Erin Clotfelter

I am a Minneapolis mom to three boys under the age of 3, two recently diagnosed with autism. I blog about autism, motherhood and my life outnumbered by boys at The Slacker Mom.

Posts about Society

Nothin' But Net

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: October 11, 2011 - 10:09 PM

On Sunday we met up with a friend and her family to enjoy a few hours picking out pumpkins, petting animals and eating bags of popcorn.  We spent some time climbing around on the gourds and getting up close with the goats and riding around in wagons.  It was a great fall day.

It was also a bit crazy.  The twins were both headed in opposite directions at all times.  The 1 year old was happy to hang out on the pumpkins, but eventually got the urge to run as well.  Two parents, three kids running in all directions.  It was a bit of a mess.

At one point my husband offered to take our wagon full of pumpkins and the most unruly child and pay up.  It sounded like a great idea to me.  I grabbed the other two and headed over towards some shady trees to sit down and take a break.

A few older boys were shooting some baskets nearby and my son was watching them quite intently.  They eventually left and after a few minutes Lincoln walked over to the basketball and eyed the basket.


Then he lifted the ball up and aimed.



And then he took a shot.



My mind was racing- this was NEW!  It was all I could do to focus the camera and snap away instead of grabbing him up and smothering him with hugs and kisses.

This might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but for me, watching my son with Autism figure this out without any prompting ranks pretty high on exciting things that have happened in the last year.

Satisfied with his performance, he sat back down to play in the dirt.


He might have moved on but this Mama can't stop gushing about it!

Lunch Rut

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: September 22, 2011 - 8:17 PM

I'm in a rut.  A lunch rut.

Actually, you could probably say I'm in a breakfast, lunch and dinner rut, but lunch is the one that makes me the most crazy.  In my mind, lunch is supposed to be quick and easy, not some 3-course affair involving an oven.

Every day when the boys are about to get off the bus I scan my kitchen and try and come up with something both nutritious and appealing to them.  They aren't exactly the pickiest eaters, but there are days when nothing I make is going to pass their test.

We have our fair share of Mac and Cheese (boxed or homemade depending on the day), sandwiches, roll-ups, toasted ravioli, meatloaf muffins etc.  We've done the cookie cutter thing but I don't think they really notice enough to make it worth the effort.  

We just went through a phase where my son asked for hot dogs at every meal.  And applesauce.  Hot Dogs, applesauce and ice cream.  Every. Single. Meal.

When your child with autism opens his mouth and words come out, the first thing you do is give him what he asks for, because OMG HE SAID WORDS!!!!  And then you realize he's figured it out and now has a little vocab explosion of food items you'd rather not serve 5 times a day.  When you don't give him what he requests he sadly looks at you and says in his most pathetic sad voice "Hungry?"*  

Smart.  Very smart.  

So basically I need what every mom needs: an arsenal of meals that pack the nutrient punch I want that is disguised as something they want to eat.  Also, it has to be easy to prepare and kind to the budget.

We're far from serving tots and nuggets at every meal, but we're also far from the pureed spinach and mangoes they loved as infants.  I'm looking for a little balance.  

I dug out a few recipes (

Spinach Brownies


Raisin Bran Muffins

) to throw into my breakfast routine just to liven things up and I'm going to test these out this week and see how that goes but I need some lunch ideas.  What works for you?  If you are a parent to a special needs kid who tends to be a picky eater, what advice do you have?

Is it *OK* to indulge in hot dogs for every meal until he gets tired of them?

*He's not really hungry, he just knows that word is associated with food and thinks that he'll get the fruit snacks/ ice cream/ cookie he is seeking if he throws that out there.

School Sans Fanfare

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: August 30, 2011 - 9:44 PM

My boys go back to school tomorrow.  (I know this isn't a unique observation- everyone and their mother is going back to school this week.) 

For me this is bittersweet. " The First Day of 3-5 Autism class" doesn't exactly have the same ring as "The First Day of Kindergarten".  We've never had an official "First Day"- we started the last year right after Winter break- about 4 weeks after our initial diagnosis of Autism.  There were attempts at pictures with the bus on the first day, but they are mostly pictures of backpacks as the boys stomped down the icy front path to the bus. 

Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day.  I mean, other than completely rocking our world.  How many people put a 2 year old on a bus to go to school?  Not many.

Part of me is sad.  Part of me can't wait.  In the past 6 weeks we've had some new habits form and little regressions here and there which emphasize just how important the structured routine of school is for our little guys.  And when I look at them, I just see "little".  36 inches tall.  Not quite 30 pounds.  My babies.  I feel like we've missed out on years of our kids just getting to be kids, all because of an ill-timed diagnosis. 

Don't get me wrong- I am so grateful that we were able to get diagnosed as early as we did.  I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the people who were put into our path from the moment I made that call to Early Intervention.

But, my boys will do more work in their 150 minute days than some kids will do all month.  Because that is what it is for these kids.  Everything is work.  Sitting on a chair during circle time is work.  Playing is work.  Eating is work.  Well, maybe not boys seem to enjoy eating when they are at school.  

Because they responded so well when they were placed in January, the decision was made to put them right into the 3 year old class in the Fall instead of waiting for their birthday in November and transitioning them then.  I think this is a good move.  I think they are up to the challenge.  I feel like it will keep them on their toes, learning new skills and strategies each day.

