Another birthday…

J turned nineteen today, and the weather cooperated.  Yesterday morning there was a two-hour delay, but on this not-as-cold and not-snowy morning, J got to leave for school at the crack of dawn on the yellow bus that he loves…

I sprang into action (sort of) and made his cake, and prepared wrapping paper for his presents.  By the time he got home at three, J was happily anticipating any attention we might point in his direction.  His first stop was the office, and there awaited him the property manager and four beautifully wrapped packages.  We brought them home to open after cake.

The news from school were good.  He had a good day and worked hard.  If he had any tantrums or upheaval, it was minimal.  As soon as we walked into the house, J put his things away, started preparing his snack, and went to change in to his pajamas.

At around five-thirty I asked him if he wanted us to take him out.  He chose Five Guys, and I put a timer on so he knew when to get ready.  I was almost ready when I heard him bounce up the stairs chanting FIVE GUYS FIVE GUYS HOT DOG FRENCH FRIES SODA FIVE GUYS FIVE GUYS!  It was a treat, and J knew it…he was going to thoroughly enjoy this outing.

Our order number was 48.  The place was packed and there was a lot of hustle and bustle.  If you’ve ever been to Five Guys, you know they love to play their music loud.  And J LOVES this.  Of course, J also puts his fingers in his ears while he’s watching them put the food together, but what he’s filtering (I’ve realized over time) is the stuff that is layered on top of the music.  Over the PA system I could tell they were playing Springsteen’s Born to Run, and J loves this song, so he was trying to filter out the chatter, the sound of the griddle, the fryer, and so forth.  One of the employees noticed J’s fingers, and asked “is the music too loud for him?”  I didn’t immediately hear her because I wasn’t expecting to be asked, so she nudged her co-worker and said “I think the music bothers him…turn it down!”  We noticed this and said “no, no…don’t worry!  He likes the music.  It’s not too loud!”  This stopped the other employee in her tracks because…get this…she was actually going to turn the music down!!!!!

This is why we become regular patrons at businesses.  This is the reason that we feel comfortable taking J to Five Guys.  These kids recognize him, welcome him, acknowledge that he’s not their run-of-the-mill customer, and they actually think of what he might need in spite of the place being packed, full of young adults who don’t mind the music at all, and it’s a Friday night…you want your crowd to be happy.  But, bless them, they actually thought of J, and were about to act based on what they thought was a need in spite of the fact that the rest of the crowd was happy, relaxed and enjoying the music.

Our meal was great.  It was delicious.  As usual, we ate with gusto and J was happy with his choice for a birthday meal.  You can’t ask for more than that, right?

We stopped at the grocery store before coming home.  We bought a little tub of ice cream (the birthday boy chose vanilla,) and some other things J wanted.  He bought ramen noodle, but it’s not what you’re envisioning.  Yes, he made a play for the Maruchan stuff, but I was able to convince him to try the organic ramen noodles that I can season at home in an alternative, no-sodium way.  That he said YES to this option is proof-positive that we have become more flexible; that this comes in the heels of having Jessica Seinfeld’s “green eggs” from her Deceptively Delicious cookbook for today’s breakfast is…well…I’d say miraculous, but these things happen so often now that…you know…I am accepting them more as par for the course than exceptions.

We took pictures of all of us with J, and we compared his height to TGG’s and mine.  We compared how much he has changed over the course of the past nineteen years.  We realized WE have changed, too.  We took stock of the wonder that is, well, being a satellite to this kid…this person…this force of nature.  He has grown and matured, and learned.  We’re not doing too shabbily ourselves.

After singing happy birthday (a cacophonous enough rendition judging by the skeptical look in J’s face in the pictures we took,) he ate a modest slice of cake and a modest amount of ice cream.  I’m sure next year he might request the ASL version of the song, and then happily move on to the cake-and-ice-cream portion of the festivities.  When he recovered from our…howling?  Caterwauling?  NOT singing?  J opened his presents, and found an embarrassment of riches in books, and Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and Leslie Caron to complete his evening.  Katy Perry’s issue of GQ found its way to him yesterday evening.

As usual, there was very little observation of the date from the outer edges of the world.  J’s biological dad called early this morning, and sounded surprised to hear that J was at school.  I got two e-mails sending best regards from family members.  My Facebook friends responded kindly to my annual posting about how much it rocks to be J’s mom even though it sucks sometimes, too.  The people that count, care and matter, counted, cared and mattered.  That’s all one can ask for…that’s what one hopes for.

So J is nineteen.  He had a fantastic birthday.  He enjoyed it a great deal, and that’s more than can be said for other birthdays.  He ate green eggs; he went to school; he wore his new jacket; he got books and movies; he went to Five Guys; he had cake and ice cream…he made us wash dishes, and he is happily sitting in his TV room basking in the glow of being a little older.  And the countdown to “my not-a-teenager is autistic” begins…NOW!

In search of…

J’s green cargo pants (the ones we got to replace the beloved original green cargo pants that, ultimately, fell apart after years of abuse) are ready to give up the ghost.  Finding a replacement isn’t easy.  The brand is sold everywhere, but not farther up than a size 40 waist, which means we’re traveling in search of pants.  This morning I spent some time looking for pants online, and I definitely can order them from several websites, but I’d rather have J try them on and determine if it’s yea or nay on whatever style we find.

In the meantime, I am going to (as I tend to do whenever the need arises) mend the pair he’s madly in love with until we can find a suitable replacement.  J’s love for these pants is so great that instead of seeing a sack of ugly, mended fabric, he sees Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  images

As long as he’s happy and he has pants to wear, I’m ok with the mending and darning that’s going on, but the pants do need replacing, and that’s what we’re aiming for this upcoming weekend.  Family road trip.  Pants-buying road trip.

