Tag - John

1
Ten Reasons The Library Rocks
2
Looking Up (And Moving On)
3
Words Like Nets
4
Spaces Between Us
5
Movie Date
6
Sam’s Credo
7
Of Slides and Such
8
World Autism Awareness Day
9
El Gato
10
John Meets Harold

Ten Reasons The Library Rocks

John took me on a library tour last weekend. Both of my boys love maps: Sam likes to draw them and John likes to scroll them. That is, he likes to pull them up on his iPad and peruse the roads in real-time or street-view. I first noticed something was up when I saw him magnify the iPad with one hand and use his finger to “walk” down the street, stopping and rotating the view to take everything in. The world is your oyster when you can visit real libraries virtually — even if they are in states far, far away.

But last weekend we were on the road, headed south with Sesame Street Live show tickets purchased last Fall, and from the backseat, John started to call, “Exit 21, Ware Public Library” and then: “Find the exit! New Bedford Public Library,” and later: “This library please,” which is how we found ourselves at three different book repositories in one day (four if you count the drive-by of the closed Spinney branch).

And one of these libraries, even though out of our geographic network, allowed us to open a library card anyways. We may be the first patrons ever who will return checked-out materials via the U.S. Postal Service ( 4 Sesame Street DVDs that we already own, by the way).

Ten Reasons The Library Is Its Own Reward:
1. Every single library adheres to a similar flow…
2. Children’s section with DVDs
3. Children’s section with CDs
4. Children’s section with interesting computer games (with bonus points for Sesame Street-installed)
5. Large smorgasbord of titles to check out and Mom never says No, no DVDs today
6. Large open spaces in which to run
7. Large open spaces in which Mom always says, “Please walk, don’t run”
8. Large open spaces in which Mom always says, “Shh… inside voices”
9. “First grocery shopping, THEN library” and “First post office, THEN library” and “First doctor visit THEN library” and so we do AND we get stuff done
10. The library is less expensive than the book store. Or Target. Or any of the million places where a DVD display sits. Which is most places, you’d be surprised. (Or not — maybe you know exactly what I mean.) 🙂

Looking Up (And Moving On)

Signs are everywhere, did you know? They are on houses and in stores, they are on TV and in school — and of course they dot roads and highways. They are part of the landscape but you don’t really notice them, do you? You just accept that they are there, all with messages we’ve heard before: No u-turn, slow down, curved road ahead.

Hexagons and triangles, like STOP and YIELD, are John’s favorites. From the time he could walk, he’d race towards the tall and towering: his gaze up, his feet fast. Strapped in a stroller, he’d lean forward and flap with excitement at the sight of the 2-hour parking signs that lined our road. At each one, he’d turn and follow it as we passed, like they were having a conversation.

signs1 copy I’m not sure when he began counting the signs as we drove past them, but maybe he was all along.

“ONE sign,” he says as we drive to the library, passing a YIELD.

“TWO sign,” as the SPEED LIMIT 35 MPH appears.

“THREE signs,” he says, U-turn ahead.

He counts not just the ones on our side of the street, but the ones with their backs to us on the other side too (so that now even I’m craning my neck to see what they say).

He is my backseat tour guide.

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After school we drive down our long dirt road and here? Here there are signs posted on trees. So many trees, so many signs — mostly with warnings about not going too fast. I don’t see them anymore. Why? Because I am gripping the wheel over potholes and bumps. I KNOW the speed limit is 10mph, thankyouverymuch. The talking from the backseat goes up and down with the car’s movement. At first I think it’s Elmo’s World, He’s scripting a video. It sounds like Wansinitry, tasinitry, thrasinitry — Elmo talk.

And suddenly I understand he is saying:

“ONE sign on tree… TWO sign on tree… THREE sign on tree.”

When we get to the last one before the driveway, he proclaims, “SEVEN SIGN ON TREE! WE’VE EARNED A STICKER!” and he waves Elmo high, triumphant. Now he does it every day and each time I smile. His face is so happy.

IMG_7608

The comfort of these symbols nailed to trees and on posts — that at the end of a long road you are home. You struggle with disappointments big (we already know those) and small (the clouds for the beach, the Teletubbies CD already checked out at the library) — but at least the signs are there, if you’re looking and listening for them. Signs to point you home.

