Weekdays, this year, I get up by 5:40 am, which prompts many friends to ask, Why? (On the other hand, my father, who grew up on a farm, starts sending me text messages by 4:15 am, often concluding an hour later with, “Are you even up yet?”) Here is exactly what I did Tuesday morning, last week.
5:34 am. Got up, pulled a sweater over my pajamas, and headed for the kitchen. I set my alarm for 6:00 am. In practice, almost invariably, I wake by 5:40 am.
5:38 am. Turned on kitchen radio, which is set to WNYC. Opened a bottle of kombucha from the refrigerator, powered up my iPhone to check for messages and emails. Responded to three emails. Found no texts from my father. Emptied the dishwasher and loaded a few bowls that hadn’t fit last night, because I can’t stand to start the morning in a disorderly kitchen. Drank kombucha.
5:50 am. Set a kettle of water to boil, made coffee, and heated vegetable broth. Making coffee, in the morning, consists of adding water to the coffee maker, since the beans are already in the coffee maker; I will leave beans in overnight, but not water. The vegetable broth is for me.
5:55 am. Drank kombucha. Once the kettle whistled, poured boiling water into two insulated food containers, one for Adrian’s lentils and one for Martin’s sausages. The boiling water preheats the food containers, so that the contents stay hot longer. Attempted to listen to the 6:00 am headlines. (An EgyptAir plane was hijacked and redirected to Cyprus!) Assembled Adrian’s lunch sack from the items I prepared last night: two fruit snacks (sliced apples and sliced bananas), two protein snacks (today, organic peanuts and Greek yogurt), and sandwich (on gluten-free, sprouted-grain bread, natch), all piled on an ice block. Stirred MCT oil into my broth and drank the concoction. Heated Adrian’s lentils (he gets homemade, when I’ve made lentils; today, he got Amy’s from a can), emptied the boiled water from his food container, and replaced it with lentils. Adrian’s lunch was ready: sandwich, fruit, yogurt, peanuts, and lentils. Am I a neurotic control freak for making my husband’s daytime food, when he works in Midtown Manhattan and, within a five-block radius, could purchase any cuisine known to mankind? Don’t answer. That question was rhetorical. Drank coffee.
6:10 am. Heated the sausages for Martin’s lunch. I try to give Martin no more than one (and sometimes no) serving of animal protein per day, not counting bone broth. Usually I send the meat course for school lunch: mini-hamburgers with hidden veggies, sausages, calamari, scallops, that sort of stuff. Drank kombucha. While the sausages were heating in a cast-iron pan, finished prepping the morning juice. I washed and peeled the carrots, ginger, and turmeric last night, and also washed the apples, but the apples still needed to be sliced and cored. Emptied the boiled water from Martin’s insulated food container, and loaded in the sausages. Drank coffee.
6:20 am. Prepared Martin’s snacks: sunflower-seed butter on quinoa-rice crackers, quartered, and chocolate avocado pudding. His school is nut-free, and 90% of what he likes for snacks contains nuts, so I have to be creative. The chocolate avocado pudding I make by combining ripe avocado, cocoa powder, Manuka honey, vanilla, and sea salt with an immersion blender. I could make pudding the night before, but I think it tastes best when fresh, and also I add a packet of MitoSpectra powder, which I would not want to do too far in advance. Drank coffee. Finished kombucha.
6:30 am. Began preheating the oven. Dripped 20 drops of MC-Bar 2 (to combat Lyme disease) into an empty gelcap and grabbed two Candex capsules. Because the protocol provided by Martin’s doctor says Candex and MC-Bar 2 should be administered 30 minutes before breakfast, snuck to Martin’s bedroom, whispered, “Martin! Martin! Pill! Pill!” and inserted each pill into his mouth, in succession. Martin swallows capsules with no liquid and can do so without even waking up. This has taken years of training. Checked to see whether Adrian was awake. Usually, Adrian gets up by 6:00 am and leaves the house around 6:45 am to catch his train to Manhattan. Tuesdays, I work in my tiny law firm’s office in the city, so Adrian stays home until 8:00 am, and then we drive together in his car to the train. I leave my car at home, for Martin’s babysitter to use. Saw that Adrian was awake. Kissed him good morning.
