Fourteen in '14

Leo was born in 2000, so his birthday age will always match the year. Convenient, that, for those of us who take a few moments to remember our own age. Doesn't make it any less shocking that our boy is fourteen.

This year, we focused on doing exactly what Leo wanted, especially on his actual birthday since it fell on a Sunday.

He woke up happy, and immediately got happier upon being told "happy birthday!"

[Image: Leo smiling, slightly blurry photo
Head and shoulders only, orange t-shirt,
white background featuring hanging plant]
For his breakfast, he got those forbidden f***ing donuts

For lunch, he had Indian buffet. With lassi, naan, and saag!

[Image: Leo sipping orange mango lassi
through a red straw.]
 Then he came home and got a Singing Talking Olaf as a birthday present. He was entranced.
[Image: Leo in profile, holding and looking intently at a
stuffed Olaf the Snowman from the movie Frozen.]
For dinner, he had pizza. Which he asks for daily. And is a special treat.

After dinner, we went to Rockin' jump with a few friends. Not a party, just a casual thing. No pie or pizza. The focus was the jumping. And whooooo, was there jumping!

[Image: Leo mid-air, jumping from one gray
trampoline to another, amidst a teal field.]
 Some hoops were shot, at Rockin' Jump. This is not something Leo had found easy to do in the past, but his adaptive PE class includes basketball and football practice. I observed significant Nothing but Net.
[Image: Leo throwing a yellow
basketball into a hoop, with his dad cheering
next to him. Seen from a distance.]
After Rockin' jump, we came home and Leo had a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a candle in it, and we sang his favorite song: Happy Birthday. He was so excited that he led the song himself, the moment I lit his candle.

[Image: Leo blowing out a long white candle,
with his sisters watching in the background.]
 Then we came home and Leo wanted to relax. So he sat on the couch and listened to the first Violent Femmes album. As many a fourteen-year-old boy has done before him. And that was the end of his first of three birthday celebration days.
[Image: Leo lying down on our brown couch,
with his green iPad held up to his face.]
The next day, Leo's class had a birthday party for him. They made him a very cool card.
[Image: Multicolored letters on a white background reading
Happy Birthday Leo, next to a cartoon cupcake and
yellow and blue balloons.]
And we had very healthy cupcake-like muffins. There are a few GFCF kids in the class, so I brought wheat- & dairy free chocolate cupcakes for them. Except all the kids liked the GFCF treats better than the all-natural cinnamon crumbly cakes, and polished them off.

Then we sang Happy Birthday for the second day in a row, and Leo beamed.

[Image: Leo seated at a low table, in front of a
white plate with a brown cupcake, with
a long white burning candle in it.]
The very next day, we drove down to Disneyland, where Leo was given a Happy Birthday Leo badge, and we sang him Happy Birthday one last time. He was considerably more pleased than he looks in this photo, not just because of the forbidden chocolate cupcake, but because he was at Disneyland after asking to go there nearly every day for 20 months straight. (You can read about our very successful trip and my overcoming anxiety re: the new Disability Access System pass, at TPGA.)

[Image: Leo seated at a table, looking down at a
chocolate cupcake topped by a lit candle.]
So that is what Leo's fourteenth birthday looked like. He had a great time. We had a great time. And now we all need to rest for a while! Yay fourteen.


In Search of Superego Style Food

Fettuccine with smoked salmon & vodka cream sauce. Looks like slop, tastes like heaven.
Fettucine with smoked salmon & vodka cream sauce.
[Image: a pile of flat noodles topped by chunky red
sauce, in a beige bowl with black curlicue accents]
I am not a great cook. But I am really good at making food that I really like to eat. As you might suspect, this can be a problem. I need to make food that I don't like to eat so much.

Take this pasta. It looks like slop, yes? It's actually heavenly. It happened because of an ingredients fiasco: I brought home a package of Coscto chanterelles -- so thrilled was I to see them after two years of drought, two years sans those tasty fungi at either our local bulk goods warehouse or in Seymour's secret foraging spots -- but discovered upon starting to cook my favorite brandy cream chanterelle sauce pasta that the mushrooms were not usable. Thankfully we had smoked salmon and of course we had vodka (see again: Costco), so I tried smoked salmon vodka cream sauce pasta instead.