I suppose we all do the same, marking off touchstones one by one: The morning alarm clock, the coffee brewing, the cat rubbing against a leg to be fed. Meals made, lunches packed, work at the computer. Time passes and you trust in the familiar signs you’ve come to recognize as yours.

And if all the signs, ALL the signs were there all along? What else is to be done but to forgive and move on? Not the ones who hurt you (although they say that is necessary to your survival and you know it and you’re working on it but it’s not easy and not imminent). You stopped looking up, you see. Signs all the way back to the very beginning had you known to look. Like magic, you believed in the trick and ignored the sleight of hand.

No —forgive yourself. It’s time.

January 2007

January 2007

Words Like Nets

This. This at the end of a long, tiring day. This, when you simply want to put a period on it, as in, THE DAY IS DONE.

This, when the goal is to slide into the evening with your thoughts and a glass of wine, your children at last asleep. Let’s be honest, looking forward to these moments is what keeps you going some days.

So when one of your children refuses to cooperate and instead keeps getting out of bed after lights out and you see no discernible reason other than he quite possibly does not want you to have alone time, you will sigh heavily and say “Alright, then. Come here. Sit on the couch with me.”

The truth is you are just too tired to keep walking him back to bed.

You ask him, of course you do: “John, what is it? Why can’t you sleep?” You ask him, knowing that it’s futile, knowing that answering requires too much and tools he does not have. And then you spot your laptop. You open a blank word doc and you type:

John, why are you sad? Because… ?

You don’t expect an answer, you don’t expect much, which is why when he leans forward you still don’t realize.

a take to bed

“Take you back to bed?” You tell him you still don’t understand. You try again.

WHY is John sad? 
no sad
Okay. Is something bothering John?
Yes or no?
yes

And you tell him you want to help, can he please tell you more, can he type more?

neat mom sat on bed
sleep mom sad wake up mom
back ward school

What does it mean? Backward school? Go back to school? And he continues:

dad grandma house train
dad number 012345
dad grow plant
home mom
dinner
movie popcorn
bath time
bed time
brekfest
dad no hi
dad air up
dad chikfil a
the muppet show season 3
sesame street surprise watch
moo bow elmo puppet
fair boat
hot air balloon
lunch
fair boat home
dinner movie bed
back to school
lost home ant jt
go home
nose
watch to baby da vinci
jelly fish

This. All of this. You need to de-code and you need to alert the press. This is the longest conversation you’ve ever had.

The day you discovered Sesame Street’s “Divorce: Little Children, Big Challenges” downloaded on his ipad without any help you knew that he was taking it all in and processing. And today you see, god how you see, just how much he has to say.

Words

Spaces Between Us

We are on our way to meet your dad and it is a trek. We’ve done all the prep: schedules and social stories for John and long talks about our feelings and careful treading through the what-ifs of divorce.

(“What if you see each other again and fall back in love? Those what-ifs, the ones that live large in your heart when you’re a child of eight, when your dreams are full of them. I know.)

You are excited.
And nervous too.

This morning you bound out of bed in your clothes, smiles on your sweet faces. It is easy getting out the door.

But on the way, John, you start to yell and I know something is not quite right. You ask for the bathroom so we head there and I am surprised when you pull me instead to a seat and hug me. I stroke your hair. “John, are you excited to see Daddy? Yes or no?” Yes, you say. “Are you sad too? Yes or no.” Yes.

I tell you I will call you and you can call me. “Yes or no?” Yes, you say.

We sit there for a time and then you softly sing, my for-so-long non-verbal boy, I love you, you love me, we’re best friends as friends can be… I stop breathing for a moment, listening to all that lives inside you come rise to the surface.

* * *

We say goodbye on the cold concrete. I hold your faces and kiss your cheeks, press each of you to my heart and say goodbye. I tell you to have a great time, I’ll see you next week.

And now?
You are there,
I am here.

My love for you lives in the spaces between us. It travels down Route 95 and knocks on your window. Are you awake too?

