Making Lemonade

I just love waking to the cheery sound of juvenile delinquents screaming and throwing furniture at each other.  So adorable.  They may be my gkids, but I’m not biased!

Yep, we were off to another great start this morning.  Things settled down after that.  Y sulked in her room, while S glommed onto me.  The usual.  I tried to find things to do.

Avdi stayed away longer than usual (maybe telepathic?) because (as it turned out) he wasn’t feeling well.  I can imagine why his immunity might be weakened.  So I volunteered to mow the lawn.

It was humid after last night’s big storm, but not quite as brutally hot.  (Now a heat index below the 100s seems cooler!)  Relieved flowers towered over the garden.  I even managed to photograph a monarch and a chipmunk.

Afterwards I hosed myself down (you could almost hear the hiss of steam!) and drank a well-earned beer.  Sigh of relief.  Then I walked home.

On the way, I met some really nice neighbors of Avdi’s selling lemonade–all three generations of the family were out there.  They had met S earlier, when he bought me a lemonade.  We had lots in common to talk about.  I felt so much better just getting to meet some new grownups!  Also, they have a pit bull mix rescue for me to meet next time!  It doesn’t take much to make my day.






Steam Pressure Building

Erev Shabbat was fairly non-eventful–cleaning, baking, cooking, a couple of extreme kid meltdowns–just the usual routine.

The meltdowns disrupt Avdi’s work day, because he has to take time out with S or Y until they can calm down and re-adjust their expectations.  He has a better understanding of the underlying issues causing their acting out, while I’ve only been with them a short time, and sometimes only see the combative surface manifestations.  It has to be dealt with appropriately to each situation, not simply harshly brushed aside or ignored until the pressure cooker explodes or implodes.

The pressure of juggling distressed kids, long hours of work required to pay the bills, and all the other responsibilities, with little opportunity to balance that with personal time out, builds up.  Sometimes I feel helpless and inadequate to share more of the heavy lifting.  No one should have to do it all alone, but in reality, one often has no choice.

So I just try to find as many jobs to do around the house as I can, and spend time with S, who gets bored and agitated easily.  It helps that we’ve developed mutual trust and affection.  Y, on the other hand, is more complicated.  Sometimes she’s sociable and affectionate, when it serves her need to be the center of attention, but often she’s angry, demanding, mean, willful, and withdrawn.  I haven’t figured that one out yet, so I mostly just stay out of her way for now.

Which is more challenging with the extreme climate meltdown going on outside–it’s difficult to just go outside, let alone play or garden.  Heat indices have been like 110 to 114.  The high humidity encourages more mosquitoes.  People here are more used to it, but I can’t handle it well.  Being confined to indoors with temperamental kids gets old fast, even with AC.  Without it, I can’t even imagine how people cope.

So, on that cheery, apocalyptic note, here are bread and flowers of the more indoor type.  No shortage of those.



Meltdown BBQ

STL is under an excessive heat alert through tomorrow night–heat index values of up to 114!  Danger of heat stroke and death!  Car interiors can reach lethal temps in a matter of minutes!  Etc.  Forget Florida, I think I’ve moved to India!  Having barely survived that, and having worked outdoors doing strenuous labor for a living, I feel for all people without the luxury of avoiding hyperthermia.  I never take the privilege of AC and water for granted.  Not a big fan of becoming BBQ.

In more routine news, Y has been demonstrating her more willful, volatile side lately.  Maybe it’s her wolf cub nature coming out.  I leave the taming to Avdi.  I’m just glad his approach isn’t that of my parents and their generation, who didn’t understand or recognize the complex neuro/atypical issues some kids deal with (or can’t deal with).  Their reaction would be outrage, anger, ridicule, and harsh physical/emotional punishment.  Also taking it very personally as an affront and embarrassment.  I’m a product of them, so I have a hard time myself.  I leave it to calmer heads.

In actual routine news, the tomatoes finally decided to start ripening!  There’s even one pepper!  New flowers continue to bloom.

This is going to sound really mundane and boring, but yesterday (after sleeping over), Avdi game me some routine jobs (more like projects) to do to help him out, so I was back in my element.  Half a dozen laundry loads later, I was almost caught up!  I swear the kids’ dirty clothes are cloning!  Still, it beats just sitting and watching meltdowns all day!  Or becoming one!




Another quiet overnight…S did all the bedtime things without fuss and fell asleep on the sofa.  Soon after, Y went to bed and so did I.  This morning things proceeded pretty smoothly, even with Y’s slow lethargic preps for camp.  I even got a temporary reprieve to go home and rest up.  I slept all morning into afternoon.

