Once more…snow…

We woke up to a winter wonderland.  Of course, it still is winter, and we keep forgetting this, mostly because we want it to be over.  An 80-degree day in February gave us a false sense of spring, and now we sit here looking at the snow accumulating on everything our eye can spy outside.

J was up very early.  Up and raring to go.  I think he (and I know this is weird) heard the snow and thought it was best to just make sure Dada was going to work anyway.  School was cancelled, but there is Dada, sitting in his office, hoping the road is properly cleared by evening.

J and I have done all the chores already.  We had them done by 8 in the morning.  That isn’t, regardless of how early it seems, a record.  We’ve actually (on other winter mornings) had our chores done by 7:00 or 7:30.  He is now working on a puzzle while listening to music, and I am trying to catch up with everything I’ve put aside because I keep getting distracted by everyday life.

The lip has healed.  It is beautiful.  There will be a small scar that will show it was once a small wound, but it will not mar the beauty of J’s smile.  Interestingly enough, J’s little lip scar is on exactly the same spot where I have one from a cataclysmic fall when I was three years old.  Mine required emergency plastic surgery, and I was very self-conscious about it growing up…J is just now fonder of lip balm than he used to be…he wants that sucker to gleam when you look at it.

Yes, things are busy here.  We are working on our spring cleaning little by little.  We have realized how big this townhouse is, and how ready we are for less.  Is that odd?  Our nest will never be empty, but we do want a smaller one nonetheless.  It’s not just the cleaning and the keeping things in order; we have become less charmed by the idea of more of anything other than time to be together, enjoying the little things that make us feel happy and peaceful.  This is not, of course, a life without problems, but rather a life without added bells and whistles that make the problems more overwhelming.

We also think that J is ready for a change.  He doesn’t really enjoy this weather.  I think the greatest advantage he sees in not having to go to school is that he doesn’t have to brave the slippery surfaces from here to the bus and back.  He also doesn’t mind not having to bundle up in sixty layers on a daily basis.  Going out to appointments or for fun is one thing; the layers are manageable then…but day in and day out it becomes a huge encumbrance, and J really doesn’t miss it.  I can’t say I blame him.

There are, however, little things that we keep discovering about each other, about J, and about ourselves.  J, for example, will always obsess about the weirdest things, but it makes sense to him and, when we put ourselves in his shoes, it makes sense for us, too.  J has come to realize that we, too, obsess over the weirdest things, and he has grown to accept these quirks.  He doesn’t always agree with, or understand, them, but he accepts them.  Negotiation between us has become easier, sort of, because we are more willing to understand the little things.  A hand extends to help me off the floor; more patience is exercised because an obsessive behavior needs to be expended.  Stopping in the middle of putting a Lego together because someone’s eyes are tired becomes easier; pausing to listen to instructions even though we really are in a hurry to be done so we can go back to whatever animated movie we are watching repeatedly becomes less grating.  Waking someone up more gently because a timer has gone off and we realize it’s bedtime but old people have taken a shortcut to that particular daily milestone is a recurring act of kindness.  Accepting a shorter timer because some people are more eager to end the day than others is no longer a Greek tragedy with chorus and all…

If we can translate all this into a way of living that stretches out for the next five to ten years we will feel like it’s an embarrassment of riches.  The moments when our lens refocuses and we are more realistic we get a little down in the mouth.  If this is not easy in our fifties, what will it be like in our sixties?  J is a young man now, but by then he, too, will have crossed another decade threshold, and there will be moments when we won’t be equipped to deal with what he requires from us.

We think about this more and more.  We worry about it.  We don’t agonize, but we do hear the wheels and gears clicking away relentlessly.  And so we plan on things being smaller, more manageable, more apropos to being able for a little while longer…

And it’s snowing, and it’s almost springtime, and time clicks clicks clicks…back to lists and plans, and culling and trimming.  Tomorrow, inevitably, is another day, and we have Legos to build because a Christmas village needs new buildings even when it’s no longer Christmas.  Yes, it grows out, and over, and around…  And while we can we will keep up.  It’s what we do.  It’s our concession to J’s idea of fun.  Pauses and all, it works for the three of us.

