DIY hope

October 25,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

It's coming together! Oh wait, you were expecting chocolate-pumpkin brownies, weren't you? L. and I had the house to ourselves for most of Sunday. My mom left on the train Sunday morning, to go back to Maryland, and Scott and T. headed off to camp for an afternoon of Y-Princessy hikes, crafts, playing, polucking, and campfires. L. and I had a blank slate ahead of us, which can be both a little daunting and incredibly liberating. We had loosely planned an outing to the art museum, because L. has been asking to go back there for awhile; strange because the last time we went he dug his heels in and said he hated the place. I was curious why he wanted to go back, and suspected some connection between the museum and some plans he's been working on in his mind--somehow the museum must be connected, in obscure ways I was sure, to something else he had been thinking about, turning over and over in his mind for weeks now, his brain like one of those pony-ride ponies plodding in a circle, wearing a path into the ground. All siblings need their time away from each other, to be who they are when they're not being a sibling, but my kids need it more than most. Scott and I realized some time ago that we need to work hard at providing T. with lots of activities of her own, so she can build up friendships and enjoy a healthy social outlet. She's a social girl, who unlike her brother, enjoys organized activities, and needs her friends. This isn't to say L. doesn't need friends, because he does, but he doesn't need the attachment to them the way T. seems to. I always hesitate to write about how difficult life as L.'s sister can be, because if you were to ask L., he would quickly say that life as T.'s brother is hard, too. When I talk with friends who are parents of an only child with AS, they are always quick to acknowledge that in many ways they have it "easier" and that they could never imagine having to parent their child with AS and that child's siblings, and try and achieve balance between them all. I agonize over our lack of balance, about how T. is exposed to daily double standards in action--the things L. "gets" to do (or gets away with) versus our expectations for her. I always tell Scott that one day T. will surely rebel, turn against all this imbalance. One day, instead of happily coming home and tackling her homework without complaint she'll surely throw the books onto the floor, tear up her papers, and storm off. Surely she'll decide one day that its grossly unfair that L. gets to eat his breakfast at the computer but that she has to eat at the kitchen table. For now, though, she seems okay with it all; she'll cry foul now and again when L. gets a microwaved noodle bowl for after school snack and she isn't happy with banana wheels and yogurt, but often she doesn't seem to mind, either way. All of this is to say that while T. was spending the afternoon with her Papa, L. and I had the afternoon together. And while we had planned to go to the art museum, and while I still hoped to fit in some time to perfect the elusive brownie, we spent it out in the driveway, using spray paint, a white trash can, and a ridiculous amount of cardboard, to craft a home made Clone Trooper costume for Halloween. We worked for almost three hours, and I had the best time ever. Only days before, overwhelmed by worry and dark moments, scrabbling for a foothold against our tilting world, I felt a hole had opened up and I was losing L. I can't tell you how good yesterday afternoon was--I wanted it to go on and on and on. I drank it up, body and soul. It was better--infinitely better than all the chocolate-pumpkin brownies in the whole wide world. I think L. would agree, too. ************ I bet you can make this Clone Trooper costume, too! BUT, don't underestimate how difficult it can be to cut up a white plastic trash can. L. had the brilliant idea to use this saw we found in Scott's workshop (I hope he doesn't come home to a blunt one) and once I abandoned the scissors and garden shears, it all went more easily. Because I am not a fifteen year old boy constructing this in my parents' garage but a 41-year old mom, I taped all the cut plastic edges with nifty clear duct tape (who knew?) until I felt it was safe. Here's what it looked like when my blistered hands were done with it: DSCF6313 This was before we added the cardboard breastplate, which definitely added to the look. We ran out of white spray paint, though, so we'll have to finish tomorrow. We made the armor leg and arm pieces out of cardboard, just like the teenager in the Youtube video. After I spray painted the pieces white DSCF6316 L. added green stripes to represent his Clone Trooper. DSCF6317 It's still a work-in-progress. We have to finish painting the breastplate, and then attach the pauldron (if you aren't Clone Trooper savvy, here's what one is). We bought a black flat sheet for the kama, which we'll attach somehow when the time comes. I'll be working on those brownies later in the week, I promise, and posting the final results of the Clone Trooper costume by the end of the week! Day 1 complete