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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

I got to see Boo twice this week, which was awesome, and he was a happy kid both times, which was even better.

On Thanksgiving Day my mom had home-made all kinds of traditional dinner dishes and then, as she has been doing for several years now, portioned it out into containers for Andy and for me.  She’s an awesome woman and grandmother and mom, and I sometimes can’t believe what she will do for the people she loves.  Her heart is big, and full, and loving.

She even makes her father’s stuffing (my “poppy,” who died in 1999)  – an amazing and difficult concoction of deliciousness I can’t even begin to describe.

Andy brought Jonah up around 11:30am – Jonah’s always begging for “grandma’s house?” and so this was indeed a grand occasion.  We even had a beautiful day, for it had snowed the day before and there were 8 inches or so on the ground, white still newly-clinging to the branches and bushes against a happy blue sky.

Because we had our dinners packed up to eat later, my mom had also made sandwiches for our lunch.  Jonah, however, likes to search every compartment, cabinet and crevice for different and unusual food choices- especially at grandma’s house.   There was bacon in the freezer, cooked pieces my mom makes a few at a time and then stores away for later.   Once he saw that, Boo knew what he wanted.   If you listen carefully at the very end, he comes over to me and says “and the boobie,” evidently intending to fish down my shirt.  Not happening, kiddo.

He even got to see a train, on a car ride a few minutes after that video was taken.  Sometimes it’s not until I watch videos of Jonah that I realize his level of functioning (both below, above, and beyond others) and can see how very different he is from other children.  I don’t spend a whole lot of time with kids in general, and when I do, they seem like mini-adults or special other creatures who act and look like strange little beings with superskills.

This video from yesterday is an example, too.  Jonah listens to and likes what he likes, without shame or any concept of cool and uncool — none of that “these songs are for toddlers and I’m going on 13.”  I love it.  It’s all very loud; Jonah likes his music cranked.  In the video he says he wants black soda, but quickly decides to try and thieve both mine & my mom’s white sodas.  Having succeeded in making off with mine, the fun begins.

Oh, he is a funny, sweet little boy when he’s happy.  Lately he has been exploring a little more music but definitely has his favorites (his current favorite song is Prince’s Sign of the Times and he asks for it over and over by announcing its track number.

In this video from yesterday he’s jammin’ to Third Base.  He looks like a little gangster, silly Boo.

He hasn’t been great in school lately – more aggressions.  The school called me last week and said they were going to have a meeting about Jonah and whether or not it might be better to transfer him to a different classroom.  The concern is that he’s bright, and bored, and needs more to keep him occupied.  You shine like the sun, my son!  We’ll work together to get you the best schooltime possible.

We have a special relationship, Boo and I, for I am also unconcerned these days with what’s cool, and we rock and sing and love together.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(I think he knows his mama is a little nuts).

Which brings me to my great winter experiment, by which I use neither heat nor lights.  I think I should start a new blog (or maybe a heading under this one) where I discuss things not Jonah-related.  So if you see a new tab up on my main page, that’s why.  If I had all day to write I would make five or six separate blogs about all kinds of things….

So anyway, for today I’ll just keep it here.  I have turned my heat up to 55, having been warned that it’s the lowest temperature at which I can set the thermostat to keep my pipes from freezing.  To be honest, though it is growing colder, I am used to it somewhat and I think I’ll be able to stick it out through the winter.

And I have added further restrictions to my self-imposed experimental wintertime lifestyle: I unplug nearly everything before going to bed or when going out.  I limit my use of paper towels;  if it can be done with a dishcloth, I use that instead.  I take hot showers less often (2-3 times a week instead of once a day) and set my washer on cold water.  No more using the dishwasher.  I’m selling my movies, books, cds on amazon and e-bay in favor of going to the library. (My precious books are the hardest things with which to part).  I get 10 minutes of space heater time during which I get dressed in front of it.

I’ve even caught some media attention from doing this, while trying to get press for Modest Needs.  Once they find out I’m living like this, that becomes the big story – which is fine with me.  At least I get them to mention Modest Needs as an organization helping people stay self-sufficient.  If my “strange & kooky” lifestyle helps that along — by selling papers or getting people to watch TV, I care not.  It all feels quite normal to me, this austere lifestyle I’ve chosen.  It’s not for nothing that Laura Ingalls Wilder & Dick Proenneke are my heroes.  Anyway I should be in the January issue of 518 magazine and also the Bethlehem Spotlight newspaper, thus far.

