September is approaching and I couldn't be happier. Once again, August has kicked my butt. I'm exhausted. My feet hurt from standing in the kitchen for hours and hours. My house is filthy dirty from all the produce that gets lugged in and out on a daily basis. And yet? Yesterday I brought home about 50lbs of grapes (that I got for free!!) that hopefully will soon be made into juice and jelly and will bring a bit of summer sweetness to the days ahead when we need to conjure it most. And maybe you would be surprised to hear that this is on top of the 75lbs that I brought home a week ago (also free, free, free!)!
I write here about our efforts to eat locally and I believe that this is a manageable, important bit of activism and that it is a vital part of teaching my kids to live in this world. But unless you read between the lines you might not get a good glimpse of how much my children participate in this part of our lives. This week, for instance, the kids have worked right alongside me as I picked grapes, carried them home, sorted them, removed the stems, crushed them, stirred them, poured them into a strainer, then made jelly and juice for canning. My kids work as hard as I do, but -- between you and me? They think it's fun!
I give most of the credit for this to RDI. If Oliver didn't have autism and I was just parenting the way I hope I might have, maybe I would have come to this kind of "extreme cooperative venture" parenting anyway. But probably not. Maybe it is an unexpected gift of autism that I've found a way to slow down and include my children in just about every thing that I do. And the truly stunning part for me is to realize how much a kid can learn about problem-solving and decision-making in little moments throughout the day that we might otherwise rush through. Like: What can we use to stir this? How do you know if a grape is good enough for the pot or should be thrown into the compost? What size bowl should we use? How do we know when it has cooked long enough? Of course each kid is contributing and being challenged on different levels, but they are both there with me, learning together. And do you know what? I am new to most of this, too. So we are learning and figuring things out together. And honestly? It feels like a grand adventure!
So yes, that is very cool and it is extremely rewarding when everything is going well -- it doesn't always, trust me! But yesterday, when we were taking a rest from the great grape escapade, I asked the kids to please go and clean their room. And can I just tell you how amazing it was to watch Oliver and Sami work together to 1) pick up all the books and put them away, 2) make the bed, 3) put their own folded clothes away and 4) vacuum the floor? I mean, Oliver blows me away. A year ago I was writing about how much trouble he was having just locating his clothes in the closet to get dressed in the mornings! All those times when we have worked together cleaning their room, problem-solving along the way and now I see that it really has come to pass that he can figure things out. Today, for instance, there were no sheets for the bed so Oliver went from room to room looking for a sheet! In times past he would simply have given up and gone on to do something else.
When I do these every day kinds of things with the kids it is never really with the intention of teaching them how to make jelly or juice or whatever. Rather, it is teaching them how to approach thinking about things: how to plan, how to react when something doesn't quite go the way we expect, how to decide when something is good enough, how to work together. But the upside? The beds are made and we will have a bit of summer sweetness to carry us through the winter months ahead!