Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for December 2012

2012 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

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Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 40,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 31, 2012 at 11:11 am

Wordless Wednesday 25 Dec 12

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Christmas Kisses aren't always welcome!

Christmas Kisses aren’t always welcome!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Christmas Traditions

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If someone were to ask me what my Christmas traditions were, up until last week I’d have probably said moping around on Christmas Day lamenting at how it wasn’t traditional.  Bah humbug!helpers

I always loved Christmases growing up in England, and spending the holidays in the heat of the southern hemisphere far away from family has always led to much homesickness.  But this year is different.  Maybe it is because we got to have a trip to England this year.  Maybe it is because we feel more settled here now, with me working, and the kids settled and happy in school.  Maybe because this is the year I decided we’d start our own tradition.

cookiesI have these cookies that I always make at this time of year.  I wouldn’t say they’re the best cookies in the whole entire world, but that is only because I let other people do that.  See, I’m humble!  When I make these, I’m reminded how we can never, ever let our kids near crack, booze, or anything else as addictive, but nearly as wholesome as my cookies.

The kids like to help with making them, almost as much as they like to help to eat them all afterwards.  But this year, after allotting a couple for each member of the family, and Santa his traditional portion, I decided the rest of the batch was going to go elsewhere.

You see, I’m not the only ones who doesn’t get to spend time with their family.  The guards at our consulate work year-round to keep us safe.  We don’t have Marine Security Guards here, so these guys are on duty constantly.  What’s more, they are the friendliest bunch of people on this planet, and always, always, make time for our kids and their quirks.  Because many of these guys’ families are in villages far from Johannesburg, working on Christmas Day means that they don’t get to spend time with their loved ones for the holidays.

So, new tradition- they get the cookies.  We wrapped them nicely, stuck the one nice photo of our family we’ve taken in years on them (which is also masquerading as a Christmas card), put Santa hats on the kids and drove to the Consulate to deliver our goodies.  It felt great- even better than my belly feels with those delicious cookies inside them.  So there you have it- new tradition.

Now, we have one more R & R trip during our tour to South Africa, and we plan on going to the UK for it.  So I won’t be able to deliver cookies on the day here, but I’m thinking that there’ll be a police station, or a hospital, maybe a homeless shelter where the cookies would be appreciated.  I have to do it- it is traditional!

So then I was thinking, because these cookies are too good not to share, what if I gave you the recipe*?  And maybe you’d also share them with someone who has to work, or who is protecting all of us day in, day out, with no holiday break.

So although I’m really not a food blogger, here is the recipe using US measurements:cubbychef

Makes about 3 dozen (ish).

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
8 oz white chocolate chips (or whatever you want, and it doesn’t have to be precise at all).

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Combine flour, cocoa, soda and salt in medium mixing bowl
3. In large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
4. Beat in eggs one at a time
5. Blend in flour mix
6. Stir in choc chips / peppermint patties
7. Roll into balls then flatten onto baking sheet
8. Leave space between each cookiewrapped
9. Bake 8-10 mins until set
10. Cool 1 min
11. Transfer to racks with spatula

*Slight note here: this is my adaptation from an original recipe and I have no idea whose.  I found it in an old cookbook at my mother-in-law’s house before I was married.  I have adapted it a little over the years, and it is a very forgiving dough that works at different altitudes and lets your play around with different chocolate chips etc.

I hope you enjoy them, but I really hope you share them.  It turns out that is what Christmas is all about- no matter where you happen to spend it!

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Happy Holidays

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Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays- treasure your most precious gifts!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 25, 2012 at 11:18 am

No Distance

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For the last week or so, our family has been on vacation.  So when the tragedy in Newtown, CT took place, I followed the aftermath through my phone on Facebook, and occasional news headlines that made it through to South Africa.  I wasn’t able to blog, and refrained from a brief statues update when that couldn’t possibly convey the range of emotions I was experiencing- both upon hearing the news, and then observing the media reactions.