Until it no longer does, we will plug away at accommodating each other, at understanding, at adjusting.  Less spaces to clean, and rooms to organize will be nice.  Less disruptions that we are not prepared for will be convenient.  Is it possible?  We’re working on it…


Call me crazy…

I have, from time to time, toyed with the idea of regretting my decision to be a stay-at-home mother, a professional mother, a mother for the ages.  This hypothetical regret is so very fleeting, and so very banal that it doesn’t even sit in the back of my mind.  If you ask me, I will tell you immediately and unequivocally that I have loved being a mother, and that I consider my dedication to my children, the most important thing I’ve ever done…

I actually no longer feel that way.  I feel like I made a terrible decision, and I failed miserably.  And, no, this is not a flight of whimsy, a “oh, poor pitiful me” moment.  This is a resounding call from deep in my gut.  This is like a stone bouncing violently against the walls of a deep and wide metal container…clank, clank, clank…

This is not about J.  I fail J every single day, and I know it.  I am at peace with this because parenting an individual in the Spectrum, as I’ve mentioned many times before, very much like Sisyphus and his rolling boulder.  More often than not, I am run over by the boulder, recover, chase after it, and then start up again.  As they say out there: it is what it is.

My issue is with TGG.  Our issue.  We are all pretty much overwhelmed.  Dada and I spend so much time trying to figure out TGG that we have realized it’s taking time away from J.  That, in of itself, is a clear indication that something’s gotta give.

We have been, as far as parents go, far from perfect.  We’ve tried to be encouraging, understanding, supportive, loving, caring, patient, all while trying to foster in our children a sense of self and the proper environment for maturing at the proper pace.  I’ve made Halloween and theater costumes; I’ve not missed a single performance, parent-teacher conference, doctor’s appointment, summons to the principal’s office.  I’ve kissed boo-boos, dried tears, said “buck up and try again” when needed.  I have been very responsible as a parent; I’ve taken this whole process seriously.  I married a man who takes it seriously, too, and if we have been stern from time to time it’s because we have had to be.  We set curfews; we grounded people (yes, even J…not that it worked particularly well,) and canceled privileges.  We also struck a balance between the practical things and the fun things.  We’ve always encouraged our kids to talk to us…even if we don’t like what they have to say (or sign.)

In a very broad sense, TGG has been an awesome kid.  He never really got into trouble with the law, although some neighbors once called the cops to say he had thrown an egg at them.  The laws of physics proved to the cop the improbability of that having happened.  Another time, some friends who were in the car with him pointed a BB gun at other vehicles, and the cops were called.  They were quickly caught…because TGG drives like a little old lady.  The other kids, who had previous legal issues pending, were carted off, and TGG and J (who had just been picked up at school) were sent home with a stern warning.  There were several instances of underage drinking that we were not particularly pleased about, and we certainly didn’t go easy on him then.  The cure for that was pretty much turning 21.  There was the pot smoking we never caught him doing, but being former young people we clearly recognized, and that, too, went away.

The main problem with TGG is that he hardly ever finishes anything.  What he finishes, he finishes with the least amount of effort possible, and with the least stellar results imaginable.  TGG barely graduated from high school; the class that almost sank him?  BAKING!  TGG almost finished his EMT certification course.  He choked on the next to last test…and that was the second time around taking the course.  (When I say choked, seriously, he was totally overconfident and underprepared for the test…and once you failed a test for a module, you were out like yesterday’s leftover fish.)  He did finish his Medical Assistant certification course, and he passed his test, but…his grades dropped vertiginously once he “fell in love.”  That romance lasted six weeks and resulted in one grandchild…

We didn’t kill him when we found out, via misdirected text, that he was about to become a father.  We were understanding.  We were caring.  We were patient.  We were supportive.

TGG loves his kid.  His son, though, is not a priority, and -worse yet- he’s not a driving force in TGG’s life.  TGG hasn’t yet understood that having a child changes your life, and that you have to start thinking like a grown-up and make difficult decisions.  TGG still wants to have his cake and eat it, too…

When TGG decided to go back to school to start working towards a degree in Nursing, he was motivated, and we were thrilled.  We paid for his classes and books; we told him not to worry about rent or household expenses so that he could switch to a job that would accommodate his class schedule without putting too much strain on his finances.  We helped him reorganize his room, and we made sure he had the clothes he needed for his new job at Target.  During the time when he wasn’t yet getting paid, we made sure he had gas money.  We made sure there was dinner served for him when he got home.  We took over all the things he used to do with TGG.

