Wednesday, November 24, 2010


So, it's that time of year when we take a moment to think about what it is for which we are grateful. Besides being grateful for understanding the rule of dangling participles (see previous sentence--and if you still don't get it, take a grammar refresher), and the fact that Kahlua and coffee is a damn fine combination, there are a few more things on that list. I'm not really the kid of person to say this crap--so better to write it here and then hide away with my blushes:

I am grateful for:

1) Motherhood. As much as I may bitch and moan and wish every morning for those pre-baby days of sleeping in and having responsibility to NO ONE, it has changed me for the better. While I may miss the carefree days of being able to pop out and do what ever activity struck me 2 minutes ago, it has mellowed me a little. It is the ultimate "hey! Think about someone else!" lesson you can get, and I do what I can to not only keep my son alive day-to-day, but to take that energy and give it to others as well. You might say it’s the ultimate pair of big girl panties you can get, and they are strapped on with duct tape and love.

2) Marriage. Again-as much as I piss and moan… well, that's not true. I'm of the opinion that bitching and moaning about one's marriage partner is overrated. Is my husband perfect? Hardly. But neither am I. The beauty of marriage is that you HAVE to deal with those imperfections, and that you know the other person is dealing with yours. I always know that, no matter what, my husband has my back, and that I can bring anything to him, positive or negative, and he will listen. Like when I tell him later today that there is no Peach Schnapps in this house. He will listen carefully before checking the bar and then writing it on the grocery list. But seriously, he's the only one whose been brave enough to deal with my baggage, and there's no one else with whom I'd rather grow wrinkly.

3) Family. This word perhaps has different meaning for me than for others. I don't just mean blood--because I think family is something bigger and greater than DNA. It’s the unconditionality that some people give you, no matter what. It's knowing that you are always home when you are with people that love you. It is taking the time to lift people up when they need it, and accepting them for just who they are. That's how I'm raising my son to look at it anyway. And while he obviously loves his Savta and Grandma, he also unconditionally loves all his "aunties" and "uncles"--and yes--that includes my favorite checker at Ralphs. Love is love, without strings, without judgment.

(and yes Manny, that includes you too! This family wouldn't be whole without you watching over our safety!)

4) intellect: I like that I have the ability, and freedom to think what I want. And to express it. And to just USE it. I don't have to be told by my government or media how to think--I gained that right when I began to make my own decisions. And nothing irks me more than to have someone take time out of their day to try to convince me to think like they do--and I mean in a harsh--"you should think like this" way, and not the "hey, this is how I live" way. I like taking time to make decisions, I like rolling an idea around in my head for a while, chewing on it, arguing with it, savoring it, rejecting it, and ultimately making peace with it. That's what the brain is for. Not to hold useless facts and regurgitate inanities. Any idiot with a keyboard and the internet can do that. It's what you DO with those facts that matter.

5) Difference. Autism came into our lives, and spent a good amount of time bitch slapping me until I acknowledged it's presence. And there are days when I wish she would just chill out for a moment so that I can catch my breath, and to spare my son the agonizing frustration he ultimately feels when he cannot communicate his needs, or when life is just to goddamn intense. But at the end of the day--even those hellish ones--I am grateful for who he is, warts and all. He will always see the world differently than I do, and I will spend the rest of my life being privy to that view. He is my constant reminder that we cannot all be perfect, and without our differences, we would be the most boring race in the universe. He may discover something none of us ever thought about, or he may compose a piece of music no one has ever heard before. He may have the right temperament to make the sacrifices needed to live on another planet, for all I know. He is amazing, and I am grateful for everyday he puts his little hand in mine.

Now, for my usual readers, I suppose this is where I am supposed to remark that I am also grateful for happy hour and a lock on the bathroom door. And I am. But I think those are gimmes. And in the end they are just things. Which are nice to have, but ultimately transitory. This house could burn down--but I'd still have all the things for which I am grateful--and that's all that matters to me.

(not to say I am wishing for disaster. it would still suck.)

So, while you gather around the table to celebrate our American holiday of gluttony--take a moment to give thanks--and not only that Aunt Hester brought more than one bottle of wine. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I had a little moment today. Thought I would share.

Because we lack a magnetic fridge, I post Ben's schoolwork on the pantry door. Right now it's covered with work from last year, summer school, and a few items from this year. Today as I was making some tea, (Sadly NOT for a toddy) I turned and looked at one of his pieces from summer school. Its entitled Self Portrait.

Now, any 3 year old would have made a picture just like it. It's a multitude of scribbled lines in multiple colors with no shape or reason. At the time he had no concept of the work "draw"--he's just starting to pick it up now--and no idea whatsoever of "Self". The ability to "draw" comes with time--typical or no. And as for the concept of self--well, he'll get it one day. (hell, I've met some 30 somethings drinking cheap beer who barely had a grasp of it…) But it struck me this morning how this self portrait was a bit more true to life than imagined.

Lemme tell a story about the first time I saw a Van Gogh. (and don't worry, this is not a preface to saying my son is an artistic genius) My mother and I were at the Getty, and we walked into a gallery that held one of Van Gogh's iris paintings. Now, I'll admit I've never been a big fan, but when I came face to face with this painting, I burst into tears. Literally. I am not shitting you. Tears streaming down my face. A blubbering idiot over a picture of flowers. Because in that moment--I got it. I understood his madness, his despair, his intensity. When you come into the presence (and I think you have to be right there, to see the color, the brushstrokes--a book just doesn't cut it) of a van gogh, you suddenly see the world as he saw it--and it is so intense and maddening that, for me at least, it was too much. I have never forgotten that experience. At that moment, I understood all those damn art classes I had to take for my general ed requirements.

