The last school birthday party…

At 5 a.m. Dada found J sitting on his bed while looking out the window.  He was wide awake.  He was monitoring the snow situation.  We had a lot of snow last week, and J was home from Wednesday in the afternoon to 8:30 on Wednesday when school finally started after a two-hour delay.

We got a lot of snow.  Not as much as other places, but enough to impair movement around town, work and school schedules, and causing a lot of family togetherness.  TGG was stuck in a hotel across the street from work.  We would’ve missed him more if we hadn’t lost the habit of having him at home.  The first night, as it started to snow profusely, J asked, but by the morning he was totally cool with his brother’s absence.

The storm, of course, threw a bit of a monkey wrench in our plans for organizing all party-related matters over the weekend.  We did manage to go to the psych on Thursday, and J doesn’t have to return until September.  We did all the important administrative stuff, but the party planning didn’t really take off until the snow cleared, and we could make it to the store.

I spent all of yesterday cooking, and in the evening we picked up cakes, and finished packing everything.  J realized last evening that the cakes were for his class, and immediately was excited by this prospect.  When he heard the word IEP mentioned, he looked at me in surprise, and I had to explain that we would be tele-conferencing it and I wouldn’t be going to the school for the party.  The relief he felt knowing that I wasn’t going to be there to act like a mom was obvious.

He went to bed happy, and he was -as I mentioned at the beginning- obviously paying attention to the weather.  He didn’t fret when he left for school without cakes because he didn’t really notice.  I had packed the food in a basket with a nice cover.  When TGG showed up with the cakes, J’s teacher said “look!  These are for you!  What do you think about that????”  J, looked from teacher to brother to cakes and back to brother, and said a resounding BYE!  I explained to TGG, when he texted me about it, that this is obviously a sign that he’s now less cool than he was, but not quite as uncool as WE are.

On Sunday J will be 21…officially.  We still have to take him to get a new ID (one that indicates his elevated status as a person who can buy alcohol and cigarettes,) and we have to prepare for this final transition into “I’m no longer a student.”  His teacher says he has “senioritis,” and has been by turns totally cavalier about his responsibilities, playing around with his schedule, and totally devoted to whatever task is at hand.  I can related to that…I remember thirty-something years ago when I, too, felt the pull of “this is my last year in high school…woo hoo!” and then “oh, NO!  This is my last year in high school!!!” alternately.

The celebration at home, of course, will be different.  He will have presents, and a nice dinner, and dessert.  It will, however, lack the social aspect that has made today’s party at school so special.  J’s social life, sadly, is slowly inching towards dwindling until we find programs and activities he can attend regularly.  As you know, those don’t exactly grow on trees.

The teacher sent pictures of the kids singing Happy Birthday to J…with J leading them in song.  He was even singing Happy Birthday to himself while everyone else was eating cake.  That, my friends, is definitely my boy!


It is now nearly 10 P.M., and J has been happy as a lark in spring since he got home.  He has not been particularly hungry, but that is -in my humble opinion- quite understandable.  He did, after all, have cake and tacos and rice and beans, and soda.

When Dada came home, J decided that he wanted to go out, and this was a pretty good idea.  The air was cold, but we needed an outing since spending all weekend indoors.  It was nice walking around and not feeling like we needed to buy ice melt, or water because of upcoming weather.  J walked around ahead of us.  He didn’t even really turn to make sure we were there; he knows we are, and he’s confident that he can move without getting into trouble.  At one point, even though we had no eye contact, he was comfortable with this, and I felt equal parts concerned and relieved.

We went to the grocery store and walked around for a while, and had the good fortune to not find a crowd.  The last time we’d been (pre-storm,) the place had been wall-to-wall with people.  J noticed our bagger; she was a lovely girl with dreadlocks, and she was very enthusiastic and had a nice smile.  J, of course, looked at her as surreptitiously as a person with very little filter can manage.  I could tell he was looking at the ceiling so he could look out of the corner of his eye.  It was, to me, endearing, and the girl may have noticed, but she also noticed that J is not your typical creepy dude who is out trawling for chicks a the grocery store.

As we were leaving the store, J leaned into me.  He was smiling.  The look on his face said “this has been a really good day,” and I giggled a little before jabbing me with his elbow and softly emitting a Tigger roar…  It was about the girl, I knew.  It was because he is a guy who knows that there are things he is interested in, but that they’re not really in the realm of his possibilities.  It was because we understand, and because he knows we understand.

