A pattern emerges…it’s not a good one

All through the day, from the time Dada and TGG leave for work until they come home, J is happy and calm.  After going to the gym, while having dinner, J is calm.  And then, randomly and unexpectedly, we get “the meltdown.”

This doesn’t happen while he and I are alone.  I can tell him NO, ask him to help me when he’s engaged in something else, take him out of his routine, and he’s fine.  The only thing I’ve been able to pinpoint so far is that J has tantrums when Dada and/or TGG are home.

I know J loves Dada and TGG.  I know he likes to have them around.  I know he enjoys their company.  I don’t know why he would get upset when they’re here.  I’m trying to figure this out.

My guesses so far:

1)  Dada and/or TGG take my attention away from J;

2)  Dada and TGG don’t spend enough time with J;

3)  Dada and TGG are more easily spooked by the tantrums than I am;

4)  Dada and TGG pay more attention to J when he throws a tantrum;

5)  I pay more attention to J when he throws a tantrum while Dada and TGG are home (because he doesn’t throw them when they are not.)

Last night the tantrum came between putting on one sock and putting on the other.  J immediately went to SIB when he wanted his bandaids for his hand.  No warning sound; no hesitation.  SIB and that was that.

I made him go to the TV room, and he was going to hit himself again but I held his hand and jammed the iPad in front of him.  “We don’t HIT.  We SAY!”

The process is convoluted and frustrating because I’m trying to reason with a person who is just NOT into it…  So part of the effort goes into “talking him down” long enough to get him to understand that we’re trying to understand why he’s upset.  Anyone who has tried to “talk down” an individual in the Autism Spectrum knows this is often easier said than done.

Talk him down I did, but it wasn’t easy, and I had to make sure he understood that I was not happy about his behavior.  Once he got what he wanted, J turned into Mr. Charm…and I was not buying it.  I don’t buy Mr. Charm on a regular basis, and I flatly refuse to do it when it comes in the heels of being obstreperous.  After his outburst, and once he had re-engaged with his bedtime routine, J started the I LOVE YOU on maximum speed.  I sat down on his bed and explained that I love him, but that I was angry because he is skipping all the tools we give him for communicating and going straight to SIB.  I also explained that if he keeps using PAIN in his HAND as an excuse for melting down, he’s going to the doctor for an X-ray.  Even though J then backpedals on the melodrama over his hand, he IS going to the doctor.  I am fairly sure that he IS hurt, and he needs something more than his go-to remedies of sixty bandaids and a piece cut off from a pair of tights worn as a sleeve over his hand.  The medical implications of this situation do not escape me, and I don’t take them lightly.

While I figure that part out, however, I’ve been proactively pursuing ways to help J communicate when he feels “stuck.”  This morning we sat down with the printer, the laminator, and our go-to ASL website (http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/aslpro/aslpro.cgi) to figure out the signs that can help him tell us what he needs.  I also printed four DON’T HIT signs to help him remember this particular point, and I printed a two-sided HELP! card with the word on one side and the signs on the other.  A reminder to use his Proloquo2Go hangs prominently in his TV room.

Of course, the e-mail in which my husband asks the doctor to give us a little more feedback so we can make an informed decision on J’s med dosage has been sent.  This e-mail is so beautifully composed, so eloquent and to-the-point that, when asked for my opinion on its contents, I replied to Dada that it makes me want to make long, sweet, slow love to him.  “So it’s ok, then?”  Yes, it was more than OK; it’s the e-mail that I can’t write right now because my mind is flooded with all the other things I need to address before I fully address this issue…

We’ll see how this goes.  So far this morning I’ve done everything humanly possible with a printer, velcro, laminating sheets, and chutzpah.  I’ve spoken to J; I’ve involved him in the process of making things clearer for him to make things clear for us…  I’ve anticipated everything that my addled brain can possibly anticipate.  I’ve agonized over having to give him more med, and I’ve researched as much as is available (and comprehensible to a non-scientist like me) on the internet. I’ve texted back and forth with J’s teacher, and I’ve asked for input from J, TGG, Dada, and the teacher.

For the time being, I’m tapped out.  I will see what the rest of today brings, and I will try to address what TGG and Dada can do to approach the situation better when they are home.  It’s all I have right now…

It’s time for chores (oh, so late in the morning that it’s almost afternoon,) and for engaging J in something that has nothing to (outwardly and obviously) do with behavior modification.

