A Modern Day Fairy Tale: September 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Perfect Son

A Korean proverb says that, "The woman is weak, but the mother is strong." Since becoming a mother, I have found this statement to be very true. Being a very non-confrontational person, I tend to not stick up for myself (and allow people to walk all over me unfortunately), but when it comes to Shaun, I will fight for him with everything in me. I am sure this is true for most mothers, and especially those with special needs children because it sometimes seems as though we have to fight for our little ones more.
While I will say, if brought up, that I have a child with special needs, for the most part, I don't tend to think of Shaun that way. Really, don't all children have 'special' needs? No two children are 100% alike after all. I prefer to think as Shaun as my adorably sweet, handsome and oh so intelligent little boy. His autism is part of who he is but does not define him, and it's those little quirks that make him who he is. He is often cracking us up with his crazy antics that we love him for.
For the most part, we do not come out until people we randomly meet about Shaun's autism. We don't hide it, but it doesn't come up in casual conversation at a supermarket either, so why bring it up? When people do find out, we are constantly hearing that people never would have guessed that there was something 'wrong' with him. (Which I will point out, there is nothing WRONG with him, his mind just works a little differently). I think as he's gotten a bit older, his differences have become a bit more noticeable, or at least when people find out that he is 3 and not 18 months, the age most people put him at. While most say nothing, I've seen a few more looks being sent our way, etc. I, for the most part, just blow these off.
However, a few weeks back during our Saturday morning yard saling, Shaun-being his normal self- found a vehicle, laid down on the concrete and started rolling it over his face, back and forth. This is something he does quite often and I don't even notice it anymore. But a group of kids nearby did. They were between the ages of 8-10, so old enough I'd think to know better than to make fun of little kids, but still kids nonetheless so you really can't blame them. But anyway I heard their giggles and comments about it, and not in the way that we so often do ourselves- the 'that's so cute, my silly little Shauny' moments, but more of a teasing, 'that's so weird' way. As I said, these were just kids and they of course knew no better, but it didn't stop it from hurting me anyway.
I was teased as a child/teen. I have always been very quiet and shy due to my social anxiety. This is something that I had always hoped Shaun would not have to experience but knew from day one of diagnosis that it was inevitable that at least once in his life, it would happen. After all, people are ignorant and kids can be cruel. And while this first experience was primarily innocent to say the least, it still affected me. Perhaps it's a result of the emotional stress that I've been through lately. I would do anything for my little man and I hate the idea that others will view him as being less. As Temple Grandin says, "different, not less".
I write this for no other reason than it has been bothering me lately and I hope that in writing it maybe people will think a bit more carefully about how the things they say and do can affect others, much like the last post on the r-word. When you see that kid having a freak out in the store, who seems disobedient and out of control- instead of judging his mother and assume she's doing something wrong, throw her an understanding smile, she needs it. Teach your kids to embrace differences in others and to be nice to the odd kid, even if its not the cool thing to do. Don't be quick to laugh.
Though things may sometimes get me down, I will never stop fighting for my son. If I do one thing right, it will be letting him know that he is loved unconditionally, and though he might not understand a lot right now, and while he can't communicate properly or does things that are not considered by the general population to be normal, he is my PERFECT son.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homemade Tomato Soup (aka Best Tomato Soup Ever)

This is a recipe that I got from my friends Amanda's blog awhile back and it was absolutely wonderful. I have made it a few times since. A few days back, I decided to make a few little changes and it made an already awesome soup all the much better. This is the original recipe:


1 can (28 oz.) diced tomato (the kind that is flavored with basil, garlic and oregano)
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomato
3 1/2 cups low sodium veggie broth
2 Tablespoons diced onion
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/8 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Parmesan or Asiago cheese for garnish (optional)

1) Melt butter in large soup pot.

2) Add all other ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil.

3) Reduce heat and let simmer for at least an hour.

