The Day Before…

Tomorrow is the day when J’s wisdom teeth are extracted.  He knows there’s something going on, but he hasn’t been told exactly what that is.  It is without any concrete knowledge and last night he was up and tinkering around his room well past his bedtime.  He was also up very early this morning…not just up, but up and about, bed made and everything.

I am pretty sure that J has superpowers.  It’s not the being up very late, or very early.  It’s the “I need a new Slinky.”  The last time he went in for this thing he had the same Slinky he replaced this morning.  No worries, Slinky didn’t go in the trash.  Slinky is actually going into a small display case with a label that says Slinky Summa Fidelis circa 2013-2017.  It’s the least we can do for a loyal companion who, sadly, lost its youthful spring and coil.  It kept snagging on things, and -today of all days- J decided it was time for dignified retirement.  That it was present for, and supportive through, every tooth extraction until this one speaks of a long, illustrious, respectable, admirable career.  If the boxing gloves have pride of place in J’s bedroom, Slinky deserves no less…

The other noticeable thing this morning was that J is favoring his jaw again.  It seems to pop out of place, and that is one of the things that told us he needed the dentist in the first place.  Twice now I’ve told him “they will take care of that tomorrow!”  He tells me GOOD MORNING and then BYE, but I think he’s starting to realize what all the preparations mean.

Yes, I have more ice packs than you could possibly imagine ready in the freezer.  I also bought him a rather large and comfy maternity pillow that you can use to prop yourself up.    Menus will include puddings, yogurts, hearty broths with polenta, ice cream, the silkiest scrambled eggs you can possibly imagine…I’ve even trotted out the recipe for cornstarch pudding that my aunt used to make when I had dental extractions as a child.

We have Legos, movies, music.  A bag has been  packed with books to keep J engaged while the pre-op stuff is done.  We have the TWO iPads, and plenty of music in them.  As far as these things go, we are prepared.

Not much else we can do now.  We just wait for them to call and say at what time to be there.  We then plan the rest of the day, and the eight hours previous to the surgery, accordingly.  And then we come home and we go about the business of recovering, and accepting J’s ill humor (if he has it,) discomfort and pain (that’s par for the course,) and we set in motion all the things we’ve planned for this situation.

Wish us luck.

Dear Boxing Gloves…

It was four years ago today that we saw you being left behind when J left for school.  We were stunned by this development.  I’m sure you were stunned also.  You had been his constant companions for two years, and he wouldn’t put you down voluntarily for anything other than his shower.

We saw J eat meals, sit on the toilet, get dressed, sleep, walk, do chores all while encumbered with the four of you.  Awkward though this was, you were a welcome presence.  Before you, J had been beating his forehead with his bare fists, and we’d seen boo, scabs, bruises and scrapes appear and disappear in an constant parade.

For some reason, his first comfort item was a balloon.  We had a shoe box full of balloons because, of course, they would pop or deflate, and J would get upset and, hands free of this item, he’d hit himself.  You, his Everlast boxing gloves, were part of his “uniform.”  He also had a sparring helmet to match.  We used to joke that kids at school wouldn’t mess with J because he is tall, big and was professionally equipped for a rumble.

We tried to make light of it because we had to; what do you say when your kid walks around with four boxing gloves and doesn’t let them go for any reason?

The day he got dressed for school and, rather valiantly, pushed you aside when we handed you over, we almost cried.  We didn’t cry because we didn’t want him to think we’re wusses, and we didn’t want him to hesitate.  He had made this decision, and we were going to be encouraging.  The moment J and Dada left to wait for the bus, I sat on his bed (with you,) and called his teacher.  I remember telling her to let us know if we needed to run over there with his comfort items at any time during the school day.

J came home and found you on his bed, waiting for him.  And he was fine.  He never carried you anywhere again, but he always makes sure that you are neatly placed by Raggedy Ann, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck when he makes the bed in the morning.  He also tucks you in next to him at night.  He is fond of you, and you still give him comfort.