I’ll keep you posted.  Suggestions are welcome.

School’s out for summer…one year to “school’s out forever.”

The big calendar I prepared to map out the summer months goes a long way to getting J ready for school to be out.  That last week is always a lulu if he doesn’t yet quite grasp that we’re in the last few days of “going on the yellow bus.”  His first encounter with the calendar is always tricky, but once he realizes that summer school looms ahead like a promise, he’s fine.

The D.C. landmarks are something he hasn’t yet figured out, but tonight we’re having a family meeting to lay out our plan for this trip.  I have learned all the necessary sign language (TRIP, HOTEL, VACATION, and so on) to help us along the way, and I think it will all be fine once we sit with the map and make sure J understands we’re not MOVING…we’re just TRAVELING.

This is one of our problems: we seldom take vacations, and we’ve only really traveled for total, utter leisure ONCE.  Every other road trip we’ve undertaken has involved some sort of “event.”  We move; we drive somewhere to see a university and then we move there; we drive somewhere for a job interview, and then we don’t move there.  We’ve only just taken ONE totally leisurely trip in our entire life as a family.  We went to San Francisco in 2002, and J LOVED it!  J’s totally a “let’s walk around this town” sort of person, and when we returned (for a job interview/let’s pretend we’re just having fun) two years later, J was even more pumped about it.  Since then, we’ve had moving trucks and many miles to cover, and the madness that ensues with relocation regardless of how carefully laid-out our plans are.  So…there’s no blaming J for eyeing the calendar with wariness when he sees a picture of our car, and several days of a town that doesn’t look like this one.

There will be several more changes to the PECS board before we leave.  We will be meeting my niece, nephew and his wife for dinner our first night there.  I have not seen my niece since 1989, and I haven’t seen my nephew since, possibly, 1990.  TGG has met them several times before, but Dada and I haven’t seen them for a very long time, and J has never met them.  I am hoping this goes well…

The biggest change to our PECS board, though, is the appearance of J’s nephew.  TGG has mended fences (there WAS some maternal interference and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d been chomping at the bit to get in there) with his baby’s mother, and we now have a good relationship with our non-traditional extended family.  Upon meeting his nephew (a sign we had to learn,) uncle J (another sign we had to learn) promptly kissed the top of his head and thus anointed him as a person he doesn’t mind having around.

The baby, of course, found his big, jolly, hat-wearing, Slinky-carrying uncle somewhat fascinating.  I am sure that once he becomes acquainted with J’s TV room, uncle J will promptly become the coolest uncle on the face of the planet.  J, on the other hand, will have to adjust to the fact that there is a smaller, younger person who will command our attention and require our help to get things done.  At the age of one, June Bug is less capable than J at the age of 20…

TGG’s room now features things it didn’t have before: a small travel-crib, baby toys, baby clothes, diapers…  His car has a baby seat.  There are baby bottles, spoons and bowls in the kitchen cupboard.  And there’s humility.  The same guy who last year didn’t understand why being a father matters melted like butter in the hot sun of the desert when he first met his kid.  We have taken like ducks to water to being grandparents.

So as you can see we are starting an entirely new stage in our family life.  We now have relatives. We now get visits from little June Bug and everything seems to have changed.  When we go shopping, we buy things for June Bug.  When we think of future vacations, we think of June Bug.  When we talk about family, we talk about Favorite Girl and June Bug.  Favorite Girl…since she’s not a daughter in-law, she needs a title, and I flatly refuse to refer to her as Baby Mama.  We’ve all agreed on kindness and respect, and we’ve all agreed that June Bug goes first always.  J’s needs and special traits come into play, but I think we all understand that, too.  I mean, there wasn’t really any balking at the “Happy Bitchday” he wrote on June Bug’s birthday card, and it doesn’t surprise me because these are really very kind people.  We made more of a fuss when we noticed than they did.

In other news, the first batch of soaps J made was a success in some ways, and not-quite a success in others.  He needs to add more moisturizer, that’s for sure, and he needs to really spray those bubbles on the surface away, but everyone was impressed with how beautiful and fragrant they are, and how nice the packaging is.  It’s a learning process, and J is learning and tweaking and putting an effort in…  We couldn’t possibly ask for more.