And then…

He has fallen in love.  Every single person in the planet deserves to have someone who loves them, and who they can love.  Every single person deserves happiness.  Good judgment often flies out the window when it comes to these things, and it certainly has in this particular case.

TGG has “fallen in love” (and other things) with a very young single mother of two.  When he’s not at work or at school, all he lives and breathes is this person.  She is the center of the universe because she is “patient” and “nice.”  We, on the other hand, are demanding and he doesn’t know how to please us.  We explain to him, ad nauseam, that we want him to study, to work on getting a decent footing before he starts running into the future like a desperate linebacker during the Super Bowl…and without a helmet.  But he’s in love.  He’s getting two Ds, one C and an A (in very basic classes, mind you…this isn’t even Nursing coursework,) and he doesn’t know why this is something we might be worried about.  He had to take the entrance exam to the Nursing program…he dragged his ass for months, and then he passed everything but the Science.

He doesn’t understand what we “want.”  He doesn’t know what he could “do” to make us stop worrying.  I’ve stated my position clearly: it’s time for him to move out, face the world as it is when your parents aren’t there to catch you when you fall, and learn a little bit about what it takes to be what we are: grown-ups.  He thinks, bless his soul, that I’m bluffing.  The fact of the matter, and hate me if you must, is that I am NOT bluffing, and I am ready for my partially-empty nest and a little more peace of mind.  Rather, I am ready to worry about him from a distance, without actually seeing the way in which he thinks everything will work out just right if he just lets things happen.

Am I wrong?  Am I a bad parent?  Am I being mean?  Am I too old-fashioned?  Am I positively medieval?  Is it ridiculous of me to wonder how two twenty-somethings with children from failed relationships can jump so very quickly into a potentially child-inducing situation?

This affects J.  I know it shouldn’t, but it does.  J loves his brother.  J misses his brother.  His brother has barely given him a second thought in the past few months.  TGG spends more time with the girlfriend and her children than he does with his own kid.  Am I stupid to think that this is just not right???  Didn’t he learn from the heartache his father caused him with similar behavior and attitudes?

Our suspicion that he has Asperger’s is being solidified with each passing day.  There is a disconnect there.  There is a lack of emotion.  HE can’t seem to read the signs that we so clearly put out…so very clearly…oh, so so clearly.  He’s just baffled by our frustration and disappointment and concern.  Last night I blew up and told him I’m done, and I mean it…I can’t risk a stroke like my mother had at 56 and my brother had at 55.  I have J to think of, and TGG is, after all, a full-fledged adult…

Any thoughts?????

At long last, I resurface…

Greetings, one and all!

Yes, yes, I know I’ve been lost and not really missed, but I’m back.  It took almost a month, but I have all my ducks in some sort of row (not a straight or well-behaved one,) and I have time to sit and talk to you.

First and foremost, J is doing well.  The Band-Aid Fixation continues, but we now spend more and more time without the wrist stabilizer or the band-aids.  On one particularly happy occasion, we not only didn’t have the band-aids or the wrist stabilizer, we also forgot Slinky in the garage for about three hours.  I had to remind him that he’d forgotten…a joyous moment and a d-oh! moment all rolled into one.

A few days ago we visited our trusted friend, Dr. Psychiatrist.  J was well-behaved and happy throughout, and we discussed removing J’s med completely.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is about to happen…well…as soon as we run out of the med and refills already on queue.  We are thinking Christmas will be, to put it mildly, interesting.  I am sure that there will be some jolts and bumps to navigate as his body lets go of the very last bit of added chemicals, but that’s the way it has to be.

