Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What the Future Holds

I knew it was time to blog last night when I woke up from my dream:

I was trying to blog, and I wanted to find some images. So I searched on Google, and what I searched for was:


 Okay, I know this is bizarre. And kind of funny. But I'd been wanting to blog and not doing so, and I guess my repressed anxiety about this emerged in my dreams.

The reason for my blogging lapse was the difficulty of my subject matter. I wanted to blog about the future, and that, Readers, is hard.

We've being wondering all of Benjy's short life what will become of him. Whether he will go to college, hold down a job and be independent, find love. Our views on this are increasingly pessimistic.

I remember a recent conversation with Lars, maybe a year ago, when I said, "I think there is a good chance Benjy will always live at home. That we will be supporting him until we die -- and then, who knows what."

I felt my stomach drop when I uttered those words. At that moment I felt utterly despairing.

But Lars did something wonderful. He said lightly, "Well, it will be kind of nice to have him around."

Oh, Lars -- I adore you! That gave me permission to think it would be okay, having our younger child with us forever. It's not that I didn't love his company, or love him, beyond measure, it's just that being a dependent for life, unable to function as an adult, is not what anyone wishes for their child. Forget the retirement life we've always dreamed about -- this is about Ben. And we were never going to get that retirement anyway; one or both of is will be working until we drop.

I think what really made me obsessed with Benjy's prospects this past week was a statement by the Asperger's Association of New England, an organization to which we belong, about the new proposed American Psychiatric Association designations that would remove Asperger's syndrome -- and PDD-NOS, and High Functioning Autism -- from the diagnostic manual. This could be a disaster for many, many people who receive sorely needed services under those diagnostic rubrics, including Ben.

Here's a small part of what AANE has to say on the subject:

"While Asperger's is sometimes called "mild" autism, there is nothing "mild"
about the impact Asperger's has on a person's life. Individuals with
Asperger's and related profiles are not less autistic than those with more
classic profiles. Rather, they are differently autistic. Though they may
have strong verbal skills and average to high overall intelligence, most
face significant challenges in social interaction, basic organizational
abilities, and daily living skills. Frequently, they are unable to find and
keep employment or live independently. Many withdraw from all social
interaction, and suffer from crippling anxiety or depression. The dichotomy
of "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" autism is a false one." 

It's the red words that really get to me. They tell me our hunches have not been so off the mark.

Of course, Benjy is not yet twelve, and time will tell. But when things start going downhill, like they are now, and functioning even at the relatively stress-free and highly therapeutic Joy School becomes a problem, then you've got to wonder. I mean, making it through college? And in the work place? Those are not easy things, even for the most typical among us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All Creatures Great and Small

Benjy is a lover of all creatures. He is especially tender toward those that others revile -- the winged, scaled, slimy, and crawly constituencies. (We may have another E.O. Wilson on our hands -- which would be okay, actually.)

Ben finds beauty in almost anything. Corn snake? Gorgeous. Crocodile? What a winning smile. Earthworm? So. Darn. Cute.

And he's a little anxious about MY take on these forsaken beings.

"Mom, isn't that tarantula cute? Don't you just WANT one?"


"But you think he's CUTE, right?"


"Okay, so you don't think he's cute. But you RESPECT HIM AS AN ANIMAL, don't you?"

It's hard not to crack up when he says that. I usually tell him I respect all animals, blah blah blah, but I don't necessarily want to see all animals up close. This is very disappointing to him.

"So does this mean I can't get a pet tarantula?" he asks me.

"I'm afraid it does."

"Fine, but what about a snake? Or could I raise preying mantisses?"

At this point I usually just give up and go cuddle with the dog. At least some people around here appreciate warm-blooded pets, even those of the Hellacious variety.

Monday, January 23, 2012

They're Back

They're back. Anxiety and depression. With the short, cold, and dark days they always come. We had been so hopeful those days were over. Naive? Sure. But we wanted to believe that better times were here.

These days, more often than not, Ben cannot leave his bed and face the world without cajoles, promises, assiduous offers of help. These days even the Joy School is a scary place, albeit one he still professes to love.

