Friday, March 16, 2018

Spontaneous Weekend Getaway

So, the Biggest Birthday Bash at the Anderson Abode wound down and came to a close, and a little while later, a friend texted me saying her daughter forgot her bag of stuffed animals. You know, like you do when you're four...carry a bag full of stuffed animals. I mean, she's not one whole hand yet, so if she needs to bring a bag of stuffies with her when she travels from one end of the county to the other end of the county, it's cool.

But is that what you do with little girls? I mean I know it's different to parent a girl. But I don't get it because I have boys and they just verbally abuse each other while we're driving down the highway, roof open, windows down, rain pelting our faces, while Garbage or Joan Jett, Concrete Blonde or really early Melissa Etheridge or some other Angry Lesbian Music turned up to 11 blast from the speakers in the Highlander with me singing at the top of my lungs to provide my own white noise and drown out the screams from the backseat. Ya's the Anderson Family Circus up to it's usual shenanigans. But, it's been worse, the boys used to physically abuse each other while I was least that's no longer happening. Always see the light. Do not Hapkido your brother. Ous!

Anyway, we didn't realize the bag had been left behind until all of our party guests had vacated. It wasn't a gift bag. It was a lumpy grey bag with pastel colored elephants, and a white ribbon drawstring closure. Oh my.

When I saw it sitting near all of our shoes and boots near the front door, my 8-11/12 year old son yelled, in what seemed like slow motion, that the child had left her stuffies. I knew this had the potential to go south really fast because:

a. She is four and had some challenges in leaving the party (I've been there and completely understand, so I'm not judging).

b. My 11-1/2 year old is developmentally five and I need to find a good hiding spot for whatever stuffed animals are in the bag because my child could loose it for any number of reasons including but not limited to being sad for her because she won't have her animals tonight, or when we have to return them it could get ugly.

c. Fuck I hope none of the stuffies are cats because cats are his autism thing. Please Jesus, no cats.

d. They live on the other side of the county. We've gotta coordinate a drop off. Dad's are both employed by PC; maybe they can coordinate. (Hahahahahahah!!!!! Right?! Translation: the moms will coordinate the dads. Obviously.)

Like any parent facing a potential stuffie emergency, I immediately grabbed my phone and saw that my friend texted me about 90 minutes prior, notifying me of the drama. I replied that we would happily keep the animals secure for two nights. Understandably, the little girl was very sad, but was somehow convinced that the animals would have a fun vacay at the Anderson Abode.

And, breathe....

Not that she wouldn't have lived, but you's a bummer for any kid to not have their animals on hand at any given moment. I get it. My kids are stuffed animal whores. The collection they each have is enormously ridiculous.

So, anyway, we took care of the Magnificent Seven: Sally, Sarah, Catty, Pickles, Sprinkles, Lettuce, and Ballet Dog for a Spontaneous Weekend Getaway...

Heh...and you guys thought I was gonna say that Randy and I were going away for a weekend, didn't you? Hahaha! That's a fantastic idea! But do you realize how much planning it takes to coordinate a weekend trip for the parents of a special needs child?

Anyway, the Spontaneous Weekend Getaway was delightful! The Magnificent Seven were wonderful house guests! The boys and I had fun picking out which had been named what and our conclusions are:

Ballet Dog is the only dog and has little pink feet like a ballet dancer (ok it's a gimme)

Lettuce is a bunny (that's fuckin' brilliant!)

Sprinkles is the little pink cat with multi colored dots and they look like sprinkles (how am I doin?)

Pickles may be the rainbow caterpillar because he's the same shape as a pickle...?

Catty is the bigger tan cat...?

I'm lost on Sally and Sarah but they're cats.

Three cats.

Are you fuckin' kidding me? Goddamn four-year-old left three goddamn cats at my house after the Biggest Birthday Bash EVER? Fuck. Because my son's special needs head is going to fucking explode when he finds out. Jesusfuckinchrist. I mean, seriously? I've got to hide these, stat!

Because cats are my autistic kid's thing. Typically, people on the spectrum have a "thing"...and it can change over time. But their thing is something they deeply care for...or are fixated on...and his thing is cats. It has been for years. Wants to own a cat, but Dad is allergic. Bummer. But even so, we all know it would end up being my job to clean the goddamned litter box and I am not a litter box cleaner, so, no. His "thing" for a long time was Angry Birds (all versions, no, really)...and so we took that and ran with family language is Levels.

