Owen Detoxes

 

0420180906a_HDR

You haven’t heard from us for a while. We have been submerged. Health protocols of Dr. Mark Hyman. Owen has been dragged along with his mother and father into a new world of vegetable and fruit smoothies, serious water consumption, and relaxing Epsom salts and baking soda baths.

Generally speaking, over the years anything that one member of the Simons family has explored has impacted the rest of us.  Things I tried out for Owen’s health always tended to trickle over into the way I cared for the other kids, to Bronwyn and Freya’s annoyance. Wellness initiatives I began for Oskar or Edward have ended up changing how I eat, and helping me. The positive thinking philosophy The Secret that Scotty brought home with him was usefully deployed for parental sanity. And when Daric left Rich Dad Poor Dad by financial guru Robert Kiyosaki lying around the house, it resulted in our garage apartment and a new revenue stream. We are just those kind of people — not as skeptical as some – willing to go boldly into new protocols. And drag everyone else along for the ride. 

0420180911a_HDR

Owen is happy to have PGX packets added to his ever expanding collection, and he has taken to salads with great interest. Smoothies and hot baths are always fun. But detoxing isn’t always easy.  And it isn’t always pretty. 

Detoxing Owen is uphill work.  Just for starters, remember his love of plastic and tubbing. Turns out that not only is a nice hot bath filled with plastic not a brilliant idea for detoxing a body (since the warm wet very likely accelerates the release of chemical substances by one, and their absorption by the other), but turns out the tub itself could be releasing lead. Yes, lead. I assumed a porcelain tub was dah bomb for chemical stability — I had been worried about our acrylic tub! For whatever reason, some makers of cast iron porcelain tubs incorporate lead into their manufacturing process. Madness. Idiocy! So now you know. Aren’t you glad? Another thing to worry about. There are kits that can test your tub for it. Maybe I will buy a lead testing kit.  Maybe I don’t want to know.

It turns out that the real uphill work of detoxing may not be physical. Even getting a sluggish bowel functioning is easier than decreasing STRESS.  Or, to be more accurate, moving of bowels seems to be Owen’s particular detoxing challenge, but removal of toxic levels of psychic stress and worry from my life/mind is my own. How much does a breast cancer survivor want to know about the possibilities for toxicity in the environment? Or how many more wonderful plant products should be consumed to boost the body’s ability to fight cancer?  Whether the concern is improving mental function (and that means bowel function, they are deeply connected), or fending off diabetes, or beating cancer’s recurrence, a person can only eat so many kale salads and veggie smoothies, or swallow so many supplements. My research and reflection over the past weeks shows me one thing:  the most toxic thing really has to be anxiety — that is to say stress, and its buddies fear, tension, and anger.

Well, Owen has me beat for coping with stress. He does not do stress, as far as I know.  Maybe I cause him stress. But at stressful moments, his natural reaction is to laugh. And aggravating as it is for me in that moment, laughter has to be a far healthier reaction to the poop of life than anger and frustration.

 7424

Last week I caught Owen listening to French President Emmanuel Macron. I had been busy finishing dinner and getting it to the table when I looked up to see Owen on pause, all movement stopped. He was listening. His whole face lit up into a grin. Of course I stopped everything too, to try to hear what he was hearing.  President Macron was speaking English with a heavy French accent on the National Public Radio news. As far as I could tell this cracked Owen up. His eyes twinkled, his face grew bright, his laugh was infectious. Owen has always loved accents. And here was this guy, sounding like Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, right in the middle of Mom’s radio news! What a hoot! 

I don’t think Owen is Nationalistic, but his uses as a diplomat for peace could be limited to his capacity for infectious laughter. Maybe that would be enough. It is very healing.  And it is when I sit down to write about my life with Owen that I most benefit from the laughing, able then in reflection to see what is delightful or life-giving in what was just maddening or aggravating before. So maybe the best detoxing for me is here, at the keyboard, searching out the words to describe the essence of my life with Owen for you.

Namaste, dear readers. Here’s to your health.

7422

 

Egg Hunt – Raw Version

File_000 (2).jpeg

The weather in Maryland has been playing like it’s April Fools in February. Will we have summer today — or winter?  –or spring? Anybody’s guess. And maybe Owen is playing along, kind of restless and antic.

During the February week that Owen’s mom (alias me) spent sick with a relentless cold virus, things got a little more chaotic in a world always teetering on the edge of the abyss.

file_000-1

Plastic piles in drifts accumulated around the furniture, an in corners of all rooms. Kale mounds spontaneously erupted on the bathroom floor.

file_001-2

Or so it seemed to mom, as she dragged herself from the chair at the breakfast table to her bed again, feeling buried in detritus but just not really caring that much. Owen’s dad took wonderful care of him, as always, and waited patiently for things to normalize. Instead he got the virus. So maybe it’s understandable that Owen is a little more squirrely than usual. Or blame it on these radically changing temperatures. Owen likes predictable. So do I.

