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Posts Tagged ‘aggression’

On Friday Jonah’s new teacher e-mailed me to tell me about his week at school:

This week in class we learned more about pumpkins and and their life cycles.  We also read lots of books about Halloween and October.  We had garden a few times this week too!  I attached a few pictures that I caught of Jonah picking tomatoes.  He loved to pick them not sure he like the way they tasted though!  We are super excited for Monday for Halloween!  Our class is going to be lumber jacks!!! I’ll be sure to send more photos!

Halloween was never a happy holiday for Jonah before he came to Anderson.

From babyhood he cried if we tried to dress him in a costume, and he had neither the patience nor cognitive skills to go Trick or Treating, even with guidance. And so I learned not to be jealous of other parents and kids with their cute costumes posted to social media and their happy stories of Halloween parties and fun — the same way I learned not to be jealous on the first day of school, Christmas, and every other holiday or event shared by people all around us.

Eventually I learned to find a certain satisfaction & solace in the fact that I didn’t have to deal with whatever negatives come along with all those “normal family” things – like having to shop for a Halloween costume Jonah liked, or hoping to afford the Christmas presents he wanted, or dealing with whatever bullshit comes with the soccer mom territory.

Still, I was looking forward to seeing Boo dressed up as a lumberjack for Halloween, taking part in the activities and fun at his school.

The first year he was there (2011), they sent me a photo of him dressed as Spiderman and I actually cried from the joy/shock of it all — he had fun!  He trick or treated (in whatever capacity they manage with kids like him)!  He enjoyed a special day in a way that could never happen at home.  He was doing better there.

But this morning, a nurse called from the school to tell me that Jonah had been taken to Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital after having repeated uncontrollable violent aggressions.  They are going to keep me posted as to his status but now I am distractedly anxious and upset, and angry too.  It’s the usual anger – nothing I haven’t talked about before – the anger that springs from the limitation of what they know about autism.  Jonah’s kind of autism.  The kind where he can’t stay home and even the renowned school we sent him to can’t handle him.

The kind where his Halloween costume is literally that of a mental patient in a hospital.

The kind where, when I research “autism and extreme aggression,” the articles all suggest “consider out-of-home care” as a last possible resort.  After that there’s nothing.  We’ve taken that last possible resort.

I’m tired of this holding pattern bullshit life for my boy, where even the most extreme drug regimen they can come up with isn’t doing the job.  I want to research Kennedy Krieger again and bring their intensive program in Baltimore back to the table.

From the website:

Established in the 1980s, the Neurobehavioral Unit (NBU) is a unique, 16-bed inpatient unit dedicated to the assessment and treatment of children and young adults with developmental disabilities and intellectual disabilities who have severe behavioral problems. Throughout its history the NBU has served patients from across the country and around the world. The NBU is recognized as one of the leading programs in the nation for providing intensive behavioral treatment to individuals with severe and highly treatment-resistant behavioral disorders and developmental disabilities. We offer unique integrated and targeted applications of behavioral and pharmacological intervention using a data-based approach. 

Our patients are cared for by professionals specializing in the fields of behavioral psychology, psychiatry, pediatrics, neurology, nursing, social work, and speech and language pathology. And because a child’s progress depends on caregiver involvement and participation in the program, the family is also considered a vital member of the team.

I don’t want Jonah to be away from everything that is a routine or comfort to him, but I think at this point we need to be a lot more forward thinking.  Jonah is going on 15 years old and time is running out to manage the behaviors that preclude him from any chance of a life of inclusion and independence.

I am willing to look into taking a leave of absence from work and going down to be near him, maybe stay at a Ronald McDonald House or something.  How can we not at least research it as a possible solution when it might be the key to his future?  How can I not grasp at this straw when there are no others left in the haystack?

And so I sit and wait to hear from the hospital.  I try not to think about him strapped down or given drugs to make him too dopey to attack.  Try not to sit and cry and resent all the Happy Halloween going on around me.  Try not to hold too big a pity party when I am helpless here and everything feels so out of control.

Try not to lose it altogether.

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I want to start a whole new blog, but life gets in the way.  Then again that’s not true either – we have time for what we prioritize, whether we admit it or not.

To be sure, my life has gotten busier.  I’m working a couple different PT gigs now and I just accepted a big writing project from Pearson, which will throw the rest of August into deadline mode.  But that doesn’t excuse me from disappearing; one does hate a dead blog.

So I’ll be writing more here, with all the other work going on, even if the new blog(s) of mine must wait.  Boo does take top priority, after all.

Sigh.  It’s been a summer of disinterest for Jonah.  Against all reason, he seems to have lost his love for the pool, although I’d bet money he’d jump in the new swimming hole/waterfall area I found.