I’ve figured out S is a No-No-Yes kinda guy; he’ll shriek in protest at having to do the slightest necessity, then a minute later he’s like, I think I’ll go do the thing.  The trick is to just wait.  I recognize it because I’m a lot like that.  I’ll be like, no I can’t possibly drive your car (with or without kids in it) and do all the things!  Then next thing you know I’m offering to borrow the car and run errands!  Tiny increments of adjustment.

And back I go for another overnight.  My main challenge, besides the kids, is finding useful ways to spend the hours and days there, so I don’t die of boredom and feel unproductive.  It’s so hot and humid out, I can barely get anything done in the garden, and the next few days will be even hotter (heat index 109).  I have to keep reminding myself, I’m helping!

I did get a few garden jobs done yesterday and today.  I planted some flower seedlings, “chelsea-chopped” some overgrown perennials to liberate the herbs, weeded the tomatoes and peppers, and watered.  I have to water myself to keep at it in the broiling heat.  I always think of my fellow horticulture workers, having no choice but to keep going and risk heat exhaustion.  Plants out-survive us any day, unless we kill them.


Trust and Time

Yesterday Avdi accompanied K and E on a flight to see their Mom in PA and for other matters needing attention.  He returned the same evening.  Meanwhile, I spent the day with S and Y.  They were quiet and cooperative.

There was no bread for Y to make french toast, so she took the initiative and made bread!  It came out perfectly.  S set up up his “friend stand” out front, hoping to make a friend, but sadly there were no takers, and it was hot out.  Hopefully, he’ll make some friends at the special needs day camp A signed him up for.

Out in the garden, the only thing new is the tomatoes finally starting to ripen, about time!  The sunflowers are on my walking route to and from the house.

Yes, I realize this blahg is turning into a grandchildren journal, so bite me.  It’s really only boring to…everyone but me!  It’s never a dull moment, learning the ropes of special needs caregiving, and I’m always learning new tricks.  It’s exhausting, but emotional bonds are being formed.  Trust and patience are essential.  Also lots of time, which I have right now.


Settling In

When the kids are this quiet and cooperative, it’s uncanny.  Avdi explained it always takes them a while to adjust and settle down, with crises fewer and farther between.  But you’re always waiting for the next roller coaster plunge.

I spent the night, and S went right to sleep, no issues.  The others stayed up, but relatively quietly.  I actually slept well.  Everyone but S slept in.  I got up and got to work cleaning and prepping for erev Shabbat.  S not only didn’t have meltdowns, but took the cue and helped clean up his stuff, and even decided on his own to take his nap, without prompting.  I had the challahs and dinner prepared early.  Avdi and I even got to have our drinks together out on the patio, where it had somehow turned into perfect weather, for a change.

I thought I’d have to leave before dinner to sign for a stupid package, but Avdi talked me out of it.  Jess joined us for a very pleasant erev meal.  After cleaning up, we all took a walk to my apartment!  It was the first time most of us were there together, however briefly.  Lo and behold, there was my package, left at my door, just as A had predicted!

I guess it takes me a while to settle in to a new place and situation as well, but times like these, feeling like a part of a family, help a lot.


Postscript to Previous Post

Just to clarify my last post, I should have said “It took a village.”  White colonists destroyed native cooperative communities that worked, and established isolated homesteads that depended on spawning lots of white brats to perpetuate their misguided way of life.  Fast-forward to the American rugged individualist illusion, where families hole up in suburban fortresses, showing a façade of success to the outside world, while struggling to make it and raise individuals single-handedly,  who will inevitably try to move on to live their own lives, or not.  Our culture replaced functioning co-op communities with dysfunctional islands all competing with each other.  Hippies attempted to recreate communal living, but eventually internal dysfunction or the need to rejoin the grid won out.  Reality (capitalism) trumps idealism.

Pretty But Caustic/Some Thoughts on Community

There’s a beautiful tall white and green native annual Euphorbia (marginata) coming up all over the veg garden.  You’d never know by looking at it that its sap is caustic and the whole plant must be handled with care and gloves, or you can get burned.  Hmm, what botanical metaphor for real life could I be suggesting?

Yesterday was one of “those” days over at the Avdi’s.  Ironically it wasn’t so much S this time.  It started out fine; E accompanied me grocery shopping for A at two stores, and helped a lot.  I should say, I helped them!  We accomplished our goal successfully, stopping briefly at my apartment on the way home (E’s first time there).  We delivered the groceries, then things went downhill from there.

Y was in one of her common volatile moods toward E, sometimes erupting into yelling and hateful cussing.  I think she tries to compete with E and S for attention and validation.  Twice I cleaned up the kitchen after baking “projects”, and then another operation would start up.  I try to just stay safe out of the way with S while they conduct culinary experiments.  Actually, some good confections do result, and we get to sample them.

