The Car as My Teacher

Yesterday could have been a bad day. It started out okay. I am now working as a substitute, so each day is different work-wise. There weren’t any jobs I could make it to at first, but as R and I were heading out the door for school, a new job popped up. I wasn’t really dressed for work, but I decided to go anyway in my hoodie and jeans. It was at my old job, so I was basically subbing for myself. Kind of funny! The kids seemed happy to see me. You can’t always tell with autistic kids, but once you get to know them, you discover their individual ways of expressing emotion. Work was great, I was feeling a little tired(moon time) but have been eating healthier so it was tolerable. After work, I had some time to spare before I headed out to get R from school. I picked up some groceries, including a huge bag of carob chips. I am going to make some goodies this weekend for sure. Before I left town, I had just enough time to go visit my younger sister and her newest baby. She was born early, and is so tiny! 7 pounds is small in our family. I snuggled with her for a while, and then headed home.

Our car has been acting up lately. Over-heating issues. We haven’t had the money to go in and have it looked at. So I filled it up before I left town. I am about halfway to R’s school when the car starts making some funny noises. The oh-so-familiar pinging noise many of us hear when we try to push it with our cars. This car doesn’t typically make that noise. I right away started sweet-talking to the car. “Come on, Sweetie, just get me to R’s school and get us home safely”…..that kind of thing. Well, it didn’t work. I made it over a hill before the car had enough. I pulled over and as soon as I did, it died. Great. To make matters worse, I was out of minutes on my cell phone. Okay. I got out of my car into the drizzling rain and walked around to the front of the car. Steam was pouring out of the front. Not a big surprise. Cars were whizzing by. I was late getting R at this point and had no way of letting anyone know what was happening. As I was standing there weighing my options, a white SUV cruised by. It was an older car, not one of the fancy ones I saw just fly by. It had a disabled parking tag hanging from the rearview mirror. The kind older gentleman turned around and pulled in behind me. He rolled down his window and asked if I needed help. I burst into tears and managed a “yes please”. He got out of his car, patted me on the back and said it would be okay. He had a longer beard and was dressed in a typical fashion of the country folk in our area. He kindly offered to give me a lift to a phone(he gave his cell phone up when he retired, I later learned). Despite all the warnings a woman hears about getting in a car with a strange man, I felt this man was safe. He turned out to be a very nice person, and took me to his home a little way up the road. I got to meet his dogs, one a rottweiler mix. His house wasn’t super fancy. The furniture had obviously been used by all members of the family, including the dogs. I called R’s school and then tried to call a neighbor to come and get me. She was in town and couldn’t, so the man offered to take me to R’s school and home. I told him if he could just drop me off at the school, I would be ever grateful. On he way there, we talked about all sorts of things, including veganism. Here I was, talking to a third-generation hunter about a plant-based diet. I admitted to him that when I was younger, I was very judgmental of people who chose to eat meat. I told him that I not feel people should eat what works for them. It was very interesting. He dropped me off and I thanked him some more. I had nothing to offer, but he went out of his way to help a stranger.

I got R from the office, called for a ride, and then went outside to wait. R’s school is a country school, so there are trees and grass and boulders galore on the school grounds. After about five minutes of running around like a crazy animal, he joined a couple kids on the rocks. The kids’ dad was there helping them, and he immediately started helping R jump from rock to rock. He was waiting for his wife, who works at the school. Between jumps, he started talking to me. He was quite the character. As I mostly listened to him, I reflected on how interesting the day had become. I had some really bad luck, but I met some very unique people as a result. People can frustrate me, but most of the time, people fascinate me. I love to know their stories. So I contentedly listened to this stranger talk. I hardly got a word in. After his wife came out and they left, a car pulled up. I thought it was my ride so I started waving like a maniac. It wasn’t my brother-in-law, but a woman I didn’t know. We laughed about me waving at her like that and her waving back. My brother-in-law pulled in right behind her.

He gave us a lift to my car so I could pick up my groceries, then took us home. We talked the whole time about all sorts of things. He dropped us off and then took D to the car to see if he could lurch it home. He made it after putting a bunch of water in it.

We will find out this weekend if the problem is bad or not-so-bad. I am happy that I was able to turn something really negative into a positive adventure. I had some interesting conversations, and got some fresh air.

I have to miss a day of work today, which isn’t ideal considering our financial situation. I am going to embrace this day at home with my family.


