Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Days gone by and the loss of a friend

Can you spot Kristin?  I am the third from the right.  A short brunette.  She's the tall blond.

I realize I haven't written much this year or at all since this summer.  The reason is two fold.  One is that I haven't been inspired with anything to share or anything funny to say.  The other is that I have been writing or trying to write a new children's book.  From what I understand it is a nearly impossible market to break into but I am not going to give up.  It will probably just take some years of working on it and figuring out who to know in that world.  Wish me luck. 

Several things have happened recently that have gotten me thinking.  How much time do we actually get here on Earth?  We all say "Oh each day is a gift, Life is short and you never know how much time you will get."  But secretly on the inside, don't we all think we'll get about 90 something years?  Do you really think your life might be cut short at say 41 like my childhood friend Kristin who died this Christmas morning after a year long painful bout of cancer.  The thing was, from what I know which admittedly isn't much we hadn't seen each other in at least 15 years, she was a really healthy, active person.  I have been following her Caring Bridge blog for the last year and the way she talked it was like she was taking it all in stride.  Not once did she mention how sorry she felt for herself or even that she was scared although I am sure she felt this way at some point.

Kristin and I, along with another friend Mike had planned to meet up last Christmas when the bad weather blew in and she had to change her travel plans.  I wish things had worked out because that was the last chance I had to see her.  You just never know when your time will be up.  It seems that death can bring people back together as well.  When my sister Becky died a few years ago, I heard from people who I hadn't talked to since high school and it was amazing.  It made me feel so good to know people still cared after all those years.

Time goes by so fast, especially since graduating from high school.  I remember exactly how I felt that day.  How much hope I had for the future, about to embark on a whole new chapter in life.  About to become an adult (in numbers maybe but it didn't actual hit my brain until I got my first teaching job and saw people looking at me like I was in fact a grown up and so I decided maybe I needed to act like one too.)  I remember all the faces of my friends too but until Facebook came around to the over 30 crowd a few years ago, I had no idea where most of them ended up or who they married, how many kids they had and so on.  I will say that is one of the best benefits of Facebook - being able to have some kind of connection with people you have lost touch with.

So here is my tribute to Kristin -

I remember the first day I met you and I know you remember too.  It was on the school bus, in the fourth grade.  I had recently moved from Atlanta and it was my first day at a public school.  I saw you and thought  "I want to be friends with that girl because she has curly hair."  You later told me you thought "I want to be friends with that girl because she has feathered hair"  Ha ha how shallow we both were and so we sat together at some point and thus a friendship was born based upon our hairstyles, how girl like.  After that year we spent time at each others house with in walking distance, my back yard had a creek for exploring and a pasture we could sneak into to pet the horses or sled in during our once a year snow days. You loved to brag about how you were really from Illinois and not Georgia so you knew more about the cold and the snow than I did. 

I remember that your favorite color was green and you loved cats but I hear you converted to dogs later on.  We dove into the world of middle school, Judy Blume and all the drama that ensued. We talked about boys, parents, siblings and teachers.  Cheerleading, high school, more boys and often getting into trouble with Becky and Kelly or other parties I won't mention.  I remember your first serious boyfriend.  Things started to change for all of us when those boys got in the picture didn't they?  Remember sitting through all the cold soccer games because of a couple of cute guys?  Cheerleading camp, college applications and eventually Auburn!  I am glad we converted you!  We had different experiences there and kind of lost touch but it was still comforting to have a friend from home nearby.  You called me years later and I told you I was engaged.  You promised to come to my wedding but then something must have come up because I didn't see you there and now I really regret that you couldn't make it because I never got to see you again.  When Facebook caught on you contacted me and I was happy to hear from you.  Our lives were very different but I always respected you for your independence and determination.  You seem to have become quite the hit in Huntsville and I am so very happy you had so many friends there and such a full happy life.  We will miss you Kristin,  did you notice I spelled your name right?  I also remember how mad it made you when people put an e in where the i goes :) I will pray for you and your family every Christmas and you will never be forgotten.  War Eagle friend.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Moment of Joy.