With every passing week the end of J’s life as a student gets closer.  There are 229 days until the last day of school…of those only 128 are actual school days, and we haven’t factored in snow days, or early release days.  The clock is ticking, and it’s neither stopping nor slowing down for our benefit.  The days of J as a student are numbered…

Yesterday we received this year’s version of the graduation announcements.  I thought to myself, as I looked at the envelope, “at least this is the last year when I will cry when I get this.”  We all know, because I make no bones about admitting it, that this is all very bittersweet for us.  J’s school picture, the last one ever, was absolutely spectacular.  He has finally mastered the art of smiling for the camera without looking like a boxing glove is going to come out and smack him.  We hung this version next to the framed proofs for his first school picture ever.  The contrast is marked: on the first a tiny, nearly-bald, skinny kid looks confusedly at the camera, and in the sixth frame you can tell he’s just melting down completely.  They never sent us the actual picture…they just gave us the proofs.  We framed them.  They’re so…J!  Next to it, a portly, handsome, hairy young man smiles gently; his goatee leans to the right and his eyebrows look unruly, but he is handsome and he’s loving the attention.  We’ve come a long way, baby!

Attending graduation is out of the question, of course.  J could not possibly deal with the overstimulation involved in hundreds of students doing a processional and then sitting through a ceremony that won’t last ten minutes.  Needless to say that the cap and gown won’t be his favorite thing to wear.  An alternative must be concocted out of thin air, then…something that will be ceremonious enough to mark the end of an era and the ushering in of a new one.

I’ve suggested the So Long, Farewell song from The Sound of Music performed by teachers, aides and admin personnel, but I don’t think they are keen on learning the choreography, wearing the costumes and leaving the room in any semblance of order.  The end-of-school-year picnic his class celebrates every year will have to do, but I think we’ll try to throw something in there to make it a clear message that this is J’s last ride with his class.

Our family is undergoing changes.  Some of them are less dramatic than others.  We are starting to look, in earnest, for a house to buy…or, at least, for the type of house in the type of neighborhood we’d want to settle in for the next fifteen years or so.  We are hoping TGG moves out soon; this might be a tricky thing to achieve because he is not really concentrating on school as he should (he is “in love”,) and he makes barely enough money to pay for the things that are obligations.  We, the parents, feel the effects of aging…the creaking, cracking, impatience, etc.  Acid reflux has become “a thing” around these parts, and we see it getting worse before it gets better.  That J is almost out of school is the biggest change of them all; that he will be out of school and med-free is an even bigger change.

I confess to you, as I have to Dada, that I am not torn about TGG finally moving out.  I am really looking forward to it, in fact.  That is as close as I will ever get to having an empty nest, and it’s taking very long in getting here.  TGG, at this point, needs to go off on his own, and learn from his mistakes, and I am totally ready to close the door and wave bye-bye.  It may sound mean of me, but sometimes we don’t let our kids grow up because we are there to fix things.

My situation with J is the absolute opposite, and yet it’s the same.  While I am anxious about the prospect of no school forever, I am also looking forward to seeing where we go from here.  In a lot of ways, I feel more confident about J hitting his stride and maturing more smoothly than TGG has.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ve always pushed J more because J has more hurdles to overcome, and TGG doesn’t see that we’ve been exceedingly nice and patient with him…and takes advantage of it.

But I’m not here to gripe about TGG.  I’m here to tell you that we are doing fine, and that we are moving forward.  I promise (or threaten?) to not stay gone as long as I have recently.  It’s just life, you know, and acid reflux…and 24 year-olds who don’t quite “get” why their parents are impatient with the choices being made.

But I’m here…it’s all goodish.  You’ll see…

The Second Week of School…and the weather starts to change…

This is no longer SUMMER!  We are now is the milder, declining days of the season.  There is, in spite of the weather forecast, a dulling of the green leaves, a ribbon of coolness in the air, a softening of the light that are harbingers of AUTUMN!  We are in Summer Light…sort of a gluten-free, fat-free, sodium-free, sugar-free version of the season.  It has been repackaged.  The look has changed, and so have the ingredients.

Our tomato plants are ignoring this new data.  They are producing more tomatoes than any human family can consume with ease.  Our chili peppers are still doing calisthenics.  The rest of the garden is looking more muted, more willing to relax in the coming weeks.

J has settled nicely into school.  All the reports I’m getting say that he takes his thumb immobilizer off to work and eat, and since he is continually occupied with something, the brace is off most of the day.  He seems ok with this arrangement, the teacher tells me.  I am happy to hear this.

J is also adjusting to the new schedule TGG has.  For the past two weeks TGG has been home all day, waited for J to get off the bus, and then left for class.  Since his class schedule doesn’t allow for weekday workouts, TGG has been taking J to the gym on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the rest of the week, J is happily committed to the elliptical machine in our garage.  He watches movies while he exercises, and we do our best to keep up with his pace.  We are sorely out of shape.