My bigger concern was that my son on the spectrum was going to struggle with letting the stuffed animals, particularly the cats, go back to their owner, but he actually did really well...because all the stuffies need to stay together! We need to respect our young friend and her belongings. Let's be responsible and keep all of her stuffed animals together in their bag. Yes, fantastic idea, Nathan! It's their sleeping bag! You are so clever, son....

I texted my friend a few pics of the unplanned but very well-behaved house guests so that her young daughter would feel comfortable knowing her crew were being well-cared for. I mean they were here for two nights, so it's kinda a big deal when you're only four. And because we don't leave the house on Sundays. It's our stay-home-family-I-kicked-their-asses-in-Wii-Bowling-AGAIN-day. Oh! And this past Sunday was my husband's official 50th birthday. So, there was that....

We kept our house guests busy with lots of fun activities, is their photo journal. Because I didn't want to inundate the little girl's Mom's phone, or potentially annoy the shit out of her and forever damaging our friendship. Right? But, there's some stuff that simply needs to be shared in a photo journal.

I present: Spontaneous Weekend Getaway....

Fancy dinner on Saturday night

Tuckered out after a long day of partying. Seen with Isaac's animals.

Nathan shared his Sunday morning breakfast of carrots and Annie's Mac&Cheese
Helped me grade a little....

Helping to vacuum. They did great!

Supervision and security details
TV break!

A little more TV....
Birthday Cake break!

The slide needed drying off!
Our swing set can be intimidating, so boys were helping the Magnificent Seven
Just swinging....
Learning to swing....

On the tire swing! So fun!

The Magnificent Seven's multipurpose bag. He did this all on his own.

Look out! The Birthday Boy is getting in on the action!

WHOOPS! Everyone is ok but let's take a break and do something else!

Big dog trying the slide alone! So courageous!
Isaac helping Lettuce steer the ship

Isaac helping Lettuce be a spy

Nathan climbing the frame

Climbing the rock wall! So brave!
Nathan helps Ballet Dog while Isaac helps Catty (?)

Isaac giving a spot to 2 of the 7
They had some tough decisions but they each chose nice colors!

Bike race Wii Sports Resort

Daddy's Birthday Dinner: It's Taco Night!

Tuckered out after a busy Sunday! Seen in Nathan's bed.
I told you my kids are stuffed animal whores.

As you can see, we kept the Magnificent Seven quite busy at their Spontaneous Weekend Getaway! I think their favorite was the rock wall, which was really quite an adventure! It was actually quite fun for us that she accidentally forgot her bag of stuffies: it gave us a creative outlet...and a different way to teach and learn helping someone else, being kind, responsible, and respectful, and trying to turn a negative into a positive. We also enhanced our Team Anderson skills...which needed a little help, given we were all fried from the 50th Birthday Party.

My husband took the Magnificent Seven to work with him on Monday morning, and the little girl's Dad picked them up. I am happy to report that all transfers went smoothly and they have been safely returned to the child, who is understandably beside herself over seeing her stuffies! And, while my vocabulary is absolutely not G-rated, I do hope she gets the chance to look at the pictures of the adventures we had on our Spontaneous Weekend Getaway with the Magnificent Seven!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Big Weekend

We had a big weekend. Actually, it was huge weekend, because my husband turned 50 years old. This post isn't going to be all mushy, maybe, but, we'll see where we go...

I will say that the last time I threw this man a party we were living in Las Vegas, several friends were in town, we ate dinner at The Cheesecake Factory at the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace, then went to see Steven Wright at some other resort. So, that was in like 2000, or maybe's been a while...and we've had a lot of life happen since then.

And now that I have children and a big backyard and a forest, I throw a different type of party. Duh. Right? You don't party in Las Vegas in your 20's without kids, like you do in Port Angeles in your mid to late 40's, with kids. Obviously. Well, we don't anyway. More power to ya if you do, I suppose....

So, once he decided he wanted a party, since 50 is a half a century and not to be taken lightly, although as a mathematician, he'll say "it's just a number" but seriously? It's not. Not after what you've been through. in 2015, you watched your wife go through breast cancer surgery, and then chemo and radiation treatments. And that same summer, you watched from far away as your father died of prostate and skin cancers. And then in 2016, you went through tonsil cancer caused by HPV. And there's the daily medical needs of our child with a rare form of epilepsy which causes intellectual and developmental disabilities. And then there's his autism. So, it's not just a number, dude. It's 50. Five. Zero. And you've dealt with, and deal with, a lot of shit, so I'm throwing you a party. Ok?

