Kitchen Redo

It started a while back. But last year, with so much time spent sitting looking at things (and especially, watching the Do It Yourself channel) I began telling Bob it was time for some updates to our house. Actually, it was a simple project. I wanted to replace the guest bathroom cabinet and sink and then paint the room. A cinch, right? Not so easy at our house. If I changed the cabinet the surrounding tile would need to be repaired or replaced. And the tile goes from the bathroom, into the family room and up the stairs into the kitchen. Could I just do one room? I think not.

Okay, so we agreed that the tile could be updated. Yes, it still was in pretty good shape, but it was dated. But if we were going to change the tile shouldn’t we talk about replacing the kitchen cabinets. After all, the house is 20 years old… So, the cabinets should come out. Well, if we’re really going to do that then shouldn’t we replace the pantry that we’ve long talked about and change it to a style with pull out shelves?

Thus began the Kitchen Redo. We first went out six months ago and found some cabinets we liked but then came home and looked at how much preparation work would be involved… Days turned into weeks, then months and we were still talking. Poor Bob works hard enough during the week. He just couldn’t get excited about the prospects of all his weekend time consumed with remodeling. (Originally, I wanted to put in all the cabinets myself–after all, it looks pretty reasonable on those half hour project shows…)

Then one day Bob mentioned that he wanted a new truck. And I noticed when we were driving by the new truck dealers he would sigh and gaze longingly at the shiny 4×4’s.

There goes my kitchen money…and I began to whine and complain that I would never get my kitchen…a truck… I’ll admit, there might have even been a tear that I had to wipe away as I went on and on. I might have even played on the “Woe is me…I had chemo…” angle. So yes, that softy of a husband then told me he didn’t really mean he wanted a new now. Of course, we were going to do the kitchen work first.

Taken just as Bob decided that he could easily access the attic
and so this would be the best time to replace the lights too 🙂
Gotta love him!

So here we are actually with removal of the cabinets scheduled for next week. The new cabinets, sink and what not are supposed to only take five days and then the tile will be here the following week.  You’d think I’d be happy…and I am…(ecstatic actually)…But I did mention yesterday, “Would it be too much, to get the bathroom cabinet too?”

I Have A Child With Special Needs

Okay, yes, he is now a young adult.  And it’s not a bragging point.  But, if anyone asks I tell them my child has special needs.  Like many of my friends who have special needs children we work every day on greeting others in a proper fashion and acting appropriately in public.

Not every family is this way.  Years ago I worked with a gal who had three children.  I had met a couple of the kids but not all.  One day I was organizing a shower for another coworker and this gal stopped by early to drop off her gift.  I noticed kids in the car and invited her in.  She was taken aback and looked worried.  No, the kids could not come in.  One of her children was handicapped and she didn’t want me to see him.

Really?  I was surprised.  The matter passed but the moment has stayed with me. Who could be so embarrassed by their child that they would hide him?  Haven’t we moved past those dark ages?

Today, I have a child who has special needs and I’ve learned there are few things in life that are cut and dry.  

But, I’ve learned not to be embarrassed at Matthew’s uniqueness.  Oh, that’s not to say I am not “embarrassed” by him… things happen… like the time we were helping with dress rehearsal for a performance that included my daughter and my nonverbal son decided he was sick and barfed all over everything…the seats, the aisle, the kids (with horror struck eyes).  Yes, there have been plenty of times.  But as I think about it there were times when I was embarrassed by both kids.  I told Rebecca I was going to write this and she reminded me of the “stone throwing incident.”   She must have been 5 or 6 when we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner.  There was going to be a short wait so we sat in the lobby that had an old fountain in the center.  For whatever reason the fountain was filled with rocks.  And for a completely unknown reason my lovely, perfect children decided to throw the rocks.  I scolded them but they continued until I gave them the ultimatum: “If I see you throw another rock we are leaving!”  Wouldn’t you know, one of them threw another rock.  Well, what could I do?  Strangers were watching and I had to be consistent in my parenting so we marched out of there.  I was embarrassed.  Rebecca tells me she was embarrassed.  Poor Bob asked meekly in the car if we couldn’t stop at McDonalds to pick up something to eat…

Those with children I’m sure will agree that all kids manage to embarrass their parents on occasion.  There is also no doubt that a special needs adult doing something inappropriate is less tolerated by the public than if it were a child.  We have some real challenges.  So sometimes, maybe more often than we should, our family chooses not to participate in certain activities because our child will stand out.  That said, I do hope one thing I have taught Rebecca is not to be embarrassed because her brother has special needs.

