“Honey, come quick before you miss this…

… it’s time for that show at the house next door!”

(Maude grabs popcorn, pulls up a chair for her spouse Donald to sit with her at the window, and settles down for the latest exciting installment of “Autism Home Rescue:  At Home.”)

The WordPress topic today, in case you haven’t already guessed, is:  Write a story about yourself, told from your neighbor’s perspective.  Oh boy, this should be a fun one.  I’m not sure I wanna know what our crazy household actually looks like in reality to our neighbors (whom we’ll call “Maude and Donald” for confidentiality purposes.)  So for your reading amusement today, I’m just gonna make this one up.  Ever see the movie “The Burbs” with Tom Hanks?  Well, picture kinda like that.  But, um, we’re not axe murderers or anything.

Maude:  “Come quick, I don’t wanna miss the beginning like we did last week.  I was all confused when the mail truck showed up twice in one day and Hannah climbed out the back.”

Donald:  “All right, all right, I’m hurrying.  Did the au pair arrive yet?”

Maude:  “No dear, the au pair left screaming, remember?  There are three new babysitters now.  Or maybe four.  Wait– someone is coming up the walk.”

lara_croft_001Maude & Donald wait and watch as Dacia parks her car in front of the house in Superhero Parking Space #1 at exactly 3:00 pm and glides up to the family home.  Dacia is gorgeous, confident and ultra-prepared.  A behavior specialist and autism-expert-extraordinaire with long brunette locks and a smile that could charm the most hardened criminal, she was brought in after the infamous “window-breaking episode” to kinda clean things up.  Picture Lara Croft only happier, minus the guns and the sarcasm.

Dacia unlocks the door just as Alex’s bus is pulling up.  The bus door opens and

**freeze frame & rotate to the side to see Alex in all his hyperactive, OCD glory in mid-leap flying off the school bus onto the walkway**

Dacia:  “Hey bud!

Alex:  (singing loudly)  “Daaaaashhhaa!” (as he runs past her into the house)

The door closes.  Alex announces “RADIO!” and in about 30 seconds loud gospel music begins pouring through the walls.  (Last week it was country music, the week before jazz and rock.)

Will-Smith-Men-In-Black-383341In the meantime, a black SUV zips expertly into Superhero Parking Space #2.  Cue spy movie background music & slow motion effect as TSS Jack (Wraparound Support Services Guy) exits his vehicle & whips off his sunglasses.  In a flash, he arms himself with all the tools needed for whatever he may encounter inside the Home.  Positive reinforcers in hand, Jack strides confidently to the door.

Alex opens the door:  “Jaaaaaack!!”  (at the top of his lungs)

The door closes again.

Donald:  Those two, they’re like the dream team.

Maude:  I know, right?  Last summer after that cliff hanger episode when the chair flew through the door I was kinda worried.  About time they brought in some extra reinforcements–  hey, who is that?

charlie_s_angels_ii_-_full_throttle,_2003,_drew_barrymore,_cameron_diaz,_lucy_liuAshley arrives and parks in Superhero Parking Space #3.  She’s the newest addition to the Team, beautiful & smart with a calm but fun outlook on life.  Picture Cameron Diaz in “Charlie’s Angels.”

Donald:  That’s the new one, right?  Think she just finished her Agent training at the University Campus downtown.

Ashley enters the house.  Even over the blaring music, Alex can be heard screaming “Ashweeeeeeee!”  Through the windows Alex can be seen zipping back and forth, moving lights and building supplies from room to room.  Before long, construction has begun on the largest Rube Goldberg contraption known to man.  Ping pong balls and marbles bounce around on ramps and spirals, flying from room to room, upstairs and down.  The three superheros move with Alex through the house with the precision of a team of ninjas as Alex screams gleefully “Marble run 3000!  The best marble run ever!  Donnnnn’t touch!!”

Mystery%20machine%20cartoon%20versionThe clock ticks 3:30.  A beaten up little 3/4 minivan swerves into the driveway on two wheels.  Mom hops out and runs up the walk, 27 bags in hand and 15 minutes late as usual.  Alex’s teachers from school, whom we’ll call Kate and Rachel, meet Mom at the door.  Kate and Rachel could be the 2nd and 3rd Angels to Alex’s “Charlie.”

