Summertime Blues
July 17, 2017

I’m baaacccckkkk…

For better or worse, it’s been nearly a year since I added new posts to I Love Your Brain. I think about it often and I miss writing but these months have been charged with all sorts of new stresses and joys.

The most notable event of the “lost months” is that Cole started high school. He’s actually now successfully and happily completed his freshman year at a public LAUSD high school. He did well, enjoyed school, made friends (even had a girlfriend) and is now contentedly enjoying four weeks of summer school.

Filling nearly ten weeks of summer with two working parents is challenging, so we take activity where we can! Thankfully, he still loves school so summer school is a good, free option for part of summer.

The relief I feel about Cole liking his new high school and adapting to the new environment, teachers, schedule and transportation can’t be measured. The stress leading up to finding what we hoped would be the right school was immense for all of us. We’d been spoiled by CHIME. Cole had only known inclusion. How would this work at the high school level, in a school district that doesn’t practice inclusion at the high school level?

Interestingly enough, his school was open to allowing him to take some classes under general ed and some, including his home room under special ed. At first he really liked having his day split between the two, and he did well in all of his classes. He had support for the general ed classes through his special ed teacher and made some friends outside of the special ed class.

But somewhere midway through the year, he started to prefer his special education classes to the general education classes. He made more friends in that class and felt more comfortable and confident there. For the first time in his fifteen years he’s starting to identify more with kids who have disabilities or are more similarly abled to him. One hand it seems like a natural trend. High school is where most teens start to regroup and find their peeps.

On the other hand, it’s been harder for my husband and I to accept. We both recognize that it’s Cole’s choice and that his happiness is most important but in that way that most special needs parents have to let go of their own notions of what their child’s experience is supposed to look like and adapt to what it does look like, we have had to let go of the idea that having an inclusive education at this level is what’s best for Cole. It’s hard.

Despite the successful school year he’s had, it’s also come with a fair amount of loneliness. He’s made a lot of friends at school, kids he spends every school day with and some riding the bus to and from and school with (so spending roughly from 6:15am until 5pm together), but he doesn’t see these kids outside of school, except one movie date night earlier this summer.

Nor does he see much of his old friends. There are some kids who he was really close to at CHIME who he hasn’t seen since leaving CHIME. I understand it’s the ways things naturally go at this stage in their young lives, but I’m not sure how much he does. The reality is that there’s little intervention that I as a parent can offer. It breaks my heart.

Right now, I’m just hoping the rest of summer will pass quickly and that we can get back to routine of sophomore year, full school days. We’re in the process of building a swimming pool so next summer Cole will be able to enjoy his favorite activity any time he wants…swimming – in his own swimming pool in his own backyard! Hopefully it will provide some social opportunities for him too!

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MAKING PLANS FOR NIGEL
September 19, 2016

My current conundrum is navigating the teenage social life, without appearing to be doing so.

Cole’s at an age where most of his peers are managing their own social lives, with parents providing only transportation input be it, actually driving, or providing access to an Uber or Lyft account, and setting some general boundaries like curfews. Kids text each other to initiate an outing, activity, get-together, and to make arrangements.

Cole doesn’t text, or talk, and doesn’t receive many texts, and never texts inviting him to hang out. He might enjoy doing so but since he’s not part of that very prevalent social networking world, he’s not immediately thought of for social activities. Truthfully, much as it pains my heart, he’s probably not thought of for such things regardless of his social networking status.

That doesn’t mean I’m not keen to somehow help him facilitate a social life of some sort, even if it’s a bit challenging to do so whilst trying to remain behind the scenes. I’m learning that this is much more difficult to manage in high school, where parents are not connecting the same way and not being on campus makes it nearly impossible to know which kids he might actually want to see outside of school.

He didn’t see friends much during the summer, which was tough and more noticeable to him than it is during the school year when weekdays are long (he’s gone from 6:15am-5pm) and weekends have activities already scheduled like baseball league, swimming lessons, and the dreaded homework. There’s less free time to fill so the absence of friend time is not as obvious.

