My Little Angry Bird

The boy is home from school again today.  Second time this week.

Lingering sniffles set the mood, but it was a frustrating failure to instantly shuffle cards like a pro that sent him over the edge.  😦

I tried to help him learn it, but he wanted to do it himself, so hit me and threw a toy into the air.

I got mad and he started sobbing.  Right away, I knew he wasn’t going to go to school.  He just had that look about him.

He probably wouldn’t last long there anyway.  He sometimes hits his teachers and throws things in the classroom too.

In the past few weeks, the school has called on three separate occasions and asked me to pick him up early.  Last Friday, it was only twenty minutes before my phone rang.

It’s inconvenient.  There’s no denying that, but it’s really more heartbreaking than anything else.

He wants to grow up right now.  Today.  Completely.  All the way.  And he is distraught when he finds he can’t.

Somehow, my child perceives adulthood as a frustration-free zone in which he will magically know how to do everything, his words will come easily, and he will be in charge.

My poor little boy, if only there were a way to get him to really understand how very untrue that is.

The teacher made a great social story book for him.

It’s all about growing up, how you have to do it a little at a time, and even when you get there, you have to obey grown-up rules.

I think it helps him.

But this morning he was frustrated beyond reason and then paralyzed by my upset.  All he could do was sob and sit there on the couch, waiting for me to make it better.

Seven days of school to go and I have to be okay that he is desperate to miss one of them.

When he is older and (I hope) employed, he won’t be able to skip work just because he has a bad moment at home.  He will still have to go.  He will still have to listen to a boss and do his work.  He will have to learn how to smooth things out in his relationships and still manage his responsibilities.

I am intensely aware of this fact.

But he’s nine years old and he has challenges that other kids don’t have, so he gets a free pass this morning.

And a popsicle.

And then we’re going out to lunch.

P.S.  He dressed up for Gold Rush Days at school a few weeks ago.  And yes, Forty-niners did so eat Nutri-Grain bars.

♥♥

Back Again

There were words missing from the word search in the little boy’s homework packet this week.

The words were listed on the bottom of the sheet, but they didn’t appear in the grid of letters above.  And the word “built” was backwards.

My son couldn’t handle that.  “No backwards!  No backwards built!”

He gasped that out through lumpy-throated, head-shaking moans.  Then he flew into a raging tantrum like I haven’t seen in a long time.

He ripped the paper into six pieces, wadded up the bits and threw them to the floor with a scream.

Next, he reached for the pencil bucket.

He used both hands to send bunches of sharpened projectiles into the air over his head.

Most of them rained down on the china hutch and computers behind him.  His scissors and the hole punch landed halfway up the stairs.

I snapped at him to pick up immediately.  He didn’t.

Instead, he up-ended a basket of his school papers and sent them sliding to the floor too.

I was mad and I yelled.  Nine years, and I still instantly feel like such a rookie in the face of his upsets.

I fought for calm and grabbed a piece of paper.  I drew a scale – one to ten – and tried to make him understand that the missing words on the homework sheet were just a “level 2 frustration” and not the “level 10 mad” he had just displayed.

He stared at me, a little catatonic, but with a spark of understanding.  I actually think he knew what I meant.  He watched in stillness as I taped the word search back together.

I talked to him quietly about his homework.  I told him we would put it away for now and try again tomorrow – maybe even make our own word search.  He seemed okay or, at least, distracted from his rage.

I stood up and I told him I was going to make dinner for daddy.  He had started drawing, so I left him at the table.

In the kitchen, I put on gloves to peel and slice some garlic.  I should have predicted it wasn’t the best night to do that.  He interrupted me on the third of ten cloves.

“I want to take a bath.”

It was a routine, even-tempered, and perfectly articulated announcement, but it was much earlier than usual and I wasn’t ready to go upstairs with him.

I showed him my gloves and knife and the cutting board too.  I even told him to smell the garlic, so he would know my fingers were too stinky to touch the shower curtain or the faucet, much less the shampoo bottle or his hair.