When you live a life like ours, this feeling of distance is always present.  I’ve been a US citizen for five years now, which is often deemed not American enough by some to comment on news or politics- even when, as a federal employee, it affects me more directly than most.  And then again, if I mention something happening in my native UK, I’m dismissed as someone who hasn’t lived there for years.  If I try to explore what is happening in South Africa, the country where I now live, I’m told I can’t possibly understand.

I don’t belong anywhere.  I feel for everywhere.

Like so many on hearing of the shooting at Sandy Hook, I thought of my own children.  Pudding is also in kindergarten.  It could have been her.

We don’t know why Adam Lanza killed the children and staff of Sandy Hook, but this hasn’t stopped intense speculation.  The media suggested that the shooter had Asperger’s Syndrome, and within days this association of violence, murder, and ASD was disseminated through news networks and across social media.  It didn’t matter of there was a formal diagnosis or not, here was a cause that people were willing to accept.  Blog posts have sprung up with family members outing their autistic relatives as potential mass murderers, and before long we have something like witch trials.  Facebook pages full of hate speech, designed to intimidate autistic individuals and those who love them.

Adam Lanza may have had Asperger’s Syndrome.  We don’t know.  But violence is not a criteria for that diagnosis.  Autism was not the cause.

I read many interesting rebuttals during the last week, but they still didn’t always sit well with me.  Many wrote that this didn’t happen because of autism, but rather mental illness.  Long before I became the mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I worked as a carer for adults with various physical disabilities and mental health problems.  I can honestly say that spending as much time as I did with people with such diagnoses as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, I felt no fear.  As is the case with autistic individuals, those with psychiatric disorders are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the ones carrying them out.  What’s more, both are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than are neurotypicals.

On social media, I saw many parents who said they now feared to send their children to school, and were calling for armed guards.  I live in a ‘critical crime threat’ country, where my children do go to schools protected by armed guards.  Believe me, it doesn’t make me worry any less.

We do know that two of the child victims at Sandy Hook were diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  I can only imagine their parents’ heartache trying to come to peace with their devastation as innocent individuals are demonized for their autism diagnosis.  I’ve read several account of friends with autistic children fearing to send them to school- not because of the risk of gun crime, but the very real threat of bullying as a fall out from all of this.  There is potential for so many more victims here if we aren’t careful.

While I don’t want to get into a gun control debate, I have lived in a country where they were banned following a similar incident, and one where shootings are commonplace.  I know where I feel safer.

Perhaps having a more global perspective changes the way you view things.  One thing is certain though- I’m completely unable to distance myself from what happened last week.  I don’t know why this happened, but I know that unless we are careful with where we lay the blame, there is vast potential for many more innocent victims.

Sometimes you can only dispel myths with truth, hate with love, and the ugly with natural beauty.  Some friends created the Autism Shines Facebook Page as a way to challenge these misconceptions of autism.  I urge everyone to check it out, and perhaps contribute as an autism advocate or ally.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm

This is autism

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thisisautism-pudding

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December 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

Posted in Photography

Wordless Wednesday 12 Dec 12

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December 12, 2012 at 6:35 am

Happy Birthday, Pudding!

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Pudding’s birthday was on Tuesday, so we had her party on Sunday at an outdoor venue, so Sunday was the coldest and rainiest summer day I’ve known in Johannesburg.  Her friends still came, and they frolicked in the mud, but we were missing the bouncy castle and water slide action we’d been hoping for.

Of course, her actual birthday was typically gorgeous and sunny, and we celebrated that indoors in two different classrooms.

The first stop was Pudding’s kindergarten.  I’d found a book for Pudding’s birthday that had a female character with the same name.  Given that all female characters become Pudding, I knew she’d love it. The story was sweet and tied in with some themes they’d already done at school.  I was looking forward to reading it.

But before that, they performed the sweetest ceremony.  They sat in a circle with Pudding in the middle in her birthday hat.  The each child took it in turns to pay her a compliment.  I just about melted, as I listened to boys and girls only 5 or 6 themselves tell Pudding she had beautiful eyes, or they liked the way she made them laugh, or wears HelloKitty clothes all the time.  I think all of us could use a compliments circle from time to time.

