyone else mill about as they choose. It’s quite possible that I have become the eccentric cousin who acts like one of those hermits that noblemen and landowners used to let hang around their properties.
My cousin was like a brother to me. I was fonder of, and closer to, him than I was my own siblings, and this is possibly because he seemed to be around more, and he seemed to pay me more attention. His mother was my grandmother’s sister, and one of the holy trinity of aunts who raised me. While my siblings seemed distant, and irritated with their much-younger baby sister, my cousin always had a moment for me, and was always kind and sweet.
I haven’t seen him in ages. When we talk, now that we are adults with spouses and children, it is stilted, awkward, uncomfortable. I don’t expect it to be otherwise, of course, because when you grow up the dynamics of everything change. I am no less fond of him now, but I base my fondness on memory rather than recent experience. And maybe that’s why people interact with each other, and I’m the hermit in some lord’s property…
I was reluctant to watch this disc. I knew that it covered the early years of my life. I remember those years. I remember them distinctly enough that the clothes, smells, voices, events, toys, earrings, hair, birthday cakes are in 3D in my mind while they’re only 2D, and soundless, on the screen. The first thing that greeted was my three year-old face, and that was when I realized that *that* is pretty much what I see when I think of myself.
Pretty much. I say that because in about a year I had an accident that changed my life forever. I wasn’t disfigured so much as marred; I wasn’t destroyed so much as altered. While I see “pretty much” the girl that is celebrating her third birthday with a cake that has ballerinas on it, I also see the girl who then had a neat scar on her lower lip, and her teeth growing in a jumble. I see the girl who didn’t smile because her teeth were bigger than her face (and this would have been true even if I hadn’t fallen,) and who learned to be ashamed of a birthmark on her temple.
The strange thing is that I remember all that affection that seems to be centered on me in those home movies. I remember the voices telling me to dance, to smile, to blow the candles on the cake, to blow kisses. I remember the feel of the hugs, the warmth of the bodies. When I saw my aunt, I felt a stab of pain that I had not felt in a long time; it wasn’t the same stab of pain I feel when one of my children is suffering, but rather the stab of pain a child feels when she is suffering. I didn’t mourn her loss (all over again, nearly 21 years later) as a 49 year-old woman, but rather as a small child.
I always say that people don’t change, they just age, but I am starting to believe that I am mistaken. After we watched this surreal traipse down the path of my early years, I came to the living room and looked at my passport picture. I was six when it was taken, and in it is visible the scar from the plastic surgery that followed my fall. My birthmark is slightly camouflaged by the stamp from the passport office, but it’s there. The worst part is that the smile is gone; the little girl I saw in that home movie, smiling, blinking, being cute and sociable had turned -three years later- into a serious-looking, stormy-faced person.
As a mother, I’ve learned that when something happens to our children, we change along with them. When I realized that J is autistic, I became a different person; I tackled the world, and all that came attached to this unexpected development in my child’s life, in a different way. Instead of turning away from him, instead of trying to change him, I tried to change myself…I redefined my concept of what was expected of me as a parent.
Watching that home movie yesterday, I get the strong sense that -maybe- something changed when I fell and was no longer the cute little kid with the smiling eyes, the pearly whites that peeked when someone said “smile at the camera!” I don’t know if I suddenly became “work” as opposed to “adorable.” I don’t know if my parents and siblings were traumatized by my trauma. I can’t presume to know what happened to them when something happened to me, but I do know that the dynamic I saw in that home movie was absent from the rest of my family life.
Maybe it was me. Maybe I turned into a sullen, difficult child; maybe I was the one who shunned everyone. This wouldn’t surprise me; after all, look at me, I live in this self-contained world we have nurtured and occupy comfortably. My aunt used to remind me that family comes first; she liked to tell me that my children would be the center of the world, that it would all be about how committed we were, as a family, to each other. I don’t know if she was trying to remind me that this was possible, but yesterday I saw that my aunts, my three lovely aunts, did -in fact- exist and breathe, and they did love me. And I know, because it is engraved in my bones, that they continued to love me years later when the gloss of cuteness wore off.
I grew up in a world where things were ‘repaired,’ not replaced. I grew up with damage that was masked, and happily declared “good enough to use again.” I believe, I suppose, in repurposing, refurbishing, recycling, reusing, and maybe it’s because that young child realized that it was those three old ladies who believed not all was lost when the cuteness left me.
Why else would I, blindly and enthusiastically, march on with the now-under-260-pound, five-foot-nine-and-a-half-inch, facial-haired, sometimes-surly, sometimes-happy, SIB-prone J? Because I was loved before I was damaged, and I was loved after…
If you had asked, many years ago when I was young, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered “a writer” without the slightest hint of hesitation. Prior to my dreams of becoming the next Louisa May Alcott, Dorothy Parker or Erma Bombeck, I would have replied “nun,” “ballerina,” “adventurer,” or “doctor.” At the age of nine, having watched Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story (on the late, late show,) I figured I could combine nun, doctor and adventurer. After one rather disastrous ballet lesson (the free introductory lesson,) it was determined that I was not suited for the graceful exertions of ballet. (Read: I leapt like a spastic frog, and was promptly reminded that one doesn’t need running starts preceded by spitting in one’s palms before rubbing them together to perform a proper jeté.)