I reminded him that last night we talked about what a big nine-year-old boy he is and how he can take a shower by himself now.

He looked at me and started to shake.

Clearly, this was not the time to begin a new independence.  I cut the garlic faster and told him to wait a few minutes.  He couldn’t.

He started looking around for something to throw.  He used his arm to clear a binder and some loose papers off of the new glass topped dresser in the kitchen.  He looked at me and then turned back to the dresser and tried to push it over and the glass off too.

That was the final straw for me.

I yelled at him to stop, I pulled off my garlicky gloves and I followed him out of the room.  I was defeated and he had begun whining, slapping himself and flailing his arms back and forth.

He wanted me to come with him upstairs, but he was so mad and I was too.

I am embarrassed to confess that I lectured him all the way to the tub.  It really didn’t help or make either of us feel any better.  I am an ogre.

He got in, turned on the water and yanked the curtain shut.  I left the bathroom and went back downstairs to cry and finish the damned garlic.

I knew I had only ten minutes until he emerged from the shower, failed to dry off, and came dripping downstairs, expecting me to get pajamas for him.

That time limit made me cry even harder and chop even faster.

Sure enough, he came into the kitchen, naked and damp, just as expected.  I kept chopping.

He said nothing and left the room.  I heard the laundry doors open and could hear his little whisper voice talking about something in the hall.

I was weighted by his tantrum and couldn’t even muster a smile, but I had finished the garlic, so I washed my hands and went to get him the pajamas.

Much to my surprise, he was already in them!

Miracle.

He was even wearing a pair of shorts that he typically rejects.  He did it himself and he made a compromise too.  I was speechless.  Something sunk in…and it kind of melted me.

In the day’s sea of frustration and tears, my smart little boy extracted some useful tidbit and took a step toward more independence.

It may seem like a teeny step, but it’s big enough for me.

Happy Tuesday, indeed.

Good little boy.  😀

God, I’m tired.

Sigh.

P.S.  Look at the new hibiscus now…so pretty.  Thanks, husband.  🙂

♥♥

Jonesin’ for the Jig

The little boy is enamored of arms.  For months now, he has been fascinated with freckles and veins and moles and anything that sets an arm apart from the one next to it.  He likes to study these things.

Mostly, it’s kind of charming.  He is gentle and sweet and genuinely interested in the differences between us and himself.

Sometimes though, it’s sort of annoying.  My arms are not my best feature, you know?  I don’t really want him to point them out in public, much less unexpectedly reach his hand up my sleeve and shake them.  😐

To combat this unwanted activity, I started pulling him close and threatening “if you jiggle me, then I tickle you!”  It stopped him about three times. 

Now he has, in fact, used the word “jiggle” to nickname my arm.  And his dad’s arm too. (Though dad’s doesn’t actually jiggle.)

Funny, right?

Um…well…no.  No.

Okay, it’s a little funny.

A few weeks ago he came up to me, his eyes full of love for my fleshy underarm, and he said “Thomas hug the jig?”

Seriously?  I don’t even get the rest of the word, now?

My husband and I both laughed, but I don’t know.  It just sounds wrong or something, doesn’t it?

Well, whatever, that’s what he says now.  My arm is “the jig.”  More specifically, the squishy, unfit, underside of my upper arm is called “the jig.”

Oh, and “tickle puff.”  Sometimes he just calls it “tickle puff.”

The thing is…

the boy has eyes for other arms too.

He just likes to hug people, you know?  He sees their bare skin and he smiles.  He is fascinated and wants to wrap himself around them and just hug.

Most of the teachers and aides who know him at school are fine with his latest obsession.  None of them seem to mind this extra attention from my smiling boy.

The other parents?  Well, I’m not so sure about them.  I don’t think any of them would be troubled by an accidental nudge from a stray kid, but fawning adoration of a specific body part?  I don’t think they would be too welcoming of that.  They don’t know him.  They don’t know that he’s harmless and sweet.

