A tiny step is a step nonetheless. Even if it’s followed by a stumble?

We just had our first bandaid-less breakfast in weeks.  We just had our first SIB-less breakfast in weeks.  Granted, it was followed by SIB after about 20 minutes later, but it’s progress, isn’t it?

I knew you’d understand.

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That’s how we learn…

Yesterday evening, I sent Dada and TGG on one errand while J (who would have been horribly bored elsewhere) and I went to Target.  The flight plan was the same as usual: make sure the seatbelt straps in the cart are not tangled, lift the red flap to “close” the seating area of the basket, and off to do the long circuit of the store.

We walked around the Men’s section to look at lounge pants, and J couldn’t find anything he wanted.  We moved on to the movies, and J made sure everything was properly lined up, stacked in the right stack, and -of course- as his reward for all this labor he chose Goof Troop Volume I for purchase.  I had promised him Super Mario Kart for his Wii so we made sure they had it available, and then I set off to find a friendly Electronics employee to get it for us.  All was well, and J was happy, but then Bullseye walked out of the stock room and straight towards us….

Poor Bullseye!  I am sure when this person got hired to wear this costume they weren’t told “some day a tall, strapping young man wearing a newsboy cap, a thumb immobilizer, and six-hundred bandaids will react to your enthusiastic appearance as if you were wearing the garments of the Grim Reaper himself.”  Not ten yards stood between us, and J started squealing (OK…it was more like screeching) and backing away as if Bullseye was about to pounce on him.

When J was very young we took him to Knott’s Berry Farm, and he was totally fine with Snoopy coming up to him at Camp Snoopy.  He posed happily, squeezed Snoopy’s nose (and was informed by the human within to NOT TOUCH) and that was that.  He was seven at the time…you’d think that’s the core memory in his database…

Well, no…not exactly…

Seven years ago, TGG was The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz in high school.  He was FANTASTIC!  He had the costume, the hair, the growl, the makeup…  J LOVED watching the show, listening to the songs, watching Dorothy, The Tin Man, The Scarecrow and The Cowardly Lion prancing around the theater to get back to the stage and arrive at Oz.  It was an amazing experience.  J was thrilled to hear something familiar under all that fake fur and paint.  After the show came the meet-and-greet, and the whole audience was out and about saying hello to Munchkins, witches, flying monkeys, the Lollipop Guild and the brave quartet that had traipsed around on its way to see the Wizard…

“Hey, J!  HI!,” said the Lion…and the screeching, screaming and backing away started in earnest.  That thing, we’re sure he thought, had swallowed his brother…  Dada took J with him to calm him down, TGG finished his meet-and-greet, got cleaned up and then came out to prove he was alive, well, and in one piece…

Yesterday I found myself trying to get Bullseye (who probably couldn’t hear anything other than J’s screaming) to back away without feeling offended.  “AUTISM!  HE DOESN’T KNOW YOU’RE A HUMAN!!!” I said this while trying to keep J from bolting, people from staring and our friendly Electronics employee from calling security.  Bullseye got the picture, and skedaddled.  J, however, was shaken enough by the appearance of the mascot to cling to me while looking around, wondering if Bullseye was just waiting to jump out from behind a display to scare him.

It is move-in weekend at the college so there are a lot of people out and about shopping for things their kids need for the dorms.  I am sure that we cut quite a figure walking surreptitiously and looking around every corner to determine if the person clad in fake fur, and an oversized dog’s head was around.  J would motion for me to go ahead of him to reconnoiter, and I obliged because I didn’t really want a repeat of the squealing and screaming.

I caught sight of Bullseye in the distance a couple of times; the closest we got was about thirty feet, but I managed to steer J away from the path of the poor (underpaid, I’m sure) employee dressed in what amounts to a very pretty sauna to engage with customers.  After about fifteen minutes of this, I saw Dada and TGG in the distance, and waved vigorously for them to join us.  When they came closer I explained what had happened, and we formed a ring around J, moving towards the registers in what can only be compared to rescuing the world’s biggest pop star from a horde of fans chasing after him/her.  I have no doubt that people who didn’t know what was happening questioned our sanity before going back to their shopping.