I rarely ask his permission...I usually ask forgiveness and not this was more of a persuasion. I'm good at persuading. A persuader, if you will.... But really, it wasn't a hard sell.

Annnnyyyyway, our people showed up and we all partied like rock stars, including one person who shall not be named, who passed out in a chair. In his defense, he's not double digits yet, and had a rather busy night the night before, as little boys tend to do....

I only took a few pictures, mostly of aforementioned sleeping child, who wasn't mine, by the way, because I really wanted to give myself the opportunity to enjoy the moment. The beauty of enduring friendships. The sun shining through the three southern facing sky lights. My family. I am thankful for so much. I survived breast cancer for this.

Having snippets of beautiful views of life. Our living room filled with friends. The island in our kitchen spilling over with delicious foods people generously brought and shared. My First Port Angeles friend, who is nearly six feet tall, knowing exactly when to breeze into my kitchen, without me asking, and without having to drag over a chair to stand up on, she easily reached inside the cabinet to the top shelf above the stove for the little container of blue birthday candles I happen to keep up there because Boy Mom and...that's all I got...?

Shit. Shit that's only like 10. Maybe 12...candles.

HOLY SHIT I FORGOT TO BUY CANDLES!!!! HOW IN THE GODDAMN DO I FORGET TO BUY A 5 AND A 0!?!?!? Randy and I even talked about it and he said he didn't want 50 individual candles and Isaac tried to figure out how to get fifty candles represented and....

Jesus, Rachel.

It's not like you weren't busy earlier this week. Who in their right mind plans an over night medical appointment in Seattle and throws her husband's Biggest Birthday Bash because he's fifty in the same week? Me. Yup. It's what I do. Oh well....

I've got jumbo emergency candles, which are horrible to light during an emergency because you could end up burning the whole goddamn house down. Why do we even have those? Let's just keep them and throw them away in a few years. Or keep them in case of emergency.

What about this 10" ivory taper candle...which apparently also like a communion candle (or some my house? Seriously?) Yup! Totally works! Let's use that in one cake, and then put four blue birthday candles around it. And in the other cake we took five more blue birthday candles and five plus five is ten and ten goes into fifty nicely so there you go! Besides, fifty candles would take too long to light. This totally works! What could go wrong? I mean we have a first responder at the party, so we're good!

And, yes, you get two goddamn cakes from Costco when you turn 50! Or at least at this party you do!

Because when you've been through tonsil cancer treatment and the radiation changed your taste buds I didn't know which chocolate cake, exactly, you were going to like so I got two different ones. Also, there were damn near FIFTY PEOPLE at your FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY PARTY, YOU GUYS!!! One cake ain't gonna cut it, Randy Anderson.

Because you wanted a party, so I threw you a party. It's my job. It's what I do. I love you. You can thank me later....mmmm...hmmmm.....

Anyway the party was fantastic, even through I totally forgot to serve hot coffee and hot tea. Whoops. Sorry. It was a little crazy because there were a ton of people in my small house! But I did serve cold lemonade, a rare treat in the Anderson Abode. And water. Thank the Sweet Baby Jesus we got purified water coming outta the fridge.

I absolutely did not permit anyone to discuss work. Because it's a BIG PARTY at MY HOUSE and it's MY RULES and NO WORK. Stop. It. Thank you.
I threw all the kids outside a lot because Anderson Park was open and it was a beautiful day. #optoutside

Thank you to everyone who came to the Anderson Abode to celebrate Randy's Fiftieth Birthday Bash! We truly appreciate all of you! And to those of you who were unable to attend, we missed you and appreciate you anyway!

And, dammit I throw an awesome party!

My family, with all 10 candles accounted for (note the communion candle)

Happy Birthday, dude!
Two cakes, we had very little leftover (thankfully!)

Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Love Hate

I have a love hate relationship with this place.

I love that Children's Hospital exists and that my son has, over the past 5+ years, been the recipient of quality healthcare.

I hate that Children's Hospital exists and that my son is a regular patient there. Currently, he's on the twice-annual-check-up list. It used to be much more frequent, when he was first diagnosed.

Today was a check-up that should've been done in January. But, ya know, life happens for other people and the doc needed to reschedule it for whatever by the time we could coordinate calendars and all of the goddamn phone tag, we're into March. Jesusgodbless the health care system.


