Monday, January 08, 2007

Game show host...

This is Brendan dressed as a game show host :) He was dressed this way because Charlie decided to be proactive for this morning's Sunday school activity & plan something that Brendan could/ would want to participate in. The last time the whole Sunday School met together (due to it being a low-attendance Sunday) it was a disaster for Brendan- in great part because he wasn't in his usual classroom with his usual teachers. For yesterday's all-school session Charlie had planned a church history game show, with help from our church historian, to get the kids in the loop for the church building's centennial celebration this year. As he'd been putting the game show activity together he'd gotten Brendan & me involved (thinking up silly multiple choice questions & the like) & at one point Brendan decided he wanted to be the host "with a bow tie & jacket like Jeeves'!" In actuality, he was doing his imitation of Stephen Fry as Jeeves when this photo was taken yesterday morning :) Brendan had a really good time being the game show host & I think the kids were about as engaged in church history as you could expect them to be, so it was a successful activity. Go Charlie...!

Brendan decided, since he was dressed as Jeeves, to be our butler all during breakfast yesterday, which was a hoot (he's studied Fry's characterisation very closely & does the lift of the chin very well :). It was a bit surreal, to me, because he'd been in a completely different state the evening before. Sigh. He began melting down in the late afternoon while playing Adventure Quest & moved into seriously depressed mode very quickly. It was good to have Charlie there to tag-team sitting & coping with him (he got home from work about 2 hours into last Tuesday's meltdown). It is so very hard to sit with a child who keeps saying that he wants to be dead, that he wishes he didn't exist, that he shouldn't have been born... who looks at the happy faces on his InuYasha calendar & asks why they're so happy, why can't he be happy too... It's heartbreaking. In some ways, his moving into this state of mind is a continuation of a life-long inability to cope with life in the late afternoon- known as "the witching hour" (with apologies to witches everywhere...). Charlie also sees these meltdowns as an intersection of Brendan's tendency toward inflexibility when it comes to switching mental gears, with this low-energy time of day. It is very hard to know how to respond to a kid who's wailing gloom & doom when you can't say or do much that will help. He rejects any attempts to reason with him, doesn't even know if he wants anyone with him or not, gets stuck when encouraged to do something to distract himself. My main concern is to stay by him & make sure he doesn't act on these feelings of not wanting to exist. Eventually he finds a tiny window to escape through & if we do/say the right thing, he pops right out of it & recovers his usual outlook pretty quickly. Saturday evening we'd been planning to go to a holiday party (for the medical teaching staff at the university where Charlie's an associate professor) & had our goddaughter set to sit for Brendan. It wasn't difficult to change our plans (there was no way we were leaving him) & order a pizza for dinner instead. When pizza was first proposed it became a place to get stuck- I sometimes wonder if, in his misery, he feels he doesn't deserve anything special, so we let it drop. Finally, the window of escape appeared & I found myself (a bit startled) playing legos with Brendan (Rufus as Godzilla, defending the Sentai Fortress...) as he giggled furiously- a relief reaction I think. Charlie put The Marx Brothers' "A Night at the Opera" (they'd just got it from the library that afternoon) in the vcr & soon Brendan drifted into the tv room & we found ourselves immersed in the movie, pizza arriving at some point, & the rest of the evening mellow & pleasant.

As I mentioned, seeing Brendan perfectly composed as Jeeves was a startling contrast to his tear-stained frenzy the evening before. It's a joy to see him enjoy himself so much, to see him behaving with such dignity & poise & calmness. It was a delight to see him having so much fun in his role as game show host during Sunday School. It makes me wish I could do more for him when he's so down. It makes me want a magic pill or magic word or something so he wouldn't have to feel so miserable... It makes me feel inadequate when he's in such distress. From discussions with his psychiatrist- which have resonances with conversations with his other two psychiatrists- I know that there is no magic pill for Brendan. He's got far too much going on for there to be a simple solution- he's just not a simple person. Our hope is in his growing, both psychologically & physically. As he grows he will get perspectives that will anchor him more firmly to life. As he grows his brain chemistry will change- how, I don't know. My faith & hope is that the changes will be positive. So, all we can do is help him to endure the rough times & really enjoy the fun times.

After church Brendan played with the electric trains & then he & Charlie watched a new science programme that Charlie had taped on PBS. Tomoko came over for a lesson & not only did we learn about how the day & date are expressed in japanese (with an InuYasha conversation, of course) but we put our calendars together & made more plans for our trip to Japan in June. Tomoko's family is getting rooms at an onsen (hot springs resort) for us all to stay at for a weekend while we're there- so exciting!! They wanted to know when to book the rooms & whether we want to stay in japanese or western-style rooms (we opted for japanese-style). This planning also helps Charlie to figure out when we'll be in Tokyo & Kyoto, so he can start booking rooms there, too. After lesson Tomoko & I wrote an email to her mom thanking her for the New Years things she sent to us & sending her pictures of our celebration :) Then, we made dinner together. We made okonomiyaki- pancakes that are made "your favourite way" (which is how "okonomi" is translated). You make the batter, then add veggies (or whatever you want) for one pancake at a time, so each can be different. We had japanese cabbage, negi (green onions), nira (japanese leeks), & edamame (green soy beans) to put in them. Then there's a special sauce you put on top. I watched Tomoko make them & fried a couple myself. We left the sauce off Brendan's pancake, in case he didn't like it. At first he didn't want to join us (although he said they smelled good), but Charlie had an inspiration & rang the bell we'd been using to summon Jeeves during breakfast, & he popped back into character, which put him in a better mood. He dug into his okonomiyaki (with negi & edamame) & declared it delicious, requested to try the sauce, which he decided was like ketchup, & asked for a pool to dip his pancake in. Tomoko explained that her mom used to make these for she & her sister after school on Saturday, since they only went to school for half a day on Saturdays. They were cooked on an electric griddle right at the table & she has very fond memories of them. I really like them & the flexibility of custom-making each one- great for a household where there are strong food preferences. Charlie & Brendan both decided that they were very good- hooray! Charlie even liked the sauce (he's not usually terribly fond of soy sauce flavoured things) so I've decided that I'll stock up on the batter mix (from the asian food store) & I'll make them for dinner a couple times a month.

mcewen requested pictures of the shawl I just completed, so when the camera was out to take pictures of Jeeves, Charlie took a couple of me modeling it... It's made of fingering-weight baby alpaca yarn. It was a bit of a challenge because the yarn is so fine & slippery that I had trouble making sure I didn't drop stitiches or knit more than one at a time. It's really soft & lovely, though, & I'm really glad I persevered...


At 11:57 AM, Blogger mcewen said...

It's vast! The shawl that is to say, and what a lovely edging. Persistence, don't we just love it. Well done.
As for Jeeves, very impressive.
I was going to say how sympathetic I am to the 'depression,' but that seems so inadequate. We try lots of different techniques too, but can't really isolate which ones work and which don't. Only wish I had something more helpful to contribute.
Best wishes

At 12:24 PM, Blogger kristina said...

As always I really have to note how many similarities Charlie and Brendan share. The witching hour happens at just the same time for Charlie----most week days he has ABA or speech to keep him really structured at that time and it really helps, plus someone else can expend their energy on him while I restore my own........ Lovely shawl and dashing butler!

Thanks for all you share.

At 12:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote and hosted a whole Jeopardy! board for my old high school's Quizbowl group, and all I got to wear was an ugly tie! :)

At 11:23 AM, Blogger MOM-NOS said...

He really DOES look like Stephen Fry!!! I'd recognize that set-of-the-jaw anywhere!


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