Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Sponge Bob kind of day

After an afternoon at the beach, there’s nothing like spending a little quality time with Sponge Bob Square Pants. Well, in Sam’s mind anyway. This particular Saturday was no different. Sam ran upstairs and within a minute I could hear the familiar sounds of Sponge Bob rewinding on the VCR.  

After a few minutes I heard a loud THUD. I’d be lying if I said I really noticed. Thuds, slams, bangs and other noises are normal at our house. We only investigate big things… like the house falling down.

About 90 seconds later, I saw Sam run by the outside window. Surprised and confused, it took a second before I yelled a little frantically:

Me: OHMYGOD! Tony! Sam’s outside! He jumped out the upstairs window!
Tony: (dismissively) No way.
Me: Yes, way! He’s outside. How did he get there? There is only one door and it’s locked and alarmed.

Just then, Sam rounded the corner and approached the door, laughing. I opened the door.

Me: Did you jump out the window upstairs?!”
Sam: (proudly) Yes!
Me: Are you crazy?! You do not jump out windows!
Sam: (laughing) No jump out windows, Mommy!

I ran upstairs. Sam followed. Sure enough, the window was wide open. A simple jump down landed him safely on the trash bins below. Thank God for trash bins. I turned again to Sam:

Me: You are in big trouble.
Sam: (trying hard not to laugh) Big trouble, Mommy.
Me: I’m not in big trouble. You are.
Sam: You are. 

Window shut, secured and locked, I said, "OK, Houdini, no more window jumping." The video rewinding resumed and I went downstairs.

Tony: What possessed him to do that?
Me: I don’t know. He never did say. The thing I can’t figure out is what did during the 90 seconds after we heard the loud thud.
Tony: Oh he probably just laid on the trash bins in shock over what he had just done.

Still alarmed I went back upstairs to reminded Sam you don’t jump out windows. “Sam, I said, “It's dangerous. You could get hurt.” Sam continued to laugh, saying, “Is dangerous. No jump out the window.” As I tightened the lock on the window again I told Sam to stop laughing and get dressed to go out or Sponge Bob might find his way into the trash bins below.

With amazing speed, the laughter quieted and Sam was ready to go.  

By the time we left the house I finally calmed down, resigned to never understanding why Sam jumped out the window. My thoughts now on other things, I was vaguely aware of Sam scripting the Sponge Bob episode he'd been rewinding earlier: “You call this work? Well it’s a lot harder than it looks. Sometimes my butt itches and sometimes I have to look for the remote control. What’s that noise?” I began to pay more attention as I heard Sam say one of the final lines:

“That’s just Junior jumping out of the second story window.” A lightbulb went off. 

"Tony!" I said, “That's it! The answer to the window jumping. Blame Sponge Bob.” Mystery solved, the only thing left to do was eat dinner. If you think we went looking for crabby patties you'd be wrong. We chose a burger joint. We'd had quite enough Sponge Bob for one day.

Wish you could see the episode? You can check it out here: http://spongebob.nick.com/videos/clip/rock-a-bye-bi-valve-full-episode.html (Note the 9:07 mark or what we like to refer to at our house, the scene of the crime.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

In the moment

I don't like the harshness of winter. Each year I wait expectantly for spring and the new life it brings.

This winter, though, I am not wishing my life away. I am not impatiently waiting for spring or summer or a sunnier day. I am happy it is today. I am not restless for the lilacs and hydrangeas to awaken in my yard. I don't mind the cold or slippery roads. I can see the beauty of barren tree branches against the bright blue sky. Life is fine at this very moment. Today is good.

I sit opposite two vulnerable people and know they are safe. One is nearer the end of his life, the other just crossing the threshold of adulthood. One faces an uncertain future as his body slowly fails him. The other faces an unknown future as he nears the transition from the entitlements of school to a world with few supports. But that is tomorrow. 

Today the sun shines warmly through the window on us. We are together. Today are traveling a road we know well with stories of long ago. There are photos of happy times for one, and familiar videos for the other. We talk of those we miss; those we hope to see again. We listen to familiar music and say familiar words. In the background I hear the happy sound of scripted tales. The worries of tomorrow will wait.

These are moments of contentment. I freeze them in my mind, collecting them like a series of snapshots, to warm a future winter day.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Random conversations

Conversations are somewhat rare at our house. Not as rare as the proverbial hen’s tooth, I think of them more like rainbows: infrequent, unexpected and completely delightful. Because I am never quite sure when the next one will come, I always take the moment to stop and take notice.

