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?

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…

The countdown begins…

It is the Monday of the last week of school.  J isn’t having a good time there.  I got a message from his teacher using the expressions OCD and SIB.  Nice!  The kid who has been behaving nicely at home is being a handful at school.  He broke his headphones.  He didn’t mean to, but there you have it…they are broken, and this made matters worse.

The last thing one wants to hear when we’re almost to the finish line is “this is not going well.”  I am of two minds about this: J’s an a-hole, or J’s just responding to the lassitude that creeps into everyone as the end of the school year approaches.  Well, maybe (just maybe) J’s an a-hole that’s responding to the lassitude that creeps into everyone as the end of the school year approaches.  He can be persnickety that way.  He’s not ready to call it a day, and he wants everyone to rally like he does.  This will test the most saintly of creatures, and I’m sure that patience is wearing thin over there with a few kids chomping at the bit to not do much for a few weeks, and one stomping around trying to get everyone on board with being all-hands-on-deck and beat-to-quarters to the very last minute.

Today I am working on that blanket of paper we call the summer PECS board.  This year we get to put a road trip on it, and we hope J will be excited about this prospect.  On Friday he will get home and, weather permitting, we will walk at a leisurely pace while I explain the map of our lives for the next twelve weeks: a trip to D.C., visits to the doctor and dentist (he might run when he hears these, but it HAS to be done,) ESY, walks to the pool, gardening, making soaps and such…  If he’s not totally bored to tears by the time we get to our townhouse, we’ll be fine.

I confess that hearing about J’s difficulties this morning gives me pause.  He really isn’t being that way at home.  I have searched and searched my mental database, and I cannot find one single instance of SIB in the past few months.  Maybe he does it when we’re not looking?  There are no signs, though, that J has engaged in any of it.  He has been happy and full of energy; when he wants to be alone, he asks us to leave his TV room.  When he wants company, he comes looking for us.  We do things together, but not so many that it seems we don’t give him space.  His appetite has been good, and he loves going to the gym with TGG.

We did notice that he put on a few pounds (nothing to be alarmed…just four pounds that weren’t there before,) and we checked his wallet and the school-sanctioned snacking continues.  That, of course, will be off the table on Friday.  We take him out and he buys his usual snacks, and he accepts the portions we have agreed to at home.  He gets his cookies, chips, popcorn, cheese, and so on in the measure that is healthy.  He doesn’t complain, and he actually looks forward to the Thursday evening visit from the ice cream truck.  If he’s planning The Great Escape, he’s being more discreet than Steve McQueen et al.  Maybe he’s just taking a page from James Thurber’s The Cat-bird Seat, and we will all look like fools in the end.

We are by now, I think, old pros at this transition process, and we will have to apply all our hard-earned wisdom and knowledge when the time comes (next June…oh my!) to end J’s school days.  For now, though, we are simply adjusting to another shift in the routine, and we need to figure out if J’s just ready for summer, or if he’s annoyed and anxious about something else entirely.

When I go back to the summer I was 20 (many, many years ago) I remember that trip to Europe and the frustration of not getting my Three Coins In the Fountain summer.  My mother and godmother took us to The Vatican more times than required, and we didn’t get to see the Sistine Chapel because “it will hurt our necks!  I didn’t come to Rome to end up with a pain in my neck!!!”  In Florence I had to fight for the right to look at Michelangelo’s David without censorship, and the Moulin Rouge in Paris was verboten (“it’s not all fun and games like Toulouse-Lautrec made it seem!”,) but we did get our bit of unwanted nudity at the Lido.  I discovered I had early-onset rheumatism in London, and wasn’t allowed to stay out late in Spain in spite of the fact that the sun had yet to set when we left whatever restaurant we’d gone to for the umpteenth time.  J probably views his life in the same terms; even if we’ve covered his walls with Kate Upton, pin-up girls, and his bedtime is only restricted on school nights (and that because he drags ass with the best of them in the morning,) he probably thinks there’s this huge conspiracy to make him miserable.  Just as I felt that I was on the most anticipated trip ruined by my mother, J probably will think that all the fun and games will be parentally kiboshed while we’re in D.C.  Either that or, in true J fashion, he will be so enamored of the hotel experience (because he LOVES hotels) that we won’t be able to drag him out of the room for the whole four days.  J, it is said around these parts, has a bit of the Hugh-Hefner-in-his-silk-pajamas about him…he likes to lounge and enjoy the AC and the luxury of a room where he won’t be asked to make the bed.

