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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Janey at 15

It's hard to believe Janey is 15.  Some ages seem like a jump to me of more than a year, and 15 is one of those.  It seems a lot older than 14.  14 still seems like part of childhood.  15 feels like definitely teenager-hood, and not that far from adulthood.  It doesn't seem possible.

So, who is Janey at 15?  By 15, I think you are who you are going to be, to a huge extent.  I can remember myself vividly at that age. It's the first age that feels like part of now, like years have gone by but in some basic way, I haven't aged beyond the person I was then.  I don't mean I haven't had a lot of life experiences, or learned a lot along the way, but my personality then is my personality now, to a large extent. 

When thinking about who Janey is, I both try and don't try to separate out the autism.  I can't and don't want to totally separate it.  It's a big part of who she is, and an important part.  But it's not ALL of who she is.  There is a lot of her that I am quite sure would be her no matter what.

Janey is a cool person.  She has strong likes and dislikes.  She likes music, but not just any music.  She loves British Invasion 60s music more than anything else.  She also likes most songs with a very strong beat---disco, some country, some dance type music.  She is not a fan of soft rock or slow songs or most of the country I like.  She likes some Broadway music, but not most.

She loves food, most of all what her father makes her.  They share a deep love for steamed vegetables (something I would not eat on a bet) and for eggplant and Chinese food and cherry tomatoes and raw onions.  She is the world's hugest salami fan.  She's a food snob.  Rarely does a bite of school lunches pass her lips.  Food needs to be fresh or freshly prepared or expensive!

Janey has gotten more into movies lately, particularly just a few movies.  She watches "Coco" and "The Emperor's New Groove" every day, broken up now and then by "Pocahontas" and "Home".  We are glad that a stage she had for a while of watching kids' YouTube videos and rapidly switching from one to another seems to have subsided, but it could come back.  Her favorite kids' TV show right now is "The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That"

Car rides are still one of Janey's favorite things.  If she had her way, we'd spend most of our days driving about on a car ride.  She seems to love more than anything watching the world go by as she listens to music in the car.

Janey has a temper.  When she's told no about something she wants to do, she is extremely quick to anger, to scream.  More than she used to, though, she does get over it.  That doesn't mean she doesn't ask again, a few minutes later, and scream again if the answer is still no.

A sense of humor is one of the best things about Janey.  She loves to laugh with and at us.  She is so happy when we are all happy.  She rewards funny little songs and sayings with a huge smile and hug.

Sometimes I make myself step back and look at Janey from the perspective of an outsider, someone who doesn't yet know her well.  To that person, how would she look?  Well, most people do see her and know that she is not completely typical.  She does some things that look typically autistic, like flapping her arms.  Her speech is not generally in full sentences, unless she is scripting or using echolalia.  It's mostly requests..."Want a car ride?  Want salami?  Want cuddle?"  It's extremely rare she simply comments or states things.  She still bites her arm quite a bit, when angry or upset but also when very happy---it's a sign of strong emotions.  We hold her hand most of the time in public, not because she's a runner but because she is unpredictable.  She can sometimes poke people's stomachs or grab things that are dirty or unwise to grab or decide to take food out of someone's hand she feels should be hers.

Janey has grown up a lot over the years.  We can talk her down from more of her emotional crises, we can understand more of what she needs and wants, we can give her the tools to entertain herself, we can tell her to wait a few minutes (some of the time), we can even get her help with things like bringing us a needed item. 

If you had seen Janey at five or ten, you would probably be surprised at Janey now.  It is why I hope that those with girls like Janey who are younger than her keep up the faith.  My dear friend Michelle told me it would get easier, and she was right.  It did.  Either that, or we changed. 

I don't picture a "typical" Janey much.  A typical Janey would not be Janey.  It would be someone else.  I don't want Janey to be someone else.

