Wild horses with social graces

“Chance is the first step you take, luck is what comes afterward.”
― Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife

A year ago, in the heels of J’s dental saga, we implemented the “count between bites” system for his meals.  We were, at that time, pretty fed up with J’s habit of inhaling his food like Monstro the Whale from Pinocchio.  Indigestion by proxy was a problem for us; it’s hard to consume a meal pleasurably when you witness the same exact food playing the part of the bird in a scenario that involves a plane engine.

There is no denying that, since the year of the meltdowns, J had improved significantly in many ways.  By the same token, there is no denying that, from circa that time, we had developed all these defense mechanisms that often involved relenting, negotiating, and downright surrendering.  Little by little we gained territory, but food was an issue…a major one.  Of the 33.5 pounds of cheese consumed per capita in the US each year, J was consuming his share and ours.  Not only that, J ate more ramen noodle than any college student on a budget has consumed in the history of ramen noodle as a college student diet staple.

It is a well-documented fact that we can now take J to eat at restaurants, and he paces himself instead of trying to imitate the people who gorge on hot dogs and pies just to prove that they can.   That we can now take him to restaurants that don’t have a mascot, and that don’t serve one of a very limited list of items J will eat is nothing short of a wonder.  A few nights ago Dada and I went to have Thai food, just the two of us; still in the “let’s look at the menu” stage, Dada asked “do you want to order an appetizer?”  Without missing a beat we said in unison: calamari…J’s not here to bogard them!!!

We now have in our midst a version of J that will try any green food item you put in front of him. Orange items he will smell to see if they are appealing.  Cauliflower will be eaten regardless of how it’s prepared.  Yesterday morning (in one of my Little Engine That Could moments) I took left-over mashed potatoes, pureed carrots, wheat germ, an egg white, and some fresh herbs and concocted what I hoped would pass for some sort of pancake.  J ate two…because there were only two left.  His omelet had fresh spinach leaves, a small amount of cheese, and egg whites…he ate it with enthusiasm and making his nom-nom-NOM sound.  He savored every bite…I know this because I was savoring my breakfast, and because pieces by Telemann, Boccherini, Mozart, Schubert and Haydn played while J ate.  The same person who considered it torture to wash his hands while singing the Alphabet Song now takes his time eating, savoring, enjoying, and not questioning what I put on his plate.

A year is not such a long time.  In 365 days we have gone from wondering HOW to get J to eat better, less, more prudently, more calmly to watching J start on vegetables, move to meat, and eat the small amount of carbs we put on his plate.  We have gone from nearly 290 pounds to a hair over 250, and every pair of shorts that required a belt by the end of the day now requires a belt as soon as it’s put on, fresh from the dryer.  The excitement that was reserved for Pringles, mac and cheese, Ramen noodle and Cheez-Its is now clearly visible when Yogurt Time rolls around and the home-made pear chips are handed to him, or when it’s hummus and pita chip for an afternoon snack.  The last time that J ate Ramen noodle was January 9th, if memory serves…for someone who HAD to have Ramen noodle for breakfast to quit cold-turkey and be OK with never eating that again…well…call me Betty Ford, please.  I think J’s been cured of the hyper-salty, waxy-noodle addiction he harbored and clung to quite stubbornly.

We have the same exact kid in our home, but he’s a lot healthier and (we think) a lot happier.  He has discovered that strange looking things he discounted when we presented them to him can be tasty.  He has discovered that it’s ok to like things that we used to refuse flatly without giving them a chance.  He has discovered that cheese can be delicious even when we’re not single-handedly consuming the 33.5 pounds per capita per year…four times over.  J has discovered that not everything has to be salty or sweet to be delicious, and that a handful of chips can be just as satisfying as a huge bowl full of them.  J has learned that we are not as crazy as he thought we were, and that going to the gym for an hour every afternoon and actually getting on the machines and sweating can be very satisfying.

On Saturday morning, we did the usual rounds: library, market…you know the drill by now.  For the first time in his life, J went to a Dairy Queen.  We ordered a hot fudge sundae for him, a small one.  As we sipped our Orange Julius-es, J sat there basking in the glow of the little plastic cup with just enough ice cream and hot fudge to represent a sweet treat.  He was happy; he clapped and giggled quite joyfully, and we enjoyed watching his slowly work his way through the sundae.