Tomorrow comes yet another change in J’s environment.  TGG has a new job.  It’s a little outside of his field (ok, A LOT outside of his field,) but it does accommodate his school schedule and the pay isn’t bad and covers his main expenses.  This job will also elevate him to a near-deity status with J because TGG will be working at Target.

Yes, the home of Bullseye the Mascot.  J’s favorite store.  The place where we can easily be found on weekends walking the aisles in the same exact pattern as prescribed by our lovely youngest son.    We haven’t told J.  He doesn’t even know that TGG interviewed for this job.  He doesn’t know that TGG will be donning the red and khaki threads of a Target employee.  What J will do when he realizes is something we’re all on pins and needles about…

Our guess is that J will be more than happy to visit his brother at work, promptly plunking down money to make sure the company stays in business.  Our guess is that J will expect TGG to keep Bullseye under control.  Our guess is that the older brother that is already viewed as something of a superhero will be seen with something of a halo surrounding him.  I am hoping for an employee discount, but more than anything I’m happy that TGG has a job.

For the past two weeks, the same kid who flatly refuses to get up when asked has been getting up early and interrupting my brief restorative shut-eye from 8 to 9 a.m.  I’ve opened my eyes to be startled by his bright smile and a chirpy “what do you need me to do?????”  I’ve sent him to the gym.  I’ve sent him to vacuum the TV room.  I’ve sent him to check the mail and take the trash.  I’ve asked him to gather the laundry and start that chore for me.  The same 24 year-old who usually drags his feet when asked to hand me a spoon while I’m cooking has completed every task in record time.  Today I asked Dada if it would be unseemly for me to call Target and beg them to cut to the chase and give him a schedule.

I almost cried when he hung up after speaking to his manager and said “I have to be there at 8:30 tomorrow!”  By my calculations (which I made faster than any of my Math teachers ever thought possible) that means I have to wait until he calls to say he made it, and then I will have an uninterrupted hour to prepare myself for the daunting task of managing this household.  I looked at him and said: “oh, so soon?”  The look he gave me told me unequivocally that he knew I was putting on an act.  It was sort of worth the try…

So the kids are settling in, and they’re not kids anymore.  The nest is properly feathered, and it’s still full of birds, but I’m satisfied that we’re slowly getting into our respective grooves and we’ll soon figure the little bits and pieces of the whole new order out.  J is settling in nicely; J is happy; J has actually become more adept at negotiating and accepting things at school, and maybe it’s because he knows it’s the last year.  Maybe it’s because I look ragged and tired and middle-aged, and he wants me to know he cares, but…maybe it’s really because he wants to have a good year.

We’ll see.  It’s early days yet.  Twenty-seven days to AUTUMN! and the skinny, weak side of summer is slowly unraveling.  Yes, yes…temperatures in the 80s next week, but we had those last week and they lacked the usual bite.  Let’s face it…it’s almost over.  We’re about to go back to boots and sweaters and jackets and scarves and soups and stews and pumpkin and blankets and cocoa.

It’s ok.  It wasn’t The Most Fantastic Summer Ever, but we made it through and we learned a lot.  We picked up a new friend (the brace,) and lost a few others (patience comes to mind.)  We are here on the other side of the last ESY, and on the opening bars of the Last School Year Ever!  I’m sure we’ll slip and fall, and we’ll get overwhelmed before it’s all said and done, but so far we’re humming…

The Last First Day of School Ever…

Today is the beginning of the end.  Sounds grim, huh?  Well, it sort of is.

J started his last year of school this morning.  I made sure to remind him that he is to have as much fun, learn as much, enjoy as much, grow as much as possible from today until the end of May 2016 because then school will be over for him.  He looked at me as if part of him understood, and as if part of him just wanted to dash out the door for the bus.

Yesterday we started talking about today very early.  J was happy for the greater part of the morning; he listened to his classical music, smiled and chilled out for a long time…and then he got taciturn and moody in the afternoon.  Our guess is that he was happy school would be back in session while realizing that some of his classmates moved on last year and wouldn’t be there.

