Monday, February 28, 2011

Let's Be Clear

Okay. So let’s be clear—we love our daughter, we really do. With all our hearts. But there are times, like this weekend, like Sunday afternoon from 1 to 3 pm in particular, where Dan and I are tempted to drop her at the bus station with a one-way ticket to Timbuktu.

It was between 1 and 3 on said afternoon that our family had a major confrontation about chores not done and plans in jeopardy (Jessie having her friend Rachel over for pizza and TV) because said chores were not done.

It was a busy weekend—that is true (Saturday morning Jessie helps teach dance, Saturday afternoon she has drama, Saturday evening was a karaoke night at the community centre hosted by Lifetime Networks Ottawa). And I did not sit down with Jessie on Friday night and have her develop her usual weekend planner (see image)—that is true. And she did have a lot of laundry and other chores to do—that too is true.

But she is expected to do her chores, and we are pretty clear about that. In fact, I can’t think of a weekend (other than those when she hasn’t actually been here) when she hasn’t been expected to do her chores. We certainly give her freedom in letting her determine when, and we certainly give her support in providing her with checklists so she knows what is expected of her. We certainly try to model actually doing the chores. And we certainly provide a structure and tell her when those chores need to be done by. That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

Jessie herself had a plan for getting all her tasks done and had written it down . . . all the steps that led up to the evening including: doing her chores, going the bank and getting money out for the pizza, finding the phone number for the pizza, cutting up veggies (the healthy counterbalance to the pizza), making a curry dip etc… That indicates a certain understanding and commitment to getting certain tasks done, doesn’t it?

And yet, when I came back from church on Sunday, I found Dan huddled under a blanket on the family room couch muttering to himself and Jessie singing and dancing upstairs in her bedroom to some loud Disney-esque tween star music.

Apparently, or from what I could gather from Dan’s mutterings, Jessie was not able to complete even one of her chores in the four hours that I was gone without getting sidetracked, and despite numerous reminders, which he is trying NOT to do because he wants to give her some freedom and was hoping that she would step up to the bat because here HE was doing chores and being a good role model, but oh no! And there is no WAY she would survive out there on her own and how on EARTH is she ever going to pursue ANY of her dreams if she doesn’t have the discipline and gets so DISTRACTED and . . .

I refrained from saying “Welcome to my life”—I had, after all, just gone to church—and instead called Jessie down. Our discussion quickly turned into a yelling match with Jessie having a meltdown and insisting that Rachel was coming over no matter what! and they were ordering pizza no matter what!

What it came down to, once we had all calmed down enough to let Jessie speak without interruption, was that we, apparently, had not been clear. “OH!” she said, when we pointed out the list of tasks that had to be done—but were still undone—before Rachel came over. And then she looked at us straight in the eye with an accusing glare, “But you weren’t CLEAR!”

It was at that point that Dan and I got in the car and drove to the bus station to buy ourselves one-way tickets to Timbuktu.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursdays With Jessie, or Jessie Flips: About Her Future

Welcome to Thursdays With Jessie, or Jessie Flips! I’m not sure which title we will use, any ideas or preferences? Every week Jessie will make a small video with her Flip camcorder about her thoughts or feelings on a particular subject, or about some aspect of her life. She has free reign ( I believe that is rein, as in equine, but I kind of like reign, as in royal), but we might help her brainstorm ideas as a family. She is going to keep them short—probably just a talking head—until she takes a course on editing!

Today, the inaugural edition, is Jessie Flips: About Her Future (please excuse the blocked nose!). There may end up being a number of these (videos about the future that is, not blocked noses . . .  although maybe those too)!
video

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lovingkindness

Every night, before bed, I bless Jessie:

May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be peaceful.
May you be loved.
May you be safe and protected and free from fear.
May you find joy in your own true nature.
You are God’s beloved.