Benjy is a mass of contradictions. Some of you, Readers, have your own experience with contradictory kids. Kids who are one way on Wednesday morning and completely different people by Wednesday afternoon. Whom you are sure love chicken noodle soup -- they did last night -- but actually hate it and cannot get it down without gagging. Who love school hate school love school. Who have a friend, who are friendless.

It's dizzying, keeping it all straight. It's hard as hell to figure out parenting a child who is a moving target. Sure, all kids are variable, all of them grow and change -- and forget about teenagers. Saskia is a storm cloud in the morning and sheer sunlight in the afternoon. But kids like Benjy can't settle into themselves, can't rest. They are always roiling, always in (sometimes painful) flux. It must be HARD being Benjy. And in many ways, although I love him beyond comprehension, it is hard to be his mother. I want to help him. To cure his pain. make life easier for him. And those are things I cannot do.

I can love him and be there for him. Get him his meds, and make sure they are the right ones. I can take him to therapy and his psychiatrist, try to help him maintain his few friendships. Look ceaselessly for opportunities for him. Things he can do and be successful at. Things he can do and enjoy. There are not a whole lot of those, but I keep trying.

So now he's off to school. Lars took him -- late, because he was struggling, and needed to sit under his SAD light for a while -- and I'm just waiting for the call I know is coming. They won't make me pick him up
unless he is deeply dysregulated and has to get out of there, but they'll call me to let me know he's fragile and falling apart. And then my day will be about him. Worrying and thinking desperately about how I can make things change.

Sometimes I think true maturity is accepting that there are things you do not have the power to change, and maintaining your equanimity in the face of that. I'm trying, Readers, I'm trying.


Yesterday Benjy competed in his first fencing tournament -- and won 3rd place!

                                                         (Not Benjy)

It was heartwarming to see him successful. He'd had some struggles at fencing recently, feeling down about himself, feeling like a perennial loser. But yesterday he won four out of four bouts, and then finally lost his first bout in the elimination round, coming in 3rd. He was on the verge of despondency at the thought of not winning a medal (the medal itself seemed more important than first, second or third place. It was kind of like the Scarecrow's "Testimonial," or a college diploma -- abstract (but concrete) proof of his worth. He needed it in order to feel okay about himself). But then a medal materialized and he left happy.

"I LOVE this," he told me when we left the fencing club.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Ice Hotel

I learned about this from Benjy yesterday. He wants to go. I want to take him.

Looks like we're both out of luck.

Maybe next year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Contessa, Perdono!

Can I be obnoxious for just a moment and make you watch the last scene of The Marriage of Figaro?

I know, you probably think opera's for snooty-patooties, but this will change your mind.

This is what I watch when I am feeling sad, or need a reminder that my heart can beat fast, and life is worth living.

 Count Almaviva has been trying his best, for the past 3 hours, to lure the Countess's maid, Susanna, into the sack. So Susanna, the Countess, and Susanna's brand new husband, Figaro, set out to trap the Count. The Countess dresses up in Susanna's clothes and hooks up with Almaviva in the pine grove at night. Almaviva thinks he is romancing Susanna (I know, I know. Willing suspension of disbelief) and mayhem ensues.

At one point the Count pulls a variety of characters out of the garden house, all of whom beg him for forgiveness. To all of them he says, No!

In the end, the Count is shamed into begging the Countess's pardon. Contessa, Perdono. The most beautiful phrase in Western music.

And the Countess replies, I am kinder than you, and I say...yes. There is the tiniest pause before the yes, as if to make him sweat a little. And boy is he sweating. Watch the expression on his face when she reveals herself!

I saw this production of Figaro, with Kathleen Battle, Ruggiero Raimondi, Frederica Von Stade, Thomas Allen and Carol Vaness, at the Met in 1985. It was a life changing experience.

Watch, listen, and let Mozart amaze you.


Benjy has found a cool new sport: fencing. It's a good thing, because my boy's sport history is a tortured one indeed.

First there were the general playground and PE games in which every kid has the "pleasure" of participating. Ugh. Those did not go well.

Then there was basketball. He dribbled armpit high and desperately wanted someone to pass him the ball. No one did.

