Sam Part I

Smilin' SamNovember 2011 — I still don’t understand what is going on with Sam. I know we’re looking at Asperger’s Syndrome. There’s never been any real question in my mind that he has the same form of high functioning autism as Caroline, even though it manifests in different ways in sister and brother. But I fear he also shows signs of my Bipolar Disorder. Things fell apart for him so fast this summer. In the space of three months, he went from being my happy little mischief to being violent and angry nearly all the time. I’ve seen some of this coming. I always worried about the biting. I always worried about the way he would hurt other children with almost no realization that he was the one causing the pain. When he realizes he has hurt someone, he invariably feels remorse. But half the time, even now, he gets so caught up in his own needs that he fails to acknowledge the needs of others.

But the sudden descent from basically happy-kid-with-a-few-behavior-issues to anguished-defiant-child-with-viperous-anger happened right around his fourth birthday. I’m told this isn’t uncommon for early onset behavior disorders.  Still, it’s getting a little better.

We found a good psychiatrist who found us a therapist. And then, after two sessions, that therapist died. (Yes, really. He died. He wasn’t an old man, either.  Here is the only name I’ll place in this post or the next one: Dr. John Mark Trent. The man was amazing, and in only two sessions, he made an enormous difference for our son. And we probably suffered less than nearly all his other patients when he got pneumonia, fell in a parking lot, then died due to a brain bleed brought on by a combination of the fall and blood thinners he was taking.)

The psychiatrist has now got us a new therapist. And possibly also a psychologist specializing in autism. And also a drug that may be finally starting to make a difference. The drug is where the majority of my hopes lie. (Though hope is not really the right word. Hope is the most dangerous emotion for me. I try hard not to hope about anything. I cannot prepare for  the worst and hope for the best. I must prepare for the worst and be relieved if it’s anything better. Because otherwise, I haven’t really prepared, and I get caught out by middle ground and think it is worse than worst.) Anyway, the medication is called Tenex, and it used to be used to treat high blood pressure. I’ll blog about Sam’s harmless heart abnormality and our two efforts to keep him strapped to an EKG machine for twenty four hours some other time. (It went better than you might expect). But I’ve started seeing flashes of my little boy under all that confused anger.

His behavior has started to become something we can evaluate on a day-to-day basis as opposed to a baffling maelstrom worthy of a kid ten years older. The biggest change, the hardest change for me, is that from now until forever, we are going to have to approach Sam’s life one day at a time. A good day today will not necessarily be an indicator of another one tomorrow, and hoping for that is unreasonable. (There’s that hope again.) Mercifully, the reverse is also true. Today’s bad day won’t necessarily be tomorrow’s bad day anymore.

I still hold my breath every day at pickup time. And I still live in fear that we’re going to have to pull him out of school until Kindergarten, which would pretty much force me to quit working. But something isn’t going wrong every single day now.  That’s progress. And it’s probably about the most I can hope for, given the circumstances.

Sam Part II,

Beauty and the Beast

Sam Part III

Sam Part IV

Fix You

People who live in glass washers

Yesterday, our friends Linda and Robert, and their son, Kristopher, came over for dinner. We fed the kids first, while we grownups visited in the living room, and then the adults took over the table to eat. Our kitchen table is too small to seat seven, and it works better for us to eat in shifts anyway. If we feed the kids first, then their demands are easier to meet, and they aren’t interrupting the adults.

After everybody went home, Scott and I put the kids to bed, and Scott started a load of wash. As he was getting ready to roll it over to the dryer, I heard him say, “Jessie, dearest?” in a tone that meant bad things.

“I’m already grouchy about work right now,” I told him. “So you better not have anything to say that I don’t want to hear.”  And given that our washer is around the same age as Sam and the dryer older than Caroline, I could envision a lot of things I didn’t want to hear.

“Well,” he said. And by that point I had reached the laundry room and could see the problem.

“Is that glass?” I asked him.  He was holding up the trash can in front of the washer picking white slivers off a set of Sam’s pajamas.

He said “I think we somehow managed to wash one of our plates or cups. See?There’s the rest of it.” And when I peered into the machine, there indeed was a collection of glass plastered inside the tub.