A year ago we started counting between bites, and we started reducing J’s medication.  A year later, with some other adjustments, we are in an entirely different stage of J’s life and development.  Next Monday we go back to the psych, and we start discussing the next reduction in dosage; we also get another weigh-in, and we talk about how those little changes have altered the way J handles the outside world.  He hasn’t changed…he’s very much, and unequivocally the same person he was last June, but that person will now eat at, and behave and enjoy, dining experiences that were far beyond our expectations.

If you see him eating a sundae, though, you can see he’s still there, loving every spoonful of the “wrong” foods…but now he knows how to wait, and how to stop.

 

 

 

J < 260

Imagine our surprise when, after a few days of inactivity and laziness due to his bout with the pesky common cold, we weighed J and he rang in at under 260 pounds (or 117 kg.)  Here we were, after giving him a rather long-winded but kind speech about falling back into his old habits (because he wanted Pringles, and I said “ok, yes, but…”,) ready to go See????  You can’t go back to resorting to food for entertainment because THIS is what happens…and the Wii (an apparatus that has, in fact, been very accurate with J’s weight) made us look like overreacting ninnies…

Serves us right.

We seem to have developed a certain degree of the anxiety we didn’t want to develop regarding J’s weight loss.  We started out just wanting him to lose weight in a “change your lifestyle” sort of way, and we panicked because he had a cold and had some comfort food, and didn’t exercise since Thursday.  Shame on us.  That was unfair and pretty silly…

J has learned to eat right.  He still gets his little luxuries, but he no longer fights about them, and he knows when he’s had his proper serving size.  A few months ago it would have been impossible for me to negotiate with J, and now it’s par for the course.  For example: he wanted his pasta with cheddar cheese today, but he wasn’t interested in having the cheese sauce I make with veggie broth and pumpkin…he wanted his pasta straight up with the cheddar cheese, and I served him a small amount of cheese, a small amount of pasta and plenty of leftover roast chicken.  When he had three forkfuls of pasta left, the cheese was basically gone, and he moved to ask for more.  Flashback to October and this would have been a long, drawn-out argument with an intractable, stubborn individual.  Today it played completely different: J, if I’d made the sauce, you’d have had better coverage with the cheese, but since you wanted just the shredded, that’s all you’re getting.  He looked at his plate, considered what I was saying, sighed and said THANK YOU before finishing his pasta.

Why wouldn’t he want the pumpkin sauce???  Well…for the same reason that I sometimes want Catalina dressing on my salad rather than a simple vinaigrette; it just wasn’t what he wanted at the time!  This is what we have to keep reminding ourselves: J is not that different from us when it comes to food.  Eating right is not a struggle, but it also isn’t something that he will want to do without fail. We all want the cookie or the ice cream from time to time; we want butter, chips or French fries.  The trick is to just not make them the only thing we eat.  If they sneak in there among the good, healthy stuff then we’re going in the right direction…and J, I’m happy to report, is definitely on the right track.

Now that we know that J uses the band-aids for comfort we can better gauge what his day will be like.  There are mornings when it’s easy to tell that he’s preparing himself for a slightly more emotionally hectic day at school.  It is the equivalent of our having that second cup of coffee before we tackle a long to-do list at home or at work.  That J can now recognize this, and that he understands we are supporting him and letting him ride out his displeasure with the little things that make life more difficult, is an awesome development.  J used to get frustrated because, as people tend to do from time to time, he thought he was in this alone, that no one understood he was struggling with people and situations that irritate him.

I like to think that we have proactively contributed to this new way of living that J has adopted.  I think, however, that it is as much feeling our support and accepting our guidance as it is the natural course of maturing that every individual ultimately follows.  Why J has been more willing to listen and be guided than TGG was at the same age is anyone’s guess.  Maybe we are each wired differently in that department?  At the age of 19 TGG knew everything.  I kid you not…TGG was the wisest, most-knowing and knowledgeable individual on the face of the Earth.  That this was in his own mind and not perceived by the rest of us mortals is completely beside the point.  When the fall came, immediately after pride because that’s how it’s timed, TGG’s newfound humility was nowhere near as malleable as J’s.  For every NO, J has resisted, but he has learned from the times we’ve said YES…TGG has, as a rule, been pretty obstinate in this department.  If we had to describe them in some way, TGG would be the happiest happy-go-lucky Eeyore ever known to man, and J would be the most observant and serious Tigger.  That Dada and I haven’t developed a drinking problem is a minor miracle…