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I mourn the loss of my little boo-fish and hope he’s not gone for good.  I wish I could take Jonah to the ocean again.  He was in his element there, and at places like the waterfall at Hyuck Preserve.  Maybe he just wants a natural water source.

Nowadays, when my mom and I drive down to visit with him at Andy’s apartment, he mostly asks for car ride.  Even wanna take a bath has fallen to the dominant desire for car ride.  I understand; he doesn’t get a lot of car ride at his residential school, unless they’re taking the kids bowling or something – and then he has to share the backseat.  Hell, he won’t even share the backseat of the car with grandma unless we’re on the short ride from his residence to the apartment.  He wants mama in the front and no one in back.  Sometimes when he wants car ride he’ll simply say mama in the front?

We’ve learned his language well.  We know what he wants.

Car ride is a specific loop Andy invented which passes through and around some of Rhinebeck’s historical sites.  Usually at some point during the ride we stop at a gas station where we let Jonah out of the car, walk with him to the mini-mart inside, and allow him to choose a treat (like a bear claw or a donut).  The lady in there knows us now – she’s friendly, and nice to Boo.  He nearly always agonizes between two or more treats before deciding on something.  Then, once in a while, he’ll ask to go back to the apartment.  Most of the time he just wants another loop.

Andy gets Boo out to go for a walk, at least.  We like to take him to the park where daddy pushes him on his favorite swing for a while.  After that we walk down the path to a school’s athletic track, where I try in vain to get him to race me.  He walks and cavorts at his own pace.  Yet all of it is dependent on Boo’s caprice, which he makes perfectly clear each time.  No park!  No park!  he’ll say, and then we don’t even try.  It wouldn’t be worth it to force the issue.

My mom always brings delicious sandwiches on croissants.  Jonah will eat one, after a fashion, by pulling it apart, re-arranging the pieces, and putting it all back together Frankensandwich-style.  Yesterday he wanted a frozen dinner as well – chicken parm.  We indulged him.  He doesn’t eat anywhere near the whole thing, and his choice of “dipping sauce” might gross you out, but I did catch the experience on video.

The story of this day has a really shitty ending, so maybe I’ll just skip right to that part now and make it the middle.

When my mom and I left to go home, Andy and Jonah were having quiet time on the big blue bed.  It was a great image with which to leave them:  Jonah and his daddy lying together… Boo snuggling in for a hug.  Mama leans over for soft kisses, inhaling the top of his head.  Goodbye, precious boy.

Off my mom and I go to our innocent oblivion, arriving back in Albany, continuing on with our days, a warm feeling nestled inside us because Boo was so very happy and good.

Later Andy called me and filled me in on the rest of the afternoon.  When it was time to bring Jonah back to his residence, Andy promised him 2 car ride loops.  Evidently Jonah wasn’t counting because when Andy announced loop 2 was done, Boo insisted this was not the case.  And the manner in which he insisted involved a quick Houdini-esque harness escape followed by climbing toward the front of the car, grabbing Andy’s hair, and yanking it — hard.  I didn’t ask whether Andy at least had time to pull over first.

And I didn’t have to ask what happened next — I’ve seen it go down so many times I can watch it like a film inside my head.  Jonah pulls hair with Herculean strength.  A wrestling bout inevitably ensues – Andy trying to keep Jonah managed and safe while protecting himself.  Andy is still the undefeated champion in these matches, but he comes away bruised, sore, and likely disheartened.  We know Jonah doesn’t always love going back to his residence, and sometimes he cries, but there also have been times when he asks to go back.  It’s a crap shoot what you’re going to get on any given day.

When Andy tells me the story on the phone it’s with a calm voice, relating the facts in a tone that seems almost rehearsed.  Not fake or phony.  Just repeated too often, maybe.  Perhaps a little hardened by the time of it.  Frequency x the passing days/weeks/months = A dull and radical acceptance of a fact.

Like at the airport:  The moving sidewalk is coming to an end. 

On August 16th, Jonah will have been at the Anderson Center for Autism 4 years.  It’s still the best place for him to learn and grow and become as independent as possible.  We still know we did the right thing.

It’s just….well, not speaking for anyone but me, I discern a cognitive plateau in Boo.  I find it hard to stay encouraged that he’s gaining any ground.  His learning happens at a snail’s pace.  But maybe I’m off the mark.  I can write or call his teachers and behavioral management specialists, but I know the answer they’ll provide:  a gently euphemized, politically correct assessment of his progress and its intended path, however slowly, toward gaining skills and learning things sans aggression.  I should contact them anyway, and I will.  But not now.  Not today.