Four years is a long time.  We know that Slinky has lasted as a comfort item way longer than you, but we also know that Sparring Helmet was soon replaced with Scrum Cap Covered By Rasta Hat.  By the way, you don’t see it during the day, but Scrum Cap Covered By Rasta Hat hangs on a hook near J’s PECS board in the kitchen.  It goes there when he comes downstairs in the morning, and doesn’t get picked up again until he heads up to bed at night.  He sees you more frequently, stopping by when he’s doing his chores, making sure you haven’t fallen off the bed.

I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of you.  J likes having you around.  When he’s sick, he curls up with you; when he’s well, he feels comforted by your presence.  Slinky is his wing…item, but you remind him of how far he’s come, and that it’s ok to sometimes need something to make you feel better.

I wanted to say thank you.  I also wanted to let you know that we remember all you’ve done, and we see your being left at home as a positive milestone, not a negative one.  We don’t forget that you were there when J was being harmful towards himself, and you stopped quite a bit of nasty bumps that might have happened.

These are usually given to the fighter, but we think you deserve them…

Golden_gloves

Sincerely,

J’s parents

Today is the first day of the rest of your life…

Well, it has finally arrived.

It’s May 18th.

First day of no-school forever.

FOREVER!

How ready are we?  What option do we have but to BE ready?

We have done all we can do, and we will take it from here with a grain of salt.  The BUS and BACKPACK PECS are put away.  The new order of things will slowly take root.

J is ready, I think.  He knows what’s up, and maybe he’ll be in denial for a while, but we’ll figure out how to help him adjust.

It isn’t like we haven’t experienced a lot of change over the past five years.  We were a four-boxing glove family.  We were a Rasta hat and scrum cap family.  We were a Risperdal family.  We were a Slinky family.  We’ve reeled in the bells and whistles and are left with “sleep with them” boxing gloves, “wear to bed” Rasta hat and scrum cap.  No Risperdal.  Slinky…well…Slinky’s a “person” to J, and I’m sure he’d quote Lilo and Stitch if we tried to ditch Slinky.  Slinky is part of J’s ohana

We’ve made progress.  Little by little we have reclaimed some semblance of “control,” and we are pretty firmly set on the parts where our lives function very well.  But change is inevitable.  We cannot control change unless we opt for absolute stagnation.  And stagnation is not something we encourage.  School had to end.  J’s teacher wanted to stretch it out a little, but I knew if we fell into that trap we would just be going against all our preparation for the transition.  All that “it’s until the 17th!” and the countdown would have been for nothing, and J would be confused.  So I said no…let’s stick to the plan.  Change is necessary.

Change, however, seldom comes in singles.  Another relocation is in the cards for us.  Health issues that, thankfully, have been discovered very early in the game are on the calendar.  So transition is the name of the game, and change is the card we drew from the pile…

We’re old pros at this, so we’ll do what has to be done.

J left yesterday morning with his THANK YOUS and his little gifts for aides and teachers.  He had a good day except for a brief portion during which Voldemort (the one person who gives him grief) made his life miserable.  It passed.  It was too important a day to let anxiety linger, and the situation was managed.

At 3 PM I sat on my usual spot, and waited for the bus.  The same lady that usually parks in the middle of the road (blocking the bus driver’s view and thus preventing J from walking independently from bus to mother) parked in her usual spot.  Here I was, one last time, trying to reinforce “you can walk without me,” and there she was doing the absolute opposite for her neuro-typical child.  Here’s the kicker: she drives to the school, makes sure he gets in the bus, and then dashes home to wait for him.  He’s five.  I get the concern, but…this was the one last time to reinforce the “walk towards me…I’m here…you’ve got this!”  That I had to navigate around her car and (several times in the past) cars pulling into the neighborhood’s shared driveway nearly hit me is inconsequential.  But I digress…

Change is in the air.  OK…change is cramping our shoulders, making us frown, giving us pause.  We know as we get older this process of perpetual readjustment and fine-tuning will be more difficult, but we understand that the world we live in is one of constant change.  Gone are the days when people were born, grew up and died in the same town.  We are so far from “home” that it never ceases to amaze us.  Oh, the times we’ve stopped and said “HOW did we get HERE???”  And now it seems we’re on the way to doing it all over again.  The only plus-side we’ve come up with so far is that we no longer have to agonize about school district suitability, but services, etc. are still important.