Some conversations make me laugh. Sometimes I scratch my head, completely perplexed. I have learned it is best to follow the exchange and see where it takes us. I savor each as fleeting glimpses into Sam’s thought process and how he views the world. 

Here are some recent dialogs and my best interpretation. After you read this, tell me: What do you talk about at your house? 

Holidays and Yankee Swamps

Me: What did you do today?
Sam: Yankee Swamp.
Me: You went to a Yankee Swamp?
Sam: Yes.
Me: Was it wet?
Sam: No.
Me: What did you do at the Yankee Swamp?
Sam: Get presents.
Me: Did you get a present?
Sam: Yes.
Me: What was the present?
Sam: Barak Obama.
Me: You got Barak Obama? Really?
Sam. Yes. Really.
Me: Tony, open Sam’s backpack and make sure Barak Obama isn’t stuck in there.

Explanation. Sam has a hard time discriminating words sounding similar. To him “swap” sounds like “swamp” and “present” like “president, making for some very curious conversations. PS, for anyone worried, Barak Obama was not trapped in Sam’s backpack.

A trip to the hospital

Me: What happened today?
Sam: Felt sick. Tongue hurt.
Me: Then what happened?
Sam: Ride in the firehouse to see the dentist at a hospital.
Me: Then what?
Sam: Feel ok. Eat cheeseburger. Go home.
Me: That’s it?
Sam: Yes. Firehouse. Hospital. Home. Hug Mommy. Big hug.

What actually happened? It took me a few minutes to understand Sam’s version of the day’s events but he was actually pretty accurate. Sam had a seizure necessitating a trip to the hospital via ambulance. A fire truck accompanied the ambulance and Sam saw it (hence the ride in a Firehouse). At the hospital, a man in a white coat looked inside his mouth because Sam said his tongue hurt, explaining the dentist reference. He is completely correct about the cheeseburger. We stopped at the nearest burger joint for a refill before heading home.

School days

Sam: NO SCHOOL TODAY! Mommy, no school. School tomorrow.
Me: Sammy you are in luck. Today is a holiday so the is no school.
Sam: Holiday. No school.
Me: Do you know what holiday it is?
Sam: What?
Me: It is Martine Luther King Day.
Sam: Presents?
Me: Sam, no presents on Martin Luther King Day. You get presents for Christmas.
Sam: Presents, Mommy. Unwrap the presents. DVDs. Yes. DVDs.
Me: Do you want to learn about Martin Luther King?
Sam: No Martin Luther King. Presents, Mommy. Presents.

Moral of the story? All holidays should come with presents.

Insights from an artist

Me: Sam, what are you drawing?
Sam: Wood.
Me: (a little surprised) You are drawing wood?
Sam: Wood. Yes.
Me: The wood is pink?
Sam: Yes. Pink wood.
Me:  (pointing) Really. And what about that yellow?
Sam: Yellow wood. Pink wood. Drawing wood.
Me: Pink and yellow wood. Really?
Sam: Really.

No explanation needed. It is the artist’s prerogative to draw what he likes.

Future plans

Sam: Mommy! Waz the plan? The plan is, drive the car!
Me: Oh? Where are we going?
Sam: Nantucket.
Me:  What should we do on Nantucket?
Sam: Mommy! Watch TV. Watch On Demand.
Me: And?
Sam: Hug.
Me: Anything else?
Sam: Eat dessert at restaurant.
Me: What's for dessert?
Sam: Chocolate cake.
Me: Is that it?
Sam: Yes. Is a good plan.

Again, no explanation needed. Clearly he has given some thought his ideal plan and except for watching endless reruns via On Demand, it sounds pretty good to me.

Watch what you say while driving

On a recent icy winter night Sam and I were driving when someone cut me off. I swerved, narrowly missing the car. My adrenaline rushing, I yelled, though moments later I couldn’t remember what I said. Fortunately human tape recorder reminded me for the next 48 hours (with near perfect voice inflections) exactly what I said:

Sam: Mommy yelled: Cheezets Christ

Moral? If you are going to shout something out, be sure you aren't traveling with a human tape recorder or be prepared to be ratted out.

Bedtime conversations

Sam: Mommy! NO SCHOOL!
Me: Sammy…
Sam: Is nighttime. No school at nighttime. Mommy! NO CAMP!
Me: Sammy…
Sam: Is winter. Camp is summer. No camp in winter. Mommy! NO SLEEP!
Me: Sam, look out the window. What do you see?
Sam: See nighttime.
Me: What do you do at nighttime?
Sam: Go to sleep. Mommy! NO VAMPIRES.
ME: Sam, if you go to sleep I promise I won’t send you to live with vampires. OK?
Sam: Is OK.