But in saying that, I still feel fear.  I fear the world is not ready for Janey and her sisters and brothers in autism to become adults, to live in the wider world.  It's part of why I want the world to know Janey, to know her as a person, to understand that she exists and is as worthy of a life as anyone.  I worry, in my darkest moments, that the world will not embrace Janey, that the worst parts of the world will take advantage of her.  That is what keeps me up nights.  I want everyone to know the true Janey---not just the easy to talk about parts, but what she really needs to be a healthy, included person in the world.  It is why I talk for her.  I feel like I have to let the world know she is part of humankind, just as she is.  Not a sanitized version of her, not a technicolored dream version of her, not a doom and gloom and how tough a lot we have been dealt view of her, but the most accurate view of her possible.

Janey will start high school in 11 days.  I am scared.  I am scared about a long bus ride she will have to take to go to the great program we chose.  I am not scared of the time she's actually in classes, because the Boston schools have been very good to Janey.  I'm scared of the meanness that does exist in this world, of any moment in Janey's life when she is not being carefully watched, of her inability to tell us about her days, of her beauty and her innocence.  I love her so much.


Janey, thank you for being you.  We have been lucky to have these 15 year with you.  I hope we have many, many more together.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Summer Report

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  I guess.  I am not a summer person, as people who have read this blog probably know, but this summer hasn't been bad, as summers go.  There was the non-sleep period, which I will never, ever say is over, because I fear a jinx more than anything, but, well, it's better.  Janey has still been often getting up extremely early, but lately, she is into Netflix on her iPad, and watching longer movies, even ones she's never watched before, and it's allowing us to drowse a bit while she's awake.

The big difference this summer, of course, has been having Tony home.  It's wonderful.  I said just before the summer started that it was the first summer I haven't dreaded, and I was right not to.  Parenting Janey is really a two person job, and Tony and I are both more rested, even with the non-sleeping issues, than we were in past summers.  

Another very nice thing has been summer school.  Two years ago, I took Janey out of summer school in the middle.  She was miserably unhappy.  It was the only real time I'd ever seen her crying because she didn't want to get on the bus, and she would come home crying, and I was getting emails from the teacher a lot of the type that say "Do you have any ideas about keeping Janey happy?  Is there something different at home?" to which I always have an urge to reply something like "Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that we moved because the old house exploded---it just slipped my mind!"  I'm just being sarcastic here, but I do tell teachers if something big is happening at home, and to be fair, I don't get that question often.  So we cut our losses that year, and I was gun-shy last year and decided to just keep Janey home from summer school.  But this year, I thought we'd give it a try again, and she's been VERY happy there.  Her (different than two summers ago) teacher seems great and he stays in touch about positive and less positive things, and he sent me a happy picture of her from Friday, which is something I very much love to get.

Janey is continuing to seem more like a teenager all the time.  Her most used phrase with me is "Want to go away?"  She says this any time I'm in her space, and her space is often much of the house.  I take it with a laugh, though.  It's cool to see her wanting space, and I want to give her as much as I can.  It makes me sad, a lot of times, how little true independence her life is going to have, and I feel like it's important to give her any agency I can about how she spends her time.  It can sometimes get a little severe, though, like when her brother Freddy came home from work and said hi to her, and she replied "NO! Want to go away?" and pushed him.  But I remind myself her vocabulary is limited, and she's getting her point across.

One interesting development is how Janey has been using the TouchChat AAC app on her iPad.  I started with it a couple years ago with great hopes.  Janey has never really used it to talk, though.  She likes it, and she says, many hundreds of times "I don't want to listen to CD" which might sound like it's saying something, but it's what you get if you hit the exact middle of each screen in a row.  I think she likes the way it makes a sentence, and she doesn't ever listen to CDs anyway.  But for a while, when Janey is very upset, I have been pulling up the feelings screen on the app and asking her to tell me how she's feeling.  She usually picks happy first, even when she's very obviously not happy, but then she picks something else, sad or frustrated or angry or tired.  And she calms down.  Like a miracle sometimes, she calms down.  It's like being able to label the feeling helps tremendously.  Today, for the first time ever, when she was upset, she went to the iPad and went to that screen herself, and 
calmed herself down.  I was very, very happy.  I wish she'd use the app more, though.  I use it often around her, and she easily remembers how to get to various screens, and it's always available for her, but she has made plain that's as far as she wants to go with it for now.  And if I pushed her more, I'm 
quite sure she wouldn't be as eager to use it in the limited way she does as she is now---that's my Janey.