Then there was soccer. Starting soccer at the age of 11 in a competitive town when you've never played before, is, in hindsight, a wretched idea. Whose idea was that, anyway? (I think it was Ben's, actually. But why oh why did I say yes?)

Now there is fencing, and so far so good. He liked it from day one. And seems to have something of an aptitude. No, he's not the best in the class. He's not even number three. But he is focused and disciplined, and he demonstrates some precision.

What he does not exhibit is aggressiveness. We are encouraging him to get in there before the other guy (or girl) gets in there. To be proactive and not reactive. Assertive and not apologetic. To be a little less nice. For Ben -- hell, for all of us Delaunays -- that is really, really hard.

And there have been some interactions with another boy, someone I think Ben had hoped might become a friend, that have been difficult. Which is compounded by the fact that this other boy is usually Ben's partner, and is probably a better fencer. And he jabs REALLY HARD. Apparently those little buttons on the end of the foils don't help all that much.

Well, okay, I guess they prevent death. So that's a good thing. They just don't prevent pain and bruising -- physical or emotional.

So fencing has entered our lives, and that's a good thing. If I can protect Ben from emotional hurt while encouraging his participation in this amazing sport I will.

And maybe I will even learn to let go and worry less. Accept that I can't always protect him from sadness or unkindness, that he has to deal with those things on his own.

Ben's lesson is to be more assertive, with and without the foil. Mine is to JUST LET GO a little bit.

I know a lot of you readers live this same challenge. Tell me about it and remind me I'm not alone? Thanks.

The Moths Go Marching Three by Three...

So, you know that moth who met his maker on my van's dashboard? In a bed of dust? And who lay there, without proper burial -- uh, disposal -- for a couple of weeks?

Well, his relatives have come seeking vengenace. They've taken up residence in my closet and instructed their larvae (don't you just hate that word?) to feast on my clothes.


I suppose I deserve it. I've read the Iliad.  I know the importance of a proper burial.

But still. Does it HAVE to be moths? Ugh.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Downton Abbey

Are you watching? If not, you should be.

It's a world to lose yourself in for an hour each week. A world in frightening flux. Lots of gorgeous guys (don't tell Lars, but I'm in love. Twice over). A rockin' English country house. And a valet you'll like even better than Jeeves.

What are you waiting for? PBS.ORG.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Worst Sport There Ever Was

Okay, I know this post is going to gain me some enemies (can't we just be frenemies?) But don't you just hate football? I mean, what is the POINT of that crap?

Here's what I imagine those guys say to themselves while they're playing: Hey, let's see how many huge dudes I can hurl to the ground tonight! Cool, another guy with a concussion! That's eight this season. Woo hoo! And don't you love my shiny breeches? Yeah!

I'd rather watch a nice fencing match.

Last night Lars sat down on the couch to watch a football game. He patted the seat next to him. I obediently sat there. And my eyes proceded to glaze over.

I think he was watching these dudes called -- what is it, the Patriots? And they were playing against some kind of horses, only they were really guys in shiny breeches, with HUGE bare arms in the frigid night air. O-kay.

I might have seen three guys get knocked out.

Lars said, "The sad thing is, a lot of these guys will end up with brain damage."

"Good thing they'll be able to afford full-time nursing care," I snapped.

Lars turned to me with raised eyebrows. "That was not nice."

"I know. Especially after I held that gun to their heads and MADE THEM PLAY FOOTBALL."

Anyway, my hatred for football has provided Lars with his best and most enduring cocktail party anecdote. He trots this one out a few times a year.

It was superbowl time (Oh, Joy!) about what, eightyears ago? We were still living in Boston. And those Patriot dudes, in  their shiny breeches, were playing against some other shiny-pantsed dudes whose names  I have forgotten. Evidently this was some sort of big deal.

Lars gave me the sad puppy-dog eyes so I sat down with him to watch. And promptly fell asleep, waking briefly every time Lars yelled or leaped up in his seat. After an hour of this I was ready for bed. Sleeping on the couch is for the birds.

So I informed him I was leaving.

"What????" You can't!"

"I am."