After spending the better part of Saturday morning looking for pants that would fit, we all walked away from the stores frustrated.  All we could find that J would like was two sizes too small…and there are remedies for too big, but there is no immediate fix for too small.  As we walked out of the last store we went to, I told J “look, buddy, we’re ALL going to have to exercise.  I have these pants I ordered online that are the right size but…” and I made a bloated face and used my arms to show how paunchy my paunch is inside them.  Famous last words spoken while leaving a store…this morning J dragged me to the garage and we did California Gurls on his Just Dance (and I miraculously survived the experience) and then we did the Long run from the Wii Fit Plus.  Mind you, to get J to move in the way he’s supposed to, I have to vastly exaggerate my speed and movements or else he’ll walk in place in a very leisurely fashion.

I flatly refuse to buy bigger pants than he wears now.  I am not concerned about his appearance, but I do believe that we have to help him get smaller for his health…  I can promise you that he is doing a lot better in terms of endurance, but with the colder weather approaching quite quickly, we see more indoor time ahead of us, and it’s best to establish the exercise routine and movement habits now than wait ’til later.  And I really need to fit into those pants…not that I don’t FIT into them, but they’re basically flannel-lined mom jeans that -regrettably- assume one’s waist is as high and as slim as the ladies’ in the catalog.  I am not the reed-thin, long and lanky type…I’m wider, more anchored to the ground…the pants fit beautifully everywhere except the waist.  So I’m guessing that for the waist to not pinch, I have about five to ten pounds I need to shed…

The other side of the coin, friends, is that I ordered three lovely pairs of leggings that fit wonderfully from the thighs to the ankles.  The waist, however, seems to be sized for clown-pants.  How did this happen?  Well…you know that whole thing about how we see ourselves one way and buy clothes for that???  I bought them XL because, silly me, that’s what I think I wear.   In this world, a woman wearing size 12 pants is considered plus-sized, and I bought them for what the measurements in the size-chart indicated…XL.  I cannot believe that three pairs of leggings from a reputable brand would all be defective in the same way so I made a mistake or…it COULD happen…my measuring tape is a cheating, two-timing, two-faced liar and vile betrayer…  The worst part is that if the legs fit perfectly in the XL, they would probably be too tight in a Large…and, no, running the pants through the washer and dryer did nothing to shrink them.  (That’s what happens when you get a guarantee that they won’t.)

So J and I are both having pants issues.  I can cover my bunchy ones with tunics and long sweaters, and he has to wear his patched up ones until we find others he will love even remotely as much as he loves those.  The shopping trip will also serve the purpose of finding for Dada shirts with longer sleeves (he thinks his arms are growing because all his shirts seem to be too short in the sleeves all of a sudden) and an alternative pair of shoes that J can wear for warmth, but not necessarily for snow.  On Friday, you see, he went up to his annual class picnic wearing sandals and socks because he cannot be persuaded to wear closed-toe shoes until there’s snow on the ground.  Such is the way of the J-dictated wardrobe.  The folks at What Not To Wear would have crawled into the fetal position if faced with this challenge…starting with the hats and working down to the shoes…

One thing can be said about J: he knows what he likes, and he sticks to it like glue.  It’s not just that he’s comfortable in those pants: he has a relationship with them.  Granted, it the same type of relationship a three year-old has with their favorite blankie, but it’s a relationship nonetheless.  If something doesn’t fit, he doesn’t wear it; if he doesn’t like a garment, or if he’s not ready to wear it, he ignores it, sets it aside, shuns it like it plague-ridden.  He doesn’t care about fashion because J has what most people aspire to: style.  Granted, there are glitches in his style, but it’s style nonetheless.  And his style is currently running around with one out of three pairs of pants at risk of falling to pieces sooner rather than later.

They say your clothes shouldn’t wear you, and they’re right…and J, better than anyone I know, embodies the notion of wearing the clothes rather the other way around, but he’s run them ragged and to the point of disintegration.  This process would be easier if J himself was in the “two sizes smaller” department.  The .35 mg of med that we’ve reduced has controlled his weight, but it hasn’t really done much in terms of weight loss.  Perhaps the next .25 will help more???  Nearly two months to go until then…let’s cross our fingers that our search for pants is successful…


But…wait! I’m not REALLY ready!!!!

It is shortly after 6 a.m. on Sunday and I am the only human awake in the household.  The cats have been up since I don’t know when, but the men are sleeping soundly…

The things left to do at our new place are abundant, but of the nature that is easily taken care of if one puts one’s nose to the grindstone. An outlet cover here, a mirror there, closet rods and hangers, doorknobs, hardware for cabinet drawers.  The appliances, of course, need to be brought in (I always wonder how they do that through such narrow hallways, but I guess they drag things in and spackle the walls as they go along, right?)

Here, on the other side of the street, things are not going quite as I’d hoped.  Read: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!  The carefully organized packing and organizing process has, for inexplicable reasons, become a source of stress for me.  I don’t know if it is that my energy plummets after several hours of constant movement (I AM anemic…one of life’s little mysteries that I find irritating, uncomfortable and tremendously inconvenient,) and I take “constant movement” to a whole new level.  Judging from what the men in my household say, I have ADD/ADHD and any other number of things that spring me into action at the worst (and most unexpected) moments.  That I’ve been doing this mainly with J’s assistance makes for interesting results.   Last night I heard myself say “no, no, darling…wait ’til J comes upstairs and he’ll label those boxes for me.  Just…leave them there…leave them there.  J knows what to do!”

This can be interpreted as a vote of confidence for J (who HAS become very adept at focusing his energy into packing and labeling…in his own special way,) or it can be interpreted as sign that I really need to take a step back and let someone else take over.  We have, after all, boxes that are labeled with J’s name and cryptic letter combinations like AETOP.  His name is getting clearer and clearer, but the rest of the stuff requires an egyptologist to figure it out…and yet I know EXACTLY what is in those boxes.  If this is not a sign that I need to win the lottery and take an extended vacation, I don’t know what is.