Donald:  I don’t know how they do it, but whoever casts this show has some talent.  Did you ever notice how they all look like movie stars?  That little boy just surrounds himself with gorgeous women.

Maude:  (dreamily)  Mm hmm.. (mutters under her breath)  I kinda like Jack

Mom, Kate and Rachel enter the house.  As the door opens, more screamed greetings followed by Alex announcing “QuesadiwAAH!”

3232_Mexican_PuebloMaude:  Everytime this commercial comes on, I just feel like dancing.  (Maude & Donald chuckle as a lively Mexican theme plays and Alex ticks off the recipe)

*insert scrolling recipe subtitles here*

Alex:  Torteewas, chicken, cheese.  Lettuce shreds.  Salsa.  Beans.  …  Beans??  Dacia, get some refried beans please!  Go to store, get beans, okay?

Dacia:  Okay, bud.  Let’s write the list for Mom.

Alex and Dacia construct the shopping list, which now includes 3 more desk lamps, an 8-pack of lightbulbs, every item in the Mexican food specialty aisle at the grocery store, the “magic toy” (apparently a “classified” gizmo of which no one on the entire team has any knowledge) and gluten free cookie mix.

blue laser beamMeanwhile, Mom, Kate & Rachel conduct a Top Secret meeting in the next room where they are developing plans for the most Amazing Home Program known to man.  Papers shuffle, complex charts and graphs are passed around the table, heads nod.  A nifty 3-D blue laserbeam display hovers above the table for a minute, then disappears.

Kate:  And that.   Is how Alex will load the dishwasher after dinner.

Mom & Rachel high five as big smiles all around radiate an immensely glowing light out through the living room window.

cute_tiara_fairy_princess_poster-p228420657750043199t51d_400The door opens again.  Alex and his Team exit and make their way to the bus stop, then return a few minutes later with Hannah, who wears a diamond tiara and brightly colored princess gown over her school clothes.  They are joined by another Behavior Specialist who looks extremely serious and professional, kinda like an FBI agent.  Hannah carries the 17 new stuffed animals she has accumulated throughout the school day.  She updates Dacia on all the animal stats.

Hannah:  This one is Spot, he’s a dog.  And this one is Sneaky.  Here’s Snow White, Marshmallow, Gigi & Fifi.  Fifi is an ox, but her mommy is a Moose.  They got left in the toy bin, but Fifi climbed to the top– she’s a survivor– ohmigosh, she was so sad because her mom was still at the toy store until I rescued her and took her away from the pig.  Oh– and this one is Grand Central Spacement.  She’s a golden retriever….

Salsa_DanceMom opens the door and The Home Team disappears inside the house.  Lights begin to flash off and on, in a kinda bizarre morse code.  Alex sings, “Ready or not, here I come!” as another voice calls out, “Dinnertime!”  The theme song of “The Incredibles” begins to blend in with the radio, which is now blaring salsa music.  Mom, wearing her own sparkly tiara, can be seen dancing around the living room with Hannah.

A TV announcer’s voice echoes above the neighborhood:

“Will the home team unlock the secret of the ‘magic toy?’  Are there really enough quesadilla fixings to last the week?  Will Grand Central Spacement ever find her mommy dog in the bottom of the toy box?  Tune in next week as we hear Alex say, ‘Mommmm… I love you!’

Maude picks up the empty popcorn bowl and closes the mini-blinds.  She smiles at her husband.  

“Whoever would have dreamed we’d find such entertainment right in our own backyard?”


How far would you go for a smile?

… musings on the creation of pure delight…

So really, honestly how far would you go to see someone you love light up like a Christmas tree, fourth-of-July fireworks, and birthday candles all at once? 

A friend of mine calls it “creating delight” and it is all-at-once thrilling and satisfying and just plain joyful.  It begins in that moment when you really truly hear another person, when you recognize that you know what would bring them joy. 

ingredients & candlesNot the moment when you think of the “perfect” gift on your own. (“Hey!  Dad loves the ties I buy him, if I got him another for Father’s Day he could wear it with that blue shirt!”) 

Not the moment when you listen to someone, add your own theories, perceptions or worries, and then come up with a gift you think would be good for them.  (“Sweetie, I know how much you want to finish school, so I’ve enrolled you in night classes and I’ll watch the kids while you study.”) 