Thankfully Owen is kind of predictable, in a chaotic sort of way. Which is why, when things did begin to normalize (?) and I came into the kitchen to clean up one night, after a speedy post-grocery-shopping-with-Owen supper of omelettes, and couldn’t locate the box of eggs – the brand new bulk box of Pete and Gerry’s – I was worried. I saw that I should have known better. In a moment of foolish practicality, I had purchased those 18 eggs in the plastic box. In another moment of wooziness, I had gone to the toilet without putting the eggs away, tying up the fridge, and locking up the kitchen. Drat. And drat Pete and Gerry anyway for using a plastic box. Gone AWAL.

The beauty of being sick for a week, however, is that you get lots of time to sleep. Although end-of-day weary, my sense of humor was intact. Feeling calm, I communicated the problem to my son.

“Owen,” I said, “Where are the eggs?

Owen presented a shuttered expression.

Owen. We really, really need to find the eggs!”

No eggs in the fridge veggie drawers where I have found eggs rolling before in similar situations. No eggs in Owen’s collection-of-stuff drawer in the family room. But in the green basket beside the drawer I unearthed hunks of plastic egg crate with a telltale label chopped and mixed into the melange.

file_001

I took Owen’s hands. “Owen, where did you put the eggs that were in the box?” I peered into his face, trying to keep my mind off of leaking albumen soaking into upholstery. “I need to find those eggs.”

He looked off away, into space, brow furrowed, mouth slack. For Owen, the shop closes down about 9pm, and after that the processing of language will be even harder than it always is.  He looked as though deep thinking were required – Eggs? hmmm. Eggs. Do I know Eggs? It seemed as though he would have liked to help me…on the other hand, he could have been really worried about what was on his horizon, when I found those eggs. What do I know. Either way, the circuits were clogged.

I took his hand, and modeled “search for” as we moved through the house. No eggs on the couch, good — and upstairs no eggs on Owen’s bed. Glory Days kale that had the misfortune to be packaged in a glamorous sunrise orange and purple bag wound up in a huge heap on Owen’s bed not too long ago.

That was my last best guess. “Owen! —–!

But oh – wait — one more idea.  Ahhhhh!

file_002

Found. How appropriate to end an egg hunt in a basket.

I required O to help lift the leaking shells into a convenient bucket, although he wasn’t happy about those goopy egg whites

file_004-2

The bucket had to be pretty clean I figured, since I usually use it for bathtime dousing. From there into a pot of hot water for the eggs, and into a newly made bed for Owen.

Edward returned from his evening meeting to find a kitchen full of groceries and a pot of hardboiled eggs — already cracked.

Making Limeade

file_000-11

I promise this is not an attempt to rip off Beyonce.  If she knew Owen, she I think she would understand. She looks like that kind of woman. Owen REALLY loves lemons, as you may or may not know. ALL kinds of lemons —

But he’ll take a lime ANY TIME–

file_002

 

–even if it zaps him back!

file_005

file_006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

file_007

I have the flu this week, which makes everything harder especially cooking. No, maybe especially running after an Owen who keeps running out the front door is harder.  Particularly when I can’t find him at the recycling bin – and then he emerges from our renters’ door carrying a stolen soda bottle!!  Ooooh noooo Owen! Very embarrassing. Yep, that’s definitely more stressful…

Best to share the limes.

file_004

 

 

Post Script:

Happy Day-After Valentines to all my readers!   Please take the time this month to love me a little: drop me a message about what YOU like best in the embracingchaos.net posts. What would you like to see more of?

file_000-13
Owen’s Valentines Carrot Cake

 

Send your comments THIS FEBRUARY to wystansimons@gmail.com, and in thanks I will email to you my brand new, just invented RECIPE for this delicious Carrot Cake made for Owen and his dad (oh yeah – and me). Yep, it’s “paleo” and yep it’s very moist and very good. (Ok, true, the icing is a cheat. Owen can’t eat much of that.)

file_000-14
Oh oh! left the cake at home with mom all day…

Goal: once I get blog readership up to 2,000 followers, I will be positioned to go for book publication. Embracing Chaos, the book, predates this blog – it’s all written and ready to go, full of the hilarious and heartbreaking and outrageous stories that are part of life with Owen. Just need a little thing like an agent and a publisher to spread the joy.  And agents and publishers want to see readership to know that they can sell this thing. (Of course they can! everyone will love it.) The best way to know that real people are reading me is to have an email list of real readers. (since the WordPress system is full of “ghost followers” – fakes) Know that I will certainly not publicize anyone’s emails.