Last week our main concern was today, and now we’ve added several more things to the list.  But J is happy.  J is taking it all in stride.  J will, like water, fall into whatever container we pour him in, and that’s a good thing.  We will choose a good container; we will, as always, make him a priority.

So here is today…a few hours ago it was just tomorrow. And J is happy with the way this particular morning is going.  Dreary, yes, but a good morning nonetheless.  It is raining and it is gloomy, but we are both in our pajamas (don’t judge) and Dada’s off to work.

Our plan today is simple: he’s already  made his breakfast (with less than 45% guidance and assistance from me,) and then we’re going to do our chores, exercise, and learn the fine balance of not getting into each other’s hair on a more permanent basis.  School breaks, in hindsight, look like piece of cake now…but we’ll learn…we’re going to figure this “we’re all grown-ups sharing a home and with very little to intervene with our day-to-day routine thing.”

The rest will fall into place, right?  Eventually?  With a modicum of stress?

As with birthdays (after a certain age or stage in life) today we don’t feel at all different from yesterday.  That might be a good thing.  Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a monumental shift.  Maybe it’s just like going to the optometrist and finding that one lens makes the images crisper…

Yeah…

I think that’s it…

Let’s go with that…and let’s put the “comfort item” snow boots away…

shall we?

At long last, I resurface…

Greetings, one and all!

Yes, yes, I know I’ve been lost and not really missed, but I’m back.  It took almost a month, but I have all my ducks in some sort of row (not a straight or well-behaved one,) and I have time to sit and talk to you.

First and foremost, J is doing well.  The Band-Aid Fixation continues, but we now spend more and more time without the wrist stabilizer or the band-aids.  On one particularly happy occasion, we not only didn’t have the band-aids or the wrist stabilizer, we also forgot Slinky in the garage for about three hours.  I had to remind him that he’d forgotten…a joyous moment and a d-oh! moment all rolled into one.

A few days ago we visited our trusted friend, Dr. Psychiatrist.  J was well-behaved and happy throughout, and we discussed removing J’s med completely.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is about to happen…well…as soon as we run out of the med and refills already on queue.  We are thinking Christmas will be, to put it mildly, interesting.  I am sure that there will be some jolts and bumps to navigate as his body lets go of the very last bit of added chemicals, but that’s the way it has to be.

With every passing week the end of J’s life as a student gets closer.  There are 229 days until the last day of school…of those only 128 are actual school days, and we haven’t factored in snow days, or early release days.  The clock is ticking, and it’s neither stopping nor slowing down for our benefit.  The days of J as a student are numbered…

Yesterday we received this year’s version of the graduation announcements.  I thought to myself, as I looked at the envelope, “at least this is the last year when I will cry when I get this.”  We all know, because I make no bones about admitting it, that this is all very bittersweet for us.  J’s school picture, the last one ever, was absolutely spectacular.  He has finally mastered the art of smiling for the camera without looking like a boxing glove is going to come out and smack him.  We hung this version next to the framed proofs for his first school picture ever.  The contrast is marked: on the first a tiny, nearly-bald, skinny kid looks confusedly at the camera, and in the sixth frame you can tell he’s just melting down completely.  They never sent us the actual picture…they just gave us the proofs.  We framed them.  They’re so…J!  Next to it, a portly, handsome, hairy young man smiles gently; his goatee leans to the right and his eyebrows look unruly, but he is handsome and he’s loving the attention.  We’ve come a long way, baby!

