summer dilemma

“I am going to work on this house! Clean! Organize! rearrange!”

versus

“I need to get this kid out of the house and doing summer stuff which will tire us both out to the max so we can couch-binge Netflix during the evening until bedtime”

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Food: pear tartsorta

Lots of times, I get a weird hankering in the wee hours of the night to make something like a treat. I confess I have a sweet-tooth but my problem is that my sweet-tooth is rather picky about how it is sated. So I often end up experimenting during those weird hankering nights. Because I’m not just jonesing for a treat, I’m usually jonesin to create.

Some people say I’m a creative person but let’s be real: my creativity isn’t all that and a bag of chips. It’s more like a plate of french fries: I make good things that are satisfying but nowhere near impressive. Good, fulfilling but not terribly otre, yaknowaddahmean?

So tonight, I remembered that I had some leftover cooky dough in the fridge and I ought to do something with it. Make cookies? Oh please, how dull. I dont’ mean dull as in my cookies are dull because they most definitely are not dull, but dull as in something to bake. Finishing off some cooky dough by making cookies is more like a *job*.

So me being me, and not being somebody else, like say, Anthony Bourdain, I usually take a “dull” idea for sweet treats and dress it up… with fruit.

I think its too bad America has lost it’s love of fruit. Damned shame.

Anyway, I took my leftover cooky dough, one of my favorites that I like to call “the vanilla action cookie” and decided to marry it with…. spiced pears.

All I did was roll the dough out, cut it into vaguely triangular shapes and roll it around some sliced bartlett pears that had been tossed with brown sugar and nutmeg and cinnamon. That was pretty much it. I didn’t go all crazy with the shapes or rolling or whatever fancy shit you do when you’re cooking for an audience that has paid you to make the stuff, I essentially stuffed my vanilla action cookies with spiced pear slices and tossed them in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes.

 

The results were astoundingly good. Better than Donald Trump’s hyperbole, in fact.

If it wasn’t 3:30 am I’d put the whole recipe down here. Along with a picture of those delectable pockets of warm yumminess. But I’m tired so I won’t.

I’ll probably get around to it tomorrow. Assuming all the pear pockets aren’t gone by then.

 

the differences are inside but important nonetheless

One thing I’ve been noticing more and more as I’ve gotten older is the divide between people who raise children and people who don’t. (This is absolutely no judgement or commentary on the value or worth of either group or their choices)

People not raising children seem to have this odd (to me) glamor attached to them and how they live. Many of them spend their free time doing fun things or romantic things or admirable things like vacations, road trips, going on dates, engaging in hobbies and charity work. It’s nice and fun to read about but its mostly a foreign thing for those of us raising children not because we can’t or don’t do those things but because we can’t or don’t structure our lives around those things. Our priorities are obviously different, as they should be. But what I’ve noticed more and more is a sort of shiny happiness that comes from the confidence of being kid-free. People who raise children are constantly questioning themselves, those around them and their purpose. People who raise children spend an enormous amount of energy just trying to believe they are “doing the right thing” which kid-free folks don’t have to spend even a nano-second worrying about. Not to say kid-free folks don’t have anxieties and worries and self-doubt, of course they do that’s the human condition, but people who raise children often mire themselves in the self-doubt of epic cultural proportions.

If you are kid-free and you feel unconfident, you worry about yourself, your image, your social standing -whatever metric you use to gauge your internal worth. You don’t spend any (or much, I guess) time worrying about any of those issues on behalf of another person. You do not wonder if people are judging you based on how you spoke to your best friend the other day. How your co-worker is dressed does not make you particularly embarrassed as a reflection upon your work ethic. Nothing that others do (with some exception for SigOths) really makes you lose sleep worrying about how YOU will be judged. Your self-doubt and recrimination revolves solely around your own actions and your own decisions on behalf of… you. Because of this, it seems as if kid-free folks spend far less time grinding away at the most mundane tasks of life with as much grim determination as people who raise children. We can both decide not ot clean our bathroom floor and it might bother you for a moment or two here or there, but you made your decision to do other things besides clean your bathroom floor and you go about your life. If I choose not to clean my bathroom floor it generally isn’t a matter of opting for something more fulfilling or interesting – it usually is a dire choice I make fully aware that I end up looking bad and will be judged by someone somewhere for being bad at a host of other aspects of my life: my parenting, my housekeeping and my dedication to being an adult in general. If a kid-free person forgets to pay the electric bill, that’s considered pretty flakey and roommates may be pretty ticked about it becuase its a huge inconvenience. If I forget to pay the electric bill, I could be investigated for being neglectful of my children’s needs.