I confess, my thoughts flew immediately to little boys. We had all eaten on paper dishes(getting out the good china for company and all) except for Sam, whose food had to be microwaved. So it was pretty easy to deduce that the blue and white Corelle decorating an entire load of laundry had last enjoyed life as Sam’s dinner plate. The laundry room is just outside the kitchen door, and I thought Sam and Kristopher had thrown it in goofing off.

By the time we discovered the whole thing, the kids were all in bed. So I picked glass shards out of the clothes while Scott shop-vacced out the washing machine. Then, I fired off a quick e-mail to Linda, “Can you please ask K what he knows about the smashed plate in my washer?”

And when Sam got up this morning, I asked him the same question. After some discussion, he actually understood what it was I wanted to know. “Oh. We thought it was the sink,” he said. He hasn’t yet mastered the art of the simple lie, so I think he was telling the truth.

“We who?” I asked. “You and Kristopher?”

“No. Me and Sis.”

Sis, when queried, was too tired to give a cogent answer (she is not a morning person), and by then I had a sense of what had happened anyway and didn’t press her.

I dropped Linda a line, “K is off the hook” and told her what had taken place.

She wrote back, “Why now, after all these years, would they think the washing machine was the dish washer? It’s never been before right? They have never been told to put their dishes in the laundry room right?”

Well, no, but I also know that things that seem obvious to us neurotypical people can be painfully confusing to someone with autism. Plus, I can follow the squirrelly logic of getting the washing machine mixed up with the dishwasher. Mom and Dad put plates in white kitchen machine. White machines are dishwashers. Here is a white machine. It must be a dishwasher [aka sink]. I will put my plate in it.

After the fact, Scott remembered hearing a crash come out of the kitchen followed by quick “everything’s OK” reassurances while the kids were eating. I didn’t notice any such thing, but we were in and out of there the whole time, so it may have come at a time when I thought there was an adult in the room. I do agree with his retrospective sentiment, though. He said: “We just re-learned the hard way a parenting lesson we should never have forgotten in the first place: Investigate all loud noises.”

My Fair Lady

Scott asked. “Are we interested in free tickets to My Fair Lady?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

The last time Scott and I saw a Broadway play together was when South Pacific came to Lexington in January 2003. I remember the date so well because I thought I might be pregnant.

We had anticipated it for several weeks – the play, not the pregnancy scare – and I was wearing this gorgeous skirt and blazer that I had bought for my best friend’s rehearsal dinner a month before. The skirt was black polyester. The itchy kind. It came to my knees and ended in an elegant flare. The blazer was shiny white and probably also polyester, but smooth, not itchy. The play did not match the outer beauty of the clothes. As much as South Pacific has been one of my favorite musicals since I first heard Bali Hai on TV when I was 3 or 4, this production didn’t thrill me. Scott was completely unimpressed and thought it might have been the play that was the problem. I know the story, and I know it was the cast and production.

It left us flat, not the least because I spent the whole show obsessed with my clothing, which had never really fit very well to begin with. The blazer was too tight, and the top button was right across my G cups. I had to wear a giant pin to keep my bra from showing. But it was beautiful, it looked good on me, and it drove me crazy that it felt too tight in January, when I hadn’t gained an ounce since I last wore it in December. It hadn’t fit any better then, but I hadn’t been nearly so uncomfortable.

For most of the evening, I squirmed around trying to get less pinched in my seat. And I kept thinking, “I’d better enjoy wearing this now, because it’s never going to fit me again in my life,” then going into complete emotional shutdown and missing entire scenes. If I was right, then I was only about two weeks along. So I was trying to pretend I didn’t have a zygote burrowing into my uterine lining to make everything fit wrong and
cause my clothes to feel horrible.

We had been married almost exactly three years from the date of one wedding, a little over two years from the date of the other. We had been together around five years all told. I was not ready to become parents.

***

It’s 2011 now. The zygote turned eight years old a couple of months ago. She takes ballet and sings Beatles songs to anyone willing to listen. I’m not nearly so scared of her now. And Scott did not really say “Are we interested in free tickets to My Fair Lady?” He said, “Would either you or I be up for taking Caroline to see My Fair Lady?”