Call my crazy.  I don’t mind.  This kind of crazy doesn’t hurt anyone and helps me prioritize, to stay mindful of what really matters.

3 of us

My precious boy and me, with grandma watching o’er in the background.  (I’d include more pictures of Andy but he doesn’t like it).

Over and out for now, peeps.  Time to work. And on Friday, courtesy of Tim, I am flying out to Indiana to see him and the Quarryland Men’s Chorus perform an off-book (memorized) intense holiday concert.  My Tim has a solo and one of the best voices in the choir.

How proud am I?

happy couple locks of love

“They love each other…”

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Thanksgiving 2013:   my mother cooked a whole traditional dinner for six people, including herself.  She bought us cheesecake pieces from J.S.Watkins.   She even replicated Poppy (my grandfather)’s time-consuming, amazing stuffing recipe – to this day, the best kind I’ve ever tasted.  When the food was finally prepared, cooked, and cooled, she removed half the Tupperware from her cabinet and divided some of everything into all the containers.

She readies three bags and divides again, placing food “for Amy and M” in one container, for “Andy and Jonah” in another container, and for “Jim” (my father) in a third container.  Whatever is left she keeps to eat, though she probably gives herself a lot less so that we all have what she considers to be “enough.”

The last “sit-down” Thanksgiving dinner we attempted was three years ago now, maybe?  Other people used to come over to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving.  Two aunts and two uncles joined us – and, before he died, Poppy came as well, arriving at sunrise to begin preparations as supremely awesome chef and overseer of the family and feast.  And, of course, in 1999 Andy joined the table.

Then Jonah was born, and he was never-not-even-once the kind of baby you could place next to you in the car seat carrier while you ate, so I’d be up and down from the table to nurse or comfort him.  When Boo was a toddler, we put Teletubbies or something on TV, let him wander around while we ate, and hoped for the best, because we really saw no other solution.  A few more years went by and we kept using distraction techniques to get through it all.  Either Andy or I would get up to watch him/change him, so at least one of us, at any given time, was able to eat.

Then shit got real, and Jonah started throwing things.   This is the 4th Thanksgiving I’ve described here but I’m not all that inclined to look back and re-read about the incident which decided the rest of our Thanksgivings since. I think Jonah threw the whole turkey plate against the wall or something.

My mother always brought out her best china for Thanksgiving, so at least the smashed pieces of platter were very pretty.  But we knew it was all done, the going-through-the-motions of a normal holiday – the hoping-he’ll-be-good-enough-so-we-can-at-least-eat.  Nobody came over anymore after that, of course, and then Andy and I broke up, and then Jonah went away, and now this new routine is the only vestige of a Thanksgiving family event we can manage.

One year when Jonah was about three or four, we drove up to one of my cousin’s then-homes, up north in the Adirondacks.  Jonah was an angel.  I mean to tell you he sat nicely on mama’s lap and ate what I offered him, drank what I gave him, and looked all cute in the process.  I was almost pissed, if you can believe it.  They’re all going to say:  I don’t know why Amy makes this autism thing into such a big deal.  Of course they didn’t, and if anyone thought it, they kept it to themselves.

So this year Andy drove Jonah to “grandma’s house” (for which Boo constantly begs) and I drove separately from my house, meeting them there around 12:30pm.  Jonah did well on the 90 minute car ride but was confused and agitated too.  He thought it was Saturday.  Any break in his routine throws him off, poor kid, and upon arrival he began rapid-fire requesting things right away.

My mother had made us sandwiches for us to eat and Jonah grabbed his, munching & pacing the kitchen, requesting….Oompa oompa?  Car ride?  (even though he’d just been on a 90-minute car ride) Potato chips?  Crackers?  Bath?  Lem-a-made?  Train?

We tried to keep him calm and were somewhat successful, at least at my mother’s house, where he ate his sandwich and chips and then asked again for train? train? train?  train? (add 16 or so more train? s in there).  Andy and I both know there is no train coming on Thanksgiving Day, but we put him in Andy’s car anyway and drove up past Russell Road and into Voorheesville until we were at the tracks.

There are four red lights on the signal post down the track a spell, and even Jonah knows that without a green light, there won’t be a train.  (This four-red-light rule does have its exceptions, but never on Thanksgiving).

Long story short, we did this twice — back and forth from grandma’s in Latham to the train tracks in Voorheesville, Jonah seemingly accepting the lack of train and enjoying the comfort of the route.  I took a few pics of him on the ride:

silly face

silly face

train comin' that way?

train comin’ that way?