Since we decided, with the doctors’ encouragement and the mutual support we provide each other, to grab the proverbial bull by the horns, we seem to be inching forward with a little less melodrama.  This morning I spent the better part of two hours calling the child support agency back home, the local child support agency, and the Social Security Administration and everything I heard was, to put it mildly, contradictory, frustrating, confusing and overwhelming.  J walked in and out of our office area (oh, it’s a snow day, people…again…for three inches of snow…so…yeah…) without once getting the impression that I was near a meltdown.  I was, I was definitely near meltdown point, and -for the first time in a long time, I decided to take it as yet another string of administrative messes that won’t be easily untangled, and will -ultimately- take a very long, long time, and won’t be untangled to satisfaction regardless of how much effort we put into this.

If J can, with two band-aids, gird his loins for a rough and frustrating interaction at school then so can I.  Maybe it’s because of all the vegetables, but I’m calmer…even when I don’t seem to be.  Maybe it’s because of the fact that we’re all getting enough fiber, and drinking plenty of water.  Maybe we’re all just getting older and figuring things out.  Maybe TGG’s obstinate nature is inherited and, of all the people in this household, I have been slowest to pare off that layer in spite of my strong conviction that I don’t have that layer…maybe I’m just repurposing that layer, not really shedding it…

But the thing is that J, with his occasional serving of Pringles and the laziness that came attached to his recent grappling with the common cold, continues to slowly shed the weight that had been impeding so many things for him.  And, of course, even though his abdomen is still rather large, I know it’s because of the med, and I know that once we go down another .25 milligram, it’ll get better.

That’s the thing…it’s all getting better.  Little by little.  Some days we don’t notice it.  Some days we don’t see it.  Some days we can’t believe it…but it’s happening.  And even though it snowed last night, and Kierkegaard called this morning, Spring is just around the corner…two days, twenty-one hours and counting…

 

 

The Christmas Tree has left the building…

Christmas was a chore this year…  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t the easiest Christmas ever either.  J is desperate to go back to school, and until he saw BACKPACK and BUS on his board for next week, he was pretty annoying.  When I say that I mean that he was up at 5 in the morning calling out for COFFEE when we were all just ready to keep sleeping for another hour and a half.  No sooner did I put BACKPACK and BUS on the board last night than we got to sleep in until 8:30 today…  Call it a belated Christmas miracle…we’re taking it as such…

Of course, it helped that last night J got to have some serious hang-out time with TGG.  They went to see Frozen.  They got to eat popcorn.  They went to Five Guys (where J is recognized, for crying out loud, and his order is anticipated because, well, he orders the same thing every single time.)  By the time they got home, the surly kid who hates being at home was chirping happily and we (the mean grown-ups who make his life oh-so-tedious) were pleased to see the results of a little brother-bonding, AND “mom-and-dad alone time.”  It was a win-win situation all around.  No complaints here.

The reason for Christmas being a chore was, mainly, the early start to J’s vacation time.  Dada and I had planned a day off together to relax before the onslaught of togetherness and that didn’t happen, so we were basically thrown into vacation mode without that brief respite we’d hoped for, and J was not particularly pleased with this development either.  We have baked, crafted, hung-out, read stories, and so forth even more than we would want, and J is ready for Thursday and the start of the school’s second semester.

On the plus side: yogurt continues to be a daily thing; J actually sat down and had a celebratory lunch with two people he knows, but who aren’t “family” without so much as a whimper, and Katy Perry continues to be a Prime Mover in his exercise routine.  Today I bought him a pair of “aspirational pants;” that is a smaller size in a style he likes so we can work on wearing those without discomfort over the next few months.    Another interesting development?  J (he who thinks we’re annoying) has missed our company enough to sit down and watch (not necessarily in this order) Bill Murray’s Scrooged, Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood and Alastair Sim’s Scrooge…all these while asking to have the same blanket I have thrown over my shoulders shrouding him and actually paying attention to the movie rather than interrupting our viewing of it…  When I say this is a first, I am not hyperbolizing.  When I say we’ve been warmed to the cockles of our heart by this, I’m not kidding at all.