And I said, “Oh, please can I go?”

Neither one of us thought of going together. Not that we wouldn’t like to. But we couldn’t get a sitter on short notice, and right now getting a sitter is probably a very bad idea in general. Sam’s too unstable. And in any case, both our minds flew to the child who wanders the house singing random snippets of Yellow Submarine (the whole album/movie – not just the title song).

So yesterday, Scott lured Sam out of the house at 6:15 at night, with promises of the mall merry-go-round, and Caroline and I threw on some fancy clothes. I don’t actually own much in the way of fancy right now.  Indeed, I’m soon going to have to go buy something so I look nice at an upcoming wedding and baptism. But limited choices made dressing easy. I tossed my only pair of slacks together with a sweater my Dad got me I think before Scott and I got married, then I stuffed Caroline into her favorite hand-me-down dress, and we were off.*

Unlike South Pacific eight years ago, My Fair Lady was spectacular last night. The Davis Theatre For the Performing Arts has a relatively small stage, and the Big League Productions travelling cast only had a twenty person ensemble. But they also had their own live orchestral accompaniment, and they had amazing voices. Only a couple of things jolted me out of the performance. One of those was that Eliza Doolitle’s father looked younger than she was. But he was also being played by the understudy that night. And the man had the part down cold. I enjoyed his performance as much as any once I got over the young face and dark hair. Similarly, Professor Higgins’ head housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, was clearly a young woman made up to look old, and again, it didn’t really matter, because she could carry the part.

At every turn, the small-scale show recreated scenes as I saw them in the movie. Indeed, as the movie was an echo of the original Broadway Musical, I feel certain this smaller production mirrored its original in everything but set design and stage size. (There was only one full set in use, Professor Higgins’ library/study. The rest were either painted curtains or artfully arranged black space with a single prop.)

Several times, I looked over and Caroline was gazing enthralled. She interrupted just twice to make observations only a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome would have made, such as, “Oh, now I see what a cloak is” and “My friend Katie has a white dress for her Cleopatra costume, but even that isn’t as beautiful as she [Eliza] is right now.”

It’s been a long time since I last saw My Fair Lady. In the intervening years, I’ve read Pygmalion and developed an absolute loathing for Henry Higgins. Watching the play last night, I remembered that even though I never liked him much to begin with, I couldn’t help but root for the man when played by Rex Harrison opposite Audrey Hepburn.

And I couldn’t help but root for him again last night. As much as I hate Higgins, I want him to win Eliza’s heart. I want to think that at the end, even though he comes right out and says otherwise, Henry will soften towards Eliza and become a nicer person.

Caroline, who doesn’t have any of my educated baggage, was horrified when Eliza went off with Freddy early in Act II. And when, near the end of the play, Eliza walked away from Higgins saying “You shan’t be seeing me again, Professor”, Caroline leaned into me and said, “That doesn’t really happen, right?”

“Not in this version,” I said. And luckily for her, I forgot to explain Pygmalion on the way home. She can crush her own illusions at some later date.

My favorite song has always been “Just You Wait ‘Enry ‘Iggins”. I like Eliza best when she’s vituperative. Caroline said her favorites were “Get Me To The Church On Time” and “Quit Professor Higgins”. And she elucidated that the latter was the third in the set of extremely short ditties sung by the housekeeping staff. I knew this. But it was such a small part of the play, and I was tickled that she latched onto it and remembered its timing in the performance.

It was a wonderful night, and one I hope to repeat many times in the future as Caroline grows older. Scott and I will get out together sooner or later. Sooner I think, as we have tickets to Spamalot when it comes to Montgomery in January 2012, and no kiddo is going to make either of us sit that one out as a couple. But on the whole, I wouldn’t have traded last night with Caroline for all the Spamalots on Broadway. She had as much fun as I did, and we can’t wait to do it again.