Another development is that all this packing is taking place with “story time” interspersed among the cleaning, storing, organizing, packing and hyperventilating.  J is happy when I sign STORY and BOOK, and makes his way to the ginormous bean bag (which will take up a nice spot in the new TV room) where we plop down together to read.  J is positively giddy when this happens.  He actually gets fits of the giggles; whatever story I’m reading (and, yes, I confess the frustrated wannabe Broadway star in me enters like Norma Desmond but without the turban) happens to be (for the duration) the funniest story that has ever been read anywhere.  I have no talent for ingenues, but I would make a kick-ass Miss Hannigan in Annie; my interpretation of Froggy’s mom in the Froggy books is simply amazing.  I crack myself up, and -apparently- J is a fan, too.

I discussed with Dada making a small adjustment to the plans for the entertainment room.  Somehow, over the course of the summer, J has come to not just LOVE, but rather CRAVE activity books.  When I tell you he sits down and works through them independently, with a great deal of focus and pride in his results, I’m not even beginning to tell you what it does for him.  J is an activity-book-completing FIEND!  I always have several of those handy for the long winter days, the rainy summer days and just plain-old “for crying out loud, J, sit down and focus on something for FIVE MINUTES so I can go pee” days…  Suddenly, at the age of 18, J has discovered that he LOVES sitting down with activity books, and that he LOVES stickers.

My son…LOVES…stickers.  And this is the thing: J always HATED stickers.  You know how at the doctor they give you stickers for not kicking, biting, screaming, decapitating, assaulting the nurse and physician who have just endured the experience of trying to persuade you to show your tongue???  J hated those stickers.  J considered it a personal affront when someone would offer him a sticker.  Should the person even move to put the sticker on him, J would react like the Wicked Witch when she saw a bucket of water…  This attitude was always a mystery to me because, well, I NEVER got stickers.  I NEVER got lollipops.  My pediatrician’s secretary REMEMBERED me quite distinctly when I called in over 22 years ago to ask for a newborn check-up when TGG was born.  Her exact words when she heard my name were “you bite.  You kick.  You are a horrible child.”  They weren’t said with a shred of sweetness or “aw shuck” in them…this was pure, unadulterated “you horrible brat.  I have been waiting YEARS to tell you how I feel about you!!!!”  But I digress…

J loves stickers and will work through a whole book just to be able to sit there choosing stickers (it’s almost like he’s choosing WINE…he looks at them and at the page he’s worked on to see how well they’ll pair together,) and then he places them in the middle of the top of the page with the exactitude that can only be attributed to engineers or autistic individuals who love stickers.  He doesn’t try to stick them anywhere else.  He wants stickers on the page…

So we’ve found a simple work table for his entertainment room.  We’ve selected a tall bookshelf to organize all his toys, books, materials, etc. and he will have what we never dreamed he’d have: a work station.  When we arrived at home yesterday (from Target, Target, Target, Target, Target) with a small black desk ready to assemble, and said “look what we got for you J!” we might as well have said “and there’s a just-add-water Katy Perry in there!   And she’ll sing Firework while you assemble this desk!!!”

So it’s the Sunday before we move.  Last week I was horrified they might not be ready.  Now I’m horrified WE might not be ready.  The small piles of debris that constitute our daily life and that cannot be easily sorted and packed are starting to get to me…

I guess all I have to do is take a deep breath and wait ’til J is up and about and ready to guide the next wave of packing.  He’ll know what to do!  He’ll focus me!  I know I can count on him to assemble boxes with the precision of a ninja and label them so that I am 100% sure of what’s in them.  I confess that the boxes all the way back to the wall in the garage are now a blur to me…I have NO idea what’s in them, and I write MANIFESTOS on them.  I think J’s system is actually better…

and deserves a sticker…or 1000…

Along with boxes and furniture, moving means paperwork…

J signed his first-ever lease agreement last night.  I wish I’d taken pictures!  I explained that he needed to sign papers to agree to live in the new house, and that this explained his rights and obligations as a tenant.  I showed him that we ALL would be signing them, and we then went around the table signing our names on the assigned spaces.  I explained that our signatures had to be done several times because there was the agreement with the pool rules, the agreement for the cats being with us, the agreement for parking, etc. etc.

This morning we walked down to the office to take the papers and to have J’s ID photocopied so it can go in our collective file.  He thought this meant he could have some pieces of chocolate.  To his mind, I’m sure, that’s part of agreeing to live here…the candy bowl in the office.

The packing is going along at a nice clip.  As we pack, sort and decide, we clean.  We’ve made a list of which things require more attention than others, and I’ve made a list of the arrangements I have to make before we move: cable, phone, internet, water, gas, electric, mail.  The address for the school records can be changed when they send the registration packet on the first day.  The bus picks J up on the same spot as it does now because we’re moving across the street and that doesn’t change.

J’s room will transform on the way to the new house.  His bedside table has been refurbished with a lovely coat of paint, and we’ve been looking at new posters for his walls.  Katy Perry figures prominently in the short-list of possibles.  We’ve also concluded that J would enjoy having a full-length mirror in his room for when he gets dressed in the mornings, and that he would benefit from a better arrangement for his clothes.

The TV room downstairs is nearly fully planned out.  The coffee table’s top was painted with chalkboard paint today, and later this week I will have J start assembling the 6-cube units for the base.  Next week, with less time to go until we move, we’ll put together the extra 9-cube unit we need for the library, and we’ll start numbering the cubes for when we put the books away in the new house.  All these tasks are designed to help ME, of course, but they also are a way to keep J engaged and give him a sense of pride.

Like Hermit Crab in his book, J is going around gathering things that make his home, well, homier…prettier.  Together we look at magazines, and then we look at what we have, at what’s on sale, and at what we can do to make do with what we have, but with flair!  And we’ll need a lot of flair…the cable bill just went up to nearly $200 a month (with fees and surcharges that are unspecified and mysteriously murky enough to scare me.)  Thank goodness J enjoys working on all sorts of projects, and isn’t against going to the thrift store, garage sales and then getting busy with paint.

