The Cure: Snow, Sea, Crabs, & Chanterelles

Last week was hard -- for Leo, for me, for the kids. No school for Leo (winter break), plus his beloved Therapist V was out introducing his offspring to snow. I'll list the mood-deflating stressors at the bottom of this post, only because it's disingenuous to dismiss them. But I will tell you what cured both Leo's and my blackened blues: A California snow-to-sea day!

Snow Frolicking!Yes, we had snow in the Bay Area. This is at the top of Skyline road and Tunitas Creek, for local location spotters. We were the only folks there, which I found astounding.

It wasn't much of a snow (I used to live in Syracuse), but Leo and Mali had never seen the stuff first-hand, plus it was enough to throw snowballs at each other and coat hands with cold fluffy powder.

India at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Playing in the snow was enough of a thrill, but we then realized it was only thirty minutes from there to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, which was at low tide and just waiting for us to come tidepooling.

Mali was especially excited -- we told her that tidepooling would let us see lots of sea creatures not usually exposed, so she shrieked "Mermaids!" and bounced away to find them.

Zelly & Leo at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

We didn't find the mermaids, but we did find a beach where Leo was happy to clamber around on the rocks, pick his way through the tide pools, and run on the beach. Seymour found huge whole abalone shells, an abalone kitteh, starfish, a huge piece of bullwhip kelp that generated many Raiders jokes, and we all scrambled along and joined in the fun. Until we started realizing that it was damn cold (Leo and Iz were first, Mali never clued in as she has no internal thermostat) and set off for home.

Except you know what's on the way home? The Princeton docks where the fishing boats sell their wares. Three enormous Dungeness crabs ended up riding home with us.

Live Crabs in the Kitchen Sink!

I didn't realize the crabs would need to hang out in our sink until we cooked them. So I almost peed my pants when I reached over the sink to get a glass of water and a big crab reared up at me. GAAAH!

Mali felt for the crabs, mostly. She didn't want to eat them, and she tried her best to help them understand their fate by writing a warning in Crab Talk, describing the "brain-cutters" that were coming for them:

India's Crab-Talk Warning

Crab-rearing and Crab Talk video demonstration video. Note that once the crabs were cooked, Mali had no problem smashing them open. But she still wouldn't eat them.

By the time we finished our crab dinner and put the kids to bed, I was recovered from most of the previous week's depression & disorientation. Then Seymour came back from a beer date with a local mushroom foraging buddy bearing these beauties:

That would be two pounds of enormous fresh chanterelles. Enough to feed our entire family and six hungry Canadians for dinner the next day.

I love Northern California. Sometimes just living here is all the cure I need.


Now, as for the black week leading up to the curative weekend -- I had just come from a wonderful weekend with three of my favorite people and my wonderful mom. So what the hell is wrong with me?

I have to tell you, I'm not sure. I had The Best Time Ever during our writers' retreat -- but it was not restful. Quite the opposite. I came home trashed from all the face time, even though I wouldn't have changed anything, not one thing, about our weekend.

And I came home to the instant stress of trying to work with all three kids out of school plus Leo disoriented from routine disruption, topped off by five forecasted days of rain, which blew out any chance my preferred mood booster: getting outside, as described above. (The one time I did haul the kids out into the redwoods, Leo refused to hike for more than 50 yards. I'm still not sure why.) Seymour was very supportive, even took time off work to sit on the monkeys while I gave iPad presentations via iChat to educators in Tennessee.

But mostly, I can't stand it when Leo is sad, and there's little we can do. He spent the week on a crying jag, sometimes even crying himself to sleep. We think it may have been a bit of a stim, but it was rooted in real distress -- and he can't tell us how he feels, or why he was crying. We could only try to comfort him, which sometimes he liked and sometimes he really didn't.

Leo's difficult mood meant curbside pickups only for Mali after school, as I didn't want to bring her brother's unpredictability onto her crowded playground. It's hard enough for both of them when he's grumpy -- he tends to fixate on her as the source of his discontent whether true or not, and we have to keep them separated.

So, it was a hard week. By the time I took Leo to his ophthalmologist for his annual full workup (I tend to schedule all his recurring medical appointments during breaks, which in hindsight probably doesn't help much with his stress level), I was nearing the breaking point. Leo was too unsettled to stay in the waiting room while we waited for his eyes to dilate, so we asked the front desk to give us a call when Leo's turn came, and waited in our car. I helped Leo play with new apps like Swapsies, he played with perennial favorites Silly Numbers and FirstWordsDeluxe on his own, and I spent the entire time trying to imagine my sadness as a wave being sucked back down off the beach and away.

That worked until we came back into the office and the doctor casually asked how I was doing. Then I lost it. Which made me mad because for all I knew, my crying was reinforcing negative stereotypes about autism parents. I just wanted to share Leo's information with her, and tell her that, actually, he was doing really really well, and ask her some questions. But all I could do was sob. She was very kind and hugged me and took care of us well. I adore her. (If you're a Peninsula resident and don't already know who the best pediatric ophthalmologist in the area is, I'd be happy to tell you.)

Also mood-spoiling: I caused a misunderstanding at work, with one of my favorite people in the whole world. Which probably put her in a shitty position, even though she'd never tell me. Which just sucks. Even though she says it's worked out.