Photo by David Beaulieu

I love those little things that happen, probably everyday, we fail to notice because we have our ipods on too loud or Fox News is on 24/7 or you have say 5 children who inherited a talking gene from there momma.  Those little things that let you know there is something else out there.  We are not alone.  Life is not finite.  Are they just wishful thinking or really signs?

I will keep this brief because talking about it too much seems to cheapen it.  It was so simple but gave me immense joy.  Mom called to talk to my kids as we had just returned from vacation.  Someone handed me the phone and she had something happy to share.

My father is an avid gardener.  He is a hodge-podger.  A little of this, a little of that.  It doesn't necessarily go together or make sense to an outsider but he grows what he likes when and where he likes it.  Flowers, vegetables, herbs here and there tucked around the steep hill outside his mountain home.  It keeps him busy and out of mom's hair.  He is good at it.  It's organized chaos to him.  So when a random flower popped up in the middle of his garden that didn't match the rest of his chaos, it didn't seem a big deal but Dad likes to know the different species and why would this one single flower pop up in the middle of his intentionally planted array of other vegetation?
A friend came by and looked at the flower and told them the flower that matched no others in the garden was named - a Becky.

****Note - in case you don't know, my sister's name was Becky.  She passed away at age 39, two years ago. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The R word. Still?

In an age where it seems everyone can "choose" to be offended at the drop of a hat I hesitate to write this post but it needs to be said so I will.  ENOUGH WITH THE R WORD ALREADY!  In the last few months (and twice this week) I have encountered people who are not ready to give up that derogatory and highly offensive slang that we hurled at each other back in the 80's like it was nothing.  I am talking about the word retarded or worse - retard.
This is not about being politially correct although it is justified in that sense too.  Its about being humane.  Its about growing up and its about not trying to cut down someone else by referring to them as a person afflicted with a mental condition or any condition.   The real problem is that the victims here don't even know they are being offended.  That might cause some to say, "then why does it even matter?"   I will tell you why it matters.
It matters to me because when you sit next to me telling someone else that you think its funny to ask your young child  "what are you, retarded?" and you don't stop to think that the mother beside you might have a special needs child or granchild then you are clueless.  Why do we think its ok to call someone a retard?  Why is it ok to continue to use an outdated term in an offensive manner?  It broke my heart to hear a priest use the word in that manner during a homily recently and no one said a thing.  Including me because I cannot bring myself to be the bad guy even when I should.  So I write about it and hope to change someone's mind.

Each of these incidents happened to me recently and in one case it was a teenager, that one I get.  I don't hate that child for calling my gifted son a retard.  She is a child,  a self absorbed clueless one is my bet but guess why she said it?  Because she still hears adults say it!  People have stopped saying "That is so GAY!" for the most part so why can't we quit saying something or someone is retarded?  People have stopped referring to people as "oriental" (unless your over the age of 75.) So why can't we quit the R word?  I can answer that - the offended party can't speak up for themselves! 

The third incident happened yesterday while I was sitting next to an aquaintance whom I previously regarded with a great deal of respect and liked  a lot because she's just so darn fun.   She won't ever know that her casual comment  caused me a great deal of grief or that my opinion of her has taken a drastic downturn. 
I have a child with special needs.  No she is not technically "retarded" or even "intellectually disabled" though if you observed her you would probably think so (she has autism.)  However, you wouldn't know by looking at her that she is supremely bright, she taught herself to read at 3 years old, way before the rest of my typical children.  She would classify as "intellectually disabled" on any test that didn't involve Mario Karts or how to program a dvr (both she is genius at.)  There is so much more to people than a superficial term, a single word classification of one aspect of the whole person. When someone takes a term originally meant as a description and turns into an insult it makes you think, whose the one with the impaired thinking ability really?  I say the one who calls someone retarded in the first place.

So on behalf of mothers and fathers with sweet little children who are intellectually disabled I beg of you PLEASE stop using the R word.  It matters to us.  It's not funny at all.  Ever.  Move on.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Becky-shaped void . . .Two Years have past.

There are no words - seriously what would you say anyways?
Whoa Nellie, would you look at that superb fashion sense?  I mean does it get any better than the polyester and and sweat pants (with new boots you fortunately can't see.)  This photo was taken in the late 70's. . . but I am guessing you figured that out already.