Every time you share this blog, you help to bring the publication of Embracing Chaos to pass, and the message of embracing and loving difference to a wider and wider audience. Which, I think, is a really great idea.

 

file_000-12

Golden

file_000-6

What do you see?

When you see this photo do you think “Wow! Cool! Golden plastic!’ or do you think “Eww, raw meat bacteria!”

I realized, as Owen darted off with the gold wrapper in his hand, that I have known two people who feel excitement about trash. One of course is Owen. But perhaps Owen comes by it honestly – his great granny, Mary Scalbom Nicholson might very well have seen that golden meat wrapper the same way.

Grama Nick (as I called her) had a real eye for possibilities – and re-using refuse. She made dolls with hour glass figures using dish soap bottles. She stuffed some of her dollies with plastic bags. She sewed old panty hose or stockings onto the tops of her dollies heads (their bodies were made of recycled nylon slip) to create brown curly hair. Admittedly Owen is not so creative with his finds. But as he escaped with the meat package from the sink, I suddenly thought of Grama and smiled. And laughed. I could see her holding up that wrapper to study it, and hear her musing, “Oh look at this! Now it seems like you should be able to do something wonderful with this…”  

I witnessed her doing just that, with an old plastic box or a wrapper. She had a way of seeing things.

The Brazilian-American artist Vik Muniz is such a visionary. His approach to the world’s largest garbage dump in Rio de Janerio, for example, was transformative – for the trash pickers, for himself, and for the viewers too, I’d say. If you haven’t seen the documentary Wasteland, that describes his work there with garbage, with the workers themselves, I recommend getting it from Netflix.

d778859e095ecb28c459314039527f9a

I like to imagine Vik Muniz meeting Grama. I think they would have shared a lot of mutual respect.

Today I would like to take this idea of re-seeing things one step further. In a way this is the ongoing theme of this blog, re-seeing – the difficult – the tragic – the painful as something transformative instead. In the draft for my book Embracing Chaos I write about a family in my church community who had a baby girl with Downs syndrome. Apparently the young couple did not have a negative reaction to their baby’s disability – they  embraced it, felt it was meant to be. She is perfect, the father wrote in a special needs support newsletter, he wouldn’t even want to change her, if he could. This was hard for me. It irritated me. I felt he was weird, and an extremist, and young, and wrong. His point of view challenged the anger I felt at being the mom of a boy with an intellectual disability. I loved my boy – but not what came with him.

First you have to be angry when trash falls on your life.

But after a while – a long while – of breathing – and coping – and breathing – and coping – you may find yourself staring at the same old piece of trash (it recycles for a while just as trash, have you noticed? before any transforming happens at all) in the sink. And on this day it is possible that you may find yourself asking, “Hmm. Ok. What can I do with this?”

And when you are standing at the kitchen sink of life, and the bacteria laden meat wrapper, now washed out with warm soap suds, looks like something golden – when that happens, you are looking with Owen’s eyes. And Grama Nick’s.

 

 

The Strength of Ten Grinches – Plus Two

download-1

My sister already asked me way back at the beginning of the month what I am going to do about Owen this Christmas. She means, what am I going to do to stop Owen’s trying to stop Christmas from coming. From sneaking downstairs like he did last year, devouring every bit of Christmas stocking candy in the wee small hours of the morning, leaving a pile of papers a foot high and “a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.” His siblings were not amused. (Read about last Christmas Naughty – or – Nice -?)

Of course longtime readers know what we tried to do. We built a wonderful, beautiful, aesthetically elegant gate on the stairs!  And then Owen learned to scale the darn banister in no time flat, skipping that gate entirely. (“Once More Into the Breach—!”)

We have to stop Grinchy from coming — BUT HOW?

We rallied of course. Like the Whos. We joined hands and remembered – after a dark despairing little walk in the woods to cool down and warm up – that Christmas happiness didn’t require a thoughtfully arranged, candy-laden Christmas stocking.

Still, even a carefree Who doesn’t want to go through that every holiday.

I have considered floor to ceiling cargo netting along the banister – but cargo netting in a foyer isn’t really my look. And stapling Owen to his bed, or locking him in his room would not be approved of, by me or anyone else (except in a few dark moments maybe). Meanwhile, Owen was busy as ever last night, shredding holiday cards, searching baskets, swiping food off the counter, chopping his sister’s ID card. Much as he loves brothers and sisters coming home, this doesn’t seem to calm him. The time-out chair was kept warm. Must be a lot of stress trying “be nice.” Apparently he can’t take it. How can we both love our Owen and protect our property? How to foil our marauding Christmas bandit?

