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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Staples

No, not the office supply store or the mega event center in downtown LA.  I’m talking about the staples you keep in your cupboard.

I got to thinking about this yesterday as I was making Sunday night dinner (slow cooker lasagna=yum!).  I literally ran out of olive oil!  Who ever runs out of olive oil?  I usually have one bottle in use and a back up bottle just in case I can’t get to the store before the first one runs out.  I like to plan ahead.  (I also have two dozen rolls of toilet paper in the garage that I discovered last week after purchasing an additional two dozen because apparently I was concerned we might run out before 2013.)  So when I ran out of olive oil yesterday I was somewhat shocked.

How could I have let this happen?  And we were out of milk too??  Worst homemaker of the year award, right here!

Ok, I exaggerate.  But I did feel a little perplexed that I hadn’t foreseen the shortages in my own home.

In fact I’ve been running through a lot of my kitchen staples recently.  I’m sure it’s all tied to the fact that I’m cooking more than ever in an effort to both more health conscious and budget wise.  I’ve run out of things I never even think of like white rice and salsa.

As I was throwing together a quick casserole for the boyfriend to use as lunches this week, I started thinking about the staples I always have on hand.  Some of them make sense (like flour) and others seem a little random (like canned pumpkin).  So aside from the basics (like flour, oil, spices, etc.), here are just a few of the things I always have on hand:

 

crushed pineapple (in case I need to whip up my carrot cake, this is one of the “secret” ingredients)

frozen corn (I don’t know when I got into this habit, but I always find myself buying frozen corn)

frozen meatballs (you know, just in case some guests stop by and I need to serve an appetizer in under 20 mins)

cannelloni or black beans (I guess because they make a good back up protein to meat, not that this is ever a problem, but just in case)

canned pumpkin (because pumpkin everything is good)

masala sauce (curry is a super easy slow cooker meal that requires little to no thought)

several tubes of biscuits (Connor’s favorite meal is a biscuit with honey. I know, that sounds incredibly nutritious.)

string cheese (I like string cheese but I always forget about it until it’s gone bad and then I’m like “OH NO! We’re out of string cheese! I’ve got to go get more!” then rinse and repeat.)

 

Maybe these aren’t that bizarre, but they seem slightly odd to me and I’m the one buying them!  And when I’m out of any of these things, I panic slightly as if my cupboard was completely bare, which of course it is not.  But for whatever reason, these items make me feel like my kitchen is complete.  Because you never know when you might have to serve carrot cake and curry on the same day.

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The Art of The Inappropriate Response

We all get upset sometimes. Nobody gets their way all the times, so it’s a natural part of life that we feel frustration or disappointment.

We adults primarily display those emotions with a grumble, perhaps a tear, maybe even by being snarky and rude to our boyfriends (so I’ve heard). But as for the true art of the inappropriate response we could learn a thing or two from preschoolers, like my Connor.

When told he couldn’t watch a video on You Tube of some kid pulling his tooth out with a string tied to a door, Connor was, of course, upset. Sure I expected tears, some angry yelling. But Connor really outdid himself today by taking it a step further and trying to use his iPad to smash a lamp, repeatedly. Throw iPad at lamp shade. Pick up iPad, repeat. Truly a stoke of artistic genius!

Or, take for example, when Connor asked me to lay on the floor so we could play flying after he tried to allegedly destroy said lamp. When I declined Connor bared his nails at me, attempting to fish hook my mouth. Wow! His future in expressive art grows brighter every day!

Though it may be blasphemous to say it, I look forward to the day when he begins to moderate his artistic temperament. I really really do.

Acceptance

I don’t often write about anything current, or anything happening out in the world.  Too much of my energy is consumed by everything happening within my own little universe.  But every once in a while something happens in the rest of the universe that makes me pause.

I’m sure like millions of other Americans I was shocked and saddened by the events in Colorado last week.  I was baffled by such violence.  My thoughts immediately turned into prayers.  And like so many others I wanted to know why, why had this happened?  I wanted a reason why someone could be driven to do such a despicable thing.  I wanted something that would explain why a dozen people had died.