Of course, what comes next is high school, and I am nervous day and night about that.  I feel confident we picked the right program for Janey, and I am very happy she can go where we wanted her to go.  But still...it's a new school, and it's a LONG bus ride.  It's on the opposite side of Boston, and if you know Boston traffic, you know it might well take an hour for her to get to school and an hour to get home, on tougher days, and some days, probably more than that.  She loves the bus and she loves rides, or we wouldn't even consider that, but I worry about her needing to use the bathroom while she's on the bus, I worry how she will react if the traffic completely stops the bus for long periods, I worry about other kids on the bus...I worry about everything.  I keep telling myself to wait and see how things go before all the worrying, but that's not my way of doing things, usually.

I was helped more than you know during Janey's no sleep nights by posting on the Facebook companion page to this blog, and reaching out to the other mothers in no sleep land, the ones, as Claire so incredibly well put it, awake at silly o'clock, as those hours in the middle of the night should be officially named.  Thank you, as always, for getting it, all of you wonderful people.  I hope you are having summers that are better than you'd worried they might be!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Summer Without Sleep

It's about 11:30 pm now.  Janey is awake, wide awake, watching TV.  Last night, she slept not at all.  This used to be an unusual, shocking thing, that she could go totally without sleep all night now.  It's not any more.  In time since school ended for the year, there's been about six nights without sleep, without ANY sleep.  There was one last Thursday, just five days before last night's non-sleep night.  I hope there's some sleep tonight.  It seems like there would have to be.  But maybe not.

What is going on?  For most of Janey's life, sleep has been one of her lesser issues.  There were always occasional insomnia nights, but not a huge amount, and very rarely ones with no sleep.  Something changed recently.

I don't have a lot of theories.  One of the few I have is that it's just her age.  She is almost 15, and that is an age you start staying up later.  I've read that it's theorized it's biologically hard-wired, because it gives teenagers a time to relate without older or younger people awake, and that leads, indirectly, to the human race continuing.  Maybe Janey is feeling that draw, to be up at night when others aren't.  But while most teenagers might realize not to take it too far, to eventually sleep, Janey doesn't.  She just stays awake.  And she doesn't get the desired alone time.  We can't leave her alone.  If she's awake, we are awake, or trying hard to be awake.

If Tony hadn't retired early, if he had to get up for work each day...well, we'd have dealt with it, because what else can you do?  But even with him home, it's very, very hard.  After missing a night's sleep, even with the two of us trading off, you aren't yourself.  It's hard to explain unless you've had a period of being chronically sleep-deprived.  It feels like you aren't fully alive.  It feels like everything is happening in a daze, a mist.  You can't do anything that requires thought or effort.  It's like your mind tries to half sleep even when you are awake.

Janey started summer school this week.  I don't know if she slept at school today. We have always sent her to school even when she doesn't sleep, as unlike Tony or me, she seems little affected the day after not sleeping.  Even after the day after becomes the night after, she just doesn't seem sleepy.  She often stays up quite late the night after not sleeping at all.

We plan on talking to Janey's psychiatrist soon about this not sleeping.  Right now, we do give her melatonin, as we have for years, for all the good it does.  When I take melatonin, which I do now and then, I fall asleep always in about half an hour.  I don't know if it does a thing for Janey any more.  Her pediatrician has told us it's okay to give her Benadryl on the very worst insomnia nights, but that also now seems to have no effect.  If I ever take Benedryl, I'm knocked out like a light.  So I don't think any other sleep medicine is going to work.  The urge to be awake on the non-sleep nights is stronger than most anything.

