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.

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.

Kit Kapers

I am having experiences with Kit that are, I’m sure, the most normal little things—but they feel like nothing that I’ve ever seen or experienced before. I took him out one morning last week for a pastry (for him) and a cup of coffee (for me), and he was happy to sit in an enormous chair and occasionally walk around the coffeehouse and smile at people. After a little while, he started signing to me that he was thirsty, and then he waited patiently while I got him some milk—and by “waited patiently,” I mean “staggered around signing <thirsty>,” because for Kit that sign requires you to throw your head as far back as possible. It was a really nice time, and it’s so strange that he can now, say, pick out a doughnut for himself or enjoy watching passersby. I’m acclimated to Joey, which makes having a little boy who smiles at strangers sort of baffling. But in a good way.

Kit is almost two. He does not show any signs of autism—and you can believe that he has been closely scrutinized, not only by me but by the professionals who work with Joey. He loves trains, trucks, and the color purple. He counts and reads numerals 0–10, and has started reading and signing letters; when he sings the alphabet song, he gets stuck for a bit on W: “You, bee, double you you you you you you you you you you you . . .ex, why . . . zee!” He is very nervous of most nonfamily these days, but he warms up to most people pretty quickly. He loves to wear cowboy boots and a bucket hat, and he loves to hide and be found, or run and be chased.

M-Day

Nora told me that she and Cricket would call on Birthmother’s Day, and then they didn’t. I had sort of been dreading the call—it’s nice to hear from Cricket, of course, but I don’t see Birthmother’s Day as a holiday that I’d like to celebrate, and it does feel like an “Of course you don’t get contact on Mother’s Day, that’s just crazy talk!” kind of maneuver. I don’t assume that’s Nora’s thinking, but I do think it’s a common adoption trend. But they didn’t call, and I wonder whether Ruth told Nora that I asked not to get a call on that day last year. The night of Mother’s Day, Nora sent me a text saying that she hoped I’d had a nice one; I wrote back the next day, thanking her, with a cute picture of Joey. As it happened, I was quite sick on Mother’s Day, so I sort of got to skip it.

And now, today, I’m missing Cricket. I don’t especially know what to do with that feeling right now. Nora told me that they might visit in June, and then that they probably won’t visit in June, and perhaps in October . . . ? I am trying not to get invested in their visit decisions, since I have no input into them and can really do nothing for now but wait.

Mister Book and I talked recently about whether we’d ever want to have another child; we have this talk every so often, and we mostly agree that it’s unlikely that we will. My IUD is good for another three years, and so we won’t make a real decision until then—but the thing that could possibly sway us would be Kit wanting a younger sibling. I do feel guilty about the fact that Kit doesn’t have a typical sibling, and that he would if we hadn’t placed Cricket; Kit has two brothers and can’t play with either one.

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.

Slaps and Spats

Both Kit and Joey hurt me on purpose every day, multiple times per day. They each do it in different ways; Joey pinches and chins, which is a term I learned from his behavioral therapist and refers to digging his chin into me, hard, whereas Joey slaps me. Most of the time, I can just get through it—mostly I move away from the kids at those times, tell them that it is not okay to hurt people, and that I don’t want you in my lap if you’re going to hurt me—but sometimes especially slaps in the face really bother me. I don’t hit the kids, and I want only to use time in—but I have put Kit in time out a few times when we were just both at a point where we needed a couple of minutes apart. At those times, I put him in his room and tell him that I’ll be back in two minutes; then I come back and talk to him about how we need to be working together better than we are, and here is what I need from you (stop hitting me, quit rooting through the trash, stop shoving Joey, etc.): What do you need from me? And then we go back out together, and mostly things are better after that—at least for awhile.

There have been periods when the kids were less aggressive with me, and I know that there will be more of those in the future; I expect Kit to grow out of using violence with me altogether.

In the meantime, here we are. I’m not enjoying the hurting, but Joey has otherwise pulled out of his rough patch; he’s having a good time and really engaging at school. Kit and I are going on and hosting more play dates, and he is more and more often able to enjoy the company of other kids—although in a group of five or more other kids, he is unhappy. We had a lot of rain over the last few days, which is a rare occurrence in these parts, and both boys have been mesmerized. And I bought the boys matching Easter outfits and can’t wait to dress them up.

I hope all of you out there are getting some spring weather, and keeping well.