Transitions aren’t easy for people in the Spectrum.  Any change in routine comes with a healthy dash of caution attached to it; parents tend to overanalyze, worry, plan, cross fingers, knock on wood, and so on and so forth.  We’re not just thinking about how WE will deal with an upset child; we are thinking of the upset child.

I had long considered I would slowly introduce the idea of “this is the last year of school!!!!”  This morning I decided I’d be blunt; I decided to go with the same candor that I use on the kids’ birthdays: you will only be this age once…relish it!  Well…this is the last year…make the most of it…

Nostalgia, of course, hits me.  I remember the many first days of school, and how this particular one seemed such a long way off.  I remember TGG’s First Day of School, and I remember his First Day of College…and now he’s had Another First Day of College (and this time I think he means it.)  I remember J’s First Day of School, and every First Day of School after that one.  If at one time he wasn’t thrilled, J grew to love school…to be excited about going…to look forward to it…to dread the long lulls between end-of-school and summer-school.

This, obviously, is the time of year when people proudly display pictures of their kids dressed up for the First Day of School.  Kids in uniforms; kids in kicky outfits; kids driving their hand-me-down car; kids getting their Class Rings; kids transitioning from grade school to middle school, from middle school to high school, and kids leaving for college.  It is a joyous time of year regardless of how it ultimately unfolds academically, socially, athletically, extracurricularly…  The beginning of the school year always smells of possibility, of the future, of progress…

Over here it smells of the beginning of the end, and it’s not a nasty smell.  It’s just a sad smell.  Or, rather, a bittersweet smell.  Once the School Year 2015-2016 is done, school is done.  There’s no college; there’s no vocational training; there’s no buying school supplies, singing the Bus Song…  We reach the end of a road and we don’t have a map to guide us any further.

OK…the truth is I’m sad.  This is the apex, the climax, the swan song of J’s school years, and it sort of says “well, your productive, intellectually-absorbent years are over, kid.”  I know J has a boatload of potential, but I know the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily see it that way (even if they don’t come right out and say it.)  The truth is that the system can only do so much, and the corollaries of the system are equipped to do just a little more.  Both resources are overtaxed as is, and there is a (quiet, secretive, resentful) sector of society that says “WHAT are we supposed to do?  These kids/adults/people are not our problem.  Let the families deal with it.  We can’t carry them forever!!!”

It’s absolutely true.  The school system can only provide services for J until a certain point, and when he moves on it is to make room for others like him who will move up the ranks until there’s no more ranks to move up through.  That’s the way of the world.  I accept that, and I know that much progress has been made by J, and that people have put their hearts and souls into helping him.

But I can still be sad, can’t I?  I can be sad (even if it is a little stupid because I’ve always known) that this is it.  That this is where we get off the train and stay at this particular station.  I can be sad that there is no college, no parties, no Big Game, no tailgating, no college friends, no college sweetheart…  I guess, in some stupid and totally ridiculous way, I am mourning that I don’t get to see my son finish high school and move on to be…someone else?

Of course, I am also mourning the Empty Nest I’ll never have, and I foresee a lot of work in my silver and golden years.  I will miss out on Me-Time, and being a Happy Go-Lucky Empty Nester.  I will have to find time, once school is over and done with, to still be me in spite of J’s constant presence.  But I knew that already, and I’m sort of ready for it all…sort of, but not quite, not yet…

Getting there, though.  That speech this morning was as much for me as it was for J.  Take advantage.  Seize the day.  Enjoy the last year of rushing home to sit with a book while sipping tea on cold winter mornings, going for walks with the camera and immortalizing autumn leaves, napping for 20 minutes after finishing chores, taking a long shower and leaving the conditioner in for as long as the bottle suggests…

It was our Last First Day of School Ever…time to go wait for the yellow bus!

A trip to town…

With a great deal of equanimity, J accepted that we were going on an outing, and he trusted me when I said it was for fun.  What I mean by “for fun” is “no doctors.”  We ran errands.  We walked a lot.  We rode the bus and discovered that it isn’t just the potholes that cause problems; poor suspension in any vehicle will make for a bumpy ride even if the road is (more or less) in good repair.  By the time we reached High Street, J and I were more than ready to get off the bus; I’m sure the other passengers were ready for us to leave, too, because J said GOING TO TOWN a minimum of 200 times during the half-hour ride.

