If a Christmas tree falls in the living room and there’s no one there to hear it…

‘Twas the Seventh Day of Christmas and all through the house, the only creature stirring was yours truly.  I am usually the first one up and about on a weekday, and I dutifully headed downstairs to make coffee, turn on lights, turn up the heat and water the Christmas tree…

Have I told you about this year’s Christmas tree?  We got it from a lot near the house, and the plumpness and juiciness of it were eye-catching even at the Christmas tree lot.  It came into the house with that evergreen aroma that is the harbinger of all things happy, cozy and Christmas-y.

For the most part, the dog has left the tree alone.  She absconded with, chewed on and discarded a wooden snowflake, but that’s been the extent of the damage.  Of course, she likes the tinsel because it just about leaps off the tree and attaches itself to her luscious coat, and we expect to -at one point or another- find some tinsel in the poop she drops in a particular corner of our backyard.  Aside from that, the tree is just an outdoor thing that was placed in an area she usually doesn’t mess with much, and so we haven’t experienced any of the usual dog-related horror stories that people tell at this time of the year as if they were sitting around a campfire in a dark forest holding flashlights under their chins to morph their visages into something doomful.

No.  The tree had been happily occupying its corner, witnessing the progression of our annual Twelve Days of Christmas with nary an incident.  The whole December-cycle had been so pleasant this year that we, in fact, congratulated ourselves and each other, like Mortimer and Randolph Duke tend to do in Trading Places, as to how great this round of Christmas-y reverie has been…

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Ah…hubris…

Yesterday morning, as I said, I went downstairs to start the coffee and water the tree when I found that the tree didn’t so much need watering as it seemed to be watering the floor.  A sort of quiet panic (the sort that engulfs you when you don’t want to rouse an entire household at an ungodly hour) took over and I moved quickly to get a tarp for the floor, paper towels to dry everything, and a flashlight to see if I could find where the water was coming from.

When Dada came downstairs half an hour later, he found that certain things were moved but, with the dignity of the Titanic’s skipper as his ship was going down, I informed him that there seemed to be a leak and we needed to carefully move the tree so the floor could be dried (“Hardwood floors!  Wonderful hardwood floors!  We love hardwood floors!”  What were we thinking????) and the situation solved.

There was no water UNDER the tree base.  Mysteriously enough, no water seemed to be coming from anywhere.

I know what you’re thinking: the dog peed.  No.  It wasn’t dog urine.  It was water.  Pure and simple.

So, we moved the tree, put the tarp down, replaced the tree in its allotted spot, and had our coffee.  Afterward, we returned to our bedroom where I prepared my list of things to do for the day, and Dada got ready for work.  The dog snoozed at the foot of the bed, far from the tree, and all was right with the world.  Dada left for work shortly before 7, and the dog and I returned upstairs so I could read and do some administrative stuff before getting into the full swing of things at 8:15.

As I stepped off the staircase, I thought something about the tree looked off.  But, as it often happens when you first look at the beginnings of a catastrophe, I couldn’t quite figure what it was.  Like the time TGG shaved his eyebrows (he was five…wanted to look like Michael Jordan…kinda funny 22 years later) and I looked at him KNOWING there was something “not right” about his face, but not quite “getting it” right away.

A loud EEP! escaped me.  The tree was drunkenly sagging against the wall.  Uncle Billy leaving the celebration for Harry Bailey’s wedding in It’s a Wonderful Life appeared soberer than our tree.

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I decided that giving J his med was the priority and so I went to deal with that before addressing the tree.  This was, for once, the right choice to make…

What ensued, kind readers, is the sort of absurd chaos that Hollywood inserts into every Christmas comedy.  Collapsing trees.  Exploding ornaments.  Water, water everywhere.  A middle-aged woman trying to cope with what is now known as The Great Tree Debacle of 2018 and the young man who, loving Christmas as he does, felt it was a very personal affront to come downstairs to find his tree lopsided, his ornaments willy-nilly in a rather wide arc around the base, and his mother unable to fix this in the same prompt and nimble fashion she usually fixes that which causes him grief.

J’s distress over the tree’s collapse was such that not even pepperoni and cheese would soothe him; he walked around in circles repeating the word CHRISTMAS both spoken and in ASL, and his attempts at helping me were not particularly productive so we both ended up upset, frustrated and on the brink of tears.  We alternated between yelling at the tree, each other, and then apologizing profusely.