The last little boy in our little world is officially not a little boy anymore.  He needs us.  He counts on us.  He will always (as all youngest children are to their parents) be our baby, but there’s something different there, and J knows it…   And he’s cool with it.  And we’re cool with it…




Of calamitous weather and surprising turns of events…

If you have ever heard thunder when it’s snowing, you know what I mean when I say “oh, crap!”  Such was my reaction on Tuesday afternoon when, as I emptied our mailbox, a clap of thunder surprised me.  I had walked in very light snow from our doorway to the corner where I was going to wait for J.  I looked at my cell phone, determined I had time to spare, and went to the mailbox.

I ran out of there.  I told the property manager to go home, and go home ASAP.  She, who trusts me, did so just as the rumbling got louder, closer and the visibility got less and less…  The sudden-onset blizzard had announced itself, and made a grand entrance.

I texted TGG, Dada and J’s teacher: stay where you are.  This is going to be bad.

This was at shortly after two-thirty P.M.  As I hugged the wall that flanks the townhouse complex driveway, I kept telling myself that J’s bus would arrive “any second now…”

The usual group of parents started gathering as the snow continued to fall in what seemed to be a relentless onslaught.  The road started getting slicker, and shovels and ice melt appeared.  Cars started inching down the road towards our driveway, and no sign of the bus yet.  People kept arriving and clustering in groups, commenting on the suddenness of it all.

The doppler radar had announced this.  The snow was supposed to be enough for the school district to switch Wednesday’s early-release to a 2-hour delay, and yet here we were…waiting for buses that were not coming.

And then, when the usual time of arrival had come and gone, we got word through one cell-phone armed parent: the buses were stranded down the road due to an accident.  I texted TGG at work: DO NOT LEAVE!  ROADS DANGEROUS.  WAIT FOR MORE INFO.

A motorist got stuck in a ditch trying to drive away from us.  A group of the shovelers ran to help.  I got a call from Dada: where is he?  I said “to wit?  He’s stuck in the bus somewhere down the road.”

Someone said “the buses will be here in half an hour.  We need more salt.”  I handed my keys to a guy I’d never met and told him to help himself from our garage.  He came back in ten minutes with a bucketful.  Another call: it’ll be an hour.  By then it was already four P.M….a full hour and a half since I’d heard that first clap of thunder had elapsed.

I ran home to change my socks and shoes, and to check for messages from the bus.  Pam, our trusty aide, had called to say they were safe, but that they were firmly stuck in place due to two accidents on the road bookending their route.  I called her back.  J, she told me, was happy; he had moments when he felt a little antsy, but they had crackers, water and the kids were singing and trying to make each other laugh.  I told her I’d be waiting on the corner when they got here.  She said, wistfully, maybe another half hour.

They rolled up to the corner at 7 P.M.  All in all, the kids had been sitting in the bus for four and a half hours, and they had been stuck less than a mile from our driveway, but impeded by vehicles that had been stranded, two accidents and a very steep and icy hill.  As J stepped off the bus, I was standing there with my lantern, my shovel, and such a great feeling of relief that we would soon be warm and safe at home.

We traversed the icy, slippery road and made it home to doff our coats, scarves, gloves, hats, and bags, and to use the bathroom.  J had, Pam told me, had a banana, crackers, water.  The people who lived near where they were stranded had come out to offer food, blankets, and their restrooms.  The kids had been worried, but they’d kept it together.  As soon as we got home, J made a beeline to the bathroom, and I called Dada and TGG to tell them, once more, that the reports about road conditions were grim and to stay where they were.

They didn’t listen.

Dada took two hours to get less than 1000 feet from his office, and then he turned back to the warmth and safety of his workplace.  TGG, who had taken refuge at a fast food place that was closing at around ten, made his way to Dada’s office and there they sat, drinking coffee and checking the weather and road conditions.  They finally got word that an alternate route was more open, and -leaving TGG’s car behind- made their way home.  They arrived at nearly midnight.

The schools were still on a 2-hour delay when we crawled into bed, and classes didn’t get cancelled until 6:20 the next morning.  The superintendent (the Mr. Potter of Morgantown from what I heard from other parents) referred to the whole situation as “at least we didn’t say “see ya” and leave the kids behind.” Some students, mind you, didn’t make it home until midnight.

I have heard the argument that “parents should have gone to get their kids from school if they were worried.”  To that I’ve answered that in loco parentis applies, and the school has to work with what they know about the weather, and the city is responsible for monitoring potential hazards on the roads BEFORE bad weather hits.  It’s not like they didn’t know it was going to snow.

All in all, the situation has made me be thankful for all those Shackleton books I’ve read over the years.  It’s also made me not want to watch The Revenant.  I’ve also come to understand that we have, indeed, come a long way with J: on the one-month anniversary of his med being completely taken away, J sat gracefully, calmly and patiently for four and a half hours while stuck in traffic.

