Friday, October 8, 2010

Sweet Baby Turns 16

Whew! Tons going on. But relax - I won't go into all of it.

Joel turned 16. Where to start? Of course, I can't believe it. It's no secret that Joel is the ray of sunshine in my day to day. When he was about two, a waitress asked him his name. He told her with a straight face that his name was Sweet Baby. And he so was.

He had a 4-day celebration. The night before the Actual Birthday, Jeff gave him Halo Reach (right out of the bag - no wrapping) because he had to go out of town the next day. Joel was thrilled, of course. Then on his Actual Birthday, he got by without doing chores and he was allowed to zombie himself out on Halo Reach, which he totally did. Then the NEXT day, Jeff came home and we went to Joel's favorite Indian restaurant.
Alyssa went with us. And she's wearing a t-shirt with Joel's favorite band in honor of his big day AND she gave him a complete collector's edition set of Guns-n-Roses guitar picks that she had to order from Britain. Happy boy.

Here are Joel and Alyssa listening to Jules, and apparently Jules thinks he's being funny.

Jules with his papa.

And on the NEXT day, Joel had a party. And Galen and Eve came, even though they are technically Ellie's friends, and they did Galen-ish things like look at the computer all evening. And I had never met Eve before and I was thrilled to meet Eve because she is truly adorable and polite and all of that was BEFORE she casually mentioned that her mom FREAKING WENT TO MUSIC SCHOOL with JOHN FRUSCIANTE (formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Eve's mom is a percussionist. Anyway - Jeff had been whistling If You See Me Gettin' High from the Mother's Milk album because he knows if he's going to be irritating me with whistling it should at least be made more tolerable by being something I like. So then Eve dropped the bomb about her mom and John...

and then Ellie was all like, "Oh my god, mom...don't start...." Like I would embarrass her. Please. Anyway, I digress....

There were lots of sweaty teenaged boys at the party....all different shapes and sizes. Here they are eating on the cake after porking down sushi and pizza.

Austen and Friends made Joel a valentine-thing....thought it was funny. Austen's dreadlocks are coming along nicely, don't you think? As nicely as possible for white boy baby fluff hair...which Austen totally has.

Joel blows out his candles in his new Slash t-shirt. Jeff is helping him.

Some of the boys came in from out of town and they spent the night. And they never actually went to sleep. So the next morning found us brewing coffee while I sang (quite beautifully, I might add), "There's Got To Be A Morning After...."

Austen is just a little worse for wear.

Jeff whipped up some banana pancakes and the boys hung out for what was Day 4 of the Massive Celebration.

So back to Joel. He showed up in this world smiling a big, goofy grin and he's been doing the big, goofy grin ever since. And believe me, when you sandwich a big, goofy grin in between Psychotic Firstborn and Neurotic Middle Child - well - you tend to appreciate it more. And before you judge me harshly, both Psychotic Firstborn and Neurotic Middle Child...and Hyper 4th and Quirky as Hell 5th...are all insanely loved. But they are what they are and none of them are easy. Joel is Easy. Excuse me for enjoying it.

Once, Ellie accused me of having a favorite in Joel. I asked her who her favorite was and she snorted and said, "Joel." I mean, seriously, even Ellie likes him.

Joel has a unique way of looking at the world. The Powers That Be have identified this way of being and seeing and hearing as various "disabilities." Just not seein' it over here. Okay - so it took him a hell of a long time to learn to read. But he learned. He learned to read so well that his comprehension got in the way of one of his labels, recently. He read so well, that his dyslexia label was changed to "compensated dyslexic." Even though he still spells "and" as "nad." Whatever. As long as he still gets extra time on the SAT, who cares? And thanks to Auditory Processing Disorder and Expressive Language Disorder (and honestly, there's another label that escapes me at the moment), he will. And that's the only reason he owns any labels. We couldn't care less about such things over here.

Joel has always had a beautiful way of speaking. When he was little and he saw an airplane, he would yell, "Look on top of me!" He was engaged in sound effects and hand motions and full-body pantomime about 90% of the time. We thought it was great. Massively entertaining. The teachers at the school? Not so much. But we won't get into that. His doctor loved him. "How are you feeling, Joel?" Joel would throw himself on the ground, put his fingers around his neck, make horrible scratching and hissing sounds, then gasp for air.

"Aha," the doctor would say. "Sore throat, stuffy nose, congested chest."

Joel still cracks us up daily with the things that come out of his mouth. Luckily, it cracks him up, too. When we explain, for example, the common meaning behind the word "arousal," he'll laugh and yell, "holy crap! that's not what i meant at ALL!" Ugh. Yes, he says crap, and quite appropriately. He uses lots of words interchangeably that are not really interchangeable and it is funny. We love the look on his face when we tell him what he's said. Usually, he can tell by the looks on our faces...."Uh, what did I just say?" with a HUGE grin on his face. Because he knows it's going to be hilarious.