And today, as I stood and looked at this page, I felt it again. Ben experiences so much at once--his senses on overload, his mind racing from one thing to the next. All of it a blur sometimes, incomprehensible most of the time, a multitude of thoughts and emotions of which he cannot make sense. As much as this is the scribbles of a 3 year old who was told to draw himself--words he didn't really understand at the time--he did create a self portrait. This IS my little man--in all it's color and beauty, as well as its frenetic energy.

It was a fitting reminder to me today as we fight through this latest round of whining/growing/detox/general malaise that is being a child with Autism. I am finding that behavior can be cyclical. He can have weeks of fantastic behavior, and then a week of being demon spawn. Lately it feels like we've been getting the grand tour from Dante himself, but I know it won't last. (at least I HOPE it won't last) He's had a rough couple of days, having given up gluten, probably going through withdrawals or he may possibly have a cold, or he's hitting a growth spurt, or the time change has messed him up, or he ate raisins. As you can see, the reasons can be like his actions and subsequently, like this drawing.

I think when I start to remove things here in order to put more up, I'll keep this one around. As a reminder to me of what it's like to see the world through someone else's vision--whether they realized they were showing it to you or not.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I've Lost My Mojo

I like to bake. And no, I am not making a Humboldt County reference. Eggs + flour + sugar = happiness. And not just because I like cake. (Which is like saying the housewives of Beverly Hills like plastic surgery)I like the fact that I can whip something together from scratch, and have folks ooh and aaah over it like I split the atom. I've even fancied the idea of learning to do it professionally (but fear the subsequent pounds on my ass that would follow). I like that I am the "dessert" at a potluck. (don't get me wrong, when it comes to savory cooking, I can keep hungry off a starving man, but I ain't Bobby Flay.) But I have been reminded that pride goeth before the alcoholic binge…

What does this have to do with parenting a child with autism, you ask? Well, it's because of Benji that I've been humbled in the world of baking. As of this week, we are officially Gluten free (well, Ben and Mr Mommy are) and the kitchen as I know it isn't working for me.

I should state here that the Gluten free Casein free diet has shown to be effective (anecdotally) in @50% of Autism cases. (its hard to get good empirical evidence because once parents put a kid on it and see improvement, they don't wanna take them off to prove the science) In my opinion it's a big enough stat. that you have to try, even if you have doubts, as I do.

Now there are MANY parents of children with Autism that aren't even willing to try because they see the glass half empty. Frankly, what can it hurt to try it for 6 months (*time period I've predetermined through no scientific study*) ? If you see no improvement, break out the chips ahoy in 6 months and celebrate the fact that you tried!

My previously stated doubt come from some unscientific observations I have made. I've noticed that this diet seems to be effective with those kids that also have gut problems. Which my son does not have. He's an optimum pooper. So, I am walking into this with a fairly skeptic eye. (which, honestly is how I approach all Autism treatments. There are 408 of them out there. If one was the end-all be-all, I THINK we'd know by now. Still, you gotta try) So, with a cocked eyebrow and shaker at the ready, I have brought us into the GFCF world.

We've been CF (no milk proteins) since September. In fact, I will prolly test dairy in a few weeks, once we're at least two-three weeks GF. Sometimes, Gluten can damage the gut enough that milk proteins (casein) cannot be tolerated. Remove the gluten, and you can then digest dairy. Sometimes. Kinda like sometimes you can drink Jager shots and not act like a dumbass. Sometimes.

Or it could be he has not problem with dairy at all and this last month has just been an annoyance to all of us. aaahh, the joys of science.

So, GF savory cooking is easy. Meat + rice or quinoa + vegetable=dinner. Eggs, GF pancakes, more eggs, and eggs= breakfast. Bloody Marys are optional.

But lunch has been, for some time now, the ubiquitous Peanut butter sandwich. Peanut butter & honey to be exact--since we switched to Feingold and his usual jams were removed. But he likes it, and he gets a daily dose of raw honey. But that bread. That soft, spongy, multigrain wonder that served as the PB vehicle…it tasks me.

See--I make all our bread. From scratch. ALL of it. With a bread maker to do all the kneading, all I have to do is shape and bake. It requires some time on my part--but only that I "be around" for each step.

But now wheat gluten is gone, and I am left with a variety of flours that smell and taste funny, and must be measured just so, with the perfect ratio of liquids, everything at a proper temperature, holding my tongue just right, and whispering a prayer every 23 minutes. So far I have attempted two loaves from scratch--and yielded two bricks. (in my defense--Benji still ate them--slathered in PB & honey), but it 's messin' with my mojo.

I even bought a new breadmaker (I needed a new pan anyway for cross contamination issues, so why not replace my dinosaur with a new fangled wonder. It's got a GF setting and it even makes jam!) That's what yielded brick #2.

So today I caved. I bought a mix. Two to be precise, to see how they taste and work. Both are highly rated by users (I've done my internet research) and are similarly priced, so it will just come down to taste and performance.

(I can report that the mix loaf did, in fact, rise. And then fell like the Berlin wall. So it’s a concave bread. WE can practice our alphabet--C! C is for crying, which mommy does when the bread doesn't turn out right. U! U is for unhappy, unsatisfied, and unstable--mommy or the bread--you decide. Still--it's taller than the last two, so it's sort-of a victory. V! Victory. right.)

And for those of you thinking, why not just buy a loaf of GF bread? I did examine one pre-made GF loaf today. It was heavy enough to be useful as a doorstop. OR to thwart a bear or zombie attack. But that thing was so heavy, I have no doubt it would do as much damage to your stomach eating it than getting hit in the gut with it. I think I'll stick to baking. Or a poor facsimile of baking. Or drinking a beer while I stare at the ingredients and will them to become bread. Something like that.