Yes, Christmas was a chore.  It has to be when hot-flashes and Autism are ruling the roost.  But Christmas also brought some unexpected pleasures: J sitting with us to watch movies in the dining area (where WE usually sit,) or in his TV room (where he usually doesn’t let us linger unless a glue gun and felt are involved); J socializing with acquaintances in a way that denotes an approximation of social niceties previously unheard of from him; J enjoying (yes, yes, yes) movies that we’ve bought him on a whim because, hey, who knows what he might think of them…and now we often find him watching Singin’ in the Rain with the same enthusiasm he used to reserve for things like The Muppet Movie.

I am ready for Thursday.  J is ready for Thursday, too.  This has been one long, climatologically-challenged Christmas break (we had temperatures in the high 60s last weekend,) and we’ve been too close for comfort most of the time (because with disrupted plans comes anxiety which, in turn, breeds OCD that leads, inevitably, to irritation and contempt,) but we’ve managed quite nicely…in spite of the odds.

I’ll tell you the best parts of it: J loves Gene Kelly, and beet chips, and yogurt, and cheeses other than Cheddar, and working on his dry-erase workbooks without us looking over his shoulder, and Nutella, and making cakes from scratch and using a mixer that is not powered by electricity, and he now kisses Ms. Zelda even though he still wants her out of his TV room, and he wants Dada to read The Little Red Caboose, but I get to read Miss Spider’s Tea Party, and we’re sure he’ll love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when he gets it for Three Kings’ Day, and he argues about the late afternoon family session of exercising in the garage, and Spring Break is only a few months away, but it doesn’t matter because…because…

It all works out in the end.

It really does.

The holidays ARE a chore.  And we open our gifts and laugh at the odd choices, and discover we’ve grown this year, and we’ve learned more about ourselves…and it’s almost a new year with no dentist visits, tantrums, upheaval, disruption, frustration in it…yet…

And it’s been a good and bad and ugly and good and surprising and fun and miserable holiday season, but we’ve spent it together, and J has figured out that if we say “hey, J, get dressed…we’re going in the car!!!” he can say “WHYYYYYYYY????” in a whiny tone and we’ll laugh and tell TGG about it later.  And “OH MAN!” is J’s favorite new expression, and he says it in different ways depending on what he’s trying to convey…joy, annoyance, frustration, boredom, surprise…  And the Twelve Days were fun, but J wasn’t getting all he wanted, and we’ve got some pretty funny photos of him reacting to everyone else getting cool stuff that -to his mind- trumped whatever he was getting…

Yeah…

Christmas was a chore…a fun one…a memorable one…and the year isn’t quite over yet…is it???

We shall not be moved…no, really…we shan’t…

Last night J tried to get the best of us.  J ended up getting sent up to bed early, and without getting what he was advocating for quite loudly and vigorously.  In fact, half of what J wanted (demanded!) ended up unceremoniously dumped in the garbage.  That he was outraged goes without saying; that he was chagrined is to be expected; that it felt damned good to not give in…priceless!

As we all know, J tends to get bossy from time to time, and he has been freely exercising this bossiness at school, but not at home.  Well, last night he tried it here.  The term “nip it in the bud” came to mind immediately, but we decided to (like the naive fools we can be from time to time) negotiate with our son.  J was requesting DONUTS and it WAS time for his snack so we were in the process of giving him his three mini donuts when he chimed POPCORN!?  We said NO.  Calmly, concisely…NO.  Slap, slap, slap of the hands, and biting of the lip.  Deep breaths were drawn and he was given the option: you can have ONE…either the donuts OR the popcorn, but not both.  So choose.

He seemed to be giving the matter some thought.  After a few moments, J said POPCORN.  Dada took the donuts away, and we pointed J in the direction of the garage-pantry.  When he returned, he handed us the microwavable popcorn and said, quite calmly, DONUTS?  We said NO.  Again “pick one or the other, but most certainly NOT both.”  DONUTS!  And away went the popcorn.  And then POPCORN?!  And so forth until out came the iPad and I had him press POPCORN and then NO DONUTS.  And again on the merry-go-round until he said, with a significant amount of what sounded like finality to us, POPCORN!