Between now and then, of course, I have to square away the transition to vacation-mode.  I’m sure that the current state of dissatisfaction comes from the limbo between “nose to the grindstone” and “what the heck…it’s the last week!!!!”  We’ll try to remove the SIB.  I’m on it.  I really am…  Especially with the med about to go away and leave us…forever…

You can talk to me…in fact, you SHOULD…

I wouldn’t call the past few weeks uninteresting, but they haven’t been worth writing about at length.  J is doing well, and the weather is improving; we have had sunny, warm days, and we have had days when we wonder if winter will ever take its leave of us.

The only items of note are a small kerfuffle that resulted from asking how J hurt his hand late on a Friday afternoon.  The kid came up to me, after we’d arrived at home from the school bus drop-off, and handed me Neosporin and a band-aid.  His hand was mildly swollen, looked bruised, and had two areas that looked like a puncture and a popped blister.  Since J couldn’t explain, I sent a text message with a picture of his hand.  It was all very straight-forward: did you see this?  Do you know how it might have happened?

I went directly to the teacher because J wears his gloves on the bus (it was still cold) and the bus driver and aide (obviously enough to me) would not know.  Since there was swelling and I wasn’t sure if it had been a friction burn or a bug bite, we took J to the Urgent Care where they told us “it looks like trauma, but just in case it’s a burn or a bug bite, let’s give him an antibiotic.”  I informed the teacher of this, and then I said “you know, he used to hit his head, and bite his hand.  Perhaps, when no one is looking, he did one of those.”

Fast-forward to mid-morning Tuesday when the bus driver calls me to ask “if we’re OK.”  Yeah, sure…why????  Well, she tells me, an aide at the school told her that “J’s hand didn’t get hurt here so it had to have happened on the bus!”  She explained that he had been perfectly fine, in fact rather jolly, on Friday and that she hadn’t noticed anything on his hand.  I told her that I didn’t expect she would have because he was wearing his gloves, and I didn’t notice anything until he came downstairs armed with his own version of first-aid assistance.  I explained that I didn’t feel compelled to call her because of this, and I’d simply asked so I could better inform Urgent Care.

The person who started the gossip ball rolling was the usual suspect.  She always does this.  It upset me enough that I asked the teacher why this was made into an accusatory question when, in fact, all I had a desire to know was if anyone had seen how it happened.  She had asked an aide who must’ve told everyone else, and the person who usually goes for the gossip factor decided to take action.  “I didn’t ask the bus driver because of the gloves,” I wrote ” and because if I ask the bus driver if anything happened at school I’m the one who’s engaging in gossip.”  I explained that I don’t appreciate that type of behavior.  If an aide thinks I’m accusing, please, direct them to me and I will clarify.  “Wouldn’t you guys want to know where an injury J has comes from if he shows up at school with a blister, a bruise, what looks like a bug bite, and swelling?  And what if I took umbrage at this???”

The teacher understood what I meant, and I appreciate the position she’s in and how she cannot control certain people.  I was sorry I snapped at her, but I don’t like having my communication with others tainted because someone feels defensive about a question that should be absolutely acceptable.  If your child comes home and is hurt, sick, etc. you should be able to ask “hey, did something happen?” without people assuming that you’re saying it’s their fault.  I always ask “how was your day?,” and very seldom do I get an answer because J is J and that’s part of what his everyday life is all about.  It’s not going to stop me from asking because it’s my job.