I know that the best bet will probably always be distraction  – in the spirit of the family I heard of  who used motion activated water (fountain and sprinklers) to distract their runner. If their child bolted out the front door, that moving water captured him, and redirected his attention to the front yard, buying mom and dad a few more minutes to locate him. If I create a barrier, I know that Owen will focus his energies on how to thwart my efforts to control him, displaying strength or agility we didn’t know he had.

This in itself is pretty cool, and I wish I weren’t so tired from getting up every morning with him at 6am that my brain cells are compromised. I’d like to figure out how to employ this phenomenon usefully to make his life richer and more interesting. It’s good to have a reason to fight! Imagine how interesting life would be if we all had to climb down a cargo net to breakfast each morning.

I must stop Owen from descending – But how?

Perhaps hang his stocking at the end of his bed for him to pilfer and explore? Or is that too obvious. Hmm. Maybe it should be dangling casually from the top of the bathroom medicine cabinet?… Or not quite out of reach, on the floor? Just through the bars of the temporary pressure gate in the hall – because there’s no doubt a temporary gate is going to be required across the hallway outside his door. This temporary barrier in place, he still could access the hall bathroom, and check up on his siblings, but not make it to the stairs. Nor incidentally could he reach his dad’s and my room. That does sound good. Usually I want Owen to be able to come and get me when he needs me at night. But maybe not for the short number of sleeping hours on Christmas eve.

And maybe the distraction method does not just apply to Owen – last week we celebrated Edward’s birthday with an evening out. Dinner with mulled wine, and a play – a wonderful theatricalization in words, sing, and dance of Melville’s Moby Dick. It transported us to a different dimension. We came home relaxed. Light. Strengthened.

Respite for long term caregivers is distraction.  Caregivers will still have to face their challenges again tomorrow, but strengthened by a break we can face with humor and patience what we might otherwise grit our teeth and “get through.” Our loved ones don’t just need our hands – they need our hearts. They need our attention. And giving attention is by far the hardest thing.

And so I find that this post is really an acknowledgement: Thank you. Thank you Emma, for an evening out. Thank you Kathie, for walking and talking with Owen twice a week, week after week! And thank you folks at New Horizons, Stephen and Damian, James the van driver, and director Ron Vaughn – for the gift of your attention to some special people, including our Owen.  What a Christmas present, every day.

“And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light! –“

file_000-2

 

 How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss 

 

Bad King John

file_000

King John was not a good man –  

He had his little ways.  

And sometimes no one spoke to him

For days and days and days…                                  A.A.Milne,  Now We Are Six

Owen has been sending me messages. He might not have a lot of language accessible, but he has his little ways. Which is probably why I found myself reciting this poem in meaningful tones. I am hunting for the toothpaste and find it, chopped. Photos of his siblings lie in a pile of cut pieces.

A few days ago Owen wouldn’t come down for dinner when called. I had to go upstairs, into his room, where he was bending over  his collection of plastics in the big rolling drawer under his bed, chopping away.  After a peaceful dinner together, when he seemed finished eating, I cleared the food away, and sunk down exhausted to watch a movie. I invited him to join me. But Owen didn’t go for The Fisher King with Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams. While I was absorbing the bizarre plot, he stood outside the kitchen reaching across the counter eating more and more of the green beans and green peppers than any reasonable person should even want to contain. So there went tomorrow’s lunch.

“Seems a little excessive, Owen,” I said as I harumphed up from my movie. “Been on my feet this whole time,” I sulked to him, scooping what was left of supper into plastic boxes for lunch. “How many green beans can one person hold?” I asked rhetorically. There’s stress-eating, and there’s eating from loneliness, and then there’s eating to tick your mother off. To show that you can, perhaps. To assert independence

King John was not a good man,  

  He lived his life aloof;  

Alone he thought his message out      

  While climbing up the roof.

He wrote it down and propped it up

  Against the chimney stack–

Since Owen didn’t want to watch a movie with me, I figured it was bedtime. But once upstairs Owen didn’t want to get undressed. He didn’t want to come into his bedroom either, but stood out in the hall in an abstract attitude.

“You ignore me, I ignore you.” It couldn’t be plainer if he had written it out.

Amazing that you could spend hours, days, years even, caring for someone’s body needs and remain oblivious of his social, psychological, emotional, or spiritual needs. Shocking to recognize it – and annoying! – but yeah, it’s true. Knowing Owen as well a I do, I can still easily miss cues. I can find myself tuning him out mentally while I am busily caring for his physical needs. When I realize that a set of behaviors are a message, it’s a relief – but some part of my mind still feels manipulated, still asks “Why didn’t you just say so?”

King John was not a good man –

  He wrote his message out,

And gat him to his room again

  Descending by the spout.