There are three people in the picture who are no longer with us, two obviously being my Grandma and Grandpa Betancourt and the third being my older sister in the rockin blue sweat suit.  I am the much cooler one on the far right.

I miss them all but my grandparents have been gone for 10 and 20 years and lets face it, they would both be about to turn 101 if they were still here.  Not that I wouldn't give anything to still have them around.  Miss em and love em always.  My grandpa was a bad @** in his time, especially for a short dude.  My grandma was hard working, loving and kind and put up with- well- him.  To give you an idea of his personality - he used to walk around singing "Oh Lord its hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way.  When you can't wait to look in the mirror, cause you get better lookin' each day."  Yes he did.

Halloween in very cool, unGreen, plastic costumes with masks that will kill you because you can't see out of the sweaty eyeholes
 But the person this post is about is my sister Becky, who passed away two years ago today.  I still can't believe she is gone.  I still laugh at something and think I need to call her and tell her because she had a great sense of humor and would laugh at everything.  I still think of her first when I need an emergency babysitter who will work super cheap.  I still want to tell her to get her smack together and have the great life she deserves.  I still wish I could turn back time and tell her "Yes, I will drive 30 minutes to come and get you and take you to the post office so you can copy some insurance papers and mail them since your car was in an accident, even though I am 7 months pregnant with my fifth child and I have three kids in one preschool and one in another who will get out at noon."    I said no and that was probably the last thing she asked me for help with before she died.  I am not sure I will ever forgive myself even though it was a justified no.  It was still a no.

It has been two years and every three weeks since she passed I go on my Blackberry and resave her last voice mail message to me.  It was sent about three weeks before the end.  It was nothing special and that is what is so great about it.  Of course she probably wanted something because she rarely called or returned calls the last year, but it was not a sad message or dramatic, just normal.  If I listen to it I can pretend for just a few moments that she is here still.  Just 30 minutes away, not an eternity away.  Probably at my brother's house because she liked him better than me, no really and I don't blame her.  He is more fun than a barrel of monkeys and didn't lecture her as much as I did.  I was full of This-is-what-you-need-to-do-to-get-your-life-in-order advice which she never listened to but acted like she did so I would shut the bleep up.

I just wanted her to be happy.  But you can't force someone to be happy.  And you can't fix them. Or change them.  You can only love them for who they are. All crap included.  She accepted mine that's for sure.  I wonder if I will ever not feel that empty part of my otherwise joy-filled life.  There is a Becky shaped void that will probably go unfilled forever.  I am so glad to know she is with our kind and merciful Father, or close to it (sorry, but I am Catholic.)

 She is free. She is free from all of it.  All the horrible stuff of the world.  The traffic, the noise, pollution, mental illness, drugs, things that smell bad, being overweight and ill-treated for it, anxiety, being used by people she thought were her friends, confusion, disappointment and disillusionment and most of all the self-loathing we all have at times but she lived with in huge segments of her life.  Also, she hated mean people and did I mention things that smell bad?  In her case that would be cheese.  She hated the smell of cheese.

The Fab Four doing popcorn and Walt Disney on a Sunday night 70's style

If you were here today Beck, I would hug you and sit on the deck drinking beer while you played your guitar. But first I would lock the kids in the house because they would get on my nerves which is why I need the beer and then we would argue about politics and religion and who worked out more this week.  We would laugh at some dumb old joke or something Mom said (sorry Mom, but you do say funny things!) and then finally I would let the five out to run in the yard and you would laugh and say "I gotta go  now, its tough being single with no responsibilities at home."  Or something like that.

Becky playing guitar - I have no idea who that random guy is?

For now I will have to be content with your message on my phone or listening to your Cds.  At least I have that but it really isn't much.  It isn't enough but it doesn't matter. How do you fill the place of a person who was one of kind?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Hardest Part . . .

Sometimes people ask me what the hardest part of having a child with Autism is . . .actually no they don't.  Probably because they are worried about upsetting me. 