Life, I like to tell the kids, takes up places we never imagined, and makes us do things we would have scoffed at in our youth. I, for example, used dolls to play “surgeon” rather than “mommy.” That I have spent a considerable amount of time doing what I do out of (a previously undetected) vocation for motherhood (of the most proactive, commando style) is a surprise I would have found unpalatable in youth. That I dedicate my time to write more grocery and to-do lists than anything else is something that would have crushed me when I was a girl. There is very little excitement to be imbued in grocery and to-do lists; you can, maybe, get really descriptive about what tasks you need to complete, throw in some “big words,” and such, but…it’s still just laundry, cooking, cleaning the lint out of the dryer, the litter box, and the toilet bowls…all four of them.
The grocery list can have a more exciting slant to it because, as the week progresses, you start writing things that -because you’re in the middle of putting out a fire in the kitchen, running down the last few steps before you forget what you mean to jot down, or walking back from the school bus in a drizzle while the words NOODLES and SODA are being repeated incessantly- seem rather cryptic when you look back during a calm, quiet moment. Our family has, over time, become accustomed to putting things like Richard Gere, BAMF bags, BS cheep, TPPT, thingies and Voldemort on the grocery list. That is, in “normal people”-speak: mayonnaise, large trash bags, boneless/skinless chicken, toilet paper and paper towels, sanitary napkins and cheddar cheese (because we don’t mention it or J goes overboard buying it.) Other times, because I don’t quite slow down to write what we need in words that even I can identify later, we get to the store with something that reads F&Wp5605/10. Instead of being an item (Dada once thought I meant to write our car needed either tires, a filter or a miracle,) this is a note to myself reminding me that I want to try the recipe in the Food and Wine magazine’s page 56 of the issue in May 2010. (Mind you, I don’t know if that’s the actual recipe…I didn’t go back to check if this reference is correct.) In other words: hey, BEFORE you go to the store, check this recipe to figure out what you need. Instead it becomes a “huh?” moment at the store.
These days I aim a little lower; I aim to get out of bed in the morning and make it back to bed at around 11 PM without some sort of disaster or catastrophe striking us. Though I failed at most of my nobler aspirations, this is one that I seem to have under control for now. Ten days after reducing the dose for J’s med, we are in one piece, and it’s not too bad a piece at that. We have, in spite of a significant hiccup last Tuesday, managed to make another successful transition. Indiana Jones, eat your heart out!
I suppose that the older I get, the more I will ask myself how I ended up here, and in this way. The landing has been less than skilled or graceful, but I think -in hindsight- I haven’t done too badly. Keeping J busy and focused is harder now that he’s older, but that’s because…well…he’s older, and it is the normal course of things for him to not be particularly thrilled to be entertained by his mother.
I can tell that he is looking for wider, more open, more exciting possibilities because he now LEAPS into action to remind TGG that it’s time to go to the gym. Oh, I know we’ve been through similar cycles before, and I suddenly regain my “interesting” status in J’s eyes, but I think more and more this is changing. He still obsesses about certain things, like me dressing to be at home rather than to go out, and knowing where I am when we’re alone together at home, but -for the most part- J is very much a nineteen year-old who finds himself in the unfortunate and awkward position of spending way too much leisure time with mom.
Quite honestly, I think we’re both too old to be in each other’s space as much as we are. When I look at my friends’ Facebook pages, I see that their children are entities increasingly more independent from the mothers, and I wonder “how does that feel?” Then it hits me that I will never really know.
Isn’t that strange? I know I’ve said it before, but once in a while it sinks in again, and again, and again…there are things to which we, as parents, and J, as our son, will never really have access. It is so…normal…to us that we are a three-person unit from here until we start dying off that I hardly ever stop to wonder what that middle-aged renaissance would be like for me. What, I wonder from time to time, would I DO with myself? Which of the things I aspired to would I take up and run with?
It’s not an itch I have. I don’t really long for a different life, you know. It might seem that way from time to time, but what I really long for is to make the best with this one while I have the opportunity. It’s almost, I’d say, like the usual hypothetical “I’ve just won the Mega Millions in the lottery. What do I do now?”
And the cup of tea is spent…and I just remembered I need to get some Whistle While You Work, Walking Wounded, pffts and pumpkin from the store. Better write them down now, before things get REALLY cryptic.
(PS: if you guess what the first three items are, you are welcome to join me at the grocery store next week. I can always use a good diviner, cryptologist, and bargain hunter.)