Dada had to come home.  There were more yelling, more throwing things around, more drying the floor.  Because the tree, after being righted and secured, inexplicably decided that horizontal was the way to be, and taking the tree-base (and what cannot have been, but surely seemed, 100 gallons of water) with it.

At this point, the dog is outside (sitting in front of the fence in the farthest-from-us-possible spot she can find and looking out into the distance as if trying to pretend she doesn’t know us), J is circling around helplessly (all while repeating the word CHRISTMAS in a more plaintive tone than Charles Foster Kane utters “Rosebud!”), and Dada and I are both yelling at each other because the floor is wet, the floor isn’t being dried properly, we hate Christmas, we especially hate THIS TREE, we never want to see another real tree ever again, we’re too old for this shit, why have the GOOD towels been used to mop up the mess?, this will never be fixed, I’m leaving you and running for the hills…you name it.

The tree (which lost ornaments like the aristocracy lost heads during the French Revolution) is dragged outside on to the patio.  The ornaments are peeled off and thrown into a bucket (the one that isn’t holding sopping-wet towels) and the lights are unstrung and set aside.  J is still sitting at the dining room table and muttering CHRISTMAS to himself, raising his voice to say it only when I walk past him looking for tools, boots, whatever we need.

I am, by then, attempting to sound soothing even though I feel far from soothed myself.  Dada holds the tree while I tend to all the things that will impede the rest of the process.  The tree, he tells me (and the thought has crossed my mind, but I think it impossible), feels much heavier than it did when we first brought it home…

A quick Google search rendered no results that would confirm our suspicion that the tree is, quite simply, waterlogged.  Try it.  Google “can you overwater a Christmas tree?”, “how  much water does my Christmas tree need?”  Nowhere will you read that a Christmas tree will suck down water and accumulate it on each and every limb regardless of how tiny and insignificant it might appear to the naked eye.  Nowhere.  Yet here we were, standing with an overwatered tree that weighed -easily- ten more pounds (if not more) than it did when we bought it.  The tree is so fresh and plump and juicy that it was no trouble at all cutting into it…it was, to quote Linda Richman from SNL‘s Coffee Talk, “like buttah!”

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We hacked away at the base and the branches.  The formerly-7-foot-tall tree is now shorter, and we have a clearer view of its trunk at the bottom. We put rocks in the base to help prevent another tipping-over incident.  The tree is now (we hope) so firmly secured in the base that if it tries to tilt, it will probably make itself even more secure.  Our hope is that, like Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda, it will be a prisoner in its fortress until we decide it’s time to take it out of the house permanently.

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Of course, if a feather happens to fall near it and it uses it to escape, that’s an entirely different story.

The whole process of returning the tree to some semblance of its former Christmas centerpiece glory took about five hours.  From the initial tilt-sighting at 8:15 to “this tree is DONE!” and J being happy it was seven hours.  J cried.  I cried.  I’m sure that Dada felt like it at several points during this long, drawn-out bout of chaos.

The rest of the afternoon and evening, and even this morning, we have been looking at the tree from every possible angle to make sure that it hasn’t budged a millimeter.  It hasn’t budged at all…that we can tell.

The Great Christmas Tree Debacle of 2018 has left us emotionally and physically exhausted.  The Seventh Day of Christmas proceeded as planned, and we all managed to get some enjoyment out of it, but we’re ready for the Eighth Day and putting this whole messy (the best thing for pine tree sap stains??? PINE SOL!!!!) incident behind us.  The tree is smaller today than it was yesterday, and I admit we walk past it with suspicious looks and a wariness we didn’t feel before.

You might be wondering what happened to those limbs that the tree lost during the Great Hacking…well… since people keep pinning pictures of buckets with tree branches on Pinterest, the branches have been distributed in what (we hope) is a somewhat decorative and attractive arrangement on the front porch.  The chunks of the trunk that we cut off will be displayed (as a cautionary tale and a reminder of this particular “someday it will be absolutely hilarious” incident) in the Diogenes Club.

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I’d say in our old age we’ll look back on this and laugh, but we’re close enough to our old age to not find it especially funny.  The neighbors, we’re pretty sure, now think we’re the oddest, weirdest, most mentally-deranged people on the street.  I dread to think what went through the mind of anyone walking their dog yesterday between the hours of 11:15 and 13:15 (what we refer to as Critical Emotional Mass here).  I’m pretty sure it came across like a cross of scenes from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Mommie Dearest.

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Like all debacles, it isn’t really funny until, well, you start finding it ridiculous, funny, something that is so very in tune with the goings-on in our household that it should be par for the course.

