Things We Aren’t

We’re going to the Midwest. It’s official. At the end of July, we pack up and go. Less official, but: I suspect that Nora and Cricket are not going to be visiting in June after all. A month out, I think Nora’d be checking in about dates and looking to buy plane tickets. So while she hasn’t said anything, I’m pretty comfortable assuming that she couldn’t get off work.

I’m anxious about the actual process of moving, but feeling pretty good about ending up in the Midwest. We will be further away from my parents, but they have the time, money, and inclination to visit their grandbuddies. We will be in driving distance of Kate and my brother. We’ll be very close to my aging mother-in-law. We’ll be farther from Cricket, but I don’t think that will affect our level of contact. And we’ll be all together as Books, which is just the greatest thing.

Kit is turning three in a month, which is hard to believe—he’s still my tiny dude! But he’s old enough now that he asks for Daddy often, and while Skype is great, it just ain’t enough. And of course Mister Book and I miss each other a lot. Joey is harder to read, but I believe that he misses his dad, and that he’ll start getting close to him again once we’re all living together.

Also related to Kit turning three in a month: I am now comfortable saying that he doesn’t have autism. I guess he still has a few weeks in which he could regress, but he continues to be sociable and very verbal and a person of great passion and intensity. He recently discovered cake, after having refused to try it on every past birthday, and now he’s really ready for his party. He’s also figured out that presents happen when someone gives you something you want, and he has started cheerfully asking for the things that he wants. This is probably completely normal, but our normal is shaped around Joey, who just doesn’t ever ask for something he doesn’t regularly get: “Milk,” say, or “Go outside.” Kit wants trains from his books, and to “be super,” and to fly (not the same thing), and while Joey might want these things, he does not express those kinds of wishes.

I hope you felt well and loved for Mother’s Day.

Bumbling Along

We still don’t know where we’re going to be at the end of the summer. I keep waiting for certainty before writing about it, but the California job possibility moves so slowly that that could easily be another couple of months. But odds are good that we end up in the Midwest.

I’m tired. Kit has started to fill up our mornings with his own social calendar, which for some reason I did not expect, so now mornings are spend doing Kit stuff and afternoons are spend doing Joey stuff and evenings are spent cleaning up and then lying down. Sometimes I play a videogame with my brother. Joey has been waking up in the middle of the night; so have I.

I’ve been trying to decide what we should do about assisting Joey in communicating; I thought that maybe we’d get him an Ipad for his birthday so that he could use Proloquo2go, but then I looked at the price of Ipads and good Lord. There are some apparently good communication aps for Android, so maybe we’ll get him a Kindle. There’s time yet to decide. I talked to his teacher today about transitioning to next year, and she is going to look into what’s available in terms of services where we will most likely end up. I hadn’t realized that there would necessarily be some federally mandated services for a kid too old for Early Intervention and too young for kindergarten—I was hugely relieved to learn that there are.

Kit is talking up a storm these days. His language has rubbed off on Joey, just a smidge—Joey picked up “You help me?” from Kit, and that is a pretty excellent start. If he doesn’t pick up the endless chatter about “Thomas Chickens” [Thomas the Tank Engine], that is okay.

Strange Mail

On Christmas Eve, I received a form in the mail letting me know that the state will pay to institutionalize Joey. As I write this, he is lying on the futon, listening to his mp3 player and singing (wordlessly, tunelessly) along to the Frozen soundtrack. He’s four years old now, and the way that the system views him is changing.

Mister Book and I long ago concluded that Joey would likely not be one of the children to “recover” from autism; now that he is four, the state is coming to the same conclusion. His hours of behavioral therapy (ABA) are being cut, and while the cuts are not dramatic, his ABA supervisor has explained that they will probably continue to be cut every three or six months.

81DPO+m5S8S._SL1500_Joey has moved on from the mp3 player, and is playing with one of those Fisher-Price cash registers—it’s mid-morning, and he’s hanging out in a diaper, resisting any suggestion that maybe it’s time to put on some clothes. Kit was recently potty trained, and while both boys went through the same training routine, Joey just wasn’t able to do it. He doesn’t have the body awareness necessary. Joey has another week off from school, and while I’m trying to keep him somewhat busy (he is Captain Cabin Fever), he has been extraordinarily sweet and even-tempered for his break so far. I’ve been carrying him in the Ergo, and the Mister and I have decided that we’ve got to set some money aside for a preschool Kinderpack—one of the only carriers that can accommodate a kid Joey’s size—because boywearing is so good for his mood and stress levels. Can I say boywearing? Babywearing just doesn’t seem like the right word when I’m strapping a four-year-old to my back. The Ergo is holding up admirably, but it’s really not meant for bigger kids, so the strap cuts into my stomach . . . and when Joey climbs down, it is clear that his butt is asleep.