Some of the things we've explained..."Dude, you just asked if you could eat the movie."

"Dude, you just indicated you were grateful with your intestines..."

And on and on...we all speak Joel-ese over here. When Joel said to Ellie, "So well," she immediately replied, "Fare long." It's like we're Vulcan.

Even though he often uses different or interesting (or wrong) words, you always know what he's saying. He recently described a tall white man as a long white-skinned fellow. No doubt what he meant, right?

Not only does he express himself differently, he seems to see things differently (and beautifully). When he was little he would often say, "Mom - doesn't the air taste happy today?" And just the other day he told me that autumn air looked different...and he liked it. He literally sees and feels things the rest of us don't. And most things make him extremely happy. Things the rest of us pass by without notice will give him a huge chuckle. And then you're laughing with him, even though you're not sure why.

He was recently telling me about an article he'd read in a magazine. It was apparently about a monastic order that trains and breeds dogs. And Joel was freaking delighted by this particular situation. "Mom, so you have these monk dudes, and they're living with other monk dudes, you know, gardening and cooking and all that but they're not making wine or cheese like other monk dudes. They're training DOGS." Now he's laughing hysterically. So hard, in fact, that he can hardly talk. "I mean, you've got these guys who look like the chubby guy on The Hangover, right?" Laugh, laugh, laugh. "And they're wearing robes and looking all happy like monks and stuff..." laugh, laugh, laugh. "And they're just rolling around everywhere being all affectionate with these dogs!" Hysterical. Then he goes into a monologue thing with monks talking to dogs about all kinds of dog misbehaviors. And he follows it up with that television Cymbalta voice that says, "thoughts of suicide may occur" only he says, "performing this on puppies may result in death." After he picks himself up off the floor where he's been in a heap due to the over-self-entertainment, he says, "You know, I saw that and I was like, Man, this is too good to be true." I'm sure other people read the same article and did not have the same reaction. But Joel? Saw an immediate sitcom.

Joel, unfortunately, is the primary educator of the children who came after him. Jasper is his prime pupil. I've resorted to trying to convince Jasper that Joel is a liar. Yes, I actually use the word liar. You can't mince words in situations like this. You've simply got to call it like it is. But Jasper just looks at me like, "Yeah, he said you'd say that." Joel is his Source of All That Is. And this is an alarming situation.

Whenever I hear Joel using his professor voice to say, "Well, Jasper, it's like this..." I try to interfere by throwing myself physically in between them or distracting Jasper with sugar...but it rarely works. Jasper is a faithful and loyal disciple. Which is why he's convinced babies are born by being expelled through the mother's left nostril during a particularly violent sneeze. "They come out completely covered in snot. If you don't believe me, I can show you pictures where you're all covered in snot." Jasper just nods and eats his toast. Joel also explained what the umbilical cord is for. It nourishes the baby through the mother's BRAIN. Each baby consumes approximately 13% of the mother's brain. "That's what's wrong with Mom. She fed five of us." Jasper just nods understandably and sips his milk.

So. Sixteen years. My Sweet Baby is a head taller than me. He still passes out hugs without reserve. He makes me happy. But the best thing about Joel? Is that HE is happy. He really is. How many people can say that? And that is why no matter what blah blah blah disability or blah blah blah disorder business is tacked to him here and there...I don't worry about Joel. I have no doubt that he'll make his way in this world, with people clamoring to help him. The boy is simply contagious in a good way. It would be a better world if more people caught a little bit of whatever it is that he has.

Signing Off as Sweet Sardine Baby's Mama


  1. What an amazingly wonderful guy he is!

    And you said it all so well.

    But you HAVE to see the screen shot of this. HAVE to.

    Am emailing you. If I have your email address....

  2. OK I tried to email you but I guess I don't have your address?

  3. Finally . . .
    I was going through sardine withdrawal.

    Happy birthday to Joel, and to you too!

  4. Oh. And my 10/10 post contains an award for you. No pressure.

  5. Jeez, I read this the other day and thought that I would come back after I thought of something witty to say. Then I forgot. You know it's easy for me to do that with my jet-set life of wondering the house picking up dirty clothes.
    Anyway, I hope that Joel had the best birthday ever and that they get better and better from here on out.
    Your Friend m. who will try next time to comment the first time I read a post. This is now the 2nd time that I had to re-read one of your posts. See how I adore you.

  6. Just popping in from Ami's blog. I like what I read and will be back!

    Your kids are awesome! Happy birthday to Joel! He sounds like an amazing young man.

  7. What a great kid! Actually, he's almost a man now, isn't he?

    There are people like Joel in the world that for some reason just make the world a better place.

  8. Love it!!

    I mean, really, who doesn't love Joel?

    Austen had a great time, by the way.