Communication is just good. Any old kind. That’s the thing. And I am so glad that Owen persists stubbornly on, trying to tell me stuff when I am too tuned out to notice or listen or see what life looks like from his perspective. Dinner at home with just dad and mom is pretty dull compared to what he grew up with; dinner with only mom who is tired and plunks down in front of a boring movie is even worse. It’s really lonely to be tuned out or ignored – much worse than actually being alone, in your bedroom.

I was reminded this weekend how much Owen likes to have his tribe around him when half of the family came over for a Redskins game Sunday afternoon. Owen had been SO BUSY looking everywhere for hiding Christmas packages I think, hunting through the packets in my closet and my studio, pulling out a package of candles, throwing half of them into the trash…aaarrggghhh. I took him and the dogs for a walk to give his dad some peaceful visiting time, and when we came home there was a fire in fireplace, and family gathered around the television, roaring appropriately, and Owen became very calm.

I want some crackers,  

  And I want some candy.   

I think a box of chocolates

  Would come in handy.  

I don’t mind oranges,

  I do like nuts    

And I SHOULD like a pocket knife – that really cuts.  

  And, oh!  Father Christmas if you love me at all—

King John had his own dreams for Christmas (link below to read more about him), and Owen seems to share many of them. But I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn (if he were able to tell me) that for Owen, the biggest thing on his wish list is to be surrounded by his family — with lots of oranges, nuts and chocolates thrown in for good measure.file_001

 

 

 

 

Not familiar?  To read all of A. A. Milne’s whimsical poem about Bad King John and Father Christmas, click on this link. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Fetishes

img_5433

It is early Thanksgiving morning and Owen is celebtating. He has his plastic pieces, and is sitting warm in bed between his dad and mom in a rental home in the snowy Poconos mountains. Lucky guy. Pretty cozy. Even more cozy if he would lie down, so the comforter and blankets would cover his dad’s left shoulder and his mom’s back. However, Owen cannot be convinced. He does not like going back to sleep after his customary 6am, regardless of holiday. It may be that his empty tummy rumbles right up throat-ward. Or it may be that Owen doesn’t like being prone when awake. Logical.

The three of them are pretty content with their compromise, worked out over years. Those who prefer to be horizontal on a dark cold holiday morning are grateful to be lying down. And those who dont prefer it, are resigned to be slouched forward, partially covered. Owen should be grateful to be warm between two heat-producing mammals, crackling his plastic, instead of prowling the icy hallways partially clad – but this may in fact have been his first choice, if consultd. But if he isn’t grateful, well, you cant always get what you want but if you try sometimes you might find you get what ya need.

Snap. Crack.

Crackle. Snap.

Owen is lucky enough to be a member of a very large extended family. This year he joins the tolerant Simons clan, who come together across hundreds of miles every two years celebrate this holiday and have Owen appreciate and rifle through their possessions, and love him anyway. Hopefully all Owen’s admirers are similarly blessed.

Owen’s aunts, uncles, and cousins are used to him and his ways, so when he swipes Uncle Hil’s drink bottle a universal shout of “Owen! You crapster!” will go up and that’s that. They knew him as a fussy little crapster, and as a middle sized crapster, and so the shift to plastic-obssessed young adult crapster isn’t too much of a shock. Those infant episodes, such as when Aunt Alicia startled to feel a small appreciative hand pat-patting its way around her shapely, velveteen clad posterior, have an endearing impact on a relationship otherwise strained by trying to recreate while guarding one’s ginger ale from a relative with an “I came, I saw, I conquered” approach to all plastic products.

Just last week Owen’s mom discovered a dozen eggs rolling about in the refrigerstor bin, with some once-bitten apples, the clear plastic egg crate that held them disappeared. New lows in thievery.

As this Thanksgiving unfolds, there will be much to be grateful for in Owen’s world (mashed rutabega and pecan crunch pumpkin pie!) and there will be things to avoid (even if mom bought all cardboard egg crates). This will be true across this huge and diverse nation of ours – as we come together to celebrate and try not to talk about inflamatory political subjects. Resist the plastic egg crate – or better yet don’t buy one! Do not covet your neighbor’s plastic bottle. And relax and warm yourself between the other heat-radiating mamals. You and Owen are blessed.

Rainy Hour at the Aquarium

IMG_3737
Photo by Freya Simons

Toward the end of a very busy Memorial Day Weekend, Owen was getting bored.  Mom and dad were more than a little exhausted.  Not feeling too generous nor too creative.  Very likely, it would have been a long cloudy afternoon of breaking up plastic pots into bits and swatting mosquitoes for him, but Owen got lucky.

His sister Freya offered to take him with her and her boyfriend Keir to the Baltimore Aquarium for the afternoon.  I am still wowed and shaking my head at their generosity.  Perhaps they are, too.