Wine and Pizza and Dandelion Tea

Saturday started out sort of yucky. I dropped D off in town so he could hitch a ride to a Winter mountain climb that he was doing. I was a little sad because he would be gone overnight, but I also love that he is doing what he loves and I get some nice time with the kids. After that, I was supposed to take R to see his dad….but his dad bailed out on him again. This has been a pattern all R’s life. It hurts to see my little guy disappointed. To cheer him up(a little) I took him and J to the local bookstore for some vegan hot chocolate. I am very sensitive to caffeine, but I was tired and a little cranky, and had some cleaning to do when I got home, so I ordered myself a vegan mocha. I usually get decaf, but thought it would be okay this time. Wrong. I almost instantly started feeling strange. Oh, boy, I knew what that meant. Just in sitting and chatting with a friend for about twenty minutes, I felt my heart begin to race and sweat started breaking out under my arms. I collected the kids and headed out. On the drive home, I felt cranky and nervous. By the time we got home, I was having full blown anxiety. Yuck. I breathed through it, called my mom, had some lunch, and finally felt better around midday. Poor J must have gotten some of the caffeine in my milk, because she would not nap. So I turned on Elmo In Grouchland and got to work on the house. The kids were happy to watch it, and it’s a cute movie.  Around six, our neighbor lady and her boys came over to hang out. We mamas had a couple bottles of wine, we all ate some delicious vegan mini-pizzas, and the kids had a blast playing while we talked and talked. I played cd’s all night……a little different than my usual Pandora default.  We had a great time and stayed up until well after one in the morning. The neighbors headed home and I pulled the futon mattress down onto the living-room floor(we do that every time D is gone overnight)and made a huge nest. The kids crashed right out, but I couldn’t sleep. I watched some reruns of Roseanne and finally fell asleep around three. I woke up at eight because the dogs had to go potty and now am enjoying a cup of dandelion tea and making pancakes for us(the kids are still asleep!). D will be back this evening and we have Monday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I want to do something in nature. I also have been talking to R about civil rights(all his life, actually)and what a special person Martin Luther King Jr. was. I remember being in elementary school and coloring pictures of him this time of year. I remember a boy in my class coloring him black black, not the beautiful brown that his skin really was. I remember how sad that made me, especially because he and some of the other kids in my class were laughing about it. Things like that are why I teach my kids early about equality, humanity, and compassion for all living beings. We are all sharing this Earth, it is important to treat one another with love and respect. Om.


The Kitchen Table

I hate to admit it, but we only eat at our table a few times a week. It is something we are trying to do more often. We have gotten into the habit of eating in the living room in front of the T.V. I know. Yuck. Me, the woman who used to be so against watching television, period. My only defense is that we do choose pleasant, educational shows when we are eating. That doesn’t mean that it is right. My goal is that, at this time next year, I can say we always eat at the table. Our littlest one is getting big enough to eat a the table with us in her own chair. We have been working to keep it cleared off, not cluttered by all the stuff that can accumulate on it, papers, shopping bags, river rocks, etc. This isn’t to say we don’t use the table at all. Right now, I am sitting at the table as I write this. We just have a laptop, and since our table is at the kitchen window, which looks out at the river, it is a great place to write. R also does his homework every night on it. There hasn’t been a single night where he has done his homework elsewhere. We use the table as counter space, since this single-wide mobile home we live in doesn’t have a ton of space. It is a fine table, solid pine. It was gifted to us by our sister-in-law. It has six chairs, and fits perfectly into our kitchen. True, the door to the fridge can’t totally open because it butts against a chair, but I wouldn’t trade it for the tiny table we had before. Even if it took up our whole house. I think a kitchen table is important. It creates memories of its own. I hope I can pass it on to one of our kids when they have a family. By then, D and I should be traveling around in our RV or something. For now, it is mine. I am committed to taking great care of it and loving it as mine.

The source of memories to come...........

The source of memories to come………..

Fajita night!!

