Once upon a time, a family of four decided they needed a vacation. They owned a cat and a dog. They sent the dog to a commercial kennel, and left the cat at home for a neighbor kid to check on every once in a while. When the family returned home, the cat seemed friendly and the dog appeared withdrawn, listlessly gnawing at a bone where she once buoyantly raced after tennis balls. Within a few days, the cat began making friends outside the house--a large orange cat, a large black cat, and a black and white cat. Each occupied the railing of the front porch and watched over the street. It was hard to believe they were not one cat shifting appearance in the shade at different hours of the day. Sometimes, two cats would be seen together, one high, one low sliding like a shadow beneath the shrubs.
I am not as haunted or preoccupied by the mystery of the cats as I would like to be. Other concerns which I'd like to shed creep over every thought. If I start crying here, god help me, I' ll probably never stop. I am thinking about living under my porch. I am thinking about going to teach my next class. Aspergers. Once a receding struggle. A BIG DEAL AGAIN. Other parents have been here. I lay in bed thinking this last night. The universe its vast. Somebody lived this all before me and along side me and we are all just one cat, changing as the hours pass. The cat part of this story is based on true events.
Last Wednesday, I was at the sink hurrying to finish assembling the kids lunches for school before I left for my yoga class. Jeff returned from his run with the dog. He nudged me to the left, opened a can of stewed tomatoes over the sink and slopped the contents into a crock pot. I ceded the space. Something was up. Something is always up when Jeff starts slamming pans. I thought it was my yoga class.
We weren't going to see each other for another eight hours and couldn't have a fight in front of the kids before they left for school, so the rest of the day precoded in kind of a mutual misery. Eventually, about ten hours later we got down to the pertinent issue--our medical bills.
Yup, all of Cass's diagnostic testing has begun to add up. We have to make financial choices. Do we go with just the school OT or do we supplement with outpatient therapy? What about the twice-monthly Aspergers counseling we've been getting? Can we drop it down to once a month?
Really, this is just life crankiness. Everyone goes through it, whether they are choosing one type a yacht over another, or picking up beans at the supermarket.
Still, I do have days that I wish my problem was yachts.
We drove to Akron on Friday for a series of tests to determine whether Cass qualifies for speech and language therapy. He was beat when he got home, a wreck. So were the rest of us. We slept most of the weekend, shaking ourselves out of our stupor on Sunday to visit a town called Talmadge so Jeff could present materials on Ohio's Big Read and Cass could pick out a new watch at Target.
He earned the watch by completing a series of five minute tasks every morning and every evening for two weeks. The deal is, we set an egg timer and he hustles himself into his clothes or he runs his own tub, or he picks up his room. A boy never had a better relationship to the old tick tock. Time is money, or at least the equivalent of a mega cool Lego Darth Moll Watch.
He filled me in on a cast of Lego heroes and villains while we waited for Zoe to finish her dance class this evening. We are starting out this week as busy as ever, so it was nice to get a minute to catch up with my boy.
Did you know that Lego has a line of heroes called the Power Team? I didn't. Looks like we are going to make more egg timer magic in the days to come.
Yesterday, I attended a phone webinar on book marketing. A few things were happening on the home front as the webinar commenced. The kids got into it upstairs. The cat barfed on the rug. But even while I was blotting stuff off the floor with paper towels, I managed to absorb some good advice. For example, the webinar guy said any blogging I do should be book related. Instead of telling stories about my son Cass, who isn't a character in any of my YA novels, I should be spinning tales of my Grateful Dead days, luring in potential Freaked fans by sharing my musical thoughts.
I like the idea of being a Grateful Dead bloggist.I wish I could be a true blue one, full of facts and amazing anecdotes. I am a weekend Dead Head and have, I apologize, given my heart and soul to other bands equally. The people I have corresponded with about Freaked are full time, 24-7, real deals. I love these people. I began writing about Scotty Loveletter in the first place because of how much I love these people. Anyone with a dedicated passion and the focus to pursue it has my undying admiration.
I will go so far as to say I think it's going to be people with Aspergers, Dead Headism, who can list the stars of every major film of the twentieth century, or who know pertinent facts about the Space Shuttle or Greek Mythology, or what Justin Beiber ate for breakfast who are going to save the world. Being defined by a special interest seems like a gift and a blessing, a sharp edge of personality that will cut through the mess and entanglement of modern noises who want to shout individuality down. We are what we love, after all.
So lay it on me, who are you?
It's Labor Day and both kids are gripy. I shut down the Wii for the afternoon. We've all been riding a post-first-week-of-school high and I think the sudden fractiousness has to do with remembering that just because we climbed one mountain doesn't mean we get to rest our packs and camp for the night. Cass had a great week--no angry outbursts, no headbutting his first grade teacher, no trips to the principal's office. For five consecutive days he held it together and received a green light rating for his behavior. Easy peasy you might think, he must have done that before. But no, he's managed a few days on yellow. The solid color green is a new thing.
The credit for this amazing accomplishment goes to James A. Garfield Elementary School. His teacher and the school administrators created an environment Cass could succeed in. Cass has been working very very hard on his new regimen of independence and struts around the house now the way a man who is his own man should.
I promised myself I would write weekly in this journal, but what if we are at a happy crossroads already? Wasn't it Tolstoy who implied that families without problems are dull? If Cass behaves himself for the rest of the school year, what the heck can I journal about? Drama is a sure fire cure for writers block.