Every night. No matter what. Even if I have yelled at her. Even if she has yelled at me. Even if we are not speaking to each other. Even if it is 2 in the morning and we are both too tired to get undressed and she has just fallen into bed without brushing her teeth.

Every night. No matter what.

This began during a difficult time in my life, just after a difficult time in Jessie’s. I was taking a mindfulness course and was introduced to a variation of this lovingkindness meditation. I fell in love with the word lovingkindness and was delighted to also find it in the Psalms. I thought, what better way to end the day with your child—no matter your faults and falling downs, no matter your age or theirs.

And so, we began the night-time blessing ritual that, when started, I promised her I would do no matter what. I was challenged, and graced, by this promise many times. Sometimes both challenge and grace arising out of the same, the very same, moment.

Such as the time Dan and I still laugh about when Jessie was so angry at me (for some reason that I cannot, now, recall) that she slammed countless doors downstairs, stomped loudly up the stairs, yelling “YOU CAN'T MAKE ME . . . YOU'RE NOT NICE . . . IT'S NOT FAIR” at the top of her lungs before slamming her bedroom door and finishing with “ I HATE YOU!!!! . . ." [pause, wait for it, in a much milder plaintive voice] "Will you bless me?”

“Yes Jessie,” I was able to answer, because of my promise. And in my blessing show her that she was valued, loved, and indeed, blessed in her anger and her adolescence.

May we all go to bed at night knowing we are beloved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Text Message Alert

While Jessie spends most of her time insisting that I not be involved in her life, guide her, teach her, or tell her what to do (other than being available to drive her where she wants when she wants and sew costumes and ripped favorite clothes within 2 minutes), she also has this need to text me what she is thinking or doing. This text just in:

I will refrain from hiting the reply button, unless anyone has any brilliant suggestions that don't involve "stuff" as a verb.

Okay, really, my next blog will be a buddhist blessing.

A Couple of Days, Just Ordinary Days

This blog entry is about, well, nothing in particular other than a quick survey of how some days go. I have no theme, no burning observations, no particular point, other than to give you a small picture of a few days of Jessie’s life. This was a much more laid-back weekend than normal, but that’s because it was bracketed by holidays on Friday (a PD day for Jess) and Monday (Family Day here in Canada).

A Street View Friday
Jessie had a school holiday on Friday, so arranged (with the help of Storefront and an event planning checklist) to meet some friends from school to go bowling. As it was a new bus route, we did the half-support option: this involves Jessie doing most of it herself, but having quiet support in the background (me driving behind, being there as she gets off buses and makes transfers just in case . . . but not actively telling her what to do). As we were planning this route (the # 1 to 1st Avenue, then the #6 to Westboro) I realized that I could use street view on Google maps and I could show her what the street corner would look like when she got off the bus and where she needed to go next. This was an amazing help and allowed her to orient herself (without any support!) when she got off the bus and head either to the next stop, or to the bowling lanes. Brilliant! She went bowling with friends, I went Nordic walking, and then I picked her up when it was over (as the bus home was more complicated and with longer intervals between). In an ideal world (with an ideal mother and an ideal transportation system), she probably could have learned how to walk to the closest transit station (not bus stop) and taken the quick bus home, but welcome to our less than ideal world! We pushed her outside her comfort zone a bit, did a bit of learning, and she had fun with friends. Then we headed home in time for Jess to walk over to Julia and Krysia’s (where she also does music on Sundays) to join them for dinner and to talk about fashion design and the possibility of Krysia teaching her how to sew.

A Dramatic Saturday
When she got home Friday night, she worked on the character study homework she had for her drama class on Saturdays (at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama) so she could be ready at 8am to go to the airport to meet Rachel, her “best friend since elementary school” with Cathy (Rachel’s mom and my friend and saviour in many a challenging situation) and Rebecca (Rachel’s younger sister and a brilliant friend to Jess as well). Cathy had invited Jessie to go with them to pick up Rachel—who was coming home from Halifax for reading week—go out to breakfast and then go back to their house to hang with the girls until it was time for her to go to drama. We do have the usual food discussion the night before and Cathy is always primed to give a little guidance as she has ridden the food roller coaster with us numerous times—the short version being that Jessie is very impulsive when it comes to food and LOVES to eat!