In between packing boxes and taking down pictures I read to J, or we go for walks.  When we take down pictures I explain to him the completely abstract relationship he has to those he lovingly wipes clean before storing in boxes: this is Dada with HIS Dada; these are Dada’s brothers; this is Dada’s mama (a word he uses for anyone’s mama but his own;) this is my great-grandmother with her cat, and so forth…  The invisible threads that travel through time and space to build a family are lost on him, but he knows these people are important enough to us to assail the walls with Command Strips to hang their photos.

[By the way, Command Strips are tremendously convenient, but the whole ‘no damage’ thing hinges completely on an exactitude of pulling, force, angle and such that is just beyond my abilities.  I’ve had a fairly good rate of success, but I have had to patch quite a few spots…which I find mortifying.]

We got two new books today.  J seems to be enjoying our reading time more and more now.  The books have found their way from that forgotten shelf in his room to the living room in the basement, and we curl up to look at them, and we point at pictures, and sign as we tell the story.  Some J finds so funny that he starts laughing as soon as I open the cover…Froggy books do this to him.  Others he listens to intently, and then runs his fingers over the illustrations.  Others he goes back to over and over again, and he interjects his own sounds and reactions as we go along.

Today’s titles: Possum Come  A-Knockin’ by Nancy Van Laan (illustrated by George Booth) and The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant (illustrated by Stephen Gammell.)  Both these books are throwbacks to the days when J and TGG would sit in front of the TV, a bowl of Froot Loops for a snack, and watch Reading Rainbow with Levar Burton.  Both books elicited from both (and I mean TODAY) the little conspiratorial smiles of those who remember something tremendously pleasant while trying to act more sophisticated than they feel.  TGG mentioned, with a mouth full of chicken and pasta that he was scarfing down before class, that it’s a pity Reading Rainbow has gone the way of the dodo bird.  “And the other one too…the one with Kino…Storytime!

Here I am packing all these books, sitting with my kids (yes, both of them) and making sure they don’t forget books and stories in the middle of all the iPads, iPhones, cable TV, and I ask myself (as I open yet another flyer from Barnes and Noble offering me 10% OFF on any NOOK!!!!) if people bother to read to their kids anymore.  I mean: is it relevant to other families???

I have a lot of paperwork to sort through for this move.  I have the utilities, the lease, the change of address for the Post Office…and nearly a thousand books (between ours, TGG’s, and J’s) to convey from point A to point B.  It would be easier with a NOOK, right?  You can still curl up with a NOOK, right?  But is it anywhere near as much fun as with an actual book?  J and I have boxed up several cubes’ worth of books, and he likes to run his fingers over the spines, place them in the boxes…with almost as much affection as he shows for the family pictures.

The weird thing is that I think he understands the books better than he does the long-gone, or distant people…



Raggedy Ann, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck walk into a room…

On Saturday we set out on the hour-and-a-half drive to retrieve Imogene from the Apple Store.  J, who had been pressing his right index finger to his cheekbone as if to indicate a toothache the night before, was so happy that we were heading to the mall that he was calling out COW, SHEEP, HORSE all the way there.  Whatever was bothering him the previous night had dissipated; I am sure he bit on an Altoid at the wrong angle, but he IS going to the dentist next Monday.

Dada and TGG were at the movies when J seemed to complain about his tooth.  It is important to say “seemed to complain” because J doesn’t really complain about such things in the usual fashion.  There is no hemming or hawing, there is no sighing or yelping.  A full-fledged complaint from J involves curling up in a corner, crying and hitting his head, so the “pressing a finger against a cheekbone” is merely an indication that something should be looked at, and I did…out came the flashlight, and J made his half-assed attempt at cooperating.  Half-assed means that when other kids say AAAAAAAAAH, J says ah.  You have to be quick and have excellent vision, otherwise you will have to observe from a distance and ascertain severity through the Scientific Method.  Empirical proof will be scant…and it will cost you money to get any more than you can gather from the ah.  

Dada and TGG had been so giddy and enthused (as if they were children on a sugar-high) when they left to watch Skyfall that I felt bad about telling them to stop and search for liquid Tylenol.  Nothing deflates the joy and machismo of having watched “the…BEST…Bond…EVER!!!!!!!” like “your kid might have a toothache.”  Liquid Tylenol that is not geared for children is hard to come by, and none was found.  We spent the whole night waiting for a complaint to issue from J’s room, but instead we got an early morning expedition to the basement (after coming to close our door so he could sneak away “undetected) to find cereal.

Since J’s mood was good and he was not complaining, we set off to the mall.  Our plan had been to leave home at nine in order to be there by 10:30.  The best laid plans of mice and men, as usual, went awry and we didn’t leave home until almost ten.  Finding a parking spot once we got there was a chore we had forgotten how to do; lest we forget, it has been 8 years since we frequented a flourishing, active, actually-populated-with retailers-and-customers mall.  That everyone had to use the restroom was an added level of difficulty.  We ended up parked in the farthest spot of an unpopulated area, a matter that was moot when we left an hour later: cars had accumulated around us quite quickly.

We used a different entrance than the one from the previous visit.  No sooner had we stepped in that J, walking at a fast clip towards the restrooms, noticed The Disney Store.  He didn’t slow down; he didn’t stop; he didn’t give any indication that he had any plans of going there.  After regaining our composure post-hour-and-a-half car trip, Dada and I retrieved Imogene (and took her back to the car,) while the kids had an early lunch.  We then all went to Sears to find pants for TGG.  J waited patiently.  J waited happily.  J waited until we said “ok, we’re done…let’s head home!”  J then took control of the situation and steered us towards The Disney Store.

People were looking at us.  J’s giggling, as I’ve mentioned, is contagious.  J’s boundless enthusiasm, it must be pointed out, tends to suffuse everyone.  Strangers were watching us and joining in with J’s giggles and bounces.  I don’t just mean little kids who saw him and started hopping about saying things like “mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy!!!!”  I mean also adults who looked at J and felt compelled to smile; this was not the awkward smile that is elicited by seeing an oddly garbed person acting in an inappropriate-for-his-age way, but rather the “I don’t know why I’m suddenly feeling happy” smile that gives you a little spring in your step.

