Friday, January 6, 2012

Terrence the Turkey

This last month was not usual. E knew school was letting out for winter break, which meant a change in routine. And our routine was pretty loose. Being back at work means day care over school breaks, and I can't control or predict the exact activity at the exact time. And if you have an autistic child, you know that can be disturbing to the system. While E has improved quite a bit in her flexibility, there is still increased whining, less cooperation, increased anxiety, and a higher resistance to new things, especially food. Generally, E is really not into food at all. She knows it gets cooked, she knows she needs to eat it, she has started to understand that not all foods are healthy. At these times of change, I think she would almost prefer to skip it altogether. 

And when it comes to being a mommy's helper, she would rather assist with laundry, or with pointing out cobwebs I missed when vacuuming. And if she can get out of assisting me at all, she loves burying her head in books about birds. This obsession of hers started when she was about 18 months old. She was into penguins and only penguins. She could watch March of the Penguins over and over. This is one of the earlier signs that I wondered about at the time - how often does a toddler have the focus to sit and watch an animal documentary 4 times in a row. Yes, I tested it one day. She fell asleep on the fourth time. That obsession has at least expanded to the overall topic of birds, with a focus on parrots, penguins, and pigeons. 

I am lucky to occasionally have the opportunity to test recipes for America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated. Basically, anyone can sign up to do it on their website, but I guess you have to get lucky and be drawn. I've been doing it for almost 6 months now, and there is no pay in it except perhaps a little pride that they keep sending me more recipes to test. The most recent one was for grilled turkey. The process spelled out in the recipe (which I am not allowed to print before they have) was interesting, but what was most fascinating is the interest on E's part. She saw it laying there in the pan as I read the recipe, and asked what kind of bird it was, was it dead, and why were its feather gone? I explained it was a turkey, and it was indeed dead (this is also a current topic she is obsessed with), and its feathers were gone because it was going to be cooked and eaten. She then gave me that squinty eyed look she does when she is memorizing and "filing" information. I could tell "turkey" had been filed at some point under "Thanksgiving" because she did her rote speech about Thanksgiving and turkeys. Then she clicked back into real life and this conversation ensued:
E: Why didn't I have turkey at Thanksgiving?
Me: You said you didn't want it.
E: I didn't know it would be dead. You didn't tell me that. I certainly didn't want to eat a living turkey with feathers! 
Me: Well, I only cook and eat dead turkeys without feathers. Would you like a piece of this after it's done? 
E: Will it go back to living at all if it is cooked? 
Me: No. 
E: Okay, I'll try a piece. But only if you know it won't be back alive......can I give it a name?
Me: Will you still eat it if it has a name?
E: I'll name it Terrence the dead turkey. Then I know I can eat it. 

Now that last part made no sense to me, as some of her ideas probably never will, but it somehow allows her to cope with trying new things and I have never told her she is silly for it. And she did try it. She then ate 3 bites. And I did a secret happy turkey dance in my heart. 

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