Wednesday, January 03, 2007

One-year anniversary (a day late...)

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of "Life in the New Republic" & it was due to the unpredictable nature of this life that I wasn't able to post on the actual anniversary. But, this is the virtual world, so I will declare this my virtual anniversary & boldly go into the unknown new year of blogging... (to mix my metaphors just a bit :).

Above is our New Year's "osechi", placed as artfully as I could in the "jubako"- the special box to hold the food. We used just 2 of the 3 layers of the box, since were were doing "osechi lite" :) There was no way that Brendan would have approved of obvious fish-products on the table, which occupies a fair amout of space in the usual Japanese New Year diet. The only fish-products were very un-obvious, disguised as slabs of white half-circles bordered by bright pink, aka: "kamaboko" & pretty tasty, considering that they're extruded fish paste :) All of the osechi was pretty tasty, actually. My mom (aka: "Grammie) & Tomoko joined us on New Year's Day at lunchtime for the feast. We had champagne & I did cook some rice (even though in Japan the custom is to avoid cooking for 3 days), & Tomoko made some mochi (rice gluten cakes) for us in a western-style, broiled with mozzarella cheese & soy sauce & wrapped in nori seaweed, which was quite delicious. Tomoko surprised Brendan with an "otoshidama"- a specially folded paper containing a gift of money. He was very excited to receive a $20 bill in the wrapper. In Japan it's customary to give children gifts of money at New Year's, which is saved for them by their parents until they're older. We let Brendan spend it on some Adventure Quest items which he'd wanted very much... It was a very mellow day, New Year's, & very pleasant to spend it with friend & family.

Charlie went back to work on Tuesday & Brendan & I had plans to go to see "Charlotte's Web" with a friend from school & his mom that afternoon, with time to play at our house after. I warned Brendan that it would be a tear-jerker (& then had to explain what that meant), like a Pokemon movie (which we have both been known to sit & bawl at the end of...), but that I'd heard it was a a good movie. We'd both seen the trailer & it reminded us of "Babe the Gallant Pig" which has been a favourite since Brendan was little, so he was psyched to see it. It was really good, although there weren't any real laugh-out-loud moments, which is the sort of movie that Brendan prefers. As we were leaving he told us very politely that he was tired & would prefer not to play with his friend afterward, & they seemed to understand. I had forgotten that movies tend to wear him out, & sometimes he has a delayed reaction to the intensity of movie-going... I don't know if it was the movie or the prospect of school the next day, but about an hour after getting home he descended into a major meltdown, in the midst of playing AQ, that lasted for four hours. It was exhausting. He ended-up in bed, fully clothed, alternately raging & crying, then calming for a bit, then the OCD taking charge of his emotions, & frantic ticcing, then back to raging & crying. In between he moaned about how awful school was, how he didn't feel safe anywhere, how he wanted to die... I alternated between feeling terribly sorry & sad for him & exasperation, as he'd bounce right back into fury over something we'd just sorted-out. Charlie got home around 6:30 & we took turns eating dinner & sitting with Brendan, finally getting 3 daifuku buns (mochi buns with sweet red bean paste) & his evening medicine into him as a dinner of sorts. Charlie managed to get him to play with the ExoForce legos for a bit & then he was calm enough to put his jammies on for bed. I ran upstairs to read to him, as he started getting agitated again, but managed to distract him with a chapter of Eragon. I gave him a "quick minute" afterward & he finally fell asleep. I was completely burnt out & very worried about getting him to school this morning...

Although Wednesday is Charlie's usual day to take Brendan to school we had decided that I'd do it today, to get him back into the usual routine. Charlie worked in the morning, so I was on my own (although he left a sweet note at my place wishing me luck...). Brendan slept right to the alarm- something he hasn't done since before break- & was reluctant to get out of bed, but finally got some clothes out (all of his shirts gave him tics, but I persuaded him to choose something). I left him to get dressed & called to him periodically to see if he was actually dressing. He found his new Calvin & Hobbes book & managed to get dressed while reading it, so I suggested he bring it down to breakfast. It got him through a bowl of rice & glass of milk, & then Brendan actually brushed his teeth without being asked. We took off for school a bit early, since I didn't want to lose momentum & also wanted time to clue his teachers in as to his state of mind. He made a joke or two on the stairs up to his classroom, which was heartening, & we went into Cherie's office as soon as he got his things into his locker. Brendan told her about some school-related things that had been giving him tics & we brainstormed some ways to help him feel comfortable about getting back to school. I offered to stay for a while this morning, which he gratefully took me up on, & then we left him reading in Cherie's room. We found his teacher, Jen, & mentioned some things he'd been worried about with the class play (that we'd been helping him rehearse over vacation) & she went right in to discuss it with him. Cherie watched the class & Jen went over the entire script with him & they changed all of the lines that were making him uncomfortable (or just plain didn't make sense) & when he came out he was smiling & walked happily into his classroom. After about 10 minutes I checked with him & he was happy to let me leave, anticipating a play rehearsal that morning. Whew!!! Compared to the previous evening's angst, I could not believe how easily he slid back into school. It comfirmed a few things for me- that school really is a good place for him to be, that the fears he feels (from the OCD, etc) really can put a wall around his heart & make it hard for him to imagine anything good or happy, that he needs to have many more positive experiences overcoming these fears before he's going to be able to cope with them himself.

