A good holiday for B...
Zoom! Thanksgiving's over. C's parents are still here, flying back to Pittsburgh after lunch (there is a spirited Monopoly game going on as I write). Nearly everything brought out for dinner yesterday has been cleaned & put back & the house, although still fragrant with curry spices, is looking almost normal.
It was apparent, though, yesterday morning that things were different at our house. B was rather at loose ends & having trouble focusing on doing any of his usual things. Even wasn't able to log-in to Adventure Quest early in the day, as he'd hoped, & he wasn't terribly interested in playing with legos or anything else. He & dad tidied-up his room in preparation for cousins in the afternoon. I began cooking around 10:00 am, & C & his parents went to church (to a union Thanksgiving service co-sponsored by local churches, temples, & more recently, mosques, that our church has taken part in for over 100 years) at 10:30. B still couldn't settle on anything to do & was looking weepy, & I had about half an hour before I could take a break, so I convinced him to watch an episode of Kim Possible on my laptop until I could join him for some InuYasha. He was in much better spirits after the InuYasha break & decided to play AQ until lunch. My mother-in-law had been fussing at us yesterday about how long we let him play in the afternoon so C & I had decided that while they were at church would be a good time for him to play... this is one of the situations we find ourselves in on our infrequent visits with C's parents. His mom does not understand the rhythms of life with B (& has little interest in understanding them, unfortunately) & so misunderstands our allowing B to manage his most difficult time of day (during a difficult & unsettled holiday time) in the best way he knows how as over-indulging him. Sigh.
Other than a half-hour InuYasha break & another half-hour for lunch, I cooked right up until 2:00 in the afternoon. C stripped the dining-room table after lunch, put in the extra leaf, & then put the good tablecloths on (after I unearthed them :) & got out the good china & silver, while B & his grandparents played Monopoly on half of the newly-clothed table. As I mentioned previously, we had decided to bag the turkey this year (rather a relief to vegetarian me) in favour of a veggie curry meal with all the fixin's (raitas & chutneys & rice :). I made 3 different curry dishes, one with hard-boiled eggs, one tofu (in the place of panir cheese), both in a tomato base, & then a dry pea & potato dish. My plan was to get it all cooked early, then put them all in casseroles in the oven to stay warm so that I could visit with family, rather than be sequestered in the kitchen. I had made notes on what needed to be started when, prechopped all the raw ingredients, & premeasured the spices. The only hitch was that they all had to be cooked simultaneously because my good casseroles are hand-thrown ones that can't be put into a hot oven or they'll break, so I wanted to get everything into them, warm, stuff them in the oven, & then keep it all warm until dinner. I got a bit boggled by the 2 tomato-based ones, since the spices were different but they basically looked the same, & kept having to stop & think before dumping things in pans... But it all came off & C helped me wash-up while the oven heated up. I had time to wash my face & fuss with the now-set table before everyone arrived.
Keeping busy is a good thing, especially when facing the unknown. We have not shared a holiday with my brother & his family (wife & 3 boys) in over 5 years, due to the rift cause by our father. Around the time of our father's death my brother decided that he wanted to reconcile with the rest of his family & we've been glad to be back in contact with them. It has been a bit nerve-wracking, though, since it's been so long since we've seen them & I am not comfotable with the unknown, particularly when it comes to the behaviour of family members... I've had some moments of jitters contemplating Thanksgiving Day over the past couple of weeks, but today was too busy to think about anything but producing an edible feast. B was clearly looking forward to seeing cousins he didn't really remember, though, & that was a comfort.
Everyone started arriving about 3:30 (my in-laws were already here)- my mom & brother & family, then our friend Tomoko. Things were a bit awkward until Tomoko arrived & we got to introducing everyone. Seeing my brother's boys for the first time in 5 years was amazing, they are so big & changed! The oldest is 16, & we definitely made the right choice to sit him at the "adult table" rather than the "kid table" in the kitchen, since he's very grown-up now. The next oldest is 13 & the youngest just a few months younger than B & they were quite happy to be in B's company. The younger 3 followed B up to his room & we didn't see them until dinner (C brought them soft drinks & a bowl of cheetos for social time :). The biggest change, though, was in my brother. He looked beat-up, tired, & was limping. He's had a terrible battle with ill-health ever since he was nearly killed in an auto accident when he was 18 (nearly 30 years ago) & I know he's had difficulty with addiction to various pain-killers, too. It made me sad to see him look so tired- he's my younger brother, so I was not expecting him to look older than I felt, I guess.