I am not me without you, I am this new me. We’re still getting to know each other.

Movie Date

John still eats the same five things but lately has added popcorn. He loves popcorn. After school, he asks: “Watch movie in the basement and eat some popcorn?” I smile and oblige.

He gathers old friends together, a tall boy and his basket of buds from a wide swath of eras. This  boy, this boy who never really got pretend play, has lined them all up in front of the television to watch a movie and eat some popcorn.

You know, pretend play.

I am grateful. Day #2.

Sam’s Credo

I came across this scribbled drawing as I gathered the dozens of pages Sam leaves strewn across the house. Our house is on the market, have I mentioned this? That we need to move? and life on the market means keeping it in showing condition always. An impossible feat in the best of circumstances — really really, difficult with two 8-year-olds. I vacuum, I dust, I hide things in drawers and closets as I shoo the boys closer and closer to the door. Some days I just order them to the car with iPads and tell them to sit … it’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, I spend 15 minutes in one room only to return 10 minutes later to destruction.

Anyways, I digress.

So I was cleaning for a showing and piling Sam’s drawings into a pre-recycle bin — the one I use BEFORE I dispose of his scribbles into the actual recycling bin, when I came across this one. It struck me as simple, direct, a credo.

I  think we need happiness and trust too. Don’t you? And love like this…it would be a good start.

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Of Slides and Such

We are surrounded by hundreds of sunbathers at a very public pool. Even though you are nearing me in height I must hoist you up into my arms (to the amusement of those around us), and walk deliberately into the water. Long ago I mastered the ability to keep my face calm as the icy water envelops us.

We are in now, and as always, you are glommed onto me. Every 30 seconds I say, “John, not the neck!” and pry you from my windpipe. We bob on the water, you and I, and I see you relax in increments. We look for Sam and I point to him high up on the water slide.

You say, “Go water slide?” and I repeat, “Go water slide? Yes or no.” You say, “NO!” Okay. We bob some more, we glide from one end of the pool to the other. With a splash, Sam lands in front of us. You grin. Sam says, “John! Go water slide?” You are excited and flap your hands, I know you want to, how you want to!

“John,” we say together, “Go water slide? Yes or no.”

“YES!” you say. So out we get and Sam grabs your hand. I am hopeful but this scene has played out before: we always come down the slide… just always the wrong way.

We begin our ascent and fall into line behind at least a dozen kids. You are still excited. Sam says, “John, it’s so much fun! Go water slide?” and I see your face waver and fill with doubt. You say, “Go home.” I tell you that it will be great and not to worry, Sam will go first.

Finally we arrive at the top. There are two slides, a blue and a green. Sam shoots down one and I hold your shoulders until the lifeguard gives us the signal. I glance behind me: the line snakes below.

This is it.

“Green!” shouts the lifeguard. You break free, scream and say, “GO HOME!” I glance at the guard, certain that what I see will be impatience and I steel myself for the long retreat down the stairs. Instead I see compassion. He says, “Take your time.” Other kids fly by us while you stomp your feet and yell “ALL DONE!” We are quite the spectacle up here at the top. A few kids stare at you but most smile and tell you, “Hey, it’s fun! Don’t be scared!”

I think this gives us both courage. I kneel in front of you. “John, I know you want to go down this slide. Mommy is going to help. I will put you on it and meet you at the bottom.” You yell your protest again but I see a small smile, which baby, is your dead giveaway. I explain to the guard what I’m about to do and I hoist you again (you are getting so big) and sit you at the top of the slide.

One push and you’re off.

Even though I know the pool at the bottom is just three feet deep, I panic for a second — now what? The guard, who is the calmest, most adult teenager I’ve ever seen, says, “if you shoot down the blue slide you’ll beat him down.” Now your mom hasn’t been on a water slide since the 1970s and really doesn’t care to change that but here I go. I hurl myself down the tube and land what seems like an eternity later with a splash below. I look everywhere for your bobbing head. Are you okay? Did you already get out?

Thirty seconds later you appear (indeed your slide is slower), and the grin plastered on your face is a beautiful sight. I catch you, and hug you. “John, you did it! Baby, you did it! I am so proud of you!”