After a trip to the bookstore this morning to pick up the final volume of Ruroni Kenshin (a treat for me) & some "Last of the Jedi" books for Brendan (one of the things we'd talked about during his distress yesterday was the need for some new books for him to read, so he can distract himself better when he's overwhelmed), I came home & basically vegged all morning. I had agreed to pick Brendan up from school early since there was a whole-school activity planned for the later afternoon & he does not do well in crowds at school. I found the energy to eat lunch & was trying to fit as much housework as possible into 10 minutes (before leaving to get Brendan) when Charlie called to say he was on his way home from work... So I had him get Brendan & I did all the outstanding housework. Another whew. Brendan was in a good mood when he got home & was eager to get on to Adventure Quest, so we briefly discussed some plans for the afternoon with him (such as taking down the christmas tree & making a get-well card for his good buddy Ck, who had surgery today) & then let him play. After about an hour we had him interrupt his game to help with the tree. The motivation for helping was that most years we put up the model trains in the space that the tree had occupied, for a month or 2, then put them away again until after the holidays next year. Brendan has been very keen for the trains & asking to get them out. He was, however, not very happy about leaving his game & lay on the sofa making borderline snarky remarks (& then apologising for them) while Charlie & I put ornaments away & packed the holiday decoration boxes to be stored for another year. He perked up a bit when we went to make the get well card, but began to have a tic about everything he wanted to write in the card (we were making it on the computer) & then got snarly & started to melt down like yesterday. I had pretty much had enough & told him that he wasn't going back on the computer to play AQ & that he should find something to do in his room instead. He went raging upstairs... we pretty much let him rage it out for half an hour, then Charlie went up to give him a 20-minute warning about dinner. I heard some pleasant conversation, then Charlie came down to say that Brendan was in a much better frame of mind & working on the key that's been stuck in the lock in the door to his room for nearly 2 years... (I had used a skeleton-type key to lock the tv room door for his spy birthday 2 years ago, & he had decided to use it to lock his door, but instead got the key stuck in the lock). Not long after he came running downstairs yelling that he'd gotten the key out of the lock & it was all because I'd yelled at him & sent him to his room. He was elated, & apologised to me for making me yell at him, but was really happy about getting the key out. During dinner we discussed some rules for alloting his AQ computer time, & came up with a compromise that we could all live with. He now has 3, 50-minute opportunities to play AQ every day, but must take a 30 minute break between each. He may earn an additional 30 minutes for after dinner if he engages in a physical activity (like going swimming with dad, kite-flying, or agreeing to resume fencing lessons) or takes a bath (we're trying to get him back to either daily or every-other-day baths). After dinner we finished dismantling the lock mechanism in his door & put the door knob back on, & I hid the skeleton key to avoid future mishaps :) He had a bath & is happily playing AQ as I write.

It sure has been a bumpy few days, but the transition from vacation to school, holiday to regular days, is huge. Helping Brendan learn how to find the inner & outer resources to manage the OCD & the highs & lows of being a 10-year-old seems to be our main task these days, & the trip has been rough. I have the feeling that my heart has been repeatedly wrenched out & put back in place, but I guess that's part of the long-haul of being a parent. Keeping him alive & reasonable sane is the goal, & I am so very glad that I'm not doing this alone. Bless Charlie, bless school, bless our friends & family... Happy New Year, indeed.


At 10:41 PM, Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Happy New Year, friend---I never know what to make of vacations now; they do provide rest and mean that things are less rushed, but the transition back (which Charlie anticipates a few days in advance) is so exhausting and anxiety ridden. Like Brendan, Charlie vacillates between calm and then really struggling to cope with his rages----being back in school has been good, indeed.

I had my fill of mochi and fish cakes back in California....

At 12:43 PM, Blogger mcewen said...

Any left over fishies? Express mail! Sushi rice too - perfect food for braces - not that I'm begging or anything.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

Giggle- the fishies probably wouldn't make it before spoiling, but you could try the daifuku (if you like anko, that is :). The mochi is very soft & wouldn't stick to braces. Brendan insists it's nutritious because there's beans in it... (I think he & your boys have the irrefutable argument thing in common).

Yeah, Kristina, I am torn between trying to just enjoy school breaks & outlawing them...

At least I'm in very good company on this "long, strange trip" :) :)


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