 However, everyone who has spent any amount of time around me knows that I like to talk about things-that need-to-be-talked-about-but-people-avoid.  People really want to be validated and asking a parent of a child with special needs a question about their child or situation would probably touch them in that way. It would be the rare person that would be offended by a question of this nature - it shows sympathy, interest and an awareness of the other person's difficult situation.  It's probably easier for me, being on this side of the fence, to do that however.

  Once you are a member of a "club" you feel like you have permission to do and say things that you can't if you are not a member.  For example, new mothers of multiples are always hit by a blizzard of comments and questions about their kids and they respond by either being annoyed, flattered (for awhile) or overwhelmed.  Being a mom of HOM's (higher order multiples-ie triplets or more), I feel justified in asking questions and when I occasionally get an annoyed expression from "new mom of multiples,"  I just point out my four same-aged kids on the other side of the playground and get a look of  "Holy cheese Batman!  She does know what she's talking about."  Ha ha I live for those moments.  Smugness in any form irritates me.

 From other people that is.

But back to the point at hand.  The hardest part of having a daughter with Autism, for me, is two-fold.  Last night I was watching an old movie called The Miracle Worker, about Helen Keller.  Being blind and deaf seems insurmountable to most of us.  Add onto that no technology, modern therapies or even electricity!  When Helen was a child close to the age of my daughter is now - about 7, her teacher Anne Sullivan came to live with her and bring her out of the darkness so to speak.  She was locked in a lonely world by failure of her senses.  My daughter is locked in a similar world, though her senses work.  Honestly, I sympathized with these poor parents who had no idea how to reach this child other than to spoil her.  That is so hard.  You think to yourself -"well she doesn't get to do what all the other kids do so I will just let her have, do, get away with X, Y, or Z"  Things you wouldn't think for your typical kids.  I can especially relate to the scene involving meal time where Helen is running around the table stealing peoples' food and eating like an animal.  You may remember my chicken nugget story.

However, the hardest part of our situation, to me, was illustrated in the movie when Helen's teacher was trying desperately to help her make a connection between words and objects.  And it finally worked - she ran to her mother and spelled "MOTHER" in her hand and hugged her.  I am glad no one was watching me at that moment because I came a little unglued. 

Despite her disabilities she still knew who her mother was, she loved her, she knew her mother loved her and would protect her and take care of her.  I was jealous.

Yes I have five kids and the other four understand this. But one, does not.  She knows I am her mother, she "loves" me in her way.  She can't really show it.  I have been working with her on how to give a real hug and kiss for a long time and she is starting to do it on her own finally but she would never seek me out for anything other than a need such as thirst, hunger or a visit to the restroom.  It hurts.  I want her to know that I think about her all the time.  That I will protect her with my life.  That I am the one she should run to when she is sad, lonely or hurt.  If she gets hurt or is scared she just suffers alone.  She can't tell me what is wrong and she would just as easily run up to a total stranger and take their hand to guide them to some object she can't reach because its too high. 

Can I explain to you how hollow I feel inside when I go to my daughter's class as the room mother and she doesn't even look up when I enter the room?  Or when the other kids in her class (yes, all with autism) run to their moms with excited expressions of love even when they don't express it well with words?  It's my own little Hell that I have learned to accept but it still hurts, every. single. time.  You can't spend all your time sad and Why me-ing though right?  So it stings and you try to ignore it because other people aren't comfortable with your pain.  I get that.

The other part that I find most difficult is when my other children meet milestones that I know she may take years to get to if ever.  Let's be honest.  She will always live with me.  She will probably not go away to college or get married.  It doesn't mean she wont be happy and have a good life but it's not what dreamed for her when she was born.

Maybe she realizes this, or not, I hope.  But I probably won't ever know.  One day soon I will write a post about all the blessings special needs kids can bring into your life.  There are many.  Parents and teachers of special kids know this well.  But not today.  Today I am not in that place.  Today I am thinking about what isn't going to be and praying desperately to be proven wrong by that very smart girl who is locked in her own world. 
April is Awareness Month.  Maybe ask a question of a friend or acquaintance who has a child with autism. 