I’m sure the full humor of it all will hit us next year when it’s time to do the whole Christmas tree thing all over again.  We’ll remember the drunken tree, the insistence on J’s part of repeating the word CHRISTMAS in any way available to him, the yelling, the water, the towels, the dog trying to disavow any knowledge of us, and the months-long scurrying past our house of people walking their dogs and expecting some Christmas-related accouterment to fly out a door followed by a middle-aged woman (still in her pajamas, for crying out loud) screaming that she hates everyone, Christmas, and that she’s running for the hills.

Where did the early-morning water puddle that started it all come from?  We don’t know.  Was there water under the tree base when we threw (not took…threw!) the tree outside? NO.  Not a drop!  The floor under where the tree stood didn’t get wet until the tree tipped over and spilled what was in the base (pretty sure it was 600 gallons of water…though it may have been less than a quart…)

Lesson learned?  Yes, Virginia, you CAN overwater a Christmas tree.  Freshness ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…

Ho, ho, ho…

 

 

 

 

A tree! A tree! A Christmas tree!!!!

We have, earlier than usual, acquired the annual Christmas tree.

Actually, Dada was the one who went to get it yesterday while J and I changed sheets, aired out rooms, and worked through a difference of opinions on whether he was ready to eat cheese (after his recent bout with illness), or not…

The tree came as a surprise.  Dada had sent a message letting me know that he’d bought it, and as soon as I heard the garage door open I sent J downstairs to “help Dada”.  The joy in his face was something we had not seen -in a Christmas-related scenario- in quite a while.

J has always been a Christmas person.  He likes the decorations, the ornaments, the lights, the Twelve Days of gift-giving, the music…  He had, however, lost his yen for participating in the tree-decorating routine.  He wanted the tree decorated, but he didn’t want to be in the thick of it as it happened…

Yesterday afternoon he couldn’t wait to get the lights on the tree.  Last night he wanted to rush through dinner to decorate the tree.  We thought he was going to leave the room, and were pleasantly surprised when not only he didn’t leave (thus delegating the tree-trimming to us oldsters) but stayed and started grabbing ornaments and placing them where he thought they’d look best.

This was all done with a smile, giggles, and Christmas music playing in the background.  It wasn’t done in a hurry, and he even stopped to pose for photos, and wore a Santa’s hat while sifting through the boxes.

Of course, my friends, we hadn’t MEANT to decorate the tree last night.  We had brought it into the house so that it would be here ahead of the bad weather they’ve predicted for our usual tree-buying excursion day.  That J became enthusiastic about the whole thing was a happy development.

Later in the evening, as we relaxed after cleaning the kitchen and taking our showers, J emerged from his TV room once more and went downstairs.  Dada followed him to make sure all was well, and found our son with a canister of tinsel in his hand.  On the tree went the tinsel, with more smiles, lights, music to punctuate the process…

Twelve Days is just around the corner, and the recent chaos has prevented me from being fully ready for it, but J is ready.  J is happy to be home, feeling better, and having his Christmas tree in the house…

It feels good……..

Another Twelve Days come and gone…

We treated Christmas Day as we do any other Sunday.  Of course, I admit this was not intentional.  It’s not that we “missed” Christmas, but J had an early morning meltdown and we decided to turn the dial down and do Sunday as Sunday is usually done.  After about an hour of pure, unadulterated, overwhelming strife, J calmed down and we threw a little Christmas in here, and then a little Christmas in there until we had a nice Christmas dinner that passed for Sunday dinner.

Yesterday we braved the “Boxing Day crowds” that amounted to two people ahead of us at Target, and three at the arts and crafts store.  The line behind us at each store was non-existent.  All the chaos witnessed in other necks of other woods was absolutely absent at the time we left the house, and J was happy and he came home to relax.

The Christmas morning meltdown is easy to understand.  Dada had been home since Wednesday evening, a mini-vacation, and J was confused.  On Thursday morning we went for a medical appointment (mine,) and then for a very small bit of shopping at the grocery store.  On Friday we went to the movies.  We watched Rogue One.  J leaned back on his chair, munched on his popcorn, and smiled contentedly.  He just enjoyed the notion of being at the movies.  On Saturday we went out for a bit, and then TGG came with his family.

This was the first thing to throw J off.  He didn’t leave his room, but TGG went in with the kids, and that was out of J’s comfort zone.  We had a quiet Christmas Eve with our Twelfth Day presents, and then we went to bed.