However, boy cannot live by hanging with the parents alone…he needs opportunities to spend time with friends and to do some socializing outside of school without hovering parents. (Not that I intend to hover but the reality of Cole is that he does need some adult support most of the time). A few old friends came over this past Saturday evening to watch a movie and very informally celebrate his birthday. It was a treat to have pals who know him well and with whom he can relax, and Dan & I can pretty much fade away while they hang out. Hearing not only his laughter, but theirs from the distance of a couple of rooms made my heart swell. If only I could figure out how to make nights like that a monthly thing…

I’d also love to figure out if there are any new school friends he might want to hang out with. I keep hearing about a boy named David, who I’m told by Cole’s teacher is one of Cole’s favorite friends at school, despite Cole telling me otherwise when I ask about him. I know he’s just goofing around when I ask but I also don’t know that he’s ready to make the leap of inviting him to go bowling or something on the weekend. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll be working on the next movie night…

SMILE
November 30, 2015

I’ve heard Tears of a Clown several times this past week, which is kind of random and unusual. The song always reminds me of a dear friend, who once asked me to promise that it was played at his funeral. A strange request, especially since it was made when we were in our late teens, if my memory serves me correctly (which it doesn’t always). At the time both the Smokey Robinson and The Beat versions were in play.

It used to strike me as an odd choice, especially for my friend. He and I met under funny circumstances in high school. He was a grade below me, and we had a mutual friend who had decided we looked alike so she started calling us by each other names. At some point it only made sense that we met. We became fast friends, he one of my best.

Thirty some odd years later, he is still a dear friend. I don’t see him nearly as often as I’d like but every time I hear that song, he leaps into my thoughts, and the more I contemplate the song choice, the more I’ve come to understand that even back when we were kids, there were parts of him I didn’t know.

To me, a somewhat insecure, but likeable girl, he was the full package -bright, handsome, very funny and popular.   We shared a lot of interests and sensibilities, which is why we got along famously. We still can pick up from the last point whenever we do manage to get together and fall back into a comfortable ease. I treasure him.

But I’ve also come to recognize that the smile sometimes does hide tears. Maybe not quite that dramatically but that there is a underlying current of sadness to him that I couldn’t distinguish when we were young, but that feels somewhat familiar to me now. Life has seasoned my compassion and when I look deeper into his smile, I see so much more.

I understand why the song resonated with him, and perhaps what he was trying to tell me even back then when we were young.

I now sometimes feel like it’s an appropriate song for my life as it unfolded. I don’t have just one song, I’ll probably create a playlist when it’s time because that’s what I do…but this song will likely be on it because I’ve come to understand that sometimes people just need to believe that your smile is a smile, and not a façade for what’s really going on inside, and sometimes you just need people to think it’s a smile too.

 

THANK YOU
November 27, 2015

I meant to post this on Wednesday and time got away from me…I hope everyone had a lovely holiday!

With Thanksgiving just days away, it’s only natural that one starts to contemplate the things they’re thankful for so that when the question is inevitably posed to the feasting table of friends, family and others, you have the seemingly perfect spontaneous response.

That’s not meant to be cynical at all. I just suspect that I’m not the only one who does better at public, yes, even a table of eighteen is considered public in my book, speaking when somewhat prepared. Besides, it’s good practice to be thankful and appreciative. Many wellness proponents recommend daily gratitude exercises as a means of learning to be positive, thoughtful and kind.

I’m thankful for quite a lot.

The middle of this year was stressful and trying and while it’s continued to be more difficult than anticipated in terms of the healing process for Cole, both physically and emotionally, the light is starting to peek through a bit and I feel positive about the year to come. So, I ‘m thankful for Cole truly starting to heal and to quite literally finding his footing again.

I’m thankful that my mom is near, and that she and Cole have such a loving, sweet relationship. I so look forward to seeing her each weekend, mostly because I love how much Cole adores her and enjoys getting lost and lunching with her.

Her boyfriend (yes, my mom has a boyfriend, which sounds funny for seventy somethings!) also has my gratitude. He’s never treated Cole as anything but one of the guys. Cole loves their covert conversations about girls and getting into trouble and delights in his stories. Cole’s desperate to have him teach him to play poker!

I’m beyond appreciative of all of the people who reached out with cards, letters, and treats for Cole when he was recovering. The support was amazing and the practice of reading each card, and learning about the author, and writing back was a great diversion from both recovery and TV! The love was overwhelming.

Along those lines, on a daily basis, I appreciate and would be lost without my growing and deepening network of friends who inspire, teach, support, and love me every single day. Without you I don’t think I’d have my sanity. I take example from each of you on how to be a parent, advocate, friend, and partner. You’re there when I need to laugh, cry, bitch, share a glass a wine (or two).

