May 8, 2016: Mother’s Day

Ah, Mother’s Day. I love this day because, obviously, I’m a mother…but I also feel a bit guilty celebrating it when I have a number of friends whose children have passed away or who are struggling with infertility or adoption loss or for other reasons are unable to have their children in their arms. And I have friends who’ve lost their beloved mother this year, so my heart goes out to them, too. So, let me start out by saying happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating…and to those who struggle with this day for whatever the reason, I am thinking of you today. You are not forgotten…and neither is your child. In fact, I thought of you today probably more than you could imagine.

I think I’m feeling particularly emotional about this because the past week has been a difficult one in the Down syndrome community. I am going to save that for another post, though, because I haven’t quite worked out what I want to say…if anything. In the meantime, I’ll keep this one more upbeat.

So…Mother’s Day. My sweet husband had planned a day with one of my favorite things today: a BART trip to San Francisco to eat oysters and mill around! Unfortunately, I messed up that plan by eating a hot dog. Sigh…

I’ve been gluten intolerant since I was pregnant with Sam, but in general, I can cheat and eat a little gluten here or there if I take a dietary supplement called GlutenEase. It generally works, but I have found that when I eat particularly low-quality items, sometimes even the GlutenEase won’t work. I don’t mean that to sound uppity—like I’m some person who insists on only the finest quality ingredients! But over the past five years I’ve just learned that if I cheat on, say, pizza, GlutenEase will work as long as I eat decent-quality pizza. If I eat really cheap pizza from Little Caesars or another super-discount place, I tend to have a gluten attack and get sick. Same thing goes for baked goods—I can eat a cupcake from a decent-quality bakery with a GlutenEase and I’m fine, but if I eat something like a cheap Hostess cupcake from the grocery store, it’s not a pretty sight.

Don’t ask me why this is the case. I can only assume it has something to do with the processing of the wheat in higher-quality wheat products or something. I really don’t know. But it seems to be the case, and on Saturday I played with fire and ate a cheap, free hot dog and bun at an event we went to. I was sick with a gluten attack in a few hours. And yes, I know it was a gluten attack—it’s decidedly different from a food poisoning attack, and all four of us ate the hot dogs and I’m the only one who had any issue. After five years of dealing with this, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying them.

Anyway, that put the kibosh on Sunday’s plan. I didn’t want to spend the effort or the money to go out to San Francisco if I couldn’t even enjoy the oysters! As it turned out, I didn’t eat breakfast or lunch—I ended up sending Chris and the boys in to eat lunch while I went to a nearby store and browsed by myself for an hour, because I just couldn’t stomach the thought of food. (It wasn’t a loss, though—I ended up finding a dress for our upcoming DS gala and my niece’s upcoming wedding!) I did brave some frozen custard later in the afternoon, but I can’t say it settled terrifically. It tasted good, though…so there’s that!

So instead of San Francisco, we went to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. I wanted something low-key (and with a decent bathroom, because…well, gluten), and it fit the bill perfectly! We hadn’t been in some time, and they had some new exhibits and such to look at. Sam was particularly enamored of watching the drones fly, and Theo loved the air-traffic control screen where you could actually watch the planes coming into San Francisco and Oakland airports and click on them to see where they were coming from and going to, and the times and flight numbers and such. (It was pretty cool, actually!)

And honestly, I can’t be too annoyed at the hot dog that kiboshed my day, because I ate it at one of my favorite events of the year—Special Kids Day at De Luna Ranch! We didn’t get to go last year, so I was really excited to go this year. As it turned out, the weather wasn’t entirely cooperative—it was drizzly. But we braved it with the rain, and it turned out fine. There were enough trees to keep us protected, and the rain didn’t get beyond a drizzle anyway. Plus, the weather kept the crowds down!

I felt kind of bad for the organizers, though—the ranch and the Lions Club put on this event every year, and they really put a lot into it! And then thanks to the weather, it was sparsely attended. I’m sure they had a TON of leftovers! But anyway, it did make it nice and uncrowded for those of us who attended!

This event is completely free if you have a child with special needs. Free parking, free admission, free games (all with free prizes), and all the free food you want. We have gone almost every year since we moved here, and we always have a blast! I had actually thought Sam would really dig it this year, since he’s finally old enough to really participate, but as it turned out he was sleepy and a little overwhelmed for the first 90 minutes or so, so he whined and wanted to be held for much of it. Every person who came to talk to him, he just said “NO!” to. But after about 90 minutes he warmed up to the event and decided to get down, and then he had a lot of fun dancing to the karaoke music, going on a hay ride, and bouncing in the bouncy house! We even got him to play one little fishing game, which he really liked.