So here’s the middle of my story, now the end.  As you can tell I’m always photojournalizing our visits, with a lot of snapping pictures of Boo from the front seat of the car.  In this 3-photo sequence you get to see:

A.  The light bulb of a “naughty idea” come upon his face, igniting a smile

B.  His delight at this idea and the beginning of its execution:  snatch camera from mama

C.  The resulting photo he took of himself shortly thereafter

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I adore his laughter, his happy, the moments during which he is bright and eager and fun – hatching ideas, trying to pull one over on us.

We’ve learned to accept whatever comes because we love him.  Do I wish there were a “cure” tomorrow, a magic pill we could give Jonah to make him neurotypical?  I don’t know.  Should I wish that?

I’d prefer an à la carte menu.  Leave out the aggressions & add more interests (in anything besides car ride).  A steady, if slow, improvement in skills and cognitive abilities.  Some Calm.  If I want to get greedy (and since this is an imaginary scenario, what the hell), I also want him to be verbal. Conversational verbal.

I hear Iris Holland screaming in the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, stamping her feet and slamming the table for emphasis:  I want to talk to my son!

But it’s a dumb game, even in pretend land.  I cannot pick and choose my child’s traits, and to do so would be morally questionable at best.  I just want him to be happy.  How many times have I repeated that sentence throughout this blog, I wonder?  How many times have I repeated myself about other things as well?

If I have, I suppose I should apologize — but it fits in well with the whole repetition theme, after all.

Here are extra pics of Boo to make up for lost time.

I’ll be back soon.

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^^^ With Grandma in the waiting room of the JRA doc.  She brings him a breakfast sandwich and a lem-a-made.

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^^^ Daddy helping him out of his harness.  Buzz cut!

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^^^ He loves grandma.  Grandma adores him!

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^^^

“Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.”

~ John Betjeman

Perhaps Jonah shall never know the dark hour of reason. I think that might be okay.

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Mama in the front.

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Sometimes blogging feels like tightrope-walking.  What to say, how to say it, what details to include.  There’s so much history here now.  Do I just tell a story, or maybe fill an entry with pictures?  What’s appropriate to put out there?  I usually just say what I’ve got to say, but sometimes it’s tricky.

If I’ve got an 8-second video of an 11-year-old Jonah with his wide, adorable smile, looking right at me and speaking clear-as-day:  fuck!  followed by my immediate response of laughter, is it cool for me to post that without seeming like I’m proud of it?  Hell, I laughed.  Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

The thing is I know (some of) who reads this blog, and I know if I say such-and-such it’ll get back to so-and-so, and then I have to decide how to tell my story or, sometimes, whether or not to tell it at all.

Andy and I have some unspoken tales of sadness and ennui that will likely never be told.  Macht nichts, I suppose.  Discretion, diplomacy.  I never was good with filters, so I err on the “sin of omission” side when necessary.  If I decide to tell a story I’m gonna tell the whole damn mess of it; I ain’t gonna sugarcoat it, so I better decide what I say with care.

Anyway.

On Saturday, somehow, Jonah managed to open (and set next to him) no fewer than three cans of white soda.  All this with three adults present.  Never underestimate Jonah’s quiet little conniving magic mind & abilities.

he's a quick little bugger

he’s a quick little bugger

It was Andy’s birthday, and my mom brought cupcakes.  Boo wasted no time in descending upon them.

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Skittles and Chuckles too.  Somewhere in there is some actual food – a tune-fish sandwich – which he ate with near-equal fervor.

I was happy to get a few cool pictures with Jonah, which has become kind of rare:

Me & Boo

Me & Boo

Me & Boo, Number Two

Me & Boo, Number Two

When he is calm and affectionate, our son is a beacon of the purest lovejoy.

In one short video, though, you can actually see Jonah’s agitation ramping up…he shows it using his hands and then finally with a swatting motion.  You’ll hear his dad reassure him:  It’s all right, buddy. 

The triumph is that he did not swat at anything but the air, just that one time.  We were all talking, and he was being told no, and he had so many foods from which to choose.  The videos sometimes make it easier to discern what’s happening and why.  Hell, the videos could very well be part of the problem, even.  That’s why I take them without him seeing me, if I can help it.  Sometimes I take the time to watch them carefully, try to learn from them.

This one’s just fun – lighting the candles on the cupcakes and Jonah gets to blow them out after we all sing to Andy (shaky harmony compliments of mama).

It was a good visit.  I hope Andy had a wonderful birthday; he deserves it.  Jonah’s had this whole week off from school and I think Andy’s picked him up for a visit every other day.  I always knew he’d be a wonderful father, before his child was even a notion.  He and Jonah share such a special bond.

Also, endeavoring to remain self-aware and true to myself, I have broken off my new relationship with Jim.  The reasons are many but none of them call into question his goodness, strength of character, or warm heart.  Some part of me wishes he could have met Jonah, for I think Jonah would have loved him – and I know Jim loves children.