After story time we ate Hello Kitty cupcakes.  Then I watched Pudding watch the other kids dance, get coaxed into a dance by her teacher, then decide to dance along with the other kids.  If that doesn’t sum up inclusion in the classroom, I don’t know what does!

Next I collected Cubby from school, and the three of us went to Pudding’s therapy centre to celebrate there, with yet more Hello Kitty cupcakes and lollipops for the GFCF crowd.  I loved handing out sweet stuff for free for little ones who normally have to work for it in therapy.

We were never going to let the weather ruin her birthday, but I hope it treats us better next year.  After all, it will be the last one for her in South Africa.  I find that even harder to believe than the fact my baby is already six years old!

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December 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Bye, bye, balloon

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IMG_2806We’d gone to the mall to get balloons for Pudding’s party.  Spectrummy Daddy had another chore to do, so we divided the kids with the aim of meeting back at the balloon shop.  That was Spectrummy Daddy’s first mistake, because with no voice of reason, I happily purchased 28 helium balloons.  You read that right- 28 helium balloons.  And just one car, with four passengers.  I never was good at maths.

But before he got back with the sensible question of how we were going to get them home (I voted for Up style to float our car home), Pudding had

IMG_2844

spied a big Hello Kitty balloon, which just so happened to be wearing the same outfit as the Hello Kitty on her outfit.  With nobody to tell me otherwise, I knew it was meant to be.  I tied it to her Hello Kitty bag so it wouldn’t get lost on the way back to the car.

Spectrummy Daddy and Cubby returned after it was too late to do anything about the number of balloons.  There were so many that I got bored waiting for them to be filled, so I offered to take the kids back to the car while he waited for them.

Which also meant that he was the one who got to look like a clown as he walked through the mall.

We got to the car, I unlocked it and opened the trunk (boot).  Pudding deliberated putting her Hello Kitty in the front, and then I suppose decided that keeping it in the trunk/boot was a safer option, so she carefully laid it down in the trunk.

As I went to help, the car key in my hand stabbed Hello Kitty in the back of the head.  There was a loud pop, then we watched Hello Kitty fold into herself.  Laid out like that, it looked like a corpse in the car, taken out hitman style.  I imagine.

But Pudding didn’t go into hysterics- just calmly told me that we had to fix it.  She’ll make an awesome gangland boss one day.

If Spectrummy Daddy disliked carrying the balloons through the mall, he even less enjoyed trying to stuff 28 helium balloons into our sedan.  We all squashed in, and there was barely room to breathe, which was just as well because you know our voices would have come out like Mickey Mouse.  At least if we’d had an accident, there’d have been extra air bags.

Cubby, ever the master of understatement, pointed out that we had a balloon car now.

Later that day, I’d done my best to salvage the balloon with tape.  Cubby was sleeping, so I offered to stay at home while Spectrummy Daddy went to try a refill of helium.  Of course, it didn’t work.  I’d done far too good a job on my hit.

Spectrummy Daddy knew he couldn’t return home without it, so he tried to buy another.  But that was the last one of that kind.  They only had, of course, an EVEN BIGGER ONE.  So big, it has to have special weights put into the feet!

There was nothing he could do but buy it.  This massive Hello Kitty, bigger even than Pudding, who was the World’s Tallest 5 Year-Old, and hasn’t shrunk since turning six.

He had to walk all the way through the mall looking like Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and feeling dodgy thanks to the trail of little girls who were suddenly trailing him.  It was, I’m told, worse than 28 balloons.

But he got home, and it was worth it.  This balloon is so big it ‘walks’ of its own accord.  We have to keep it in the safe haven so it can’t set off our alarm.

But big is beautiful- just ask the newest Tallest Six Year-Old On The Planet!

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December 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Wordless Wednesday 05 Dec 12

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IMG_2811

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December 5, 2012 at 6:03 am