Every morning as we stand in the line for his classroom, my son eyeballs the arriving parents.

It’s hot in August and all those mamas have on tank tops and spaghetti straps and short sleeves.

My son is fascinated.  He smiles, he laughs, he looks, he really wants to hug.

Today, one of the moms I’ve never met (and whom I’m a little put off by, actually 😐 ) showed up in a strapless sundress.  Oy.  She sat at the picnic tables with the kids who were eating breakfast.

Nothing happened, but only because I never took my eyes off of my son.

He skipped up to the tables, deftly weaved between the other kids and was standing next to strapless mama in about two seconds flat.

Her back was to him, so she never knew that she almost got an arm squeeze.

I called him back before he did it and tried to explain that he couldn’t hug just any jiggling arm.

I don’t know if my words made sense to him or not.  I’m guessing not, since I’ve told him this same information every day for several weeks and nothing has changed.

We get to school, we stand in line, and the boy starts jonesin’ for some jig.

Watch this space…

Next month, he’ll have a new obsession.

Sweet potato.  🙂

As I typed this, he wouldn’t leave my arm alone.  Just now he asked me “Thomas hug the jiggy?”

Thank goodness!

I got some letters back.  😀

P.S.  Those pix above are from our weekly IHOP visit.

P. P.S. Husband is making little changes in the yard this week.  I’ll post a few pix in the next day or two.  For now, look what I brought in to put on the counter.  I love, love, love the bright orange.

Happy Tuesday!

♥♥

Reading People

The little boy has a crush on a girl in his summer school class.

He walked up behind her this morning and tried a sly one-armed hug.  It sort of worked.  She didn’t hug back, but she looked at him sweetly and didn’t seem to mind his very forward gesture.  He didn’t notice her response.

A few days ago, my son’s aide told me that he is the class clown.  He loves funny sounds and music and goofy toys and he likes to laugh, so I guess the other kids watch him sometimes.

He is always recognized by his schoolmates when we’re out and about.  Even the kids who are older and have never been in a class with him will point him out to their moms and say “hi” as we walk by in the grocery store or at the mall.

My kid is kind of a rock star.

At the park, the other children are always fascinated when he doesn’t respond or even seem to understand that they are talking to him.  He has the best sand toy collection, so they are very motivated to figure him out.  They ask me a ton of questions.

My son takes in a lot of his surroundings, maybe even more than most kids, but he doesn’t quite know how to read facial expressions or body language.  He typically just stares when another kid talks to him.

People amuse, entertain, and befuddle my son.  He likes their oddness and their quirky mannerisms, but he doesn’t always know what to make of their efforts to communicate.  Or my efforts to communicate, for that matter.

Today, we went to the store after his swim lesson.  I bought him a big bag of Ruffles, his current favorite snack.  As we drove home, I extended my open hand toward him in the backseat.  Without a word from either of us, he placed a chip in my hand.  I said “thank you” and reached back twice more before we turned onto our street.  He gave me a new chip each time.

I really didn’t consider the miracle of that until I pulled into the garage.  He could have put anything, or nothing, in my hand.  He could have kicked my hand, like he has done before.  Or he could have become agitated and yelled “no Mama’s hand go backwards!”  He has done that before too.  😦

Instead, he did what any ordinary person would do.  He read my body language.  He understood my gesture and complied with my silent request.  Ordinary?  Extraordinary.

The chip experience reminds me of this post from Into The Woods, Living Deliberately.

It’s the little things, you know?

Happy Wednesday!

P.S.  We’re spending a lot of time at the popper fountains this summer.  What are you up to?

♥♥

The Last Day

School gets out for the summer in fifteen minutes, but my son is already home.

He has been here an hour and is sleeping in a ball on the couch.

He looks small, uncomfortable, sweet…defeated.

The aide said he hasn’t been himself today, but I think the opposite may actually be true.

He is the same as ever, but school is different.

There are last minute parties, girls in white dresses and boys in first ties.

There are proud parents everywhere and an entire class toting pillows for a special movie hour.