I also am examining what I say in general – and how, and to whom.   These things can have a lifelong impact for good or ill.  I’d like to encounter everyone I see with a smile, to behave in a positive manner, to think before I speak – and when I do speak of others, to always find the good to say.  It’s so easy to say you believe in something and then never bring it into reality.  What you think doesn’t mean anything at all unless your actions match your intentions.

“If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek, five things observe with care…to whom you speak, of whom you speak, and  how, and why, and where.”  ~ Caroline Ingalls

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Yesterday my mom came and picked me up to visit Jonah; we switch off every week, taking turns whose car we take and who drives.  I was exhausted from a long day of work in NYC on Friday, so it was nice to just zone out on the way down.

Once we got to Andy’s and piled in his car to collect Boo from his house on the Anderson campus, though, I was all excitement; I’d missed my boy something awful this week.  When we arrived, Jonah was outside on the playground with the residence manager, who told us he’d had a good morning.

Without waiting, off strides Jonah to the car, pausing only for hugs and kisses – then walking, all business, faster — ready for his Saturday visit with daddy and mama and grandma.

Fear of a Black Planet? he says by way of greeting and musical selection request.  My poor mom up front must endure Public Enemy, played very loud at Jonah’s insistence, while me & my boy groove in the back.

Once in Andy’s apartment, Jonah efficiently opens the bags and cooler grandma brought and puts everything away in its proper location – the cokes and 7ups lined up neatly in the fridge door, the sandwiches on a shelf, crackers and cookies and whatever else in the cabinet.  Usually he doesn’t put every item away, but even when he does, he takes it all right back out again to dig into lunch.

Boo sits nicely at the table 90% of the time now, legs like his mama with one wrapped around the other under the table.  He eats enough for 2 or 3 kids.  His tune-fish sandwich.  Half of mine.  Chips.  Cheese Puffs.  Donut.  Ham and mustard on a roll.  Spinach leaves with blue cheese dressing.

Finally he asks for peanut butter crackers, which we give him but he does not eat.

Here’s where he changes tactics; you can almost see the neurons and synapses at work in his little boy head.  Walking over to where Andy is standing in the kitchen, he says five cheese lasagna? — a frozen lasagna dish Andy often buys him at the grocery store.  Jonah repeats his request rapid-fire, three or four times.  Andy opens the freezer to show Jonah the three packages of five cheese lasagna already there, though he has no intention of heating one up.  I mean, Jonah’s just eaten all this food.  Too much already, really.

But he asks Jonah anyway.  Want some?

Jonah tries his request again – five cheese lasagna? —  ignoring the packages his daddy has just produced.  Then it hits me.  That little clever shit.  He doesn’t want five cheese lasagna at all.  What he wants is grocery store, and he knows it’s not grocery store day, so he’s going to work it however he can to get there. He’s playing his hand carefully and knows he ought to fold, but he can’t resist calling off the bet.

So he goes all in, asking straight out:  Grocery store?

Evidently Jonah thinks “grocery store” is nirvana; Andy takes him on Sundays with varying degrees of success, if you define success as selecting your items, putting them in the cart, maneuvering to the self-check-out lane, getting out of the store, and returning to the car.

Tomorrow, buddy.  We’ll go to the grocery store tomorrow, Andy says patiently.

Now Jonah’s mad and sad.

He starts to cry, fast and hard, no ramping up slow-like.  Sobbing, he throws himself on the floor, crying grocery store?  Grocery store!? over and over — a Shakespearean tragedy whose protagonist has just discovered his beloved is truly out of reach.

Then, just as suddenly, he flings himself across the room and lands on the couch.  Bam Bam Bam, he pounds his fists on the coffee table.  Bam Bam Bam.  We’re all just kind of letting him work it out.

Then into the bedroom, collapsing on the bed, hitting the pillows, crying out.  He even yells Amy! twice — I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say my first name.  Andy doesn’t want me to come in; he’s protecting me from an aggression.  But I gently push past him, risking it to try and calm Boo.  Jonah cocks his arm back at me but lowers it again quickly when I say no hit mama.  It takes him a while to get it together in there, but he does not hit mama.

He does not hit mama.

As much as I hate watching him go through his cycle of anger and despair over denial of grocery store, I am proud of Jonah just the same.  It all means he is expressing himself more appropriately, as tantrum-like as he looks in the process.

He’s mad, so he yells.

He’s sad, so he cries.

He’s frustrated, so he hits the table with his fists.

But he didn’t hit us.  Not this day, anyway, or any I’ve had with him in a while.  I consider it a big breakthrough.  I continue to hope beyond hope that his aggressions will mitigate into disappearance.