No sooner had the machine stopped popping and started beeping it’s I’m done announcement that J, bucket of popcorn in hand, said DONUTS!  My eye started twitching.  Dada’s neck tightened up.  No, you’re finished.  STOMP STOMP, bite lip, slap hands, DONUTS!  And that’s when I said NEITHER, and into the trash can the popcorn went.

Outrage.  Disbelief.  A gesture that said MY HUMAN RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED!  Another series of STOMP STOMP and biting of the lip and slapping of hands.  And then, with all the calm that I could muster under the circumstances (and before the hot flashes started) I announced “J you are FINISHED, and now you’re taking your shower and GOING TO BED!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Outrage!!!  Disbelief!!!  Multiple exclamation points!!!!  If I’d kicked a kitten J wouldn’t have been so upset.  If I’d plucked the feathers off a baby bird, J wouldn’t have been so offended.  But since I threw away his popcorn and then sent him to bed AT NINE O’CLOCK!!! he was simply aghast.

To be honest, I was aghast, too.  Dada’s jaw almost hit the floor.  TGG was so shaken that he cleaned the kitchen and left it spotless before going to bed.  J…J just shook his head and gave me a glare that said Et tu, Brute????  When he requested, like a prisoner about to be led to the gallows, a bedtime story, I steeled my heart and said NO, you’ve been terribly rude, and there’s no story tonight.  I could sense that, inwardly at least, he was flipping me the bird…

By 9:30, the poor victim of my parenting was in his room with the lights out, and we could hear his deep voice calling out YELLOW?  BUS?  SCHOOL?  Yes, we said, you are going to school in the yellow bus tomorrow morning, but right now you’re just going to bed.  By the time the clock struck 10:30 and I had disconnected the food dehydrator and packed away the pear and apple chips for J’s snack, I was so tuckered out that I nearly fell asleep while undressing.  I went to bed in a state of exhausted turmoil, and I was still in a state of exhausted turmoil when I woke up at 2:50 a.m. sensing that Dada was awake by my side.  “Can you hear that???”  Huh?  What?  “One of the smoke detectors is chirping like when it needs a new battery.”  The mobilization that ensued was the equivalent of trying to stop a dam from bursting when you don’t even know where the hole is…through our head paraded the vision of the smoke detectors going berserk at that hour, waking J and TGG up, and provoking a scene of such chaos and catastrophe that cats would get stepped on, ankles would get twisted trying to reach equipment so that we could “hush” it, and so forth…

Dada, armed with a flashlight, took a turn about the house and came back announcing it was the kitchen detector that was chirping, and saying he wasn’t going to mess with it until the sun came up…less risk of generating a chaotic scene that way.  “Oh, and, by the way, J is totally awake in his room…his light is on, and he’s chattering away in there.”  Very calmly, channeling Robert Redford’s Denys Finch-Hatton in Out of Africa, I told Dada to slowly crawl into bed while not losing sight of the hallway, just in case J turned on the light as he left his room.  It was 3:15 in the morning, and we could hear, alternating, the chirping of the needy smoke detector and J’s happy giggling.  Obviously, our child had completely forgotten that he had been sent to bed for misbehaving…obviously, neither one of us was going to get up and remind him of this fact even as we told him to turn off his light and go back to sleep.

We’ve survived the day, of course.  We always do.  Somehow.  And J seems more willing to cooperate today…seems being the operative word.  Today I made whole-wheat crepes with olive oil and they’re tasty…I gave him a taste and he was very happy.  He enjoyed his two hard-boiled eggs.  Didn’t like the multigrain bread quite as much, but ate all the pear chips I made yesterday…and he’s operating on a much-reduced snack box…

It might be a long night.  The jury’s still out on that one…we’ll see…

Tumbling into Christmas…

Ah, it’s here…December!  We couldn’t have stopped it even if we’d tried, and we couldn’t jump off before we arrived at it either.  We are, inevitably, approaching Christmas, Twelve Days, the end of 2013, and all the brouhaha that comes with it…

We escaped getting a Christmas tree on Saturday by barely a hair.  I made the mistake of pointing them out to J at the grocery store, and it took quite a bit of negotiating to come home without one, and another valiant bit of masterful bribing to not go back for one on Sunday.  Hence, ladies and gentlemen, the presence of what looks like a very inept reproduction of Moses’ burning bush in a corner of J’s TV room, and the Mighty Inflatable Santa Snoopy looming happily in the other.

