Autism Cuppa

One Violet at a Time

Come into my kitchen and pull up a chair. I’ll pour you a beverage…what would you prefer? Coffee or tea?  Decaf or herbal?  Soda?  Oops, sorry then, no soda! I do have some adult beverages; what would you like………wine or beer? There’s always water……I have both Still and Carbonated.

Now that we’re settled, let’s talk.  You wanna know about my kitchen?  My KITCHEN? I suppose there’s no harm and really, my Life in Autism can be explained a bit more clearly if you understand my kitchen.

The kitchen is the heartbeat of our home and of our family. It’s the same for any family, really, even those not affected in any way by autism. The kitchen for the family with a member who has autism can be both the best room in the house and the worst room in the house.

It’s the worst room in the house, especially if early on there are food issues (and their corollary: food fights) or, you are in the midst of the Autism Diet Wars.  We tried anything, food-wise, that tempted Our Kiddo and would have some sort of nutritional value because as a three year old, he ate like a 15 year old. Chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza, chips and grilled cheese…..and not a drop of green to go with those french fries!  He wouldn’t eat a salad but he would eat corn on the cob and carrots until he was orange. We congratulated ourselves when he ate chicken gumbo soup after we sneaked in some pureed green beans–YEAH US! Trying all of those damn Autism Diets left us weary and not worrying about what he ate anymore because, when every meal becomes a battle ground, just tain’t worth it!  We did find a helpful diet for him, but it wasn’t until his mid-20s and that’s a story for another time.

It’s also the worst room if your Autism Kiddo has OCD issues like my son.  We call it the *Kiddo Feng Shui* but it’s really maddening to have him move stuff simply because he wants straight lines to line up or objects to touch.  He’s been known to unload a dishwasher full of dirty dishes and put them away (P.S. Those *child-proof* locks for dishwashers don’t work…don’t waste your money).  He’ll use a bowl and spoon for his breakfast oatmeal and put them back in the cabinet and flatware drawer(eewww). Don’t worry, we’re a lot more on top of the dish situation than we used to be, so your glass is perfectly clean. For a while, he would open cabinets when I wasn’t around, pull the glasses or mugs or dishes to the very edge of the cabinet so that when you opened them,  you had to watch for falling pfaltzgraff! If there is something he likes, such as orange juice or cookies or soda pop(don’t start), he’ll drink or eat it all, so we have pantry shelves and a second refrigerator in the garage. We’re lucky he’s afraid of the garage or there never would be any Cheerios!

It’s the best room in the house because our family has shared a lot in that room.  We eat dinner together (once again, like old times) at least five days a week and it’s nice to be with each other.  When they were in grade school, often all my Kiddos did their homework at the kitchen table eventho they had nice bedrooms and nice desks and we have a nice study. My Kiddo still does the academics program I have created for him almost every day at that kitchen table.  Four of us drag out our laptops and work at the table occasionally but it’s usually the dead of winter when that happens for some reason!

My kitchen is warm and welcoming and makes me feel good, even when things don’t always go the way I want them to. It’s also the best room in the house because of the way it’s decorated.  We re-did it about ten year ago, resurfacing the cabinets, getting new appliances, painting and getting new counter-tops.  We contrived a clever way to display the hundreds of pieces of depression-ware my Grammie D left me. But instead of getting the greenhouse window I wanted and desired, we put brass brackets on either side of the windows above the sink and put glass shelves across the windows as a compromise.  Hubby and I bickered and bickered and bickered…..I wanted the top of the line, very expensive counter-tops…and I did get them only to *lose* my greenhouse window battle with the Great Hubby!

I had wanted to have herbs and mini-roses or something like that on those glass shelves and still, after ten years, it hasn’t worked out. The mini-roses just don’t do well in that window and I have *officially* given up. The herbs, well, the herbs would do well if My Dearest, Eldest, Most Excellent Kiddo would leave them the heck alone!  Basil is eaten, mint is chewed, rosemary is stripped of its leaves and left looking like a stick tree and sage is thrown away in ripped strips. For whatever reason, Kiddo doesn’t like herbs there.  Since I fought for this compromise, I needed to have some sort of plant life sitting on those darn glass shelves and I do….African Violets.

My Grammie D was the first disabled person I knew. Of course, since she was my Grandmother, I didn’t realize she was disabled until high school. She was an amputee, having had a birth injury which caused her leg to be crushed, and her leg being amputated at the age of nine was the best solution for her to have a near *normal* life.  She earned a college degree in the early 1920s when women often didn’t finish high school. She had a career, played tennis, married and had two children (one was my mother)and then had another career during the depression when her husband lost his job.

Grammie D knew all of my children, passing away when she was almost 96.  She loved them so much and was so proud of her great-grandsons. She gave me some good advice when it came to The Kiddo I think.  She told me to always expect much of him and he was more capable than any of us realized. And not to sell him short and be patient.

Grammie loved African Violets and when I tried to think of something to put on those damn shelves, those shy little flowers came to mind.  And, knowing Our Kiddo takes a while to get used to things, I put one Violet on the shelves at a time. For seven weeks.  I now have seven, beautiful, healthy (mostly) African Violets that he leaves alone. Progress!

Sometimes, living with autism, we have to be patient. It’s often a matter of one violet at a time.


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Your Autism Cuppa is written by a longtime Autism Mom. A former Autism Society of America local chapter president, she is an educator and artist and has done inclusion consulting work for over 20 years. Married for 36 years to the father of her Three Sons, the eldest having autism, she wants young parents to know they are not alone. Life can be fun!

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