It's gotten so we can tell ahead of time when Janey's not going to sleep a certain night.  The main giveaway seems to be her attention span getting extremely short.  On evenings before she sleeps, she changes YouTube videos or songs absolutely constantly, after about 10 seconds.  She watches the same pieces of video over and over and over, separated by little pieces of a different video.  She paces while she does this, and often does her OCD routines---straightening out the remotes on the living room table, turning on and off lights or the AC, doing spot checks to make sure we aren't crossing our legs or arms---the routines we've seen for many a year, but in a more intense way than usual.

The non-sleeping probably affects me almost out of proportion.  When I don't sleep, I feel hopeless and isolated.  It can feel, in the middle of a long, sleepless night, like we are on a little island or planet, completely alone.  It can feel like morning will never actually arrive.  It can seem like Janey will never sleep again, that this will go on forever and ever and ever.  I know my mind plays tricks on me when I don't sleep.  It can make my outlook pretty bleak.

And now it's close to midnight.  Janey is awake, watching a video she has watched many times tonight, one where a woman spells the names of animals after pronouncing their names in odd ways---KAN-grew for Kangaroo.  That, and the one where Mr. Harlow opens surprise eggs, and the three cats called Cutians, and Coco-Melon videos, all the videos on heavy repeat during sleepless nights---well, if I never hear any of them again, that would just be fine.  Let's hope for a few hours sleep tonight, and let's hope the summer someday becomes a sleepy fall.

Monday, June 17, 2019

With love to the school I didn't want

Today is Janey's last day of 8th grade, the last day at the school she's attended since the middle of 3rd grade.  And I am looking back with love on her years at a school I didn't want her to go to.

Janey and her classmates
Until late in 3rd grade, Janey went to an inclusion school.  It was the same school William and Freddy went to, and it was a special place.  Each classroom had a regular ed teacher as well as a special ed teacher.  Kids with all kinds of special needs were included, completely. I loved the school, and I loved the concept.  I loved everything about it, right up until they couldn't include Janey any more.

Janey getting her diploma!
The time of transition to the school Janey is attending her last day of today was very, very hard for us.  It was the time I found out that the phrase "crying yourself to sleep" can be literal.  I had pictured Janey at the inclusion school until she was 22.  I had been involved with the school for 13 years at that point, and I wanted it to be 13 more.  But I know now that it was the right decision to move her.  Inclusion is wonderful, but it doesn't work for all kids.  At the time Janey was moved, she was often screaming all day, lashing out, pulling hair, biting.  She had the love and support of her classmates and teachers, but she was far from happy, and she was (although I know you aren't supposed to worry about this, but I do) keeping the other kids from learning.  She wasn't included, because it wasn't safe to include her, and so an inclusion school for her was not at all inclusive.

So we moved her to her current school.  It was hard.  But from the very first day, we were made to feel welcome there.  It was a different feel of school.  It's a much bigger school, less family-feeling, but it was a place that accepted Janey, and embraced her.

Help when she needs it
Janey's early years at her new school were not smooth ones.  I've never, ever forget the call---the day her behavior was so extreme that she went right from school to the emergency room, and then to many days at a psychiatric facility.  But I'll also never forget the love and caring the school showed her at that time---how her teacher rode in the ambulance with me, how the ABA director drove the long drive to where Janey was placed to see her and talk to the staff, and most of all, how the school welcomed her back.  That is, I can see now, what scared me most.  Janey had already been once cast out for being simply too...autistic.  I was braced for it to happen again, for the school to say they simply couldn't handle her.  But they seemed surprised I would even ever think that.  They were committed to Janey.