And people we love keep getting divorced. Which Leo can't understand; one of his favorite verbal stims is to list pairs of his favorite local people circa 2005. Only problem is all of them, with the exception of one couple, have split. So I listen as he lists each emotional trainwreck in sequence, and I praise him for his great memory. Then I cry again.


The absurd thing about being so low last week is that there was so much to celebrate and enjoy.
If you made it this far, leave some advice, pat yourself on the back, or knock back a shot.

I'm processing, mostly, and am just so glad to have forests and the coast to cure what ails me.


  1. Nope, it was NOT restful, although I also would not trade back any of it. That was a *lot* of face time, and as I said while we were there, it was exhausting, but I never do that sort of thing, so I wasn't backing down, dammit. Your mother, I'll repeat, was just lovely. I also jumped right back into life up to my ears when we got back and found it incredibly disorienting.

    Poor Leo. I wonder if maybe his legs hurt or something--not wanting to walk, crying even to sleep? TH had a fever while I was gone and now seems to have restless leg syndrome all of a sudden...keeps him up and hurts his feet and legs. He can articulate that to some extent, so it's not as opaque to us. But poor baby Leo.

    We need a NorCal cure around here, badly. I won't go into details, but some of us are at our healthiest at places like Skyline Road and Moss Beach. Hell, who am I kidding? We're all better in those places.

    I think you need a break (I'm so helpful, yes? I mean, duh). I'm sorry about whatever happened at work and can only imagine that feeling in the pit of your stomach. Time will make that better. Or, as my favorite Victorian writer would say, "Time tempers the wind to the shorn lamb." Shots might also help.

    In other news, I have just learned via TH that giant Pacific octopuses can open a jar to get to clams. Who knew? But I thought you might like to know in case you didn't.

  2. I have nothing useful to say, other than I'm sorry things are/were rough.

    In other news, I don't know if people who know you in person would think so, but you and SJ sound EXACTLY alike to me. I find that amusing, for some reason.

  3. Mermaid. Ha! How cute is that?!

    As I read through this post, I thought, "She talks just like me!"...a few cuss words here and there that are COMPLETELY necessary. :)

    Seeing those crabs in your sink makes me miss Oregon. We lived there for 11 years.

    The divorce thing does suck. It's hard for everyone. I've experienced the same thing with my autistic son, Cody. Sadly though, it's not friends, it's family members!

  4. It's been a really long time since I've commented, but your week sounded so much like mine (well, emotionally anyway, different issues, same effect). My kids have different issues, and for us it's a lot harder to get out and de-stress (we're in Alaska, and currently experiencing 40mph winds. Yay.) Being locked in our small house all the time with a brilliant but bored and now (recent change) homeschooled 13 year old, a 6 year old with anxiety/OCD issues that cannot handle changes in routine very well, a 4 year old that thrives on chaos and destruction, and a 3 month old who is in desperate need of open heart surgery that no one in Alaska can perform and apparantly the normal hospital in Seattle that does perform can't schedule it right now, they're too busy - yeah, well, let's just say I feel your pain. Or frustration, or exhaustion, or whatever you want to call it. I just put everyone to bed and am blog-grazing, my one last bit of sanity before I pass out myself, so all I can say is please keep up the good work, even when it seems like you aren't getting anywhere, you are a lifeline to others (like me at the moment)!

  5. I adore you. And you got through it, and I am hoping for better weeks ahead.

  6. Sorry you had such a lousy week, and I hope the return to routine will help everyone's spirits. I read your article on Mali's engineering, and as a fellow female engineer, I have to say I love that kid! Obviously all your kids rock. Keep up the good work!

  7. Anonymous11:32 AM

    I used to live in Oswego, a 45 min drive from Syracuse, so I can understand lots of snow. And used to live 1/4 mi from Lake Ontario and loved to walk along the shore and examine the large rocks for sea life and the relaxing sounds of water near it. I now realize why I loved going there as it was an open place with no people or anxiety-inducing stimulations.

  8. I really need to get threaded comments! Except then I'll lose several years' worth of comments. Again. Sigh.

    Emily, we need to meet up again ASAP (IMFAR?) and tell TH that I always give cephalopods the benefit of the doubt.

    DeeAnn: cursing is a condiment-equivalent, isn't it? Or a spice. Over or underused, it's a negative. IMHO.

    Charly: Oh my goodness. Really hope you have some community or backup. And good luck.

    Mir: *mwah*

    Diana: Thanks for being a role model!

    Kevix: My roommate in Syracuse was from Oswego. She used to laugh at us when we'd complain about our snow. :)

  9. Amy Ferber2:14 PM

    I just have to say how awesome I think you are! Not only do you do so much to help other Moms/families with special needs kids by sharing what you've learned about Leo, the iPad, apps etc. you also are open enough to share your challenges. Doing so helps us all. We all have these days, weeks where things are tougher than usual and we really just need to keep going and get through them to the other side. I like how you look for relief in the outdoors, in chanterelles and the occasional shot and how you try to understand why its happening. Like you, I agree that sometimes we won't know why or what's really happening with our sweet boys and all we can do is love them and keep on keeping on. Your blog about the iPad and your amazing honest style has really inspired me as a Mom. Keep up the good work and give yourself a huge pat on the back for making it through those tough days. Also know that you truly make my tough days a great bit better by sharing all that you share.

    My best to you and your family,

    Amy Ferber


Respectful disagreement encouraged.