___

Caroline is the youngest of five girl cousins, three on Scott’s side and one on my side, and she is the beneficiary of all of their gently used clothes. It’s all gorgeous, and, especially the stuff that comes from Scott’s sisters, is all in great shape. I’ve only had to buy her a few items of clothing in her entire life so far. I hope she never outgrows loving cousin clothes.
Back to the blog body

Dear Lady Gaga

Dear Lady Gaga,

I really like your song “On The Edge of Glory”. It’s got a strong dance rhythm, a memorable tune, and catchy lyrics. The video is also pretty cool. It’s a little different from the large scale dance productions you did for songs like “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro”. I loved the contrast of seeing just you, and I it allowed you to showcase your talents in a much different way.  (And let me say, I had no idea there were so many things one could do all alone on a fire escape.)

But let me get to the meat of my discussion here. I know you’re a busy woman, and I don’t want to waste your time. First of all, just to be sure we’re all on the same page, I think we can all agree that we know what you’re talking about when you say “On The Edge of Glory”, right? I mean, the lyrics of that song don’t suggest any deeper hidden meaning than the one that’s floating along right there on the surface.

The video implies that maybe there’s been a missed connection, but I think that’s misleading. I get the real sense that the connection has been made and the whole affair is really on a very special little brink. So with that meaning granted common acceptance, I’d like to ask you something rather intimate.

I would like to know how in the hell you can hang around on the edge of glory for five and a half minutes and never, you know, fall over it, so to speak. Because if my hubs and I get anywhere near the edge of glory, we’re pretty sure to jump off the fire escape, if you take my meaning. I don’t want to pry, but I wonder if this has something to do with the bridge, where you express difficulty pushing the rush? And, again, I don’t want to seem too forward here, but I think one of Nike’s slogans has some application to your situation. Instead of just dancing in the flames, possibly you should … ah … dive into the volcano.

Just do it Gaga. Don’t stand on the edge of glory, for God’s sake. Get out there and climb up to glory’s peak and see what falls down the other side. Because really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen

______________________________

a flicker of inspiration at Lightning BugI wrote this some time ago, and I’m hooking up now with The Lightning and The Lightning Bug’s letter writing prompt. I have a second letter, written specifically for the prompt, as well, that I’ll link up here in a little while.

Come Fall

Exhibit A: Daughter with Rake

When I think about this time of year, the period of time between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I think about leaves. Every year’s pictures highlight my children’s growing fascination with rakes and piles made for jumping. They look forward to the slightly sweet, earthy smells and crisp sounds that mark the true end of autumn. Although winter doesn’t formally begin until almost Christmas, once the leaves come down, the weather becomes quickly inhospitable.

Exhibit B: Son with PacifierBefore we lived down south, the great outdoors had been rejecting our company for some weeks before we got around to raking up tree droppings. In contrast, down here, we’ve been known to wear short sleeves. Still, it’s a chore I loathe, and not the least because it involves a Sisyphusian effort to collect all of the leaves into bags while my urchins simultaneously scatter them.

I think my real problem is that leaf raking is  a marker that differentiates my childhood from my adult life, and not in a way I like. I grew up in the country. When the leaves came down, we left them there. I think we sometimes mowed the grass one last time to mulch them up if the weather would tolerate it. But mostly, the only time we raked leaves was when we needed a pile of them for jumping on or for wintering in a flower bed.

But oh LORD, when Scott and I rented our first house, we discovered there are tracts written about the dangers of leaving your leaves. They aren’t good insulators. In fact, quite the opposite, they suffocate circulation and their acid is actually bad for grass. Bad for everything except trees, and then only before they fall off. So every year now since before Caroline was born, we’ve had to go after the leaves in our yard.

As a child, before I started having nightmares about school, I would dream that I was lost in a neighborhood of identical houses with literally faceless occupants whose pale green yards ran on forever. I would walk and walk and never get home. Mostly, I ignore our suburban yard in the spring and summer, now. But raking the leaves makes me so aware of how much our house looks exactly like the house next door to us. How very much we are still living in Levittown in 2011, and how many of the truly unique things in my life I’ve had to leave behind.