I can’t move past that mail; Joey is a really excellent little dude, and it’s jarring to get an official announcement that he is now big enough and disabled enough that the state will institutionalize him if I wish. Joey’s Regional Center worker has already checked a box saying “No thank you, we have made other arrangements (in-home care),”; maybe she has some sense of how upsetting it can be to get this offer. I might have filled in that blank with something less official-sounding, like “Please don’t take my baby.”

My Great Big Gigantic

Joey is about to turn four. His birthday is on Thanksgiving this year, poor lamb, which means that we will be serving soy orange “chicken” alongside the more predictable holiday fare; the dessert options will include Skittles. I started planning a pirate party for him last month—and then I started thinking about a guest list, and got tense. When Mister Book visited last week (which was lovely, and I hope to write about that), I put it before him: Should I have a birthday party for him? I don’t know that anyone would come. If I were confident that at least three kids would come, I would go for it. But. Mister Book and I agreed that we won’t have a party this year, and Joey will neither notice nor care—but I feel crummy about it.

 

Joey’s doing well. One of my most painful memories from the time in which we started to worry about it, got him assessed, and started receiving services is of a conversation with a speech therapist who asked what Joey calls me. Nothing, I said. “Well, what does he do when he wants to get out of bed? What does he say?” Nothing, I repeated. He rattles the doorknob. I hadn’t even realized that this was a problem, and there were a lot of those, and I started to cry—the therapist realized what had happened and hurried to her next question in a not unkind sort of way. I tell you this so that you will know what a big deal it is that he now comes up to me a few times a day and says “Hi, Mima.”

 

I’ve started to pick out Christmas gifts for the kids; usually I’ve got that done by now, but this is the first year that it would be wholly inappropriate to give Joey gifts designed for kids his age, and that’s slowed me down more than it probably should. Joey is not making the progress on his school goals that anyone would like to see, but he loves school—today his class took a field trip to a pumpkin patch, and he had a ball.

 

I’m sorry to have been so gone for so long. I think about blogging often, but that feels miles away from actually sitting down and writing about what’s happening.

Questionable Timing, Susie

I keep waiting to have a really excellent post, but I’ve been waiting awhile, so instead I am just writing here in the middle of the night.

Kit has started to talk in silly voices a lot of the time—this is something that Cricket does. He cannot be pried out of his rain boots with a crowbar—this was true of Cricket for better than two years. There hasn’t been much of this sort of thing between Joey and Cricket, or even between Joey and Kit, because Joey is very much on a different path. But Kit and Cricket look alike, and seem alike in some other ways, and I will be interested to see them together later this year. Kit is mad for puzzles; I am planning to ask Nora whether Cricket is or has in the past been into puzzles.

Joey has finished his extended school year, and is one week into a five-week break; he doesn’t seem thrilled to be off school. I’m trying to get them out of the house most days, but I’ve been depressed and tired, so there have been too many days when we just end up taking a trip to the back yard. This week we have plans for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; I’m trying.

I’ve just finished a little freelance work, so I’m up after midnight, waiting to be able to sleep. The boys get up before 6 every morning, so tomorrow will not be a super energetic one on my end—note that we do not have an outing planned for tomorrow—but for sure the dudes can swim, and I can drink coffee and daydream about taking a nap.

I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life. I feel grateful to be at a point, now, where I can see the sadness and hopelessness as something that I don’t have to explain to myself or jolly myself out of; I can have those feelings and just try to let them exist without allowing them to rule my life. Some days they steer me more than I wish they could, and almost always they weigh me down, but I can enjoy the kids and give of myself to them and make jokes and read novels and see the depression as sort of running alongside instead of over my life. I’ve learned that when I am especially burdened, I have this different kind of exhausted compassion for the kids’ troubles that is quieter and less pushy than my normal variety, and that seems like a silver lining worth appreciating. Six or so hours ago, Joey just melted down, screaming and shaking and just beyond coping. He had a mild diaper rash, but I couldn’t find any other obvious cause for his distress—but just being held by me without having to endure a lot of stupid questions helped, and a bath helped the rest of the way.

My Baby

Joey is my baby now. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but not too long ago, Kit stopped being the baby. Joey is still taller, but he is behind Kit in just about every other developmental way—Kit is my big boy, and Joey is my baby.

As I write this, I am also browsing the internet to see what to do about diapering Joey now that he’s outgrown size 6; apparently Medi-Cal should cover diapers, but I’m not sure how to make that happen. I have emailed his social worker, but she hasn’t responded. I guess my next step is to talk to his pediatrician—I know that I need a prescription for diapers. I just don’t know what to do with it!