"Anna, there's two minutes two seconds* left to this game! It's tied. And -- oh!" Apparently some Patriot had thrown a "hail mary pass."  kicked a field goal.* But I was already upstairs and didn't see it.

Readers, I was TIRED. And BORED.

For some reason Lars finds this story infinitely amusing (at least, he did after he got over being mad at me), and worthy of sharing with just about anyone.

Poor Lars.

* I stand corrected. By Lars.


Sometimes we get a timely reminder of just how blessed we are in family.

It's not just Grandma and Grandpa. who are the most perfect of parents and grandparents, loving and generous, and ALWAYS there when you need them.

It's not just R-- and J--, the best brother and sister-in-law you could begin to imagine.

It's not just our marvelous collection of nieces and nephews, whom we love to pieces. Or our amazing aunt and uncle.

Or the Grams I was lucky to have in my life for almost 50 years, the bravest, kindest, best woman ever.

We also have a bunch of rockin' cousins, multiple generations of lovely people, and two sets of those cousins have recently been very good to us.

The funny thing is, these two sets of the cousins have the same initials -- the women are J and then men are B -- and I don't feel like making up names, so I will just call them who they are.

First, about a week  ago, we received, without warning, a large package in the mail from cousins Bruce and Jill, and their son Matthew. It was addressed to Benjy, who went bonkers when he saw it.

"It's for ME??? What do you think it is?"

"Ben," I said, laying my hand on his head to steady him. "I don't think you should get quite so excited. I think it's clothes." (Bruce and Jill have kept Benjy in clothes for, oh, the last eight or nine years. They have saved us probably thousands of dollars. And the clothes are BEAUTIFUL, far, far nicer than what he would get if I were buying them!)

Ben ignored me and grabbed my keys to slice open the box.

"Benjy, it's clothes."

He gave me a hurt look.


He began to murmur, "Please don't let it be clothes. Please don't let it be clothes." I don't know what he was hoping for -- a remote control mac truck?

What was in the box was -- as expected -- a bounty of beautiful clothes. I jumped up and down with excitement. And Benjy was excited too, once he saw all the cool T-shirts. He knows a good thing when he sees it.

The second cousin-gift came from Bob and Joan. They are really my mother's first cousins. I'm not sure what that makes their relationship to me, beyond beloved. (First cousin once removed??)

Anyway, Bob and Joan took Lars and me out last night to a lovely Italian restaurant in the South End of Boston. They picked us up and whisked us away, and the evening involved wine and papardelle with lamb ragu and caesar salad, not necessarily in that order. But the best thing the evening afforded was great conversation. Actually, this was a night of some of our greatest pleasures, good food and good conversation. It felt wonderful to get away (eating out has not really been a part of our lives for quite some time) and especially to go into Boston. We've not lived in the city since Benjy started kindergarten, and we miss it. So this was SUCH a treat!

I think to an extent this blog is bringing all of us together in wonderful ways. Apparently Bruce and Jill read in an earlier post how much we appreciate that they've clothed Ben with Matthew's old stuff for so many years. This reminded them that they had a bunch of clothes for us and probably wouldn't see us for some time. So they popped them in the mail. And Bob and Joan have been keeping abreast of our lives and adventures through the blog too -- and I think they simply realized that a night out with them would be a wonderful gift to us.

This brings me back to how damn lucky we are in our family... for all that's been unbearable in our lives, I wouldn't be anyone else, ever, because that would mean being connected to different people.

No. Way.

Thanks, Bob and Joan and Bruce and Jill! We love you guys!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Professor Ben Gets Sick At School (And Teaches Me a Thing Or Two)

Today's school pick-up was like every other day's pick-up: a learning experience. I learned about wood ducks, beavers, cockatoos and crows.  Sometimes I learn about dinosaurs, early humans, evolution, and video games. It's actually pretty cool.

But today there was something I would have liked to learn about but did not. While I was waiting for Benjy to come out to the car his teacher told me he'd been feeling sick at school.

"Mental or physical?" I asked, although at times it is hard to recognize the difference, as Ben often perceives psychiatric distress as somatic.

"Well, the nurse checked him out and physically, all was okay."

As expected.