Today was hard.

Because for my family, since we're at a heightened sense of awareness that any "check-up" could result in "you're fucking life is at risk, again" there ain't no such thing as a "check-up" in the Anderson Abode.

On Monday and Tuesday I had to push them on getting the doc to put the orders in for my son's blood drawn, knowing the results wouldn't be in before the appointment, but because we were there and goddamnit when we got it drawn at home last time there was a mix up and we're already in the city and can't we just do this, please? Why hasn't he put the goddamn order in yet? I've been calling for two weeks. FUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK.

Fuck it. His appointment isn't until 10:30, and we check in at 10:15, so if I don't give him his morning anti-seizure pharmaceutical but a double dose of Charlotte's Web his seizures could be kept to a minimum until after the blood draw. And he eats the purple box of the Annie's mac&cheese that I made yesterday, that I can heat up in the microwave at the new to us hotel (which really was exciting and super stressful because autism) they can still draw his blood after the clinic appointment, we should be outta there by 11:30 if things go smoothly.

Ok so you want to know how much of the pharmaceutical is in his blood and I want to know what the fuck is going on with his liver and his kidneys because you've got him on the level six and seven drugs to stop his motherfuckin seizures and if these goddamned drugs stop working, or his organs get fucked up because of these drugs, godforbid, then what the fuck do we do?

Yup. I'll call you on Wednesday next week and get the results of the blood draw. Thank you, doctor, for making any medication adjustments via a quick phone call with me. I know you're a very busy person and that you get to help a lot of children. And families. Thank you for helping me remember that his behavior and his uncontrollable laughter, especially when i am stressed, is not my fault. That his development is so delayed it leaves him vulnerable. I know. Goddammit I wish it wasn't true but it is. People with intellectual/developmental disabilities are seven times more likely than a neurotypical person to be victim of sexual assault. And, as a mom of boys, an erection does not equal consent.

Yes. There are lots of things he can do. He can shoot a basket. Nathan tell the doctor about what happened at the Special Olympics! And he is going to participate in soccer academy at the college; this will be his third year. And, yes, he's continuing to study martial arts; it helps all of us on many levels that both he and his brother participate in these activities.

My husband and I are both doing well. Thank you for asking. Neither of us have any evidence of disease. Yes. Thank you. We'll see you in 6-7 months. 11:23 am. Less than an hour. He's gettin' good. It's only taken me 5 years to train this doc. It's ok...he's a good egg and I'm thankful he's on my son's health care team.

Out. Down the hall. Up from the fifth floor--thank the Sweet Baby Jesus the quake didn't happen when we were down on five. Fuck. We'd have been buried alive. Elevator up to seven. Dammit the lab is on eight. Of course it is. With the pediatric cancer patients. Goddamnit. I have a love hate relationship with this place. Fuck. Why the fuck doesn't the government throw more money at those kids? Pro-life my ass. Fuckers. Pro-goddamn-oppress-women-fucking-fucks.

Hi. Yes, for a blood draw. Great. Thanks. Nathan, here's the iPad. Sit. Wait. Tick. Tock. Goddamn. That poor kid. Oy. And oh, sweet itty bitty brand new baby in a stroller with an oxygen tube in her nose and momma carrying the pump and oh i can't and thank you for just seizure disorder and autism because wow i can't even right now because I have a love hate relationship with this place. do they get through the day? And the nights? It's always worse at night.

Phone. Help an old friend who is very dear to you and has a young son who is melting.... You need to look for patterns. And if his sister wants to help, before the next meltdown, can she maybe think of two ways or two things she can do to help him when he's melting? What type of things help her when she's frustrated? Could those same things help her brother? Write down what doesn't work. Shit will leave your brain faster than you anticipate.


Down the busy hall into the small room goddamnit not a student ok...phew! Honey I need the iPad and then yes you can come right back to it. Thank you. You are so brave and strong! I know but look at me. You've done this a lot. You're at the boss level with this. Why isn't his vein in his arm up? Oh...of course...because he's been on the iPad since we rolled in the hospital 2 hours ago. Yup. That vein in his wrist looks good to me. But it's his body and he gets the final say. Nathan you are the bravest kid I know. Breathe. It's ok to cry honey. I know it hurts and I'm so sorry. Look at me. Look in my eyes. I'm right here, sweetie. You're doing great....'s taking a while. There you go! OH! And she's making a green bandaid with the tape! That is so cool! How did she know green is your favorite color? Yup! She is brilliant! And she did a great job!

