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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Janey's 11th first day of school

Janey started 7th grade today.  When I sat down to count, it surprised me a bit that it was first day of school number 11 for her.  She started 3 year old kindergarten just after she turned 3, and she went to 5 year old kindergarten twice...it all adds up to 11 first days of school.

I'll have to say, of all those first days, today might be the one I felt the most anxious about.  That seems counter-intuitive, but it's true.  Mostly, this is because of how summer school went.  Janey seemed truly unhappy for the first extended time at school.  She resisted the bus, she came home seeming upset every day, and eventually, when her teacher told me she was having a very hard time getting through the days, I took her out for the last week or so.  I think I should have done so sooner.  After about a week to decompress, we saw the happy Janey again.  We went on our long trip to take William to Chicago and to see my dear friend Michelle and her family in Ohio, and Janey was amazing.  The only really rough times were when we cruelly tried to get her to use the bathroom at rest stops before eating.  Once we stopped doing that, she was happy almost the whole time.  She slept well in the hotels, traveled, made herself at home at Michelle's house, listened to a ton of music, all that.  We reflected that we didn't think a trip with a more typical 13 year old would have been as tear-free!

I spent a lot of time the last few days thinking about the contrast between the time Janey was in summer school and the trip.  It can sometimes feel, in the midst of Janey being unhappy, that that is just her default state, that what we do makes no difference.  But that's not true.  Of course, we can't go on trips every day, but the things the trip featured---novelty within a familiar framework, tons of music, exercise she enjoyed (playing in hotel pools), much one on one attention---those are proven ingredients for a happy Janey.  And as Janey gets older, it seems like school gives her less and less of what makes her happy.

Of course, the standard response to that would be "school is meant for learning, not entertainment".  And my response back---well, it's been 11 years now.  And Janey hasn't shown she wants or is able to learn what the schools have to teach.  It's not for lack of good teachers or lack of trying.  Most kids in her program DO learn.  They learn to read and write and do math.  They do amazingly well.  I think Janey has spoken.  She's not interested in that kind of learning.  And as she gets older and diverges more from even the standard autism path, it might be getting harder for her to find the level of comfort at school she needs to be relaxed enough to learn at all.

So---what can I do?  I don't think the school I imagine for Janey exists.  I'm not even sure myself what I picture the school being.  Or if what I picture even is a school.  But I can picture what she'd love---a place where she could be outside as much as possible, where she could have access to music at all times, where she would go on excursions to parks, take rides on buses and trains, play in water, rest when she was tired, be read to and look at books, work on basic cooking, be taken to stores and helped to purchase items, be encouraged gently to talk more...that's my dream.

And you might have had the thought I've had.  That sounds like home schooling.  And that has crossed my mind.  But, to a person, everyone who has spent time with Janey has emphatically said to me what I know to be the truth---I couldn't do it.  Not just I don't want to do it---I couldn't, physically or mentally.  Healthwise, I could not make it without the respite that school provides.  Mentally and physically, doing it all alone, I would very quickly be too tired to provide the atmosphere Janey would thrive in.  I know that.  During the weeks this summer we were at home and she was not at school, I was drained beyond what I can explain.  We wound up staying home with Janey watching videos, with a daily walk to get ice cream.  That's all I could do.  That is not what Janey needs.

What happens when No Child Left Behind leaves your child behind?  I know that the schools are required to try to teach Janey, and I know for so many kids, that is a good thing, that there are kids that in the past would not have been offered the chance to learn to read or write that are thriving with that chance.  But in our quest to give each child a chance, can the vision of success be expanded?  Can we give Janey and the other Janeys out there the chance to be the best they can be, even if that best requires a very different kind of school environment?  That is what I am going to be trying to figure out.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Janey is Thirteen

Janey is officially a teenager.  Her birthday was on Wednesday.

Janey blowing out candles
I've been having a bit of a hard time with this birthday.  The day itself went well.  It went well mostly because we didn't really do anything for it.  That was a conscious decision.  Janey's birthdays have a checkered past.  She doesn't like things to be different.  She hates wrapped presents.  She is unpredictable with gatherings---once in a while, she is okay with them, but more often, gathering around and singing and candles and so on upset her.  My wonderful friend Maryellen, who was present at Janey's birth, made her a cake and had us over last weekend and we had candles and a sing then, so I let that be the cake of the day.  On the actual birthday, we had no cake, no presents, no ceremonies, and I think Janey enjoyed her birthday more than she has almost any other year.

