Alone Again … at Lunch

schoolchildren circleEarlier this week at “Life on the Road Less Traveled,” I wrote about our recent drama concerning a child’s repeated requests to come home from school. Honestly, if I picked her up as often as she called home, she’d be out of school more than she was in.

Which would be just fine with her. For her teachers, and for us, not so much.

After some careful deduction, tracking the time of day these requests tend to arrive, it seems that lunchtime is particularly stressful for her. Like many schools in this area, Penn works on an alternate day schedule, and she has an extremely small circle of friends … so every other day she sits alone in the cafeteria. I can see why that would be upsetting. But I just don’t know what to do about it.

She won’t join a club, or choir. (Though she has a spectacular voice.) So it’s kind of tough to expand her social circle.

She refuses to go up and introduce herself to someone else sitting alone. (She thinks they will laugh at her. Which they might, but they might not.)

She doesn’t want to role play. “MOM! I’m not STUPID!” (Okay, then.)

She actually thinks she has a friend who has the same lunch, but the cafeteria is so big she is overwhelmed and can’t find her. (Penn has 2000 students, so it would be tough.)

Her teacher of record and I are trying to find a way to help her stay in school … yet I feel so bad for her, that this is such an anxiety producing situation that she feels physically sick at the prospect of eating lunch. When I was her age, I remember sitting by myself a lot … but I didn’t mind. I’d go to the library or some other favorite haunt with my book, and be happy. That’s not a solution for my daughter, though, who is “allergic” to books.

Social isolation can be one of the hardest parts of raising special needs kids, I think. We want them to feel happy, accepted, and safe … and yet so often the world feels like a big, scary place to them. We try to coach them from the sidelines … but ultimately what they need most is an understanding friend.

Lord, please send her an understanding friend. And have her stand behind Sarah in the lunch line, so she doesn’t have to go looking for her.

Amen? Amen.

Have you ever experienced this with your kids? What solutions have you found that worked for you?

 

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Weekend Ponderings: Caution! Do you know where your friends are?

kitchen-madonnaThree of my favorite Catholic women writers just posted about the lunch they had together they other day. Oooh, I WISH I could have joined them!  Writing can be such a solitary, sedentary sport, with most of the communication going one way (out!). It can be tempting to lean on our virtual connections, and neglect the real-time ones. And yet, there is nothing quite like a REAL cup of tea (or a Cosmopolitan, as Kitchen Madonna and I are doing here), sitting across the table from a good friend. Getting to see her eyes twinkle, hear her warm laughter, crunch the cookies, feel the warmth trickle down the back of your throat. Yum.

Those personal connections soften the hard times, and sweeten the good ones. But they do require a bit of effort. Tonight for the first time in . . . well, forever . . . I’m going out with my girlfriend Katy to a benefit for Safe House. It’s being held at St. Andrew Parish in Saline (7-9 p.m., if you’re interested), and it will probably just involve sipping tea and buying a new set of sheets. But with a good friend . . . sounds like heaven!

Like all God’s gifts, friendship requires a certain amount of investment to function properly. I recently sent out invitations to a half dozen church friends — we used to run the mother’s program at church together, but have since moved on to other things. I’ve missed these women, and figured it was time to do something about it!  A little chicken salad and iced tea, maybe a pavlova for dessert. Time to catch up!

We’re all busy. We all have a million things on our to-do lists. But a year from now, how many of those things are going to matter? Only the relationships we build with one another. I was reminded of the importance of keeping proper perspective again today from the first reading, from Acts 5, which is about the Pharisee Gamiliel, one of the greatest Jewish teachers of all time (and some say a secret follower of Christ). In discussing what to do with St. Peter and the apostles (who had recently gotten on the last nerve of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Court), Gamaliel makes an astute observation about human endeavors of all kinds.

“…So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

So the question I put to you today …  How many of the activities on your list are “of human origin,” and how many are of lasting significance? Are you maintaining the gifts God has given you — including the gifts of friendship? When was the last time you hugged a kid . . . or a friend?

Wee Cook Wednesdays: Comfort Cookies

comfort-cookiesI just got back from the post office, having mailed out a couple of Raising Up Mommy to conference participants … and a “Comfort Box” to a friend.

In case you’re not familiar with the custom, “Comfort Boxes” are care packages that you send to someone who has just experienced a great loss. The box can be plan or flowery (like the kind you get in craft stores), depending on whether you mail it or deliver it in person. What’s important is what’s inside:

* A box of “Comfort Cookies” (recipe below)
* A box of really good herbal tea (for late-night sipping)
* A pretty china teacup (representing the fragility and beauty of life)
* A really good book or CD, appropriate to the situation (for the death of a pet, a copy of Life with Marley; the death of a mother of a large family might be Cheaper by the Dozen or The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio; the death of a spouse might be A Severe Mercy. Another favorite is the audio version of Anthony Destefano’s A Travel Guide to Heaven).
* Optional items, suited to that particular need: A pretty journal or box of notecards, a gift card for a favorite restaurant (for a night cooking is too great a challenge after the casseroles stop coming), a small box of chocolates, an aromatic candle. Anything that will pamper, soothe … and add a touch of beauty.

Comfort Boxes are a tangible reminder of love and concern, best sent after the initial flurry of the funeral. Anniversaries or other significant dates (birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s or Father’s Day) that first year can be especially hard, and a time when this expression of friendship can be greatly appreciated.

Now … for those cookies! Comfort Cookies are a little hard, a little bittersweet (kind of like memories), and their spicy aroma fills the senses (especially when warm, or dunked in tea). One recipe makes at least 5 dozen, so they are great for bringing to funeral lunches, too. (Sometimes I dunk one edge in chocolate as a decorative touch.)

Comfort Cookies

1-1/2 C shortening
2 C granulated sugar (plus a small bag for coating)
2 eggs
1/2 C dark molasses
4 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ginger
pinch of allspice

Combine dry ingredients (stir lightly with whisk). Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy, then beat in eggs. Add molasses and sifted ingredients. Chill 30 minutes, then roll in 1″ balls; roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet 2″ apart. Bake 375 degrees 10-12 minutes, until set. (If you like them chewy, take them out while still soft in the center — let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes.) Makes about 5 dozen.

For small children, make “cookie lollipops” by inserting a popsicle stick before baking.