And so ‘summer’ is happening.  The calendar tells us that we have to wait for the official date to call it that, but it’s happening.  It’s here.  J’s on vacation and accepting of this development.  We are ready.  We have suitcases to pack, addresses to plug into the car’s GPS, pictures to take, feet to abuse by walking more than we would under normal circumstances.  Life is good.  Maybe next year we’ll start ‘summer’ -and the rest of J’s non-student life- by taking a bigger, better, longer, more exotic trip, but for the time being this will do…a three hour drive, a nice hotel, and some sightseeing for the people who haven’t seen sights for fun in thirteen years…

Can’t wait!!!

Baby, it’s (very, very, very, VERY) cold outside

Our car is being driven around with a thin sheet of ice that doesn’t seem to decrease at all even when the engine is running.  J is no longer dreading Kierkegaard’s call, and just assumes that if the phone rings at around six it must mean that the school is closed the next day.  We got caught in a blinding snow squall yesterday, and were happy to make it home in -more or less- a straight line.  Winter isn’t ready to let go, and if you haven’t seen the video of Niagara Falls you probably don’t know what the ado is all about…

In a nutshell: it’s cold.  It’s so cold that the cats that had been dashing around in fits of cabin-fever propelled hysterics have now parked themselves (like so many lumps) under the bedspreads of whatever room is being warmed (ha!) by the sun at any given time.  J’s appointment for his evaluation tomorrow promises to be like something out of a Russian novel, only without sleighs, women stepping in the path of trains, countless characters whose names are easy to confuse and the image of people riding some conveyance while wrapped in furs.  Ok, not furs…we don’t have furs, but there will definitely be some sort of blanket in the car, just in case.

It isn’t easy to find new and exciting things with which to occupy our time while Dada and TGG are at work, but J and I have managed.  The chores take up about an hour of our time because we are doing them very…very…very conscientiously, but we also have started cross-training with letters.  That is: I write the grocery list, and J transcribes it first in his Proloquo2Go and then with his rubber stamps.  It takes a (long) while, but between fingerspelling, saying the letters, finding them on the keyboard, and then using the rubber stamps, we are definitely making some progress.

P1100740 P1100743 P1100745 P1100747

Of course, I have to explain that J goes out of his way to match the color of the ink with the color of the line that frames the letter on the wooden handle for each stamp.  He also has trouble spacing his letters properly and either jams them all together, or leaves way too much space between them.  If you could take a look at my fingers when we are done, you might notice that I have quite a bit of ink on them because I try to create some sort of barrier for him.  Some times it works better than others…

A list of nineteen items took us about an hour and ten minutes, but it was time well spent.  J had fun.  He likes that the Proloquo tells him the letters, and then calls out the word for him.  While we were preparing lunch, he organized all his materials and pinned the list to the fridge with a magnet.  When Dada came home he asked about “the manifesto I see on the fridge.”  I told him it’s our grocery list.  Slightly alarmed he asked “THREE PAGES!!!!?????” and then he realized, by the colorful lettering, it was all J’s doing.  That changed the tone to “THREE PAGES!!!!” because he knew I’d managed to stave off boredom and ennui for a good while.

It should be a fairly decent indication of how the weather has been that we are actually down to one very closely dispensed load of laundry.  J has also organized some things to such a level of precision that his next step will probably be to disorganize them so he can start from scratch all over again.  I intend to buy another set of white cubes for the dining area this weekend IF we can get out of the house for some actual non-essentials shopping.  I have been meaning to reorganize the cookbooks, and this would be a good project to engage J in if the weather (as is predicted right now) is not apropos for going to school early next week.

The thought that spring is a mere 28 days away doesn’t seem like much consolation when you look out the window and see the remnants of a plant that died in November solidly encased in ice.  Not only do I have to deal with the fact that I killed the plant (I don’t want to talk about the circumstances,) but also that I didn’t give it a proper send-off to the great beyond, and now I am supposed to look at its carcass looking back at me with frozen accusation in its beady little eyes…  I will pause for a moment to say Yes, I’m being melodramatic, and yes, I know plants don’t have eyes, but it’s cold and we’ve been in here for a few days and when you watch as much Midsomer Murders, Rosemary & Thyme, and so on and so forth as we do, well, it gets to you.  And you can recommend other viewing material, but I tried HGTV and became dissatisfied with the feng shui in our home, and I tried Food Network and was in a state of perpetual unjustified hunger.

