mix mix mix


It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Well, at least sort of. Oh, hell, maybe not. Maybe it was a crap idea from the start, but I really thought it would be fun.

Perhaps I should have known when I was holding a crying Brooke on the stairs just because I’d suggested that we leave the house. Or perhaps I should have known when I looked at the menu online and realized that we’d have to bring something from home as a back-up plan. Perhaps I just somehow should have had the Spidey Sense to know better.

She’s not unhappy. She’s just absent. 

I thought she would like stirring the fondue. I didn’t think she’d eat it, but I really thought she’d like the mixing part. I thought that she’d do that Dora script that she always does when she stirs something, “Bate, Bate, chocolate!’ or that she’d say, “Mix, mix, mix, mix, mix, mix!” like she does when we stir the chocolate chips into the bowl when we make cookies. Or even say, “We’re making Chinese coffee!” like she does at the Japanese restaurant, mixing soy sauce with just about anything else at the table. She loves stirring, mixing, ‘cooking’.

I thought it would work, but she’s not there. She’s sitting with us, but my girl is nowhere to be found.

I thought the off time would serve us well. And it has – from what I can see, it looks like there is only one other party in the entire place. No kids crying, coughing, cooing or otherwise. Just us and a pot in the middle of the table just begging to be stirred. And she has no interest in either.

I tried.

Luau tried.

And then we’d given into the iPad and let her be where she needed to be.

Somewhere other than here. 


I want to be stronger about this stuff. I don’t want to break down because my kid doesn’t want to stir food into a damn fondue pot. I mean, really. Even typing that sentence I can hear how absurd it sounds. But we all know it ain’t about the fondue.

Katie looks at me looking at Brooke. “Mama,” she asks with concern, “why are you crying?”

I’m not crying. I’m welling up. There’s a difference, damn it. There is. Crying is well, you know that whole ugly shoulders heaving thing. Or at the very least it’s rolling tears. Yeah, that’s it. There have to be rolling tears. So it’s settled. I’m not crying; I’m welling up.

But when you’re ten and your mom is welling up, she may as well be crying. At ten, she’s not really interested in my self-protective semantics. She just knows Mama’s hurting and she wants to know why.

I hate these moments. I want to be stronger than this. Or at least I want her to think I’m stronger than this. But the gig is up. She knows. And she’s not letting it go.

“Please, Mama,” she says, “tell me. Maybe I can help.”

The words are hauntingly familiar. Because they’re mine. “Please, baby, talk to me. I’m here to help.” I say them all the time. Why should she do anything differently?

I try to demure, to smile and wave off the question, but she’s not letting me off the hook. She’s so tender that I’m irritated, almost angry. She should never be mothering me. Not her job. Her job is hard enough.

“Please, Mama,” she says again as she nuzzles into my arm. “It’s OK to tell me; I promise.”

She’s not going to let it go.

I don’t have it in me.

I give in.

Very quietly, I tell her that I had just hoped that this would be something that we could really enjoy as a family. All of us.

She looks at her sister, engrossed in her iPad. Ever so slightly, she smiles.

She picks up a skewer and pokes it through a strawberry, then holds the handle out toward her sister.

“Hey, Brooke,” she says, “wanna dunk my strawberry in the chocolate? It’s kinda like Dora!”

Brooke looks at Katie. I don’t realize that I’m holding my breath.

“Sure, Katie,” she says as she takes the skewer from her and gently stirs the strawberry into the chocolate. She peeks up and over the pot to see what’s happening inside.

She hands the now-dipped strawberry back to her sister.

We repeat the process again and again, skewering everything on the table until there’s nothing left to skewer.

She’s here. My girl showed up. She’s here.

Katie looks up at me. She’s beaming.

And I am welling up crying.

48 thoughts on “mix mix mix

  1. I so get this. It was something I experienced on our Disney World trip time and time again, but I couldn’t put my finger on it; on what made me so frustrated and angry. You did it for me. Once again I realize I am not alone, just inept at understanding why I feel the way I do. Thanks!

  2. we tried to ride in the parade this year on his therapie’s float. There was no waving, smiling (though I DID get a good one of both him and his middle bro that shows a small smile) he worked his ipad all the way through the parade. So we turn to head back, the driver picks up the speed and down goes the ipad , up comes the face, nose in the wind, checking out what we pass on the way back. I am so traveling with you some days…

  3. Katie is absolutely amazing! Those were better tears at the end, Sweetheart! You’re raising two absolutely amazing children. That’s something to well up or cry about (happy tears)!

    Love you,

  4. I think your tag at the top says it all: best sister on the planet. There’s no doubt that Katie “gets” Brooke in a way that no one else does, and vice versa. That’s special, incredible, and deserves to be celebrated. The siblings, right? Will change the world.

  5. Wow, yes, I get all of this! Thank you for putting this into words. I had such a similar moment one day when my son’s cousins and his sister were playing together, and he was in the room but not there, playing with light switches. I too felt my eyes welling because I just wanted him to be really, truly with them and playing. What Katie did was so awesome. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to just let it go and move on as a family so that everyone else still has a good time…but she helped bridge that gap. Wonderful!

  6. I think some of our most desperate moments occur in restaurants.. Seriously, the tears I’ve shed in those places. Glad this time things turned around.. Thank you, Katie.. 🙂

  7. I can remember the days when I wanted to be like every other “normal” family and every Friday be found sitting in the same booth in the local pizza joint. Yep, that was a pic I had in my mind for years….I get it DOAM. Totally.