“Mom, if you get a nap, it will all be worth it,” Freya said.  Worth her effort, I guess she meant.

Yup.  It was certainly worth it.  Dad and mom got naps.  And then, undeterred by rain that descended the very moment we headed out into the yard, we had a carefree hour planting herbs and vegetables, and got soaking wet in the downpour like goof balls.  Two and half  precious hours of unscheduled freedom later we were dry and dressed and driving up to Baltimore under grey skies to meet for supper and to liberate our benefactors.

Meanwhile Owen had been keeping busy.

The line to the aquarium was very long – plenty of other folks had the same idea for entertainment on a rainy afternoon of a holiday weekend.  But Owen doesn’t do standing still in line.  So to distract him Freya and Keir took him through the tents and market stalls and displays of the adjacent Middle Eastern Bazaar.  Very fast.  Lots of noises, sounds, images, and no cues for Owen as to why he was there or what he was supposed to do there.  As I understand it, Owen got busier.

They got back in line at the appointed time to learn that the tickets were $40 each!! (Owen treated).  In the end Owen, Freya, and Keir had only one hour to look at the fish before closing.  But I understand that Owen made efficient use of their time.  In an hour, they had enough time to see “everything” Freya said — except the dolphin show.

But they did see dolphins.  Freya said this was the one time on their outing when Owen calmed down. The cherubic photo she captured above may chronicle the most peaceful moments Owen spent all day.  In the dolphin tank.  Looking for Chaos, perhaps?

An expensive hour, but a precious afternoon.  By any measure.

We got them a good supper.

IMG_3738
Keeping up with Owen – Baltimore Aquarium – photo by Freya Simons 

SHARK ATTACK!!

 

IMG_3542

Lately my world feels like life under siege.

Last Saturday morning Rascal our Australian Shepherd crashed open the door to my upstairs studio, apparently to roust me from peacefully writing.  He didn’t flop down on the floor with his usual “I am so fed up with being ignored” doggy sigh.  He stood dead center in the doorway, looking at me with his one blind old doggy eye.  Trouble. I just knew it was Owen.  I was being summoned.

I had left Owen in a warm bath in a warm room, earlier that morning.  Too early, since he rises at crack of dawn every day of the week.  I gave him a plate of snacks and he brought along some favored plastic bottles, plus his arsenal of plastic toy guns, which to Owen are more like objets d’art.  A crowded but contented bath. Seemed to me like a good moment for some Saturday morning writing, while Edward snored peacefully recovering from his busy week.

But naked Owen had ditched his tub, and was downstairs.  Into things. Oh well.  I thanked Rascal, and called Owen up and began to help him dress, when the two pieces of shopping card in his hand stopped me. Oh. No.

Racing downstairs, I found my purse sitting on the chair beside the phone, right where I had left it–but under a fluttering mound of papers.  I dived into them, flipping through the mound of folded bills and tickets that fluttered to the floor.  “What did I do to make you do this?” I asked of Owen, God, and the universe as I searched back and forth through flyers and grocery receipts. “Didn’t I run a nice warm bath?  and get you a plate of snacks this morning?–  WHERE are those credit cards?  where are ANY cards?–Don’t I constantly wash your clothes?! Cook your food?! –No cards at all – I clean up your stuff! – tidy house! – daily make your bed up clean and fresh!!”  There were  no cards in Owen’s collection drawer – no cards on the kitchen counters.  “Edward!! help!” I howled as I carried on my interior rant and prayer–“Is this pay backs Owen? for going out with Dad last night? leaving you home with a sitter? good grief–- Please not the driver’s license! let me not have to hassle with MVA– Or am I reading in unnecessary motives? Is the sheer delight of hacking up enough incentive all by itself?”

Edward found them.  A fat handful of chopped cards in the bottom of the little trash basket in the study.  Credit cards, ID cards, bank cards, gift cards, health savings account card, insurance cards.  Bonanza. All chopped into large pieces. No– not all.  Owen left me my driver’s ID and one credit card intact. Maybe Mom’s face on the driver’s license was enough to protect that one. Some prayers were answered. He must have been working fast though – no time for mutilation. But, his bloodlust not yet assuaged, every little plastic card on Edward’s key ring was cropped too.  Later on we found a few recently potted up hosta plants un-potted, and languishing under a bush, beside their empty pots.  Wow. He really needed to send a message.

But what, exactly, would that message be?  What, and also Why?

Pointless questions, Wystan.

Something has to be done.

Besides helpless outrage.

And tightness in the chest.

IMG_3546

Because I grew up in a home where such a breach of etiquette as chopping up your mother and father’s credit cards almost certainly would have resulted in outbursts of rage and corporal punishment, I have a strong urge to yell and spank or smack to let Owen know that he really REALLY REALLY can’t do this kind of thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My primal self wants to solve this problem as I have seen it solved, and the primal part of all humans that responds to the law of “an eye for an eye” tells me that this might just drive the message home.