Suffice it to say we’re never taking J to Disneyland, Disney World or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…  If he couldn’t take a little trip to the Natural History Museum in D.C. without thinking the animals were about to start moving, he won’t be able to deal with Goofy and all Seven Dwarves approaching him.  I would really hate for him to be afraid of Donald Duck, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger…  The princesses are another story…seeing those live would be a thrill, but the other stuff???  Too traumatic for him.

I’d like to state clearly that I feel very guilty about whatever emotional distress the poor employee in the Bullseye suit felt when J reacted as he did.  The kid (it might’ve been a girl, but I’m not sure) was just doing a job and trying to earn a living, and J reacted like J reacts to these things.  I had a talk with him later, and I can tell he isn’t buying the whole “it’s just a person in there, you know” argument.  In his mind there is no way he can, unless he sees them getting dressed, that someone would get into The Cowardly Lion, Bullseye or any other character, voluntarily.  There HAS to be some sort of devouring of people happening…

As I say when he encounters dogs and reacts in a negative way: he has to learn.  How I will get around him learning about the inner workings of a mascot?  I have no idea…but I’ll figure it out somehow.

A trip to town…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An “a” in any other other other font…

J has the rudimentary makings of a forger.  He will not succeed at it, but he has what it takes to -with careful training and dedication- become a master at copying people’s handwriting exactly.  I know because, in my younger years, I wrote many an excuse in my mother’s handwriting and got away with it…  No worries, I quit while I was ahead.  Actually, I quit when I realized that I was in danger of having missed Phys Ed under the guise of having my period one time too many.

Today we had a snow day and J and I dedicated quite a bit of time to our garage/pantry/gym/that area of the house that cars never go into.  During his (final) IEP on Monday we discussed one of my big undertakings this year: putting J in control of the inventory.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am willing to risk an excess of cans of chopped tomatoes so that J can learn how to manage our pantry and all its secrets.

First, however, we had to deal with the freezer that will be delivered some time tomorrow to replace the one that is about to gasp its last gasp.  We discovered a few weeks ago that the light that indicates the power is on had switched from solid to a quick blink; on Saturday we had noticed the blink had slowed down, and by Tuesday it seemed more like a very wan, half-assed blink.  We keep going in there, thanking it for its loyal service and begging it to hold on ’til Friday.  On the plus-side: it’s so cold that I can easily store things in the coolers we keep on the balcony and nothing will be compromised.  I don’t want to do that, though…

So J and I braved the garage that I’ve been cringing at since sometime in late December.  The first thing we did was reorganize the shelves.  Then I took out a big sketchpad so that J could write down the items we need from the store.  You may wonder why the big sketchpad.  Even if you’re not wondering I’ll explain: J is known for his expansive block letters…a large sketchpad is the next best thing to a wide, tall wall…

The other (not irrelevant) reason is that J copies the names of the items directly from the label.  While I make sure that he doesn’t write down the brand, J will copy the name EXACTLY as it appears on the label.  Whatever font is on there, regardless of how ornate, J will replicate.  It doesn’t look like the one on the label, but it is as close to a reasonable facsimile as you can get without actually reproducing it.  A label with “cooking oil” printed in Arial font, will be reproduced in Arial font.  If you have words written in American Typewriter, J will copy them as such.  Cursive gets a similar treatment.  Curlicues, tails, serifs…they all get in there.  If he wants to make sure that you buy the brand he likes, he will copy the logo.  A list of twelve items took twelve pages.

Spacing is not his forte, either.  We work hard on learning margins, but J has a tendency to get creative.  Much like young children who have yet learned to estimate how much space they need, J will start too far into the line, do really well, and then -upon realizing that he has six letters to go- he will then do the equivalent of hitting the brakes and letting every upcoming letter look like it’s about to crash into a brick wall.  They do, in fact, look somewhat horrified.  The other effect he manages is the “turn tail and run away” effect; the letters look like they’ve realized they’re about to go over the edge of the sheet of paper, and they try to avoid it.  Anthropomorphizing letters much?  You bet I am!

