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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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It’s just 9:30am and Jonah’s already on a long stretch of quiet time, earned by throwing a heavy laptop toy (and his juice) at me as we were getting in the car to go see train.  And yesterday he launched himself, kicking and scratching, at our awesome babysitter; luckily she had been taught a “hold” to keep them both safe.  Andy knows these holds too, having worked for more than a decade as a teacher at a small school for emotionally disturbed kids.  I don’t know the holds and need to learn them.

It is Monday, the first day of my week-long vacation from work; tomorrow morning we leave for Cape Cod, back on Friday.  I am frightened and tired and numb – oh myand feeling like the only good thing is Jonah’s in his room safely and I can write a little bit to ease myself out of this state of mind where nothing about this feels like vacation.

But I don’t want to talk about these things – not here, not today.  I believe what you focus on expands and so I will focus on something else; I will tell you about Jonah’s adventures yesterday, pre-flip-out-on-the-babysitter.

He asked for Russro Park, which has trails and woods behind it.  I knew he wanted to run into the woods and toward a big mound of dirt where he likes to play.  Andy and I both took him, which is kind of rare – usually only one of us takes him out, so the other one can have a break.  As I predicted, Jonah wanted the forest.  While he played on and around his dirt mound, Andy and I fashioned spears from small branches and played javelin-throw into a sandy area.  We goofed off, Andy channeling Thundarr the Barbarian, shaking two branch-spears and grunting cave-man style.  Me teach you, woman, how to kill bear. My wussily-thrown spears clunked horizontally to the ground, killing only my ego and maybe an ant or two.

Jonah, in the meantime, had discovered a small embankment where he could slide down the dirt to a level of forest maybe 5 feet lower.  This dirt-slide became his own personal woodland playground for the next half hour or so.  He tossed great handfuls of sappy pine cones and moss-covered sticks about, laughing the whole time.  He rolled in the dirt; bathed in the dirt; became one with the dirt – until he was completely layered in it, brown flour coating the baking-sheet of his body.  “Okay, boo, 5 minutes!” I called over to him.

“More stay here!”  he shouted back, panic in his voice.  Andy shrugged.  We stayed a while longer.  Jonah came over to where I was playing with sticks and stones in the dirt and asked for my bottle of water, which I let him take to his play-spot.  Minutes later I realized my mistake.  He’d taken the top off and poured the water over himself and the ground, making a big, fat, muddy mess of himself.  Now it was really time to leave…do not pass go…directly to the bathtub.  “More stay here!” he protested again…but even he must have known it was time to get cleaned up, for he capitulated nicely and we returned home for a marathon bath session.

When he was dry he came to me, asking “camwa?  camwa?”  I thought he wanted to see this train video I’d taken – so I set it up, started the video, and handed the camera to him.  But he handed it back to me and said “say cheese!”  Maybe he wants to take a picture or two.

I grossly underestimated his interest.  He took probably 200 pictures, in rapid succession, giggling “say cheese!” to me, to the dresser, to the mirror, to the bed, to the ceiling.  Here are my favorites:

Jonah took this picture himself

Jonah's new hobby

So maybe his new thing is photography.  I’ll be damned if I’ll let him break my camera, though, so I’ll set him up with the Fisher-Price digital camera my mom gave him a year or two ago.

I am continually frustrated by my inability to photograph anything with success, but I like taking pictures too.   If you really want to see some kick-ass photography, just check out my cousin’s photo blog.  (She’s got some pics of Jonah there too).

So maybe we’ll have lots of beach pictures taken by Jonah when I post next, probably on Friday.  And maybe I’ll have good news to report – maybe we had fun, maybe the weather was perfect, maybe the beaches were open for business — and maybe Jonah got through it all without attacking anybody or screaming penis! to the sunbathing beauties and leather-tanned fishermen and screeching seagulls.

Maybe.

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