Though no trains arrived, we made it back to grandma’s okay – and with Jonah’s favorite Prince CD and our promises of Oompa Oompa, Boo was even calm.    After a short last visit, Andy and Jonah drove back to Rhinebeck (Andy kept Jonah overnight at his apartment).

I drove up to my father’s house to drop off his dinner and hang out for a while.   Then I went home, where M and I heated up our delicious dinner and ate it on our laps on the couch, cause that’s how we roll now.  I could have eaten the dinner alone with my mother, or alone with my father, but any way you sliced it (no pun intended), two out of three of them would have to eat Thanksgiving dinner alone this year.  It’s a far cry from Better Homes & Gardens, but I did the best I could.   Stressful and holidays go together for lots of people; it’s just ours are likely a wee bit weirder.

My mother is 70 now, and tired, and we talked about it all some.  I don’t think she should do it anymore, the big dinners.  Jonah won’t eat much turkey anyway, even after his dad brings him home to his apartment and prepares it with a buttery roll and some lem-a-made.

So why don’t I do the cooking?  I’m incapable.  I can cook meals, but inconsistently well.  A turkey dinner would be the culinary equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.  Next year we’ll order in or something.

Nowadays there comes the now-common dread mixed with hope on every holiday.  This one could have been a lot worse, and I’m grateful it wasn’t.  I believe Jonah is maturing, however slowly, and getting better at asking when he needs something.  (I could kiss whoever taught him I want help please? for he uses it a lot and it avoids ramping up the frustration level for him).

I’m grateful too that throughout my childhood and teens, I had the privilege of celebrating Thanksgiving with a whole host of awesome, loving family members – aunts and uncles and cousins, sometimes 15 or us or more, held at Poppy & Gram’s house.  Memories.  Always there was the tray of carrots, sliced lengthwise and salted by Poppy.  My cousins and I sat against the island-bar on stools.  We twisted them back and forth, the wooden arms banging against the white and gold sparkle-piece patterned counter, until some adult told us to stop.  We felt tight-knit.. everything was warm.  There was so much love in that home!

My first Thanksgiving was spent with my foster-mother (foster-parents?), when my family didn’t even know I existed.  How strange.  Add to that the fact that I’m waiting to hear if my biological family even knows I exist, and everything becomes even more bizarre.  

Anyway, my mom and I drove down on Saturday to visit again, and things were more normal, and Jonah was happier.  And then all hell broke loose on our car ride.  When I showed you that video of a calm Jonah sitting, eating snacks, and watching a movie and I called it an amazing thing, it is because this is more the norm:

You can see Jonah crying and his daddy getting into the backseat to calm and control him.  Yes, I know I probably should have grabbed Boo’s feet, but he couldn’t hurt anyone but me so I chose photojournalism and getting kicked instead.  Probably not the best choice.

We don’t know why he had a meltdown.  We do know that breaks in his routine are the likely catalysts, and long holiday weekends are perfect for breaking routine.

My mom wasn’t there for this — she is now resigned to staying back and watching her shows until we return, unless I’m sick like I was last Saturday, and I don’t come at all.  On those occasions she is welcomed into the car because Boo still gets the backseat all to himself.  He does not like people sitting to close to him in an enclosed area like a car, and when he says “bye bye” as you try to get in the backseat with him, you best follow instructions and get while the gettin’s good.   I’m glad my mom wasn’t there to see her boy crying and twisting out of his harness.

I’ve gotta give Jonah credit though, because once he was past his meltdown and we returned to the apartment, he was happy and lovey, giving all three of us a full share of hugs and kisses and once again watching Oompa Oompa with a grin.

Whenever he is happy on a visit and my mom and I drive away, we say thank you, God.  And when it is an unhappy, disheartening visit, we say please, God.   Please and thank you.

I know my mother also prays a bunch of other old-school Mary prayers like the Memorare and the rosary.  I like them, but I pretty much stick to please and thank you.  Most times it’s all I can articulate when addressing the divine.

I hope it’s enough.

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Raymond:  97X. Bam!  The future of rock ‘n’ roll.   
97X. Bam!  The future of rock ‘n’ roll.  
97X, Bam!  The future of rock ‘n’ roll.

~ Raymond Babbitt in Rainman

Oh, my sweet, precious little boy.  What a wonder you are!

This is the third Thanksgiving I’ve described in this blog.  Hard to believe..  The first was awful – so awful, in fact, that just days later I would check myself into a mental health facility, the second was fun (and was paired with two Guster shows, so how could one go wrong?), and yesterday, Thanksgiving 2012, which was easy-wonderful.