Finally, I’m thankful for my family. I am blessed to have a husband who is one hundred percent dedicated to our family and who does his best to see that Cole’s life is as rich and full as possible, and to have a son who makes every day brighter. Being Cole’s mom has taught me more about grace, determination, compassion, and love than I thought a single person could. I’m blessed for every day I get to be his mom.

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ALL TOGETHER NOW
November 11, 2015

We’re homebound for the holidays. We will spend Thanksgiving with friends, and then look forward to our traditional Christmas Eve with the family, close and extended, at my brother’s house, and likely New Years Eve with friends. We’ll probably sneak in a Hanukkah latke fest or two as well!

This will be our second Thanksgiving spent with dear friends, and their extended family and friends, a warm, welcoming group of lovely people, and kids who welcome Cole into their fold of games and fun. It’s a relaxing evening, full of interesting conversation, laughter, and really great food and wine.   I’m already checking out recipes. I love any opportunity to cook for lots of people.

Traditionally I do a latke night in honor of Hanukkah one of the eight days (my husband is a non-practicing Jew). We’ve had friends and/or family over, and we’ve done it with just the three of us. I love making latkes and it’s our annual excuse to over indulge in their glory. Some years we’ve lit the candles in the Menorah each night, and others we’ve foregone this lovely tradition.

Christmas Eve is Cole’s favorite night of the year (we all love it but no one more than he). He loves the traditions that my brother and his family have cultivated over the past fourteen years. The evening rarely deviates from the routine, which is one of the reasons Cole loves it so much. It works with his sensibilities. It sort of takes on a movie like quality as we move from warm chatter, festive cocktails and nibbles, to a traditional roast beef dinner, complete with Yorkshire pudding, to all donning wacky Christmas hats to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, to Santa dropping by for some fun with the kids, the holiday trivia challenge which leads to the White Elephant gift stealing game, and finally coffee and sweets. We leave happy, exhausted, and already looking forward to the next year.

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For the past few years we’ve done New Years Eve with friends. One family has generously supplied the house, I try to do a lot of the cooking, and we fill it out with delights from others. The evening involves lots of yummy cheese and wine and champagne, and more great conversation, laughter, and cheer. The kids do their own thing in the den, starting out with a movie, and moving to watching the ball drop on one of the network shows. It’s a perfect way to end and start years – sharing time with people we love.

This year, my in-laws will be with us at the end of the year. They’ll be here for a couple of days prior to Christmas, and then back again just after through the New Year. We’ll likely host a couple of small get-togethers for them. They have some friends here in LA, and also to give our LA based family a chance to visit with them as well. I’m looking forward to seeing them, and especially for Cole to have some time with them. They live in Hawaii and it’s not that easy, or affordable, for us to travel there often, so I feel like it’s important to make the visit special.

In the scope of all of this, I also want to try to host a couple of casual, almost open house type get-togethers. I feel like the holidays are a perfect excuse to open up your home and invite friends from different walks of your life to come share some cookies, or wine, or dinner. I’m feeling the need to connect with people I love. Maybe it’s a response to the somewhat isolated summer we had. I’ve been wanting people around and to be around people.

Perhaps also there’s a part of me that knows some of these traditions will likely change next year. Cole and his friends will likely all attend different high schools, my eldest niece will be in her first year of college, who knows where, and lives will have moved on. It’s all part of our natural evolution but it makes me want to wrap my arms around everyone and hold them close, never letting go.

Damn, I’m getting really sentimental as I age!

PHENOMENAL CAT
November 2, 2015

Prior to Cole having his surgery I read a funny article about the healing power of a cat’s purr (Healing Power of Cat’s Purr). I shared it with my husband because we have a cat, Charlie, and I thought it was kind of interesting. He scoffed at the idea, as he’s apt to do when I share something off the beaten path, and particularly when it comes to health or medical related subjects.

Charlie is about twelve years old. We adopted him when Cole was two, along with his brother (Nick) and sister (Nora), both of whom are no longer with us. Charlie’s a fairly independent cat. He’s always liked Cole and as he’s aged he often tries to sleep on Cole’s back or bottom (Cole prefers to sleep on his stomach), but otherwise, we don’t typically see much of him during the day. Charlie spends his days sunning outside, visiting a few neighborhood dogs and cats, and doing whatever cats do. He relishes his independence.