There was an all-school picnic, another assembly, a shorter recess and a field trip to the park.

Morning announcements were canceled for graduation and there was less structure to the schedule.

There is a buzz in the air this week.

Everyone is excited.

Everyone, except my kid.

He is the same as ever, completely himself, completely overwhelmed by multiple changes to his routine.

The school nurse called me in early to take him home.

I had just finished assembling twelve little tokens of appreciation for the office staff – a bag of M&Ms, a picture of the boy and a teeny note of thanks tied with a pretty ribbon.

It was all I had time and money to do this year, but I was pleased with myself for getting it done.

Then the phone call.

I took the M&Ms with me, but I couldn’t stay to see them to their intended recipients.

I made twelve.  I handed out six.  😐  Sigh.

The boy is stirring on the couch now.

Time to assess the damage done to his demeanor by all these extraordinary things.

It might be a very long afternoon.

Thank goodness there are so many extra M&Ms.

Happy Thursday!

♥♥

Days Of Our Lives

Friday and Strange Men

There are men in my house.  Two of them.

They’re putting new vinyl in my upstairs bathroom.

They are loud and animated, speaking Spanish at lightning speed.  I can barely keep up.  My Spanish is rusty.

I have yawned about thirty times since they arrived at 9:15.  They were over an hour late.

I waited to eat.

As I listened patiently to the compulsory explanation of lost phone messages and misplaced directions, I just wanted to pour the milk over my cereal and sit down.

Whatever, dudes!   Please do the work and GET OUT of here!

And just like that, they were gone.

Vinyl installed.

Baseboards ruined, but nailed back anyway?!  What the heck?

He did mention that one of them had swollen from moisture…

“Maybe your cat has peed in that corner?”

Um…no…but my son has, repeatedly.

Laughter.

Flushed cheeks.  Why did I tell them that?!

My embarrassment may have motivated a thoughtless answer to facilitate a hasty exit.  Did I actually tell him to nail the swollen baseboards back to the wall?

Maybe I did.  How inconvenient of me to request such a thing.  😐

The contractor will have to fix them next week.

And the plumber will drop by this evening to install the new toilet.

It’s taller.  It’s a grown-up toilet, because we are grown-ups.

The vinyl feels good to the tootsies.  It’s thicker and squishier than the builder grade crap that was in there before.

Thicker and squishier is better for my freaked-up feet.

Don’t ever get tile, you know?  It’s unforgiving.  And by that, I mean that your feet will never forgive you.

Saturday and Upset

The little boy had a three-hour, house-destroying tantrum tonight.

He smacked the computer monitor in anger, he got a warning, then he smacked it again.

So I shut it off.  And he lost his mind.

LOST.

HIS.

MIND.

The husband had to follow him around to be sure he didn’t break anything of value.  That angered him more.  He really just wanted to rage through the house as he pleased.  I guess he thought that would get us to turn on the computer again.  It didn’t.  But it did make me cry.

He finally tuckered out and fell asleep, but not before breaking a couple of toys, putting fresh gouges in his bedroom wall, busting a small chair to pieces, and further destroying his window screen and curtain rod.  It was a long night for all of us.

I must exercise first thing tomorrow.  It will help me to deal with another trying day, if we are meant to have one.

Sunday and Familiar Men

I woke to find the husband and the boy in the kitchen making pumpkin bread this morning.

We only had one really large can of pumpkin in the cupboard, so husband almost doubled the recipe.  Almost.

He employed some impressive mathematics to get the measurements right for the rest of the ingredients.  I admired his painstaking care, but suggested he throw out half the can of pumpkin next time.  I hope there is a next time.

We ended up with two small loaves, two big loaves, and a bundt pan full of batter.  We have lots of bread.  Lots of really delicious, oh-geez-how-will-I-ever-lose-weight, warm, cinnamon-scented loaves of yummy.

I love these familiar men in my kitchen.

The little one has basically recovered from his upset and is actually very huggy.  Sweet pea.