Yum! My kitchen is filled with the smell of onions and bell peppers right now. It’s Fajita night 🙂 I love making these, they are super simple and very yummy. It’s pretty easy. I sautee onions (as the tears stream down my cheeks) and add some extra-firm tofu, cut into thin strips. If I want “beefy” fajitas, I use seitan. I then add bell peppers that have been cut into strips. I cook this all for a little while, then add some of my super secret spices. Tonight, I am making a cashew “cheeze”, which is just soaked cashews with lemon and salt pureed in the blender. Serve it all in a tortilla. The kids love it. My kids are already blossoming into little foodies. My 5 year old is the most curious, but my 19 month-old seems to get it, too. Which is good, because Daddy doesn’t care one way or another about food. It’s purely functional to him. He appreciates my cooking, and he is very close to being vegan(he still takes cream in his coffee, and sometimes eats a snickers bar).

He is pretty awesome, actually. When we first met 5 years ago, he was a meat eating, cigarette smoking guy. Inside, he was my dream, but I knew it would be difficult to get over the things he was doing to his body from the outside. Very shortly after we got together, however, he switched his diet to vegetarian and quit cigarettes……all on his own.

After we eat our fajitas, I will make some chocolate chip cookies. I made them for a friend one time, and she asked if it was a secret family recipe. We both had a good laugh when I revealed that it was just the veganized version of the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. I have tweaked it here and there, and it is so, so good! Our family of five always devours the whole dozen in one night.

Today I made some cheesy crackers out of this awesome old book I have from the ’70’s put out by the Farm Commune. I scored it at a second hand store. They were a big hit in this house. My little lady kept asking for more crackers. She is talking so much these days.

I am trying new things to put in my kindergartener’s lunch box. I feel a little extra pressure to pack really awesome things for him. I know they don’t mean to, but his teachers sometimes make me feel guilty if I don’t send a special snack on a day when someone brings in cupcakes. I don’t always know that cupcakes will be served at snacktime, and since his school is awesome, they know not to give him anything that isn’t vegan. I don’t want him to be labeled as freaky and I don’t want anyone to pity him because of our choices. He loves the food I give him. Both my kids are life-long vegans, so they really don’t know any different. My little guy is very social, and despite all my “be yourself” lectures, he does want to conform. It is who he is. I won’t force him to be anything else. He is very much into animal rights, so much so that I had to tell him to tone it down a bit. Anytime there was a mention of eating meat on t.v., he would tell people they were stupid or would use other violent words against them. I had to explain to him that, even though we don’t choose to eat that way, we still need to show compassion to people who do eat that way. I can’t help but feel a little swell of pride, though, when I see how passionate he is about it. One of my dream trips for us as a family is to visit Farm Sanctuary. They are one organization who is going about things the right way. I’m not into the in-your-face attitude of Peta.

Tonight I think I will let my little guy help me with the cookies. I love to think about how it will be when he is older and comes home to visit Mama. We can cook together, then, too. I love to think that I am helping to mold a couple of really awesome people.

Baking together since he was wee.

Baking together since he was wee.

Letting Go in the Kitchen

I love to cook. I am a bit of a perfectionist with my cooking. I rarely let anyone in the kitchen with me when I am creating a meal. I get in a zone. In my kid-free days, I would get stoned, turn on the Dead, and spend hours in my kitchen, making some really amazing things. Yet now I am a mama. My dear little 5 year-old seems to share my enthusiasm for cooking. He is always so very curious about what is going on in the kitchen. We have cooked “together” before, which translates to me telling him what to do and hand-over-handing him through the steps. The new year is upon us today and I have made many resolutions. One of those resolutions includes letting my kids explore life a little more, stepping back and observing while they figure things out on their own. So tonight, as I was preparing to make some yummy vegan applesauce muffins, my wee guy asked if he could help. My instant reaction was to say no, not now. After a breath, I called him back. “Come here”, I told him. He eyed me suspiciously as I led him back into the kitchen. When I told him he could help, his eyes lit up and those dimples I so love appeared on his cheeks as he broke into a huge smile. He washed his hands, and then joined me at our big kitchen table. I simply told him how much of each ingredient(he is an emerging reader)to use and he did the rest. Many times I held my tongue as I had the urge to correct something he was doing. Oh, crap, he’s not putting equal amounts in each muffin cup, did he stir it enough….aughhh! I used my breath, the same breath I use to get me through tough yoga poses, each time that little voice piped up in my head. I am happy to say, we got through it with no frustration. Once the muffins were in the oven, he ran out to the living room and proudly exclaimed “I made muffins!”. These are the moments I live for. It is my goal to have more moments like this. In order to do it, I have to set aside my perfectionism and allow life to happen. I know the more I do this, the more happy times we will all have together.