  8. Two words… Katie rocks!

    I’m glad your trip to the fondue place turned-out better than ours. I thought it would be a great place to take the family, so that’s where we went for my birthday dinner. Absolute disaster. Another example of good idea, poor execution in neuro-typical land!

  9. Your girls are bound to one another in a way that only a few that lucky will ever be. I see the same in my two. It’s truly the most beautiful love in the world. Sometimes I am even a little jealous how he reaches her when I cannot.
    Cheers, Lovie.

  10. I am welling up now because been there done that! So happy you got your moment that for a little while she was there. I battle so often with my reality and my vision in my head as to how I think or wish things would be like. Honestly it is exhausting. But I keep trying and on those occasions when it happens and we all are there in the moment, even my boy, well yup I Bawl like a baby too. Just the way this mama is wired!

  11. Thank god for wonderful autism siblings! My daughter is like this most of the time too. She gets it she just seems to automatically know what to do to get My David involved. This story certainly made me well up at lest my kids are in school right now and I don’t have to explain to them why I’m crying. My daughter said something the other day about how me and Nana always cry at sad commercials and shows I just told her when she’s older she’ll understand.

  12. I think I have mentioned this to you before, but it is no coincidence that Katie is Brooke’s big sister, just like Hope is Rehma’s little sister. We don’t want our kids to have to grow up faster than they should, but dear lord what a blessing and a lesson in the ability to be present in moments of grace.

    love you all


  13. To chime in here with the chorus…

    I get it. I get the fondue, the best laid plans.

    The wanting her to love what you want her to love.

    But man. The sister thing. It’s a thing of beauty.

    And that, Mama dearest, is all because of your gentle, sometimes subconscious parenting.

    Cry those tears, lady. And then thank whatever deity you choose that you have children that can be themselves with each other – and comfort each other – with or without you.

    That is Quality-@ssed Parenting right there.

    The ability to step back and merely observe.

    Love you.

  14. Thank goodness for the siblings. They often know *just* what to do…and they have a connection that we cannot begin to fully explain. I love how my oldest can just “get” my 2nd born…and help him navigate, help him come back to us.
    Your girls are lucky to have each other…

  15. So beautiful. I think many of us totally get that wanting your kid to show up. So often it takes a sibling to make it happen- my own three are all on the spectrum and they are each others’ best supports. Well done Katie! You are raising amazing girls there. Enjoy these moments. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Wonderful, but…. make sure that “Katie” always has someone to hand her the fork handle first also, Always as she too needs the same love but perhaps even more because she is so very special….Her sister will be hers to look after when all the adults are gone.
    Love you,

  17. Beautiful…I’m typing, as tears stream down my face…because this is so like my nights with my kids. My oldest…only just turned 6…often taking the reigns in an effort to help mama deal with frustration with her little brother (with PDD-NOS). It’s amazing what our kids are capable of, and how they can connect to one another in ways that we cannot. I’m SO thankful for my daughter…

  18. like like like like like
    We went to a restaurant last night, too. With family that we see once a year. And he wouldn’t say hi. And he wouldn’t look at the camera. He sat there and ate the popcorn and protein bar that I had brought and colored the Thomas the Train pictures that I had brought. My nineteen month old, on the other hand, ate the fried chicken voraciously and batted her eyes at the camera and said goodbye to every single person in the place. Me, I wanted to cry. Until my sweet boy came over to me and tried to lean in for a “kiss” (I thought immediately of you)–so rare a moment–thank you, God, for reminding me that he is in there, that he is loving us, that it’s just hard to join in sometimes but he’s there, he’s there, and if we wait patiently for it, he makes a move toward us in the very best way he can, and it will be beautiful

  19. that katie is one wonder-terrific super-kiddo. (and she has a gift for making app recommendations. you can tell her that her list has gone over very well here, and please say “thank you” for me).

  20. Love it. All of it. That you keep trying, even though you know it doesn’t always go well. That Katie (who really is one of the most amazing people – young or old – to grace this world) is there with you and for you. That a hard moment turned into a really amazing one. So happy. For all of you.

  21. aw, honey. god i’ve been in that spot. upset about something regarding my 9 year old son. letting my 8 year old NT daughter ‘mother’ me by telling me it’s going to be okay and asking how she can help.

    more than once my daughter has pointed out how simple the situation is. when i’m so bogged down in the responsibility and hopes of 9 years on this autism path, she’ll just step in with the innocence (is it innocence?) of her 8 years and show me another way. she’s going to be my best friend when she’s older, lol. hell, she may be my best friend now. 🙂

    (beautifully written post)

  22. Welling up for you. Siblings just seem to have a way…they just know! Plus Katie seems like an extra special girl. Glad she knew just what to do, and Brooke showed up!

  23. And now I’m crying because of the beauty of your daughters’ relationship. Just incredible. And because that is so far, so diametrically opposite from what exits in my house. Ethan would prefer it if his autistic twin brother were to disappear from the earth, or at least his home. There is no “special understanding” there. Just anger and bitterness. I know/hope/need to believe that this will change some day. But right now it’s ugly and it hurts. It cuts deep.

  24. This made me cry! What a great story. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Stay strong and one day, you and Katie can look back at these posts and you’ll remember all these fantastic moments.

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