Janey on her birthday morning
Some of you might know that Janey's birthday is also her older brother Freddy's birthday.  Janey was born on his 7th birthday.  That gave the day a weird distinction.  From 6 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, I had no teenager in the house, in the middle of an otherwise unbroken 17 year stretch with one.  Freddy prefers very little birthday ritual too, so his 20th birthday, shared with his sister, was also low-key.  The one ritual we did enjoy, though, is a family dance to the unofficial official birthday song of their shared birthday, "Birthday" by the Beatles, the only song I know that talks about a shared birthday.  We all danced to it, and I have to admit I was crying during much of the dance, a poignant kind of crying.

Janey and her brother Freddy
The way we passed the birthday reflects two sides of my feelings about Janey turning 13.  On one hand, I feel like we've somehow passed some kind of barrier.  We know Janey.  It's taken a long time to really know her, but I think we do now.  We knew what she would like on her day.  She liked having lots of bacon made by Daddy, a trip to McDonalds to get Freddy a birthday breakfast and Janey hash browns, another trip to McDonalds right at 10:30, the minute they started serving lunch
, to get her nuggets and fries, lots of videos, lots of snuggling, lots of music and car rides.  We know Janey well enough now to be able to give her the kind of day she loves, without trying to make it the kind of day I picture a girl's 13th birthday being.

However, the day to me also felt strangely like some kind of deadline.  I wasn't anticipating feeling this, but I did.  I think of myself at 13.  That was the year I entered high school.  I can picture myself very clearly that year, and although of course there were many life happenings far ahead of me still then, in a very real way I haven't changed.  I was me---the me I still am.  And Janey is Janey, the Janey she is now and will be.  And the birthday reflected that Janey.  She might or might not have understood it was her birthday.  She did not have friends over---she has no friends.  She didn't long for some special teenager present, like a phone.  It is not in her realm of knowledge to even know she could want something like that.  She didn't sign up for Facebook, as I remember Maryellen's daughter Julia eagerly doing on her 13th birthday.  She doesn't know what Facebook is.  I picture her life as a line that at junctures like this birthday takes a different route than most life lines.  It is, in a computer word Freddy has taught me, a hard fork, one that is never coming back to the main line.

When I think back on this birthday, I hope what I remember is all of us dancing to the Beatles, laughing and clapping and singing in a way that no only includes Janey, but celebrates her.  And my wish for her is a life full of moments like that, shining moments in her own personal life story.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Why We Don't and Why We Should

Reasons why we, the parents of children with low-functioning autism, don't write or talk as often as we might about how tough our lives can be....

Because we don't want to hurt those who share the "autism" part of the diagnosis but not the "low-functioning" part.

Because we know it's natural for people to only have a limited capacity to hear about how hard things can be before they get tired of hearing it.

Because we are too tired to talk about anything.

Because we know it's more politically correct to emphasize the positive.

Because sometimes we are so used to it that it doesn't seem newsworthy.

Because the other people living this life already know how it is, and we think people not living the life generally will never quite get it anyway.

Because we think if we don't put the worst of it into words, it won't quite be as true.

Because we have been taught there is no point in complaining about things that can't be changed.

Because we don't want to hear about "solutions" that don't exist or don't work.

Because we are tired of hearing about all that Temple Grandin's mother did.

Because we feel secretly like we should be doing a better job, and if we were, it wouldn't be so hard.

Because we love our kids so much that it's hard to believe, and admitting how hard our lives are with those same kids feels wrong.

Reasons why we should break the silence and talk and write and shout about it...

Because otherwise, the world assumes autism means Temple Grandin and math geniuses and slightly quirky girls who don't get diagnosed until high school because it's so hard to tell they are actually autistic.

Because maybe, just maybe, if people knew the truth, they would want some of their tax dollars to go toward helping us.

Because when our kids melt down in public, it would help if people didn't assume we were bad parents or they were bad kids.

Because most people could handle the truth.

Because our kids deserve to be written about, to be seen, to be known, as much as all the other kids on earth.

Because of books like the one I read about girls with autism with the line I will never forget "Girls with autism have a very bright future", and the chapter of advice about when our girls get to college.