Now, yesterday was a non-starter for Benjy -- he never made it to school. Anxiety and depression are creeping back -- not dramatically but a little bit. So this "illness" had me worried.

When he got in the car I asked him about it in a circumspect way.

"How was your day?"

"Good. The usual."

"Did you eat lunch?" This, Readers, is something I genuinely want to know, as he is eating less and less these days.

"Uh huh. Salad."

"What did you learn?"

"Did you know a family of beavers has been recorded as having cut down a 3-foot wide tree?"

"No, really? And I heard you were sick today." I slipped that in casually.

"Yeah. I got over it, though."

"What was it?"

I felt weird. And my hands were shaking."

"Was it anxiety?"

"Mom! Please. Do. Not. Ask. Meaboutmyselfanymore!"

End of conversation. I still don't know what went on today, or whether I'll get him back to school on Monday.

But I can only take things one day at a time (I should have that tatooed on my forehead. One Day At a Time.) Right now things are pretty good. He's showing Danny, his Therapeutic Mentor, some stuff on the computer. And I hope he's asking Danny about his college anthropology classes, like I asked him to.

Sometimes Ben forgets that other people have something to teach, too. Danny's a smart guy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Aspie Videos

This one is sad but inspirational -- don't worry, it has a happy ending:

And this one is just plain touching:

This world would be a lot less interesting without Aspies in it!

Hellacious Him

The Hellacious Hound is sitting as close to me as he can without being in my lap. And he's warm. And soft. And softly panting. Keeshonds rule!

Life. Is. Good.

Break Out the Kool Aid!

We found out yesterday that Benjy can stay at the Joy School for the time being, in spite of its high price tag. In these days of reduced school budgets, that's saying something.

We should have bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate but our emotions were all over the place and we were actually kind of down. We'd been hoping to hear that Ben was set for at least another full year. That did not happen, and in fact, we will have to visit some other schools this spring, "in case we find an alternative, less restrictive option for next year." Of course, you could plug in "less expensive" for "less restrictive" and I think you'd be onto something, but whatever the reason, the thought of pulling Ben from this place that has made his life worth living, that has taught him there's joy to be found in institutions of learning, that it's possible to find yourself enveloped in a web of social connections when you're a pupil, is unbearable. We simply cannot go back to where we were a couple of months ago, where we had been for many previous years.

The good news is that there's no thought of making him return to our public school district. Our school district has a suicide problem ( five or six over the past six years -- I know, it's shocking). A boy who has a long history of suicidality and a district that somehow finds itself mourning dead students again and again, do not mix. I can only hope the SPED director will never suggest to us that Benjy go back to the public schools here. I'm not sure what I would say in response but it won't be pretty.

So here we are, with at least five months more at the Joy School. I wish I had some spare dough for a bottle of champagne. Oh well, there's always Kool Aid.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another Funny-- No, Amazing -- Convo

I took Benjy and his best friend M-- to McDonald's for lunch today. Ben was in rare form.

Benjy: Hey, look -- a chickadee!

M--: Where??

Benjy: Oh, crap, it's a sparrow.

M--: Oh, yeah.

Benjy: They're kinda cute, though. Did you know the first sparrows were introduced in the U.S. in the 1800s, to control the fly population? Then they totally over-reproduced.

M--: *looks bored*

Me: Where did they come from?

Benjy: France. And did you know the sparrow is the only American bird that's not protected from hunting?

M--: Why on earth would anyone hunt a sparrow??

Benjy: They're pests.

M--: Ben's the smart one around here, not me.

Me: Ben's level of knowledge is -- well, pretty wild. But he's not a top-notch  hockey player, like you. (M-- ROCKS at hockey.)

Now, sometimes you've got to wonder at the stuff that comes out of Ben's mouth. I dug a piece of paper out of my purse and said, "Benjy, I'm going to write all this down so I can learn more about it." (Thinking: I am totally checking up on you, dude.)

As soon as I got home I looked it all up. And you know what? It was mostly spot on.

Sparrows WERE introduced in the U.S. in the 19th century, possibly to control the bug population (although that did not work).

They DID wildly over-reproduce.

They WERE perceived as pests.

