Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Issue of........Lasagna

Aaron has always been easy to please when it comes to food.  He’s never been a very picky eater.  You can tell that by looking at him.  :)   Probably his very most favorite food is lasagna.  He loves, loves, loves lasagna…….pretty much on a scale with Garfield.

In fact, I found a new recipe last weekend for Garfield’s Skillet Lasagna.  It looked so delicious that I decided to try it.  I cook mostly low carb but an occasional treat like lasagna never hurt anyone, right?  Especially Aaron!

This past Monday I told Aaron that for supper I was fixing Skillet Lasagna.  All Aaron heard was the word “lasagna” and so he was all about it.  I informed him that it was a new recipe and was made in the skillet, but that didn’t mean a lot to Aaron because he still only heard the lasagna part.  Until he walked into the kitchen when I was making this new Skillet Lasagna……

He peered down into the large electric skillet that held the Skillet Lasagna.  He backed up then, like he does when he sees something new and suspicious.  He kept staring.  Then he finally spoke.

“It’s not gonna look like lasagna.”

That was it.  I knew we were in trouble.  Therefore I embellished the wonderful attributes of this new Skillet Lasagna.  The hamburger……the tomatoes……the seasonings……the noodles……the CHEESE!!

But Aaron left the kitchen deeply disappointed because this new dish was not the lasagna that he loves.  Skillet Lasagna is not Oven Lasagna.  Period.

He ate the Skillet Lasagna with Gary and me for supper that evening.  He liked it, but he didn’t love it.  Skillet Lasagna just wasn’t Oven Lasagna.  I had to agree with him on that, though I didn’t let him know it.

The next day Aaron stayed home because we had a meeting here at the house with a coordinator for his new state insurance.  After our meeting was over, as Patrick and I stood on the porch talking, Aaron bounced out the front door with a question.

“Mom!  What’s for supper?  Can we have TRUE lasagna?”

I explained the story to Patrick as he laughed, and I told Aaron that we weren’t having lasagna that night……..Skillet or True Lasagna.  

But yesterday, Friday, was a different story.  Aaron was having a good morning because he knew that his day group was going to go see the new Transformer’s movie.  He was happy and compliant.  He also knew that he would get his Friday surprise if his last weekday went well.  This day was looking good!

So to make it even better, I had one more surprise for him.  “Aaron,” I said.  “Would you like me to make lasagna for supper tonight?”

And immediately, with great hopefulness in his voice, he said, “NORMAL?”

I laughed as I told him that yes, I would fix normal lasagna for supper.  No more of that silly Skillet Lasagna that is far from normal.

Having things normal is very important to Aaron.  Of course, sometimes his normal is anything but………to us.  But not to him.  So this week Skillet Lasagna vs. normal Oven Lasagna was an issue to our Aaron……and therefore to me, the cook.  Such a minor thing, except to Aaron.  

Don’t mess with Aaron’s normal!  Especially not his normal TRUE lasagna!

Another lesson learned in life with Aaron.    

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 10:59 and The 3:09

When Aaron watches a movie he doesn’t just watch the movie.  He also looks at YouTube movie clips of the movie that he’s watching, over and over and over.  He does the same thing with games that he’s playing.  YouTube clip after YouTube clip of his games is watched again and again by him.  I don’t mind him doing this.  It wouldn’t matter even if I did mind because Aaron would do it anyway.  What I do sometimes mind is how he wants me to watch these movie or game YouTube clips over and over as well…….with him hovering over my shoulder, bending over and rubbing his hands together in sheer delight……or clapping in my ear…..or squealing with laughter.  

I mean, really, 99.9% of those clips are totally uninteresting to me.  Aaron, however, doesn’t care about my disinterest…….or discomfort……or total boredom.  Nope.  All Aaron cares about is that he cares about those various clips, and so he thinks that Mom should care as well.  I figure it’s a small price to pay for Aaron’s happiness.  And trust me, a small movie or game clip is far, far, far more tolerable than watching a whole entire movie like Sharktopus or the super vortex movie that was German dubbed in English or the Japanese dubbed movie that Andrea and I endured…..I mean, watched…..with him.  I’ve paid my dues.  YouTube clips are what I endure…..I mean, watch…

Aaron knows everything about these movie and game clips.  Everything.  Among other things, he has memorized their titles and also memorized how long the clip plays……down to the second.  One day he had me searching for that one clip that he wanted me to endure……I mean, watch……and when I thought I had found it and stopped at that one, Aaron said, “No.  It’s the 10:59.”

“10:59?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he answered.  “10:59.”