Because not talking about something means it's an unspeakable tragedy, and our kids' lives are not an unspeakable tragedy.

Because the school system needs to figure out what to do with kids who have had many years of academics and have not learned anything academic.

Because we love our kids so much that we can tell the truth about how our lives truly are in a way that still lets that love shine through.

Because try as we might not to, someday we parents are going to die, and that is the scariest part of all, and it might be less scary if society actually knew our kids, our kids who will someday be adults and will need help that does not yet exist.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pulling the plug on summer school

I decided yesterday to not send Janey to the rest of summer school.  There wasn't that much left---just the rest of this week and then next week, seven days.

The decision wasn't actually that tough to make.  Janey had been consistently resisting getting on the bus every morning.  Waiting for the bus had become rather hellish most days.  Through no fault of the bus driver, the times the bus arrived were very varied.  So we had to get outside well before it arrived some days, while other days, it showed up almost right when we started waiting.  The days it didn't, though, Janey did everything in her power to go back inside.  

Yesterday morning was the worst, although the bus arrived quite early.  But before it did, Janey screamed a lot, bit her arm over and over, and then almost bit me, with only a quick jump aside on my part keeping her from doing so.  Right after that, the bus showed up, and she got on.  She always got on like a stoic once the bus did arrive.  

I had my annual physical yesterday morning.  When I got back, there was a call on the machine from Janey's summer school teacher.  I called him back, and he said that day and the past 4 or 5 days of summer school had been very tough, with Janey screaming a good deal, and he wanted to know if anything at home had been different, like Janey's eating or sleeping.  It hadn't been, but in a rare case of me deciding anything on the fly, I realized this just wasn't all worth it, and I told him I'd decided to keep Janey home for the rest of the session.

When Janey got home, I told her summer school was all done.  She didn't really react, but a few minutes later, she came up to me and hugged me---a huge, tight hug, the kind we almost never get from her.  She didn't let go for a long time.  I'm pretty sure that was her reaction.

The whole summer school debacle brings up a couple issues for me.  One is how it's really impossible to find out from Janey how things are going when she's not with me, and the other is the lack of activities truly open to Janey in the summer (or year round, actually)

When it became apparent this summer that Janey wasn't eager to go to summer school, I tried hard to talk with her about it.  But asking Janey questions is next to impossible.  She never answers open-ended questions like "How is summer school?".  Never.  If I give her choices, like "Is summer school good or bad?", she picks one of the answers randomly, usually the last choice given.  If I give her starter sentences, like "At summer school, I feel...." she will occasionally fill in the blank, but she does so with what she thinks is the "right" answer, not what she actually feels.  For example, she can be screaming her head off, and I say "right now, I feel..." and she will say "Happy" 

I am grateful the Boston schools offer the summer programming they do, but from what I have been able to gather over the years, it's very different than "winter" school.  It's also very much school, not camp.  It is aimed at maintaining academic progress.  The class sizes are much bigger than during the regular year, and the schools are held in whatever building has air conditioning.  Unlike most summer programming for most kids, there isn't really much of a fun component.  So for Janey, it basically is all day in a room with a lot of other kids (based on the kids on the bus, pretty much all other boys), working on academics, which is not something she is good at or enjoys.

The thing is, there's very little in the way of alternatives.  Yesterday at the doctors, I saw a magazine that had a headline "The importance of special needs summer camps" and I gave it a look, just to crack myself up.  As I figured, they were the same old options, camps that in no way would accept Janey, camps that pride themselves on "inclusion", if by inclusion you mean that if your child can pass as not having special needs, they are happy to have them there.  They are not camps for someone like Janey.

And of course, it's not essential someone goes to camp.  I personally hated camp, the few times I tried it.  Summer was freedom, a time to do what I wanted, to spend time with friends, to walk through the little woods across the street from me that led to the harbor where I spent much of my time, swimming and watching birds and reading.  Summer was playing double solitaire with my sister while we listened for our favorite songs on the radio.  Summer was walking the three miles into town to buy penny candy.  Summer was sleeping outside in our woodlot.  Summer was working in my mother's store, and using the money I earned to have my father bring me home a Mister Misty Float, and going outside with a book and making that float last for an hour.  Summer, although never my favorite season, was many things when I was Janey's age, and none of those things are things Janey can do.