J made his way, giggling and bouncing all the way, to the back of the store where he suddenly stopped and turned around slowly, taking in the wonder of it all.  If you’ve never been to a Disney Store, this place is rafters to floors “Disney-threw-up-in-here” chock full of merchandise.  There isn’t a single Disney Princess, Disney character, Disney movie that isn’t represented.  Many years ago, J fit into the Disney pajamas and the Disney slippers…he has grown way past that, of course, but…Disney plushes are for EVERYONE!!!!

Up on shelf, looking demure yet sassy, sat Minnie Mouse.  J’s finger pointed up and a collective “oh, no, no, no…no way, you’re out of your mind” issued from the three grown-ups that were envisioning an altogether too big plush being crammed into J’s bedroom for no apparent good purpose.  J’s shoulders slumped and his lips pursed.  As if activated by springs, all three adults moved about the store floor pointing out more viable options: a new thermal cup, smaller plushes…  Everyone, of course, was looking at price tags.  The only thing more expensive than The Disney Store is a Disney Park, but not by much.

Then we found it: 2 for $22!!!  We pointed the display to J who, leaping like a ballet corps member in the middle of The Nutcracker, approached the shelves and found Minnie Mouse, albeit dressed in pink.  Nothing else appealed to him.  No Dory, no Grumpy, no Woody, no Mater…nothing.  We looked around desperately, and then we found another one: 2 for $16!!!!  Smaller, of course, but still…there was Minnie Mouse, dressed both in pink and RED!!!!  Bingo!!!!  And, a little further back was Daisy Duck!!!!!!  SOLD!!!!!!!!

I don’t know what the cashier thought.  I am sure she wondered if we were making these purchases for some birthday party we were attending.  J grabbed the bag, thanked her profusely and, laughing like a person who’s just discovered something fantastic, bounced out of the store.  We didn’t look back.  We just got in the car and, through the rearview mirror, observed J looking into the bag to make sure that, yes!!!, he had Minnie and Daisy with him.  He sang along to Katy Perry’s Firework, Madonna’s Borderline, The Eagles’ Hotel California…and he hugged the shopping bag.  As soon as we got home, he bounded up the stairs and introduced Minnie and Daisy to Ann, who had been left sitting in the middle of his bed earlier that morning.

He’s off to school now, and he’s left his harem behind.  Ann sits in the middle and slightly above the other two, and Minnie and Daisy are flanked by boxing gloves.  We know it’s weird.  We know it’s odd.  We know people don’t get it.  What does this mean?  I don’t know.  I’m just glad he’s happy.  I’m just glad he takes Ann, Minnie and Daisy to the basement, sits them on the couch next to him or the rocking chair facing him, and they keep him company.

I am guessing, then, that we -the grown-ups in the household- are just as weird and odd and hard to understand as J is…

So be it!


I had jotted down some notes early this morning with every intention of using them on this post.  Then I saw a video that’s making the rounds on the internet…since I’ve FINALLY stopped crying (although if I think about it I start up again,) I figured I’d share it…

As you all know, J is madly in love with Katy Perry.  He loves running to Firework and has this lovely dance he does and the smile…well…it’s very J-like and heartfelt and chokes me up every time I see it…

The clip is from The Night of Too Many Stars benefit for autism programs.  The host is Jon Stewart.  If you have access to Comedy Central, please watch when it airs on Sunday…it’s totally worth it.  It’s a show full of people who do give a crap about this cause.

Now, to the clip: this young lady’s name is Jodi DiPiazza…her duet partner is a little more famous.  Never has this song meant more than during this performance.  Enjoy…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have toilets to clean, laundry to fold and a very emotional reaction to this girl’s story and this performance to put under control.  I am now going to prepare myself to, regardless of his desire to keep me at arm’s length, hug my son very tightly when he gets home from school…

It’s just that kind of I’m-the-mom-of-an-autistic-teenager sort of day…

Everybody conga!!!

J recognizes the joys of Thursday evening.  True to form, the ice cream truck showed up shortly after seven.  Dada and I looked like overeager bunnies running out to greet it…we were faster than the neighborhood kids and didn’t have to stand in line.  No, we didn’t say neener-neener or stick our tongues out at them…no need…by the time they arrived with their dollar bills in hand, we had the first two things we’d ordered and I was walking back home to where J and TGG were waiting.

These are the moments that we remember long after summer is over.  J sitting on the deck eating his cup of ice cream while listening to music and giggling.  TGG squatting near his brother, looking all of five years old in spite of the facial hair, tattoo and earrings…all because he got a chocolate soft-serve cone.  Nothing rewinds the clock momentarily like something we loved in our childhood welcomed with the same enthusiasm.  Anton Ego’s sudden childhood memory while tasting the meal Remy has cooked for him in Ratatouille comes to mind…

Thursday also means no school on Friday, and J sat outside until past nine o’clock.  He was very happy out there…and “sat” is merely a way of saying he stayed outside because we could see him dancing from one side of the deck to the other.  At one point, we couldn’t stop laughing because, with the door closed, we couldn’t hear music, but J seemed to be channeling Betty Garrett’s conga line -when the whole Brazilian Navy follows her home- from My Sister Eileen.  That J’s dancing and leaping were punctuated with giggles and squeals of joy was quite enjoyable.  Of course, we had to pretend like we couldn’t see him, or -at least- like we were not paying close attention…otherwise, he would have stopped out of sheer self-consciousness.

It was already eleven P.M. when J called it a night, and he didn’t rise until after 7 this morning.  It’s been go-go-go since then.  We have worked on a small pile of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, taken out the trash and, when the sun was not yet biting too hard, we went outside and watered our plants.  While we were on the deck, a neighbor walked by with her basset hound puppy, and J seemed to be paying close attention to the less-threatening looking dog he’s seen around the neighborhood in a while.