The work that would take a Third- or Fourth grade student a matter of moments (or that I could complete in a flash) becomes a rather convoluted process.  J writes what we need, and then we write it all over again.  I write it in neat block letters, and he has to copy it with margins and lines I’ve drawn to accommodate his inner graffiti artist.  Then we take that list, and we type things out in the Proloquo2Go.  First he copies them by looking at the letters as I read them, and then he attempts to type it while I dictate the letters one by one.  By the time we are done, J has earned his cookie snack, and I’m ready to not find any more things we need.

While this had been an activity we engaged in to reinforce writing skills, it is about to become a cornerstone of J’s at-home routine.  His ability to work in groups for prolonged periods of time continues to be minimal.  This presents a problem in the “employability” department.  Even in the most independent of jobs, J would have to spend significant amounts of time working with others, and he really has very little patience for group work.  If he’s in the mood, of course, he will be the most gregarious person you’ve ever met, but if he’s not…well, he closes up like a clam and that’s that.  No amount of friendly cajoling, kind persuasion, outright insistence will move him to participate.  We need to be ready for the time when he gets turned away from more and more opportunities because of his inclination to isolationism.

It’s not that he’s not gregarious, but the fact that he is so method-guided, and so strict with how he does things (Sheldon Cooper anyone????) leads him to easily get frustrated when he has to deal with other people’s schedules, quirks, and so on and so forth.  We need, then, to work around the limitations and exploit the assets he has.  We will devise a process for maintaining our pantry and household goods inventory together, and we will work towards J being able to manage it independently with monthly administrative “meetings” to make sure we don’t have more corn than is needed to feed a small army.

It’s all in the early stages.  And we have to work on identifying, communicating and organizing first.  We’ll get there, though…I know J, and he will fall in love with the notion of being the master of the garage.

This dining room isn’t big enough for the two of us…

Ice, ice everywhere (you thought I was going to say “baby,” didn’t you?)  We had a definite Keystone Kops moment this morning when I finished getting J ready, Dada got the car loaded, and then (and only then!) did I notice there was a missed call on our phone.  From the school.  At 6:28 a.m.  I looked at the TV and Dada had been watching BBC news so there would be NOTHING on there about a 2-hour delay.  I called our message service, and what played was one of those generic “hold music” recordings with a “press * to listen to your message” and more music.  And then nothing.  I called J’s teacher while Dada insisted on getting in the car and heading out because it was already 6:35 and he didn’t want J to miss the bus.  J’s teacher confirmed that the freezing rain had compelled the district to opt for a delay and I, crazy woman that I am, flashed the porch lights on and off to no avail.  Dada turned onto the main road and drove to wait for the bus.

Remember that cell phone we bought with the big keys???  The one we bought to replace the one we couldn’t find and then that one miraculously appeared once we’d gone through the expense of a new (cheap) one?  Yeah…well…it was left here…at home…I called it and heard it ringing upstairs.  As fast as my fifty year-old knees could take me, I bounced up the stairs and forced TGG out of the shower.  “Go tell Dada to come home!”  Nothing says “I’m hurrying” like the sound of freezing rain hitting the glass on the patio doors, and TGG walking around like one of the extras in The Walking Dead.

At ten minutes to seven, everyone pulled up to the house and I asked WHY do we have cell phones, and WHY don’t we look at lights flashing, and WHY were we watching the BBC when, for crying out loud, we made a point of saying “it’s cold and icy and nasty out there?”  Then came the round-robin acceptance of some degree of guilt in the whole fracas: TGG heard the phone ring, but didn’t want to get out of bed; Dada didn’t think taking the phone to the corner was necessary; I admitted I should have checked the TV first…  While all this was happening, J quietly unpacked all his school stuff, took down BUS and BACKPACK from his schedule board, changed his clothes, and then announced he was staying home.  When I told him “but there’s school in about a couple of hours!!!” he looked at me like I was nuts, opened the curtain and looked at the ice outside.  I called the bus driver, his teacher, and set about the usual morning business.

Throughout the next couple of hours we got reports that roads were closed due to accidents; Dada and TGG called to say “wow, that drive into work was interesting,” and J parked himself in the dining room to watch Fantasia even though he has his own TV room.  He has since moved on to The Rescuers, and -surprise, surprise!- he knows where the button is to make the sound reverberate.  Even I forget where the box is, and we have only used it for movies like The Right Stuff, the original Star Wars trilogy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and anything that has explosions in it…  When I sent Dada an e-mail informing him of this, he told me that he has figured out what to get J for his birthday because finding a townhouse with a dining room big enough for all of us is not practical.