I was off at a meditation workshop most of the day, assuming (as I usually can with Cathy) that all would go according to plan, or if not, would be rescued appropriately. And it did! The drama referenced in the title had nothing to do with life, but only with the class. My meditation workshop finished in time for me to drive to Westboro to pick up Dan and Jessie. (Note: Dan and I usually squeeze our ‘date’ into these 2 hours on Saturday afternoon where we laze about—and on more than once instance have even been observed napping—in the sunny window of a local Bridgehead coffee shop reading old NY Times book reviews.) After drama, Jessie is psyched to write some more of her character study and so she goes to her room to write on the computer until dinner and family movie night. Some Saturdays, when Jess isn’t out at a friends or a dance or we don’t have anyone over, we try to hold on to family movie nights where we watch a movie together and I try not to fall asleep.

A Laid-Back Sunday
I leave early on Sunday mornings to go to church, with the open invitation for either or both Dan and Jess to join me. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. This Sunday was a singleton for me, Dan and Jess stayed at home cleaning bathrooms and doing chores. A blessing indeed! After lunch, Jess headed off to music while I finished blessing the house for Cathy, Rachel, and Rebecca who were coming over for vegetarian lasagna, salad, strawberries, and home made chocolate sauce! We celebrated Rebecca staying upright for 24 hours (she is having fainting spells lately, which started after giving blood a week or so ago) and watched the first two episodes of Life Goes On that Cathy and the girls gave Jessie for Christmas. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, it was a wonderful fairly typical family TV drama that had as a main character, a young man with Down syndrome (Corky, played beautifully by Chris Burke). Watching it now, it still is very cutting edge—in that Corky is in a regular class at a regular high school—and deals with the issues of inclusion and equality with a fairly open hand. I don’t know now if I find this inspiring or depressing—while the mullets and big glasses made us all laugh, the issues felt current, not dated.

A Movie Monday
On Monday, we all laid low. Jessie had a friend over from school for a Zac Ephron movie extravaganza and we didn’t deal with chores or calendars or To Do lists at all. Or not until she went to look at her chore book from school and realized that she probably hadn’t done the requisite number of chores. Students at Storefront are required to do two chores a day. These chores are based on a list provided by Storefront and are tracked in a student's chore book and need to be signed off by a parent and the student. Parents are only to sign if the chore has been done a) properly, b) independently (with a little wiggle room if first learning the chore), and c) with a positive attitude. This caused a meltdown (but I don’t WANT to not have 6 chores, it’s not fair, then I’ll have to do everyone else’s chores, it’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair). Dan did remind me that it was not the time to give her a proper definition of fair.

We did manage, somehow, to get to bed still loving each other. And I did give Jess her usual bedtime Buddhist blessing. That is how I will start the blog tomorrow: with a blessing, and hopefully, it will be blessedly short (the blog entry that is!).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Everyone Needs a Little Sophie

The glorious, incredible, effervescent Sophie! Sophie is the facilitator assigned to Jessie for a futures planning session (for and directed by Jessie) that we will be doing in the spring. Committed to person-centred planning (and having done PATHs and MAPS with Jessie and her friends and supporters in the past), we jumped at the chance to participate—for free!—in a new planning initiative for persons with disabilities in transition offered through a local organization called Citizen Advocacy. We get a newly trained facilitator to work with Jessie and ourselves as we gather friends, colleagues, and important (to Jessie and us!) community members and builders to help plan a future for Jessie that is rooted in her own dreams and goals. And the newly trained facilitator (in this case, Sophie) gets a focus person and family to practice on! Below is Jessie’s video of Sophie who, you might notice, is very pregnant and due at the beginning of March! (Jessie intends to chronicle the planning process by video with her Flip camcorder.)