Attending graduation is out of the question, of course.  J could not possibly deal with the overstimulation involved in hundreds of students doing a processional and then sitting through a ceremony that won’t last ten minutes.  Needless to say that the cap and gown won’t be his favorite thing to wear.  An alternative must be concocted out of thin air, then…something that will be ceremonious enough to mark the end of an era and the ushering in of a new one.

I’ve suggested the So Long, Farewell song from The Sound of Music performed by teachers, aides and admin personnel, but I don’t think they are keen on learning the choreography, wearing the costumes and leaving the room in any semblance of order.  The end-of-school-year picnic his class celebrates every year will have to do, but I think we’ll try to throw something in there to make it a clear message that this is J’s last ride with his class.

Our family is undergoing changes.  Some of them are less dramatic than others.  We are starting to look, in earnest, for a house to buy…or, at least, for the type of house in the type of neighborhood we’d want to settle in for the next fifteen years or so.  We are hoping TGG moves out soon; this might be a tricky thing to achieve because he is not really concentrating on school as he should (he is “in love”,) and he makes barely enough money to pay for the things that are obligations.  We, the parents, feel the effects of aging…the creaking, cracking, impatience, etc.  Acid reflux has become “a thing” around these parts, and we see it getting worse before it gets better.  That J is almost out of school is the biggest change of them all; that he will be out of school and med-free is an even bigger change.

I confess to you, as I have to Dada, that I am not torn about TGG finally moving out.  I am really looking forward to it, in fact.  That is as close as I will ever get to having an empty nest, and it’s taking very long in getting here.  TGG, at this point, needs to go off on his own, and learn from his mistakes, and I am totally ready to close the door and wave bye-bye.  It may sound mean of me, but sometimes we don’t let our kids grow up because we are there to fix things.

My situation with J is the absolute opposite, and yet it’s the same.  While I am anxious about the prospect of no school forever, I am also looking forward to seeing where we go from here.  In a lot of ways, I feel more confident about J hitting his stride and maturing more smoothly than TGG has.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ve always pushed J more because J has more hurdles to overcome, and TGG doesn’t see that we’ve been exceedingly nice and patient with him…and takes advantage of it.

But I’m not here to gripe about TGG.  I’m here to tell you that we are doing fine, and that we are moving forward.  I promise (or threaten?) to not stay gone as long as I have recently.  It’s just life, you know, and acid reflux…and 24 year-olds who don’t quite “get” why their parents are impatient with the choices being made.

But I’m here…it’s all goodish.  You’ll see…

Little pitchers and all that…

As we know, the Thursday before ESY started J had to go to Urgent Care because his thumb hurt.  The X-ray indicated there wasn’t a fracture, but there was a sprain of some sort.  The doctor fitted him with a thumb immobilizer that has become J’s best friend and confidant.  Add to this his penchant for wearing band-aids for no good reason other than to remind himself that he’s alive and breathing and you get a pretty alarming picture.

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We’ve had the same bus driver for 80% of the time J’s been attending school here in WV.  By now, four years and multiple bandaids later, she should know that our son has a flair for the dramatic.  This is the kid who will buy bandages EVERY SINGLE TIME we go shopping.  I’ve told Dada to invest in Johnson & Johnson since we’re helping keep the company going strong.

Anyone here have a child in the Spectrum who isn’t comforted by deep pressure?  Compression garments?  Weighted blankets?  Pillows piled on top of his/her body?  Cocooning?  Individuals in the Spectrum feel comforted by these things, and J is no different.  That he takes it to the point of looking like a Civil War walking wounded is an entirely different matter.

If you’ve never seen J and you witness this “look” of his, you’ll wonder what is wrong.  If you ask, I will gladly explain the whole thing to you, especially if you’re uninitiated in the intricacies of Autism.  I will even, if you feel that my explanation is insufficient, invite you to call the proper authorities so they can do an investigation.  I KNOW what it can look like to those who don’t know what J is like.