However, Charlie’s routine took curious turn when Cole came home from the hospital following his surgery. Charlie became a caregiver. He took to vigilantly curling up between the casts during the day and night or draping himself over one of Cole’s legs with his head resting on Cole’s hip, purring. Purring a lot. Purring healing purrs.

He spent every day of Cole’s healing nestled on or near Cole. We took to calling him Nurse Charlie because he was so consistent. When Cole was moved to another room, Charlie would curl up in the spot left by Cole until he returned and then would reposition himself to be close to his charge. It was really fascinating. He took his nursing duties very seriously.

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Even now that Cole’s returned to his usual routine and is out of the house during weekdays, Charlie still hovers nearby and curls up with him for bedtime. It’s rare that if Cole’s resting on the bed, Charlie’s not nestled right next to him. It seems he’s not quite ready to stop caring for his precious patient.

Funnily, my husband and I both took to posting #NurseCharlie photos on our instagram accounts and when he was recently away on business he had lots of inquiry about Nurse Charlie. It would appear that our cat has captured some hearts. Perhaps he needs his own instagram account!

POSTCARDS FROM PARADISE
June 17, 2015

Cole’s surgery is tomorrow. We’re all frayed and fragile but doing our best to be positive and to keep Cole from seeing our nerves peeking out. I do know that it’s all going to be fine. He’s done it before, has a great surgeon, will be in a great hospital, and we’re more prepared for recovery this time around, having a better idea of what to expect, need, and how to care for him in the massive spica casts. And I know time goes quickly so it will soon be a distant memory.

We’ve had such an outpouring of love and support for him and us as we get closer to tomorrow. It led me to come up with a fun campaign that I hope anyone who reads my blog will join in on. I’m asking people to send postcards, letters, lists of favorite songs, movies, a favorite picture or art, poems, whatever you like, to Cole during his summer of recovery. If you include a return address he will write you back. Cole loves receiving letters and mail and is also a very avid letter writer himself. He’s a lo-fi correspondence kind of guy. He adores mail and mailing.

It’s a positive activity and will be so fun to see what kind of treasures he receives. I’ve promised to help him collect some fun papers and stickers and trinkets for his own sends. Stamps have been ordered! It’s okay if you don’t know us personally. If you’re reading my blog, you have insight to our family already and this fun project will bring us all slightly closer.

I’m planning to save all of the mailings in a scrapbook for Cole so he can share it with friends and revisit the letters, etc. when this is over. It will help create some positive, special memories of his “bummer summer”. So I implore you, grab a pen, paper (postcard, whatever) and a stamp and send Cole some joy! I promise if you include your return address, you’ll receive some back! xoxo

Cole Griffiths
14540 Hesby Street
Sherman Oaks, CA  91403

MOTHER’S TALK
May 9, 2015

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend with Cole. My husband has gone to Hawaii to spend the weekend with him own mum so Cole and I are on our own. It’s been that way for most Mother’s Day as my husband used to attend the Cannes Film Festival and was always in France come Mother’s Day. I’m not bothered by it since Cole is who makes me a mom.

We’re looking forward to a really relaxing weekend together. The weekend starts a little earlier than usual since I’m on pickup duty. Cole and I are planning to hang out with my mom tomorrow. He needs new eyeglasses and is keen to have her help him decide on a pair, and then we’ll probably lunch. He wants to spend the afternoon just kicking back at home. Sunday he’s taking me to a matinee of the Ultron Avengers movie…and then we’re meeting up with extended family for dinner. A weekend of fun, and nothing. Perfect.

I spent last weekend in La Quinta with four other moms. Our second moms get-a-way. A few years ago a few of us went to New York to support one of the tribe who spent the summer acting in a play, and then this desert weekend, where we intended to do this and that but actually ended up mostly finding ourselves engrossed in conversation, after conversation…oh, and some nice meals and vino. It was a perfect segue way into this Mom’s day weekend.

I’m blessed to have a tribe of women who I can get lost in conversation with and find myself standing taller afterward. I find myself in awe of so many amazing moms I know. We all share the goals of providing our children with the best tools we can. We share the hope that our kids will be kind, strong, generous, bright, respectful, interested and interesting. We foster independence, self-reliance, and self-respect in our children. We love unconditionally, challenge, and support our kids whole-heartedly. We have ready hugs when needed, and are learning when to give space. We share our trials and tribulations and successes with the hope of being inspired, supported or educated by one another. As I said earlier, I am blessed!

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Here’s to all of the amazing moms, mine included, in my life. Happy Mother’s Day to you!