Years and years of experience I have taught me otherwise. Yelling and hitting doesn’t communicate much to Owen except “oh oh storm warning! hide your head she’s angry again.”  And the better, higher part of my mind believes that violence is not actually the best solution to any problem.

BUT WHAT THEN ? yell my thumping pulse and beating heart of the caveman part of myself.  THERE HAS TO BE A CONSEQUENCE!!

Yes I think wearily. There will have to be a consequence.  But what?  Situations like this tax my creative thinking, in my role as police officer, judge, jury, and warden.  Edward supports me, we work as a team, but the weight of “what to do” and the implementation of it rests heavily on my shoulders.

Whatever the “consequence,” it’s not likely to stop Owen from doing this again. The only way to do that is to hide my purse. First of all, he doesn’t understand the crime.  Not really. We let him cut up bottles — but then not bottles that “belong to someone else.” What does that mean? He will be praised for grabbing plastic bottles out of the woods, but if he grabs up someone’s soda at lunch and pours it out on the floor, or makes a move to hook the driver’s tempting green bottle on his way out of the van in the afternoon, he will be seriously scolded. But what’s the difference between this piece of plastic and that one?  I am pretty sure that Owen knows that he is not to go into my purse, but he has no real idea why – and the fact that it is forbidden only increases the appeal. What he wants to do, he does of couse, and whenever he possibly can.

Don’t you?

In the end, I confronted Owen and kept my temper, letting just words out come through my mouth, mostly not yelling, and not hitting except for one thwack on the top of his head.  For this I am grateful, I thank the Lord, and I credit respite: getting out with Edward the night before for some couple time, and getting my writing time in that morning, even though this made it possible for Owen to sneak out of his bath at all.  Getting respite is critical to caregivers, keeping us elastic, able to bounce instead of crack under pressure.

We “grounded” Owen to his room for an hour that morning, since that was something different to try to get through to him.  I have hidden the scissors (again).   I told him no scissors for three days. You have your plastic to cut – those are YOUR things.  You cannot cut MY things. No scissors if you cut MY things. 

Still I know that “MY,” (such an important word in human vocabulary), is hardly meaningful to Owen at all.  He doesn’t do pronouns. “MINE” and “YOURS” aren’t concrete words. They are abstract. What does “mine” look like? Owen lives in a very innocent, very small, very physical world, of which he is the star and center player.  He likes people, but his relationship to them is distant – he can only vaguely connect to their doings, their thoughts, or their wishes.  He has less concept of “property” than a two year old child, although I continuously talk to him about it.  He knows “I like this” and “I LOVE THIS!” or “I want” and “I WANT” but I doubt these feelings are framed in words, and a constant for him is near inability to express any of those desires to anyone else. He will say “no fank you,” or push my hand away, to indicate the opposite.

Strangely though, sometimes Owen is very sensitive to others’ emotions, and at unexpected times he will suddenly lovingly woozle someone (sometimes a near stranger) just when they need it. Just not their property I guess. His innocence is really ignorance, that also sometimes seems wise.

*                                         *                                               *

Looking back on Saturday’s Shark Attack from the vantage point of my writer’s desk,  I  see now that the cause was almost certainly connected to doing the “Art Walk” at Bronwyn’s school the Thursday prior.  Walking into art galleries with Owen is an act of unbelievable bravery – kind of like juggling eggs.  I managed it that evening by directing Owen toward the little pile of student artists’ business cards at every stop.  He liked that a lot.  Even with two hands full, selecting another and anoth– (“Hey! Just ONE, Owen!”), he managed to work them, folding them into origami-ish disarray.  I am always struck by how quick and deft those hands can be, other times so limp and powerless.  And again other times how powerfully destructive!  Once he cut into a construction helmet with shears…

 

Anyway, it’s always hard for Owen to let go of an obsessive interest.  And it’s hard for him to see any kind of boundaries. I suppose I lit a fire and should have been on the watch for it to keep on burning. Handing him little cardboard cards, reminds him how very much he likes the nicer plastic ones – and inspired on a Saturday when his mom’s back is turned, the adventure of going to hunt up some up for himself is an irresistible challenge.  The appeal of being in trouble is almost irresistible anyway.  The worst thing in life is being ignored.

Isn’t it.

IMG_3549
Working the bottle Mom chopped for him

PS – Thanks Rascal, my blind old dog. Although I cannot ask you about it, I have to guess that you heard Owee cackling hysterically as he chopped (heh-heh-heh!), and you must know as well as I do what that means.  You put two and two together, and I am still impressed that you came to get me.