A little before eleven this morning, we re-arranged his patio furniture.  J loves seeing furniture placed in different manner from time to time.  This seems to have worked quite well.  From where he is sitting, we can see each other and this has lessened the instances of him coming up to the sliding glass door, pressing his nose against it and, with a loud giggle, instructing me to remain seated.

Tomorrow temperatures are supposed to soar, so we’re thinking of leaving for Farmers’ Market much earlier than usual and being home by nine so we can take J for his swim.  Perhaps TGG will want to take him to see The Amazing Spiderman or, heaven help us, the Katy Perry concert movie.  Today while we were running, we had Katy singing Firework, and J was so happy and so into it that I was glad I’d turned off the ceiling fans.  His arms enthusiastically up in the air as he jumped up and down to the music would have been too close to the blades.  Granted, the harm these things can cause is minimal because the blades are made of compressed sawdust; I do worry that he might bump his hand and then be forevermore scared of ceiling fans, but I also worry that -with his large, powerful hands- J will accidentally tear off the fan and we’ll (to quote Ricky Ricardo) “some ‘splainin’ to do” at the office.

Speaking of which…

Since Wednesday was a holiday, the management office for the complex opened yesterday morning and closed at noon.  J went to school, came home, and then -at around three- wanted to go check the mail.  Once down there, he wanted to visit the office for the same thing he goes every day (to paraphrase The Brain) CANDY!  Well, THAT was an interesting bout of negotiation between us.  J was absolutely refusing to budge, even though I showed him that the manager’s car wasn’t there, and I told him -quite clearly- that the office was closed.

And that’s when things got testy…

I have never owned a mule, but I know how stubborn they can be.  I know this, mainly, because my great-grandfather often told me I reminded him a mule he’d owned sometime around 1910.  He was very descriptive about this animal, and even though none of my aunts recalled the existence of this animal, he would refer to this mule whenever one of us seemed to be disinclined to listen “to reason.”  Yesterday, as I tried to negotiate walking home with uncooperative J (look for the new Mattel inaction figure coming soon to a toy department near you,) I could hear my great-grandfather saying “just wait ’til you’re trying to get someone to do what you want them to do…just wait!”  Ah…another ancestral curse takes effect…woo hoo!

It got ugly.  And by “it got ugly” I mean that I put my foot down, firmly, and took away J’s hats and Slinky because -surprise, surprise- he was trying to intimidate me with head-banging and Slinky-swinging.  Yeah…really.  I maneuvered him to the side of the road (where no cars could get to him) and said -in a low, even and very patient tone, mind you- “you cannot get candy because the office is closed.  You are walking home now, quietly, and without your hats or Slinky.  Period.”  I think he was tempted to stick his tongue out or flip me the bird, but he controlled himself.  Halfway home he said, quite humbly, I WANT MY HAT AND SLINKY PLEASE, and I slowed down to tell him “we do NOT throw tantrums when we don’t get what we want.”  I handed him the hats and Slinky back.  End of story.

After forty-five minutes of mild sulking on his part, and reinforcement of the lesson on mine, I gave J the same amount of candy he would have retrieved from the office.  He seemed a little sad that he’d been so stubborn, but I told him all he has to do is listen more carefully…

It’s quite obvious that he recovered from our little spat.  That’s what the conga means, after all…

And, inevitably, a Monday follows the weekend’s bliss…

I’m pretty sure Cat Stevens didn’t write Morning Has Broken on a Monday morning.  Maybe on a Friday, almost certainly on a Saturday, but I’m pretty convinced he did it on a Sunday.  Regardless of the beauty of a Monday morning’s dawn, there is a quality to this first work-day of the week that doesn’t inspire anything but the long litany of less-than-happy titles and lyrics: Manic Monday, I Don’t Like Mondays, Monday, Monday and last, but most definitely not least, Rainy Days and Mondays.  If on a Monday morning the percolator doesn’t explode, the toaster doesn’t spontaneously combust (without even being plugged in,) the trash man doesn’t leave a bigger mess than he found in the dumpster area, we feel like we’ve already part-way succeeded in starting the week right.  J started the outdoor time today with Diana Krall singing You Couldn’t Be Cuter and some of the Monday-ness of the morning was nullified.

I suppose it is needless to say that J had the chores done before he stepped out to claim his spot on the deck.  The cats got out before he did because they fit through a small opening we leave for them when Dada comes downstairs to search for the cereal.  Our oldest cat, the toothless, blind wonder, climbs on the cheap plastic chair that J doesn’t use and they spend the day in companionable silence.  From time to time, I admit, I will go outside and check if the feline still breathes, and J peers over the table trying to reassure himself that he’s not hanging out with a dead kitty.

The neighborhood boys, all younger than J, have taken to parading past our deck several times each afternoon.  The wave of children is punctuated with loud hellos emitted purely to get J to say hello back.  J has been patient so far, but all these greetings might get to him at one point or another.  It is, after all, the same procession of kids repeating the cycle shortly after they’ve completed it the previous time.  J’s solution to this, I’m sure, will be closing his eyes or running inside when he hears them approaching.  Hopefully, they will not stop and insist on the greeting until they get a response should he opt for pretending he’s napping.  This trait of J’s is probably hereditary; I often witnessed his paternal great-great-great grandfather developing a rather profound deafness or a deep sleep as Jehova’s Witnesses approached the gate and started calling out to him.  Standing inside, I’d whisper through the window “grandpa?  Aren’t you going to open the gate???”  A few times I thought he was truly asleep or couldn’t hear them, but then I realized he’d let out a low laugh as they walked away and would resume his alert and relaxed position.  One shouldn’t, he used to say, be subjected to unwanted conversation past the most basic pleasantries.  J, never having met this man, seems to be imbued with the same kind of impatience with excessive socializing.