And I just know he had a kick-ass time at grocery store today.

Boo took this one of me.  I leaned down 'cause he wasn't using his aiming-the-camera skills very well.

Boo took this one of me. I leaned down ’cause he wasn’t using his aiming-the-camera skills very well.

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Sometimes when I don’t blog for a while it’s because of a superstitious belief:  because everything is going well with Boo, I mustn’t write about it because it will break the streak of good, of happy, of laughter and kisses and hugs and learning.

Of course it is just superstition, but when you’re in my position you will cave to anything that works, or seems to work.  And that’s not the only reason anyway.  Without giving too much information about me, I had a hard February.  The kind of hard where I called a new psychiatrist for counseling and to adjust my meds and I called my OBGYN to figure out what the hell kind of hormonal changes are happening to me at the age of 44 1/2 to make me suicidal one day and joyful the next.  Menopause?  I already have osteoporosis and arthritis so why the hell not.

This will not do.

And so in the meantime I meditate and I pray and I work and I try to get outside – it’s so easy to hibernate most days when it is so damn cold and I work from home.  Some weeks the only time I go outside at all is to go visit Boo.

I didn’t even go to the advocacy thing I spoke about in my last post.  I was about as depressed as I get that day accompanied by a migraine that slammed me down into puking and crying.   Weakness.  My mind and my body betray me all the time, just when I’m ramped up to DO SOMETHING about all the low-functioning kids and their situations, just like mine before we were able to place Jonah at the Anderson Center for Autism.

And so for the first time in a month –  Two months?  – his school called me on Monday AND Tuesday to tell me that Jonah had gotten aggressive to the point that he needed “a two-person take-down” — meaning they’d had to subdue him physically.  Of course they know how to do it without harming the child, but someone always gets hurt in the process – usually a teacher or caregiver.  I suppose that’s better than another child, at least.

When I wrote to his room head teacher she told me she thinks it was because she was out sick on Monday, and on Tuesday there was a new child in the classroom.  Jonah does not do well at all with change.   Yet sometimes, as has happened many times in the past, there is no antecedent at all and we are left to wonder what the hell made him “flip out” for no reason we can discern.

It bursts my bubble again and again, and the longer Boo goes doing really well between aggressions, the bubble bursting hurts all the more.  Then again when I compare it to 3 years ago or so, I have to remind myself that it used to be 8-12 aggressions a DAY.  So I get out my trusty old bubble wand, blow some more bubbles, and hope.

He has been happy when my mom and I visit on Saturdays, dancing and singing and eating his lunch, taking his bath, requesting his Oompa Oompa, shrieking with joy, asking for car rides.  It’s our routine and he enjoys it.

Then I found a group on Facebook, thanks to an online friend, for people dealing with children who have “classic autism/severe autism.”  I expected the usual – a bunch of people arguing about diets and treatments and drugs, parents insisting “if you just do this you can cure your child of autism,” etc.  I was never so wrong in my life.  It was a light of love that I found — a place where you can say what is happening to you and your child without fear of judgement or blame.  A place where everyone affirms one another, cheers for the accomplishments and offers empathy for the disasters.  It is the best place with the best people I have ever found since Jonah was diagnosed, and I wish I’d found it long ago.

Because Asperger’s ain’t what we’re dealing with and yet that’s all anyone talks about in other groups, it always seems.  Parents bragging about their accomplishments, lifting their child(ren) out and away from the autism and into social groups and “regular” schools and how they take their child everywhere with them; that’s why their kids are doing so much better, don’t we see that?

I hate that shit.  I could never take Jonah anywhere with  me (in public) since the time he was a little baby, without facing stares and glares and the whole rest of it – my screaming, crying, unhappy Boo hating the car seat carrier, unable to participate in the little “music and movement” classes I’d enrolled us in before he was diagnosed.  Then, later, attacking random people in the mall, at the “family” restaurant, at parks and playgrounds.  And always the ugly glances, always the eyes boring into mine, the message loud and clear:  God what a bad parent she must be.  What a brat she’s got….until I prayed for winter to give us the perfect excuse to hibernate inside.

This new group is a cyber-world where I cry for others’ children and they cry for mine.  Where we offer each other suggestions and support but not any of that “I’m right and you’re wrong” bullshit.  Where we read one another’s stories, watch heartbreaking or joyful snippets of video, share blog posts, hugs, prayers, ideas, and love.   Where no one has to feel alone, or persecuted, or guilty.