In two weeks, Janey will be 13, a teenager.  Instead of her world getting bigger, as mine did as I got older, Janey's world seems to get smaller as time goes on.  Playgrounds and spray parks  don't much welcome a child who looks like an adult among the little ones running around.  Janey can't walk alone to the store for candy, and she probably never will be able to.  She has no friends.  She is not going to spend the night with her friends, laughing until way too late, like I did with Laurel or Marie or Julie or Wendy.  She isn't going to play double solitaire with her sister all summer only to realize that said sister was using a totally different set of rules, and that was why Carrie always won and I always lost, and still, remembering those games during which we hoped uncoolly that the latest Barry Manilow or Dan Fogelberg song would come on WABI, the uncool radio station,  is one of my favorite memories.  Janey's life is very limited.  I know that I'm supposed to think of the bright side, to think perhaps she doesn't see it that way, but today, I am feeling like in many ways, that is a tragedy.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Little Things Add Up To Big Stress

The last few weeks have been stressful.  Actually, based on how I've felt the last few days, they have felt extremely stressful.  There is nothing "big bad" going on, but lots of small stress causers, and they pile up until I feel like I do now.

I think that's the case with a lot of parents like myself.  We live with a base level of stress, most all the time.  When small things get added on, and on and on, it doesn't take much to put us over the top.  The funny thing is, when things are REALLY bad, something kicks in---adrenaline or a hidden reserve or something.  It's still very hard, but more a sadness or anger or worried hard.  Stress, for me anyway, is like the workaday version of those.  It can be just as tough to deal with, or tougher, without being as headline worthy.

What is stressing me, you ask?  Or even if you don't, I'll tell you.  Let's start with the last 10 minutes, after Janey got off the bus but before she started watching a Christmas Madagascar special and kicked me out of the room....

 I sit out in the 95 degree heat, waiting for the afternoon bus home from summer school.  It comes at highly various times, due to highly various Boston traffic, so I wind up often waiting for it a while.  When it does come, Janey gets off the bus and within a minute, turns off both air conditioners.  She hates AC.  It is sticky hot in a way that Boston sometimes gets, an unbearable way.  I suggest she uses the potty instead of the bed.  This displeases her, and she starts screaming.  I take a deep breath and try to calm down, and offer her some chips if she will try the potty.  She calls my bluff by going to where I've hidden the chips, easily finding them and opening both bags.  And then rejecting them.  As I go to clip one bag shut, she somehow hides the other open bag.  As I search for it, she screams hysterically as I have not instantly put on the TV show she asked for at least 10 seconds before.  I stop the hunt, find the show, clip the chips and sit down to write this.

Now an update, 15 minutes later.  After I wrote what comes before this point, Janey changed her mind about a show.  I went over to put on the new show she asked for.  But that was not really the show she wanted.  I was supposed to know that, somehow.  So she screamed a while longer.  I figured out the right show, and she pushed me out of the room again.  I sat down to write and have some of my coffee.  Janey came over to turn off the AC I'd turned back on.  I turned to talk to her, and knocked over all my coffee.  Naturally, it didn't just go on the floor, but instead on Janey's special pillowcase, the one non-human object in the world she cares for, which she obsessively takes off the pillow and puts down various places.  I tried to sneak the pillowcase into the hamper, but she noticed and got extremely upset.  Somehow it having coffee on it made it necessary in her eyes for me to make more coffee.  She pushed me over to the coffeemaker and screamed until I started some.  I started it, and then snuck back over here.

None of this is huge stuff, but in the half hour since she's been home, it's a lot.  And that has been this week.  Getting on the bus in the morning is the worst.  The bus comes to get her any time in a 30 minute range.  Today it was there at the earliest time, yesterday at the latest time.  If we aren't out there when it comes, they do honk, but they have a lot of kids to pick up and can't wait long.  So...we have to go out to wait for it at the earliest time.  Janey tolerates 5 minutes or so of waiting, but then she wants back in the house.  And screams because she can't go back in.  If the boys are available, I have them stay inside with her, but even then, if they look away for a minute, she takes off her shoes, and otherwise makes herself unpresentable for school.  Generally, they aren't available (Freddy works until late and William is currently visiting my parents), so that isn't even an option.  I just have to figure out how to keep Janey from freaking out in the heat while we wait.  Again, not a huge thing, but it's making me a little crazy.

