Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Frustration Regulation

"Joey, honey, your twenty minutes is up," I announce apologetically, the last of a string of transitioning prompts to get him off his Mario games and onto... anything else. He was doing OK with it, but when he got the five-minute warning, he switched to the level that usually sets him screaming; I think it might be level 8-4. I flinched, knowing how this has been ending lately. My shoulder throbbed at the very thought.

"I can't beat this level!" he shrieks- not at me, but at the computer screen. He bursts into tears, his already-pink face going beet red all over, a sure danger sign. He screams at the game, heartbroken. "First rule, Joey cannot beat all the levels! Why did the designers put a hammer bro there? I can't beat this level!"

"One more try, darling," I assure him as the all-too-familiar death music rings out. "Then it is time to put Mario away for today." I pat his shoulder to remind him I am there. To my surprise, he shuts the computer off instead. I brace for impact as he empties his lungs.

"I'm ANGRY! I'll never defeat Bowser!" The house might not shake with it, but my own heart is wrung to its core. I step away, for a tautness in his shoulder tells me the chair is about to be flung back in my direction. He pushes back hard as I expected... then begins to stomp through the house.

I wait for the ugly words to come, the colorful metaphors, usually directed at me, being a safe target. Instead, he rolls on with his game talk.

"Stupid Bowser! I hate Bowser! I'll never save the Princess!" he yells, at the top of his lungs, as he stomps up the stairs. I hear him reach his room, and scream that blood-curdling soul-wrenching scream that often sends people at school scurrying to his aid. The one he uses for pain.

I reach the top of the stair, the door of his room; I must have flown there, I don't remember my feet on the stairs at all. I expect to see a child with a shattered arm or at least a paper cut or a stubbed toe. He is in his favorite chair, wailing about the game. The hurt isn't physical.

And I stand there and ponder as he screams out the hurt, gives it words, and slowly, painfully, loudly, subsides. I stand there, amazed, almost in shock.

He knew he was done, stopped the game himself, went to his favorite chair in his room, and was working on regulating himself. All without lashing out at anyone, other than the noise. The worst word that emerged from his mouth was "stupid." Holy cow.

He comes to the door, wanting a hug. I give him one, I whisper that I love him. He goes on about Bowser. He goes back to his chair. We repeat this a few times until the sobs stop, and he sits in his chair, drawing and air-writing, his fish light on.

And I realize, he did it. He finally did it, after months and months of not doing it. He managed to calm himself out of a meltdown, himself, without lashing out to hurt anyone else. He did it. He made it up the stairs to his space, and calmed down.

He did it. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wait... The Zoo Is Closed On Sundays? (Lessons in Otter Sex)

We haven't been on too many adventures lately. The boys have been tremendously busy, as have JoeyAndyDad and I. Also, neither boy has been riding well, so long drives are not on our agenda right now. Add another jump in Joey's anxiety level, and our apparent incompetence in helping him cope, and well, we haven't been on too many adventures lately.

With the day overcast and cool for once (this has been the Summer in the Oven here), we decided to try the zoo. So we packed everybody up and merrily began our jaunt, which did really well until we almost arrived- everybody was hungry, car-weary, and the battery on the iPad gave out. We pulled over to get some food.

And that is when I decided to double-check when the zoo actually opened, to find it was completely closed on Sundays. Who ever heard of a zoo being closed on a weekend day in summer? Really?

So we took our $60 elsewhere (yep- we were going to shell out $60 to see a zoo. But you get to feed giraffes, people. We are totally going to try again on Friday.) That elsewhere was our old stand-by, Maymont. We re-upped our membership, and got down to business- which was wandering through the children's barn, through the little zoo to see the bear, and then hiking back up the hill, huffing and puffing because no one was expecting to be at Maymont, and no one brought a fan, water, or an inhaler.

The boys liked the raptor display best. It's shady, clean, and full of awesome birds. They liked the hawks and owls best, though I must admit the bald eagle is always the show-stopper for me (and I love owls).

One of the cool parts is the viewer, which (for a quarter) lets you see with the acuity and range of an eagle. Andy was especially excited, as his new powers of vision and focus let him really be able to use the thing. Joey balked as usual at having to use both eyes. We are totally having that checked out, as soon as we know we have the up-front fund to put down on the therapy.

They also liked the snow-cone stand, an especially vital feature when one has not brought a fan, water, or an inhaler. It's a very pleasant walk to the bottom of the little zoo, and very cool and lovely down there, but the humidity was a mess.

And did I forgot to mention that we were taking Sonic the Hedgehog and Luigi to the zoo? For some reason, as soon as they realized we were going adventuring, they both dressed in costume. Anxiety is a strange thing. 