This difference in emphasis puts the perspective of each class towards a very different schema in life. If I want to go to a party, or do some purely “grown-up fun” kind of thing, there’s planning, scheduling, and many avenues for guilt, anxiety and worry- not over the planning of the thing itself but of whether one is WORTHY of doing such a thing. Kid-free people rarely have to decide if going to do something fun is “okay” they generally have to decide if they can afford it with their time and money and maybe energy. Social standing, personal esteem do not really enter the picture.

For this reason, kid-free folks who embark on some minor event of frivolity often have a glow of absolute unfettered freedom that comes with recreational enjoyment being “the norm” rather than an unsual event one has earned the right to do. Because there is little to no social or cultural price to pay, kid-free folk seem to be enjoying life far more and more often than people raising children. This is not a bad thing, but it does create a divide between the two groups. Watching documentation of my kid-free friends traipsing off to yet another fun grown-up gathering full of adventure and self-actualization means I feel a gulf between us as basic citizens. They smile for the camera in a way I don’t think I’m even capable of without heavy planning and inebriants. The look of total immersion in their enjoyment is a look I doubt I will have for a very long time. And as a person who raises children, I do not bemoan that fact – I do raise children and thus everything I do in life, at least right now, has an impact on other people who are less capable of dealing with the ramifications of my decisions. Pictures of myself enjoying life sans kids are always more guarded, more careful and yet more desperate than pictures of kid-free folks.

snapshot

Lil Miss and I are at the grocery store. This is always a dicey thing because she has a tendancy to get a little demanding at the grocery store. We always talk about behavior before we go in. Sometimes she tells me what she wants (I get her one thing of her own every trip, just like my mom did for me) and sometimes she’s not sure. Other times, she wants many things and we have to whittle it down. Good exercise in patience, negotiation and priorities. She learns from it to, I’d bet.

So we’re at the grocery store and I can tell this trip could go either way; she’s a bit amped up and unsure as to what she wants, changing her mind every couple of seconds prompting me to remind her she only gets ONE thing. Most often, its a toy. Okay, yeah I’m a softie and sometimes I end up getting her a thing AND a treat. It depends on how smooth the trip goes.

She’s pretty excited, and I’m trying to keep her focused. First she wants fruit. Not a treat, so of course I buy fruit. I usually put my foot down about buying more than two kinds depending on what kind she wants. She has a tendency to like the expensive stuff.

So then we’re walking along, chattering about this and that, when she asks if we can get some ice cream. “Sure!” says I. So far as I’m concerned, ice cream is one of the four food groups: protein/dairy, grains, fruits/veggies, and yummy. Its also a good time to help her with patience and anticipation: the ice cream aisle is at the end of the labyrinth and during our walk she invariably wants something else. One reminder “do you want that thing, or ice cream?” and she usually puts it back. So getting ice cream is actually a developmentally enriching exercise you see.

We get to the ice cream aisle and pick out our flavors. She generally only likes vanilla which is good because I only like to buy brands that use sugar rather than HFCS. I don’t give a shit whether or not HFCS is the devil or not, I just hate how addictive it is. And it makes ice cream seem gummy to me. I don’t like it. I want my daughter to have good taste is all. So she gets her vanilla (Turkey Hill natural brand) and I get my coffee flavor (same brand) and we start on our way. I always try to move quickly after getting the ice cream because at the end of the aisle no matter what store you are in, there are the toppings, cones and whatnot which pretty much ruin any chance I have at acting like ice cream isn’t a peripherally dairy-enhanced sugar-bomb. Lil Miss is now six years old and I have been successful all her life at not letting her know those things even exist on that aisle. Don’t get me wrong, she knows about toppings, sprinkles, cones and syrups, she just didn’t know they could be got at the store.

Well guess what she discovered that day? M’yep.