So there you have it…28 days, and a whole lot of winter between then and now…

Wish us luck for the trek and the appointment.  Tomorrow is going to be another cold, cold day….

 

 

Happy birthday, Slinky…

Last Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the toothache felt around the world…  I can’t believe how far we’ve come since then, and how Slinky has managed to travel the whole distance with us.  A whole year.  More than 365 days because, well, Slinky the Current had taken the place of Slinky the Previous shortly before the Big Tooth-Do…(get it?  A play on To Do…  Never mind.  It sounded pretty funny in my head.)

A few days ago I was (almost obsessively) looking for an old picture of Dada that almost exactly matches a picture I found among the thousands of slides I transferred last year.  It’s quite silly, in fact, but I wanted to see them side-by-side.  In the very old picture, Dada is about eight, and sits at the dining table in his parents’ house, sipping juice from a cup with a funny expression on his face.  The picture I was looking for was taken the summer before last, and Dada is sipping a cocktail with the same expression on his face.  The only differences between both pictures are the amount of hair on Dada’s head, the alcohol present in the more recent drink, and that one was taken in California in 1970 while the other was taken in 2012 in West Virginia.  Aside from that…pretty funny.

Anyway…I digress.

While I was looking for THAT picture, I found -of course- hundreds, thousands of others that triggered memories.  Among them?  Slinky the First.  His reign was brief.  I believe he met his demise in a tangle, and had to be quickly replaced with Slinky the Second and so forth until we lost count.  After a while, Slinky the Current was the name we gave all of them until they were no more; they then become Slinky the Previous.  When I tell you that Slinky the Current is the Queen Victoria of Slinkys, you have to believe this.  Never before had we had such a long and stable reign out of one of these helical springs, and he doesn’t look like he’s anywhere near ready to give up his throne.  There are, count ’em, TWO Slinkys stored in a closet for “emergencies,” but J’s loyalty to Slinky the Current is solid.

I will remind you (or inform you, depending on how recently you started reading my stream of consciousness) that when we took J to the dentist that February morning because of his night-long (and long night) toothache, Slinky the Current was still in the first shine of his youth.  Recently removed from the box, he didn’t yet have that dingy dark gray appearance that permeates all Slinkys that have been in contact with sweaty hands for a while.  It was there, at the dentist’s office, that J (in his fear and anxiety) brandished  Slinky as a defensive weapon, and Slinky the Current suffered a noticeable injury to one of his coils.  Slinky the Current, no longer Slinky the Pristine, got slightly bent.

Perhaps it was that they’d been through a lot together that day, but J didn’t want Slinky replaced when we came back from the dentist.  He didn’t want him replaced when we had to go back for surgery TWICE in the span of a month.  Slinky waited for him, like a loyal puppy, while he was under for the whole dental D-Day J experienced last summer.  Slinky the Current has been left behind at home when we’ve gone shopping; Slinky the Current has fallen under furniture; Slinky the Current has gone to school, to the movies, to the doctor.  Slinky the Current is parked on the lid to our chest freezer while J does his Wii exercises.  Slinky the Current is parked on the “Slinky parking blocks” that are in the bathrooms, and on the kitchen counter.  J knows that there are two back-up Slinkys in the hallway closet, but he doesn’t want them…he wants Slinky the Current…

We lived through the affaire du coeur with the boxing gloves.  We know the hats are a fixture.  We are fully accustomed to Raggedy Ann, Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, and so forth.  In a household that has seen Slinkys come and go like the Playboy Mansion witnesses the arrival and departure of scantily-clad women, Slinky the Current’s staying power is a sight to behold.  He is a member of the family, as it were…

