The Snob

1010338_10153911115360058_1524378486_nI’m not what you would call a coffee connoisseur.

I don’t go into cafes and order a Venti Extra-Hot Sugar-Free Caramel Macchiato with Skim Milk, an Extra Shot of Espresso and Extra Whip Cream, although I did wait behind that guy in line one time. I don’t buy Kopi Luwak, or, for that matter, any other obnoxiously expensive coffee whose seeds were eaten and crapped out by small cat-like animals.

I have never been the girl who rhymes off a laundry list of coffee expectations for the poor confused and annoyed barista.

I have never been the girl who buys the most expensive coffee, as if by doing so, she has asserted her position in some sort of invisible hierarchy that only she is aware of.

I have, however, been the girl who patiently asks for a Caramel Latte, and then just as patiently listens to the old “you know it’s made with milk” reminder when she asks for extra cream in it. I have gritted my teeth, and resisted the urge to lecture the poor barista about how the word “latte” is in fact part of “caffe latte”, an Italian term which literally means “milk coffee”, and that only a complete twit wouldn’t know it was made with milk.

The fact of the matter is, I like the taste of cream in my cup better than milk.

In a sense, maybe I am not so much a coffee connoisseur as a coffee snob. I prefer what I brew at home. I don’t like most of what’s offered in cafés, unless I’m desperate for caffeine.

It’s a bitter mess, like my views on the rampant misuse of apostrophes.

Some pretty nasty potions that have had the gall to call themselves coffee have passed these lips of mine, however. I’ve choked down vile mixtures of instant coffee, powdered whitener and artificial sweetener that were, at worst, “humane” ways of torturing prisoners of war and, at best, suitable test material for sewage treatment plants.

I took one for the team; I choked them down for the good of all, so that no one would die or suffer horrible injuries that day as a result of me not being properly caffeinated.

In the morning, before I have polished off the contents of my mug, I- like Medusa- could petrify mere mortals who so much as looked at me. After one coffee, I’m almost presentable. Not necessarily literate, though- that comes after two cups.

This is why I get up and have my breakfast before even waking anyone else up- because I love my family, and want to keep them alive.

Coffee saves lives, people, at least in my house.


The Art of Embarrassing Mom

Mom-Confessions-Most-Embarrassing-Thing-My-Kid-Has-DoneOne of the more entertaining hallmarks of Autism is the tendency toward random acts of totally inappropriate behaviour. Considering that Jack is only 3 years old, you could also chalk it up to his being a rambunctious youngster. After all, kids have an unnerving ability to say or do the wrong thing at the right time… or maybe, it’s the right thing at the wrong time.

I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Jack has mastered the art of inappropriate behaviour, a task which he seems to regard as his God-given duty.

Read on…

The Moon over Miami

It’s a fun game for Jack to reach into the grocery cart from his perch at the front, and grab the nearest thing he can find. If you’re not quick on the draw, he’ll pitch that item- no matter what it is- out of the cart.

Imagine knowing this, and having no alternative but to place that carton of eggs you just grabbed into your over-stuffed cart right behind his perch, where he can easily grab them. Imagine that you are wearing a comfortable pair of yoga pants that have no belt, and an annoying tendency to ride down your butt any time you bend over.

Grabbing his hands and holding them doesn’t work, no! Jack screams bloody murder, as if by the very the act of holding his hands you are committing a great atrocity that will be the end of his world, right then and there. Life as he knows it is over. Give the boy an Oscar!

There the eggs sit, all pristine and beckoning in their too-fragile cardboard carton, practically begging for a couple of tiny hands attached to a mischievous smile to grab them. Naturally, because his entire existence is centered around getting in trouble (as if the resulting scolding is somehow life-affirming), he waited until my attention was engaged elsewhere, grabbed the egg carton, and hurled it like he was trying out as a pitcher out for the local pro baseball team.

Fortunately, nobody was in the way of that particular projectile. Not so fortunately, the eggs practically exploded as the carton hit the ground. I, in my terribly comfortable yoga pants that have never actually seen the inside of a yoga studio, stooped down to pick up the woefully inadequate (and now yoke-filled) carton, flashing almost my entire ass- minus even my underwear because they, too, went south- to everyone behind me.

Yes indeed, the moon CAN rise in the middle of the day.

I’ll be lucky if my Moon over Miami doesn’t appear on the People of Walmart website because, with my luck, there was probably someone behind me with a cell-phone camera at the ready, and an itchy trigger finger.

The Bait and Tackle

Jack and Jill both attend several different types of therapy for their Autism, all of which take place at a local horse farm. On this farm, there happens to be a small fenced-in play area, and it was here that I placed Jack one fine day while I talked to two of his therapists not a few feet away.