And they are NOT protected by federal or state law.

The only mistake? The English house sparrow hails from England, not France.

Sometimes that kid scares me.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Anxiety -- again

Anxiety has crept back into our lives. We see it in a tense posture, a strained, absent face. It manifests in hand-wringing. In restlessness. Lip-biting and finger-picking. And in pleas to stay home from school.

The Joy School is still a joyful place. It's the only place I can see Ben being successful right now -- and it's the only school he can imagine himself in. That hasn't changed. But whether it's a chemical process or a circumstantial one, anxiety is slowly encroaching on us. I hope that depression and suicidal impulses are not trailing close behind.

It has been such a relief, these past couple of months, not to hear words like, "My life is worth nothing." Or, "Please help me kill myself." Or, "Life is too hard. I don't want to be here." I cannot begin to explain what it feels like to hear your child utter those words. If you are a parent you can probably imagine.

In a way I had forgotten what that feels like. How quickly humans are programmed to forget pain! If we weren't no one would have more than one child. Our bodies -- or our brains -- are  kind that way. They allow  us rest and reprieve.

Well. What can we do but continue moving forward and hope it will be okay? We are not in crisis yet. Not even close. Overall things are still good. And Benjy is only somewhat dysregulated.

This morning I took care of Saskia and Ben and saw them on their way. And now I am going to take care of myself, starting with a cup of coffee with CREAM. I'm going to live it up, baby!


You'd think a mother would not have to issue reminders to change underwear daily. Right? Every morning I take out fresh boxers for Benjy, and every night I notice those boxers lying, crisp and untouched, on his chair. (I'm a bit slow on the uptake. But I'm close, Readers. I'm on the verge of remembering to WATCH HIM CHANGE HIS UNDERWEAR EVERY MORNING.)

Aspergian kids have this way of screwing up the dressing process, I've noticed. We have friends with an older Aspie son, a teenager, who can't get his pants on the right way: he zips them in the back. And Ben, as I've mentioned before, can't figure out the whole shirt business -- his are usually backwards and inside out. But this changing of the underwear -- or lack thereof -- is really bothering me. I keep hoping he'll notice girls and suddenly develop an interest in hygiene. That's what happened for Saskia: as soon as the male of the species became interesting she started taking forty-minute showers at least once a day. Sometimes twice. (This insanity is beyond Lars. He finds it confusing and possibly unethical for anyone to take a forty-minute shower.)

Now, socks are another matter. I myself have been known to constantly wear holey socks. I think this is an idiosyncrasy of the baby boomers. I know lots of other people my age or thereabouts who wear holey socks. My parents, on the other hand, would not be caught dead wearing them. And my grandparents? Good heavens, no!

Once I was visiting my adorable German-Jewish grandma in NYC. My ex-husband (yes, I have one of those) was with me, and he had brought holey socks with him. By some freak, mine were NOT holey. Anyway, Ex was in the shower, and Grams noticed his socks lying on the bed.

She picked one up, scrutinized it, and said, "Vhat is dat?"

"That," I replied, "is a sock."

"It's got a hole."

"I noticed."

"I vill darn it."

I almost fell off the edge of the bed. "DARN it? Really?"

"Of course." And she proceeded to locate her DARNING EGG and a needle, and to sew up them holes. This was the best entertainment I'd had all month.

Ex came out of the bathroom to get dressed. When he noticed his socks he froze. Picked one up and examined it.

"What," he said, "is this?" He dangled it in the air. In the spots where the holes had been was a sort of elegant scar tissue. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it.

"This is your sock. Darned." Then we both cracked up.

"Then I guess I can't just trash it," he said.

"You'll be wearing that baby for months to come," I assured him.

I so wish my darling Grams were still here to darn my socks, or to make Benjy change his underwear. (I can just hear her: "Vhat? You didn't change dose AGAIN? Put on de clean ones!") But sadly she died a few years ago, after a life most people would consider extremely challenging (yet full of intense love) at the age of 102. In her last couple of years of life Ben sat with her, unfazed by her extreme old age, and held her hand. Just sat quietly and held on for dear life.