At least we didn't have to do your foot again. Yup. You were little and not cooperating with giving me the iPad so I made the decision for them to go into your foot. You did not cry on that one. When the nurses stick a needle in me, I don't look. The anticipation is too much and creates stress and I prefer to look away and take belly breaths. I love you very much and am very proud of you. I know you're hungry. Here. Show the phlebotomists how you take three big pills at once. Yeah! You rock! High five!

Out. Down the elevator to seven. He's too slow on the stairs and we need to move quickly. He's starving. My window is closing rapidly. The cafeteria has nothing that I'm willing to spend money on. I have a love hate relationship with this place.

Hey, let's go to the car and eat the homemade chicken nuggets we brought and some bell peppers and carrots and after we eat then we can stop at QFC and get some Jojos. And a goddam coffee for me. And chocolate for Daddy and Isaac. And me and you, too.

Let's go home.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


It's a lot for them.

Too much, in fact.

My kids, who are 11-1/2 and nearly 9 years old.

My kids worry about things like my breast cancer coming back.

Or their father's tonsil cancer coming back.

Or about each other.

In particular we all worry about the oldest one and his myriad neurological impairments.

If you see him on the street, he looks totally normal.

So you'd never really guess...about the tiny electrical storms that cause him to seize...or his disabilities...and his struggles.

So, to tell them about a shooting in a school in a state that is on the opposite end of the contintent from where we live?

At the ages of developmentally 5 years old and 8-10/12 years old (their father is a math professor, but I'm responsible for teaching fractions; keeps my brain sharp, yo. My youngest will be 9 in April. He's 8 and 10/12. Mmm-hmmm...really, though, he's 8 and 1/6.....Anyway......).


They didn't need to know.

But he knows.

The younger one, who's really more developmentally advanced.

He found out about it at school.

Ya they do.

At least he didn't learn how to curse at school.

I've totally fucking got that covered, bitches!

Or about sexuality.

Jesus forbid!

But rest assured he's likely to be the kid running around with his mom's....

Never mind.

So, he's bothered by it.

Doesn't understand it.

But I don't either.

I mean, I do...but I don't.

Because there are so many levels of fuckeupedness about it, that I can only bring myself to say "whenever you walk into any room, know where the exits are."

And, "if you find yourself in a situation that's scary, look for the helpers. There will always be helpers. And then find your brother."

And always, "I hope it never happens again. And if it does, I hope it's not in our community or at our school."

And every.single.time..."I love you."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Spring Into Action

I had an opportunity to spring into action early yesterday morning.

You know, like I'm some kinda goddamn super hero or something. 

Thanks Caitlin for texting me at 8 am and asking for a lift.

From Port Angeles to Sequim.


This is the type of thing that's going on in my life that helps me.

I know I'm the logical choice because my family lives between PA and Sequim.

And I know she ain't gonna ask unless she's in need. This woman knows me and the daily struggles my family faces.

I'm not saying you get text me at 8 am and ask me to pick your ass up in Port Angeles and get a ride to Sequim.

Especially when there's snow on the ground.

And you gotta cross 27 bridges to get to where your going. And you've slipped on one of those 27 bridges on black ice and totaled your 4Runner.

Actually, Randy did that. I was the passenger. We were the only vehicle. But he broke the shit outta my first 4Runner. Then he bought me a newer one. Because he's a good egg like that.

Luckily, we didn't go over the McDonald Creek bridge on 101. We are living proof that those cement barricades are really, really fuckin' solid. And, no, it wasn't recent--it was many years ago; pre-children. That's how life is defined now...pre-children : since children; pre-cancer : since cancer.

But, yes, I'll pick up my dear friend and fellow breast cancer survivor who I've known since well before either of us was diagnosed because she needs a ride. Because you know when one of your closest people calls on you early in the morning you know something's going on and she needs help and that she's not fiddle-fartin' around.

Wheels turn because you need to go to Safeway because ultimately, you're Mrs. Claus and need to make sure there's some goddamned milk for Santa. Jesus.

And since you're going to Sequim, you may as well go to Costco because COSTCO.

On the Friday before Christmas.

No part of this was thought out.

But, my dear friend was willing to go to both stores, in two different towns. Twist her arm. Heh.