6:38 am. Started breakfasts. Dropped a slice of gluten-free, sprouted-grain bread into the toaster, for Adrian. Diced orange and red bell peppers (washed the night before), onion, and garlic cloves (peeled earlier), then started frying the veggies in olive oil (in the same trustworthy cast-iron pan that handled the sausages). Placed two chocolate-quinoa muffins, baked in advance in large batches, then frozen and defrosted as necessary, into the oven to heat. Spread peanut butter on Adrian’s toast and plated the toast on the kitchen table. Began dropping the prepped carrots, ginger, turmeric, and apples into the juicer. Ground salt and spices onto the vegetables in the frying pan. Welcomed Adrian, who was sleepy, into the kitchen. Drank coffee.
6:52 am. Crunch time! Cracked an egg into the frying peppers, onion, and garlic, and flipped those ingredients into a little breakfast entrée. Stirred the fresh carrot-ginger-turmeric-apple juice, divided it into three portions, and mixed Vitality C into Martin’s glass. Placed Martin’s juice by his spot at the kitchen table, and Adrian’s juice next to his toast. Dumped the rest into a glass for myself. Thought about pouring Adrian some coffee but decided he can get his own coffee. Prepared a plate for Martin, with the veggie-egg and two chocolate-quinoa muffins. Photographed Martin’s breakfast, for this blog. Also poured Martin a tumbler of kombucha. Started drinking my juice. Attempted to listen to 7:00 am headlines. (The EgyptAir hijacking was allegedly the work of a disgruntled husband, not terrorism.) Swigged coffee.
7:02 am. Only two minutes late, and with two more capsules in hand, headed to Martin’s bedroom to wake him. Rubbed his back. Gave him the capsules to swallow. Coaxed him. Cajoled him. Said he could ride on my back to the bathroom, but the offer was good only for five seconds. Counted, slowly, aloud, to five. Between four and five, he climbed aboard. Stood, with 63 pounds of Martin on my back, and walked to the bathroom. Deposited him on the toilet. Returned to the kitchen to fetch two more capsules. Found Martin trying to sleep on the toilet. Fed him the capsules, helped him wash hands. Escorted him to the kitchen, seated him at the table. Rebuffed suggestion that he be allowed to watch television while eating. Fed him first bite of veggie-egg to remind him that he likes the dish.
7:15 am. Gave Martin assorted supplements, antimicrobials, and such. Reminded Martin that he could watch Disney Junior while he drank his carrot-ginger-turmeric-apple juice, after he finished his egg and muffins. Sort of woke him up. Begged him to finish his egg and muffin. Measured all his morning drops onto a spoon and gave him that. Administered two teaspoons Morningstar Minerals from the same spoon. Finished my own carrot-ginger-turmeric-apple juice. Drank more coffee. Reminded Martin that Mickey’s Clubhouse starts at 7:30 am, encouraged him to finish food by then. Martin loves Mickey’s Clubhouse. It’s really directed toward pre-schoolers, but he’s discovered it only this year. Attempted grown-up conversation with Adrian, as he ate peanut-butter toast and drank his coffee. Chosen topic: EgyptAir hijacking. Watched Adrian wander away to shower.
7:30 am. Finished administering Martin’s morning supplements, antimicrobials, and such. Removed his plate and congratulated him on finishing the food in time to watch Mickey’s Clubhouse. Reminded him that with the privilege of watching Mickey’s Clubhouse comes the responsibility of finishing his juice. Wrote in Martin’s school notebook, telling his teachers he will take the bus home today. Some Tuesdays I pick him up. Put the sausages and snacks into Martin’s lunch bag. Filled his LifeFactory bottle with seltzer water and a splash of grape juice. Packed his backpack with the lunch bag, the drink, his homework folder, his teacher-communication notebooks, and a pair of gloves, in case the outdoor playground was cold. Martin carries a boxy German backpack, because Adrian attended German schools and always wished he had a genuine boxy German backpack. Don’t ask. Finished my carrot-ginger-turmeric-apple juice and encouraged Martin to finish his.
7:40 am. Eight minutes for me! Leaving Martin in the kitchen to finish his juice, returned to our bedroom to wash my face, fix my hair, brush my teeth, and get dressed. When I’m working in my office, I shower and wash and blow-dry my hair the night before. I also save morning time by doing my make-up in the commuter train, instead of at home. Gauche, I know.
