The Great Peanut Butter Battle.

by Jennifer Dyer

Rachel was underweight for the first five or so years of her life. Food allergies on top of autism-related sensory/texture issues compounded to make every mealtime as fun as a dental exam. Worse, the only foods she liked were the ones making her sick.

Each time I had to say no to Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, or her favorite chicken nuggets, her lips quivered, her eyes watered. Though she could not talk yet, I felt as though she was thinking, “Why are you starving me, Mommy?” Every “No” I uttered and each tantrum related to food our family weathered shoved knives into my gut.

So, one day I found this simple recipe for peanut butter cookies:

  • 1 cup peanut butter. 
  • 1 cup brown sugar. 
  • 1 egg. 

Rachel loved watching the mixer, so I decided to try the recipe (with only 3/4 C sugar, just FYI). I didn’t expect her to eat it, but hope springs eternal around here that she will at least try something new.

Before I dropped some chocolate chips into the batter (well, someone had to eat the cookies, yes?), I offered her a spoonful.

And she ate it!

I called hubby and Eldest into the room to witness the marvel: Rachel was eating a new food! Not only that, but the doctor had recently given us a mammoth list of supplements to try on her, which, as you can imagine, I always ended up wearing. Day-glo vitamin orange is not my color.

This new discovery of peanut butter opened an entire world of possibilities to us.

Which …

Is how I found myself Several Years Later…

Mixing brown sugar into peanut butter for Rachel.

A few weeks ago, I woke up from this nightmare where I scrubbed peanut butter from my carpet and recliners daily. Except it wasn’t a dream. Somehow Rachel had trained me as her personal peanut butter slave.

She isn’t underweight any longer, either. We currently have the opposite problem.

Standing at the kitchen counter over a bowl of Rachel’s fav snack, I felt as if two mommies sat on my shoulders tossing verbal blows at each other:

What if she develops type 2 diabetes because I’ve let her eat herself unhealthy?

But she hates most other foods!

But she can’t go on like this!

But she’ll cry and beg for peanut butter if I take it away. I can’t do this, can’t live through days, weeks, months of more food tantrums. I feel like such a bad mom when she’s hungry. 

Are you a big girl or not? 

Urg! Sometimes I want to punch the sky. I know I have to be the mom. I even manage it with Eldest. As much as she would love to try, I do not let her eat ice cream for every meal.

But after almost a decade of fits lasting for hours and possibly days with Rachel, I have the strength of hot pudding. The thought of enduring days of screaming, spitting, stripping, peeing on the carpet, and banging her head against the wall until the plaster breaks makes me feel as if I’m pressed under a thousand bundles of plastic grocery sacks, pushed under the surface of a murky lake. I’m drowning, breathless, and I wonder if I’ll ever see the sun again.

But … I was awake after all these years. So I had to try. Being the mom sometimes means pushing through my own issues in order to help my child.

It’s been over a week without peanut butter. The first five or so days, she asked at least 5 times a minute unless we had her distracted by swimming, running an errand (but NOT in a grocery store!), driving aimlessly in the car, or we had to ignore her, which is about as easy as ignoring a tyrannosaurus in a wedding dress sitting on the couch.

We even wound up with another hole in the wall.

But, so far we have been free of the food-which-must-not-be-mentioned lest it start another round of the aforementioned food battle. I’m not sure what will happen the next time we have to take her to a grocery store since she knows where every store in a ten-mile radius keeps their peanut butter (oops! Said it…) and brown sugar–she might have a future in maps.

Sometimes, in the spirit of the Chinese proverb, A journey begins with a single step.

Read More

As the Bus Turns … episode 3.

by Jennifer Dyer

Day two of the special ed bus chronicles started bright, not too hot, and everyone was up and going on time. I had Rachel’s lunch prepared the night before, so we were outside and ready long before the bus got to our house.

When it chugged around the corner, I gave Rachel the “Last Minute Mommy Speech.” In her case it was, “On the bus, your shorts stay up.”

Yes, when I first became a mother that was what I imagined saying before launching my kids off to school. “Play nice. Keep your clothes on!”

Life has a way of laughing at you…

So, there I was, trying to get through to my sensory-challenged, verbally-challenged daughter that it is best to keep her clothes on. She signed, “yes,” so I thought we were good.

She climbed onto the bus while hubby and I waved our arms off, tears in our eyes at our big girl and her big adventure on the bus. She sat in the front row. Got up. Sat in the second row. Moved to a seat further back in the bus. Moved back to the front.

A faint mommy radar signal off, “Ruh roh, Raggy…” But the rest of me–the part that keeps hoping fairies will clean my kitchen while I sleep–was certain everything was fine. I jogged back inside to get Eldest ready for school.

A minute later the bus was back.

???

Rachel had taken off her pants, she wouldn’t leave the seat belt on, wouldn’t stay seated, and was possibly staging a coup.

I wanted to hide. It was as if I’d opened a bag of my favorite chocolates only to find out it was filled with ants. It’s always something with my sweet Rachel. We run a marathon daily with her sensory issues, her food issues, her language issues, and I thought we had come so far with her clothes issues.

And I certainly never envisioned rooms in my home looking like: 

 

Why is everything so difficult?

The bus took off only to stop a few feet down the street because Rachel took her clothes off again. Tears blurred my vision. What must those drivers think of us? Did they skydive to the conclusion that we were the creepiest people on earth because our daughter sheds clothes in public?

As I slumped back to the house, I imagined all kinds of horrors. CPS pounding on my door asking why I let my child act so terribly. Scowling bus-driver faces every day, full of disdain for my child. A call from the school telling us her bus rights have been terminated.

So, I called a friend who would tell it to me straight.

“First of all,” she said. “CPS coming to your house is not the end of the world. Second, and more important, the bus drivers work with special ed kids. They know there will be challenges. Yes, you’re embarrassed, but I doubt they reacted as severely as it seemed. They probably just came back to make certain everything was OK.”

Sometimes I must separate myself and Rachel from her behavior. We are not defined by autism, but instead by what is in our hearts.

So, this morning, I put on a brave face as I walked Rachel out to the bus, still unsure how the drivers would react.

And you know what? They were kind and compassionate. They weren’t horrified or traumatized or ready to cast judgement upon me. In fact, they just want to help Rachel.

So, one of us–ahem, moi–needs to chill and embrace my not-so-normal life. 

 

On a side note, in preparation and because Rachel is so visual, I made her the following social story on the photo editor PicMonkey:

 

Read More