Music bonded these two!
Over the years at Janey's school, we have had so many teachers that were simply amazing, in their dedication, skill and love.  Beyond that, the staff---the classroom paraprofessionals, the therapists, the program leaders, the principal---wow. They are all people who have chosen to work with autistic kids, and beyond that, people that very obviously love our kids, people that get them, people that see them as the coolest, most interesting kids around (which they are).
Another wonderful friend of Janey's

Love and a bond you can see
We went last week to Janey's moving up ceremony.  I can't even tell you how many different people made a point to talk to me about Janey, about the special routines they had with her, about her love of music, about what a kick they get out of her.  It struck me so much how they were talking to me about the same Janey I see---a cool, quirky, at times stubborn and challenging but unique young woman.

And so today, again I am crying a bit about Janey and her school.  This time, it's not about her being sent there, but about her leaving.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Joseph Lee School for caring for and loving my Janey.






Saturday, May 18, 2019

Freddy's college graduation, and why I'm not there

Today, my younger son Freddy graduates from Skidmore College with a degree in computer science.  It hasn't been the easiest road for him, and I am incredibly proud of him.  And I am also very, very frustrated, because I can't be with him.

Most days, I keep a positive attitude.  It's important to me to do so.  Janey means the world to me.  I love her more than I can possibly express. She has brought us so much joy.  That being said, there are times when the whole autism parenting life is so tough that I am overwhelmed completely.  Today is one of those days.

There is no-one who can care for Janey today, to make it possible for Tony, William and me together to be at Freddy's graduation and celebrate his success.  There is no respite---not on regular days and not on special days. There are several people who would have loved to be able to watch Janey, but that just were not up to the task, and honestly told me so.  I appreciate that.  The last thing I would ever want is someone caring for Janey that would be overwhelmed by doing so.  There are other people who would have been able to care for her but that live far away---I'm thinking of many of you!  But in reality, there is just not any respite.  Even today.

We thought about taking Janey and all going.  But a quick think-through of that killed that notion.  Janey would last about 5 minutes at most at the graduation. Then, one of us would have to take her outside, walk around with her. This would keep her happy maybe for 10 more minutes.  Then, she'd be upset, screaming.  The person watching her would, to say the very least, not be having a good time.  The family inside at graduation would not be able to concentrate and honor Freddy.  They would be thinking about how it was going with Janey.  Or, we could have gotten a hotel room for a few nights, to have a place to stay with Janey.  If that hadn't been extremely expensive (it's racing season in Saratoga Springs, and even a very cheap hotel, especially on graduation weekend, is insanely high priced), it still would have resulted in a long period of time in a room trying to keep Janey happy, and not seeing the graduation.  If one of us wasn't going to see the graduation anyway, it might as well be at home, with the resources we have here.  Tony missed Freddy's high school graduation.  At that time, Janey was in the hospital recovering with many complications from her burst appendix.  So---it was his turn to get to go to the graduation.

And I'm here, at home.  And Janey isn't happy.  She wants to go for a car ride.  I have taken her outside repeatedly to see there simply isn't a car here to ride in.  That doesn't matter.  If she wants a ride, there should be a car.  She is miserable.  There is no explaining to her that it's Freddy's day.  That is not something she understands.  She repeatedly says to me "Put on shoes!"  "Get jacket!"  "Get pocketbook!".  She tries in vain to get me to see that she needs her car ride.  And I am tired.

I've been sick for the last week.  It's a very slow recovery.  But like the car, that doesn't make a difference.  Janey doesn't get I'm sick.  I am exhausted.  And realizing, for the millionth time, how lucky it is that Tony is retired now.  We are broke, and we probably always will be from now on, but there really wasn't a choice.  Neither of us were going to last with him still working.  The years of little sleep and little down time added up.  It's incredible, still, that the two of us at times can sit down and watch a TV show alone, while Janey is at school or asleep.  And if this is life from now on, so be it.  But on days like this, it is hard to not reflect on the toll autism parenting has taken on our lives.  NOT that Janey has taken.  That autism in her particular form has taken.

