I’ve Got a New Favorite Number

Have I really left you guys hanging for six months. Man, time flies when you’re having fun. At least I left you on a high note, right?

And time has, surprisingly, held that high note through all these months. Things have been going spectacularly. Javan went manic, like he does every fall, though it waited close to winter to peak this time. It waited so long to show up that we really wondered if it wouldn’t come at all this year. He’s still manic now. But it’s been nothing like the last two years, where he was in and out of the hospital and no one knew how to help him.

In fact, as hard as mania is with it’s periods of sleeplessness, obsessions, speeding thoughts, and hyperactivity, in retrospect I’m glad it did come this year. Because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to see my son fight through it like the fierce warrior he is. Javan has handled his rages, when they’ve come rushing to the surface, with zero instances if aggression or major destruction. Rages don’t happen often at all these days, but when they have, I’ve seen his pupils dilate, face get red, whole body tense…and him keep his hands balled at his side, controlling himself through all that anger. I’ve seen him choose to separate himself from others rather than hurt them. Scream at his bed and throw his pillows instead of throwing books through the walls. Self-control in the face of anger is hard for grown people with no mental illness. To see my 11 year old boy with all his added struggles achieve the levels of self-control he’s headed for fills this mother’s heart with indescribable pride.

But, like I said, rages rarely happen these days. What’s more pervasive in day to day life is the constant planning and obsessing over unrealistic goals. For instance, we went to a friend’s house for dinner. Side note: They have a five year old girl that he played wonderfully with! Yay! Anyway, there was a fishing show on TV there that he got interested in. For weeks afterwards, Javan watched countless fishing shows, even documentaries, at home, and made pages-long lists of the best fishing sites in the world and the most profitable fish to catch and sell. Wonderful organic learning happened. But he fully believed that our family was going to immediately prepare for a trip to the Nile to catch some rare fish or another, bring the fish home, and sell them at a fish stand. Cute, right? Tell me that after he’s begged you in earnest for the thousandth time to get the plane tickets. And after your living room becomes a cardboard box boneyard and you’re tripping over cardboard box fish stands trying to get to the laundry couch. What, I have a laundry couch OK? Laundry chairs are for amateurs.

And the hyperactivity, whooo, the hyperactivity. Boy, that is something else. I think we’re coming down from the top of that coaster. We went from hardly being able to get Javan off the couch to not being able to get him to sit down at all. It can get pretty intense. But I’ll take it over worrying he’s going to develop couch sores and blood clots any day. He’s grown taller but hasn’t gained any weight, probably due to activity. He’s actually starting to look a little athletic.

Combining the obsession and hyperactivity can produce some interesting results. For example, over the colder months, he’s developed a passion for fire. Exciting! *pastes on a happy smile* Everywhere we go, ignoring my protests, he collects fire wood. Even though we have a quarter rack of fire wood in our carport. When we visited his Uncle Noah’s house, he indulged Javan by lighting the huge fire pit in his back yard. Javan grabbed a bucket and worked for hours, seriously like 4-5 hours, running around the woods collecting sticks, branches, leaves, pinecones, anything flammable, and dumping it all on the fire. I’m pretty sure at one point he dragged a small tree over. He was red faced and sweaty and stinky and determined. And happy. We gotta do that again soon. He spent a full hour at homeschool park day one week stuffing our SUV with tree branches from the surrounding woods. I’ll probably never get all the leaves out of our car. By the time he was finished, there was hardly room for us to get in! I spent the entire drive home with a branch stabbing me in the arm. He’s spent hours collecting leaves at his grandparents’ house and hauling them back to the burn pile and his great grandpa guided him in starting his very first fire. Obsessions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re just super intense.

Socially, he’s making huge strides. I mentioned earlier that he played well with my friends’ five year old daughter. We didn’t expect that to go so well. We went over armed with tablet and headphones in case it didn’t. He wasn’t sure at first and just observed from the sidelines for a while, and then he came over to her and introduced himself sweetly and that was that. On Christmas Eve, we went to a family gathering which included Javan’s adorable baby cousin, Lillian, who’s four years old. If y’all have been with us a while, you know that Javan has a fear of babies and baby germs…and he generally considers those five and under to be babies. No one knew what to expect. We knew we may only be able to make an appearance and then skedaddle. He did the same sideline observer routine, and then went over and asked Lillian if she wanted to play Beyblades with him. The brand new ones he’d just gotten for Christmas. He patiently taught her how to play and didn’t even freak out when she accidentally shot her Beyblade into her mashed potatoes. He just calmly wiped it off and gave it back to her like it was no big deal. Y’all. I just. The adults around the table just gave each other these wide eyed “what’s happening” looks. Javan and Lilly were inseparable for the rest of the evening. The only thing he didn’t want any part of was playing with her realistic baby dolls that really pee. Understandable. He was so excited when his cousin Addison, five years old, came to our place to celebrate Christmas. He pulled out toys for her to play with, jumped on the trampoline with her (and Uncle CJ), and romped around the house with her being silly and having a blast. He even let her ride him like a horse! He can’t wait to see her again. He’s expressed several times to me over the past months that he really thinks he’s getting over his fear of babies!

And it’s not only “babies” that he’s socializing better with, but kids his own age too, and that’s always been the most challenging group for him. At park day last time we went, he ran around with the same two boys, aged nine and ten I think, for nearly an hour. They mostly just walked around and talked, I have no idea about what, but it was beautiful to see. The Age of Play Dates may finally have arrived for us.

Ok, what else is there? We’ve talked about mental, physical, social, emotional…ah yes, academics. He is doing amazing. About two months ago he started complaining that the Level 2 Math we were doing (second grade, but we don’t say it that way because levels is truer for us) was “baby math.” So I put him on Level 3 math (we use an online curriculum that makes switching grade levels a breeze), and not only has he excelled at it, he actually enjoys it more! He’s on Level 1 Language Arts, but after last night, I’m ready to bump him to Level 2 and see what happens. What happened last night, you ask?

Last night, my son read for enjoyment for the first time. As an avid lifelong book lover, I’ve striven yo give my son a love of books. And he has always loved being read to, but getting him to read himself has been a Huge Struggle™. Javan and his Dad went to Half Price Books the other night and came home with Star Wars books galore, some of which were leveled readers. So yesterday afternoon, I told Javan one of his school jobs was to read one to me. He not only didn’t complain, but he actually far surpassed my expectations on how well he did reading it. I only had to help with a few words. Then, get this y’all, then last night while watching the Olympics, Javan asks if he can show Dad his new skills. I’m like, um yeah OK, expecting some sort of forthcoming light saber demonstration, when he pulls out the reader, sits in Dad’s lap, and reads him the whole book again. He wanted to show Dad his reading skills. Then he gets his stack of older easier readers, sits in my lap and reads me THREE in a row! Because he wanted to! Yasssss!!!! Here are the books he read, because I want to remember this forever:

And yes, that is a Christmas blanket I’m covering my legs with, because it’s so stinking soft I think I’ll keep it out year round. (Thanks Micah!)

School usually goes without a fight these days, though Javan does have a special way of adding some extra spice every now and then (OK, often). The time I asked him to write the date, for example:

Translation: Thursday January the 11th, 2018. Thank you for writing this even though I ordered you to do it. By, Javan.

I didn’t complain about the extra writing practice.

All in all, I just wanted you guys to know how great he’s doing. It’s gonna be OK. We’re gonna be OK. This year has been wonderful, and 11 is my new favorite number.

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