“Oohhh!” she said while I was looking carefully at the wahp biscuits and wondering if I should get them or stop being lazy and make my own. By the tone of her voice and how it trailed away from me as she said it, I knew what had happened. I looked up and saw her slowly moving towards that shelf at the end of the frozen treats freezers. Her arms outstretched, eyes huge and dark like some character from an anime, she was clearly enraptured as she moved, almost zombie-like, to the flame of the sundae-makings. I winced.

“maaaahhhm… loooooook!” she said dreamily with her hands carresssing a box of cones. The kind which every kid looks longingly at until they finally get to taste one. I believe the brand name is “tastee-cone” and once you bite into it you realize your ice cream would have been better served atop a styrofoam cup. I doubt there is any disappointment for an ice-cream-lover quite like biting into their first tastee-cone.

There was no way in hell I was buying those deceptive cones.

“uh, Lil Miss, I’m not getting any of that stuff”

“but mom!”

“no. We don’t need any of that stuff.”

“oh. Okay.” She slumped, and turned to come back to the cart. But before she did, something caught her eye, a little higher up the shelves.

“MOM!” she yelled

“What?” I said, inching my way out of the aisle, hoping her easy defeat was all I’d have to deal with but I might as well have been hoping the wind wouldn’t blow in January.

“Look! What is this?” she tilted her head, leaned forward and started reading aloud.

“Ice Cream M-m?”

“Sound it out” I said on autopilot and moved closer to find out what fascinating thing I was about to be begged for.

“Ice Cream Mm-aa-gick! Ice Cream magic!” she said triumphantly. “oooo! Mom I WANT THIS! I WANT ICE CREAM MAGIC!”

I walked up, looked at the box of “ice cream magic”. ON the box were two kids clearly in ice cream ecstasy. The object in question appeared to be a plastic ice cream cone. What the hell? I plucked it off the shelf, turned it sideways and read.

“oh, this is an ice cream maker”

“I KNOW! I KNOW! YOU PUT THE ICE CREAM STUFF IN IT AND SHAKE IT TO MAKE ICE CREAM! CAN WE GET IT! CANWEGETITPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE!!!PLEEEEEEEEZ!?”

She was actually jumping up and down.

The price was $20. Jayzuz tap-dancing cripes. It was clearly cheap China-made crap worthy of a late night commerical by Ronco. It made aproximately two scoops of ice cream. You had to shake it. I could just see this. We’d put the stuff in, shake the shit out of it until our arms were sore and then open it,  and find a goopy mass of whatever. Meanwhile Lil Miss would have gotten bored (and who would blame her?) and expect me to finish it up. There was also the distinct possibility it would leak or be broken when we took it home. Or she’d get a little too exuberant and drop it on the floor. Or the wall. OMG the mess that would make. At the very least, we could get the SAME effect by using objects around the house we already own. Lastly, we HAVE an electric ice cream maker. So this thing? Pointless, apt to be disappointing (more so than the tastee-cones) and possibly a huge mess.

No. Way.

I’d buy a real crank-style ice cream maker before I’d buy this cheap plastic junk.

So you can imagine the drama that ensued when I said no. The tears, the protests, the arguing, the yelling. All in all, not as bad as I thought since there was no planking on the floor and no attempts to get me in a headlock. Either she was tired or just feeling more mature.

That was four days ago. Since that time she’s been to a birthday party where she got pinata candy, stitched together a Hello Kitty doll of her own, and had at least one bowl of ice cream per day.

Today, I got a text from J:

“what’s ice cream magic?”

ROTFL

Peeking into another world

I belong to several parent communities, on Facebook as well as LJ and they are all for parents of children with special needs. Some focus on developmental delays, others on mental issues and all of them welcome ANY parents of ANY child to join. The communities primarily exist for the parents to exchange information, give advice and vent or cry to other parents who understand the difference in parenting a child with special needs.

I joined those communities long before Lil Miss was born because I have TWO sons who are on the Autism spectrum. I have been parenting them for a long time now and most of what I have learned and accomplished was on my own, without the internet. I think it is AWESOME to have the internet available now for parents of special needs kids. Parenting a child with special needs can be scary and lonely and painful too.