And the final exhibit, both children fully indoctrinated in the Stepford traditionIt wasn’t so bad when we lived in Lexington and the city’s aggressive mulching program meant that our efforts resulted in positive things for the environment at least. But down here, I don’t even know what Montgomery does with the leaves it collects, and, given the fate of its curbside recycling program, I hesitate to find out.

It’s no wonder movies and TV shows gloss over this time of year. Purely aside from the fact that advertisers start the Christmas Season before Halloween has even come and gone, the leaves just don’t make for much news. How much simpler to jump from trick-or-treat to turkey feast than to  interject a scene of bored people manhandling tree dandruff.

I admit. I love the fall. I like the cooler weather that allows us to get outside and play more often. It is a beautiful time, when the sun sets early and the trees put on a nature show no science museum can equal. But I hate the shedding, the raking. It makes me feel like winter is coming. It makes me feel cold.

__________________________________

a flicker of inspiration at Lightning Bug

This post responds to Lightning Bug’s Flicker of Inspiration prompt number 23, which asks writers to examine the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

 

 

Also, Mama Kat asked for a fall piece. I just recently wrote this. So I’m being a cheaterpants and linking up with it.MamaKat

The first run (is the most unkindest run of all)

The Shoes

Yesterday was my first run. As anyone who knows me might expect, I hated it. But once The Bitch has an idea stuck in her craw, it’s only a matter of time until she starts to piss me off with it. In this case, she opted for sooner, rather than later.

First of all, knowing that past runs have left me with pain in my back and knees, I took some precautions this time around. I went out and bought running shoes at a cost of $48 before tax. For someone who never buys shoes, that’s a fortune. I gasp when I have to pay $20 for my kids’. My own footwear consists of several pairs of frequently re-corked and re-soled Birkenstocks mixed in with a couple of pairs of sneakers that cost under five bucks each.

I also got ugly knee supports. They claim to be great for high impact activities. I must assume running is high impact. They suck. They are ugly black neoprene and Velcro, and they still work better than the breast band I improvised out of an Ace bandage. At least they didn’t fall off.

I determined via the extremely scientific method of driving around and paying vague attention to my odometer that it’s roughly one and a half times around my block to get to a mile. SO I decided that three times around the block was two miles. (I later found out I was wrong. That was only 1.35 miles, and you know what? Why would I want to run two miles anyway. The Bitch can have her two miles when I can get to 1.35 without wanting to vomit in the neighbor’s Crepe Myrtle.)

I took Sam and his tricycle and headed out.

On a normal day, my kids can lap me on their wheeled vehicles. Just last week, I read them the riot act for failure to return to my shouting voice. (The garage door keypad died. I had to grab a remote. They did not wait. They could not understand why I was angry.)

But for whatever reason, Sam was going slowly. I passed him and shouted “Catch up,” about a dozen times. At one point, I looked back, and there he was doing the Dawdle Duckling with his trike, zig-zagging around. “You can’t catch me!” I tried. He pedaled faster. For a minute. But then he went  back to zig-zagging.

By the end of the first quarter mile, the insides of my lungs felt icy and thin, while the rest of my body felt strained and hot. I paced at the crossing near the middle of our first lap, waiting for Sam to catch up and trying not to revel in his semi-panicked “Wait for meee”s.

“I AM waiting,” I called back twice. But then, I stopped saying it. Because he wasn’t listening. And if he couldn’t be bothered to pay attention, then let him be on the wondering end for once.

When he caught up, I started pushing the trike, and suddenly I found my motivator. Well, his motivator. I haven’t got one. I don’t want to run, I’m doing it anyway, and I can’t stand gasping for breath while I jiggle down the road.  He said, “No pushing!”

“Good. Go faster. If I catch up, I push.”Of course, he kept forgetting, zig-zagging again, then getting caught short when I seized his handle (yes, his tricycle has a Mommy-handle) and shoving him straight for a few feet.

And then the breast band popped off. The Ace grip didn’t let go. Rather, the whole affair jiggled so hard that it just dropped under the boobs it was supposed to be stilling. I stopped right there in the middle of the neighborhood to hike up my shirt and jerk the damned bandage back into place. (Hey – I had on a sports bra. As pointless as the bloody thing is for its original purpose, it did protect any neighbors who might have been looking from an eyeful) But that left one breast (the right one, actually) wedged into a position of semi-stillness and the other pinched so the nipple and a surrounding collection of fat stuck through a gap in the bandage. I felt like a badly put-together mummy.