While the boys played, we adults ate cheese & crackers & chatted for about 40 minutes, then I started setting things on the table for dinner. We got the boys set with rice & cheese & veggies, & the grownups set-to the curries. We ended-up saying "ittadaki masu" for grace (it's the traditional Japanese grace, said before every meal) & then we explained it to everyone who was not taking Japanese (not everyone could say it very well, though :). The meal went really well- the curries felt like a traditional Thanksgiving feast, complete with not having enough room on your plate for all the food :) I don't make a hot (too spicy) curry (it turned out that had been a worry for some folks) because C can't handle it, so there were lots of people going for seconds. B & younger cousins finished first & tore back upstairs to play. We coaxed them back downstairs for dessert (my mom made pumpkin pies, my mother-in-law had sent us a fruitcake, & my sister-in-law made pumpkin bread), but they were having too much fun to hang with us much. Before we knew it 7:30 rang on the clock, & my brother & family got ready to go, since they had 1 1/2 hours of driving to get home. Tomoko & my mom followed them, & then my in-laws went back to their hotel.
I can't remember that last time that B had so much fun with other kids. When I asked him later what they'd done together, he said they'd helped each other play some computer games, played with his spybots, got the spy gear out, messed around with legos. We barely saw him the whole time they were here & there was little evidence of tics or overwhelming OCD thoughts. After our tired kid fell asleep while I was reading to him, C & I sat & talked about the day. We marvelled by how functional B had been, especially compared to playing with other kids. B really has just one friend (his best buddy, E) that he can spend time with without eventually having trouble with tics or anxiety popping up. It was such a lovely thing to witness B havinng so much fun. We adults didn't do too badly either. The atmosphere was friendly, if a bit reserved due to the long time since we'd seen each other. Tomoko seemed to have had a good time at her first "non-traditional, traditional Thanksgiving". My mom was in heaven, having her family back together again. We felt pretty good about putting it all together.
I didn't have time to check-in to any of the blogs I usually read yesterday, being so busy with dinner & family, but I was very sad to discover that yet another child with autism has been murdered by a parent. It adds a sobering note to the thoughts I've been having all week while struggling to collect these same thoughts enough to write my autism sermon for this Sunday. It underscores how different the experiences of autism families can be, & especially highlights how much we as a society need to work on providing support for parents & for changing our attitudes about whose lives are considered valuable & whose aren't. During lunch with my in-laws today (our last before they flew home) my mother-in-law provided an interesting counterpoint to my sadness about the murdered child. She was remembering Thanksgiving 43 years ago, right after President Kennedy was shot, & my husband, then a baby, was in the hospital for a yet-undiagnosed illness that caused serious vomiting. She said that it had been hard to find anything to be thankful for, that Thanskgiving... but here we all are, so many years later. While there's life, there's hope- that's what my grandmother used to say. How can we help people hold onto their hope? How can we change the attitudes of those around us so that hope is easier to hang onto?
B has definitely been coming down from the holiday excitement today. By the time his grandparents left to catch their plane, after lunch, he was having more trouble with tics & his lego-building was giving him anxious thoughts (one room he'd built in a fortress he'd been making from Hogwarts Castle pieces was somehow "contaminated" & he needed a lot of help managing his fear about what he thought he'd made...). Oddly enough, what helped was a shopping expedition to the manga store (we got a couple of InuYasha actions figures for him to earn), the fabric store (fabric for a wizards robe he wants to make with me), & Borders (to find the manga I really wanted that the manga store had sold-out of). After a snack at home he tried getting logged-into AQ, but no luck (& lots of frustration & anxiety) so C decided to play legos with him & they're still at it- no anxiety, just lots of action & creativity. Tomorrow I REALLY have to finish my sermon. Stay tuned...