 1 in 110 kids- people.  Think about that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My First Baby

An 11 week ultrasound (not mine.)
It's March.  Always, it's been a weird month to me. Vaguely springlike, vaguely warm or maybe not.  I do like St. Patrick's day with it's greenness and jolliness.  However, I give March credit for preceeding my favorite time of the year, Spring.  There is so much to love and be happy about with the approach of Spring.  It's like Hope becomes visible in the form of beautiful flowers, skies and warm days rolling by on the way to Summer's freedom (at least when you are eleven.)

Right now though, I have an uneasiness I can't explain.  Its been years since I have been through any kind of depression.  When I was younger I always let my emotions and my circumstances dictate whether or not my life was worth living, in my mind atleast.  I was always a victim to outside forces, everything was beyond my control.  Now, thankfully I have the gift of perspective that grows each year.  I have maturity to thank and a deeper faith to lean on.  Plus, I have a great life.  Really.  I can't complain - too much.

So its March and I am uneasy.  Then I remember.  March is the month I was due with my very first baby.  I was 29.  It took my husband and I a year to conceive  plus fertility medication.  I was cautiously optimistic.  We made it to 11 weeks I think.  Some of the details have become fuzzy.  I do however remember quite distinctly the pain and the change in who I was that took place when I lost that baby.  I have since lost three more but the happy ending is that I have 5  healthy kids too.  I never would have believed it if you told me I would end up with such a big family.

That first baby, it turns out, had a strange and rare condition called Tetraploidy.  It had four sets of chromosomes.  Learning that did bring a slight relief in knowing there wasn't a darn thing I could have done differently to help it along.  It was doomed from day one.  Isn't it weird?  That a body would go through the trouble of responding to a pregnancy test, feeling nauseous, getting a little rounder and all along the baby never even had a heartbeat.  Why did it take so long to let me know something wasn't right?

It really hurt - mentally and physically losing that baby.  I think it was a boy.  He would be turning 10 right about now.  Maybe even today.  I don't want to give the impression that I sit around trying to find things to be sad about or that I weep for those babies day in and day out because I don't.  I have perspective and joy and too much darn laundry to leave much time for that indulgence.  I do however, remember them often, look forward to meeting them and wonder if they know my sister and grandparents who are sharing eternity with them already.  I do wonder what they would have looked like, sounded like, how they would have made me smile and cry.  Of course then I remember, if they were here -

I know and love five sweet kids who would not be and my life would be so much different without them in it.  That takes away the sadness.  There really is a plan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just when everything is going wrong . . .

Image from The National Post

I don't do well with writing unless I have a flash of inspiration and lately they have been sparse.  Busy, sick, half crazy and irritated  these describe my current situation.  But I got one this morning and I would like to share it with you because it was simple and profound as inspirations should be. 

Let me set up the scene for you.  I have been sick for 9 days.  Really sick like WTH sick.  I have blown my nose till my brains came out which may explain the problems I am having.  My husband was sick for a month before me and as soon as he got better - wouldn't you know it . . .

MY kids are all sick.  ALL FIVE AT ONCE. On top of that my three year old may have fractured his big toe in a fall and wants to be carried everywhere.  You can imagine the wreck my house is in and the state of my fridge, laundry room and mind.  When I am not well, we just don't work, the house doesn't work.  It's all about survival of the fittest.  I have been the sickest for the past week but it looks like I am passing the torch to my oldest son today poor guy.  To him the only upside is UNLIMITED POPSICLES!!!!!!

I have been trying to breath and fight the fever and chills for days.  My solution is to take hot baths multiple times.  I can't stand the chills.  So let me get to the point.  It involves my daughter who you see pictured in the dryer below:

Yeah, she does this.  Its her new cool activity.  I especially love that she takes the time to throw all my clean clothes out on the dirty floor, sometimes she even waits until they are actually dry before she dives in.  Have you ever lost a kid in your own house?  Well after I found her here she succeeded in another recent endeavor which is climbing on top of laundry baskets trying to get the attic cord and pull down the ladder.  She got it open and tried to climb, it buckled and she fell and knocked her head on some doorway molding.  Never a dull moment here.