Thank goodness, though, J seems to be more willing to patience with me.  I say this because I grumble quite a bit as he encourages (read: drags me along) to complete my morning routine.  I’ve asked my husband to prepare the coffee earlier so that it will have reached the right temperature for drinking sooner, that way I won’t be forced to either down it too quickly and too hot for my taste, or to give up and not have all of it, while J taps his foot and points, insistently, at the first order of business as per the board.  The temptation to put a timer on myself is increasingly appealing.

Today, J exercised his patience quite a bit.  First, I put him through the indignity of standing on the Wii board and weighing him while the squeaky voice chanted “Measuring!  Measuring!  Measuring!”  At least he’s lost five pounds, which is a huge improvement and basically the result of sweating while he sits outdoors and eating less because his mother is so mean that she guards the snack box like it holds the Holy Grail.  Today we ran (if that’s what you can call what J does,) and did some yoga exercises.  The sight of J trying to do the Warrior Pose is interesting; as we stood there, posing our fannies off, the thought came to mind “huh!  I have NEVER watched Kung Fu Panda!!!” and I turned to J and asked him if he has that movie.  The glare he directed at me was part “you’re breaking my concentration, lady” and part “excuse me???  Are you implying I remind you of Po the Panda?  Next thing you know you’ll be saying I remind you of Chien-Po in Mulan when we all know I’m a lot more like Yao.”

I had to atone for my Kung Fu Panda reference by playing some Katy Perry for him.  J will, of course, pretend like he’s not in the mood to dance along to the music, but he then gets into it and earns his lunch.  Yes, movement of a sustained sort with some degree of effort and out-of-the-ordinary commitment is now a requirement for lunch and dinner.  At least a walk, I tell J, and he gives in because he knows it’s going to require as much effort on my part as it will on his.  If J is carrying unnecessary weight around, I am carrying accumulated years, and the lack of consideration I showed my knees and ankles when I was younger now comes back to bite me with a vengeance.  I don’t know how celebrities stay obsessed with their weight and looks when I barely have the energy to calculate if a 90 calorie brownie will be more satisfying than a 130 calorie pack of popcorn.

We are still adjusting in some areas and fully adjusted (dead-set in our ways is more like it) in others.  Summer seems to be chugging along satisfactorily.  So far, we are pleased and comfortable, and J seems to be enjoying the pace he has set for himself and for the rest of us.

Not bad…not bad at all!

Snow White and the J-man…

Early this morning, J insisted on several very specific things: that TGG’s car be parked in the garage and Dada’s car be left with easy access to the road, and that we not dilly-dally.  The board stated, quite clearly, that we had places to go and things to do.  This kid has a future as a tour guide, a drill instructor or a schedule compliance manager.  We made it to the Farmers’ Market before nine in the morning.  The only thing J didn’t like about our early arrival was the presence of the early-morning contingent of the Twilight Bark; dogs in every size and degree of furriness surrounded him…Indiana Jones took the wall-to-wall snakes in the Well of Souls with a little more composure.

We navigated.  We successfully navigated in spite of the sudden appearance, here and there, of canines of every size.  Oddly enough, it was the dachshund (low to the ground and concealed my a sea of human legs) that gave him most pause.  The West Highland Terrier startled J, but we found a safe and dog-less area where we could observe the “enemy” without a blind spot.

Our mission was accomplished: big, luscious, juicy organic tomatoes were purchased; Havarti was acquired (last week we’d been denied this pleasure by our late arrival,) and FINALLY a beekeeper was selling his wares.  A few more steps and we got bread and a cinnamon roll from the stand-alone bakery.  All this, thank you, before even nine-thirty in the morning.

The library was next.  The librarian now recognizes J and smiles at him quite kindly.  He seldom borrows anything, but he stands happily in front of the VHS tapes that he can’t watch at home, but which remind him of his youth.  I know…to us it was yesterday, to him it was many appliances (and much technology) ago.  As he approaches the desk at the end of our visit, he has the same happily nostalgic look that old men have when they run into the first pretty girl they kissed…there is no longing, but the memory still pleases them.

Cheese doesn’t wait patiently in the car so we drove home and dropped our purchases off.  The plan for the morning included the Farmers’ Market, the library, taking our recycling to the bins at the mall, going to the movies and then having some lunch.  Car loaded up with plastic and cardboard (which reduce our trash to virtually nothing!,) we headed out to the movies.  I had signed to J “Snow White” and he was excited at the prospect; the schedule, thank goodness, was being followed to the letter…

A voice floated from the backseat of the van, rising over the music being piped through the speakers.  “What did he say?,” my husband asked me.  It’s not that he doesn’t understand J; we have simply reached that age where our hearing isn’t what it used to be, especially when it has to compete with Pink Floyd.  The expanding hum of the music made me wonder if Id’ heard right, so I turned to J and asked: “what was that, J???”  GOING TO GET FOOD?????  He said that, yes, spontaneously and with the lilt of the question mark at the end.  J, sitting in the back of the van and aware of the general plan, had decided to float a change in order.

A parent who has never experienced the languor of an autistic child who seems uninvested in the world around him/her cannot possibly imagine how good that GOING TO GET FOOD????? felt.  It is inevitable that we will be humorous about it, that one of us will say “gee, J, it was so much easier to stick to a schedule when you didn’t say anything!”  The charm and novelty of J’s newfound desire to make himself heard and understood isn’t wearing off.  Sometimes we think it might, but, nah, not happening.  Rather than lunch, my friends, we stopped for breakfast, and J happily ordered a Number 3 with a soda, enthusiastically pointing to the Coca Cola sign.  Yes, we let him have his soda…he’s done for the day.  J then ate his biscuit sandwich with egg, cheese and bacon by deconstructing it and using a fork, that is a good day right there.

