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How Do You Measure Success?

How do you measure success? In sports, there’s a winner and a loser. In a race, it’s whoever crosses the finish line first. For me and it’s always been this way, even before having a child with special needs, I set a goal, make a plan and complete it.  I make a lot of lists. I MEAN a lot of lists. There’s something so lovely about crossing things off. The reward center in my brain dings. When I’ve completed a list, and done things well, it’s like the I’ve hit the jack pot, lights flashing, sirens blaring and coins clinking. There’s a tangible reward or pay off. I can look at a crossed off completed list and go to bed at night knowing I accomplished something.

I don’t always get that same feeling with motherhood. Rewards keep you motivated and going. When you don’t have a particularly emotive son, it can be tough. Don’t get me wrong I adore my son!   I know the feeling is mutual. Smiles, giggles and novel speech are very special in our house. Our hearts break up when we hear novel speech. Don’t get me wrong my son can communicate and is verbal. A lot of his speech is very programmed. If you’re an educator or another special needs parent you can tell this guy had a lot of intervention and worked hard, but talking is still hard. Most of his spontaneous speech is still a couple words bunched together. We are fluent in J man so we get what he’s saying. It’s rare to get a full sentence or an actual question. Friends with teenage daughters say be thankful they never shut up. Friends with teenage sons say you get more than I do he just grunts.

Crispy, yet still raw cookies(FYI, we still ate them) Notice the J man’s smile

Last week we had our first real day in the kitchen. Of course, I had my list. We were testing times and temperatures for three recipes and checking on a few other things. I thought we’d be in and out in 2 hours of the rented kitchen space. We ended up spending close to three hours, FAIL. Here’s a list of the fails in the kitchen last Friday

Not quite figuring out, the 3 sink set up

Getting the 3 sink set up properly the first time– FAIL

Scooping cookies with an even and consistent size- FAIL

Getting a cooking time for cookies-FAIL (we produced crunchy on the outside, raw in the middle cookies)

Setting up a double boiler- FAIL– (we eventually got it, but took 20 minutes to turn on burner)

Cooking time for brownies- FAIL – (we produced muddy, more like fudge sorta, not suitable for sale)

Cooking time for Bread/BRICK- FAIL– (we produced a paving stone)

Inventory of pans needed-FAIL– (No Time, totally unrealistic timetable)

Inventory of packaging- FAIL– (NO Time)

Weighing brownie ingredients- FAIL– (could figure out where to plug in scale)

 

Jeff came to pick J up from the kitchen. He could tell I was totally discouraged. I was worried about what we got ourselves into! Not one recipe we tried came out well! Nothing was appropriate for resell. Jeff assured me that I wasn’t going to get everything perfect from the start. We were testing. That was the point of testing. I started to worry about the promises I made to the families of guys I hired. J and Jeff left for his next thing. I stayed waiting for the brick/bread to come out of the oven and thinking it was all an epic failure.

After about 20 minutes, I got a call from Jeff. He said your guy was all smiles. I asked him if he liked the kitchen, he said IT WAS AWESOME.  Not a programmed response! Totally his! And a full sentence!

SUCESSS!!!!! Bells were ringing and sirens were going off!! He loved it. I’d forgot about my big goal to make a place in the world for J as an adult. I did it. He was smiling and talking. He was happy. It was no failure. Failures do not move forward. We are going to learn from our mistakes. We are going to investigate and innovate! We’ll figure out the ovens and where everything is in the kitchen.

Big smile and super proud of himself! Happy to be in a real kitchen!

From J’s mouth to God’s ears! It was awesome. We are going to be awesome. We are awesome.

 

But it looked so easy on You Tube

The other day I came across a story of an abused mom of 4, who built her home by watching you tube videos! If she could make a home with walls, plumbing and electrical than J and I could learn to frost a cupcake. After watching a half dozen or so you tube videos, J and I drove off and picked up some pastry bags and frosting tips envisioning the wedding cakes we’d be able to pull off now that we were experts on cake decorating.