There’s another little quirk of J’s that poses a problem: echolalia.  J will repeat the very last thing you said, and this can be considered leading the witness.  If you, as an adult who should know he’s in the Spectrum and has trouble communicating, ask “are you hurt?,” you will get HURT as a response.  “Again?”  will get AGAIN.  If you ask him “was it a rampaging elephant?” J will respond with ELEPHANT.  I don’t mind people asking him, showing him pictures, asking him to point as long as they understand that J doesn’t have the complete ability to answer spontaneously 100% of the time, and that you are probably leading him to the answer you want.  That is why, when we go shopping, and he points to a general display of items, I tell him FIND THE ONE YOU WANT.  I step back, and I wait patiently until he gets that he is the one who has to choose.

Asking a question about whether he is hurt again in front of a busload of special needs students who might go home and say “J is hurt again” is not a very good idea.  Some kids will repeat what they hear.  Other kids will embroider and filigree what they hear.  It might not happen, but it also MIGHT happen.  It’s a possibility…

Every single person that works with J is welcome in our home.  We actually make a specific invitation to come and see how J lives, what our set-up and our system is at home, what our expectations are, and how he navigates it all.  We remain in constant contact with staff from school, and we try to make sure they understand what we’re aiming for here.  Whether they take us up on it or not is entirely up to them, but we wouldn’t ask if we didn’t mean “come over and see what we do.”

I love when people are genuinely concerned about my son’s well-being because it tells me they care, and they will tell me if something seems fishy.  I don’t mind people asking me questions, and wanting to make sure that he is being treated properly and respectfully.  What I do mind is when people call out, from inside the bus, asking J if he is HURT AGAIN!!!!???? in front of a busload of impressionable kids who cannot process the situation with the clarity of their neurotypical peers.  None of these kids can ask J “hey, dude…are you ok?  Is something happening at home?” and then -as concerned friends- take it to a grown-up for follow-up.  These kids can only repeat it at home in a way that their parents won’t be able to interpret based on their knowledge of us, and of J.

Discipline doesn’t mean mistreatment, and we don’t take advantage of J’s inability to communicate when we scold him.  We explain why we’re upset, and we do our best to get him to understand when he’s done something inappropriate, dangerous, risky, rude, and so on and so forth.  Our biggest problem, perhaps, is that we work gradually to wean him off the comfort items he cherishes and we respect what they mean to him.  I always let teachers, staff know when he’s really hurt, and how serious it is; I always inform the teacher if he is sick, and what treatment he is undergoing.  I don’t do this because I am afraid of misunderstandings but rather because J cannot explain for himself how he’s feeling or why, and what’s being done to help him.

I am J’s voice, and I will speak for him when I have to, but I will also allow others to question what I say because I have nothing to hide.  Echolalia is a dangerous thing because not everyone understands how to ask questions of a person who resorts to it rather than to spontaneous speech, and J’s privacy should be respected even in cases of extreme concern for his safety.  A neurotypical child questioned about his/her well-being and safety will not always be upfront about the situation, especially when it’s done in a public and potentially (to them) embarrassing manner.  Asking the child/adolescent/adult in a more private setting, establishing an environment of trust and safety will create a better opportunity for sincerity and confidence.

J’s fine.  He’s healthy.  His thumb has healed and we’re working with the timer so he leaves his beloved thumb immobilizer off for short periods of time throughout the day, BUT he does feel his hand needs to be controlled.  I don’t know why…maybe it’s hereditary OCD, or maybe it’s that splash of bipolar disorder that dwells in my mother’s genes as passed down through the generations.  I have to respect what he thinks that brace is doing to protect him from himself…and I will work on alleviating his concerns in any way I can.  If, for the time being, J thinks the brace is necessary, then the brace is necessary.  It may very well be that it goes the way of the boxing gloves, the Rasta hats, the whole milligram, the three-quarters of a milligram, the half of a milligram of med…or maybe, like Slinky, it will stay as part of his everyday needs and supports.