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 7)
April 3, 2015

We are a multicultural family. My husband is Jewish, and I am, well, spiritual in my own way. My brother’s family is the same, his wife and daughters are Jewish, and he’s his own guide. Multiculturalism has become so common; nearly all of our friends are too.  A nice thing, besides exposing our kids to different practices, etc., is that families develop their own traditions.

One such family invited us to a potluck Passover dinner this evening. The event is being held at their new home, and while respectful of the traditions and holiday, the meal will not be entirely kosher or in keeping with the tradition. They assigned the dishes each guest would bring. We were assigned to bring chicken liver. I think traditionally it’s a chopped chicken liver dish with hard boiled egg and some other things mixed in but I’m honestly not a big fan of the most rustic versions of chicken liver pates so I made the Chicken Liver Pate from Animal’s recipe (Animal is a James Beard Award winning, top restaurant in LA that has an amazing chicken liver toast dish on their menu that I LOVE).

I had to overcome the ick factor of raw liver. I had never cooked it and am really only a fan of it in smooth, buttery rich pates. Snobbery, perhaps, but I managed to get the slimy livers into a buttery pan and cook them off without actually ever touching them!

Just let me say, it was all worth it. It was actually not as terribly as I imagined it would be and the pate came out beautifully. It tastes like Animal’s! I feel embolden! I can make pate! I scooped it into some jam jars, a couple for the party and smaller ones to share with a couple of office mates who are also fans of Animal’s dish.

Happy Passover, Good Friday, Easter…whatever you honor. It’s nearly the weekend, which pleases me!

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ANIMAL’s CHICKEN LIVER TOASTS (I tripled this recipe for a party of 30 people)

  1. 1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted, grass fed butter, softened
  2. 1 pound chicken livers, trimmed
  3. Salt
  4. Freshly ground black pepper
  5. 1 medium red onion, diced
  6. 4 thyme sprigs
  7. 20 ¼ inch think warm baguette toasts
  8. Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
  9. 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  10. Shallot Jam (recipe included)

Brush the bread slices lightly with olive oil. Grill or toast the bread until crispy. Rub with garlic.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Season the livers with salt & pepper. Cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat until the onion is translucent and softened, about ten minutes. Add the livers and cook until heated through for about 2 more minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Discard the thyme.

In a food processor, puree the liver mixture and remaining 6 tablespoons of butter until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and season well with salt. Transfer mixture to serving bowl, jars and cover with plastic wrap pressed onto surface. Refrigerate until chilled and firm.

Spread onto the toasts and top with Shallot Jam for garnish.

SHALLOT JAM

  1. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  2. 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
  3. ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  4. 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  5. Pinch of salt

In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened and translucent, about ten minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook until thick and jam like, about five minutes. Season with salt to taste.

SNOW (Hey Oh)
March 12, 2015

Our annual pilgrimage to Mammoth Mountain begins today with a five-hour road trip up to the Eastern Sierras. The excitement has been mounting all week and no one is more excited than Cole. He loves vacations like this where the day is filled with a defined activity – skiing all day in this case and ends with a group evening – dinner for 24 each night qualifies! Six families coming together for a weekend of snow fun!

We’re stocked up with lots of different playlists on Spotify and a pile of programming he can watch on the DVD player in the van, which will leave him pretty content during the whole drive. Cole does really well on long drives when we prepare well! The nice thing about having him enjoying a movie or favorite show is that it gives my husband and I a chance to chat uninterrupted or censored for hours – a rarity in our daily lives.

My husband is barbeque obsessed (he spent two summers perfecting his rub and baby back ribs and is now focusing on perfecting Texas style brisket) and my mom, ever supportive of his passion, forwarded a blurb about a great barbeque joint that’s on the way to Mammoth so he’s already planning our lunch. I’m hoping we can rope one or two of the other families driving up to meet us. Road trips are definitely more fun when you bump into familiar faces!

Cole is beyond excited to ski again. This will be his third year skiing with Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES), a volunteer based sports program that accommodates needs of all kinds. We’ve been inspired by there program where blind skiers are able to confidently zoom down the mountain and kids like Cole joyfully bounce over moguls in their bucket skis. It’s amazing.

The evenings are casual but festive with all of the families dining together. It’s a great end to the day and the mood is always high. It’s not hard to understand why Cole loves this kind of vacation…

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(Last year’s gaggle of happy kids)