I know that, eventually, J will maybe outgrow Slinky…the Current, and all the others that will follow.  He outgrew the balloons, the boxing gloves…  Until this happens, I’m just glad that he didn’t let a bad experience and a kink on a helical spring ruin what has become a beautiful relationship.  I’m glad that J overlooked that one flaw (that he caused with his Indiana Jones-like antics,) and that there has been continuity with this Slinky.  I’m glad Slinky sits there while J has his dinner that now includes vegetables.  I’m glad that Slinky was there for the guardianship hearing, the psychiatrist appointments, the times when J has been in trouble and got a time-out.  I feel bad when part of the time-out involves handing Slinky over to me.  I am kind to Slinky…he is the nicest pet J has ever had! He doesn’t overeat and barf on the carpet; he doesn’t need a litter box; he doesn’t require being taken out for a walk.  He sleeps in J’s bed, and doesn’t push the boxing gloves out of the way because he’s humble and knows the more inanimate objects the merrier…

I won’t go so far as to bake a cake, but…if Slinky the Current could eat, I’d ask him what kind of cake and if he wants ice cream on the side.  I won’t try to clean him, or spray him with Lysol.  There is a certain dignity to his dingy appearance, and J loves him just the way he is.  So we will never have the pile of bicycles in the driveway and the tromping of feet on the stairs towards the basement; we will never see a car pull away with J waving distractedly at us.  But we have Slinky the Current, and that seems to work just fine…

 

The drudgery of winter…

As I start writing this, Spring 2014 is 43 days, 2 hours, and a little over 26 minutes away.  If I could put skates on her, I would…and if, while wearing those skates, I could push her down the hill so she could swoosh over here even faster…you get the picture.  Our calendar looks like a Snow Day version of Edmond Dantès’ wall at the Chateau D’If; yes, we are ticking off the days and wondering why Winter 2014 has decided to be so persistent.

Yesterday, I’m sure you’ve concluded from all this, was another snow day.  It didn’t SNOW, but there was plenty of snow still on the ground.  J and I trekked to the mailbox and back twice, and didn’t enjoy the experience once we’d passed the point where our driveway ends/begins.  Paul Simon might have been walking on New York City snow when he came up with “slip slidin’ away.”  At one point our steps were so small that it looked like we were having a grand old time tiptoeing our way to our destination.  That we did this in the morning and then again in the afternoon is proof of…something, but I’ve yet to figure out if that something is 1) stupidity, 2) foolishness, 3) lack of wisdom, 4) a sense of humor, or 5) an inclination to mild masochism.  The only time we found mail was in the morning; the afternoon trip was wasted.  And, having sat there since the day before, the letters were so cold that I had to immediately fold them into my jacket pocket so I didn’t have to carry them in my bare hand.  (Yes, that point is in favor of reasons number 1, 2, 3 and 5.)

You know that winter has gone on (for what seems like) too long when you have your seed catalogs flagged with little post-it notes (color-coded,) and the list for SPRING CLEANING! is attached to the catalogs.  You’d think that, having lived here for not-yet seven months, spring cleaning wouldn’t require bold and italicized capital letters followed by an exclamation point, but I feel like all this being-cooped-up-indoors makes it important to open windows (the only two the whole house has,) sliding glass doors (three of them,) and every single door to let the air come in from the NW and out the SE…or vice versa.  I am walking around reciting Neruda under my breath, and not the happy, sensual stuff that makes you want to watch Il Postino with a bottle of wine, three boxes of Kleenex and every single bit of sad trivia you remember about how Massimo Troisi didn’t live to see this masterpiece he so wanted to film.  No, I’m walking around reciting the Neruda of strife and loneliness, which -yes- is still some of the most life-affirming poetry you’ll ever experience, but I’m doing it in slippers, pajamas, and sipping hot tea.

On Monday night J sensed that we’d be getting a call from Kierkegaard.  Here we were, insisting that there would be school on Tuesday, and J kept coming upstairs to ask for his IT’S A SNOW DAY! PECS card.  When the phone rang, I simply grabbed some chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds and went to tell J.  He gave me a look that clearly indicated I was fool to think he didn’t KNOW this already.  We passed the day rather pleasantly; our focus is on getting him to recognize the numbers and the words for them, and he finds this entertaining.  I am more and more convinced that he can read better than we’ve been able to assess, but I can’t quite figure out how to get him to do it outside of the exercises we’re doing.  When I read to him, he can complete sentences, but I know that is as much memorization as inference from what he sees in the illustrations.  We work our way slowly through exercises, and I leave plenty of room for J to respond spontaneously.  I’ve noticed that he does look for the “pattern” to match what he’s seeing on the screen of his iPad, and that he knows the letters as we read and sign them, but I don’t know how deftly he reaches the point of recognition.  We know, because we’ve seen it at work, that J has a mind palace, a method of loci, a mnemonic catalog allows him to connect things; he doesn’t use it like Sherlock Holmes does (I’ve yet to see either Jeremy Brett or Benedict Cumberbatch reacting to the notion of a dog with the alacrity that J applies to this particular exercise,) but it’s there.  The mechanics of reading, of course, are there, but I don’t know how much of the comprehension we are tapping into here.  I refuse to give up, however, and -knowing the way I am when I’m bound and determined to achieve something- I will find some way to push forward on J’s reading skills.