I was allowed in the kitchen to make lunch.  Not only did he kick me out of the kitchen/dining level, but he also asked me to make shrimp for him.  I was allowed in the kitchen once more to make some cream of spinach that I will put in a container for later this evening.  My attempt at sitting down to watch the hippos in Fantasia was met with a giggle quickly followed by a deadpan NO.  When I started singing along to “R-E-S-C-U-E…Rescue Aid Society” I was asked to leave the premises and take my furry cat with me.

Even as I type this I’m searching for an affordable sound bar we can get J for his birthday.  You may ask yourself “why let him win this particular battle?”  Well…in truth I had been telling Dada that J turns up the volume in his TV room because the speakers they install in all these flat screens are too tiny, and that is done with the sole purpose of getting you to bow down to the need for a sound bar.  The sound comes out of these very small speakers, and they are designed in such a way that they face away from each other, leaving the sound to travel towards the walls rather than to the person sitting at a discreet distance from the screen.  We even drew diagrams explaining the strength/weakness of each argument, and we reached an impasse.

The deciding factor is, of course, the e-mail stating “your son has closed the curtains, turned off the lights, planted his butt on the love seat, and put his feet up on our fake-ottoman and is watching Fantasia upstairs.”  The truth is that J likes being alone, but he also loves quality sound, and listening to Ponchielli’s Danza delle Ore upstairs made him very happy…I could hear him giggling and humming along.

I’d really better get on this research then…he’s moved on to Ferngully: The Last Rain Forest, after serving himself some hummus and pita bread, of course.  And he didn’t even hesitate to do it without any help.  Sigh…

 

Day Three of lower dose of med…planet continues to spin as usual.

On Friday we took J to his psych appointment, and -FINALLY!- there was a significant amount of praise for his weight loss.  Needless to say the kid was pleased as punch, and his parents were not too shabby in the happiness department either.  Wearing all his clothes (three shirts…it was cold!,) and shoes, J weighed in at a beautiful 232 pounds.  That means that our J, stripped of all his clothes, weighs under 230 pounds.  Compared to the highest recorded weight, I’ll take this and dance a little jig while I’m at it…in fact, we all danced a little jig, and J giggled with pleasure as we drove away from the doctor’s office.

On Saturday morning (as cold a morning as we’d been warned by the forecasters,) we started giving J half the dose of Risperdal he’d been taking so far.  We are down, ladies and gentlemen, to a quarter of a milligram each day.  Five years ago this would have seemed like a far-off goal, and yet here we are…splitting pills in half for a kid whose XXL and XL pajama pants are entirely too large.  All our expectations have been blown out of the water, and we are amazed, impressed, and overjoyed with the place where we’re at right now.  J, believe it or not, is very much aware of the incredible feat of SOMETHING that he’s achieved, and he is pretty proud and happy.  I cannot say I blame him!

As is usually the case when we are reducing the medication’s dose, we are all rallying around J to help him cope with the effects of a different chemical equation coursing through his body.  We’ve noticed the usual anxiety, hyper-focusing on things, and irritability, but J seems to have learned over time that he can help himself when these things happen.  We had a brief convo Saturday morning, and we determined that (since we were all stuck indoors because of the extremely cold weather) we would have to work together to alleviate J’s anxiety in different levels: there’s the part where the weather made school close for several days last week, the level where he had a doctor’s appointment on Friday (an iffy situation always,) and the medication not being dispensed in the amount he is accustomed to.  We all made sure that we checked in on J frequently, gave him attention when he wanted it, and refrained from hovering when he wanted to be alone, and generally tried to keep him in the loop of the rest of the household’s activities.