Theo, on the other hand, loved it all! He held a duckling and a baby bunny in the petting zoo and loved that. He played all of the games and did all of the crafts, and he really enjoyed that. He loved learning to joust and swordfight in the Renaissance area, and he loved the water-balloon catapult that you could fire at adult targets! He also made some friends in the bouncy house, and we practically had to drag both boys out of there after nearly an hour! And Theo ate enough to feed an army: hot dog, chips, popcorn, s’mores, ice cream sandwich… They also had tasty root beer floats (yum!), but he’s not a root beer guy, so he left those for me and Chris. And a big highlight for Theo was seeing the Star Wars characters walking around. He got to meet Kylo Renn, his favorite Star Wars villain, so he was very excited! (Sam, on the other hand, gave all the costumed people the stink-eye except Mickey Mouse, who he calls “Ditty Mouse” and was willing to wave at from afar but wouldn’t go near.)

It’s interesting to me, this event…it really is just so much fun, and one of my favorite things we do all year. And part of it is because it’s a friendly crowd—if your kid melts down, it’s no big deal because half the kids there do the same thing! Everyone is in the special-needs boat, so they get it—they get that your kid might not react in typical ways to any given situation. But part of it is the way the kids play. I’m going to paint with a very broad brush here for a moment….

Theo has a lot of friends who are, as they say, “typically developing.” He also has quite a few friends with special needs. And the same is true for Sam—he plays with typically developing kids, and he also plays with kids with special needs. So I see a lot of kids, really. And one thing I’ve noticed is that the kids with special needs tend to treat each other a bit differently than the typical kids do. They seem to be a bit kinder and more respectful.

Please don’t think I’m saying that typically developing kids are generally unkind or disrespectful—I’m not! And I’m also not saying that all kids with special needs are kind and respectful—they’re not! But what I’m saying is that in a general, very much broad-brush view, I notice fewer nasty comments from kids who have special needs.

Case in point: I took Sam and Theo to the park last weekend, and some little girl who looked about three walked up to Sam on the playground equipment, got right in his face, and yelled, “You GET OFF of here!!” And this is far from the only time it’s happened—I have frequently watched kids be snotty to Sam. And I don’t think it has anything to do with Sam having special needs or being different, because when kids are that young, I truly don’t think they see difference in that way—they might notice difference, but they don’t yet equate it with negative. I see these same kids do the same thing to other kids, so I don’t think it is anything personal with Sam—I think it’s just kids being rude to each other.

Case in point again: Last year I took Theo to a birthday party he was invited to, and when I had him go wish the birthday girl a happy birthday and thank her for inviting him, she looked straight at me and said, “He’s weird and he always does all the wrong things in class.” I was rather stunned and had to resist the urge to give her a swift kick (because at age seven, I think they do know more about what’s polite behavior and what’s not—I’m not about to give a seven-year-old as much slack as I give a three-year-old).

Another case in point: Another mother in the local community just posted on Facebook a question about how to handle a situation. Her third-grade child had been invited to a birthday party and was acting strangely about going. When his mother asked him why, he confessed that the birthday girl had, the day before, come up to him at school and said, “Why are you coming to my party, anyway? I only invited you as a joke!”

My point being, kids are brutal. Sometimes they’re too young to get it, and sometimes they’re just brutal. But I don’t tend to see this in the special-needs community. Which certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but I don’t think it happens with the frequency it does in the “real world” (that is, outside our little bubble).  I used to tell Chris that I liked it best when Theo played with his autistic friends because they are all (Theo included!) too much in their own world to bother being snotty to the other kids—they just do their own thing and let their friends do their own thing, and it’s all good! And really, I was sort of joking…but sort of not. I do find that my kids experience less of the brutality of kid life when they’re in the little special-needs bubble. And yeah, I know it’s not good to always live in a bubble, but sometimes it’s nice to be there for a little while.

My friend who homeschools her children recently wrote something similar—she said she felt immense pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” when her daughter was in public school, but she doesn’t feel that same pressure within the homeschooling community. She said there’s a bit of it, but not nearly as much. I think that’s how I feel about the special-needs community—you get a little bit of the brutality, but not as much. And I really kinda like that.

So anyway, we had a great time at De Luna despite the rain and despite the hot dog sending me into misery! Next year I’ll just skip the hot dog. 😉

Another fun thing I did this week was attend a Mother’s Day tea at Sam’s school. The kids put on a little pageant where they sang “You Are My Sunshine” and the ABC’s, and then they served mini-muffins and tea and juice. Sam, being among the shortest of all the kids, was front and center, so I got to see him well! It really was very cute.

And I finished my book on Barbara McClintock, Nobel Prize–winning cytogeneticist, this week! It was by far the most challenging book I’ve written, so I am very glad to be done.

And now, my work schedule is wide open all summer long. I hardly know what I’ll do with myself! Of course, the lack of paychecks won’t be fun, but the time off will be. Not that I have complete time off—I’m still working for Down Syndrome Connection, so that will keep me somewhat busy—but it’ll be much less work than I usually have. Which is probably a good thing since my summer is going to be spent shuttling children to day camp and communication class!

Before you go, if you haven’t read my review of Blue Apron and you’re so inclined, click here.

Hope you all had a wonderful week!

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