And then we ended up going to the Safeway in Sequim because I picked her brain and figured out what the hell to eat on Christmas Day because Jesus, this pressure is similar to Thanksgiving and fuck that! I was not into Halloween and at Thanksgiving I had an why not do it in three? The Big Three. Right? Even though we've been eaten the latkes, mmm-hmmm....

Make change. Less pressure. Less stress.

No tree.

Yes, child, Santa will still come. Mrs. Claus is on top of planning the route with the GPS. No, not the elves. They're total minions. Mrs. Claus is in charge. It's cool, she'll see to it that he gets here. Trust me when I tell you Santa gets all the credit. Yes, Mrs. Claus is a Bad Ass.

Less stress. Less pressure. Make change.

In fairness, we have a tree, it's just mounted on the wall. Thanks Pinintrest then YouTube.

Because we live in a small house. It's beautiful and I love it and I'm thankful for it. But I'm tired of displacing our beloved 4-legged child so the tree can be where she sleeps because she's 10 and she deserves better. And the allergies I have from the tree? Done.

But really: stop wrestling and leave the tree alone and we can't even put presents under it because there's no room and Nathan would struggle to keep his hands off of the presents and we need to set him up for success as much as possible but it's a pain in the ass and a lot of work and all the presents are in our bedroom closet and this is super stressful so why in the goddamn are we doing this?

Because at the end of the day, what matters is that we are alive and have each other.

Yes, child, it's hard to feel festive and merry when our friends are hurting and in deep pain like nothing we've ever known. His cancer was different and much more aggressive. Good question; it means "mean." Yes, meaner than mine. Way meaner than Daddy's. Yup. It was just as mean as Pop-pop's.

Well, we can help by being good friends and loving them and offering help. What helped us as a family when we were dealing with our own traumas? Hugs. Yes. And love. Yup. And sure, pray, or think or meditate or light battery operated or full flame candles or whatever it is that you do to bring comfort to yourself as long as it doesn't infringe upon whatever it is that she decides she and her children need. Because she is in charge.

It could be that what helped us helps them. It could be that they need something completely different. I do not have the answers; only she does, and she'll let us know when she's ready.

She's a mom and she's got it but she's blazing a trail nobody wants to blaze and she's got no map, no guide. And even though she's got a bunch of other moms trying to take care of her, and we all want to help but some of us feel frozen because we were so close with them but cancers changed all of it for both of our families and the unspoken could've been that my beautiful friend who needed a lift and who is a survivor and I know all too...takes my breath away....

When I'm sorry isn't adequate.

And neither is Fuck.

Fuck you, you fucking disease. For taking him. From her. From them. 

I don't know because I am not in charge, little dude. I know. That's a tough one for me to swallow too, dude. But whenever I am notified of the plan, we'll spring into action. I know you guys are worried about your friends and that you love them, my sweet boys. I hope we can see them soon, too. Yes, I will get in touch with her.

I know honey. I love them a lot too. And I'm sad too. I wish his outcomes were different. I wish the outcomes for their family were different. When Pop-pop died, Grandma said she felt a little relieved because Pop-pop wasn't hurting anymore. I imagine, perhaps they do. But there are some things that are not in anyone's control. Let's be thankful they're not in physical pain anymore. And we can do our best to help them learn to live differently. Very, very differently.

You has a voice and teach others to speak. I do not speak for you; nobody else should either. You are capable. You are strong. You have courage like nobody I've known. I am thankful for you and our friendship.

All my love always.

We also

Friday, December 1, 2017


It is so hard to sit back and watch you struggle.

I know your struggle is yours.

I know all parents watch their kids struggle.

But your struggle is different.

This morning, after you spent an unusually long time in the bathroom, after a breakfast that was mostly not eaten, after you swallowed the horse-sized bright red gel caps and the rice-sized dab of medical marijuana oil that I give you to reduce your seizures, I watched you struggle to get your socks and shoes on.

I watched as you yelled at and fought with your socks. I watched you start to put your left shoe on the right foot. I corrected you, because you guys were going to be late to school, which would ultimately create more anxiety for all of us.

A split second decision to advise you. To help you. To watch you stop struggling, if even for a moment. Was it the right thing to do? Yes, because you changed the shoe to the other foot. And you didn't freak out about it. That's the catch, isn't it? Whether you'll freak out and start yelling at me and then I start yelling back because I really can't stand being consistently yelled at by you every fucking morning for nearly two weeks. The bully isn't bullying you anymore. Mrs. O is on top of that shit like white on rice. But you kept on about it for damn near a week after she said it was over. I know. I know you're slower to process. But fuck, dude. Stop already. Move. On. It's. Over. Please.