Yesterday, when his body finally started fully realizing that there was less Risperdal making its way through him, J was a little more anxious, but we took him for an outing, had a nice lunch, and he felt more relaxed.  Of course, that might be because of the pin-up girls…

Well, we like libraries and bookstores, and we make no bones about it.  We have so many books that we’d be embarrassed if we thought this is a bad thing.  J, as you know, loves his books, too.  He likes walking around the local Barnes and Noble, and he looks at the movies first, and then travels to the Children’s section and looks around for what to add to his queue of bedtime stories.  Yesterday’s selection was If You Take A Mouse To The Movies; the main attraction of this title was the lovely 50% sticker, and the title mouse’s relation to the Moose to whom you give a muffin.  Dada had found a 2015 calendar for his office, and I had found a book I have been interested in purchasing for a while, but hadn’t found in paperback yet.  We always take a walk around the bargain book section.

Having worked at a bookstore (as a barista, a book seller, and a cashier) I know that bargain books are dirt cheap because they sometimes come from a faulty printing, or from too large a batch that didn’t sell.  This has never stopped us from buying bargain books; I can deal with the misspellings as long as I know I didn’t pay thirty dollars for a hardcover.  My willingness to forgive these transgressions greatly increases in the face of a massive reduction in price.  Mind you, I wouldn’t purchase my favorite book, especially if it’s a literary classic, from the bargain book bin, but I would rather pay a lot less for a bestseller if I can help it.

The point is that J was happily hanging out around the bargain book table while we looked at some books on Italy, The Louvre, and such until he saw this:

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And then our son (our nearly twenty year-old son) walked up to the register and boldly placed If You Take A Mouse To The Movies and The Great American Pin-Up to the cashier.  Having worked at a bookstore I know booksellers and cashiers are pretty much unfazed by anything.  There’s something very deep inside that is 100% in favor of Freedom of Speech when you take a job where you will be asked for titles that might be embarrassing, subversive, risqué, inappropriate…I could still see the cashier’s eyebrow twitch slightly as she smiled at J.  It is, I admit, a little weird to see two such disparate books together while the customer stands there looking as happy as if he’d just found a million dollars in his pocket.  I shrugged and said “today’s juxtaposition of developmental disability paired with a healthy male is brought to you by the letter J.”  Our cashier then smiled broadly and said “that is too cool!”

We drove to the grocery store with chirps, giggles, peals of laughter, and a even a little joyous humming from the backseat.  The exuberant welcome J got when he walked into Five Guys for his one-on-one lunch with Dada while I did the grocery shopping was just icing on the cake.

Let’s be realistic, though.  J will never not be plagued by anxiety to one degree or another.  J will never be a paragon of conventional normalcy, or of a well-balanced individual who doesn’t need to take a step back from time to time.  J will never learn or understand like other people.  J will always have to do things at is own pace, in his own style…  But isn’t that true of each of us?  Aren’t we all just a tiny bit “off” when compared to the on-paper version of what a normal human being is?

I like to think that we’re all just bobbing along as best we can, and that J has simply met with a little more turbulence that I would have hoped.  I see that he tries every day to regulate his role and his reaction to the world around him, and that it works more often than not.  This doesn’t mean that he won’t have a crappy day at school tomorrow, but it means that he might not have such a crappy day.  And that’s fine…

The world will keep turning…

Dwindling…

Yesterday morning we switched from shorts to long pants courtesy of dropping temperatures, the firm grasp of autumn weather and our usual “might as well just do it” approach to everything.  I was sure that J was going to resist the switch, but he seemed happy to be wearing his cargo pants.  His, might I add, size 40 cargo pants…

Yes, my friends, J now wears -with sufficient room to move in comfortably- pants that are two sizes smaller than those he wore (uncomfortably) at the peak of his weight.  Also, J now tips the scales at a little over 237 pounds…  Callooh-callay, oh frabjous day!

Last year I worried about negotiating with J so he would eat something good for him.  Now this is no longer a problem.  J has become “the easy child to feed.”  It is well-known that J now eats any vegetable we put in front of him; he doesn’t necessarily like it, but he eats whatever we serve him.  If he shows that he really doesn’t like it (and this does NOT involve gagging sounds, spitting, or screaming,) then we put it on the “unfriendly vegetable list.”  Even green beans are fair game; I don’t put them in the rotation as often as I put other “friendlier” veggies, but J eats them…  Last night I had to actually negotiate with TGG to eat some cauliflower, and J found his brother’s attempt at eating a whole serving of seared cauliflower rather entertaining.  Eight year-old TGG would have totally loved eating “brains,” but 23 year-old TGG puts up with the cauliflower because he is “an example to his younger brother.”   J thinks this is funny.