Mind you: this is not about him analyzing Tolstoy or writing a dissertation on the novels of Steinbeck.  This is about the simplest tasks…putting his thoughts out there when he needs to, rudimentary as it might be.  Now that I’ve got his attention (and I KNOW I do because I see it in the way he goes from screen to paper to flashcard to sign to my lips to screen to his hand to pencil,) I need to use it wisely.

My take on all this is that if I can persuade J to steam cauliflower, puree it and throw it into a meal he’s going to eat (without any pretense at disguising that the weird smell we all sniff at is coming from our shoes or wet socks,) anything else I try to accomplish with him is possible.  The degree to which it’s possible is what we have yet to determine.  He recognizes pictures and matches them to words, but now I want to see if I can catch the word in a sea of others and get him to identify it…match it to the mental picture.

Forty-three days, and a little over ten minutes until Spring 2014 arrives…and I obviously have something lined up for every single day, and some of it might be improbable.

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!

Yes, we have no Ramen noodles…no Ramen noodles since day before yesterday…

Without much ado, or any ruckus, or even the slightest ruffle of discontent, the Ramen noodle disappeared from the pantry and haven’t been requested since.  You’d think, if you didn’t know J a little better, that he was eating them out of habit, or simply because they were there…

Wait!

He WAS eating them out of habit, and because they were there!!!!!!!  I know this because he’s had TWO chances to go grocery shopping, and twice he has turned us down and opted to stay at home chilling out with TGG.  It’s not even that J wasn’t informed that we were going to the store; he knew, and he decided to stay home.  It’s not that he couldn’t have told us if he wanted the Ramen noodle.  J would have made his wants and needs known, especially in this department, if it had meant interpretive dancing of Isadora Duncan levels, or even telepathically.  If J wants something from the store, J will make sure you KNOW he wants that from the store.  As of now, Sunday afternoon, the basket where the Ramen noodles used to sit, is empty, and there is no urgency on J’s (or anyone else’s) part to fill it.

Yesterday morning, Dada made him toast, eggs and ham.  This morning he had pancakes.  On Friday morning he left for school having consumed an egg white sandwich with turkey sausage.  So far, he hasn’t lost a limb, use of any other body part, or his ability to function in every other way.  So, no, the Ramen noodles that he used to treat like a dietary “need” were merely a crutch, and he doesn’t want them anymore.

I almost cried at the store yesterday.  I don’t deny this because there are moments when it seems like I’m taking this very calmly, but the whole change J has experienced is HUGE!  J, formerly known as Ramen Noodle Boy, is happily eating whatever he is offered, even at breakfast time which used to be the time when the Ramen noodles were a MUST.  Like the boxing gloves that he decided he no longer needed, and left sitting on his bed for decorative purposes, the Ramen noodles are…pfffffft!

I didn’t just almost cry because of THAT.  I almost cried because I realize that I am greatly to blame for J’s bad eating habits, and I regret not having felt empowered to change them sooner.  I was too scared to make him angry, to feed his anxiety, to face his irascibility.  I, hand in hand with the Risperdal, made my son unhealthily heavy, and this is something that I have to come to terms with so that I can proactively continue to pursue fixing it.  I feel horribly guilty about this, but I’ve opted to set the guilt aside and go with the part where I’m determined to correct my past mistakes without denying I made them.

And that’s where we’re at on this sunny, not-as-cold-as-we-have-been Sunday afternoon: we are Ramen-noodleless, and we are moving on to the next thing we want to achieve: legumes.  Making pasta sauce with pumpkin in it has proven to be delicious and popular, and we’re ready to move on…and move on we will…

Lentils, watch out because here we come!