I make a habit of letting the teacher know if there has been some major disruption to J’s routine that might affect the way he behaves in class: if he didn’t sleep, if he was not feeling well, if there was no power, if he was anxious.  I do this because I know I serve a population of one and I can dedicate myself body and soul to comforting him throughout the time that he is with me, and that she serves a much larger population and doesn’t have the ability to go one-on-one every single time it’s needed.  It’s a courtesy I extend; if you know the child (in this case the grown-up) is having a rough time for X or Y reason, you are more alert to the possibility of a meltdown, a tantrum, a crying fit, etc.  When J is wearing a bandage or is taking medication, I explain why.  I’m not covering my ass, but I want to make sure that they know “something” is up…

So late last week I got to send a message explaining why J might be upset.  As I was brushing his hair early Friday morning, J suddenly yelped and started bleeding…profusely.  Of course, a very controlled panic ensued and I called TGG to come help.  Dada was away on a business trip and TGG was in charge of dropping J off at the bus.  “Scalps bleed a lot more than one expects,” he said as he struggled to find things in the First-Aid Closet.  I took over the acquisition of supplies while TGG checked J’s scalp and soothed his baby brother’s nerves.

We cleaned the area up, and TGG mentioned that the night before he’d notice thick scales on that area of J’s scalp.  Because at that particular moment Dada had called because he was having trouble with the airline for his return ticket, we all got distracted and he forgot to mention it.  I said I’d noticed small red patches in the back of J’s head, camouflaged by his hair.  We checked the rest of his scalp and found very small areas of white scaling and what felt like thin ridges when we palpated.

J’s styling products were hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin, and I explained to the teacher what had happened.  After googling profusely, and calling my cousin the doctor, we reached the conclusion that J very likely has psoriasis…oh, joy!  You wouldn’t believe how many papers are out there about the Autism-Psoriasis link…

Until the doctor sees him, we’re shampooing with the appropriate product.  I let the teacher know because J was bound to be upset about the Chips Ahoy-sized patch of drying blood on his scalp.  It’s what one does…share information without prejudice or fear.

Re-inventing the wheel…re-discovering fire…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask not whether the glass is half-full or half-empty; ask how many glasses you have…

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy listening to Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin’s Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep.)  There’s a reason for that: I was raised by women who thought that regardless of how big your problems are and how small your blessings may be, the blessings will always trump the problems…

Yesterday morning, I admit once more, I was far from stellar in my execution of motherly patience.  I spent a great deal of the day trying to talk myself into understanding that this is, in spite of how stupid it makes me feel, normal.  I am not a poster child for motherhood, just like my children are not poster children for childhood.  To reassure myself, I did everything I could to prove that I am capable, even when I’m not.  (Did that make sense?  I don’t know if it did to you, but it did to me…)

Other people have comfort food that they turn to when they are feeling a little wobbly on their emotional legs.  I will dive into a pint of ice cream, work my way through a bag of M&Ms, crunch away at crisp toast with real butter, sip a seemingly endless cup of tea…but what REALLY works for me is what others might find a little silly: comfort chores.  After I posted my entry for yesterday, I sat on the bed for ten minutes and pondered how to make a day that started out pretty crappy into a better one.  Then the phone rang, we had a minor crisis, and I’ll explain in a moment how that works into the glasses that might be half-something.

To comfort and soothe myself, I roasted vegetables.  The roasted tomatoes, peppers, red onions, garlic turned into soup, and then…

A loaf of Italian herb bread.  Which was more of a chore than I would have wanted, but that’s part of the story…

The phone call was an automated one: this is to inform you that your son, J’s name inserted here, was marked absent from school.  If you have any questions, call blabetty, blab, blab…

I called.  I called and was rather anxious because, well, would J NOT be at school?  Of course, there was the field trip, but WHY WOULD HE BE MARKED ABSENT???  The secretary was not very helpful or, sadly, understanding.  Yes, he was marked absent.  Could he have been late???  How can he be late, I asked, if he rides the bus to school, and he’s a Special Education student?  Crickets on the other side of the line.  You don’t understand, I told her, some autistic kids are runners, and if he’s been marked absent I need to know what teacher and what time he didn’t show up for!  Please hold.  And I held. “Are you aware he is on a field trip?”  Yes, I am…are his teachers aware he is on a field trip?  Crickets.  I patiently -at least, I hope I sounded patient and not just terribly shaken up, which is what I felt like- explained that J has a mental age that fluctuates between 2 and 8 years old, that he is non-verbal, and that if he has somehow found his way out of the building, he will get lost as he doesn’t know how to navigate around town.  Crickets.  Talk to his teacher.  And I did, hours later, and I explained that the Attendance Office needs to call parents of Special Ed kids PERSONALLY because we can probably be more helpful that way than when we speak to a secretary who doesn’t know our kid and doesn’t understand what we mean when we sound like we’re about to throw up as we’re talking to them.