video

This opportunity to do a person-centred plan fits in perfectly with our plans to try to sort out the miasma of a mess that life after school is turning into. We are feeling stumped by what comes next. The field is either wide open, or infinitely narrow, depending on your point of view. Jessie jumps from wanting to go to college or university, to wanting a job, to wanting to be an actor for the Disney channel. On Friday, she wrote:

“I would love to be a writer and a director. I want to be able to learn about behind the scenes and to learn new skills and to meet new people. It would be hard work, but I am willing and able to work and do the best I can. I’ll work hard. I will believe in myself, do the best I can and I want my voice to be heard. I am determined and I will be self-driven, but I would need lots of help and support from my friends and family.”

And then yesterday:

“I would like to pursue my acting and my dancing. I want to be motivated, self-driven, and dedicated to my work. I want to do something in my life. I want to change the world with my acting and dancing. I would like to take more acting classes and more dance classes in order to climb the high mountain to my dream. I want to combine these two elements together so I can audition for the TV show Glee.”

There is a part of me that knows, from past experience, to trust in the process—to always keep Jessie out there in the community doing what she loves and to be mindful of the opportunities that arise and coalesce to create a rich, challenging, “now.” That’s on my good days. When I have gone to church AND meditated.

On my bad days, well, on my bad days, I am afraid to admit, I alternate between making random panic-stricken unintelligible phone calls to programs/supports/schools/people and going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head. Oh, and I talk really fast so it sounds like I know what we are doing. I’m afraid that’s what I did when I met with Sophie for tea the other day. When she asked me what we (Dan and I) thought were the biggest roadblocks to Jessie heading toward her dreams I think I spewed a breathless monologue that went something like this: sheforgetseverythingandisveryimpulsive and nevergetsoutthedoorontime and wouldrathershakeashakerthanfinishalessonplan and oh myatherdaycareworkplacement shefoughtwithathreeyearoldoveratoy and Iamnotherbestteacherandshe . . .

To Sophie’s credit, she did not scurry away mumbling “OMD (or Oh Mon Dieu ... since we live in a bilingual country) what have I got myself into, this family needs a therapist not a planner!” She actually sat and listened and then redirected me without me even noticing it so we got back on the isn’t-Jessie-wonderful track where she, in her subtle way, refocused me on Jessie’s strengths and passions. (Did I mention that Sophie is a trained social worker?)

You see, while I am sometimes Jessie’s best advocate, I am also her worst nightmare: a babbling gray-haired, middle-aged Mom tired of reminding cats and other household inhabitants that the litter needs to stay IN the box (or the clothes in the laundry basket or the used pads in the garbage or the … well, you get the picture).

And I have to admit that, at times, oftimes, I descend into a fearful diatribe that includes “If you don’t get a handle on [insert task], you will end up in a GROUP HOME!!” Group home, in our house, being synonymous with hell. Jessie has learned to include this little tidbit in her own comebacks stomping up the stairs saying: “I am NOT going to [do my laundry, have a shower, brush my hair, insert any other task of choice]. I don’t care WHAT you say; I am NOT going to live in a GROUP home.” Lovely. I am not proud to admit this part; but I figure it should make any of you reading this feel much better about your own parenting skills because I doubt you have ever sunk quite so low.

Yet, just at the nadir of my fear and loathing about the future, Sophie was dropped into our lives. A bright, colourful, whimsical pregnant bundle of positive energy that immediately transformed our petty bickering into a joyful and exciting exploration of Jessie’s gifts, strengths, and passions.

Okay. That’s a bit over the top. But Sophie is like when, in the deepest darkest of winter you suddenly realize that the sun is coming up a wee bit earlier and setting a wee bit later and that you are actually aware of the sun—during the day, not just as a distant memory—and that it actually might, at some point in the future, warm your skin and even entice purple crocuses and yellow daffodils from the frozen ground.