I am so grateful to have found them, my fellow aliens on this planet of normalcy, so many of them suffering worse than I ever did, with other children to protect and deal with, often more than one on the spectrum, sometimes facing heart operations or other serious medical problems on top of all the other stresses.  God bless them all.  I don’t know how they do it but I do know how they do it — because life isn’t offering any of them a choice — you do it because you love your child(ren) beyond reason and would do anything to help them when they are suffering.

And so now I am no longer alone in this, not at all, not ever.

Yesterday when my mom and I visited, Jonah was happier than ever.  Laughing, giggling, smiling, lovey.  He pointed to the computer and asked for train and I put on an hour long video from YouTube with endless trains coming and going, coming and going, made by some rail fanner adult.  Boo sat mesmerized, first on my lap and then alone in the computer chair, alternately single-mindedly catching the visuals of the movement of the trains with a dumbstruck look on his face and smiling at the approach or departure of the train.  “Bye bye train!” I say, every time a train rounds a corner and disappears, only to be replaced with another approaching train.  Boo smiles, giggles, eagerly anticipating the next train.  Over and over.  Train after train.  When I had him on my lap I breathed him in at the back of his neck, gave him little mama kisses all over his shoulders, rubbed his back, whispered “mama loves you so much” into his ears.  I drink him up every time I see him like this.

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And, on his car ride, as happy as the song playing on the radio:  Happy by Pharrell Williams.

My mom and I left in a satisfied state of happy ourselves, both of us saying “thank God” as we get into the car to drive away from Andy’s apartment, where he and Jonah will have “quiet time” in the big blue bed, just lying together, and sometimes Jonah will take a nap.

Then, later, the daily phone call from Andy, always around 8:08pm, always just after he has called Jonah’s residence house to see how Jonah did that evening – on Saturdays, particularly, after Andy has dropped him back off.  The news wasn’t good this day.  Always Jonah cries a little and maybe tantrums as he is being brought back to his residence.  He likes his residence and has his favorite people there but still leaving daddy behind is hard for him.

This night his favorite staff members were not there, and he was angry, and did not want his dinner.  They have other foods to offer the kids and he asked for a bagel.  I want bagel please? he kept asking, over and over even after he’d been given one.  His voice gets more desperate and he cycles through a million things.  Bath?  Car ride?  Train?  Bagel?  Bagel?  Bagel? and he ramps up even more, torn between a mysterious desperation and an OCD-like anger and sadness.

Eventually he went into his room and was quiet for a while.  Then one caregiver heard banging and crashing, and when she went into his room he was kicking the walls and throwing items around, frenzied with the sadness/anger again.  When she gently asked him what was wrong he flung himself at her, attacking her, and eventually needing 3 people to get him under control.  Another bubble burst.

God forgive me but I am grateful I don’t have to see it, to be the one attacked anymore, to have the freedom of being removed from it all, physically if not emotionally.

I have gone from this scratched-up, bruised, beaten down person

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to this person

View More: http://ourtwohearts.pass.us/the-beautiful-amy

in three years.

I can’t believe the difference.

And Jonah has gone from this child:

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to this one:

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I have to remember that despite the setbacks, in general we are both so much better, so happier.

And if I am upset or confused or angry or sad, I know I now can reach out to my new peeps online in the Facebook group, and there will be understanding, there will be light.

I will try to post more often, superstition be damned…

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Every year at Jonah’s school they have Harvest Day with food and fun, games for the kids, school tours for the parents/grandparents, etc.  Harvest Day 2013 was this past Saturday; my mom and I went together to visit Jonah’s classroom.  Andy had taken him for an overnight the night before, so we visited there first, then drove the 5 miles to the school, and back to the apartment afterward.

So we saw Boo’s classroom and spoke with his teacher and an assistant teacher.  We snacked on apple cider & apple cider donuts, looked through piles of worksheets and construction paper creations (plus one bottle of blue water with “fish” and “sand” in it).  I loved at it all and brought everything home with me, even unrecognizable scribbles or coloring books he’d made out of pages and a piece of string to tie it all together, the pages crayoned heavily, each in one color only and with no attempt at staying in the lines.  It was almost as if he didn’t see the picture at all and instead just filled the page with color.

They also told us Jonah has been mostly very happy and good in school for a few weeks now (and his residence peeps say the same thing), and my mother and I were both thinking:  It’s when the doctor lowered the steroid eyedrop dosage from every two hours to just twice a day.  Maybe that’s it, and now his aggression will dissipate.  Please God…

One doctor told me when you are given steroids through eyedrops, it doesn’t really have very much effect on mood or behavior.  But I was once a Deadhead, doc, and have seen people use an eyedropper to take acid because it was the fastest way to get the drug into the system –better absorption, quicker effect.  So I find it hard to believe that steroids, no matter how they’re given, don’t have any bearing on Jonah’s behaviors.  In fact if I piece it all together (which this blog helps me do), his behaviors began the summer after we started him on steroid eyedrops, back before we knew he had iritis or uveitis.  Andy noticed his eye was red so we took him to an eye doc, and the first eyedrops didn’t work, and the whole saga began.  Nearly four years ago? 