We went to the movies and watched Snow White and The Huntsman.  This is the first “grown-up” movie J has gone to see at the theater.  By “grown-up” I mean not animated in any way.  It is perfectly suited for his age group, but we’d never risked taking him for fear he would be bored and there would go the significant amount of money going to the movies means these days.  Even when the popcorn had been consumed (before we reached the half-way point in the movie,) J sat and watched.  He had smiled at the previews of Katy Perry’s concert movie; he had enjoyed the trailer for Pixar’s Brave.  When the movie started, J watched with a smile; perhaps it was Charlize Theron’s gorgeous face or perhaps it was Kristen Stewart beautiful eyes, but J was happy and interested.  He loved the dwarves…I think he recognized Bob Hoskins’ voice from Roger Rabbit because he sat up and squinted at the screen.  He loves the special effects.  He enjoyed the music.  We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen!!!!

Our trip to the movies was successful, and as we walked out of the theater J stood looking at Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman appreciatively.  “Oh, yeah, we’ll come to see that, J!,” Dada said.  Then my husband leaned over and said “do you think he now wonders when we’ll bring him to a movie with boobs in it???”   I couldn’t help laughing.  I’m sure the thought crossed J’s mind when Kristen Stewart’s dress drooped from her shoulders, and I could almost hear him thinking “turn around, turn around, turn around, please, please, please!!!!” when Charlize Theron took her robe off to walk into a tub.  Alas, he was foiled this time…but, like with any normal seventeen year-0ld, this state won’t last for long.

J is happy.  J has seen a whole new world open to him at the movie theater.  I could take him to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I think that would ruin the experience for him…he’s not ready for movies about “old people,” he wants to watch what his friends at school, his age-group is watching.

TGG will be so relieved!  They can now go gaze lovingly at Anne Hathaway together.  And they can have some popcorn, too…one is never so grown-up that one can skip popcorn.

Falling in love in the Entertainment Section at the department store

The call usually goes: J!!!!!  Food!!!!!!  And down the stairs J bounces, ready to join the rest of the family for the evening meal.  This evening, for reasons I will soon explain, TGG opted for Dinnertime, Mr. President!!!!  We giggled and told him to stop…  Thankfully, the reference flew over J’s head and we had to go get him.

The drill is this: J buys a DVD, brings it home, goes through the plastic wrapping in six seconds flat, retrieves the disc and tosses the package.  We have been doing it this way for the past few years.  We ALWAYS check to make sure it’s not a two-disc package.

This evening the drill didn’t go as expected.  Our son bought a movie (unprompted) and brought it home; once here, he headed straight to his room and -two and a half hours later- was found sitting on his bed with the box for the movie (the disc had been extracted) and a smile on his face.

Behold, please, the power of Marilyn Monroe…or, in this particular case, Michelle Williams playing the role of Marilyn Monroe.  J homed in on that DVD box at the store like a heat-seeking missile.  The girl from Victorious had left him cold.  His beloved Selena Gomez has been found out: she’s dating Justin Bieber and this has dropped her in the rankings.  He is all-set with Katy Perry and her firework-shooting brassiere.  Michelle Williams, wistfully looking up while made up to resemble Marilyn Monroe, was like a mermaid calling out to him…before I realized what was happening, My Week With Marilyn was in the shopping cart and J was dragging me out of the movie section and towards the registers.

On the drive home, my husband made the point that I had possibly steered J in that direction.  I gave him a look…uh, no, I did not.  Come on, he said, maybe a little nudge?  I shook my head.  I will be proven absolutely innocent of this charge, sir, said I.  He laughed and said, in the usual tone he uses when he thinks I’m being silly, “I’m sure.”

Two and a half hours later, I was vindicated.  J was sitting on his bed, with an empty movie box, and he was not particularly amused when we picked it up to check if the DVD was still in it.  I turned towards my husband who promptly motored down the hallway to laugh away from his son’s line of vision.

I motioned for J to follow me, and he came into my room where I found the latest Vanity Fair.  There’s the actual Marilyn, on the cover.  I handed it to him and he looked up at me, slightly confused.  He seemed to be wondering why I’d show him this in-color photograph.  I told my husband to bring the movie box and J, in a slight panic, ran to his room and loudly complained because he assumed we were going to toss it in the trash, as is usually done by himself.  I grabbed the box gently and put it next to the magazine: this lady (I pointed to the box) is made to look like this lady (I pointed to Marilyn Monroe’s smiling face.)  J looked at me, and at both pictures.  I leafed through the magazine and showed him the pictures in the feature article; there is Marilyn Monroe, scantily clad or covered with a towel, looking healthier and more vibrant than one would expect from someone who shortly thereafter would cease to be.  J peered at her with interest, and looked at the movie box again.


As I returned the magazine to the basket where we keep the most current issues of all we read, I told J “here she is, if you want to borrow her.”  He stopped, made a mental note of the location and, hugging Michelle-Marilyn tightly, returned to his room.

I don’t know if it’s Marilyn Monroe he’s interested in; perhaps it is that beautifully wistful look in Michelle Williams’ already lovely face that spoke to him.  Either way, I think it’s the first time that J chooses a movie that is not in the kids’ section and that has no “kid appeal” to it…and what is even more fascinating is that it’s not a movie with special effects, with explosions, with machines…it’s just a movie that called out to him with a lovely face, looking up, up, up and dreamily…

Is this what “love at first sight” really is?  Having experienced it myself many, many, many years ago…well, it kinda seems like it…kinda…  Maybe it’ll only last ’til he sees the actual Marilyn shimmying while playing the ukelele.  That worked pretty well for TGG, but his first “movie love” is still split between Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins and Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment.  Yes, he’s seen them as they’ve aged…he still thinks they’re gorgeous…and they’re still Mary and Miss Kubelik to him.

Of course, TGG had to tease with the Mr. President thing, and we simply reminded him of how he used to sigh whenever Julie Andrews said “Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.”  My husband laughed at that…I reminded him of Miss Emma Peel.  Before anyone could say anything about my youthful romantic notions I ‘fessed up to Moshe Dayan (no finger pointing, please.)

We all grow so fast, don’t we?