I was staying overnight so Avdi could get a rare opportunity to go out and unwind.  Turns out everyone else decided to stay up all night, loudly gaming or cooking up stuff in the kitchen.  S finally crashed on the sofa, and A went out.

After giving up on sleep downstairs while K did his noisy thing online all night, I crept upstairs to share a corner of the sofa.  That’s when the “squirrels” decided to amp up the volume and activity in the kitchen again, accompanied by clanging and loud talking.  We’re talking like 1:30 or 2AM.  I gave up on the sofa and crawled back downstairs, where K had finally subsided, and got a few hours at most, with some disturbing apocalyptic dreams.

Meanwhile, due to all the delays managing kid issues, Avdi was too late for his evening events, and had to turn around, come home, and stay up managing kids some more.  So both of us were exhausted and not ready for today.  He let me go home to rest up a little ’til later, something he doesn’t get to do.  I felt really bad for him, and not very helpful.

I’m sure eventually things will fall into more of a consistent routine, once the kids realize they need to fit into the needs of the whole household.  I admire Avdi for letting them feel free to try new things and take more responsibility.

Myself, I’m not good at dealing with the resulting chaos and disorder.  I grew up in a world of absolute discipline and sterility.  I’m also not good at taking command and delegated authority.  I had compliance and submission beaten into me for decades growing up, so I sucked at management, supervision, and taking initiative.  These kids fortunately won’t have that disadvantage, at least.  Self-discipline and impulse control will need some work, though!

Folks, word to the wise, having kids is a huge undertaking.  They are not mini-adults, or personal accessories.  It’s not like buying (or selling) a house or car.  It’s not a Disney movie, or the “American Dream”.  It’s a major lifelong process, with lots of pain, exhaustion, and loss of personal boundaries and mental health!  Be prepared to never be the same again, or at least to never get enough R&R.  The goal is to train stable, healthy adults who can eventually live responsible, free-thinking, interdependent lives.  All while trying to hold down full-time jobs to support all the expenses.

As clichéd as this will sound, I’ve come to believe it does take a village.  That is, in societies where many villagers or extended family are always around to pick up the slack, cultures seem to thrive and raise strong, well-socialized kids.  No one individual has the strength and time to do it all.  That whole rugged individualistic nuclear family myth is a load of crap, in my humble opinion.  In reality, people change and split up, and end up raising a whole herd on their own, while struggling to stay afloat financially.  And that’s not taking into account neuro-dev issues that have to be managed.  As naive as we hippies were, I think we were on to something about community.  It may be how we will survive and adapt to a changing world.

So much for catching up on sleep!  Here are some illustrations.







Well, they finally got me in the pool again!  Y and her friend and S and I had water battles all afternoon.  Finally, S got exhausted and went to take a nap.

I actually did some weeding in the veg jungle.  The weeds won.

Everyone seemed pretty subdued while I was there.  I did as many jobs as I could find, then drove home.

Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing besides just being there, in case, or if I’m helping.  I’ll figure it out eventually.  I’m just fortunate to be able to be with my family.


Fortnite Incentive

Here’s the kind of trick you resort to to incentivize a dev-disabled autistic, gaming-obsessed kid to learn to control and contain his inner wild animal: Fortnite.  If he manages to self-control his tantrums and calm himself for x number of days, he’ll get Fortnite.  His fierce desire for the latter helps him to be more mindful and self-aware when the meltdown comes on, and choose a more appropriate behavior.  We’ll see how that goes.

I’ve also noticed that since the kids have come to expect Fridays to be the day I spend cleaning, baking and cooking for Shabbat, not spending as much time playing, S in particular has learned to manage and occupy himself better, without constantly glomming onto me for attention.  Just having a routine that he can depend on and anticipate seems to benefit him, even motivate him to help.  Shabbat dinner around the table seems to be working out more smoothly, as well.

Then there’s the added challenge of multiple dev-disabled sibs close in age constantly antagonizing each other into loud, dramatic altercations featuring vulgar insults and declarations of hate.  Shrieking, crying, self-pity, and hostility ensue.  Meanwhile, the older two just withdraw to avoid all the chaos and commotion, but it affects them adversely as well.  Sometimes the instigators actually need to be separated geographically, as was the case yesterday.  Y spent the afternoon with me at the apartment, which seemed to calm her down, if not bore her to death!

Then I came over theirs and we had pizza and I spent an uneventful night, while Avdi got to spend it elsewhere, which he needed badly.  We all need that occasionally, which is why I’m back at my apartment taking a break.  I’ve noticed it takes me longer now to wind down and just be here, not at everyone’s beck and call.  I also appreciate the time outs from being assimilated and swallowed by juvenile minds!