We stayed in our jammies all day long, except for twenty minutes this morning when I followed through on my exercise vow and took a brisk walk through the neighborhood.

It was a good day.

Monday – Exercise & Veggie Burgers

I walked again.  Twenty minutes of cardio.  Yea!

Then the husband and I took the little boy to the popper fountains.

He loved it.  He always loves it.

He’s always hungry after playing in the water, so we actually got to go to Island’s and enjoy a meal without pancakes for a change.

He ate some fries and an entire chicken strip.

For him, that’s a LOT.

Tuesday and We’re Back to Square One

The boy didn’t want to go to school this morning.

I think that Friday tired him out.

His class spent two hours at the new little park adjacent to the campus – sort of a treat for being good this year.

Unfortunately, it opened a whole new can of anxiety for him.

He likes clouds and there really weren’t any, so he was in the sun for two hours.

We sent him to school with sunscreen, but he won’t wear glasses or a hat.

He just doesn’t like to be out in the open with the sun in his eyes for that long.

It’s sort of the intersection of all of his sensory issues.

I explained this morning that today was a regular school day and there would be no extended time in the shadeless play structures of the park.

He calmed enough to go, but even the regular schedule proved too much for him. He came home with a yellow card.

Yellow is just a cut above red and way below the much coveted purple.  He hates yellow cards.

The aide explained that he doesn’t like to wait, so he pushes the little girl in front of him quite forcefully if she stops in line.  Not good.  The line stops frequently.

I just had a conversation with him about this, but I don’t know if it will make a difference.

As I type, I can hear him freaking out in the other room.  He’s on the computer and not exercising the greatest restraint when it comes to displaying his frustration.

Husband is sitting next to him, so today I am deferring to his judgment and closer proximity.

I’m drained this afternoon.  Don’t know why, really.

Perhaps a diet of pumpkin bread and stress?

Just heard a more chipper, musical sound from the little boy.

Maybe it’s safe to venture back out there after all.

Are you still here?

This is a long damn post.

Happy Tuesday!

P.S.  What are you reading this week?  I just started The Help.  So far, sooo good!

♥♥

Good To Be Back

I just realized it has been eleven days since my last post.

I’ve written a lot, but all of it is unfinished and dark.  😐

I’ve been mad in the last few weeks.  Mad at myself mostly, but mad at other people too.  And sad.  And sort of desperate.

That last adjective motivated a very pathetic e-mail to my family and friends about my overwhelming need for their help.

It was extremely difficult for me to ask, but I did.

Today, my older brother kept the little boy for four hours so that the husband and I could have a date.

We saw Thor (very enjoyable and NOT in 3D, thank you very much), we ate a tasty, cheese-laden lunch at Chevy’s, and then we went to Extraordinary Desserts for some beverages and really huge chocolate stuff.  Really. Huge.

My iced tea arrived with a little pitcher of sugar syrup and a bamboo skewer of berries topped with one fragrant, lovely pink rose petal.  Damn, I love that place.

We had a good day.  A long overdue, woulda-lost-my-mind-without-it, good day.  Thank you, brother.  You saved us.

Now, the husband is out front spreading some very pungent manure on our dying lawn.  The little boy is “helping” daddy and I am here, trying not to lose the writer in myself to anger, fatigue, absence or anything else.

Yesterday, we went to the school to see our son receive an award for requesting help appropriately.  The other kids were recognized for academic achievements, outstanding citizenship or perfect attendance, but we think our kid’s award is the best one of all.  It confirms what we already knew, he has come a long, long way.  😀

That’s all I have to say today.  Just enough to get back here.

See you tomorrow?

Happy Saturday!

P.S.  My crafty friend, Erin from Kansas, started an etsy shop.

Go see it here.

Clever girl, she sent me that link and I promptly bought a little drawer she upcycled with light blue paint and polka dot paper.

Kinda had to – I ♥ cheery little things.

Go, Erin!  😀  Go, Erin!

♥♥