So…to calm myself after this brief crisis (it was the Ceramics teacher that marked him absent,) I roasted vegetables (and fruit, if you’re a purist about the tomatoes.)  Because it smelled so lovely and it looked so delicious, I decided to make bread, and so out came my trusty bread machine that I love, and that makes my life ever-so-slightly easier.  In went the ingredients, and then I cleaned the dining room, cleared up the mess I’d made while cooking (because the task meant to be relaxing and the cleaning helped me tidy up my internal mess, too.)

Dada called to let me know that the biopsy from his colonoscopy indicated his polyps were benign.  And there was much rejoicing.  A layer of worry and weight fell of as the house filled with the lovely fragrance of roasted vegetable soup and Italian herb bread.  I dusted the bookshelves in the basement, added dirt to the plants that we rescued from the neighbors across the way (who left in the wee hours of the morning and told my husband they wouldn’t be taking their succulents so we were free to take them.)  I gathered all the trash so it could be taken to the dumpster near the entrance of the neighborhood…

By the time I was done, it was time to wait for J’s bus.  Off we went, TGG and I, to check the mailbox and collect J.

I took out J’s comm book and read the wonderful news (later confirmed verbally by his teacher over the phone) that J had gone on his field trip WITHOUT HIS HATS AND WITHOUT SLINKY!  Yes…J went on a field trip without either one of his current emotional crutches.  And he had a WONDERFUL time!  He voluntarily left the hats on the table and, when his teacher asked if he would please leave Slinky behind because they would be going on rides and it could be dangerous, J simply kept walking to the door without a single wistful glance at his things.

The teacher, of course, took the things with her (unbeknownst to J) in case some sort of crisis broke out.  Once the trip was done (and the only glitch was J’s horror-stricken look when he climbed into, and then promptly out of, the whirl-a-gig,) the hats were offered to J, and he took them in his hands and held them there until they got to school.

This piece of news was so good, so comforting, so encouraging, that the bread machine bursting into flames (only a mild exaggeration there) and me barely rescuing my loaf of bread is but a minor glitch in the filling of glasses.  The polyps were benign, and a glass filled.  J made a major breakthrough, and another glass filled.  The bread machine waited until we were back to self-immolate…and we still had lovely, lovely soup and delicious, crusty bread for dinner…

Isn’t that a good way to count blessings…and sheep…and glasses?

You can go your own way…

Yesterday’s note from the teacher read “we tried to turn left and J threw a hissy fit.  We thought we’d mix things up.  We ended up turning right, and he was happy then.”

You KNOW I read this as soon as he was off the bus.  You KNOW we had a “conversation” on the way home and, to top it off, I changed the route to one he usually dislikes, and I -in no uncertain terms- told J that what the teacher says goes.

I heard a lot of grumbling, but he followed me as I lead him on the alternate route.  When we got home, I once more gave the “you don’t get to choose for the whole class” speech.  He was only repentant enough to elicit an outing to get lunch from TGG.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, J puppy-eyed his brother and got a burger out of it.

You must be saying “WHAT????” to yourselves right about now, and you’re probably calling me a coward.  Well, from yesterday morning until Saturday morning it’s all about picking battles carefully.  Dada, you see, is out of town for training, and that is stressful enough as is.  I am walking a fine line here, and I need to keep my balance.