Christmas morning didn’t have chiming bells.  It had a growl overheard through the baby monitor.  Then we heard the thumping.  We did our best to defuse the situation, but meltdowns have to run their course, and this one took a while.  By noon we had sort of evened our keels, and the rest of the day seemed better.

Today Dada went back to work, and J and I started putting away the Christmas tree ornaments, the lights, and the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Charlie Brown Christmas accoutrements.  The Christmas tree forest, the village, the train tracks (which have grown and grown) remain.  The rest is slowly being reeled in to make way for the New Year, and to make way for the Three Kings’ Day tradition.

I’m sure this portion of the year will be a bit of a slippery slope.  The holidays overwhelm just about everyone.  They also depress a lot of people.  We are doing our best to help J cope with the anxiety he might be feeling.  We understand that, irrational as it may be, he has trouble seeing TGG with a family of his own, and we can try to help him understand, but that doesn’t mean he will be able to maneuver through the emotions with ease.  The best we can do is try.  The best we can hope for is increasing degrees of success.

So we work on helping him, and helping ourselves in the process.  Now that the actual Christmas holiday is over, we can start taking things back to the daily routine that soothes him, and make adjustments from there.  He was happy today gathering up the tree lights and putting them away in the new storage box we bought.  The little tree (ok…the branches cut off from this one) in his room will go away today, too.  He might want to keep the lights, and we’re fine with that.  Light seems to be a soothing thing for J…especially when he can control it.

J was happy with his presents.  He tried taking some of ours, but we managed to prevent him from achieving his purpose.  He enjoyed helping in the kitchen.  He had fun with the tree and the lights.  He liked (LOVED!) decorating a gingerbread house.  He stole some of the candy, but that was to be expected.  All in all, aside from being overwhelmed at a certain point, he did great, and he had fun.

But we learn something new every year.  We figure something out with each passing holiday season, each run-of-the-mill month and day.  We are in a perpetual state of learning what we need to improve or change.  Yesterday, little clearance-shopper that I am, I found a little paper mache cabinet that has 25 drawers…and I will decorate it, and in each little drawer I will put an activity of each day leading up to Christmas next year.  I will mark the days when Dada will be home.  I will put little things that J can enjoy…a movie to watch, a craft to make, a task to complete to get us ready for Christmas.  You’ll see…I’ve figured out that some of the randomness of the season upsets him, and I will work on giving him a whole set of anchors to choose from.  That’s my goal, anyway.

We have plans for 2017.  We are hopeful that they will come to fruition, and that J will benefit from them.  For the moment, this last gasp of 2016, we try to organize our little household to advantage for all.  We try to slip into the usual routine so our boy can have his center…  That his center (and ours) is slightly off-center is fine.  The important part is that there is a center…regardless of where it is.  That’s goal.  That’s the aim.  That’s the all-important purpose of this game we play day after day.

We survived Twelve Days…a little bruised, a little humbled, but we survived.  Our little ragtag band of desperadoes has pulled off another holiday, and is getting ready for the next, and the one after.  It’s all we can do.  It’s all anyone can do.

And off I go to more chores supervised by (who am I kidding, right?  HE is the boss) J.

 

 

It’s here! It’s here! The First Day of Christmas!!!!

Tree…check!

Lights…check!

Garlands…check!

Ridiculously fun Christmas village…check!

Christmas music…check!

Presents wrapped…check!

Twelve Days Countdown Calendar…check!

Snowflakes the size of small hamsters…yeah…check…

Small hamsters…

I kid you not…

But on to other subjects.

It’s the First Day of Christmas!!!!  We are READY for gift-giving, and J is totally into it…FINALLY!

We went to his psych appointment yesterday, and his meltdowns are basically “normal” and “an offshoot” of all the other emotional, psychological stuff that he deals with on a daily basis.  Physically he’s healthy (all things considered, of course…we have to track the effect of the med on his metabolism, of course,) and we have seen a marked improvement in how he handles himself, and how he communicates with us.

I am happy to report that SIB is down to a minimum, and this seems more like a daily dosage requirement J has imposed on himself.  It’s more of an obsessive behavior he must complete than a behavior he engages in to cause harm.  Some days he hits softly, and others he just touches his hand to his head in a very specific pattern.  Gone is the viciousness.