Not the moment when you are wildly excited about the possibility of a gift or good deed but so absorbed in your own creative genius that you actually forget to pay attention to what the person really needs or desires.  (“I got you the little flowerpots to match your kitchen and you can plant the seeds by the window, and then while you’re cooking…”  “… um, Mom?  I’m allergic to plants remember?  Mom?  Did you hear me?”)

marbles & lettersIt begins when you are not thinking of something that would make you happy, but of something that would create delight for another person *even if you don’t understand why on earth it would!*  I love those moments.  I have often found myself seeking out such opportunities.  As I was planning my son’s upcoming birthday party, I had such a thought.

Alex turns 10 next week.  My big guy, my love.  We’re going to have a real birthday party (at the cooking school I mentioned in my first post, “I am no warrior mom …”) and with that will come birthday decorations, friends & family, presents, games and of course cake!  Several years ago we abandoned full-blown birthday parties for Alex because they seemed to be fun for everyone *but* Alex.  They were often crowded, loud & chaotic, no matter how organized we were or who had planned it all out, and most of the time they caused severe sensory overload and dramatic meltdowns.  This year, however, Alex has been obsessed with celebrating birthdays (particularly Mom Mom’s birthday at the end of this month) with parties.   He also has made several close friends at school and has been asking to invite them.  So party it is.

Tonight I found myself pondering the possibilities of a cake.  I could do cupcakes with different letters to spell a message… a traditional cake from the bakery decorated with a superhero theme… something with his actual picture… different flavors or colors… When all of a sudden wham!  The idea hit me so clearly.  (Which apparently is often associated with this cooking school place.  Heck, were it not for that first birthday party, I might not even be blogging!  Go back and read all about my inspiration!)

wafer cookiesBesides pretty girls who appreciate his goofy sense of humor, there are only two things that come immediately to my mind that (at least this year) could make Alex stop what he’s doing, sit up and take notice.  One is a Reese’s peanut butter cup.  The other is a well-constructed marble run or rube goldberg machine.  In order to make a cake that will get more than a passing glance from Alex, it will have to be something which will truly delight him and have significance in his world.  Which means it will have to somehow be a marble machine.  (Or yes, a gigantic peanut butter cup.  But I’m trying to lean more toward the fascination factor than the tummy-ache factor, okay people?)

k-toos & pretzel ringsAlex knows I love him, but I think he sometimes doubts I “get” him.  Whenever I have truly heard him or taken into consideration only his feelings and deep-down desires, I have been blessed with the most amazing smiles of recognition and connection.  I am addicted to them, and I’d do almost anything to elicit one.  Sometimes it takes a few minutes for Alex to comprehend a gift (like that famous pause on the old TV show “Friends” when Ross and Chandler watch as Joey’s mind deciphers the punchline “and … there it is,” the smile of recognition lights on Joey’s face) but once the pieces come together, there is that unmistakable “You did this for me?!  Wow!  You really know!!” eye contact, hug and grin.

The beauty of creating delight is that you don’t even have to know how you will accomplish the task you set out to do.  You only need to recognize the moment when the idea springs to mind and respect it in its own right.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If you know in your heart you want to do it and it feels right, just begin it. 

ingredients & candlesYears ago I decided to make my first quilt from scratch for someone I loved very much.  My friends said, “Wow.  I didn’t know you knew how to make a quilt!”  I said, “I don’t.”  They said, “You do know how to sew don’t you?”  I said, “I earned half a sewing badge in Girl Scouts 20 years ago even though the skirt was kinda crooked.  Does that count?”  They rolled their eyes and laughed it off, another crazy project by an overambitious dreamer.  But I can tell you today, I dreamed that quilt right into being.  Somehow the resources and materials and ideas and people I needed magically appeared at just the right time.  All I knew in my heart was that the gift would create delight; I focused on only that.

So what does this mean for my weekend?  It means that I’m going to be taking all of the ingredients pictured on this page, and one way or another, creating a preferably-workable-definitely-edible marble run on top of a sheet cake.  Yup.  I can picture the smile now, there’s no turning back, I’m already high on the promise of seeing those big brown eyes light up….

Um… does anyone out there know how to bake?

all ingredients