So Sophie is just that little bit of hope that makes it easier to wake up in the morning and to feel that things can and will continue to grow. Everybody needs a Sophie, even just for a day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Sucks, or Chemistry 101

Jessie has had a boyfriend—whom I will call Tall Thing—for almost two years. I have not written about their relationship at all because it is theirs and I did not want to trespass. I will say, however, that nothing really prepares you for the conversations you have to a) have and b) listen to. I mean, we’ve all practiced and become comfortable with talking about dating and love and sex with our children (I certainly hope), but there is no parenting book that I have found—not even those targeted to parents of children with intellectual disabilities—that talks about how to broach the subject with your son or daughter’s date’s parents! “Hi, I was just calling to ask you what you’ve taught Bob/Brenda about sex?” I mean, what is the etiquette for that? I spent days agonizing over that first phone call, trying to suss out Tall Thing’s understanding and his parents’ level of comfort talking about dating and boundaries and sex. Not conversations I often have with near strangers!

As for the conversations you have to listen to . . . well, I admit, I am a lurker, ever curious. But in my defense, it really is very hard not the hear a conversation going on in the back seat of your car, the car that you are required to drive to make any dating possible. While I have written snippets of these conversations down in my journal, I have not blogged about them because, no matter how delightful, I want to respect Jessie’s privacy on this front.

However, I am crossing that boundary here today because Tall Thing broke up with Jessie Saturday night. At our house, after a romantic Valentine’s dinner (red table cloth, candles, dinner for 2), and with Jessie in the long clingy dress she herself bought just for this romantic occasion. Dan was so mad he went and erased the pictures he took of them off the camera.

At first, it seemed like everything was going well. Tall Thing had bought Jessie a card with chocolates inside; she had penned him a long letter that listed all the things she loved about him. They ate a romantic spaghetti dinner and then retired to the family room to talk and hang out. And then, toward the end of the evening (really, I wasn’t spying, I just happened to be loading the dishwasher) I happened to hear: “But I can’t deal with all this grandfather drama.” At issue, I believe, were the dates that Jessie had to cancel because she was in Montreal going to her grandfather’s funeral.

Now, in Tall Things defense, I don’t think he was intentionally being callous. I think he was just getting tired of it being difficult for them to get together. So he was considering being “friends.” Not “boy” or “girl” friends. I had to exit quickly as I heard my daughter begin to melt down. Then I had to hold back my husband, who wanted to strangle Tall Thing for being so tacky as to break up after a Valentine’s Day dinner.

When it was time to leave, Jessie followed Tall Thing to the door, confusion and sadness (okay, despair, but no parent wants to write or see that) on her face. Tall Thing put on his coat and I drove him home. The conversation was interesting (once again, things you have to adjust to: driving your daughter’s boyfriend home after he has broken up with her and trying to remain respectful of his personhood and restrain yourself from dumping him at the side of the road). Tall Thing was still uncertain about being girl and boyfriend, but then in the same breath went on to tell me about what he had planned for their anniversary in May. I think both of them are so in love with the idea of being/having a girl/boyfriend that neither are really able to let go of what might not be giving either of them what they need. This is the HARDEST part of parenting (ignore any thing else I may have listed as the hardest part, this really is the hardest part): not telling your child what to do in affairs of the heart, but hoping that you have raised them in a way that will let them make mistakes and then recover.

When I got home, Dan read me the riot act. “This is NOT the time to give her the speech about a woman needing a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” So I knocked on her door and respectfully entered and sat on the side of her bed, wiping the snot and tears from her face. She talked, I listened. I said I had a little bit of advice, but would only give it to her when and if she wanted it. “Okay Mom,” she said. “I want to hear it.” And I briefly said that sometimes love sucks and it’s hard to grow up and have to deal with break-ups. But that she was a wonderful young woman who deserved someone who loved her and treasured her and with whom she shared interests. That she should take some time to think about what she wanted. Did she want someone who was going to be fickle, to keep changing their mind? But also, that I trusted that she could figure it out and that we were always there to support her and love her.