His personality, happily, is intact.  He can still be annoyed by us, and he can still annoy us. He laughs when he thinks something is funny, and he rolls his eyes when he is tired of our attempts to engage him if he’s not in the mood for them.  He insists on things he wants, but he negotiates without doing any violence to himself.  He can be redirected.  He can be consoled if he’s inclined to be consoled, and entertained if he’s inclined to be entertained. We have had our concerns, of course, because having J on a med is not our favorite thing to do, and we always ponder at the deeper meaning of his behavior.  We have wondered how far we can push certain situations before he loses his patience with everything and reverts to angry, incessant SIB.

Many of our fears were laid quietly to rest yesterday.  It was, to put it mildly, a bit of a hectic morning.  It was, to be kind, the kind of morning that perhaps would’ve possibly thrown J for a loop a mere two or three weeks ago.  It was the kind of morning that, when you look back on it, you have to laugh because there is a strong undercurrent of absurdity that can only be interpreted as “meant to be” for the purpose of “testing the waters.”

J’s appointment with the psych was at 8 a.m.  We got there early.  We simply dashed out the door in an effort to miss the traffic generated by the second wave of school buses that pass through the entire area we were to drive in to get to the hospital.  In the process, we basically got J dressed and, without further ado, hopped into the car…leaving the iPad behind.   We got to the doctor with no delay at all, but…the doctor was stuck in traffic, and what was supposed to be an 8 a.m. appointment didn’t start until 8:30.  We had given J his med, but we hadn’t had time for breakfast.  After the doctor, we stopped for a quick bite, and then headed to notarize the end-of-year guardian report to the court.  We got to the UPS Store and, lo and behold, my ID (my new ID which I had renewed in April of this current year) seemed to be “expired.”  I nearly had a heart attack.  I have bought wine with that ID.  I voted with that ID.  I notarized another document with that ID.  Did I have the wrong ID?  Had I accidentally shredded the new one?  Impossible!  How could I vote not six weeks ago with an expired ID????  We dashed home.  Searched everywhere.  No ID anywhere.  I called the DMV office and explained; the kind customer service rep looked at the file online and said “oh, wow…we made a mistake.”  Yep…my new ID was issued with the same date that the old ID had.  She knew this because she could see, and I then confirmed, that my organ donor date was in April of this year.

Off to the DMV office, and -thankfully- no line.  Of course, you realize that this is all completely out of the flight plan we had shared with J the previous night.  “First we’re going to the doctor, then we’ll grab coffee, then we’ll do some paperwork, drop it off, then we’ll go to Target, the grocery store, and the crafts store…”  This had turned closer to “first we’ll go to the doctor, wait a while, grab breakfast AND coffee, do some paperwork, run back home, run to a government agency, do some paperwork…”  Once we got into the car I told Dada “I am picking my battles, dude…let’s notarize these papers, and do something for this happy, patient young man who has accepted all the upheaval without nary a complaint.”  We went back to the UPS Store, notarized the papers, and set them aside for filing today.

J, who had been calm and accepting all through this mad dash to and fro, smiled broadly when I told him “we are going to Target!”  I took J to Target while Dada went to get the few groceries we needed, and then I went to the crafts store while J and Dada listened to music in the car.  When we got home, we put our purchases and paperwork away, and made J’s lunch.  While food was cooking, I went upstairs and changed his bandaids.  By the time he came downstairs, J was happy and relaxed, and you couldn’t really tell we’d been running around all morning with gloomy weather and unexpected alterations to our trip’s design.

The rest of the day went by calmly, happily…we relaxed and did small fun stuff…like adding train tracks to J’s Christmas village, and including some animals we hadn’t found when we first started setting it up.

The morning proved to us that we have broken through the fog, and J is now more in tune with the person he was before his anxiety overrode all other systems.  We can talk to him; we can communicate; we can listen better because there is more to listen to…it is no longer just growling, grunting and screaming that give us cues.  We now see path to working our way to the happier, more relaxed version of the same stubborn child we know and love.  He is happier; he is glad of the little Christmas tree we put together with florists’ foam, branches cut from the bottom of the bigger tree, and little lights…it is in the corner of his bedroom.  He was happily gazing at it last night…and he looked and seemed more like J…

Let the festivities, scaled back as they are, commence…

 

It takes a village…inside a tent…with fake trees, and assorted out-of-proportion accoutrements…

And it is now less than a week to the First Day of Christmas and inflatable Snoopy is gone, the Humble Bumble and Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are stored away, and J is now actively participating in all the other bells and whistles of the season.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, J has accepted the tree stand, has hung an Advent Calendar of sorts (it is handy dandy and he puts things in it to extract on Christmas morning,) and the Christmas stockings are hung on the bedroom doors.  Thunderbirds are go!  Or partridges in pear trees…French hens, turtle doves, and so on and so forth.