So all this is going on and I still feel like something you find in my backyard near my obnoxious Golden, Maggie.  I get Doodle downstairs crying (her not me, I think.) I proceed to treat the bumped head with an Elmo icepack and of course Doodle being who she is, refuses to cooperate, I stop mid-sentence when trying to explain to her that though what I am doing and what she is going through are uncomfortable and she doesn't understand it - I actually am trying to help her and it will feel better if she will cooperate!  Her brain works different than most, having autism that is. She often gets herself  into jams and dangers that a typical (Or neurotypical -NT) kid would not.  Or maybe they would? But either way, I can't explain it to her in so many words.  I just can't   So I quit talking and just yelled "TRUST ME!"  And then it hit me . . .

God does this to me all the time.

He just can't explain all of my pain or all of this world's pain in a way that my brain can comprehend.  Now by saying that I don't mean He is not capable of doing it, I mean I am not equipped to understand every situation in life especially the more complex and painful ones like why is He letting my 92 year old Granddaddy exit this world in such a slow, painful and sad way? 

Why does it seem like the world is going insane with natural disasters right now?

Why do teenagers who don't want babies seem to come by them so damn easy and others of us have to wait 3 years and endure painful tests procedures, medications and miscarriages before we get our babies? 

These are big unanswerable questions.  For now.  But I believe there is a reason. That is my Faith.  And every time I come across one of them I will have to remind myself that He is silently pleading with me.
              " TRUST ME!   I know what's best.  It will all work out with a purpose for the good in the end.  Even if I can't explain it to you right now in a way you can understand or even need to understand.  I love you. Chill out."

Or something to that effect :)  Spare prayers for my sick, sick family please!  Have a good day and use hand sanitizer!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's called AUTISM- Have you heard of it????

OK, breathe Bonnie . . .
I am used to be being stared at for one of three reasons:

1.  I have five children  - not an extremely huge number of kids but definitely at least two more than most families you see in public places.

2.  I have a set of  7 year old quadruplets (that means FOUR)  -sorry but people ask me if they are twins all day long.  More so when they were babies but now they have grown, people have less interest which is kind of good but still occasionally I am nicely interrogated on my unique family and how they came to be.  I am OK with that usually because heck, we are a sight but you learn how to minimize the attention by dressing them differently, putting them in two twin strollers at the mall and walking away from each other.  Also the number one rule for avoiding friendly fire is this:  AVOID ALL EYE CONTACT. Especially when you are in a hurry and you just want to buy some chicken nuggets and milk and get out.  I am pretty southern and try to be polite and smile at everyone so this one is hard for me, but people take it as an invitation to approach you.  Sometimes I don't mind at all.  I like meeting new people and most are genuinely interested and kind.  Some get nosey and start asking questions about fertility and such but still.  I  don't mind.  Unless I am in a hurry so no eye contact.

3.  And the third reason I get stared at is that I am a bombshell, totally hot.  So there you have it.  NO I am kidding!!!  The third reason we get stared at in public is that one of my quads happens to have a moderate case of autism.  Not autism like the popular usage referring to quirky kids who speak very well and maybe flap there hands a bit but AUTISM like still wears diapers at night at 7years old, must have hours of therapy and see multiple specialist each week, can't tell you what's wrong when she is crying wildly at 3 am for the third night in a row, bangs her head and chews her lips till they bleed, rarely speaking kind of autism.  Don't get me wrong - my daughter is AMAZING, and brilliant.  She taught herself to read at 3 years old.  Even my son who is in gifted didn't do that.  I love her to the depths of my soul and she has made me a better person. Truly.  But she does complicate things on a daily basis.  Its like having a perpetual toddler in tow. 

OK so now to my point- 
I am used to be stared at.  Its just human nature, I get that.  Most people notice, register and move on:  I imaging the conversation in their heads going something like this:

"Holy cow!  WTH (or WTF! depending) Uh are all those hers?  She must have a daycare.  I wonder if she is in one of those weird religions who believe in having 20 kids? Wait they all look the same age except for that small wiggly one, they must have some twins in that mix? Why is that one acting strange?  She looks the same age and has the same features. Oh I see must be multiples, must be autism, must be a crazy overworked momma!"

And they would be right for the most part and they would go back to eating their fries or picking out their toilet paper or other exciting activity. 