And my slow brain thankfully realized that he meant the clip was 10 minutes and 59 seconds long.  That’s when I told him that I was NOT enduring……I mean, watching…..this clip for the entire 10 minutes and 59 seconds.  He understood, knowing that he at least had me trapped for part of that 10 minutes and 59 seconds, and he was happy.  I was not.  Not until I had endured……..I mean, watched………enough to make him happy.  I don’t remember how many seconds it took for me to endure…..I mean, watch……that clip until he was satisfied.  Aaron probably knows, though, down to the second.

Sometimes it’s the action that he wants me to see.  Sometimes it’s a certain character.  And other times it’s the music.  Yes, he loves the varied forms of music that he hears on some of those clips.  Yesterday it was Star Wars Republic Commando.

“Mom, can you look up Star Wars Republic Commando?” he breathlessly asked me.  I put him off for awhile, but finally I gave in so that I could have peace once again.  This time I stood beside him at his desk as he found the certain clip and then clicked the play button.  There on the screen were little baby clones.  Cute little baby clones, newly cloned and so…….new.  The music was soft and sweet, just like you’d expect for this scene of new little baby clones.  Aaron knew that those were violins softly playing, and he smiled broadly as he listened.  Soon the scene changed.  I guess the baby clones were older now.  I couldn’t tell, but I wasn’t about to let Aaron know that.  I didn’t want a baby clone lecture.  With this new scene came new music, more upbeat and faster.  Again Aaron smiled, and then rubbed his hands together in excitement.

He then pushed stop and it was over.  That’s all he wanted me to experience…..the two different kinds of music, which had made quite an impression on him.  “Mom, first it was tiring music.  Then later it was heavy music!”

And we had a long discussion after that as he followed me around the house……a discussion about tiring music vs. heavy music.  And I thought about how lullaby type music really is tiring music if it’s able to make a new baby clone get tired enough to go to sleep.  

Brilliant, Aaron!

Yesterday evening, as we were cleaning up after supper, Aaron told me that he wanted me to look at yet another YouTube movie clip.  Sigh.  This time the clip was from Transformers…….Optimus vs. Megatron.  “Can we look it up on your laptop when we sit down to watch Wheel of Fortune?” he asked me.

I hesitated.  He continued.  “Well, maybe we can’t.  It’s 3:09.”

And Gary, smiling at me behind Aaron’s back, asked Aaron if that was 30 minutes.

Aaron walked away in disgust at our ignorance.  “No!” he exclaimed.  “Three dot dot oh nine!!”

Look at 3:09 and tell me if he’s right. 
And as he left the kitchen, he finished by saying, “Nobody understands me.”

Sometimes truer words were never spoken.  But yet, most of the time Gary and I DO understand him……which is even scarier sometimes than if we didn’t understand him, if you know what I mean.  

Are you guys smiling behind my back?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mixed Emotions

Gary and I returned home last Monday after being gone for a week of vacation.  That’s a long time to leave Aaron and our Great Dane, Jackson, with caregivers.  Aaron loves the times that we leave because he gets to have others here with him, which means a change of pace for him.  He gets to eat out more, which he doesn’t need but which he does love.  He has someone to watch movies with him at home from his movie collection or a movie that they rent.  He and his caregivers might go on walks or go shopping……just normal things, really, but to Aaron they are more fun when shared with someone different.  

More fun up to a point…..and I think Aaron reached that point on Friday, and again on Monday at his day group.  He acted out a lot, being verbal and very angry.  Gary and I were actually dreading coming home, thinking we would have a rude awakening after such a wonderful time with family and with each other.  But Aaron was very happy to see us.  He called us several times every day that we were gone, but having us home was even better.  

How did he show that it was better?  Well, first of all, he gave us hugs!!  That was awesome!  And not just one hug, but several hugs spread out over the evening.  He was affectionate, on his terms, and it was sweet to experience.  

He also followed us all around, talking and talking.  He had happy talk of his time with Katie and then with Steven over the weekend.  He talked about what he ate, and where they went, and the movies they watched, and everything in between.  He followed us all over the house, and then followed us outside when we went to check the garden.  The dirt was a little soft from the recent rains, but not muddy, so I walked in to take a look at everything.  

Of course, Aaron followed, never missing a beat in his monologue.  His movie of the moment was The Blob, so most of what he said was Blob related.  He kept asking me questions about the Blob for which I had no answers, like exactly what is the Blob.  Finally he decided to analyze the Blob himself. 

“The Blob is just the size of water,” he said…..and I agreed without telling him that water doesn’t really have a size.  Instead I relished the way that Aaron sees the world, even the Blob.  We were both happy to move on to other things as we walked around the garden and I showed him some beans, as well as some zucchini and summer squash.  Aaron noticed the soft soil, though, as he notices everything.  “Mom, this sand is sinkable!” he exclaimed as he walked around.  