We are hoping to bring a tree into the house tomorrow.  Preferably a Christmas tree.  But any tree will do if J is happy and excited about his favorite string of holidays.

This morning we spent some time making bake-clay Christmas trees for a mobile we’re hanging on the stairway leading up to the bedrooms.  J was very happy with this project.  It might be because it was fun, or it might be because it wasn’t a chore.  Either way, I’ll take his enthusiasm and run with it.

We go back to the psych on Monday.  The med is working, and what we see of SIB is rare and reserved mainly to the time previous to J’s bath.  He doesn’t hit himself hard.  It is more reminiscent of a display of OCD than of wanting to actually cause himself pain.  We have, however, heard more grunting from him, and this is unsettling.  The sound, guttural and sudden, startles us every single time.  The only other thing that he seems to be obsessing about is how tight the straps of his wrist brace are.  He comes and asks for help with this, and I can figure out if he is tightening them too much.

In general, J is in a much more pleasant and responsive state of mind.  He listens when I talk to him, and he seems more relaxed.  He will be impatient from time to time, but he no longer acts like a caged lion.  This is progress, yes, and we hope to -slowly and steadily- find better ways to guide him back to a spot where he doesn’t feel he needs the bandaids and wrist brace 24/7.  The cut he had between thumb and forefinger has healed, but he wants Betadine applied to the area, and Neosporin.  These are, obviously, unnecessary and effect nothing, but they soothe him.  He hasn’t complained of headaches for a while, and has just had issues with the dry air that results from the central heating running more frequently.

All in all he is doing well, but the pill is most definitely making him eat more.  He is open to negotiation, though.  I have managed to get him to eat less of certain things, and more of others.  He no longer has to have all the cookies in a serving, and he accepts that there are days when he will skip his yogurt, or some other snack because he had had something else.

The system is not perfect, and I don’t expect it to be.  The system will work as best it can, and we will address all the complications arising from this alteration in what was “normal” as time progresses.  We are, because no one else has the ability to do this, cutting ourselves a sufficient amount of slack so we don’t get too discouraged, or become ineffectual because we feel like we’re failing.

There is a cold snap heading our way so we are adjusting our weekly schedule to make sure J gets to go out, and we get our errands run in what is healthier weather for him.  Instead of an evening outing, Dada will be taking J out to do his shopping tomorrow morning while I am at a medical appointment.  This should be something that J enjoys because Dada is a lot less adept at knowing what is already available in our pantry and J can be like Scrooge McDuck with his supplies.  The only thing they ever have issues with is Orville Redenbacher’s Cheddar Cheese Microwave Popcorn.  Dada hasn’t managed to master the art of steering J away from it, and that thing -forgive my bluntness- stinks up the house so massively that I often find myself agreeing to some other horrid snack just to get J to accept Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals Simply Salted instead.  It was in this way that we ended up with sizable bag of Skittles, but they get dispensed at the rate of two red, two green, two yellow, two orange and two purple a day.  No more, no less.  If it’s in a small plastic container with a lid, regardless of how small the amount, J accepts that it’s a snack.  Plus I remind him that he gets one Pixie Stix for each dose of med he gets each day.  I think the trade-off is fair.

The trees are mostly bare.  The wind is cold.  The sun shines, but it’s not warming up anything in a way that would inspire us to stay outside for prolonged periods of time.  When it rains, my bones and joints scream at me rather rudely.  Winter is a couple of weeks away, but it clearly is announcing that it means business.

This probably figures prominently in J’s willingness to get “into Christmas.”  His Christmas village is quite adorable.  The train tracks are still under construction, trees are added sporadically, houses find their way into corners, and Santa Claus is hiding towards the back.  J turns on the lights in the morning, and makes sure they get turned off before bedtime.  He learned the lesson of how cats will nest in there if he leaves the door open, and now he closes the door when he heads up to bed.

We are getting there.  We are closer.  It won’t be like other years, but we are finding yet another new normal, yet another groove, yet another all right, good, awesome, this feels good.

 

Another tradition goes bust…

Twelve Days is eight days away.  Wrapping packages has been tricky this year because I no longer have the luxury of time alone to do it.  Yesterday I encouraged Dada (who has been known to wrap things at the last minute) to spend an hour wrapping.  It took him two. Same amount of packages as every other year, but it is an established fact that Dada will never qualify for the World Origami Championship Tournament.