And that was just the first lap.

By the time I got home, and yes, I did walk the last quarter lap, I was gasping instead of breathing, and the triker had finally hit his damned stride. He dashed into the house telling Daddy, “I winned sometimes, and Mommy winned the other times.”

Fuck competition. Who the hell competes? But I know he loved it. Competition is anxiety for me. And it’s an anxiety I can dodge and live without. But Sam? Oh Sam the Man cackled when I was chasing him. He loved it. I was furious. I was choking-mad, because I just wanted the damned run to be over with, and here was this little runt treating it like a competition.

And then he came inside all proud and happy, like we’d just done something worthwhile together because winning was involved.

I wanted to say right there, “I am never doing this again.”

But instead, I vowed, “It will be at least a week before I do this again with him.”

I ran again today, this time in an old too-small bra. (It didn’t work either, even layered with the useless sports bra.) I will be out there again tomorrow. And the day after. Until my upper back gives out or the knee braces prove as useless as I fear. I will keep up the running for as long  as I can, because I did not buy forty eight dollar shoes to fucking walk.

______________

Madame Syntax wants her say about the title. She wants you to know that the quotation is not, “The first cut is the most unkindest cut of all”. Rather, it is:

For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov’d him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all
— Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 3.2, 181-83.

I’m sure you can all breathe easier for knowing that little tidbit. I did have to Google the act, scene, and line numbers. But that was just because Madame Syntax is a citation freak even for works in the public domain.

8AM

Oct. 31 8PM

Trick or Treat

Nov. 1 8AM

The target

Because every good army has a blue finger-puppet dino vanguard

“Coast is clear. Car pulled out of the driveway.”

Meet our villain

“OK troops, let’s do this.”

This angry bird is not a happy man

“I thought they’d never leave this morning.”

The Wall

“Kids probably ate themselves into a sugar coma last night and couldn’t move.”

Up up up with a birdie

“Less talking, more climbing, troops.”

“To the victor go the spoils.”

This is the moment we wait for each year

“Dig in, baby.”

Oh, yes. I think I'll start here.

 

The carnage, oh the carnage

“Oh God, I can’t believe I ate that much. I can’t move.”

The humanity of it all

“What will they think when they find us here, your majesty?”

Princess Out

“Your majesty?”

_______________________________________________________
This version of what really happens to your kids’ Halloween candy every year was written in response to this week’s Write on EdgeRed Writing Hood Red Writing Hood prompt, which asked for an under 200 word story describing my version of 8 o’clock in tribute to David Wiesner’s  children’s picture book Tuesday.

A Dog’s Life

Fudge Does Sofas

Fudge is our old man. We think he’s around ten (remember, he was a pound find), and he’s showing his age. His legs want to go in opposite directions when he skids to a stop, his allergic ears spend at least half of every month infected, and he’s also prone to hot spots and skin infections. Not bad when you consider he’s 70 in dog years. Or that he spent around 30 or of those years fighting off obesity.

Most mornings, he gets up around 6. Then he stands at the office door and ticky-tacks his toenails on the hardwood laminate until someone gets annoyed and wakes up to let him out.  Typically, this is Caroline. And it actually probably doesn’t even occur to her to be irritated. She then goes out and scoops him some breakfast and fills up his water. Without being asked. Of course, now that I’ve typed that, I’ve probably jinxed this streak of responsibility, but it’s fantastic. My kids don’t fight over who has to feed the dog. They fight over who gets to feed the dog.

If, for some reason, a different member of the family wakes up first (I’m looking at Sam right now), Fudge waits for Caroline. If Sam fills his bowl, or if I do, or if Scott does, the dog might come by and sniff it, then nibble it throughout the day. But if Caroline
feeds him, he stands in the middle of the kitchen noisily inhaling the meal, wagging his whip of a tail so that it smacks into everyone in a certain radius. In fact, if Caroline isn’t up first,  and if Fudge himself doesn’t get up ahead of the family, Fudge has been known to stay in his bed in the office until he has to pee so badly that he suddenly leaps to his feet and starts moaning at the door.  Which means that when he wakes up first and  one of us besides Caroline ultimately lets him out, we get this hangdog look, like we have abused him by letting him go take a leak.