He wasn’t as chipper as the evening wore on.  It takes awhile to get things back to normal when you’ve been gone that long, and Aaron was ready for normal right then.   I had asked Aaron several questions about different matters, knowing that we have to be slow and careful with our questioning.  Finally, as we were getting his room ready for him to go to bed, I remembered that I needed to get the monitor out of Andrew’s room where Steven had stayed.  At first I didn’t see it on the other side of the bed, so without thinking I asked Aaron where the monitor was.

“I hate today!” he angrily answered.  “Things have been going on like, ‘Where’s your monitor?!!’"

I instantly knew that if Aaron was able to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with us, he would have said, “Mom and Dad, I’m really tired of you guys being gone.  I’m tired of things being so different and out of place.”

But no, all Aaron could do was erupt and say what he did………and I was thankful that right then I found the monitor and was able to be calm, so that Aaron could calm down.  He followed me to my bedroom even after we had successfully gone through his nighttime ritual……..blinds closed, blanket on the bed just right, his fish lamp turned off, the bright digital weather station clock dimmed, clothes for tomorrow set out, overhead light turned off, bedside lamp turned on……

But yet he followed me, talking, and asking me to come back to his room.  I was tired.  Aaron didn’t care.  I walked into his room, telling him I was going to bed, but he said, “Wait!!  I haven’t told you this.  I was reading in my Handy History Answer Book about writing.  First there were hieroglyphics, papyrus, then Guttenburg……and what else?  Chinese!  There was Chinese paper!”  

I really didn’t care one whit about any of this writing or paper business at 10:30 on the night we had just returned from vacation.  I really knew I wouldn’t care one whit about hieroglyphics or papyrus on any other night, either.  But wanting to make Aaron feel like what he said was important and that I was listening, I commented, “The Chinese also made the first firecrackers.”

He looked blandly at me and then flatly said, “I knew that.”

And so much for that, I thought.

Our week of re-entry into our real life with Aaron has had its ups and downs for sure.  Aaron has changed a lot over the past year.  He’s not always fun, funny Aaron.  He never has always been fun or funny, but he’s more volatile now than he used to be.  He has more anger now than he used to have.  Age?  Medicines?  Influences?  We don’t really know.

Gary and I have taken three trips recently, and it’s been so nice on several levels.  We realize how refreshing it is to get away……to be a couple……to have freedom to enjoy what we want to do……to enjoy our other children without Aaron interruptions.  Does that sound awful? 

I watched Aaron walking in front of me the other morning as we left Dillon’s.  There went Aaron, his bag of cheddar pasta salad and his croissants in hand.  He was large and in charge, so typical of him.  I realize what a large part he plays in Gary’s and my life.  Some positive…..some negative. 

And I read an article this week, written by a dear mother of a child with special needs.  Her child, a girl, is still young and is very sweet………or else this mother chose on this day to just write about the sweet.  After reading that article, I wanted that little girl to come live with me!  This mother was talking about never wanting her daughter to leave……never wanting to be without that sweet little girl.

I look at Aaron, like this evening on another trip to Dillon’s.  His passing gas noises as we checked out, his incessant loud talking, his whistles as we leave the store………where he tells me once again that at least he wasn’t making the farting noises.  How many times have I heard that?  And how many times has he heard me tell him to stop?  I see people look at Aaron, and it’s not like looking at a sweet little special needs girl who smiles at them and makes them feel warm all over.  Large Aaron is looked at with curiosity, to say the least…….especially when that gassy noise passes his lips……… least I hope people know it came from his lips.

Oh well.  My mixed emotions are normal, I know.  I love Aaron and I know that he is ours to raise.  Ups and downs, good and bad, demanding and pleasing……it’s all part of this life.  God gives grace, and I know He will give direction to Gary and I as we face Aaron’s future, and ours.  

And if I had not had Aaron with me tonight, after I turned down his request to go to Sonic, I would not have heard him say, “So why did you say that Sonic is more fatfull?”

He didn’t see me smile, and he didn’t know how delightful yet another saying of his was to me.  Just like he doesn’t see my heart and know how much I love him…..even when I don’t exactly like him. 

And here’s what he said last night as I walked into his room just before bed.  He was finishing a movie, and those of you who know Aaron know that Aaron finishes a movie by watching the credits and everything else that scrolls down that screen….to the very bitter end, when the screen is either dark or goes back to the home screen.  Every.  Single.  Word.  He watches it.

“That was a short movie at the ending,” he said.

“The movie was short?” I asked for clarification.

“No,” he answered.  “The rest was long.  Just the ending was short.”

And I’m left to ponder what he just said, to realize its brilliance in an autistic kind of way, and to laugh…….behind his back, of course.

See what I would miss if not for Aaron?