So now Jonah has no vision (or hardly any) in his left eye, but his behaviors are more easily avoided with positive reinforcement and by reminding him it’s okay if he needs to take a break.  All he has to do is ask for one and he gets it.  I think it’s even in his IEP.  These people who teach and care for Jonah have good ideas and incredible dedication.  They are happy, optimistic, hard-working.  They are amazing.  And God help me but I don’t so much mind the trade:  sight in one of Jonah’s eyes for his overall happiness and well-being – for no more aggression, or way less of it.  Maybe the steroids caused the aggression the whole time…

…and yes we both know correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but then again sometimes it does, dammit. Sometimes it does.  We are in hopeland, holding tight to the pendulum lest it swing back, as if we had the strength to keep it from doing anything but what it does.  But Jonah has been happy, lovey, laughing and giggling – at the doctor, at Andy’s apartment, during our car rides:

happy boo

happy boo in andy’a apartment.  needs a napkin!

happy boo

happy boo at the pediatric rheumatologist, rocking the wrinkled collar

happy boo

happy boo, laughing on a car ride

Of course I could be wrong about it all but hopeland feels good and is so filled with joy – there really is no reason to leave.

But I digress.

Only one couple was there when we were talking with Jonah’s teachers, and they left the room after a bit, so my mom and I could ask more questions about Boo.  Seems his favorite day is Friday, when he can declare/ask no school tomorrow?!  I suppose in this sense he’s like a lot of other 11-year-olds.

So on the way out, we stopped at a table where two ladies were selling cards.  A set of 10 is $10, and you get two cards each of four designs, themed for summer/flowers, wintertime, etc…and every design is created by a student at the school.  Last year I bought two packages, and I was planning to buy two more.  I chose two ‘summers’ and was about to pay when I first introduced myself.  “I’m Jonah’s mother,” I told them, figuring they’ll know who he is — he’s the only Jonah in the school.  “Oh!” one of the ladies said.  “Jonah has a design this year.”  And she pulled out the “winter” package. 

I immediately dropped the two others and bought two “winters” without even seeing Jonah’s design.  I was so eager to look through them, and amazed that Jonah’s artwork has been chosen for a card!  I mean, the designs are always pretty good – and some are really good.  But Jonah just isn’t interested in art or drawing.

Therefore, I found all this hard to believe.

The cards come in see-through plastic packages, and the card you can see through the front panel of the “winter” package is this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cool, right?   I thought so.  Here’s the next one:

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Downright amazing, yes?  I was secretly hoping this one was Jonah’s – but no.  The third card out of four was next:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nice use of cotton for the snow, right?   Another goodie.

So last comes Jonah’s masterpiece, entitled, simply, “Elf” — of course I loved that he did an elf…

???????????????????????????????

It was all I could do not to crack up laughing right at the table.

I’m thinking to myself, this is the card in the box that people don’t even send.  I love it with all my heart, even as I laugh.  I’m so proud of my Boo.  You see how he signs his name?  He starts off on the right, with JON — then moves over to the left side to add AH.

HOPELAND ART AUCTION:  We’ll start the bidding at a hundred dollars.

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Last Saturday I brought the big-ass pillow with us (the kind that you use as a backrest, with two “arms” on either side) and we successfully got all 4 of us in the car for a ride.  The pillow served to protect the backseat occupant with its bulk and punching-bag-like sturdiness.

The way we accomplished it was to put the pillow in the backseat right from the time we picked Boo up at the residence, and then after his lunch, we told him “we’re all going to the grocery store and grandma’s coming too.”  When he started to protest we reminded him that we’re going to buy chocolate donuts but only if grandma can come.  And by gosh, it worked.  He was even good in the car — he liked the pillow and rubbed it as we drove along.

Boo with his new grey pillow

Boo with his new grey pillow

a soft barrier

a soft barrier

I taped a small conversation we had along the way, though he’s parroting through most of it:

Overall it was a good visit.  At the store Boo successfully navigated the cart politely around other shoppers to the exact location where the beloved chocolate donuts awaited his arrival.  This Saturday we switched our visit to Sunday, so I will see him tomorrow, on Father’s Day, then come home in time to take my own dad out for dinner.

Instead M and I indulged in other plans, afterward ending up driving near Thatcher Park.  What a gorgeous day.

gorgeous day for it

beautiful

the bluest sky

the bluest sky

When we got home M wanted a nap so I took a walk alone to Buckingham Park and took some more pictures, then made some “nature art.”