In his mind, he is her dog.

And that means that school days, days when she leaves at 7:30 and doesn’t get back until 3:30, Scott and I will see almost nothing of the dog. This, even though I work from home and Scott teaches nights and sits at his home office computer during the day.  Fudge will tick-tack into the office, make annoying mouth noises in his sleep until I get vexed and banish him to the living room, get up for drinks of water and to go outdoors a couple of times. But that’s about all.


When Caroline gets home, he suddenly reanimates and becomes obstreperous (well, as much as a dog who never barks * will ever be) following her from room to room, flopping down under the kitchen table where she can feed him from her plate behind my back, and sitting outside the kitchen begging when I catch them in the act. I’m not sure when he made this switch. He used to be pretty much my dog. But the move came well before she started delivering the morning kibble. In fact, it took place at some point during the year-long phase where she jabbed sticks in his face all the time, convinced he might chase one if she just poked him hard enough with it. (Yes, we did prevent her harming him. No, she didn’t stop doing it.)

The rest of his day is then spent either staying as close to Caroline as possible or else running outside because the kids’ loud playing is driving him crazy again. At night, he could sleep in Caroline’s bedroom if he wanted to. It would thrill her to no end. But he prefers his office bed, or else the couch. It’s an old man’s life. It’s a dog’s life. And he seems happy.

______

* Fudge chooses not to bark. We have not ever done anything to merit this gift. I don’t know if it was trained into him by his previous family, or if he’s just naturally like that, but I can count on one hand the number of times something had caused Fudge to vocalize.

Take me back to the point

______________________________________________

I thought it might be nice to write a post without a writing prompt. Yeah right. I totally misread the prompt over at Mama Kat’s and wrote eight paragraphs instead of eight lines. I’m linking up anyway.

Recipes

These are recipes from my grandparents.

Mummum wrote out this one in September of 2001, just before Scott and I got married.

Brad’s Favorite Butterscotch Pie 9-2001 [Brad was my grandfather’s nickname]

Butterscotch pie front of card1 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons of flour } mix
Add 1/2 cup of water
When thick add 2 egg yolkes[sic]
2 table spoons [sic] butter
1 teaspoon vanilla few grains salt

Butterscotch pie Back of CardCook allogether [sic] til thick. Pour into baked pie shell.
Cool whip topping
 

 

 

And this one a few years later

Great Grand Mother Bradshaw’s  coated [?] pecan haves [sic]
Coated Pecans Front of card (do you see how she couldn't tell she was starting on the unlined side?)1 egg white
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of pecan halves
Beat egg whie [sic] til it stans[sic] in soft peaks
over

Coated Pecans 2Fold in pecan halves coat each pecan well.
Place on cookie sheet. covered with wax paper. separate do not overlap. Bake 250 oven 1/2 hr. turn off heat til stand in oven ½ hr. peel off freeze well keep air tight can.

 

 

 

And Poppa gave us this one when he realized Scott, a historian, loved his corn pudding

Corn Pudding – KY Historical Soc.
corn puddingPreheat oven
2 cans cream style corn
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons (heaping) all purpose flour
3 eggs (slightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar  (stir 2 or 3 times during cooking
1 1/2 c milk
1 teaspoon baking powder

Add salt, sugar, baking powder & flour to corn stir well. Add milk & egg mixture to corn pour into 2 qt. casseroles. Cook 1 hr. @ 350 [degrees]

Do you see the differences? How, for our wedding, Mummum chose to give us her true love’s favorite dessert? How her ruined eyesight sent the script scrawling down the page, because even when the paper had lines, she couldn’t see them? (More even than it disabled her, the blindness humiliated her. And she was a child of the Depression who stalwartly rejected many of the tools that would have made living easier.) How the lack of eyesight rendered her always hard-to-decipher handwriting almost completely illegible? (And she was the writer. Everyone knew Sue for her correspondence. She sent us letters upon letters until her last few years, when writing, too, was stolen by the glaucoma.) Do you see how, though her impeccable English grammar shaped my own language, that absence of sight filled her words with mistakes?