I am a firm believer in not letting the tree dry out and become a fire hazard for weeks before it’s needed.  Because the First Day is coming up on the thirteenth, and that is a Friday, we are getting our tree prematurely…on the 8th.  To me that’s an eternity of having a stick with pine needles in the living room.  The cats get more adventurous the longer it stands there; it requires daily watering to be done by, guess who???, yours truly.  Because of the lack of cooperation the calendar is offering this year (it’s all the calendar’s fault, of course,) I will be saddled with caring for a tree for 18 solid days.  I would rather stick to the 14-day rule, but it’s not possible.

I did draw the line, however, at bringing the thing into the house on the last day of November, or the first day of December.  I’ve barely caught my breath after eating too much turkey, cranberry sauce, etc., and I’m simply not yet limber enough to deal with any fir of any ilk.  CRI-CRI?  No.  CRI-CRI?  No.  CRI-CRI?  No.  To his credit, J didn’t hand-slap, whine, squeal, squeak, holler, raise his voice, bonk his head, stomp his foot, or anything of the sort.  He simply said CRI-CRI until I was ready to cancel Christmas altogether.  Instead, I took a deep breath and channeled my inner Henry Kissinger.  “J, it’s too soon for the WHOLE HOUSE to be in Christmas mode, but your TV room can be Christmas-ified.”  (I know that’s not a word, but it just tumbled out that way.)

When we got home, he had lunch as calmly as can be expected when one’s been told that there are crates full of Christmas decorations one can spelunk through.  And, after running through the chore list, he simply grabbed the Charlie Brown Christmas tree (a glorified stick with maybe five branches, a wood base and some rather spindly plastic pine needles licensed to be part of the Peanuts merchandise extravaganza,) some lights, and -of course- Santa Snoopy and his cord, and some Christmas-themed Peanuts figurines…  Lights, lest we forget, are essential for this particular endeavor so J grabbed a string of lights that looked harmless enough.

Half an hour later, we had set up two corners of the TV room with J’s CRI-CRI stuff.  Unless you look very closely, there is absolutely NO WAY you will be able to see the tree under all 300 lights that are attached to the not-quite-harmless string.  The tree is engulfed, overwhelmed, camouflaged, drowning in colorful lights, and that’s just how J likes it, thank you.  When it’s not plugged in, the corner simply looks like a place where someone was untangling a string of lights and, suddenly and inexplicable, gave up the task with no attempt to make it more orderly.

I’ve bought us a week.  That’s all we’re getting.  On Sunday morning, I am sure, J will first say COFFEE until we’re all blue in the face, and then we will be escorted to the family van and, with the battle cry of CRI-CRI!!!, we’ll have to get a Christmas tree…rain, snow, shine…that tree will come into the house and my watering days will begin.

I might as well slowly start to let Christmas creep in, and I am…the wreath is on the door, and I’m working on a paper garland that I saw on my Better Homes and Gardens magazine, but that is turning out as more of a Dali version of the original.  Or a Picasso.  It fits in nicely with the genteel decay style we advocate around here, and it’s more colorful than the one in the magazine because the green card stock paper was on sale, but the white vellum wasn’t.

The other great project this week is altering J’s diet.  The doctor does not want to medicate him because, as suspected, he is NOT diabetic, and we’re going to work with the nutritionist instead.  The suggestion that we’ve been given is the Mediterranean Diet, and the only difficulty we expect is J’s refusal to eat any vegetable or fruit that is recognizable to him.  Yesterday evening Dada and I spent a great deal of time studying cookbooks, trying to find alternatives to disguise what J -on principle- refuses to eat, and making his diet healthier.  The appointment with the nutritionist is on the 10th, but we’re not going to sit on our hands until then…what we’ve read about this diet is what we’re putting into effect (in subtle ways) now…tonight there’s fish for dinner, and there will be walnuts on the “crust” of that fish dish.  Later in the week, I’m making a creamy sauce for pasta with butternut squash.  Since Saturday evening J has been eating home-made banana chips…and he actually announced BANANA when he was midway through his second serving (I only give him ten at a time,) and finished them even though he wasn’t particularly enthused about them.  Today I have pear and apple slices in the dehydrator…

So we’re working on it.  We’re trying to figure this out with the pyramid we printed out, the cookbooks we have on hand, and what we’ve read up on here and there on the internet.  All this while holding back the Christmas surge…

If we’re lucky, we’ll be successful at both.