Maybe I can discuss the weather. Tune in next week and I'll rattle off an interesting description of hurricane season.
Last Tuesday, Jeff and I attended a meeting with Cass's first grade teacher, the aid that will be helping in the classroom, his principal, school counselor, and the district expert on special education. We designed a road map for handling Cass's re-entry into Elementary school, one that will hopefully yield better results than the trial and error (mostly error) approach we used last year.
Today is the first day we get to see if pre-planning will help. Cass dressed himself in his new clothes, ate two bowls of cereal, put his shoes on and bounced out the door to join his sister. He posed for a couple of pictures, some smiling, some wincing at the sun. We had only one panicky moment before he hopped on the bus, the instant we all realized he forgot his backpack inside.
I have the song "que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be" stuck in my head. I don't sing it as well as Doris Day, but the sweetness of it seems to be getting me through the morning.
There is officially an old me and a new me. I'm in the process of being re-educated. I wanted to get the grocery shopping finished before 11AM this morning. Previously, any kind of deadline meant I had to shove Cass's shoes on his feet, nudge him toward the car, stop him from fighting with his sister, buckle his seat belt and break a few speed limits, but shoe shoving, dressing, plate clearing, bed making, and interfering with his social relationships are now all off limits per instructions from the family counselor we have helping us with his Aspergers symptoms. I have to wait and let my son exercise his independent life skills for himself.
It's hell, let me tell you.
I'm wired to be someone's personal assistant. I stuck around recess every school day last year to zip twenty five coats (for fun!). I love to wrap Zoe or Cass in a big towel after their baths and comb their hair for them. Having a son who is slow to do for himself has been, in a secret way, kind of a blessing. I get a hardy ego boost out of being the family problem solver AND I get to exercise MY independent life skills, ie, race off to where I want to go by doing it all on my schedule. Plus, everyone loves me best, better than their Dad who is a lot tougher and won't zip a coat for fear we are robbing our progeny of future college success.
The counselor says Jeff's approach is the wiser one, though, and future college success can hang in the balance. Darn it. All my reading and new learning has made me agree. I still get to provide congratulatory high fives and verbally admire Cass when he loads the peaches into a bag for me at the grocery store. I get to thank and reward him for hustling fast enough to get me home by 11:30, When I feel like over doing for someone, I am allowed to mother the heck out of the dog. Cricket is pretty happy with that arrangement. The cat wants in too.
Yesterday, Cass and I drove to Akron Children's Hospital for his Occupational Therapy evaluation. The waiting room was cool, definitely designed for kids of his interests and inclinations. He fiddled with levers and solved puzzles built into the wall while I thumbed a wrinkled magazine. A therapist called us both into a small room and engaged Cass in conversation before giving him a BOT standardized test. Don't ask me what BOT means.Blessed Occupational Therapy, maybe.
The challenges involved sticking pegs in a board, switching pennies from one hand to an other and then dropping them in a box. Cass enjoyed the day out with me, the encounter with a person who seemed interested in him, and the games he got to play. He's the kind of boy who loves dropping pennies in a box.
I came away with good advice about how to redirect and encourage his brain instead of just nagging at it. In a day or so, we will get the results of the BOT in the mail. Then Jeff and I will decide between blessed occupational therapy or just the regular kind he can get on Thursday afternoons at his school.
I started this journal last year, when my son Cass bit his kindergarten teacher. I began it hoping writing would somehow help me figure out what to do about the crazy relationship my son has to school. In the mean time, I published a YA novel entitled Stranded and have been working on another, but not as hard as I might. Aspergers and Autism Spectrum have filled a lot of my hours.
Cass graduated from kindergarten, but it was a messy year. My husband and I had Cass tested by a developmental pediatrician this summer. We waited because we are a couple of artist-types who don't necessarily fit in every where we go either. We weren't sure having a label would help that much, but now we want an IEP and an aid in Cass's classroom to help him sort things out when he becomes overwhelmed.I think extra help would be better than having him savage more teachers. We've been jumping through many, many hoops to make this happen.
Even though he is my kid, I feel awkward advocating so much just on his individual behalf. He's loved, he's happy when he is home. I'd like to help ALL the kids I met this year while I was in and out of his school.
These are my thoughts for today. This is the beginning of my public journal. Thanks for stopping in.
Yesterday was not Cass's first episode of aggression. We have had other comparable incidents and he went through 4 different preschools and never did find one that worked. I have days where I feel like it would be easier just to keep him here.
When I invented Scotty Douglas and Kenny Stockhausen, the bad boys from my books, I provided them with the kind of history that might explain their behavior. We live in a Freudian age and a writer can't just drop a sociallly dangerous character into a novel like Shakespeare does with Iago. Shakespeare provided audiences with better explanations for Hamlet's angst. His mother is preoccupied and kind of a diddler, his father casts a war-like shadow that haunts Hamlet after death. Don't get me started on Hamlet's stepfather.
So as I begin tto work out Cass's troubles, the first person I have to wonder about is me. I have a feeling his teachers and principal wonder too. My marriage is good, my husband kind and supportive. We both come from close knit families and don't have substance abuse issues. Cass's sister is a pistol but hasn't engaged in any felonious incidents in her eight years. We are all very emotional, excitable, enthusiastic. Cass resembles each of us.