That Which We Cannot Have

Have you ever been told you cannot have something? Crazily, it’s all you think about. I remember being pregnant and told not to eat spicy food. Suddenly, all I wanted to eat was chips and salsa, enchiladas, fajitas. It was horrible. I thought about it all the time. Finally, after the baby was born I was able to satisfy my craving at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Not so for Matthew. Before lunch wrapped in a tortilla became chic Matthew was Mr. Tortilla Man. He loved anything in a tortilla. I was reminded of it last night. Years ago he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. It’s a condition that prevents the small intestine from properly absorbing certain foods, in particular those with gluten (wheat, rye, barley). If one eats the offending foods the intestines become damaged causing all kinds of long term problems. The only treatment is total avoidance of these foods. For most people this diet change is a shock and difficult. For someone with autism and challenges with reasoning it’s even worse.

When we started a gluten free life over ten years ago there were few palatable choices. Bread tasted like cardboard, cookies were blegh, and the alternate flour choices were terribly grainy. It was tough. But worse was how I felt for poor Matthew. Bob and I could sneak a sandwich or enjoy a piece of cake on occasion. Matthew could not. When we would find the occasional good tasting gluten free food Matthew would do one of two things: he would eat it all in one sitting (if possible) or he would hoard and hide it. We learned to avoid the bread aisles in the store but on sometimes he would pass the bakery, walk over to the shelves and run his hand over the wrapped bread and sigh. He missed it so much.

The good news is that over the years a gluten free diet has become more popular. Today even Betty Crocker makes cookie and cake mixes. The bread we buy is now tasty and soft and makes a good sandwich. Even great tasting donuts are now available. In addition, over the years I have gotten smarter, finding better, finer ground rice flour and more options for the starches we mix to make good tasting treats. Matthew is happy. Lots of options to choose from. He loves shopping at his favorite grocery store and always comes home with a choice treat. You would think all is well and the past forgotten.

But last night we visited a favorite Mexican chicken restaurant. I like it because the chicken is roasted and we have a good choice of gluten free sides from which to choose.  A popular way to eat is to pull some chicken off the bone, add fresh salsa and roll it up in a tortilla. These guys offer fresh and soft corn tortillas as an option that we always get. I asked Matthew if he wanted his chicken in a tortilla and was surprised when he said no. He loves the tortillas. Being mom I made one up anyway and of course, he gobbled it up as usual. But when I asked him if he wanted a second one he again said no and put his hand over the bag holding the tortillas. I realized then, that he wanted to save the tortilla for later. In his mind he was back to those days when could only look longingly at the bread in the store. I finally convinced him that there were plenty of tortillas and he wrapped his up, keeping one hand on them while he ate the rest of his dinner.

Cheese crisp lunch and some leftovers! Yum!

Today we pulled the day old tortillas out of the refrigerator. They now look and feel just like the corn tortillas I buy at the grocery store. But to Matthew they are special. Because they are no longer soft and pliable we made cheese crisps and added leftover coleslaw and beans. You might not be impressed, but Matthew is. And he loves that he can have this special lunch.


Today I planted some Vincas in my front yard. They are pretty, sun loving, flowering plants that thrive in the hot summer here. It’s been a long time since I have planted them. As I put them in the ground I was reminded of the last time we grew Vincas. It wasn’t actually for me but for Rebecca.

One afternoon Rebecca was helping me water the plants. “What would happen if I used something besides plain water?” she asked. We decided it would make a great science project so she excitedly went to school to ask her teacher about doing something for the spring science fair. Unfortunately, the teacher had to tell her that second graders were too young to be invited to participate. But, undeterred, she decided to do her own project.

We bought Vinca (mostly because I knew they would grow well) and Rebecca set up her experiment. The years have faded my memory but I remember she used coffee, diet coke, bottled water and something like soapy water. She set up the parameters and researched what she would need to do to find out what measurements she needed to take and how to eliminate extra variables.

It was a fun experiment. I remember being surprised which plant grew the most. After six weeks or so she put together all her data, wrote up a report and made a display. I expect Rebecca can tell you exactly how it all turned out.

Through the project she learned lots. But I learned more. I learned that, given the opportunity, children can be excited to learn.  It was during this time we realized that through homeschooling we could present both kids the chance to learn at their own speed and there would be extra time to focus on things of interest. I also learned that, far greater than the experiment, we enjoyed spending time together and kids are fun to be around.  Learning could be a true family affair.

So as I plant my Vincas I remember back. Today Rebecca finished her third year at the university and during this next month she is applying to medical school. She still has a love of learning and continues to be excited about new opportunities.