Our first stop was the courthouse.  Because the world we live in has become increasingly threatening and violent, we had to go through metal detectors and empty our pockets before going in to complete the errands we had for the morning.  J had been to this building before, and he was a little taken aback by the new contraptions standing between him and getting in and out of there quickly.  A brief moment of confusion, a relinquishing of his beloved Slinky and kind patience from the security team at the door, but we made it through without problems.

Of course, I had a minor glitch with the paperwork, and we had to do two of the things we had on our list, but leave and return for the third.  J was patient about this, too.  There were a lot of people waiting their turn, and he navigated this fairly well.  I say fairly well because J takes up a lot of space when he sits down, and I had to ask him to “gather his feet” so as not to create an unnecessary obstacle course for the other patrons.

I had promised J we’d go to his favorite store in town when we were done with our errands, but I had to dash to the library to try printing a piece of paper I needed for that pesky third errand.  When I realized the printers weren’t working, I let J walk the Children’s section and I texted back and forth with Dada trying to find a solution.  The proceedings reached a stalemate and, to recover from the stress of the moment, I told J we were going to the toy store.  THIS was the moment he’d been waiting for, and he was so happy that it was well worth having sat down and taken that deep breath.

We walked around the store, looking at dolls, games, plush toys, books, Playmobil sets.  I asked J if there was anything he wanted before we left.  Another turn around the store helped him make his choice: the biggest set he could possibly choose from among the Playmobils, and the little motor to power it!  I explained that, yes, he could buy it, but HE had to carry it around town.  As we were paying, the store owner (we have known her since we moved into town four years ago) helped me figure out how to complete my final errand.  Immense Playmobil set in hand, we went back to the courthouse (and through security, of course) and finalized our official business.

I asked J where he wanted to have lunch, and he stood looking around at the different store fronts.  In the end, he opted to go to a diner that he’s been to when he’s walked into town from school.  I had never been so he guided me to it, and when we were led to our table, he plopped down like a regular customer.  Since it was after eleven a.m. I ordered French Toast and J ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and some chicken strips.  He ordered his food with his Proloquo.

I can understand why J likes the place.  The booths are spacious, and the music was perfectly in tune with J’s tastes.  As we sat there waiting for our meal, J was happily moving around in his seat, following the songs they were playing.  He was so happy, in fact, that he didn’t hesitate to remove his brace to cut up the chicken strips, and didn’t complain when I reminded him that he has full use of his thumb and I expect him to move, curl, wriggle, and command it.

We counted the money to pay our bill, and made a pit stop before heading home.  Dada kindly drove into town and brought us home.  All in all, we were out and about since 9 in the morning, and didn’t walk into our townhouse until shortly after 1 P.M.  It was a very full and active morning, and J was stretching and yawning when we got back.

We spent the better part of the afternoon putting his toy together.  The nice thing about Playmobils is that they’re easy (for me) to figure out.  I’ve grown too old for Legos.  And before you argue that “you can never be too old for Legos” I will explain that I fully agree with the spirit of that, but my eyes aren’t what they used to be, and some of those tiny pieces are hard to handle with my arthritic fingers.  J was especially thrilled when he realized that one of the figures in his new Playmobil Ferris Wheel set looks a lot like him, down to the newsboy cap it’s wearing.

As you can tell, our trip to town was mostly successful.  The one glitch was the red-tape, but we figured out what to do to properly and promptly complete our errands.  I didn’t flat-out lie to J; I meant for him to have fun, but I also meant to get things done, and we managed both.  The rest of the weekend went well because we set the proper tone for errands and fun.

Today is the first day of the two school-less weeks in August.  We are doing a little work, and we are trying to do some fun activities.  The mood is light, and we are determined to sail through the next couple of weeks without too much drama.  And the brace?  It comes off for chores and meals, and I keep reminding J that his thumb works just fine.