While the adults chatted, Jack played happily. It didn’t take long, however, for one of his therapists to gently interrupt what I was saying by pointing over to my son.

It was a good thing it was a warm summer day because, as I looked over at him, Jack stood by the fence staring at us adults, and calmly dropped his drawers, diaper and all. He stood there with a giant grin on his face, his bait and tackle waving in the breeze, as I stared back and groped for something to say.

His therapists laughed.

“Well, that proves it,” I said, eventually. “He’s definitely his father’s son.”

The Immortal Words

The family cat is kind of a psycho beast. She loves her adult humans, and tolerates the presence of the mini humans. She has been known to be all lovey-dovey one minute, and all hissing and biting the next.

Jack, since one particular incident last year, avoids her like the plague.

My partner was out of town for a week in November, and so I was left to look after the kids by myself. We were between meals with nothing to particular to do that day, so I sat on the couch typing away on my laptop while the kids played with their toys on the living room floor.

Or, so I thought.

One moment, they were both happily engaged, and in the next moment Jack had wandered over to where the cat was laying and grooming herself. He seemed to be just looking at her, but looks can be deceiving- especially where Jack is concerned.

Our cat found out that day that my son is a quick little bugger. In a flash, he lurched forward, his little tongue darting out to lick the cat’s head, from neck to ears.

I uttered words I never thought I would ever hear myself say:

“Jack, don’t lick the cat!”

Yup… life with my family is definitely interesting.

How to Annoy a Pregnant Woman

As everyone knows, the act of getting yourself pregnant is all fun and games.  It was for me, but that’s a story for another day.

I went into the whole pregnancy thing expecting to have morning sickness for 2 or 3 months, to feel like a beached whale, and to give birth the natural way within a few days of my projected due date.

Boy, was I in for a shock.  I had morning sickness from what seemed like the day I conceived both kids to the day they were born.  With my first pregnancy, everything started off all hunky-dory.  I got the usual morning sickness, all the usual first-trimester symptoms- the stuff I expected to have.  What I didn’t really expect was to start developing issues with different foods and smells.  That is to say, it got to the point where virtually every smell I encountered was enough to make me gag, and the only foods I could eat were pepperoni sticks, Ensure shakes, and rice or potatoes that had been drowned in Hoi Sin sauce. Ggaining weight got to be kind of tricky.

Then, there were the boobs.  Now, I’m not exactly on the small side to begin with, but almost as soon as I got pregnant, those things got freakishly huge.  I felt like I had a pair of balloons stuck on the front of me.  The real problem was, they were also very sore.  I felt like wrapping them each in packing paper, duct-taping a box over my chest and cramming Styrofoam esses in there, just to keep those suckers from moving around, or… you know… even being breathed on.

As soon as I started looking even vaguely pregnant, it was as though I sent out some kind of telepathic cue to every well-meaning belly rubber within a 10,000 km radius.  Suddenly, everybody wanted to rub my belly.  There was no respect for personal space, no sir! It didn’t matter if they were close family, or a complete stranger; it was kind of creepy, really. It was basically like I’d morphed into some kind of good luck Buddha statue, or one of those little troll dolls that were so popular in the ’90s. Every 5 minutes, it seemed like someone wanted to rub my growing bump, or ask me about the baby. I, for the most part, accepted it gracefully.  There were a few times, however, that I really had to restrain myself from going completely hormonal on those people.

05They asked whether I knew the gender yet, if I had any names picked out, what schools I wanted to send the baby to, and what my career plans for it were.  They came out of the woodwork with advice on what to do, what not to do, and how to catapult my child from one end of life to the other.  If I’d listened to everything, I would have either become a paranoid parent, or I would have had the strong urge to punch the next do-gooder who told me that bottle feeding was the root of all evil.

For the first half of each of my pregnancies, I happily answered all those questions, and listened to all that advice, as politely as I could.  I do try to be a nice person, after all.  For the last half of my pregnancies, since I felt bloated, uncomfortable and hormonal, however… I was not so nice.

Downright cruel sometimes, even.

On one particular day, I was about 8 months pregnant with my daughter.  Summer had taken hold, and it was a particularly hot day. I’d just gotten on the bus to go home, having been downtown running some errands that morning.  I was feeling ill, sweaty, uncomfortable, and generally bad-tempered, and I was about an inch away from bringing all that out on the next person unfortunate enough to speak to me.