Surely there was a failure somewhere.  There was some trigger.  There was a series of events that could have been prevented had someone only known.  There had to be!

But as days passed and no motive became clear I began to question why I even needed one.  What would it change?  The dead would not rise.  The wounded would not be healed by those words.  The shock, terror, grief felt by the hundreds (if not thousands) of lives touched by this event would not be erased by knowing why.

Even if we ever learn why this young man decided to enact this calculated plan to murder and terrorize it may never give us the closure we could hope for.  There is never going to be a reason good enough.

There is only madness.

Don’t misunderstand, I have no proof of mental illness.  I have no inside knowledge that this man is insane.  But, to me, mental illness in this case wouldn’t matter either.  His acts were so heinous as to over-ride even the terribly sad existence of those who suffer within their own minds.

No, these acts of violence speak of a madness that is all too common.  It can be seen in the gang members who kill pedestrians in a drive by shooting.  It can be seen in the ex-soldier who murders his family.  It’s found in home-grown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and foreign terrorists like Mohamed Atta.  It lives in the hearts of genocidal dictators and child abusers.

This madness that perpetrates violence knows no distinction between race, religion, age, political belief.

People will always arrive at conclusions and uncover motives that hope to explain away why such horrendous acts are committed.  But words can no more explain the death of millions of Cambodians under Pol Pot than they can provide reason for the murder of a handful by the Manson family.

Such acts of violence, such atrocities are beyond reason.  They are beyond understanding.

All we have left is acceptance.  We can choose to be tortured by the search of reasons that would explain away such horror.  Or we can choose to accept that bad things happen.  It’s a sad fact.  It’s a fact that’s been true throughout human existence.  There will always be people who are cruel, violent and infected with this madness that urges them to destroy lives.

Though that’s a terribly depressing thought, it has somehow given me peace.  Knowing why will not make the dead live again.  It won’t make evil become good.  It won’t help horror be undone.  Acceptance that this happened and nothing anyone can say will make it any different has made terror a little easier to bear.

I’m sure people will disagree with me.  I’m sure there are those that believe evil can be eradicated.  I truly hope they are right.  There will be times when reasons can be uncovered and possibly guarded against in the future.  There will be times when evil exists only for its own sake.  So I will accept that for every evil deed that is done dozens of good deeds are perpetrated.  I will continue to try to be an agent of kindness.  I will teach Connor to be kind.  As a family we will be kind to people and animals.  We will donate to charities.  We will speak to strangers, we will help people up who have fallen, we will protect the weak and innocent when we can.  We will do everything we can to make our corner of the universe filled with love and compassion.

When evil does happen, we will shake our heads at the re-emergence of this madness, and pray for the souls of the victims and the perpetrator.  And we will accept that evil is a part of the world and move on.  We will honor the living and banish evil doers to the corners of our memory.   We will not dwell on this madness but move forward, out of its grip.  We will accept life.

Total Cluster…What?

Connor was home sick for the last two days, meaning my life came to a screeching halt.  Not that he was a little monster, or even in a bad mood, quite the opposite.  Connor was ecstatic to be home from school!  He was so happy to spend time with me and the dogs, just hanging out at home.  We played outside, we watched movies, we played video games, we went for a walk.  It was a very nice few days.

The only downside was that Connor wouldn’t let me out of arms reach.  So that meant I had absolutely no free time, free will, or freedom of choice.  If I started to use the computer for my own interest, Connor demanded we watch Baby Einstein.  If I turned on a program other than Sesame Street, Connor demanded Too Cute (a show about kittens and puppies).  If I started to sing while I cleaned up, Connor demanded NO SINGING!!  If I happened to use my own phone for my own personal use, Connor asked “phone pease? phone pease?” demanding the phone, after which a chase ensued if I wanted to actually get one last text off before handing it over.

So aside from being at my child’s mercy, it was relatively relaxing.