This morning, in a flurry of activity and tape, I wrapped Dada’s presents.  I didn’t want to risk J’s because he was in and out of his room, and if he’d walked in we would have had an international incident.  Because Twelve Days presents are sometimes “combos” it takes me a while longer to put them together than just simply grab one and wrap…plus they all have to be stashed in a certain order, and placed in a way that he will be able to see them when he goes in to organize my closet (an activity he engages in surreptitiously and without malice or intent to spy on presents,) or to hide some item he doesn’t want me to find (the recesses of my closet…he thinks I don’t look there ever.)  J likes to open the door, turn on the light and look at the wrapped presents.  He doesn’t open them.  He doesn’t touch them.  He sees the label on the shelf that indicates where his presents are located (I forget, people, which shelf I’m supposed to be looking in when I’m in a hurry,) and he smiles.  If there is one person I know wouldn’t want to ruin Christmas, it is J…he might pat his Xmas stocking, but he doesn’t peek in it either.

As far as gift-wrapping is concerned, I might have to call our sitter and have her give me an hour to wrap and stash J’s packages because we are usually occupied in other tasks during the day.  I am sure a twenty dollar investment is well worth it if I can get this done, and J can start sitting in front of the closet smiling at his upcoming gifts.

On Friday J and I spruced up our Christmas wreath.  Namely, we put fresh battery-operated lights on it. This is the Franken-wreath.  It is a twig-wreath that we’ve had for about ten years.  On it sits a smaller wreath made of felt hearts stuffed with batting that we made seventeen years ago.  The previous string of lights had petered out after five or six years of being on there.  J had chosen a rather large bow at the crafts store, and we added it to the existing arrangement.  Antoni Gaudí would probably approve…but you never know.  On Saturday we put together the garlands and lights and bows J chose for outside.  I can say without a hint of modesty that ours is possibly the tackiest Christmas display in the neighborhood.  People have gone with fake “natural” garlands, with red lights, with simple strings of lights.  J went all Vegas Showgirl in the 60s.  The only thing missing out there is a healthy layer of frosted blue eyeshadow.  A gold and white garland is wrapped around the railing, a white garland is on the top portion of the railing, and there is a red and green wire garland (holly leaves and such) strung along the white one.  The lights, my friends, are jewel-toned.  Each post has a small wreath made of the same red and green wire garland (he simply didn’t unroll them,) and a big red bow.  The Good Taste Police will soon be coming to knock on our door.  As if this wasn’t enough, J has two more strings of jewel-toned lights that will be strung on the ceiling of our porch…  It is safe to say that there is not even the slightest possibility that we will win “best Christmas display,” but J had fun choosing his bits and pieces.

Yesterday we started putting together the Christmas Tree Forest and Village in his tent.  It is looking quite nice.  Crowded, but nice.  Thomas the Tank Engine and his track still need to go in there, as do the plushes for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Clarice and Rudolph lost their antlers on the very first night they came into our home many, many, many Christmases ago,) and the A Charlie Brown Christmas figurines.  Crowded might be an understatement when we’re done, but J is very happy that we’re doing this.

The one thing we have not wanted this year -to the point of yelling, and then banishing it to the garage and into a plastic crate- is good ol’ reliable Inflatable Santa Snoopy.  We cannot remember exactly what Christmas brought Snoopy into our home, but it had always been a hit with J, and he insisted on having it either in the TV room, or in his bedroom.  Inflatable Santa Snoopy was to J’s Christmas like a banana is to a banana split: take it out and there’s no Christmas…  The soothing rattling of its little inflating mechanism was part of the soundtrack of the season.  It is no more.  He didn’t want it inflated.  He didn’t want it in his room.  He didn’t want it in the house.  He didn’t want it where it could be seen.

Since that staple of Christmas-dom has been rejected (quite vocally,) we are hoping that no objections will be made to buying a Christmas tree.  So far we’ve seen no enthusiasm for them when we go to the grocery store or drive past the Christmas tree lots around town.  Since cold weather is settling in later in the week, we are hoping to get our tree by Thursday.  I have a doctor’s appointment, and Dada will be taking J to find a tree while I’m getting checked out.  I am going to have J help me bring the boxes of ornaments down to the sitting room, and maybe that will be a good indication of how close we are to Tree Time.