Things in highly produced 4 minute 36 second videos on you tube look much easier than they are in real life. Our first challenge was the frosting itself. We are not frosting people. You know which plates are ours after a birthday party. We scrape the frosting off and eat the cake! That’s the good stuff. I’ve heard buttercream frosting is so easy over and over! But right there in the name is our first problem, BUTTER.  No Dairy for us. After a half dozen attempts of concoctions of coconut oil, corn syrup, shortening and powdered coconut milk, we got something that would hold together. The process of coming up with the frosting had left us a little worse for the wear. All that sugar while we were tasting and testing had made us a nauseous and gave us a head ache.

Before we even began, we were crashing fast! After all that frosting, we had to sit down for a while.  We watched some more videos during our break and got reinvigorated. How could we not be awesome at this!?! So up we got and faced our second challenge. How do you get the frosting in the bag without make a huge mess? Frosting is some icky sticky stuff. It was all over our hands, the front of us and I may have had some in my hair. The ladies in the you tube videos all had perfect hair and manicured hands with upbeat pop music playing. I was starting to hear the requiem in my head.

Once we got the frosting in the bag, I thought we were ready. Magazine cover worthy cupcakes were on the way. Boy humor and air were our next obstacle. In between the glob of frosting and the tip was a large pocket of air. When we tried to push the frosting out, out came a bodily function noise. I lost J! He collapsed in giggles. Me, being a boy mum for so long, also collapse into the giggles!

We preserved and produced a few cupcakes.

 

 

They look nothing like anything in the videos.

 

We got better by the eighteenth. 

 

What took 4 minutes and 36 in most of the videos, took us about 4 and half hours.  I probably gained 4 and a half pounds.

I don’t see wedding cakes in the immediate future, but we will get there. That mom could not have built her home in days. It had to be months or even years. With practice, hard work and giggle collapses we will have magazine cover worthy cakes. Martha Stewart look out. How could that not be in our future? It looks so easy on YouTube.

Confirmed Items on the Gluten and Dairy Free Menu

We’ve been hard at work tasting and testing our recipes

Here’s a list of confirmed Items for the markets thus far

GF/ DF White Sandwich Bread

GF/DF Pumpernickel Rolls

GF/DF Irish Brown Bread

GF/DF Brownies

GF/DF Chocolate Cupcakes

GF/DF Corn Bread

GF/DF Snicker doodles

GF/DF Chocolate buzz cookies

&

GF/DF Chocolate Chip cookies

More testing and tasting is happening this week

We’ll have more to come

Please let us know if there are any special requests!

 

 

Hope And Hustle

Our company began when my son was turning eighteen and transitioning to adulthood. He said he wanted to be a chef in restaurant. Initially, I giggled and told him, “No you like to eat at restaurants.” Then I realized, no of course, he’d want to cook. He started a gluten/casien free diet when he was a toddler. 18 years ago, no one knew what gluten free was, so I pulled him up on the kitchen island and we baked. Baking and cooking are process driven. You follow the steps and in the end, you get a yummy reward. It’s very satisfying work for him.

Being a chef would’ve been impossible. He wasn’t verbal enough to make it through an interview. If a restaurant would take a chance on him, he’d be relegated to the dishwasher.  He has an incredible palate and like most people on the spectrum amazing detail and process skills.  A dishwashing position would be a waste of his potential and most likely a disaster.

All parents want their children to grow to be happy fulfilled people.  My husband and I had to make career choices that paid the bills and supported the family.  When helping our children plan their futures, we stressed to want more than money. You want to do something interesting. You want to feel like you are doing is something useful. You want to feel like your work is needed, that need gives you a feeling that you are important. Your work adds to your self-worth. 

To live the life you want to, to enjoy your work and feel validated is important for everyone but especially for someone with special needs. Work has to be enjoyable, otherwise it’s another tedious task in a world that doesn’t always make sense. So, with a lot of hope and hustle we decided to make his dream of being a chef a reality and give other people’ s children an opportunity for meaningful work as well . In this process, I’ve gained a few pounds and realized I hate frosting , but I’ve found meaningful work.