It was to die for. Seymour, who has been working looooong hours on his team's fabulous big questions science video project, nearly fainted with happiness upon coming home from a too-busy-for-lunch workday and finding that dinner was creamy stinky fish noodles (the man is half Portuguese, so stinky fish = always a win).

I really liked our dinner, too. Which was, as mentioned before, a problem (had two servings, needed one). I really need to start cooking more bland food. Food that serves our nutritional needs and makes us want to eat it, but that doesn't make my Id tell my Superego she's a whiny little bitch who can kiss her ass. Suggestions?


Mourning and Advocating for Autistic Murder Victim London McCabe

You have probably heard that London McCabe, a six-year-old autistic boy, has been murdered by his mother. I want you to stop and remember that sweet boy, think about his utter terror as he was killed by the person he should have been able to trust the most in this world. I want you to mourn his loss. London deserved a long and happy life, and that was stolen from him.

And then I want you to get busy about what YOU can do to spread the word that disability does not justify abuse and murder. I want you to take The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network's statement on the Murder of London McCabe absolutely seriously, and share it as much as you can:
"Children and adults with disabilities murdered by their caregivers have a right to equal protection under the law; our murder deserve equal condemnation. Failing to do so not only insults the memory of the victims, but puts others in the future at risk."
I also want you to think about the actions you can take to help prevent more such tragedies. London's mother feared autism, and said it was a "thief" that stole her son from her. She also made threats about harming herself and her son, threats that were not taken seriously enough by the people in her life. She also obviously wrongly convinced herself that her son would be better off dead than in an option like an emergency placement.

These are all things that contributed to London's death, and they are all things we can work towards changing. Here's how:

1) Spread the word about better understanding our kids, and understanding autistic people in general. Too many parents, like Gigi Jordan and Jillian McCabe, considered autism something that had "stolen" their child. Parents specifically should be trying to understand their autistic kids better, especially when it comes to communication. As neurospsychologist Dr. Jonine Biesman said in her recent TPGA interview:
"...instead of compliance, why don’t we think about how we can work cooperatively, together, and absolutely listen to not only your child’s cues, and what your child is saying. It’s really important, because sometimes your child is not only giving very strong messages, but is trying very hard to tell their parents what’s going to work for them and what’s not going to work for them -- and ignoring those cues can have some very dire consequences."
2) Take parents' statements about harming or even being hostile towards their child seriously. When I interviewed ASAN's Samantha Crane about her work the Issy Stapleton case, she had specific thoughts on signs of potential violence:
"[Issy's mother] had been making statements about her frustration and clearly terrible relationship with her daughter, for a long time. We don’t take the position that there wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been done. But the intervention that needed to be done was someone noticing that this person was expressing persistent hostility towards her daughter, and noting that maybe that might be a dangerous situation, and intervening."
3) Speak out about non-murder options. As I wrote at BlogHer, we need to spread the word that an emergency placement, or an out-of-home placement, is a always a more forgivable choice than murder:
"...we need to work past fear and misinformation, and get educated about what our support options are, both during emergencies, and in general. Misinformation can lead to tragedies, as when parents absorb media-propelled myths that it more understandable for a mother to try to kill her child than to call Child Protective Services (CPS) on herself if she's thinking about harming that child."
And finally, keep pushing back against that pernicious, dangerous myth that parents won't kill their kids if they get enough services. That's not true. Issy Stapleton's mother had more services for her child than just about any person in the state of Michigan, and it didn't stop her from trying to murder her daughter. I'll leave you with another Samantha Crane quote:
"It is never acceptable to hold a child’s life hostage in the demand for more services. There are many things that we as a society can do to prevent these kinds of acts of violence. But those things need to be focused on preventing abuse, communicating that every person’s life is valuable, and detecting the warning signs of possible violence ahead of time, and really providing targeted anti-violence services rather than simply giving the parents more support in whatever therapy they want for their child and hoping that that will somehow improve the parent-child relationship. If the parent is so antagonistic toward their child that they’re contemplating violence, then something needs to change and it’s not the child — it’s the parent."