The hard work that J has put in over the past 10 and a half months has definitely paid off.  He is svelte in comparison to his former self; he is comfortable in his clothes, moves with greater energy, alacrity, and flexibility.  If you see him for the very first time you might tell yourself “wow, that kid needs to lose weight,” and -yes- he can lose a few more pounds (gently, slowly, judiciously) over the next few months.  If you see his pictures from last October side by side with pictures taken today you say “WOW!”

J hasn’t eaten Ramen noodles since January; J now accepts that 19 pieces of candy corn are more than enough for one day, and he’s not past trying to finagle another serving, but he also doesn’t turn into “on fire Mr. Stay-Puft Man” when I tell him NO.  J accepts that a box of Cheez-Its is supposed to last weeks, and savors TWO sandwich cookies  more than he did the ten he would abscond with whenever he was given a chance.  J actually goes to the garage and takes inventory of the groceries he has bought, and will take chips out of the rotation if he wants to stretch them out until his next shopping trip.  The kid has learned his own version of crop rotation…callooh-callay!

It’s wonderful.  It’s an awesome feeling.  It’s great to see him getting healthier at a good pace without sacrificing his likes, without completely removing all treats from his diet.  J now accepts that mac and cheese has pumpkin in it, that scrambled eggs might be made with only egg whites, carrots and a small amount of cheese, that seared cauliflower might be consumed with a sandwich, that waffles are delicious when made of something other than plain old Belgian waffle batter, and so on and so forth and yadda yadda yadda.

The only downside to this is that now J isn’t happy when we’re running low on yogurt, pear chips, hummus, whole wheat pita bread, lentils and such.  The kid eats codfish chunks and home-made, oven-fried potato chips with the same gusto he would reserve for salt-happy hot dogs and preservative-laden fake-cheese mac and cheese.  I’ve seen him smile broadly when he realizes that I am making pea pesto, home-made spinach pasta, pumpkin French toast, and egg salad with carrots and just a whiff of mayo.  The same child who used to gag when mashed potatoes were even mentioned now eats a prudent portion of them and relishes them.  The same child who used to spit at the thought of fruit now will try even the most absurd concoctions made from them, gently turning down a second spoonful if they don’t appeal to him.  We DON’T have to leave the store with a cartload of snacks that will appease his moods rather than his hunger or peckishness.  J now knows when he is truly hungry, when he just wants a little something-something to tide him over or tickle his sweet tooth, and when he just needs to find something to do to entertain himself so he doesn’t eat out of boredom.

It’s a great feeling!

I know we have a way to go.  J’s blood pressure is perfect now, but he can stand to lose a few more pounds.  According to several different charts, J won’t be considered as being in a healthy-weight range until he’s in the vicinity of 128 to 156 pounds.  That means that J is somewhere between 110 and 80 pounds away from his ideal healthy weight.  That, my friends, sounds like A LOT to me.  Of course, 50 pounds sounded like a huge amount, an impossible amount!, last November, and look where we are now.

Slow and steady wins the race.  We’ve proven that.  We’ve witnessed that.  It’s not a bad approach, and J seems to have taken to it.  The first fifty pounds have been, one could argue, very easy to lose in spite of how long it’s taken to happen.  The next fifty, or eighty, or 110 are another story entirely.  How far, really, do we want to take this?  Are we going with what the charts say, or with what the doctors say?  Are we looking to make J the poster child for weight-loss, or is our goal solidly planted in “we just want him to be healthy?”

I am trying to picture J with eighty less pounds on him, and I’m having trouble with that, but we’ll see what happens when his check-up rolls around later this month.  I hope the doctor is impressed with the progress, and I hope J gets the recognition he deserves for his efforts. I don’t want this to turn into a frustrating visit for him because it would be dispiriting; I also don’t want to suddenly be forced to come up with an unrealistic weight-loss expectation.

For now…hey, he’s a lot less to look at and hug than he was this time last year, and we’re very happy for him and his BP.