My sister Tammy visited us a couple of weeks ago. We don’t get to see her often, and she’s wonderful company—I wish we lived closer together. She and I sat up chatting and making cookies one night, and it came up that she thinks Joey is catching up to his peers. I tried to explain that no: he is making progress, but the gap between Joey and his typical peers keeps widening. I don’t think it was exactly making sense to her until I remembered that her close friend’s son just turned four. Joey is only six months younger than Leo, I said, and I could see her suddenly really get it, and I keep thinking about the look in her eyes. She loves Joey, and I don’t think that she has an unkind bone in her body—but just seeing her realize that he really is never going to be average—she doesn’t think any less of him, that’s not what I mean, but it was a big realization and I saw it happen and I keep remembering what it looked like.

Joey qualifies for an extended school year; special-needs kids who might lose a lot of ground if they were out of school for the full break get an extra month or so of school. He is at a different school, with a different teacher, but I’ve heard excellent things about her, and he seems happy to go to school in the morning. He and Kit are both going through growth spurts, so he’s sleeping more—or trying—Kit has realized that he can climb out of his pack-n-play, and will starting jumping on Joey and trying to convince him that 8 p.m. (or 9 p.m., or 4 a.m.) is the perfect time for a dance party! Joey’s swimming whenever he gets a chance, and Kit is starting to warm up to the idea, especially after Tammy spent hours playing in the water with him. Mostly he hangs out on the steps of the pool, periodically shouting “I swimming in the pool!” while Joey peacefully paddles around the deeper water.

Joey is going through a period of shrieking more and hitting me more (not hard), but remains a sweet and mellow person who’s going through some stuff right now. I want to write more about Kit, and about Cricket, but I’ll save that and hopefully post again soon.

WAD

Yesterday was World Autism Day, and I’d like, belatedly, to talk a bit about Joey and his autism. I heard a researcher on the radio earlier this week talking about how even in autistic kids who regress, when you look back, you can see signs going back into their infancy; although we didn’t know how to read them at the time, certainly this was true for Joey. Joint attention is one thing they particularly lack—Joey was very rarely willing to look at things we pointed out, or to take an interest in things that we were interested in. Mr. Book and I thought that he just wasn’t interested, and respected that without realizing that it was a problem. As a baby, Joey was much more interested in looking at walls and ceilings than at faces—mine or anyone else’s—I remember blithely describing this to someone before we had any idea. The Mister and I were so willing to accept that he had his own agenda that we never knew that we ought to be worried. Now, in Kit, I see a person with his own agenda who also is socially engaged and attentive to the things that others find interesting; had they been born in the opposite order, we could have gotten help for Joey much sooner. Or, of course, if we hadn’t placed Cricket. . . .

Joey is an unbelievably sweet and mellow little dude. I know that I say this all the time, usually using exactly those words, but it is the perfect truth; everybody likes Joey. He has made almost no progress in speech over the last six months, still using only about thirty single words, and his articulation is poor; he is sensory seeking in just about every way, pressing his stomach against things to feel them especially and drinking unattended hot sauce; he is more and more dancing, grooving and perfectly self absorbed in his happiness; he likes to read to himself, and resents being read to. He’s a peach.

I would make Joey not autistic if I could, but he’s an unbelievable gift, no matter what hardship he has in his life—I am the luckiest in my sons.

The Week Behind

Howdy!

After talking with Joey’s behavioral therapist, I have figured out that Joey’s current aggression is mostly sensory-seeking behavior; I’ve changed his “sensory diet,” and there is less pinching. The main change has been sessions of me hugging him much tighter than I personally would enjoy being hugged: I wait for him to ask for a squeeze (“Geese!”) and then squeeze him for maybe five seconds. We repeat this over and over again, until Joey gets tired of it.

Every night, I give the same bedtime speech to the boys in English and ASL—Saturday night, for the very first time, Joey tried to sign along. He is completely amazing. Kit has developed his own bedtime routine, which involves running for the hills and laughing like a maniac.

Mister Book is working overnight this week, so he stayed up all night Saturday night—I’m two hours behind him, so while I baked cornmeal lime cookies and almond and chocolate ganache sandwich cookies for my parents’ bible club, cleaned the kitchen, and drank a modest amount of Jack Daniels, he read to me over the phone. This is one of my favorite of our relationship traditions; I bake and he reads aloud to me from choose-your-own-adventure-style books. These days we’re working on his personal favorite series, six books about a ninja and his adventures. After we got off the phone, I learned that my almost three-year-old cell phone would no longer charger; it had died the true death.

My brother’s kidney transplant has finally been scheduled: April 29. It’s been two years since we learned that he was in end-stage kidney failure, and we’re all thrilled. He’s coming out to California for the transplant, as our mother will be the donor, and he’ll stay with us and convalesce for three months. I’m very much looking forward to seeing him again—he and I can be nerds together, and he loves his nephews quite a lot. My sister Kate is coming to visit, too, and her visit may overlap with his; it feels like I haven’t seen her in forever, and I just can’t wait.

My mental health is not amazing. But it could be worse, for sure. Summers are better than winters, and every day I get closer to seeing my sweetheart again.