I don't have solutions.  In thinking about writing this post, I wanted to close with ideas for making things better and easier for Janey and for all of us.  But I don't know how.  It would take an overhauling of our whole society, and at this point in time, that's beyond a pipe dream.

So, I asked myself, why write about this at all?  Why upset those who rightfully might feel that I should not explore the negative side, the negative feelings that this day has brought to me?

And I answered myself---well, why do I read memoirs?  Why do I avidly read about other lives?  For one of two reasons.  I read to hear about a life unlike my own, to better understand what it would be like to be someone else---someone affected by war, or by blindness, someone who grew up in a very different culture or family, someone living a life I'm not living.  I write to share our lives with others.  The second reason I read memoirs is to read about people living a life LIKE my own, to feel less alone.  That is the second reason I write here---because I know I'm not the only one living this life, and I want to be honest about my life to let them know they are not the only one.

All my love today to Freddy, my graduate.  I know you understand why I'm not there, but I hope you also know how much I wish I could be, and how much I love you, and William, and Janey.  Always.

Frederick David Amara, my dear son


Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Easter Bunny Hunt---A Story In Pictures

The quest begins.
 Those of you who have read this blog much mostly know we don't give Janey chocolate, because when we do, especially after noon, she doesn't sleep.  At all.  Whether it makes sense or not, it happens, and it's why I don't discount anyone's food issues or theories.  It doesn't seem like just a little chocolate could have that big an effect, but still, it does.  However, we make one exception.  There is nothing on earth Janey likes more than a chocolate bunny.  She often asks for them at random times, like the middle of the night in the middle of the summer.  So, for Easter, she gets a bunny.  We usually get it on Easter day, not to have it around the house ahead of times for her to find and eat at the wrong time.

Empty Rite-Aid bunny rack!
We set out this morning to get her the bunny.  The first place we went was the Rite-Aid.  It's where we get prescriptions, so we are there a lot.  The pharmacist said a big hi to Janey, and she smiled at him.  But...no bunnies!  The Easter area was completely empty of any chocolate rabbits.

Picking out salami
So we moved on, to the grocery store.  Janey and Tony often shop there together.  We picked up a few other things we need before we looked for bunnies.  High on the list, as always, was salami, Janey's hands-down favorite food.  Janey picked out some with Tony in the main salami area, and then ran off to a nearby auxiliary salami area to get another kind she wanted.  After we'd loaded up on salami, we got a few other things, and saw a worker who is always so sweet to Janey, and told her Happy Easter.  She has a grandson with autism, and it's always fun to have her talk to us.


Auxiliary Salami Area
Finally, we went to look for bunnies at the grocery store, but again, no bunnies at all!  It was like there was some huge run on bunnies!   Janey saw some Easter cakes that looked interesting near the cashier, but we resisted them.
No bunnies at the grocery store either!




Some interesting cakes
Salami choosing
 We went to the quickest line, and missed going to the line of a cashier who is yet another Janey fan, but we waved to her, and Janey gave her a smile.  Out by the car, Janey picked which salami to first try. 

We continued our quest at the Walgreens, and there, finally, we hit pay dirt.  We found bunnies!  Janey picked out the one she wanted---not the biggest one, but a smaller sweet little guy.  The cashier there didn't know Janey, but was so sweet to her, talking while realizing she probably wasn't getting a response.  She asked Janey to give her a high five, and Janey did.

The whole quest made me happy.  In our little part of Boston, where Tony has lived all his life, where Janey has lived since birth, we feel included.  Janey is part of the community.  She is valued and treated with kindness and respect.  What more could we ask?  Happy Easter to all of you who celebrate it, Happy Passover to those who celebrate it, and Happy Day to everyone!