Thanks for letting me help you tighten up the velcro on your shoes and for letting me take your pant leg out of your sock. It's important to me that you look "normal" when you go to school. I mean, you look like any other fifth grader. Any other 11-year-old, who is 125 pounds and 59 inches tall. I've only got 7 pounds and 3 inches on you.

This morning, as I watched you struggle into your fleece and struggle to zip it up, with your well-worn dark green Bite Saber hanging from your neck, I started to silently cry because what will happen to you? Who will look after you? It does not fall to your brother. But it probably will eventually. When you're both grown.

Stop crying. First get them out the door, then sit down and cry. Don't let him see you cry. His anxiety will go sky high. And don't say "sky high" because he thinks it's funny and will start giggling and won't stop and he'll pee his pants. Shit. Is he wearing a pull-up? 

I watched you carefully walk, in the pouring rain, down the 10 steps from our deck to the driveway. I watched you, in the darkness of the early morning, as you loaded up in the truck, thankful you have the ability to fasten your own seat belt. The rain was so heavy your brother didn't roll down his window and wave for several minutes like he normally does. I watched from our enormous picture window and waved, like I do every morning, as Daddy drove away. My heart was heavy, as the red taillights disappeared down the driveway and the darkness of the grey day set in, the sound of the rain pounding on the skylights in the kitchen.

Then the tears came. The sobbing. The snot. The blubbering. The sadness. The regret. The guilt. The anger. The fear. The trepidation that one big seizure could eliminate all the progress you made. That too many little seizures are equally terrifying to watch. The constant nagging in the back of my head, and hoping that the "what if..?" never comes to fruition.

Invisible illness. Invisible brain disorders. Invisible struggles. 

It's ok, Mom and Dad. I get why you stay away. I get why you don't acknowledge Mom's brain disorder. It's intense. It's easier to ignore shit and hope it just goes away. But it won't. Living with and caring for a person who has a brain disorder is a struggle for everyone on a person's family.

My son struggles with basic things: eating with a fork, writing his name, get his shoes on the correct feet and zipping his fleece up. His main struggle: he'll always be five years old. Developmentally, my son, no matter how old he gets and no matter how long he lives; no matter how big he gets, will always have the brain of a five-year-old child. He may get to six; but I'm not holding my breath. He may end up regressing, which happens sometimes with autistic people. But, it can also happen because some fucking electrical storm in his brain makes it so, and ultimately, a seizure is more likely to happen and cause who knows what. I don't go there. is not a place I choose to go.

Think about that. What would you do if your child was going to be five forever? I recently had a conversation with a community member who was lamenting the fact that she and her husband were going to be empty-nesters soon. I kept my mouth shut, because I really had nothing to contribute to the conversation. We will likely never be empty-nesters. Because you can't let a five-year-old child live alone. Or I can't, anyway. This isn't about me seeking support for him. I know about the resources. The ones that our current president and his fucking cronies are attempting to eliminate. I do not count on those resources to be there.

But it's a struggle. Everyfuckingday is a struggle. And it really hurts my heart.

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Trent Reznor

Sunday, November 26, 2017


I had an epiphany this weekend.

My family has been participating in an annual event out of obligation, expectation, and tradition.

But, being The Parents, we get to decided what type of family traditions we get to do in our own home. Right? I mean, seriously. Just because our parents did things a particular way doesn't mean we are in any way shape or form obligated to do it that way too.

And this weekend, I decided this was the last traditional Thanksgiving dinner I will cook.

It's not the holiday itself. Believe me when I tell you I am thankful for a LOT. Like being able to afford the anti-seizure medications my older son is on. Like surviving breast cancer. Like having a husband that survived tonsil cancer. Like our amazing community who has supported us through all of my family's major health issues. We are incredibly thankful for the roof over our heads and reliable vehicles. Heat. That's kinda important. Food. Running water. Both are vital. So, it's not that I'm not or we're not finding ways to express gratitude or teach our children to be thankful. Gratitude. Check.

What gets me is the amount of planning and time and energy and money and logistics that goes into making a meal for only four people and knowing that not everyone is even going to taste everything because everyone has food anxiety and texture issues and ultimately I need to take care of me and my stress and making a huge meal is really really REALLY stressful.

