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Nails, Snails, and Emergency Oranges

Updated: May 18

{Memoirs of a Tired Mom}

I need to wash my face. I keep forgetting I’m wearing makeup - purple lipstick and yellow eyeshadow - and I don’t know what else because I haven’t looked in the mirror this evening. I spent my evening as a customer at Nails & Snails, the salon and spa owned and operated by my two entrepreneurial children. Nails & Snails operates in my living room on Saturday and Sunday evenings. For only 25 cents per service, I can have a facial, a hand scrub, a foot soak, a shoulder massage, or a hair appointment. I didn’t invent this game, but I’m happy to play because where else can I get a 25-cent shoulder massage? And Jonah is actually not bad at digging his elbows into the painful spot between my shoulder blades. 

I’ve learned that to get my kids to do basically anything, I either have to give them money or outsmart them. So, today, I brought another client - Taco, aka Mr. Blackchip. Mr. Blackchip came in for his hair appointment, so Jonah spent 20-minutes brushing him. I pretended to be a demanding client named Noreen from Mississippi. Evie got so tickled she spit her water all over my legs. Then she said, “Sorry, Noreen, but the shower is part of your treatment.” 

The only downside to this game is that I’m all out of quarters so I can’t get a cart at Aldis. But it’s worth it. I love that my kids are best friends, and they can play in their own creative world for hours. 

Yesterday, Evie and Jonah were playing outside when our neighbor’s kid, Mary, came over. She often stays with us on the weekends. They started a business called “Nature’s Brand Perfumes.” They spent the entire day crushing plants from our garden into water and straining them to make their “perfumes.”  (Available in Lavender, Mint, Lemon Bom (balm), Pollen, Grassy Grass, Pineapple, and Summer Floral for only $1/bag!) … Warning label: Not hypoallergenic. 

Both my kids are neurodivergent. Evie is on the autism spectrum, and when I say this people think of Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. Evie breaks all the stereotypes of kids with ASD/Aspergers. She’s very social, friendly, empathetic and extremely sensitive. She’s delightful. But she has struggles others don’t see. She thinks socks feel like knives on her toes. And her biggest challenge is that she’s never been able to recognize her own body cues. For whatever reason, being thirsty or hungry quickly causes intense emotional dysregulation. But Evie is learning to meet her own needs.

One Saturday, as we were preparing for a family outing at the park, Evie went upstairs to get ready and was taking forever. When she finally came down, she was beaming. She had taken the little pieces of fabric from her rainbow loom and cut and tied many of them together. She threaded them through the tiny holes in a plastic easter egg, so that it created a shoulder strap holding an Easter egg at the bottom - one for each side. Each egg contained a perfectly fitted mandarin orange. “I’m ready to go!” she said proudly, “I’ve got my emergency oranges! And do you like my egg purses?"

“Ummm…What do you mean?” I asked. 

“Well,” she declared, “if I get too hungry, I’ll have my oranges and then I won’t feel crazy!” 

The truth is, I think my kids are a little different. But I don’t really know what’s “normal” because outside of my own childhood, I wasn’t raised with kids. I don’t really have a gauge for normal childhood behavior. 

My son never stops asking questions - deep questions about the way things work and why. A few months ago, he came and woke me up at 6 am.

“Mom!” he whispered, “what’s die-a-beet-is?”  

I grunted and rolled back over.

 “Mom! Mom! Mom! What's die-a-beet-is?”

 I looked at my phone - 6:02. “Go back to bed please.” 

“But mom! What is die-a-beet-is?”

 At this point I realized I had to answer his question, or he’d wake everyone up. “Do you mean diabetes?”

 “Yes! What is it?”

“It’s a sugar disorder.”

 “You mean people eat too much sugar and they get sick?”


“Well, do I have it? I eat too much sugar sometimes”

“No. You don’t.” 

“But why not, I mean, how do people get it? And how come some people get it and others don’t?”

My patience was wearing thin. “Go back to bed! I’m tired!” 

The questioning wasn’t going to end until I explained how insulin resistance works. The only way to get Jonah to stop with questions is to explain things in great detail until he gets bored and disinterested. 

Jonah is six. And don’t tell him this, but he has the tiny, cute, huggable body of a four-year old. But he can argue and reason like a teenager which is equal parts hilarious and infuriating. 

This morning, after Jonah woke up and demanded I supervise while he made his own French toast, he then demanded that I wear different shoes. I wanted to wear my new summer sandals with the heels, but Jonah looked through my closet and wanted me to wear the black flats. “I’m mom” I explained firmly, “You don’t get to tell me what to do.” But Jonah was perseverating. After thirty minutes of failed redirection, discipline, and a lot of tears, I tried a different tactic. “Okay, Jonah, let’s make a deal. You’re not going to tell Mommy what shoes to wear, and I’m not going to tell you which shoes to wear. You can wear any shoes and I won’t make you wear socks today.” 

Jonah crossed his arms and thought for a minute. “Counteroffer: I will choose my shoes and I will take cheetos to church.” (Cheetos are a hot commodity in our house). 

He’d worn me down and we were going to be late. “Fine, whatever. You can take cheetos. Just let me get dressed!” 

He later came into my room, hugged me and apologized. He explained that he was actually just scared that I might fall and hurt myself if I wore heels.

Jonah has basically been obsessed with science since he was three. He likes to mix things together - glue, sparkles, food coloring, toothpaste, baking soda - anything he can get his hands on. When I questioned him about this one day and asked, “what is this?” he raised his eyebrows theatrically, rubbed his hands together like a mad scientist and said, “It’s my secret serum.” 

Now most of our china cabinet is filled with mason jars of mystery liquids. I let this go so long as I don’t sense any true biohazard. But one day, I was going through the cabinet, and I saw some blue liquid and in it were pieces of bread. I held this up to Chris, who shrugged and said, “he’s making penicillin.” 

Perhaps Jonah wanted to see if the bread wouldn’t mold if you put it in mouthwash? Or maybe he was just being six. 

I don’t remember doing stuff like this as a child. I remember playing house, spying on the neighbors, and building pillow forts. I do not remember making penicillin in the china cabinet. But maybe I would have, if allowed. However, I would not have argued with my mother. If I had, my father would have spanked me with a switch and grounded me for a week. I try to teach my children the same respect for authority - but when you have a child with ASD, ADHD and sensory issues you have to use more covert tactics. 

I’ve seen my kids grow so much over these last few years, and I know we have grown as parents, too. 

They both struggle with things that others can’t see or understand. But they are learning to overcome those invisible battles - like choosing to be flexible even when their brain is “stuck.” Or apologizing when they crossed the line and spoke disrespectfully. Or verbalizing their needs instead of laying on the floor screaming. Or showing empathy to each other. Perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of parenthood is watching our children becoming best friends. 

My children are growing, and they are growing me. I cry more, pray more, laugh more, and love deeper. Older parents will often look at them with bittersweet nostalgia and tell us to cherish these days because they go by too quickly. I don’t need that reminder. I know soon my kids will be going off to college and won’t be making bug houses and perfumes in the backyard. 

I’m very tired, but my heart is full.

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