 

Re-inventing the wheel…re-discovering fire…

J’s meltdowns at school have become a problem.  His teacher, bless her heart, is bound and determined to figure him out, but I can hear in her voice that she is slowly fraying around the edges.  I don’t blame her.  If it sounds horrible over the phone, the wailing and thumping in the background like the cheesy disco song during the tournament in The Karate Kid, it must be even worse in person.

What am I saying “it must be???”  I’ve been there, done that, and suffer from a weird form of PTSD that sends shivers down my spine when I recall the incidents I used to witness.  That poor woman needs a raise, a bottle of wine and a nice vacation in a sandy beach…

Yesterday was a lulu…  In the morning I got a call from the teacher telling me that J was not only unruly and cantankerous (she IS a rather generous spirit,) but was also complaining about his throat.  As he screamed, she said, he gagged as if about to vomit.  When given the iPad to tell us what he was feeling, J decided to go for the gusto: CHOKE CHOKE CALL MY FAMILY CHOKE CHOKE FEVER…all this while wailing in a way that indicated his airway was in no way constricted.

How fast do you think we got him and then headed to Urgent Care????  I think we broke a record.  There we were: Dada chewing his nails and looking as if he needed a shot of whisky; I was on the brink of hyperventilating while having a hot flash…and J as cool as a cucumber and asking to go to the bathroom.  A more ridiculous sight has not been witnessed in the Urgent Care since the last time J complained of some imaginary malady that sent us all running, scrambling, leaping over obstacles like the Keystone Kops.

There was NOTHING wrong with J.  Back home they call it poca vergüenza...very little shame.  Well, he has a galloping case of poca vergüenza.  As soon as we got home (Dada dashing back to the office to deal with the overwhelming load of work he has day after day,) J had the unmitigated gall to declare it A Fun Day.  His mother, who deemed it too early to dig a hole and hide in it, put the kibosh on that notion in a hurry.  There were chores…there was an abundance of NO being bandied about.

At 3 o’clock we marched into the psychiatrist’s office.  The man, finally, earned the not-insignificant fee we pay him.  Ok, he didn’t SOLVE the problem, but at least this time there was plenty of crap to listen to, and we spoke at length.  His conclusion?  J might be going through a period of re-setting and we might witness a regression before we move forward.  “Do you want to go ahead with the next med reduction?”  A chorus of NO replied to that one.

Today wasn’t much better, but we’re determined to figure this out…foolish little souls that we are…

From the moment he came home, I IGNORED the fact that he was behaving like a complete and utter BOOR while I was on the phone with his teacher.  Meekly, he asked for his snacks, and I calmly said “yes, of course, dear…as soon as you vacuum your carpet, dust your shelves and bring the laundry downstairs.”  I didn’t mention head-thumping, wailing, screaming or being an ASS…I’ve just kept him busy since he got home seven hours ago…

I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes, but for the time being I wouldn’t expect unicorns, rainbows or candy canes…  Hopefully, it doesn’t get worse before it gets better because I am -quite frankly- running out of reasons, ideas, and energy to re-invent and re-discover in order to unravel this mystery.  I think I am definitely getting too old for this crap…maybe????  Whether I am or not, it’s back to the drawing board as often as it is needed, as messily as it is required.

The ever-growing laundry pile…

TGG won’t budge.  Neither will I.  I have bypassed his laundry basket several times when working around the house, and I will continue to do so.  J thinks this is amusing.  When TGG gets home from work, we greet each other in the usual affectionate way, but a quick look over my shoulder tells him I haven’t washed a stitch of clothing belonging to him.  J looks from one to the other of us and smiles…

Because I am bound and determined to not jump in and save him from himself, I haven’t even checked if there’s toilet paper in his bathroom.  Don’t worry, there’s a caddy with plenty of extra TP in there, but by now it might be running low.  If TGG needs more, he will have to actually walk down to the garage and find the spot where we store a treasure trove of toilet paper.  I won’t tell him where it is.  I will tell him he needs to look for it.  Dada has said “well, nothing’s stopping him from going to buy some, right?”  I fail to see the downside of this alternative…extra toilet paper at no charge to us…hmmmmm…