Always there are ducks and geese, fish and turtles.

Always there are ducks and geese, fish and turtles.

I liked this little boy and took his picture as he watched a goose

I liked this little boy and took his picture at the park

I sat in the grass and I materials that were within reach

I sat in the grass and used materials that were within reach

On Wednesday Jonah had another follow-up appointment with the eye doc/surgeon.  It wasn’t a good visit.  I’m grateful that sometimes it is easier to handle Jonah’s outbursts/aggressions/whatever-you-wanna-call-them.  Sometimes they roll off me like rain washing river-paths along my body, navigating around my heart.  I don’t know why – I wish I could tap into those “sometimes” all the time.  Maybe it had something to do with the rain falling on us all week…

…but, at first, he was good.  Two care-givers from the school brought him up, so I felt more secure knowing they were there.  Still, I came armed with fruit snacks and a yellow octopus I’d bought ahead of time.  He liked both of these gifts.

all, at first, was fine

all, at first, was fine

He even smiled as she guided his head into the eye machine

He even smiled as she guided his head into the eye machine

She told us the pressure in his eye was 18 – nice and low.  She doubted herself and took the measurement again, and got 17.  She looked in his eye and said there was a lot less blood present.  We asked if he could go without the eye shield now but she said no.  This means he’s been wearing the thing for more than a month and has to keep wearing it for we-don’t-know-how-long.  Then she asked Jonah to sit back in the chair and he suddenly freaked, arching his back and standing up, his face melting into anger and sadness.

You can see one caregiver behind him and one in front.

You can see one caregiver behind him and one in front.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, it is awkward for me to whip out a camera at these moments to take a picture (all in the name of photo-journalism).  One more pic, and then I was required to enter the fray.

??????????????????????

Moments after this picture he bit N’s wrist, hard, drawing blood.  (The dude is about to retire; I bet he feels it’s none too soon).

After this we got Jonah down on the floor, where he thrashed, kicked, hit, head-butted…the usual whole 9 yards.  In the interest of protecting the two of us at his feet, I leaned in to take off his left shoe and BAM he thrust forward at the same time and kicked the shit out of my right shoulder and, afterward, scratched me up right between the eyes. (I never wear glasses around Boo anymore).  Eventually it took me, the two caregivers, and even the doc herself to get Jonah under control.

My tears were brief, and all for Jonah this time, whose face crumpled, desperately upset — innocent even in the midst of the aggressions.  The doc hadn’t yet done the ultrasound, which is an important part of the whole exam, but she made the wise choice to put this off, scheduling another appointment for a week away, making this coming Wednesday another anticipated & exciting attempt at examining his eye properly.

Then we somehow convinced Jonah that it was all over, that there would be no more doctor, that we were all done.  N was able to stand him up and guide him out of the office, holding both his arms.  I stayed behind to check out and make the next appointment.  Of course I could feel all  eyes on me, all the seated, (mostly) senior citizens who’d heard the screaming and carrying on, but I’m used to that.  What I’m not used to is what happened next with the elderly lady in line behind me.  I glanced at her and smiled, but she narrowed her eyes at me, the corners of her mouth turning sour-down in disapproval, shaking her head as if to say “what a shame you can’t raise a child who isn’t such a brat.”  Instead of shoving her over like I wanted to, I turned back to the receptionist, got our paperwork and appointment card, and quickly walked away.

Andy just called and said Jonah was good today, both with him and at the residence.  May tomorrow be a happy day too.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there, all the step-fathers, foster fathers, grandfathers, and people who act as fathers to others….to all the fathers no longer with us, to all the brand new fathers, and to fathers who are sick or alone, and to all the men who decided not to be fathers because they were mature enough to know they didn’t want to do it.

When it is Mother’s Day I usually also give a shout-out to all birth mothers who selflessly made adoption plans for their babies, but I don’t feel the same way about birth fathers.  Perhaps I should, but I just don’t.  At least not about the ones who don’t stick around long enough to see the whole thing through, and I haven’t heard about too many of those.   I couldn’t give a crap about my birth father…who he is, or where he is, or why.  At least my birth mother carried me in her womb and then had whatever it takes to watch as they took me away.

I miss my mom’s dad, who I called “Poppy.”  Jonah’s middle name is Poppy’s first name — Russell.   He died just after I’d gotten engaged to Andy.  I wish I could have known my other grandfather, my dad’s dad, but he died when I was a year old or so.  He was a deputy fire chief in Albany, and was just 57 when he passed away.

I honor Andy as our son’s father, and I’m looking forward to honoring my own father too, by spending some time with him and taking him out to dinner later in the day.

It has been good.  I feel like I can handle things.  And I’m grateful for that.

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