So I'm done.

Mac and Cheese Maker
It's not that I don't enjoy cooking, because I do. Cooking for my family is one of the things that brings me a tremendous amount of joy, it is something I truly love doing. The secret ingredient is always love. Well, sometimes when my kids are acting like jackasses, I throw in a little hate. But mostly I cook with love. Mostly.

And because autism runs rampant in our home, and because each of us has food issues, I've learned over the years how to accommodate who has what food issue. Because that's just what you do, right?


But I've also learned that I'm done making certain accommodations around food for each of the individuals in my home. I'm not a short order cook. I was. But no longer. Will I still puree the onions? Totally. But, you can pick out the mushrooms brown peas if you don't like them. I do. Learn to eat around things, kids, you'll thank me later.

Part of this is where each of my kids are developmentally. For the past several months, we've been implementing the "cook your own lunch" method on the weekend. And so the boys have stepped up. My older son, who is developmentally disabled, is now able to cook his own Annie's Mac and Cheese on the stove, including draining the pasta into the colander that is in the sink (and my heart is in my throat every.single.time.). And my younger son, who is so developmentally advanced that he intentionally failed the testing for the highly capable program, chooses to make a homemade quesadilla on the griddle. In his defense, he grates his own cheddar cheese.
Mashed Potato King

Rule number one: One boy in the kitchen at a time.

Rule number two: You may not light the stove or turn on the oven.

Rule number three: Stay safe: use the timer (prevent a fire) and use oven mitts or hot pads (prevent a burn).

Rule number four: Either Mom or Dad supports and helps. And if Mom or Dad need to move in fast, you move outta the way faster.

I think when we start to have contempt for something, it means we're done with it. For years, I've been feeling contempt towards cooking on Thanksgiving, but didn't even realize it until my younger son said at the beginning of the month: "I don't like Thanksgiving because we always fight."

Thanks kid. Knife to the heart. At least he spoke his truth.

Well, the holidays are stressful. But why? Because I have always made the decisions about what we're going to eat on Thanksgiving. And I'm tired of that. What am I teaching them about food if I don't involve them in the decisions about what to eat? What am I teaching them about food if I do all the cooking? What am I teaching them about gender issues if I do all the shopping, planning, prepping and cooking? Because I'm not their bitch. I'm their mother. And I'm a Health Educator. What's the healthiest thing to teach them? If I get them to buy in to this meal from the beginning, will they have a different level of appreciation?


Randy's Granny's cornbread dressing recipe
A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, the four of us planned the menu together. We ended up with nine dishes, and I, being the Head Chef, made six of those. Nathan chose Annie's Mac and Cheese (obviously). Isaac picked mashed potatoes: he scrubbed, peeled, cut, and mashed. I supervised and suffered with the small burns from the scalding hot water drained the potatoes. Randy made his Granny's cornbread dressing. This is important because I have her handwritten recipe on a scrap of green paper that she wrote down for me like 20 years ago, and in September she left this earth to be with her Lord and Savior. I am thankful she chose to share her recipe with me.

So we cooked and we ate lunch about 1 and then we ate leftovers for dinner at 5:30. And then my family was done with Thanksgiving. So, like many Americans who are stuck with a shit ton of leftovers, I'm trying to be creative and clever and hitting trusted sites for leftover recipes...and it's going ok. But really, my family would be happier if I just roasted a chicken and made mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, and then we had the same thing on Friday night. And then we moved on to an entirely new dinner on Saturday and Sunday.

For the record, this is the best recipe we found for leftovers: Thanksgiving Leftover Hand Pies is the official title at Campbell's. However, in my home, these are called "Thing-a-ma-jigs" which was nominated by the 8-year-old, and voted on with three yeas and one nay.

And of course, I had to modify the recipe, because everyone's got a texture issue and some people despise cranberry sauce.

But, whatever. I'm done with cooking that big of a meal and dealing with insane amounts of leftovers that create even more stress that force me to "create" better tasting bullshit that they just ate yesterday. The max I can get out of one night of cooking is two meals. Two dinners. Unless it's tacos. Duh.

Ultimately, I have to make healthy choices for myself and how to best spend my time. By choosing to not make a traditional Thanksgiving meal out of some imaginary obligation I have to my family is a healthier choice for me.

This Thanksgiving has provided me a time of reflection and an opportunity to decide what my priority is: be happy.