I see that you are proud too.

j2b

World Autism Awareness Day

Last year I replaced our outside bulbs with blue ones. This year Autism Awareness Day snuck up on me: I’ve been caught blue bulb-less. I imagine, though, that the moms and kids at the playground are quite aware of autism after our appearance there today. John had an epic meltdown, all 4 1/2 lanky feet of him. The object of his fury? A tow-headed little girl, maybe two? three? because she scampered above him on the rope ladder with his Dora CD.

Hell hath no fury like John robbed of his CDs.

You would think I had a pat response to the mom stares. You’d think after all these years I would roll with it, or that I would have pelted the gaping faces with eloquent explanations about autism on this: World Autism Awareness Day, but world? I don’t have the energy.

I’m tired.

John is tall. OMG, world, when did that happen? He is all legs and nearly up to my chin. I imagine he looks threatening to a tow-headed three-year-old and her coiffed mom. I see so clearly how people’s perceptions shift when your autistic child is no longer small and cute. I mean he’s still freakin’ cute, but holy crap, he’s getting big.

And world? He is all bark, no bite. He doesn’t have the words to say, “Look here, cute little blonde girl, you can’t just pick up my CD and take it. Not fair!” Instead he screams and drops to the ground. Sometimes. We’re working on that, world. We are working on saying “I feel ____,” and “Yes,” and “No,” and “Sorry.”

It’s a process.

World, sometimes living with autism in a world that doesn’t understand is tough but usually it’s just part of the fabric of my life. A life full of amazing highs and some amazing lows. Just like any life, maybe like your life.

What is it like for you?

El Gato

Dear John, as I awoke to your smiling face I could see you were in a hurry — I figured you wanted to get back to your papers full of pink words — the ones I made you leave downstairs on the kitchen table. It was time to stop sleeping with them when you began to get up in the dead of night like the old days, clutching them and demanding to start the day at 2 a.m. Oh no, no. We are not doing that again.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve now taken to watching youtube videos in Spanish. You hit pause when a new word appears and demand that I write each one down. You listen to the word, repeat the word, “Nutria,” then say, “Write nutria?”

What a lengthy relationship you’ve had with Baby Einstein. All of the DVDs, all of the puppets, all of the books and bath toys and plush characters: I’d guess the entire merchandise line, even the music.

“Time to get up, Mommy? Go downstairs? Ooh-kay!” I was about to oblige but you pulled me to you instead and gave me a hug. That was just fine with me. I wasn’t ready to slide my feet on the cold floor just yet.

One quick hug and then you were ready to split but I stopped you and said, “Hey John? How do you say ‘cat‘ in Spanish?” I waited one beat, two beat, three beats — and you whispered, you said, “Ga-to.”

Seriously. I stared at you in disbelief — could you have memorized a bunch of Spanish words? I tried another: “How do you say ‘dog‘ in Spanish? “Perro,” you said a little louder this time. “How do you say ‘blue‘ in Spanish?” “Azul,” you said.

I laughed aloud at all that you keep hidden, at how very smart you are. And in the silence that followed you said to me, “How do you say ‘red’ in Spanish?” I waited and you answered yourself, “Ro-jo!

And I chased you downstairs to begin our day.

John Meets Harold

Lately John’s DVD taste has turned towards something other than Sesame Street and Nick Junior. Harold and the Purple Crayon has been laying around unwatched since the boys were about three. Sam used to ask for specific episodes by number and name (as in “Can I watch number 11, Harold in the Dark?”) while John was never much interested in the little bald boy who drew pictures.

But it seems he has found something in common with Harold now. John’s favorite painting is Starry Starry Night plus he has an affinity for whales. I was not at all surprised to find these images on my iphone today, two more in his series of TV screen pictures.

I’ve been watching him as he snaps them. He is very serious, deliberate — and I dare say he looks like the real deal: an artist at work. He peers down his nose at the phone and lines up his shot just so while his other hand clutches the DVD remote. Press pause. Snap snap. And lately, he’s experimenting with the super slow-motion button so that the video still plays but produces a different effect. Snap, snap.

It’s fascinating.

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