If that isn’t an awesome thing to discover, I don’t know what is.  He was calm and happy, and glad to be home.  And when I told him that he wasn’t going to school the next day, even though classes hadn’t been yet cancelled, he took it with a smile that indicated relief and the desire to just chill after his long wait at the bottom of the hill.

I have to say this is a surprisingly wonderful discovery: J can function without the Risperdal under rather extreme conditions.  I am grateful, happy, encouraged…and looking for a place where we can live without the ONE road in and out that might get horribly stuck in bad weather.  Not that there will be school buses next winter, but…lesson learned……..




And we’re off…

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the countdown to J’s last day of school begins.  After much ado (and, believe, it was unwelcome ado) J is perfectly fine with going back to school, and the BUS and BACKPACK are up on the PECS board, and the BUS SONG has been sung until it can be sung no more without some degree of discomfort attached to it.

One-hundred and forty-eight days, nineteen hours, and forty-four minutes until school is out FOREVER (cue Alice Cooper…let him sit there for the duration.)

J’s teacher, of course, feels compelled to remind me that seniors finish school sooner than the rest of the population so that might actually be 130 days…

I am not ready to think about it.  I have barely reconciled to the notion that he was resisting going back to school tomorrow, and I don’t want to think in terms of “oh, it’s barely four months and ten days!” yet.

When we finally got J to accept that tomorrow is a school day we were relieved and happy.  We are glad that he is, once more, into his usual groove until his usual groove is no longer available to him.

So that’s where we stand.  You and I, my friends, have anywhere between 130 and 148 days of interaction left.  I will try to not make them boring.  I will try to give you some insight.  OK, I will definitely try not to make them boring.

And we’re off…

Happy 2016…we already don’t know what’s going on…

I hope the holiday season has been kind to you.  We had a great time for Twelve Days, and survived quite beautifully the unusually warm weather we experienced.  Of course, we observed with a mix of horror and bafflement what the weather was doing to everyone else.  Tornados?  Flooding?  No snow?  Too much snow?  El Niño has not been particularly kind to anyone, and yet we feel like he hasn’t slapped us yet.  It’s early days, of course.

Now, on this Friday First Day of the Year 2016, we woke up to cold weather, a quiet house, and the cats mysteriously absent from our bedroom.  J has taken to sleeping in so when he got up, realized we were in bed, and returned to his bedroom we didn’t think anything of it.

More and more, J has been relaxed about things that used to queue him up before.  The med is gone, and his anxiety is there, but it’s not pounding at him relentlessly.  It’s just there.  And he deals with it.  We can tell because he spends more and more time without the band-aids, and then -when he wants them- he’s very insistent, very briefly, about it.

The kid who used to get up at 5 a.m. when he was on vacation has turned into the dude that will happily chill out until 8:30, and will then shuffle downstairs in a happy mood while I wonder “is this the new normal now?”  If the Risperdal was having an effect on him still, I don’t know what it was because J is a lot more relaxed now than he was on December 12th when he took his last pill.

Of course, Houston, we now seem to have a mild problem.  J had a tantrum earlier today because we mentioned the word SCHOOL.

I’ll give you a moment to process that because  had to take a few moments…

The only time I’ve seen J get nearly desperate, angry and flick his chin or hit his jaw since he stopped taking the Risperdal was a while ago…when we mentioned SCHOOL and the YELLOW BUS.  I had to actually ask him to stop, hold his hands and try to talk him down, but he was insistent.  He didn’t want anything to do with school up on his board, and he took those PECS away from me, and put up what looks to be like a rather thorough list of chores he wants to do next week.

Once we allowed him to do this, he calmed down and went back to his usual routine.  He is happy now.  We continue to be baffled and confused, but J is calm and unconcerned about next week’s routine.

WHAT is going on?

One guess is that he still feels it’s Christmas.  Not that there’s a tree, or any other decor in the house that might give him that impression.  The only things left to take down are the lights we set up outside on the railing, and that will be swiftly taken down to reinforce that the holidays are over.

The only other thing I can think of is that J is as confused as the bees, trees, and humans have been by this weather.  Maybe J thinks that Twelve Days was moved up by some administrative glitch that went unnoticed, and now we’re back on track.  Maybe it’s all that Hallmark Movie Channel goodness of things like November Christmas or whatever.  I don’t know, but this might be something that consumes the rest of the weekend in terms of damage control and preventive measures.

One thing I will tell you is this: just when you think you’ve got one thing figured out with any individual in the Spectrum, something else will crop up.  It’s inevitable.  I woke up pretty confident that I had 2016 sort of figured out for the first five months (I was not sure about “end of school year” stuff,) but now…now I’m not even sure about the first full week of the new year.

Well, this is nothing if not interesting!!!!