Yes, things are definitely changing.  We are starting to understand that J has evolved, matured, regressed, moved on, changed, transmogrified…and we are starting to accept it with more ease, with less of a painful pang.  On Saturday he had a bit of a meltdown when we got back from our shopping, but by evening I’d figured out what it was about: we ran into our former property manager.  J used to see her just about every day.  We’d stop at the office on the way home from the bus; we’d go in to visit with her when we checked the mail, or we’d go for a short walk just to say hi.  She used to visit us.  She was a presence.  And then she found a better job that was healthier and happier for her, and we hadn’t physically seen her since March.  There she was, suddenly, in the movie section at Target, and J was happy to see her, and said hello, and did his whole outing…and then came home and had a massive meltdown.  It didn’t click for me until later in the evening that J must’ve suddenly been reminded of yet another constant that had altered for him this year: his brother, his nephew, his teacher, his classmates, his school, his bus driver and bus aide, and our friend, the property manager.  I felt like a dunce because I had been frustrated with his meltdown, and I should’ve put two and two together.

That’s where we are on Monday.  Santa Snoopy is a no-go, and mother is promising herself to not be as clueless.

Seems like a fairly balanced start to the new week, but it’s early days yet…….

 

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, all is quiet and happy all over the place…

Things are going well.  The med is gone, baby, gone, and we’re definitely hanging in there.  Four and a half pounds lighter, and still hanging in there.  A little obsessed with the band-aids, but hanging in there.

Is J a little antsier?  No, not really.  He’s a little more prone to boredom, but he’s also a little more enthused about helping.  He waited patiently for the time when we actually could leave for the theater to watch Star Wars The Force Awakens, and this even though we were supposed to go the (we discovered suddenly) sold-out 10 a.m. show…he also patiently waited when he realized that the 1:50 show was sold out, too.  He was ok with coming home, putting groceries and purchases away, and eating lunch before actually heading out to the theater with a rather long, drawn-out stop at Barnes & Noble.

All this sans Risperdal…

If you had told me J wouldvpatiently wait through reversal of plans after reversal of plans…  Yes, he’s picked at his chin a bit more than usual, but he LISTENS when I tell him we have to wait a little longer.

On the  “not-quite-good” news front, the psoriasis made a comeback, and this time it was next to J’s goatee.  We thought, initially, that it was razor burn, but as soon as we recognized the characteristics, we applied the lotion his doctor prescribed and the patch disappeared in short order.

Of course, I have to point out that first I had to FIND the lotion.  J, seeing a prescription label, assumed this was something one drinks and, based on experience, assumed it would taste like crap and hid it.  He hid it along with my wrist stabilizers (which I’ve been needing and wanting,) and several other items that -to him- are not “friendly.”  Once I explained that the prescription was for that patch on his chin, he allowed me to take it out of the box, and put it in his bathroom.

We are negotiating a lot more.  Today, for example, we negotiated chocolate chips for every task he completed while we baked biscotti.  I’ve never had a more avid helper, or one who can bounce so easily from dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips with such alacrity.  He was disappointed when I told him we were done with the baking for today, and accepted his chocolate chip-less fate with aplomb.

By now, as you may know, we are deep into the Twelve Days.  It is, as I type this, the aftermath of the Ninth Day of Christmas, and this year J has actually sung the song with us…if he doesn’t raise his voice, I can see he’s enunciating rather nicely, but we -sadly- drown him out.  He’s not thrilled about Miss Zelda’s eager participation in the ritual, but he tolerates it as long as the cat sits next to Dada and doesn’t attempt to approach J’s present.  The fact that we now have a cat that, regardless of where she is in the house, hears The Twelve Days of Christmas and runs to arrive in time for gift-giving is yet another sign that this is not a run-of-the-mill household.  If she has not left the room for any transaction in another area of the house, she is calmly sitting under the tree, waiting for us to join her…

The weather has been kind…sort of.  When it’s cold, it’s very cold.  The rest of the time it’s basically gloomy or rainy, or it rains.  Winter begins now, I remind myself, and January will make up for all that we’ve missed so far.  I get the feeling that snow days (or harsh weather days) will abound.  In my efforts to over-prepare, I might have had a hand in the persistence of warm weather, and I think I (and everyone else) will pay for it in the coming weeks.

But J is happy.  J is calm.  J is handling himself beautifully, and I cannot help but be hopeful about everything else.  I will not go out and buy a lottery ticket anytime soon, but I will definitely savor this uptick in goodness that comes from the med being gone and J exercising his most mature self in the process.

I can’t ask for more.  Well, I could, but that would be the same as being ridiculously greedy, and we want to spread around the good stuff to those who need it…

We are happy being happy with the happiness we have…we hope some of it comes everyone else’s way too…