Andy was nice enough to drive Jonah up to Grandma’s house, and I met them there.  My boo came crashing through the front door, shrieking with happiness.  We ate turkey sandwiches; Jonah ate one and a hot dog as well, and chips, and bacon, and “white ice cream.”  He asked for train and we drove him there even though we knew Thanksgiving trains are few and far between.  All the way there my mom sat in the backseat with Jonah, but he kept asking mama in the backseat?  And my mother told him, “yes, sweetheart, as soon as we stop for the train.”  It made me feel good; usually he wants grandma in the backseat.

He also wanted music, and daddy turned up this station that he and Jonah enjoy: 92.3 FLY.  After one of the songs they announced the call station with snazzy-jingle-music and the deep voice and all.  Jonah immediately parroted it, really well, too, if I don’t say so myself.  92.3 – WFLY!  92.3 – WFLY!  92.3 – WFLY!  None of us could help laughing, which only encouraged him.  Giggling, he kept at it for a while, just like Rainman.

So there was no train, but I got to sit in the backseat with my Boo – and instead of telling me move (which means get as far away from me as possible and do not even look at me), he asked for hugs.  Over and over again he wanted hugs.  Bear hugs, he even said.  And so I reveled in this, moved close to him, wrapped my arms around him, and hugged tight, raining kisses on his Beatle-length hair.  More bear hug?  he pleaded, looking up at me sweetly.  Yes, Boo, I replied, hugging him closer, tighter, until it felt like we were one.  Oh thank you, I said silently.  Thank you.

And this week I get to see him again – tomorrow, which I hope will be as beautiful as today – and Jonah as lovey.

daddy-hugs

Before Andy and Jonah left, they came inside to get their share of a Thanksgiving dinner my mom had made just for the few of us.  So she had a bag with all their food in it, and Jonah and Andy were saying goodbye, when Jonah opened the freezer, snagged the rest of the bacon, put it into the bag of food, then looked up at us all as if to say “k, let’s go.”  Of course grandma let him take the bacon.

Mom and I had coffee afterwards and laughed at Boo’s adorable little ways.  We both had tears behind our laughter, but they were mostly good, happy, thankful tears.

We’ve plenty to give thanks for, that’s for sure.

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“I’ve never known a writer who didn’t feel ill at ease in the world. We all feel unhoused in some sense.  That’s part of why we write.  We feel we don’t fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we’re not of it.”

~Andrea Barrett

When I saw that quote I felt the warmth of knowing I’m not the only one, the comfort of knowing I’m not alone.  There are other aliens, people not entirely comfortable here.  I feel particularly alien lately.

Some of it comes from having spent 8 hours talking with prospective adoptive parents on Sunday in Brooklyn.  I knew to bring tissues; sure enough, they were gone by the end of the day.   I know the hope these people have.  I know the fear that hope may remain just that – hope.  I know how hope can become something to be afraid of, to even acknowledge.  In a backwards, strange way, I know.   They are special to me, the longing-to-adopt.

There is a surreal aspect too.  They long for a baby, and I long for my boy.  It is parallel and perpendicular at once.  Someone will ask if I have children, and I answer that I have a boy who is nine.  A few people get confused, thinking Jonah is the adopted child.  “No,” I explain.  “I’m adopted.  My son is biological.”  One lady asked me if I had a hard time conceiving.  I admitted that I did not.  She looked steadily at me, her eyes entering mine with heavy envy.  “You’re so lucky,” she sighed.  “You’re so incredibly lucky.”

I realized she was envying me the same way I have envied mothers who kiss their kids each day, waving to them as they board school busses…the parents whose children play games.   Who do homework, or argue that they don’t want to.  Kids who tell Santa what they want for Christmas.  The truth is, I know nothing about all these people beyond that which I see in a fleeting glance, just like the lady telling me I was lucky knew nothing at all about where my so-easily-conceived boy is now, and why.  There really is no greener grass.

Another man at the conference had just married his long-time boyfriend, and they wanted to adopt a child.

He read The Story of Amy

…a book my mother made for me out of one of those circa 1970 gold-ring-bound, red cloth, cling-paged photo albums, hand-written on white paper and illustrated with all the cards my parents received to congratulate them on their new baby girl.

I always bring the book with me to adoption conferences because I think it was a great way for my parents to tell me I was adopted.  My mom read it to me every night from the time I was a baby, so I always knew I was adopted, and as a result, being adopted never felt strange to me.