Those are the moments I hang onto. Clean underwear be darned.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hee Hee

So, Lars read the Ill-Bred Puppy post and literally rolled around on the floor howling. (Okay, figuratively. He actually rolled around on the couch. Much to the annoyance of the Hellacious Hound, who was napping there.)

Lars is a funny guy. He makes me laugh a lot. So it's nice to return the favor.

We have some funny folks in our family. That is, in my family. Lars's family, except Lars, is a model of Teutonic seriousness -- except when his sisters break into song at awkward moments. Then they are just silly.  Brunhilde, Notburga, and Ingeborg.*

To prove to you that my family is funny, I present a short film written, directed, and produced by my long lost French relative, Robert Vache.** If you're inclined to think it's dumb, you obviously know nothing about French Intellectual Film. This thing is a work of genius.

As we inexplicably said in the late seventies/early eighties: Later, Loads.

*Some of these are pseudonyms.
**Saskia just rolled her eyes and disowned me.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Yeah, Right

Benjy, my niece, and I were riding in the car the other day when Ben said, "Did you know there's a new fastest animal in the world?"

I raised my eyebrow in the rear-view mirror. "Oh?"

"Yeah. You wanna know what it is?"

"It's not a cheetah?"

"No," he said patronizingly. "It's a beetle."

"What?? A BEETLE?" niece and I chorused.

"Yeah. It runs 80 miles per hour."

"Uh --" I said.

"It was just discovered in 2010."

"Okay then," I said. "The Cheetah-Beetle."

"I don't remember its name, but it's NOT THAT."

Later, my niece asked me if I ever check out his endless supply of factoids. The truth is, I sometimes do. And 8.5 times out of 10 they can be verified. The other 1.5 instances are works of fiction.

My niece Googled the 80 mph beetle. Of course it does not exist. There is, however, a beetle that clocks in at 1.5 mph, and it is the fastest insect in the whole insect universe.

Figuring out the workings of Benjy's mind is an ongoing challenge. I feel like if I do it I'll be awarded a Nobel Prize in Neuro-Creative-Cuteness-Psychology.

In Which I Lose a Cake to an Ill-Bred Puppy

The Hellacious Hound who rules this household with an iron paw recently decided to duke it out with me for a mini Panettone left behind by one of the many relatives who visited us last weekend. Neither of us was sure it was left behind on purpose. Neither of us cared.

I tore open the top of the Panettone's little cardboard robe, revealing a tempting golden crown.

The Hound leaped onto the couch beside me and laid his possessive paw across my lap.

I scootched over, holding the Panettone close to my chest. The Hound scootched over with me.

"NO," I said sternly. "This is MINE."

The Hound looked at me and did that eyebrow shifting thing dogs like to do. That thing I usually fall for because it is cute.

"No dice, Hound."

He tilted his head. More cute. But I stood my ground. "THIS," I said, enunciating clearly, as he is a non-native speaker, "IS FOR HUMANS."

The Hound looked at me blankly, then brought his paw down on the Panettone, expertly tearing its robe open further with one pointed nail. That robe was beautiful, all red and yellow and shiny, before the Hellacious one ripped it.

The Panettone's crown, glossy and tender, emerged in its full glory. I got up and moved to a chair.

The Hound leaped off the couch and parked himself at my feet.

"NO," I repeated, digging my fingers into the soft crown and tearing off a gorgeous chunk of golden flesh.

The Hound tensed and licked his chops.

I ate the golden chunk.

The Hound leaped onto my lap. "Get OFF!" I commanded, but it was too late. As quick as a frog snaring a fly he lunged at the Panettone and bolted it, cardboard robe and all.

I'm concerned about those raisins. I told him so but he doesn't care. He's resting smugly in a dusty shaft of sunlight, shifting his eyebrows and looking innocent.


Monday, January 2, 2012

And Now, From the "You're Going To Eat Your Words" Dept., This Just In

You know how I wrote something like "things are going great around here" in my last post? Well, they were.

But twenty minutes after I posted those words, Benjy broke down. It was over boredom. For Ben, boredom is a catastrophe of the highest degree. When he is bored he is empty. And there is nothing in life that will fill him.