So today after a total of one month of kids being stuck at home on the LONGEST CHRISTMAS VACATION IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY, we decided to go out in public after taking Doodle to speech therapy.  We ventured into an uncrowded Chick fila at 3pm for a very late lunch.  There is ice and snow all over the sidewalk and parking lots (hence the month out of school) so I am navigating with one hand on Doodle, three left on their own and my other hand on the bucking bronco that is my high-spirited two year old.  We'll call him the bull.  Have you ever walked a bull on a leash? No? Well that is best way to describe my little guy. 

Oh I forgot to mention whenever I have to take all five anywhere along, which is exceedingly rare, I stop and say a prayer for our safety and my sanity because it is quite difficult really but doable.  So I made the sign of the Cross and prayed silently before we entered the restaurant. 

I must preface my story with a side note about Doodle: she has an annoying habit of stealing peoples food.  People who unfortunately she doesn't know but happen to have chicken nuggets or fries and therefore she believes are all there to feed her.
So I pray, we enter and all my kids immediately turn left to go straight to the play area.  I let go of her hand for less than two seconds and when I turn the corner behind her a woman grabs my attention.

"Excuse me mam, I need to tell you that your daughter just took my son's chicken nugget and walked away"

Me: "I am so so sorry, would you like me to buy you some more food?"

She was about to keep on and I realized -
She doesn't get it yet, most people figure it out in about two seconds - that my daughter has special needs, that she can't help her odd behavior, that they should just get over it because really ITS JUST A CHICKEN NUGGET! Really this poor woman has her hands full with five small children and doesn't need any grief or judgement from me because she obviously doesn't want her daughter to steal stranger's food, she isn't a bad mom who lets her kids roam fast food joints unsupervised scrounging free food because they are broke and have no morals.  She just didn't catch her fast enough to prevent it and well ITS JUST A CHICKEN NUGGET!

Most people would think that but not this lady, not today.

So I stopped her and looked her in the eye and kindly said  "She has autism.  She does this sometimes.  I am sorry I didn't catch her.  Can I buy you some more food.?  Her lone child, a grown teenage son, caught on quickly and gave her a look and said "Mom it's fine."

She couldn't let it go because, I don't know, maybe I looked like I needed to be taught a lesson or given some unsolicited advice from her vast experience with ONE. GROWN. TYPICAL and POLITE child (wait a minute a typical and polite teenager is an oxymoron but back to the story.)

Her - "She didn't even look me in the eye, she just took it!!" 
 I am thinking LADY - she doesn't look anyone IN THE EYE! That's part of what autism is!! I am her mother and she won't look me in the eye!

She couldn't let it go.  Though she smiled and said "it's OK"  After I explained.  She had to get a jibe in.

As I turned to walk away with the bucking bull still in tow she says, "Maybe you should stay closer to her."  My jaw about dropped.

  Me being southern, instead of saying what I wanted to, instead of thinking of some cool sting on the spot to put her in her place for being ignorant and hurtful and judgemental  and lets just say it STUPID, instead of saying something I would later regret but would be so fulfilling at the moment. I just smiled and said "yea, well it's kind of hard with five."
  What I wanted to say was  "@$#%$^$#%R$#^%$^# to you and the horse you road in on! You ^#^%#$%$%$&^$%!! "

I. Should. Stay. Closer. To. Her.

Now why didn't I think of that?  She's %$^%$ brilliant!

 I want to thank you all for sticking out this long, vent.  I truly see kindness in strangers' hearts on a daily basis.  Understanding, recognition, sometimes empathy and a look that says they have been there, but once in a while someone who has lived under a rock or in a utopia comes along who doesn't know what its like to care for a child with autism or small children at all.  If you ever see a situation such as this unfolding before your eyes don't be afraid to step in and offer your understanding to the parent at hand.  It will serve as a reminder to those who deal with these situations frequently that not everyone is an ignorant git :)

Remember - its not the end of the world - its just a chicken nugget.  It's called Autism.

**If you've been in a similar situation due to having multiples or a child with special needs feel free to share your story in comments or email me. I would love to hear about it.  Then we can stew together!