Joey as Luigi, with his stick for his air-writing.

Andy as Sonic the Hedgehog. 

We did manage to see the bear, who was the biggest black bear I have ever seen- that thing must have been 300-400 pounds, it was definitely as hefty as me. Not a bear I'd want to meet in a dark forest with a fish in my pocket. Awesome creature. 

Joey had some trouble picking out the animals from their environments, but he was happy to at least see this bear. And hug it. 

As lovely as it was, it had to end. We didn't have tickets for the tram, so we had to trudge back up the little mountain, past the raptors, the fox, the bobcat... Andy was so excited to find the bobcat out on our way back! He usually hides in his den most of the day, especially hot days. 

We finally arrived back at the car, so we could head for the Nature Center and cool off. It isn't a big center, but it is pretty nice, and full of aquariums, little activities, a hall with night animals, a beautiful discovery room, and Joey's favorite, the otters. 

The volunteer brought out a snake for everybody to pet, which made Joey very happy. He loves handling snakes. I think he was kinda cold and smooth, but Joey was very excited. The volunteer was very patient with Joey, and I can't tell you how much that was appreciated! She was ever so sweet as Joey sat next to her with a toy snake, and started "interviewing" her as the snake. The two snakes had a very nice little conversation about being snakes. 

We spent a nice long time watching the otters. They were doing a show when we first arrived, but once the tricks were over the otters were fed, the folks cleared out and gave us back our nice, quiet otter corner. We took some photos, and laughed about the otters wrestling and playing, and Joey followed them and played with them, and all was happy. 
In watching them, as Joey started talking to me about them in his chatter-chatter-otters-are-awesome way, I noticed that the one otter now had the other firmly by the neck. I have watched enough nature shows to realize what this means- and obviously, after dinner and a show, otters get... um... frisky. Amorously frisky. 

Lately, Joey has discovered the power of colorful metaphor, and his favorite word to use is the one that gets the most heads to turn. I was sorely tempted to have him turn around, and explain that every time he used that particular colorful metaphor, this behavior is what he was referencing. Fuzzy, frantic otter sex. Sorely, sorely tempted. But I was good, and didn't scar my child for life. 

Instead, I decided to treat otters as I would have otters treat me, and discreetly maneuvered Joey back to the fish and snakes in the other room to give them a little--- ahem--- privacy. Besides, it was time to head home. We had two very tired boys. 

But never fear- we managed to stop at the Russell Stover outlet on the way home. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Joey

I love the way Joey cocks his head to one side as he air-writes, as if to get the whole word just perfect, every time.

I the love Joey's soft smile when he leans his head on your shoulder, that supreme happiness of being there.

I love the way he creeps in to bed and whispers, "I love you, sweetie pie."

I love it when he dresses up as Luigi and says, "Mama Mia!"

I love the way he stomps so deliberately up the stair when he is frustrated, as if he was squashing the mean out of the universe.

I love to see him curled up in his favorite chair in his room, watching his fish lamp.

I love how Joey has found a favorite spot in the park, at the top of the stair to the slide. And that he always moves aside when a little one wants to go down, with encouraging words, "You can do it!"

I love the sound of his squeal when he wins a game.

I love it when Joey very gently, ever-so-softly, touches your face when he wants to connect with you.

I love the way he dives into the pool, full-throttle.

I love the way he inflects his voice, so he not only says the words, he means them. Even the echoed ones.

I love how he giggles when he knows he's being mischievous.

I love how he sometimes gets up suddenly and announces, "I'm going to feed the kitties!" with such pride and love.

I love how he kicks his feet out a little as he walks.

I love the way Joey exaggerates his face when he wants to clearly communicate an emotion.

I love the look on his face when he hugs his brother.

I love the way he can be completely engrossed in a game, until you whisper, "...cookie."

I love the way he laughs when he lets you tickle him.

I love how he sneaks into our room at night and snuggles himself between us, so you can't tell where one person ends and the next begins.

I love how saying the word "hug" prompts him to stop whatever he is doing and lay on you.

I love it when he quotes Quack: "This is the worst thing I've ever tasted! Ick! Bleah!.... You gotta try it!"

I love watching him come down the stairs at Christmas. And seeing Santa Claus at the mall. And walking into Valley View at Christmastime.

I love the pictures he draws: Mario, Luigi, Angry Birds, Roadrunner, Coyote... and Dad.

I love listening to him sing. Even the Mario Brothers music.

I love how he manages to accrue all of my wood spoons.

He's my baby. And I love my Joey.