However, sending him off to school today and trying to pick up all the balls I’d let drop, I expected it to be a total clustercuss.  I had horrible calls to make!   I needed to arrange a makeup therapy session with Connor’s therapist, which usually proved exhausting given our collective busy schedules.  I needed to speak to my insurance, given that the laws in California have changed regarding autism coverage.  I expected this to be a long, drawn out, horrible battle.  I have seldom been so pleasantly surprised!  Not only was it not a battle, it was extremely easy!  My insurance company did the intelligent thing and set up teams of representatives that deal specifically with autism coverage and laws as they apply in each state.  I was flabbergasted!  You mean you have people you have organized and trained to specifically help me?!?!  WHAAAAAAAAT?

Things went on from there to get all the answers I needed from every call and email I had to return.  It’s as if the universe is conspiring to make my day go well.  I am unsure of how to feel in this situation.  All I feel is a constant sense of surprise and skepticism.  When will something go wrong…..

With that thought I’m going to stop calling people and tackle my to do list.  Surely something will go terribly wrong as I try to complete this Herculean list.  It’s inevitable….or maybe it isn’t.  Suddenly there’s a new feeling emerging to take the place of skepticism.  It’s hope.

Summertime

Summer summer summertime….

I love that song.  It reminds me of being at least a decade younger than I am now, enjoying the simplicity of summer.  My main concerns in the summer were as follows:

getting tan

hanging out with my friends

having enough money to hang out with my friends

balancing the earning of said money with hanging out with my friends and getting tan

It was a tough life.

Things have changed a bit in the last ten years.  Or more specifically, things have changed a lot in the last 3 years.

These days summer isn’t the time of relaxing at the beach and sleeping in late that it once was.  No, instead Connor and I are up every morning at 7ish, which is earlier than when we get up during the school year.  Connor has summer school, swim class, behavior therapy, speech therapy, and gymnastics.  We are BUSY!

The shortened school day also means that I have just enough time each morning to eat, do some cleaning, exercise, and shower before going to get Connor from school at noon.  My blog writing has suffered, and my novel-writing is essentially non-existent.  Unlike Stephanie Meyers who famously thought out Twilight while watching her kids in swim class and then wrote after they’ve gone to bed, I am utterly exhausted after bedtime.  I can barely keep a straight thought in my head, no way can I write a chapter.

I could sacrifice exercise for fiction, but I’ve really been making an effort to get to classes regularly so they become a habit.  It’s not fun, but more on that tomorrow.

Oh well.  Fiction will just have to wait until the fall.  Until then I’ll be driving Connor all over place, slowly sucking the relaxed vibe out of the summer.  It’s a good thing he doesn’t know what he’s missing.  It’s too bad that I do!

Turning a Corner

Connor seems to have turned a corner in his life.  Or perhaps we’ve turned a corner in OUR lives.

After constantly battling my son over nearly everything since he was old enough to move on his own, I find myself with a mostly compliant child.  I ask him to clean up his messes and he does.  I ask him to sit in his seat, and he does.  I ask him to stay inside and he does!  Sometimes he even does things without me asking, like cleaning up spills, or getting in bed.  And honestly it freaks me out!

Where has my angry, defiant child gone?

Connor happily leaves me to accompany the various adults that rule his life: teachers, coaches, therapists, instructors.  He suddenly loves them all!

Obviously Connor is still a 3-year-old pain in the butt, sometimes.  He still wants his own way, on his own terms, in his own time.  He still wants to sleep in.  He still torments the dogs by pulling their tails.  He refuses fruits in favor of bread.  He loves Cars 2 to the point of obsession.  And though I’ve never been the parent to an average child, I feel like this is pretty average behavior for a precocious preschooler.  (Yes?  No?)

Sure Connor still tantrums in public.  Sure he threw my tomato plant into the hydrangea just yesterday.  And yes, sure he’s resisting potty training with all his might.  But if taken in the context of an average childhood, instead of an autistic childhood, I feel like I could safely label my son as a stinker, rather than worrying about whether each incident indicated some underlying behavioral issue.