I sat there and held her for a while, then retired to our own bedroom, where I held Dan and felt grateful that I had another person to do this parenting thing with!

Sunday morning, Jessie and Dan were putting dinner in the crockpot and Dan was explaining how cooking was like chemistry. “Yea,” said Jessie, “That’s something Tall Thing and I didn’t have!”

I’m not sure how long that feeling will last. I am not sure that she wouldn’t, if given the choice, try to ‘make it work.’ I am not sure that she isn’t so in love with the idea of having a boyfriend that she might not trade some measure of her own esteem for the promise of a kiss.

But I am sure that she deserves someone who loves her, treasures her, shares her passions, and is willing to be there for her when she needs him. Someone who makes her weak at the knees and with whom she has “chemistry.”

And in the interim, we will keep trying to teach her about relationships, be there when they fail, help her make friendships and a range of relationships that will support her, and love her with all our might. That’s all we really can do, even if it never seems quite enough.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Do You Spell That?

We are having deep discussions these days about what is next after Jessie finishes Storefront. Jessie’s plans and dreams change every moment, depending on who she has just talked to (Jeremy and I are going to move to Los Angeles and become rock stars); what musical she has just seen (I’m going to apply to Harvard Law school and become a lawyer); or what college or program she has just visited (theatre looks like too much work, maybe I will try biochemistry, you remember that I LOVE science!).

While she really wants her next step to be college or university (that’s a whole other blog or two or three), she also wants to have a part-time job and has been working on her job skills through Storefront and her work placements there. To be perfectly honest, Jessie is more of a “creative” than an “organized” person. While her friend Julie would be a brilliant employee organizing clothing or products (because she is an “organized” kind of person), that’s not really Jessie’s forté (note: loving parental understatement of the year).

Jessie tries to bring an element of creativity to everything she does, from cooking to combing her hair, and yes, even culling hangers off the clothes rack. At one of her placements, she was observed taking the empty hangers off the clothes racks (good first step) and hanging them off her sweater (not so great second step). While she had been provided with a basket to hold the empty hangers, she thought that since she was wearing the brightly coloured sweater my mom knit for her—the one she calls her “creative” sweater and wears when she is writing— she should inject some creativity into her job. The problem was, once she had hung these hangers on her sweater, she couldn’t unhook them and went wandering around the store—hangers hanging and clanging off her sweater—trying to figure out what to do.

However, since that memorable incident, Storefront has sold her on the importance of being organized and learning certain front-line retail skills. The other day we passed a new Shoppers Drug Mart being built in our neighbourhood and we talked about the possibility of her trying for a job there. Later in the week, I got this text from her:

Mom: I know the building isn’t finished yet but I would like to try to work at that shoppers drug mart part time in the area of stalking. Plus ive learned a lot about speed and stalk at several of my placements. Jessie

I didn’t quite realize the full range of skills she was learning at her placements! I actually think she might be very good at stalking, especially speed stalking (if a Jonas brother is involved). So if that rock star thing doesn’t work out she’ll still have a useful skill when she and Jeremy move to LA.

But maybe next time her placement could work on spelling?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Grumps, or Why I Haven't Blogged in a While

The week of Jessie’s birthday (January 19th) my Dad—Jessie’s Grumps—died. The road we all travelled these last few weeks was filled with laughter and grief, as all our comings and goings are, I think.

Since much of what is important in life is about relationship, I offer here glimpses of Jessie’s relationship with Grumps. Some photos of them together, and a final photo of all of us (my mom, Jessie, Grumps and me) with the quilt we made for him from his old golf pants. A treasured quilt, a treasured man.