Usually people flip through The Story of Amy quickly, giving it an appreciative glance.  This guy, though, picked it up, stood aside, and read the whole thing, slowly, page by page.  When he handed it back to me, tears were streaming from both his eyes.  He couldn’t even talk to me.  He picked up my business card and walked away.  I almost cried with him.

And speaking of crying, I can’t seem to stop thinking about Mr. Fleischer.  I should have sent him a care package, I’ll think, or I wish I had told him he is the answer to one of my password prompts on almost every website log-in:  Who was your favorite teacher?

If I don’t use Ned Fleischer, I use Patrick Meanor from SUNY Oneonta, my favorite college professor.  I don’t intend to make the same mistake with him if I can help it.  I’m going to look him up and see if we can visit in Oneonta.  I want to tell him he is my password prompt too, and another one of the few greatest influences in my life.

Tomorrow, though, I’ll have Thanksgiving with my mother, my boy, and Andy.  And then, later, with Mark and Jack and Almanzo.  I’ll stop thinking “I feel like an alien” and I’ll concentrate on gratitude.  For so many things…

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my thanks giving

Because I have become afraid to be alone with Jonah (rational or not), I’ve called my dad to ask him to please help me pick him up from afterschool, give him a ride to the train (depending on how we was at school today), and help with his dinner, a bath, and getting him to bed.  Andy is working and M can’t help me tonight.  It’s the day before Thanksgiving, so the short supply ‘o’ sitters aren’t around.  Luckily my dad is more than willing to help, and we got out of work a little early today (thanks MKR), so I have a minute to type.

God only knows what four straight days with Jonah will be like.  I don’t have high hopes, and I know I’ll be back soon to complain about how Jonah threw the gravy boat all over grandma at the Thanksgiving dinner table, so I thought I’d write a giving of thanks to balance out all the bitching.

In no particular order, and of course leaving out a multitude of blessings, I am giving thanks:

…for the fact that I don’t have to wait in line at 4am on Black Friday for the toy my child absolutely must have, or worry about whether or not I can afford (or should spoil my child with) whatever latest game system, i-pad, blackberry, etc. a typical 8 year old yearns to own.  I needn’t fret over whether or not to tell my child there is (or isn’t) a Santa Claus.  I won’t be standing in a long queue of fidgety kids and weary parents to get my son’s picture taken with a store Santa.  I don’t have to hear Jonah cry because he got picked to be an ox in the Christmas Pageant instead of Saint Joseph or one of the Wise Men.

Instead, I can wake up on Christmas morning and give Jonah an assortment of things like bubbles, straws, and balloons, and he’ll be happy as a clam.

Of course, my mom will compensate for my blasphemous lack of gifts by turning her living room into a toy store and presenting Jonah with a new winter wardrobe, several electronic toys, expensive musical instruments, a portable dvd player, and whatever Elmo is singing about this year.

I am thankful for pretty much everyone reading this (with the possible exception of Marcia).  There’s so much else and so many more people.  It could go on forever.  I know!  I’ll use pictures.  I wish I had a photo on my computer of my dad, and a few others I’d like to include in the thank-you album.  But here’s a little pictorial of gratitude at any rate.

I am giving thanks for:

hawks (i always say they are my gina, coming to say hello).  and

bright blue color filled autumn days. and

the rensselaer falls, my favorite nature creation spot.  and

M, my true friend and partner in travel.  and

my joyful bunny bopper boo.  and

the opportunity to walk where laura ingalls wilder’s husband spent his boyhood.  and

the wondrous beauty and stillness of deer. and

my three cousin-sisters.  and

my mom.  and

sweet random playground kids.  and

my witty and wonderful dear friend dimma. and

flocks of birds in flight.  and

the ocean, and the way andy and jonah and i all love it.  and

barkley!  and

mx & p yo.  and

rainbows.  and

silly D. and

silly jonah.  and

deep watery vistas.  and

sweet little h.  and

guster in concert!  and

my salespeeps K & Mg & B. and

jack!  (named after laura ingalls wilder’s dog) and

little bunnies (is it fiver?)  and

jonah & his grandma jane.  and

work fun!  and

snuggle hugs.  and

d & e.  and

the best pizza in town.  and

KP & little H, all together for a gorgeous wedding day.  and

b and v and their awesome green wall.  and

wig day.  and

the magic of water…

This year I have done a lot of things, enjoyed the company of many people, seen much beauty, and given not nearly enough thanks.

Thanks.

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