We are absolutely a long way from mainstreaming.  We have miles to go on the communication issues, eye contact, and peer interaction. We have setbacks.  We have days of bad behavior.  We have regression when Connor is sick or extremely tired.  We have power struggles and I still want to pull my hair out nearly every day (but what mother of a preschooler doesn’t?).  We still have challenges ahead.

But it makes my heart glad to see the progress we’ve made.  And I can confidently say that for the first time in his short life, I have a happy child.

Schedule smedule

We all have a routine.  We get up, we eat breakfast, we get dressed, we leave the house.  Or maybe in your family breakfast is the last thing you do before heading out for the day.  Or maybe you don’t eat breakfast at all!!  Whatever your routine, you wake up expecting the day to go a certain way.

Connor’s autism manifests itself most often in his own expectations.  It’s clear that Connor has a very precise view of how the day is going to go.  He knows what he wants and when he wants it.  Connor is determined and “passionate” about getting his expectations of the world to line up with what is actually happening.

For example:

A few weeks ago, we woke up early one morning to prepare for school.  Or at least I thought we were preparing for school.  Connor went to the choice board and asked for goldfish.  Fine.  Goldfish crackers for breakfast can’t really be any better or worse than fruit loops.  I handed him his bowl of goldfish and his juice, EXPECTING him to sit in his seat at the table and have his “breakfast”.  Connor had different expectations.  He looked up at me and asked “Lion of Sodor?”  Which sounded a little like “wion of sodo?”  But I knew what he meant.  Connor was referring to a Thomas the Train video that he particularly likes.    I felt somewhat shocked.  What?  Lion of Sodor at 7:45 on a Wednesday morning?  Connor clearly expected to take his crackers and juice into the family room and watch his favorite Thomas movie.

And when I said no, we had to go to school, it was as if I had crushed his tiny dreams!  He immediately fell apart!  Crying!  Screaming!  Gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair!  If he’d beaten his chest and torn his shirt, it would have been a complete Greek tragedy.  Why, oh why was I the worst mommy in the world?  Why wouldn’t I let him skip school for Thomas movies?  Why did he have to sit at a table and eat?  What was wrong with me?!?  Obviously this was all implied and not actually stated, but I got the message loud and clear.

All because his expectations of the morning didn’t match up with reality.

If this had been a year ago the tantrum would have continued for an hour, at least.  But now that he is a mature 3-year-old, with nearly a year of ABA training under his belt, the tantrum ceased after a mere five minutes.  Oh happy day!

Yet, as an adult, I know people (as in other adults) who do not adapt as quickly when their expectations or routine is suddenly thrown off.  And to be quite honest, I’ve been known to pout if someone messes with my routine.

Take this morning, for example .  I typically take the dogs for a walk directly after breakfast.  The exercise and fresh air give me a chance to clear my head for the day.  They also provide me with a meditative space to think of my blog topic for the day, which I write immediately after we get home.  Today I was going to write all about my new adventures in menu planning (exciting right?), but I was completely thrown off by an incident on my walk.

My dogs like to stop frequently to sniff the vegetation and Dodger, in particular, likes to mark his way along the path.  This morning, tragedy struck.  At the precise moment Penny bent down to sniff a plant, Dodger raised his leg to mark the same exact plant. The result: Penny got a face full of pee.

All thoughts of anything other than that my one dog had just peed on the face of my other dog flew from my head!  “These two were getting a bath the second we get home” was all I could think.

No blog topic.  No sitting down to write with ideas fresh in my head.  No leisurely shower alone.

Instead my thoughts were almost like a mantra “pee on head. pee on head.  pee on head.”  My shower is completely filthy, since I wash my dogs inside as they’re both terrified of water and Dodger requires a special allergy shampoo.  This means that every time they get out of a shower, my bed room is covered in flying dog water as they shake themselves dry.  This means my room, my bed, my clothes, smell like wet dog for the next 12 hours.

And I still needed to write my blog!

POUT!!!

Ok, maybe I’m not really pouting, but the dogs seriously threw me off my schedule and it took me at least a few minutes to collect myself and get back on track.   So…congratulations Connor, you’ve reached the same level of acceptance as your mother.  Well done.