Finally, bunnies!
Bunny time!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nana and Grandpa at the hotel house

Janey at the cheese and cracker reception time
This past Saturday, I realized how very long it had been since Janey had seen my parents.  I last saw them in October, when I went up there for a few days, but for Janey, it had been almost a year.  They used to drive down here from Maine for the day, a drive that is almost 4 hours each way, but as they get a bit older, and after my father's accident falling from a ladder, they can't make the trip as easily.  On the spot Saturday, I decided that despite all that was keeping us from getting away, we'd go spend a couple nights in Portland, half way in-between us, and have them come down for the day to see us at our hotel (Janey always calls them "hotel houses").

Breakfast, which Janey did not care for
In general, Janey likes trips.  That is, she likes them under her own terms.  It must be her music in the car, music that she wants us to change constantly.  Once we get to the hotel, except for car rides, she doesn't want to go much of anyplace.  Going away with her is not really a get-away or a vacation as just more a change of scenery.  It's great she doesn't mind being away from home.  But it's also harder to keep her happy in a hotel.  At home, if we have to say no, she often screams.  In a hotel, you really can't have someone screaming the way Janey does.  We can't stand our ground unless we want complaints and the front desk calling us to see if everything is okay, something that has happened a few times.  So, we keep her happy.  On this trip, it meant letting her take about 10 showers, having her play her iPad at full blast on YouTube Kids with the same videos 20 times an hour, and working on keeping her calm when she woke up at 2 am the 2nd night.  It was relaxing to come home.

Janey checking out a water feature in the lobby
However, it was worth it to see my parents.  We did manage a lunch out at a buffet, sort of a more downmarket Old Country clone.  Everyone found plenty to eat.  We got pizza from the hotel restaurant at night.  We exchanged Christmas presents, which we had not been able to do any sooner, and we sang some Christmas songs---Janey's favorite part of Christmas.

My parents commented on how clearly Janey sings, in contrast to her speaking, and that made me face something I haven't faced much.  Janey used to speak very clearly, when she did speak.  She doesn't any longer.  Often, no-one can understand what she is saying but Tony and me.  I hate thinking it, but it's become pretty obvious her speech is getting worse over the years.  But the singing---still lovely.  I sang the beginning of lines from carols, and she finished them, perfectly.  Hearing her sing parts of "O Holy Night" brings tears to my eyes every time.

Janey sees Nana, as Tony looks on!
During the car ride back, Tony and I talked about some small changes we are going to make with Janey.  For about 4 years now, we have been pretty much doing whatever it takes to make her happy.  Overall, it's been a huge help in making all of us happy.  But lately, she has become more frantic in her demands, and she doesn't seem happy even when she gets what she wants.  The big thing that has become almost impossible is the music in the car.  Janey will not listening to about 95% of the songs we put on, songs she has previously liked.  She just constantly says "Music please, music!" which means change the song.  This makes it very hard for Tony to drive when he's driving alone with her, because if you DON'T immediately change the song, she screams, sometimes kicks the seat, and makes it very hard to concentrate.  We decided on a new rule.  We'll change music only after listening to the rest of whatever song we are hearing.  We explained this to her, and then put the rule in place, and after not much push-back, she seemed to get it.  She didn't like it, but she got it.

Janey listening to Grandpa!
We decided to put a similar rule in place about putting on TV shows and videos, once we got home.  Again, she wasn't pleased, but she seemed to understand.  We am always balancing her need for control with Tony's and my need for sanity.  We are all in this for the long haul, and we as parents were starting to quite frankly be at the ends of our ropes.

Being away, even for a few nights, can give some new perspectives. They aren't always easy things to face.  We need to try to figure out Janey's speech regression.  We need to take back some control of routines that have started to make our lives very tough.  We need to find a way to see my parents more, while still being around for Tony's brother, who has been in and out of the hospital for a very long time now and who has severe health issues.  We need to take a hard look at our finances, which with Tony's retirement have become much more of an issue, making even 2 nights in a hotel a luxury we can't often do.  We need to have a life that better balances Janey's needs with our own.  None of these are easy tasks.  But they are necessary.