OK, if you are looking for a little more of an explanation on this one, see: http://janetamorello.blogspot.com/2012/10/about-vampires.html

iPads and attitude

Me: Sam, you need to quiet down.
Sam: (Smirks) Ha, ha, ha.
Me: You need to quiet down and finish dinner.
Sam: (More smirks) Ha, ha, ha. Mommy you be quiet.
Me: (Upping the ante) Sam, you need to quiet down and eat your dinner or your iPad is going away.
Sam: (Bigger smirk) Mommy! No one ever said Sam’s iPad would be impossible to get.

I’d like to thank the TV show, Drake and Josh, for teaching Sam how to be a teenager. That pretty much explains it all.

It’s always Mom to the rescue

Sam: Mommy. I need help. I need help.
Me: What do you need help with?
Sam: Help with Sam. Help with arugula salad. Mommy. I need help.
Me: Sam, you need to learn these things. You know, I won’t be here forever.
Sam: (after a thoughtful pause) Mommy! We need more time!

Silly me.  I guess more time would be the obvious solution.


Me: Ugh. I’m tired. I don’t want to go to work.
Sam: Yes. Work. You can do it Mommy! You need to go on!

Never mind he completely ripped this from an old Barney show. He has a future as a motivational speaker.

Best advice evah

After a rough day, I decided to take a walk and Sam came along. Once outside Sam turned to me and laid his arms on my shoulders and said, “Mommy. Take a deep breath. Deep breath.”

This is as good a piece of advice as I have ever gotten from a very unexpected source.  

My favorite

Sam: Mommy. Hug, big hug. Biggest hug in the world.
Me: Ok.
Sam: Mommy. No go. Stay.
Me: I’m staying. How long should I stay?
Sam: Forever and ever.
Me: OK. Why should I stay?
Sam: (After a considerable pause) Because. Stay. (Struggling for the answer)
     Because. Mommy stay because…
     I love you.

I stayed. Only a fool would argue with love.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Red Alert

We live in a “Red Alert” zone. It is within this zone I can see the subtle signs of trouble building long before it escalates and subtly redirect. It is how we maintain the calm that resembles normal – or normal for us anyway. It has taken us years of practice to get to this generally more peaceful place.

But during the last several weeks I’ve gotten sloppy. Likely because Sam has hit a nice long string of easy, cooperative behavior I’ve been lulled into a false sense of security. I’ve been distracted and less watchful for the subtle little bumps. Though all the signs were probably there, I just missed them.

Distraction can mean disaster when it takes you out of the "Red Alert" zone.

I knew this with certainty the moment I saw Sam's building anxiety tonight; I saw a dark look flit across his face and knew. I hoped I was misreading. I knew I wasn't.  I tried to change the outcome, my efforts too little, too late.

In minutes playing out in slow motion. I felt the familiar surge of adrenalin and myriad of emotions as I watched Sam try repeatedly to hold on to any thread of self control. I heard the trigger words signaling he was loosing. I watched hopefully as he clenched his fist and quickly retracted it a brief show of composure. Hope was replaced with a familiar fear as I heard him say, “Sorry Mommy” as he aggressed. I stood motionless as he lost control and lashed out.

The the peaceful place of good behavior is gone. But the question remains: What series of events rolled us into this mighty crescendo?

I can only guess. In the end I only know with certainty we both tried more than anyone will understand. But in the end we still lost, leaving us to struggle, knowing it is a long way back to that peaceful place.  

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The boy in the shadow

There is a boy I will never know. I rarely think of him. But late at night when I can’t sleep, at the juncture of certain milestones, he slips into my mind. Living in a shadow out there somewhere is the boy who might have been.

I wonder about that boy in the shadow. What would life with him been like?

With his rugged looks, would there have been a girlfriend by now? Would his big, sturdy hands put him on a football team? Would his easy smile and quest for laughter made him an easy friend? Would he be leaving soon for a college far away? Would he explore the world through art or maybe math? 

I might have liked to spend time with him, that boy in the shadow. But as I peer in on my sweet Sam I know I would have to give up the boy who sleeps peacefully before me for that to happen.

I can't imagine life without the boy I have. This is the boy I love, full of joy and good. I feel a familiar sharp pain in my heart. And with that I say goodbye to the boy in the shadow. 

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