7:48 am. “Me” time is over! Returned to the kitchen, with Martin’s school uniform and a tub of shea butter. Encouraged Martin to finish his juice by saying, “Big sip! Big sip!” Rubbed shea butter into his itchy spots. Martin still detoxes and sheds a lot through his skin, which makes him itchy. Let him get dressed in the kitchen so he wouldn’t miss the end of Mickey’s Clubhouse, because who’s got time for that kind of fight? Focused him on each article of clothing as he attempted to do a simultaneous Hot Dog Dance. Ran for toothbrush so he could his teeth by the kitchen sink. Turned off the television. Handed him coat and hat.
7:56 am. As Martin waited for the bus, threw my laptop, papers, iPhone, keys, wallet, and make-up case into by work bag. Put on my shoes and coat. Poured another cup of coffee, this time into a paper cup with a lid.
7:59 am. Watched Martin board the school bus. Because Martin receives special-education services, the bus picks him up at the end of our driveway. Climbed into Adrian’s car, which he had already pulled out of the garage. Zoomed toward the train station.
Kudos to you, if you perused this entire, overlong enumeration of Tuesday morning’s tasks. I wrote it with a point in mind. Bet you couldn’t tell I had a point, could you? Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical again. By nature, I am neither organized nor punctual. Pre-Martin, pre-Adrian, for everything but court appearances and work meetings, I ran 20 minutes late. Some of my friends even had a term for the phenomenon: “Maria time.” They confessed to telling me dinner reservations were at 7:30 when really they were at 8:00, so that Maria time would closer coincide with standard time. Activities that required planning, moreover, were disastrous. I had no one to look after but myself and my cats, and yet I never seemed able to get to bed before midnight, or out the door to work before 9:00 am.
For a couple years, I have known, peripherally, a mother with two sons: Stevie, who has severe behavior challenges, and Sasha. One evening, I ran into this mother at a local pub. She said she’s seen Martin recently and noticed how well he was doing. We got to talking about what we do for Martin—diet, supplements, protocols, therapies—and the following exchange ensued:
Her: “That’s terrific. I recovered my son too! It was so easy!”
Me: “‘Easy’ isn’t the word I would pick first. It feels really challenging, all that recovery requires.”
Her: “For us, we just changed his diet to gluten- and dairy-free and gave him B12. That was it.”
Me: “Wow, that is amazing! I didn’t even realize Sasha had autism. Congratulations!”
Her: “Not Sasha. Stevie! Stevie is recovered.”
I spent the first 30 seconds of this exchange inspired and intrigued. Autism recovery, easy? GFCF diet plus B12 equals neurotypicality? Perhaps, I thought, I am overdoing everything, and Martin’s health could improve with less effort. Far less. But then the other mother said she meant Stevie, not Sasha, and my perspective changed. I know Stevie. I don’t know where his journey started, behavior-wise, but I know where he stands today, and I would not consider him “typical”; his hyperactivity gets him into trouble, he needs extra help to participate in group activities, and he frequently isolates himself, scowling. If that’s easy recovery, I thought, I will stick to the difficult version.
But really, how difficult is it, now? The earliest days of recovering Martin were overwhelming: planning meals days in advance, understanding immune function and neuro-signals, exploring new treatments, coordinating doctor visits, breaks for crying, and all on only a few hours’ sleep per night, because Martin couldn’t sleep. Pardon the expression, but—it sucked.
The Tuesday morning described above was not so bad. The portions of the breakfasts, lunches, and snacks that could be prepared in advance were prepared in advance. Martin’s homework was complete, tucked into his school folder. I woke after more than seven hours’ sleep, and with my hair washed and dried the night before. As I gave Martin his supplements and antimicrobials and homeopathic remedies, I checked boxes on a weekly schedule that I prepare each Sunday. Though I had a lot to do, it all happened with minimal panic or frustration. It felt like I imagine standard parenting feels.
Martin’s lack of planning skills and executive function have finally forced me to hone my own planning skills. Not every morning runs smoothly, and much in my life remains unaccomplished. (More frequent blogging and publishing are pretty good examples, and I will never understand the science of autism recovery as well as I wish.) You’ll never hear from me, “I recovered my son! It was so easy!”
Still, one day, maybe you’ll hear this: “I recovered my son! It wasn’t so bad, and it helped me get my own life in better order!”