Oh, shut up, Perfect Woman!
Sometimes, I am up to dealing with stress.  Lately, I'm not.  It's the heat, partly, and my health partly.  I don't get into health details much here, not to be mysterious, just not to overshare, but there are currently four different diagnoses I carry, each of which has among the top 2 symptoms "extreme fatigue"  And I am feeling that extreme fatigue lately.  I am feeling every second of my 51 years.  Having a child that needs full time care, who is not capable of self-care and will not ever be, most likely...it's tiring.  And stressful.

The woman in the picture is how I feel like I'm supposed to be.  It's my ideal, one that reality doesn't modify much.  I should be calm always, working on solutions instead of complaining, feeling grateful Janey goes to summer school instead of wishing it was for longer, cheerfully doing the housework while she is there instead of grudgingly doing it and wishing I was just sleeping instead...yeah.  I should be making up a nice chocolate cake instead of writing right now.

This is mainly just a rant. There aren't solutions.  And I'm certainly not alone.  I know you, out there in the wider autism nation, are right here with me in Stress Village.  And most importantly, I know Janey is stressed too.  And like me, she is doing the best she can.  So, we'll keep on keeping on.  55 minutes until Tony gets home.  Not that I'm counting.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Ideas for the toughest times

Now is not one of the toughest times with Janey.  It's been an overall good couple of years, which is an amazing statement to make, in that it has "years" in it. But this weekend Janey was a bit unhappy, with more crying and screaming than we've seen lately, and of course, it flashed us back to the toughest times. And it made me think---there's a lot of advice and ideas out there for those with newly diagnosed kids, and for daily life, and for tantrums and so on---but what about advice for the times that quite frankly are hellish?  If you haven't had times like that (yet), I hope most sincerely and strongly you never, ever do.  But most of us parenting a child with autism have, or will, and I have a few thoughts about getting through those times.  

Toss out the regular rules

When times were toughest with Janey, during days when she literally screamed all day, or cried all day, it sometimes took me longer than it should have to realize that it wasn't the time for consistency.  I at first would cling to the notion that if I gave in and did unusual things, like let her watch TV all night, eat chips all day, go for car rides day and night, take showers all day long, that it was going to somehow set a bad precedent.  I now realize---who cares?  When times are as tough as they can be, you are focused on survival.  If something gives you five or ten minutes of a happy or at least not as sad a child, and it's something that won't hurt them or you, do it.  You aren't in regular times.

Trade off

This is the time to beg your spouse to call in sick or take some vacation time.  If you are a single parent, hopefully you have someone that can help in times of emergency.  Either way, you MUST get a break now and then.  It can seem impossible, and you can feel as I have at times that you have to be there.  But even if it's only for 5 minutes, you need to have time to recover.  You need to be able to breath.  I remember the times Janey was in the hospital, when I'd get a chance to go eat in the cafeteria.  Those 15 minutes or so would feel like a miracle, and I'd come back able to go on.  And I remember times for whatever reason I couldn't take a break, and feeling quite literally like I could not go on.  You NEED to grab moments for yourself.

Get some mental support from those who get it

I am very, very lucky to have made some friends through this blog who are fellow autism parents.  I hope the rest of you are as lucky.  When you are in the midst of a crisis time, you need to be able to talk to someone who gets it, without "it" having to be explained. You need to be able to speak freely, to rant and rave and cry, to have someone who won't say "now, it's not that bad", to have someone who doesn't necessarily offer advice but just listens, to have someone who doesn't say something like "You REALLY need to get respite care!" when there IS no respite care...that kind of person.  That is part of why I made the Facebook page.  If you ever need to, post there.  I can guarantee there are others there who get it, and will listen.

Put off going to the emergency room as long as you can

You might not have been thinking emergency room, but I think most of us have had that thought at times, when your child has been screaming or biting themselves or banging their heads or crying for days.  It IS an emergency, and it's reasonable to think ER in an emergency.  And I would never, ever discourage anyone from getting help, but I know, from personal experience, that the ER is not a good place to be in a crisis.  It might be necessary, in order to get the next level of help, but it's a nightmare while you are there.  All my life, until my dying day, I will remember the approximately 24 hours we spent in the ER at Children's Hospital, before getting a room, as the worst 24 hours of my life, and the worst 24 hours I hope beyond hope I will ever have.  The ER is not set up to deal well with children with autism, to say the very least.