After what has felt like a long gestation period, consilium habemus in posterum

The end of the current school year is approaching rather fast.  That means, my friends, that the beginning of J’s last full school year is approaching only ever so slightly more slowly.  As often happens in life, the moment for plans to be set in motion is often immediately after one has come up (after much pushing and shoving, many doses of Tylenol, and many instances of “wait!  wait!  I’ve GOT it!” that fizzle because of the impractical nature of “it”) with the right plan.  I will not tell you, because I cannot guarantee in any way, shape, or form that this is “the right plan,” that this will work, but it’s a start…

Normandy wasn’t invaded in a day.  Well, technically, kinda sorta, but not…to get to the shores of Normandy a lot of planning had to happen, and with planning came training, and with training came a lot of other things.  That’s where we’re at now, and it’s a good (could be better) place.  After a massive panic attack, a depressing flipping of pages on my calendar, and a reckoning of the inevitability of the passage of time, I sat down and did some organized thinking.  It followed a massive brainstorming session with myself, and I shot myself down several times over until I talked myself into one basic notion: J doesn’t need to MAKE money, and he probably WON’T, but what he needs is an occupation that makes him happy and gives him purpose.

A loud, dramatic, exhausting sigh followed this moment of illumination.  After that, things got easier…sort of…kind of…a little bit.

My desk is, as I type this, covered with publications related to the arts and crafts endeavors that my son enjoys.  The TV room closet (also known as the “J Closet”) is full of materials we’ve been ordering based on these publications.  Several books have arrived and are being studied by the person(s) in charge of each particular discipline within the Arts and Crafts field.  Post-Its, notes, scribblings, and so on and so forth are marking our progress, and we have laid out a simple (complex) process for setting everything in motion for J to be self-employed and poor once school is out.

Have no worries: his needs will be met, and he will be comfortable and productive, but the objective of this game is not to make him the next poster boy for “individuals in the spectrum can be the CEOs of their own multi-million dollar companies.”  No, the purpose we have in mind is that J will feel that every day of his life has an occupation in which he can engage, and that there are work hours during which he can generate some output that will be seen/purchased/owned/perhaps appreciated by others, and leisure hours during which he -like the rest of us- can kick back and say “what a long day I had!!!!”

Over the course of the next six months, J will slowly learn -among other things- streamlined  versions of the processes of block stamping on paper and fabric, screen printing, soap manufacturing, working on ceramics, polymer clay, and glass.  Using the techniques we’ll be teaching him, J will run his own little business from home.  On Saturdays during summer he can go to Farmers’ Market, and he can have his own little Etsy store.  He will not make money, but he will be able to create small batches of artisanal soaps, limited edition post cards and t-shirts, and so on and so forth.

His workshop will be in our garage, and there he has his music, heating for the cold winter months, circulating air in the summer heat, easy access to a bathroom, and constant supervision if he wants him, privacy if he prefers it.  A clock will be installed to let him know when work starts and ends, and breaks and lunch hours will be respected.

For a young adult who has been wait-listed for services in a state where services for adults with disabilities seem to be undergoing major reduction and revision, it’s as good a plan as we can come up with, and we’re hoping that our brainstorming, planning, studying (yes, people here are actually studying and working on making things easier to manage for J,) and implementing will suffice for the time being.  J looks at us as if we’ve lost our minds, but every package and book that arrives piques his curiosity.  Whatever skepticism he feels is understandable, and we respect it…

In other news, TGG might be going back to school soon.  We all have our fingers crossed for him.  Turning 24 is often a trigger for realizing childhood is long gone, and youth has a limited duration. Like that moment when you realize you’re not going to lose those last five (ten…fifteen…twenty?) pounds, realizing that you graduated from high school six years ago is something you either dread or embrace.  TGG has chosen to embrace it and move forward.

As for J…he is slowly losing whatever weight had stalled during winter.  Those 36-inch waist pants are not too far off in the future, and we managed to talk him out of wearing his snow boots until the end of May.  He is almost ready to transition to shorts, but he’s being discreet for the time being.

There you have it.  The silence has been gestation, not lack of interest.  Once in a while one has to gather up one’s thoughts and let them mill about without bouncing them off walls and people.

Thoughts?  Opinions?  Suggestions?  We are entering the “learn and do a trial run” period of this new endeavor so I will have lots to tell you, and -hopefully- some of it will be positive in spite of the comedy that is bound to ensue when you have people trying to re-learn and teach these things to others.

Wish us luck…

P.S.: I don’t know Latin so I did my best…and if I botched/butchered/obliterated/destroyed it…a thousand apologies…