And do you see how, even late in life, Poppa’s writing remained steady? (Oh how he cursed it when his surgeon’s hands began to shake with a palsy possibly caused by diabetes or some vagary of old age.) Can you understand why he was the family cook by the time I was old enough to remember? Why, even though Mummum wrote two of these recipes down, it is Poppa with whom I remember baking?

Good.

Then I can tell you this.

My grandfather’s kitchen is sunny. One wall is a mural of peeling flowers, where Mom orchestrated paintings by her high school friends over forty years ago. The kitchen sink judders every time we turn on the hot faucet, because we need to bleed the air from the lines again. And the room smells of spices and bread, of an oven warm in winter.
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remembeRedButtonThis post was composed for the Write on Edge RemembeRed prompt asking for a memory in a recipe. I collect family members’ recipes, in their own handwriting, so that I can remember something concrete about them. My grandparents are gone now, but I have this part of them forever.

A Nightmare for Halloween

I’m walking around Chatfield’s campus, down by the heart shaped pond, where the Canadian honkers congregate every fall. Sam is with me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a snake, but I don’t take alarm. It doesn’t look venomous.

In fact, I think I’ll have a closer look, so I pick it up, and only in that instant, when my hand closes around its middle, do I realize the snake is poisonous, the worst kind. It whips around and sinks its teeth not into me, but into Sam. He screams, and then the snake bites me. Sharp, bruising pain runs up my arm where the fangs sink in. No blood. Rather, my skin turns instantly purple and shrinks away from the wound.

I have to grab it behind the head if I’m going to stop it. But the snake is out of control. It thrashes and bites me, three, four, five more times, then leaps away into the pond. But I have to catch it. I need it to make the antivenin. If I’m going to save Sam, I’ve got to mix the cure. I’m not so worried about me. I’m large enough. Even with six total bites, I can get to a hospital. But Sam is only four, and his time is running out.

So I dive into the pond, and instantly the snake surfaces, seizing me in its suddenly giant jaws before I can grab it. Inside the mouth, I stand up, smack my head on the putrid, dripping roof with a bone-jarring rattle, and push with my whole body until the fangs pry apart. I jump free, but the snake strikes. Its fangs penetrate my back, and it engulfs me. But then I seize it and begin choking, choking, until it shrinks away, dissolves into nothing.

The snake is gone, but I am still poisoned. And it has bitten Sam. I grab him and run towards the sacred heart chapel, where my Mom is waiting. The hill is long, the climb seems unbearable, and Sam’s weight is growing as the venom runs into his blood.

“It’s already bitten Sam!” I scream, when I finally crest the hill.

“The post office!” Mom says. “They know how to make the cure.”

So we race to my car, where she drives and I cling tightly to my child. Even as close as the post office is, we won’t make it. And so I leap into the air, through the roof of the car, and yes, I can fly. And if I can fly, then this is a dream, and I can leave. But Sam is trapped, and I’m floating away, swimming against the air trying to get back to him, but he stays in the car, which will not make it to the post office in time.

I sit up in bed, breathing hard, my body too hot for a room this cold.

When I go to Sam, he has wet the bed, and he tells me, “Mom, I had bad dreams. I don’t like snakes anymore.”

And I look out his window and see the snake, giant once more, staring in at us,  ready to strike, before I finally, finally wake up.

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a flicker of inspiration at Lightning Bug

Thanks to those who find me by following the link on the Lightning Bug flicker of inspiration linkup.

This post was written in response to The Lightning Bug’s Flicker of Inspiration prompt #22, which asked us to share our nightmares. As I said last week, my dreams have always been vivid, and they have an annoying habit of capturing little bits of reality to fool me. I can also typically roll right over and go back to sleep even from the most horrible ones and not fall into nightmares again. Mostly. Happy Halloween.