Don't be shocked if your child winds up in a psychiatric hospital

I was shocked.  I never, ever saw it coming, even though Janey was certainly in crisis.  When her school called and said they were sending her to the hospital by ambulance, well---I can't really describe that moment well.  And then when she was seen there, and the psychiatrist said she needed to be in a psychiatric hospital---again, blindsided. Sure, things were pretty bad.  Horrible, even.  But for whatever reason, I just didn't realize what that probably meant.  I won't get into right now whether the psych hospital was the right place or not, but I can say it was a safe place for her, and if nothing else, it let us recover for a few days while she was being taken care of.

Take it from me---it WILL get better

If anyone had told me how relatively calm and happy the last few years have been with Janey when we were in the midst of the toughest times, I would have laughed at them.  It did not feel possible.  It truly didn't.  But it was.  And talking to quite a few other people who have lived through such times, I've found that it does get better for almost everyone.  I'm not making promises about WHEN it will get better, or how long it will STAY better, but the very worst times somehow seem to be self-limiting.  If you can make it through those weeks or months, and keep yours sane and alive, there will be a day when you can look back at them and, no, not laugh, but marvel.  Marvel at how you made it through.  




Monday, July 10, 2017

Full Circle McDonalds Trip

This weekend, we spent a lot of time organizing our bedroom, to prepare for a badly needed new mattress.  Some of the work involved heavy lifting and cleaning, so we decided I would get Janey out of the house so Tony could do the work without Janey needing Daddy's attention 100% as she usually does on weekends.  I took her various places, one of which was a McDonalds.  During the meal there, I kept flashing back to another trip to that same McDonalds.

Here's a blog entry about that long ago trip, when Janey was four.  (LINK)  It's a trip that has stayed in my mind for all those years because it seemed like a dividing line.  Before that trip, I often took Janey out and about.  I ever said in the entry "Usually she loves to shop", which surprises me a bit now to read, but I vaguely remember as true.  Janey did, when she was very little, like to go shopping and to be out and about.  We often went to McDonalds and ate inside.  But that day, she had a violent reaction to something, and for one of the first times, tried to bite me, and succeeded in biting her own lip and the back of the chair.

After that trip, I didn't take Janey out much on my own ever again.  It wasn't safe.  We did a trip here and there, but overall, I just didn't.

Now, eight and a half years later, I do again.  Finally again I feel safe taking her places.  I have enough confidence in her ability to stay calm and my own ability to calm her if she doesn't stay calm that we are going places, fast food places and short trips to stores and yesterday, swimming at a Y for summer autism free swim.  The trip back to the McDonalds was smooth (besides them giving me a burger instead of grilled chicken in my sandwich and me just eating it rather than trying Janey's patience by returning it).

However, the trip also highlighted to me another change.  Janey is not talking much lately.  Her calmer behavior seemed pared with less activity overall.  During the meal, she said exactly one thing, an echoed "23" when I commented that the number of the marker we had on our table was 23.  She ate in silence, despite my best trials.

When I read back about the long ago trip, it is hard in some ways to read what she said long ago after the trip----"I heard a clicking sound, and the clicking sounded like BOOM! I heard a footprints sound"  All these years later, a sentence like that is basically unheard of.  It's quite hard often to realize that despite many, many years of speech therapy, ABA and schooling and just getting older, Janey talks substantially both less and less complexly than she did soon after her diagnosis, even during periods of more talking than we are in right now.

I don't think the two are connected.  I don't think talking less and being calmer go together by necessity.  At least, that's not supposed to be the plan.  It's supposed to be that talking, communication, can make Janey calmer---that if she can tell us what is bothering her, we can help.  But back then, she told me that long sentence that I thought was about what was making her upset, and it didn't help a bit.

I don't get to decide, of course, but what if I could?  What if I could pick a calmer but less active and communicative Janey or a more communicative but less calm Janey?  Which would be better for her?  I have no idea.

Another thought that has crossed my mind---maybe Janey talks less now because we have learned more about her.  Maybe she doesn't talk when she doesn't feel she has to.  She isn't into talking just to chatter---she talks when she has something to say, and maybe by understanding more of what she needs, she doesn't need to tell us.  Is that good or bad?  Again, I really don't know.

Whatever the reasons, the reflection on the two widely separated trips to McDonalds has left me with more questions than answers.