I can live with that.  I accept that it’s the way it is for now and might be for a long, long time…  But ask me, please.  Don’t assume and unwittingly spread that J might be in danger…  Ask me.  That’s what I’m here for…

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!!!

J is in fine “day off” form…

5:30 a.m.  COFFEE??????  (Insert parental groans here.)

5:35 a.m.  COFFEE???????????  (Insert parental groans muffled by pillows covering ears and faces here)

5:40 a.m.  COFFEE???????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (Insert parental groans and an a muttered expletive muffled by pillows covering ears and faces here.)

5:45 a.m.  COFFEE???????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Movies!  TV!  We’ll be right there!!!!  

9:30 a.m.  The beds have been made; all laundry has been sorted, folded, hung, and stored in its proper closet; the dishes have been washed; one load of laundry is in the dryer, and another is washing; the kitchen is clean; the garage has been reorganized and swept; the driveway has been swept; the counter and dining table have been properly cleaned; the pork for tonight’s schnitzel has been taken out of the freezer to defrost; the items that had been blocking the path to the pork have been replaced and reorganized in the freezer…  The only things we’ve yet to do are making pear chips (not until after lunch,) and going to do the mail.  At the rate we’re going, by one-thirty we’ll have run out of the basic chores and we’ll be digging into the “this was meant for the weekend” treasure trove.

C’est la vie!

I know why he does it.  J wants to get all these things out of the way to rid himself of the guilt attached to not wanting to hang out with me.  “BUT I already hung out with you, lady!  Don’t you remember all the fun we had early, early, EARLY this morning???  You and I did SO MUCH stuff!!!  And, you know, you can’t expect me to spend all day with you trailing me…go find something to entertain yourself.  I’ll be here…and then we’ll get together later…at MY convenience…”

Since I’ve been dismissed for the time being, I am keeping my eye on a carpenter bee that has burrowed a hole in a table (J’s table) out on the deck.  Obviously, anything that can be done will have to wait until dusk, but that hasn’t stopped me from stalking the creature while doing research online.  Unless I can get rid of the thing, it will stay with us (or generations of its descendants will) forever.  :/  It doesn’t look good right now from where I’m standing; all I’ve learned is rather daunting…these little creatures actually leave a trail that will bring more of them back next spring.  Nipping this problem in the bud is of the essence.

Our other “problem” is the abundance of caterpillars.  Never in my life have I seen such a profusion of them; if I sit on the patio to read, I soon find myself covered with caterpillars.  If we go for a walk, we have to look down so as not to step on them.  These are not your “oh, what a lovely butterfly!” caterpillars…these are, according to all I’ve found about them online, Eastern Tent Caterpillars and they’re considered a pest.  They are responsible for the large weavings we see on tree branches, tree trunks, and other spindly structures.  Not only are these rather creepy looking structures, they also seem to harbor a vast amount of what will very soon be clouds of moths.  As if the stink bugs weren’t enough of a problem, now we have an infestation of moths to look forward to…

I know it sounds like I hate nature, but I’m only really concerned about our interaction with it, and how we affect each other.  We need bees, and we can peacefully coexist with them so we are making sure there are plenty of flowers for the bees to use for their “work.”  Bumblebees are not a problem either.  Hornets, yellow jackets and wasps (and carpenter bees, it seems) are another story.  We know they are necessary, they play a role, but we have to work on redirecting them.  The caterpillars also have a purpose, but it seems these particular ones have the ability to defoliate a tree quite quickly, especially when they are as numerous as they seems to be this season.  They love fruit trees…we don’t have any, but we have plenty of caterpillars!!!!

Well…time for a walk.  We won’t make it to lunchtime without being irritated with each other unless we go outdoors and burn some energy.  It is a beautiful day, and since Colorado and New Mexico have had a resurgence of winter weather, I think it’s best to appreciate our warm temperatures and sunshine by actually taking advantage of them…

Here we go!  Off to make the rest of the day count…