I haven't written as much lately as I used to. There are a lot of reasons for that, and some of them are beyond the scope of this blog. But some of it is that Janey is steadier than she used to be. She is more settled into routines, and mostly happier. For the most part, that's wonderful. I would never want to relive some of the past years, especially what I think of as the Hospital Years, or the Changing Schools Years, or the Non-Stop Screaming and Arm-Biting Years.
There are still challenges, to be sure. One is sleep. For weeks, Janey fell into a pattern of going to bed around 5 pm. Nothing anyone could do would keep her up. When someone is determined to sleep, they sleep. Of course, the other side was that Janey would wake extremely early---often at 1 or 2 in the morning. And she would stay awake. When she's awake, one of us has to be at least sort of awake. We are at the point now where we can cap-nap in the same room as her, but never fully sleep, as we need to be alert to what she's doing, and she often makes sure we are not fully asleep by suddenly thrusting a TV remote or bottle of soda or stick of cheese in our faces and making demands. After a few weeks of that, we fall into sort of a half-life. You never feel fully awake or fully asleep. Knock on wood, she's back in a better cycle---bed about 7, up about 4:30 or 5, which works with her bus arriving at 6:15.
Another challenge, or concern, is as always Janey's speech. Her speech is highly cyclical, like everything else about her. Sometimes she talks much more than others. But overall, her talking has settled into a fairly low point. She says only a limited amount of things, and even the things she does say are often said in mumbles, hard to understand, or in a very rushed recitation of a phrase. She has a great speech therapist right now, and a teacher who seems terrific, but these cycles of speech don't seem very affected or changed by anything external. Lately, her default answer to almost all questions is something like "That one!" We ask "What show do you want?"---"That one!" "What do you want to eat?" "That one!" I think she truly thinks we can read her mind. Or she's mentally using a choice board and pointing to what "that one" is. Whatever it is, it's frustrating.
There was a presentation at Janey's school today about the various high school choices in Boston. Janey's in 7th grade, so there's another year before I have to choose, but I want to stay well on top of it and do a lot of school visits. The presentations varied widely, and I think only actually seeing the programs will answer some of the questions I have. But I'm clarifying my vision of the kind of program I want. I want one where the challenges are appropriate, where Janey is accepted as who she is. I think of a video game analogy. I don't want a program where the sole goal is leveling up. Janey isn't going to get a high school diploma. She isn't going to hold a non-sheltered job. She isn't going to live on her own, or even be able to be alone at home ever. I want a program where she can be a success by being who she is, not by others striving to make her what she isn't going to be.
It's interesting how as Janey gets older, I think a lot less about how she is disabled and a lot more about just how she IS. If she is happy, and she makes life so Tony and I can also be happy, and she is cared for and loved, that is wonderful. The most wonderful times of all are times of shared happiness with her. I had a moment like that the other day. Janey, as I've written about often, loves Christmas music. This year, she is very taken with "O Holy Night". Not every version, as she let us know firmly when I played through a lot of versions on Slacker Radio with her, but when she hears a version she loves...wow. I played such a version the other night, Nat King Cole. Janey and I lay together on her bed listening to it, and our eyes locked. The look in her eyes---I can't even think about it without crying. We were both completely overwhelmed by the song, and we had one of those rare moments of pure connection. They are the moments I live for. In some ways, Janey lives in a different world than I do, but at moments like that, we are completely together. It's hard to explain, but I'd guess others have had such experiences with their children like Janey.
I'm thinking of all of you this Christmas season. I'm having a hard time this year, troubles and worries that are nothing to do with Janey occupying my mind often. I wish so often I could spend time in person with so many of you I've met throughout this journey. What I wouldn't give for a bunch of us to sit down and talk and eat and laugh and cry.... I hope December is a happy month for you all.