Naughty – or – Nice -?

IMG_2347

Looking back on it, weeks and weeks before Christmas, Owen was clearly getting ready for the big day.

He was with his sister Freya in the bathroom, attending to business.  This is where Owen says most of his interesting things. Owen said:

“Santa Claus.  Be nice. Be naughty.”

Freya was amused.

“Yep, be nice, Owen!” she laughed.

“Be naughty,” Owen said, all seriousness.

She felt the need to correct his misapprehension.

“Be nice for Santa!”

“Be naughty.”

“Owen. Be nice,” she insisted, wondering how long he would hold out.

“Be naughty,” said Owen.

 

This went on a while. I imagine Owen got the last word.

He must have been thinking about it a lot – almost everyone in the family was informed.  Words don’t come easily to Owen, usually it’s an effort to bring them forth.  When he really wants to drive a point home, he has a particular manner of speaking his few words, with his eyebrows way up and eyes wide open, his head tipped to one side, informing, admonishing.  “Be naughty!”  When Owen does this, he reminds me just slightly of my dad, when he wanted to emphasize something.  Owen’s grampa was a college professor who taught decades of Composition 101 classes to recognize good grammar and punctuation.  It’s funny feeling, when you recognize that a communication that is clearly of great importance, and you still have not the slightest idea what it means.. I imagine many college freshmen felt just the same way.

Maybe Owen sensed he wasn’t getting through to us, because once or twice in those weeks before Christmas he growled into the kitchen in his Ogre/Papa Bear voice, “BE NAUGHTY!” 

I wondered why this focus on the “Santa/be naughty/be nice” thing this year.  I was inclined to blame the group of older special needs people with whom Owen’s rides the van to his program each day.  They can be sweet and friendly, but they are kind of tough on codes of behavior.  If Owen is passing gas or burping they tend to get grossed out.  Giving his safety belt the slip is a moral issue.  I get a solemn report: “Owen was Bad today.”

Coming face to face with the culture of shame and blame surprised me.     A more innocent group of adults you really could not find, except maybe on another van full of special needs people.  They were just repeating what they had heard.  Still, before now, I had only experienced Owen’s school mates treating him with affection.  The transition to the real world has been a little hard. I have to laugh at my response, defensive for my perpetrator –  like a mom in juvenile hall — “Yeah? he passed gas!  SO?”  In the Simons household, the standard method for dealing with breaches of etiquette is humor.  Ours is a jolly and forgiving God.  Like Santa.

Morally speaking, I consider Owen pretty innocent.  Then again, nothing cracks him up like doing something naughty, or hearing someone else getting reamed out for doing something naughty (the dog, his little brother).  The people on Owen’s van had good reason for hoping he would shape up for Santa.  Instead they may have inspired a whole new level of naughty.

I guess I missed my tip-off.

IMG_2348 (3)

On Christmas morning, I came down feeling clever and rested.  I planned to finish the stocking stuffing early that morning while Owen was in the tub, rather than staying up late Christmas eve.  But a large pile of papers beside the Christmas tree.  Candy papers. Translucent papers from maple sugar creams.  White plastic peanut butter cup wrappers. Clear plastic wrappers.  Half a bar of raw dark chocolate, gnawed, abandoned.  And four tangerines, each with one bite from the center.  Owen, rising earlier, had clambered over the barricade we built on the landing, and poured out his siblings’ stocking candy out in the dark living room, and eaten it.  All.  Four stockings were flat and empty.  He didn’t touch the parental stockings.  The whole thing reeked of intentionality.

For some reason, Owen had never thought of this past Christmas mornings.  Maybe he had and lacked sufficient daring. I struggled with shock, complete outrage, and feeling stupid.  How could he do such a thing?? My plans for this morning were broken.  Owen had “scribbled on my page” and I reeled like a preschool child.  Scolding and fussing, waking the household with my rant,  I put Owen into a tepid bath.  I reflected that I would never be able to write about this event.  I would never find anything Owen did to be funny again. Probably I would have to stop writing.  Unable to go forward, I left for a healing walk in the woods with the dogs, kindly accompanied by my daughter Bronwyn.

The walk was a good idea.  I cam home to find my husband re-stocking the stockings, divvying up the parental stash between the three other kids.  Daughter Freya was making Christmas breakfast.  Smells of bacon and cinnamon filled the air.  Oskar was setting the table.  I made Owee apologize to each of his siblings, and we went on to enjoy a lovely Christmas together.  Owen was pretty quiet.  His tummy can’t have been feeling too good.

 

IMG_2266

Well.  No one can say he didn’t warn us.  And at this point I can see the humor in it.  But I’m not telling the people on his van.

IMG_2352
Christmas night, Owen re-lives his day’s misdeeds…