We have also stopped worrying about whether we hear him move around upstairs after a certain time each morning.  We know he sets his alarm.  We can hear it blaring all the way down in the dining room.  We also know that there have been times when he has risen from his bed, turned it off, and crawled back in to sleep.  On Monday I sent Dada upstairs to check if he was stirring as we couldn’t hear him walking back and forth from his room to the bathroom.  He was up.  He was also being stealthy so he could go A-HA!!!!! when we slipped back into being “parents” and yelled at him for not getting up.  Since I was definitely not born yesterday, I wasn’t going to fall for that…  J, who doesn’t believe in people lingering in bed, inevitably opens TGG’s door on his way downstairs to leave for school.  The only adjustment we’ve convinced him to make is not leaving the glaring hallway lights on, but there’s no way to talk him out of trying to jostle TGG out of bed.  I can guarantee you we don’t put him up to this tactic.

This is neither all-out war nor cold war.  This is Mother Hen clucking a resounding NO to herself whenever she’s ready to swoop in and treat a chicken hawk as if he still was a baby chick.  This particular chicken hawk is more Henery Hawk than fierce hawk, by the way…

200px-Heneryhawk

 

Every morning I used to ask TGG if he wanted coffee, if he was having breakfast.  I always got a grumbled NO and “it’s too early.”  This morning, in light of a batch of chocolate chip scones I made yesterday, TGG bounced down the stairs asking what was for breakfast.  “You had me at chocolate chip,” he said.  I should put a bag of chocolate chips at the bottom of his laundry basket, at the bottom of the washer and dryer, and in his closet…but only after he has folded clothes and brought them upstairs to put away.

If you think I’m being intractable and unfair, welcome to the club.  TGG agrees with you.  He, after all, has to get his intractability from somewhere.  I don’t want him to merely acquiesce, though.  I want him to understand.  That, perhaps, is the most difficult thing for a parent to achieve.   I think this, among all the others, is our main struggle in the parent/child relationship.

Take, for example, J’s insistence on repeating a phrase or word over and over again until HE is satisfied.  Last night was such a night, my friends.  First we went through a constant repetition of a request for CANDY that was, of course, turned down in the same constantly repetitious way.  Before bed, the phrase was YELLOW BUS, but broken into YELLOW and BUS until we echoed the words.  This pattern usually lasts for about 20 repetitions per night…last night we went well over fifty repetitions.  Trying to get Dada and TGG to understand why I had to play along until J was satisfied was not easy, and it made me look more J-friendly than TGG-friendly.  I won’t give in to one kid, but I give in to the other.  I could tell that TGG was not particularly amused by my willingness to answer back through the closed door while J kept saying YELLOW and BUS.

I can reason with TGG.  I can’t always reason with J.  The burgeoning pile of laundry is not something that, until he’s ready, will alleviate an anxiety for TGG.  The repetition of words and phrases is soothing to J for reasons I can’t quite explain.  Repeating things, for J, is like “stroking the furry wall” in Get Him To The Greek; it brings him down from some sort of spin his mind is in, and I have to actually help him focus (which is what he’s trying to do) rather than leave him to obsess on his own.  There you have an instance of me absolutely NOT understanding something, but wanting to figure out what to do with it.  My way of negotiating these things with J has to be, because circumstances force it, different from how I negotiate with TGG, and yet…J gets a lot of my intractability, too.  I sometimes dig my heels in even though I know it’s going to create a temporary crisis in our midst because it is, in the long run, more productive to do so than to not do so at all.

It’s not that I don’t understand TGG.  I do.  I understand that he’s been forced, in many ways, to grow up beyond his years because of J.  I also understand that I have to, whether I like it or not, force a little more independence out of him if he is to claim his independence fully at all.  I am, I know he feels this way at times, the albatross around his neck, the main reason a covenant exists between him and his brother.  I have made it clear that this is a relationship that requires a great deal of commitment, and I’m sure TGG feels that he has some leeway to ease into adulthood at his leisure.  Regrettably, as John Lennon wisely put it, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  At one point or another, that laundry basket will have to be addressed…

I’m adding chocolate chips to the list, just in case…