As we prepared for the “celebration” of his life, Jessie asked if she could speak at the gathering. This is what she said:

Grumps was my grandfather. To me he was the best reader. He loved rhyming books and when I was little he read to me. He also loved to correct my grammar. But most of all I loved his heart. He also had a great sense of humour. Grumps taught me to breathe and to have an open mind. I loved his smile. And when he smiled, you knew that he had the capacity for joy. You might not know this about Grumps, but he had 2 stomachs. One for regular food, and one for sweets like caramel ice cream, carrot cake, almond crescents, dove bars, and crème caramel. If his “regular” stomach was full, there was room in that second stomach for anything sweet. And the more in that second stomach the better. He gave me this gift of a second stomach. So I say have some ice cream to celebrate Grumps!

And that's just what we all did!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Humble Kiwi (written January 5, 2011)

A new year, a new renewal intention—not a resolution, I don’t do those; except perhaps ones similar to Jessie’s when she was about 12 years old: “My resolution is to eat more donuts!”—to get back to blogging.

Much has transpired while I haven’t been blogging—Jessie’s inaugural experience of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at our local movie theatre, a bus trip to Cryville, a college tour to Toronto, yet another Christmas pageant, and my father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer—which just goes to show you that life happens even when not chronicled! Halleluiah for that!

However, because so much has happened (in small and nugatory bits that move us forward and along the path) I got overwhelmed by the idea of trying to catch up. So instead, I offer you the humble kiwi (more on college tours, bus trips, and futures planning later).


The kiwi is a small fruit. Green, fuzzy, difficult to peel, yet one of Jessie’s favorites. Not the best choice for a “fruit in the hand” kind of snack, but still, we try to keep a batch on hand to add to a winter fruit salad treat. At school, they are encouraging Jessie and her peers to make healthy food choices and to stretch their usual routines to include fresh fruit and vegetables (not processed foods). I will not question WHY this is so much more acceptable or even inspiring coming from Ms. Ashton or Ms. Ford than from me or Dan. I just bite my tongue when Jessie says, “Ms. Ashton says fresh fruit is healthy and we should be bringing it for lunch or a snack,” and not point to the handy lunch list we have posted in the kitchen that lists all the fresh fruits that she could/should pack for a healthy lunch. “What a good idea!” I say, and make a mental note to give them a list of all the things we have been trying to tell/teach Jessie and see if they can work their way through it.

This particular morning Jessie grabs a kiwi to add to her lunch box. She tells me that someone there will help her cut it and peel it at school. At dinner I ask her how that worked out. “It was good,” she said, “but I didn’t eat all of it.” “Oh?” “Well, I couldn’t find the knife and Tanya was busy and so I just kind of ate it.” “What do you mean?” “I bit into it. It was kind of fuzzy; not too bad.”

Ballistic mom freaks (that, I am afraid to admit, is me). WHAT!! But the skin could be poison! The skin on some vegetables and fruits is poison and you don’t just go eating it if you don’t know! Its fuzzy, it tastes horrible, and it could be poison! Don’t EVER do that again! You HAVE to know what you are eating! You CAN’T just eat skins and stuff without knowing … blah, rant, blah, rant, rant.

Sane mom (that, I will admit, is sometimes me) thinks. Hmmm. I wonder if the skin is poison? I better look it up. So I excuse my ranting self and head to the computer and look up kiwi. It turns out you CAN eat the skin (the picture shows a delightful slice of kiwi, skin, seeds, white stuff and all!). It turns out that the skin actually contains lots of antioxidants. Antioxidants: the meaning of which I had to explain to Jessie when I came back to the table contrite and apologetic. I had to tell her that she, in fact, made a smart move when she decided to eat the skins of the kiwi and that I, in fact, did not know what I was talking about.

I then had what appears to be turning into my usual dessert during these transition years: humble pie.