"I have nothing in my life but video games," he told me bitterly, "and I'm bored."

"Well, what about those other things I always suggest you do?"

His face was a mask. Finally he mumbled, "What are they?"

"Drawing. Origami. Making the dinosaur plaster cast you got for Hanukkah. Setting up your Mp3 player/camera-binoculars/computer microscope so you can use them first thing tomorrow morning. Working on your java programming. Watching a movie."

He was unmoved. "I am so empty!" he cried, thrashing about on his bed, smacking the wall with a hand, which I feared might be followed by head banging.

"Why don't we make a plan for tomorrow," I said, grasping wildly.

"I'm not four years old!"

I tried to stroke his back but he wrenched his body away from me. He was tight and tense, his face wet and contorted.

Readers, I did not know what to do for him. I have been doing this for at least seven years, and sometimes I am still flummoxed. So I called in Lars. And then I went and got an Ativan.

When I came back, Benjy was lying prone in a depressed silence. Lars lay next to him, his arm around him.

When I asked him to sit up and take his med he sat obediently and took it. Then he laid back down and tried to sleep. I checked on him five minutes later and he murmured some soft thing -- goodnight, or I love you -- and sighed.

He slept through the night and so did I. It's morning, now, and he is still asleep. It's a new day, likely to bring new things. I hope it's going to be a good one.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Optimism

I hope everyone had a lovely New Year's celebration, whether with family, friends, four-legged companions, or in the superior company of yourselves (and a nice bottle of champagne).

I must say that I am optimistic about 2012. Our family is in a pretty good place.

It's true I'm jobless, but I have A Plan that involves writing (as usual) and making some money at it. I won't give up publishing for prestige and professional capital, but I will also pursue other kinds of writing that actually pay decently. And for those who have been following this blog for a while, remember how I sent my personal essay to an editor at Major, Major Magazine? Well, she read it the same day she received it (unheard of, but I wrote a killer pitch) and loved it. We're now waiting on the editor in chief. Cross your fingers for me!

It's true Lars is drowning in work over at Software Central, but on the other hand he is gainfully employed and appreciated by his boss and co-workers.

It's true Saskia has been especially eye-rolly and exasperated recently, but the other night we had a stunning, gratifying conversation about literature from 10:30-11:15 p.m., at which point I made her go to bed (and exacted a promise from her that she won't do a PhD in English. Anything but that).

Most importantly? It's true that Benjy has had a few relatively minor setbacks in the past few weeks, but overall he is functional, regulated, and happy. For the first time in years I am pretty sure he will survive into adulthood. Sure, things change -- sometimes hourly -- but I just have this feeling. He may not ever be able to make it through college or live independently, but those are worries for another day -- and I'd say there's a slightly lopsided chance he'll do something splendid and extraordinary with his life.

Last night, on New Year's Eve, we were at my brother and sister-in-law's house. All family plus my BFF Anke. There were around 15 of us there, in R-- and J--'s small house, and the sensory input was pretty overwhelming, even for me. Benjy was already kind of down when we arrived -- I think he's trying to come to terms with the great disparity in holiday giftage between him and Saskia and their two young cousins, who really, really raked it in this year -- and between jealousy and sensory overload his depression and anxiety quickly escalated.

Fifteen minutes after we walked in the house Grandma said to me, "Is Ben okay?"

"Where is he?" I wondered.

"In the hallway."

I got up and looked for him. He was pacing the hallway, wringing his hands. His face was tight.

I touched his shoulder as he passed. "Are you okay, Benjy?"

He did not answer me, just continued pacing like a caged tiger. Back and forth. After the fifth or sixth lap I went and got Saskia, who knew what to do. She took him upstairs to the Wii. The next time I saw him, close to an hour later, he was cuddling with Lars on the couch, and he was just fine.

And this is why I'm optimistic. What would once have escalated into a crisis involving Lars and me rushing around hiding scissors and knives, and engaging in near constant surveillance of our boy for a day or a week or a month, ended relatively quickly, after only 45 minutes. It turned out Ben was fine, and he made it, fine, into the new year.

Here's to a happy, healthy, productive, love-filled 2012 for us all!