It happened to be a little old lady. She sat in the empty seat next to me, smiling in that particular way that let me know what was going to come out of her mouth next. She leaned over to me a little, with a polite smile on her face, her floral perfume nearly making me gag.

“How far along are you?” she asked.

I could have just told her I was 8 and half months on, but that would have been the level-headed thing to do. I was feeling anything but level headed.

“I’m not pregnant,” I blurted out. “I’m just overweight.” I even managed to look close to tears. It was a pretty Oscar-worthy performance, actually.

For someone so small and frail-looking, she back-pedaled pretty quickly. A stream of apologies spewed from her mouth, and I’m pretty sure she turned a brighter red than her lipstick. I left her groping for something to say, as I got off the bus.

Normal Me would have smiled indulgently and answered nicely. Pregnant Me, however, figured it was perfectly O.K to behave like I had a particularly nasty case of PMS.

My partner came into the bedroom to ask me what was wrong; after I got home, I slammed the door, and hurled myself onto the bed to bawl my eyes out. I still can’t remember what I managed to choke out between sobs, but he tells me it was something about whales, old ladies, stupid buses, and perfume. Since he didn’t really understand what I was saying, he did what any sane person with a pregnant and hormonal partner would do: he backed away and ran to get the chocolate.

The Stop Button

I have two young kids- a little boy, aged 3, and a little girl who is 5. My partner has threatened to withhold the chocolate if I use their real names, so I’ll call them Jack and Jill for the sake of this blog. Trust me, making sure I have chocolate is really best for everyone.

Besides being kids, and full of all the beans that come with being a small child, Jack and Jill are both high-functioning Autistic. Like many of those on the Autism Spectrum, my kids have things that they are absolutely obsessive about. Jack, for example, is obsessed with buttons- especially those “stop” buttons that you find on the bottoms of those chairs at the front of a public transit bus. You know the ones- they flip up to make space for strollers and wheelchairs.

Some of those buttons practically beg to be pushed. It’s as if they are purposely made brightly coloured and obnoxious enough to make obsessive kids want to push them… constantly. When you’re a little boy with a serious fixation, and your stroller is beside the biggest and brightest stop button that even your Mommy has ever seen, resisting the desire to push it is damned near impossible.

milovanderlinden_Nice_orange_glowy_buttonThe “button” in question is really more like a wall plaque. It’s about half a foot long by 3 inches tall, and is brilliant yellow with blue writing on it. There’s a blue wheelchair symbol on it.

After fighting to get Jack and Jill onto the bus one particular day, I paid my fare and looked around for a decent spot. To my horror, I saw there were buttons everywhere. My son was in his element. I swear I heard him giggle just then.
There was no other option- I pretty much had to take the nearest available spot. It wasn’t ideal; there were buttons everywhere! But, what can one frazzled pre-caffeinated mom do? I pushed the stroller up to the spot, flipped up all the chairs to make space for Jack, and… there it was:

The Stop Button.

It sat there, attached to the underside of the plastic chair, all brilliant yellow and beckoning. Instead of “Push Here to Stop Bus”, the glaring blue print might have read “Push Here to Annoy Mom”.

If ever a button begged to be pushed, it was this one- especially if you are a little boy with a serious fixation, and your stroller comes tantalizingly close to what it possibly the biggest and brightest stop button known to mankind.
I locked the wheels on Jack’s rolling chariot, sat Jill down on a seat that faced her brother, and plunked myself down next to her.

I looked at the button. I looked at Jack. As a mom, there’s a certain expression that my face gets whenever I know my kids are about to wreak havoc on my sanity. Lips tight, single eyebrow raised… you know the one. It’s the look that says:

“Don’t even think about it.”

My son has his own look, which I’m fairly sure he only pulls out when I’m about to tell him off for something. It’s a devilish little smile, with a glint in his big grey eyes, that says:

“Game on.”

With one hand on Jill’s shoulder as she snuggled up to me, and the other hand tightly grasping the first in what would be a long line of coffees that day, I didn’t have enough hands for the little boy whose hands are faster than mine anyway.

There isn’t enough time in the morning, between leaving home and getting to school, for the bus to pull into every single stop because my son just can’t keep his hands to himself. It’s like he’s possessed, whenever a button enters the equation. He can’t help himself. Some way, somehow, he will push that button. I tried grabbing his hand and holding it. I tried grabbing both hands. I tried grabbing both hands AND putting my leg up across my daughter’s lap (while managing to position my ankle in front of The Stop Button).

Jack sneaked his little leg out from under the stroller’s front tray and pressed the damned button with his foot. The look that came over my face when I realised I’d just been outwitted by a 3 year old was this one:

“Well, son of a bitch…”