4) Sprinkle individual bowls of soup with cheese (optional)

For the most part, I stuck with this with just a few slight changes. First of all, the tomatoes- I never actually used the italian seasoned tomatoes, just added the seasonings in later, but this time to give it something a little different, I used tomatoes with green peppers and onions. I absolutely love green peppers so really you can't go wrong adding this in. (Or so that was my hope!) And cheese. I have an addiction to cheese...it's a problem really. If a recipe calls for cheese, I often find myself doubling it. It only makes it better, right? So I couldn't resist- I added Parmesan and Romano cheese to the soup (while cooking) to make it more of a cheesy tomato soup. As I said before, the original recipe itself was amazing, but these changes gave it a little extra something.

Try this soup today, either version. You will not think of tomato soup the same way again. I promise.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On The 'R-Word'- A Must Read

From a very young age, before I could remember really, the 'r-word' was considered to be as bad as any cuss word in our home. We were not allowed to use the word, period. In the early 80s, my older brother Jeff was diagnosed with mental retardation, and suspected autism. (Remember, at that time, autism was not as known about as it is today and it could not be diagnosed as earlier or easily. My brother passed before he was able to be officially diagnosed.) I knew very early on that this was why it was against the rules, but it wasn't until I was a bit older that I really began to understand the reasoning behind this. From that point on, this has been an issue that has been very important to me. As my friends from high school could very well tell you, as I wrote a poem for my brother and others with disabilities and differences and anytime they would use the word around me, they'd be forced to read it. Eventually, it sank in! Now, as the mother to a special needs child, it's a cause I feel even more strongly about, and having been hearing and seeing it on Facebook statuses, etc a lot more lately, I decided to explain to those who might not know why I feel this way.

I'll start by asking you to think about how this word is used, and what it's used in place of- dumb? stupid? Now, think about the groups of people who have in the past been described with this word, either by doctors (who from my understanding no longer use this diagnosis) or by those too ignorant to know the difference- those with autism in some cases, down syndrome, etc. So, by that logic people with those conditions are dumb or stupid? I can tell you firsthand that my child is the brightest child I know, in his way. Yes, perhaps that is a proud mother talking- but how many children at 2.5 years old learn to sight read some favorite words? Know how to work electronics of all types before the age of 2? And memorize songs and scenes from his favorite shows with ease? Remember exactly where the train toys are at any given store after only once visit? Shaun may not understand as much as his peers when it is spoken language, or be able to communicate his needs and wants with us yet, but in his ways he astounds me with his mind. Dumb? I don't think so. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Mozart, Van Gogh- is stupid a word that comes to mind when you hear these names? I didn't think so, but all have been speculated to have been on the autism spectrum. Makes you think, doesn't it? Of course, I speak of autism here, because it's what I know, but you can get the idea. Special needs does not equal dumb.

In history, the word did have a legit place as a diagnosis. However, as it is most commonly used today, it is not used in this manner. It is used as an insult, plain and simple. Sometimes in the manner described above, and sometimes, more disgustingly, to insult those who actually do have disabilities. I won't go into that category too much, as it will only make me mad- a rare occurrence I know! Sometimes those who would fall into this description, are unable to defend themselves, do not know they are being insulted, etc. That's what makes this a matter beyond politically correctness. If you tell a Christian they have to use the term 'Happy Holidays', they can defend themselves and fight back (and we so often do). If you use what is considered to not be the appropriate terms for various races- not derogatory terms, but simple terms such as black or white, the members of those races can defend themselves. Religion, race, sexuality- all capable of standing up for themselves. So why is it the one group where some members are unable to stand up for themselves, is the one group that is more acceptable to insult? As I said, this is not an issue of political correctness, but of showing respect to a group of people who are all too often not given the respect they deserve.

I truly believe that the majority of people mean nothing offensive in using the 'r word', it has unfortunately just become a common part of today's language. I was extremely blessed to have had a mother who taught us otherwise at an early age. I hope after reading this those of you who have used this word, will consider other options or at least think about what I have written here. But if you read this and feel no differently, then by all means, keep on using it, but don't use it around me or in my home or be prepared to donate $1 to Special Olympics.

**Please feel free to share with your friends if you would like**