I slept with a rather anxious cat on my feet last night.  This, of course, didn’t happen until after TGG had left for work and I’d had to tell J that, unequivocally, it was bedtime and he needed to turn his music OFF and crawl into bed.  I got a big AW out of that from him.  He had turned off his light and TV earlier, and he was “in bed.”  No sooner had I crawled into my bed and tried to tire myself by reading that I heard the distant thumping of Brian Setzer jitterbugging his way through a Christmas song.  I got out of bed and played bad guy.  It was probably 11:00 P.M.

If I can get J to somewhat understand that Dada is away working and he’ll be back this weekend, I do not have such powers over the cat.  Both J and Miss Pipa are still waiting for Miss JuJu to return.  They sit anxiously waiting on the deck, and J is a little more resigned to the empty chair beside him than Miss Pipa is.  Day after day she goes out to sniff around, searching for her former nemesis and now long-lost friend.  That the cat has become our shadow is an understatement; I have found her curled up on the toilet seat when I step out of the shower.  Last night, when she realized that darkness was falling and the tall guy wasn’t home yet, she started pacing around and going to the garage to sniff at the van.  She would come back to the kitchen and do something she seldom does: MEOW!  I tried to explain, in as easy-for-a-cat-to-understand terms as I was capable of, that she’ll be fed, watered and petted while Dada is gone, but that he won’t be home until late, late on Friday night.

J listened to this one-sided conversation as he ate his dinner, and made a rather awkward attempt at playing catch with the cat.  Yes, our cat thinks she’s a dog and she plays catch.  She also sleeps on her back and likes her belly rubbed.  She also runs to the door or window if she hears a suspicious sound and acts like she’s ready to protect us.  I never said this cat was sane, I just said she’s ours.

Some sort of semblance of calm had settled over us when, in what seemed like an out-of-the-blue development to Miss Pipa, TGG started getting ready for work.  J is accustomed to this.  The only thing that threw him off last night was the absence of the garage door’s noise and vibration, but he accepted TGG’s “see you in the morning!” and was relaxed about the prospect of Dada being back on Friday morning and TGG coming back this morning.  Miss Pipa, on the other hand, went into a very accurate imitation of Anthony Quinn’s Andrea in Guns of Navarone.  If she had been wearing a shirt, she’d have torn it off and pounded her bare chest with her tiny paws.  It was THAT melodramatic.  As I spoke to Dada on the phone before going to bed, Miss Pipa hovered over me, sniffing my hair, crawling under the pillows, scratching at closet doors (does she REALLY think he fits in there with all those clothes?,) and bringing one of her “danger mice” for me to toss and toss and toss to entertain her, she settled down at the foot of the bed, and proceeded to meow rather loudly until she felt it was enough.

The alarm clock rang loudly at six a.m. and Miss Pipa leaped towards me as I leapt out of bed.  I made the worst cup of coffee in the history of my world.  I am no longer used to making coffee for one.  At six-thirty I gave Dada his wake-up call and then I finished my coffee before setting about getting J out the door.  Dada’s absence seems to have been forgotten overnight.  J, too, was looking all over the place and went to the garage to check if the van was still there.  After he found the van (not that he could miss its presence at all…it IS big and red!,) he went upstairs and looked for Dada.  I explained, again, that he’ll be back late on Friday, and I showed him the calendar and counted with him.

I am sure I will have to help everyone settle in once more as the day progresses into night.  That I have time to spare is something that nags at me.  I miss Dada tremendously, and the days go by very slowly when he’s not here and yet I seem to get everything done earlier, and then I’m left to mark time until it’s bedtime.  I think it’s because J’s not much of a conversationalist.  This morning we had an awesome time singing our bus-waiting song, and we’ve added stanzas and he actually vocalizes enthusiastically, but the rest of the time our exchanges are brief.  Dada, on the other hand, is quite the chatterbox (even if people think I’m the one who can’t seem to shut up.)

On the way to the bus, I went over the “you do as the teacher says” thing, and I wrote a note (which I read out loud to J) saying that if he needs to stay behind while the other kids walk due to his lack of cooperation, so be it.  J rolled his eyes and said YES.  We’ll see how he fared today when I read the book again.

Here we are…day two of the altered environment.  I have a cat on my feet as I type this.  J is at school and TGG is sleeping.  Is it Friday yet?