I remember how scared and alone I felt in my early days. I *was* alone. I didn’t have any groups, real life or online, to go to with my questions or fears. I only had a few knowledgeable professionals I’d see on occasion who could answer my medical and developmental questions. But they couldn’t help me know how to navigate being a parent. When I was raising my boys? There was almost no one to ask for help.

These communities are what I needed back then, what I could have really used when times were dark and I wasn’t sure whether I was doing anything right. Because these communities are created for exactly those times. Members go and ask questions, post doubts, and check for clarifications. I had no place like that to go when I wanted to ask for help. So that’s why I’m in these communities. Because whenever I see a parent crying or asking for help, I want to give them what I needed back then. Whether its real life advice, technical questions (to help clarify confusing situations) or just commiseration, I never hesitate to join in when someone seems like they need help. Or commiseration. There’s a lot of commiseration. A LOT.

Let me explain something about commiseration. When you are the parent of a special needs child, one recurring issue you wrestle with is whether you’re “allowed” to be frustrated or afraid or angry about anything having to do with your child. Parents in general get a lot of guilt trips heaped on them by society but parents of special needs children get an extra helping. People are always telling us cute little homilies that are supposed to inspire us or something, I was never sure but usually all the do is bring us down. Because those cute little homilies (much like the advice we get on a CONSTANT basis) usually make it clear the person giving them has absolutely no clue as to what we are going through. Its much like if you wanted to give a “get well soon!” card to a person dying of cancer. You think that’s sweet but to them, it underscores that you really do not understand the dire reality of their situation. So we tend to be quiet about our struggles and shrug them off in mixed company. If we aren’t getting pithy little saying to lift our spirits (we’ve heard them ALL) then we’re being told that we’re doing everything all wrong, that our children are just horrible little brats who need a good spanking. Or that we’re too harsh on our darling children who only act up because they need attention. Or we’re just trying to avoid being REAL parents (whatever that means) because there’s no such thing as (whatever diagnosis you let them know your child has). We have probably heard every blame-shift saying imaginable. So we tend to shy away from other non-parents and grow thicker skin. But that’s hard when you are lonely. Parents are like anyone else; they need companionship. They need socializing too. But for many of us, socializing is a difficult chimera. Some parents of special needs children can actually leave their child in carefully constructed circumstances but some cannot even do that. For some parents, online is the ONLY socializing they get for long stretches of time. These communities serve us in so many ways. They are precious.

In all my years of being online, I’ve been in many communities for different reasons but I have ended up staying only in the special needs parenting communities. Because in no other community have I ever known a group of people more loving, supportive and understanding than parents of special needs children.  I have made lifelong friends and had some really amazing times with these people – people I have never met in real life and probably never will. Because we share some experiences that NO ONE can really understand without having been there – so we don’t judge. Ever.

We don’t ever tell someone they are doing something “wrong” or “bad” with their children. Never. We believe that “support” means lifting someone up. Even when we feel someone is making questionable choices, we discuss them lovingly, give advice gently and are always ready to step back and accept that we may be the ones who are wrong. Because when you parent a child with special needs, you find out very quickly that no one can possibly really know someone elses situation. So we are there for each other, even when someone is losing their mind, screaming, ranting, venting, crying maybe even shaking their fists in rage at the universe for their troubles.

We don’t care.

We hold them up anyway and wait for the end of the tears. Because we understand that sometimes its all you can do.

We recognize every parent as being fallible and human.

We know that because you are in this community, you care. You love your child, you want to do right by them and you are ready to be helped by others. You’re humble. You’re accepting. You’re loving.

Because if you can’t be those things, you can’t parent a child with special needs. Its part of the territory and we know it.

So if you see me make comments occasionally that seem callous or cold and clinical… if you see me tell someone its okay that they freaked out on their child… if you see me admit to losing my shit or raging against the universe too.. understand, this is who we are. Its how we manage to do what we do day after day, year after year and still keep hope alive. It’s not negativity, it’s honesty and acceptance. Acceptance of what we are dealing with and who we are.

We laugh whenever we can, bite our tongue when we have to and pick ourselves up off the floor more times than you can possibly imagine. Trust me, its not the same as parenting a “normal” child. It’s really not. It’s hard in many ways. It’s joyful in many ways. But it’s our unique journey and we navigate it best for us. If you see a glimpse of it, watch us for a few seconds, you might not understand what we are about.

Just trust us.