So, here I sit. 

With much hope for the next school year.

With faith in the team that will surround them in their classroom each day.

With pride in my boys, marching through life to their own beat.

With  perfectly mismatched First-Day-of-School outfits spread out in front of me on the kitchen table.  (Because even if there is no fanfare- it is still The First Day of School!)

Tomorrow we all take another leap into the unknown. 

I have a feeling this is going to be good.



I'm Ready for Fall

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: August 23, 2011 - 10:19 PM

I am hot.

Over the course of the past month or so our boys have made it their mission every single waking hour of every single day to dismantle our air conditioner.  They work together like a well oiled machine.  The front cover is pried off by my middle sons nimble fingers.  The filter is tossed over the baby gate or sent sliding under the couch by my youngest.  And maybe worst of all, my oldest turns it OFF! 

No cold air for me.

It's like living with three tiny dictators who have a thing for the hot and humid.

(I'd question their maternity if not for the fact that I was there when they were born.)

This past weekend I said enough was enough- there was no better place to put the unit, so instead of waiting for the real destruction to begin,  we took it down.  It's the end of August after all.  Things should be getting a little more bearable here.  

(Don't remind me about last summer- I am blocking it out to save my sanity.)

So here I sit and daydream about my favorite things to beat the heat.


{via Google Images}

{via Google Images}

- Cold beer.  I fancy myself a craft beer snob and usually tend towards the warm and spicy.  This summer I have broken all of my rules and watched happily as my husband bought home case after case of ice cold American lager.  Coors, MGD, Miller High Life, Grain Belty, ou name it.  I haven't had beer this light since I was downing pitchers at The Heidelberg in Columbia, Missouri.  It really is the perfect addition to a day spent doing yard work in the hot sun or watching the smoker.

- Joia Soda.  Made right here in Minneapolis, these four craft sodas are refreshing and vibrant, perfect for sipping while your feet hang out in a kiddy pool.  Being all natural, they aren't the worst thing you could offer your kids.  (Tip: they make great mixers for after the kids go to bed!)

- Banana Soft-Serve.  I saw this making the rounds earlier in the summer and I honestly thought it was a bunch of hype.  After eying a few bananas about to hit their prime I chunked them up, froze them solid, whirled them in the food processor, topped them with crumbled Reece's Peanut Butter Cups and I am here to tell you- it is AMAZING!  No ice cream guilt.  It's the perfect cheat.  It stands up well to hot fudge.  Or so I've heard.

- Iced Cafe au Lait made with Chicory coffee.  I like my coffee iced with milk and sugar but sometimes (read: every time) it tends to get watered down as the ice melts.  I am not a fan of watered down coffee.  Enter chicory.  It's super strong and holds up to milk (lots) and sugar (heaps) and ice (mountains) very well.  I brew up a pot at night, throw it in the fridge and I am good to go when my three little men wake me up at the crack of dawn.  My Starbucks field trips have been cut in half by the addition of an icy cold Cafe au Lait to my day.

- Air Conditioning.  Sweet mother of God what were we thinking taking that window unit out?  Nothing compares to crisp cool air blowing through a room.  NOTHING.  I'm guessing the humidity has finally gotten to me.  I don't think I've been this miserable since I was carrying a 20 pound box of books across campus from the bookstore to my dorm my freshman year in college  (The fact that my kids are the age of the current freshman class when I was a freshman is like an exclamation point on the phrase "Time Flies!")

So there it is.  Cold drinks, faux ice cream and A/C.  I should probably bite the bullet and enlist the hubs to reinstall that window unit.  Or not.  (Just think of the energy savings!)

So, how do you beat the heat?  Are you hoping for a quick exit into fall or do you like a long drawn out summer?


Putting Down the Phone

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: August 14, 2011 - 11:04 PM

Way back on New Year's Day 2009 I remember having a conversation on Facebook with a friend about texting while driving and the new Minnesota law going into effect that would make texting while driving illegal in Minnesota. At the time I had a simple phone and only texted on the rarest of occasions. For me it was a no-brainer. It was simply out of the question. Of course, if you asked my husband, I was lucky if my phone was charged (or in my purse) on most days, so it was also a non-issue.

Fast forward a few years and I am connected to my phone pretty much 24/7, well, maybe not when I'm asleep. But, the moment I had a smart phone in my possession, my world changed. I spent hours a day nursing my son with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs and watch PBS while my boys played quietly at my feet (or something to that effect) and soon my eyes were opened up with Twitter, Facebook and every other app I could find to connect me to the world with the push of a button. I was fully immersed in social media within weeks. I enjoy being connected.

Except when I am driving.

I hardly ever talk on the phone in the car. Sitting parked in a parking lot? Yes. Pulled over on the side of the road? Sure. When I was being followed on my way home from work late one night and frantically called 911? Obviously an exception! Texting, checking email (even at stop-lights!) never even crosses my mind.  Feeling the urge to dig through my purse for a ringing phone makes me cringe.  I know I shouldn't do it.

But, it happens.  Even if I can't think of too many reasons worth the risks of answering a phone or making a call when I should be paying attention to the road. I think we also like to think that distracted driving is a curse of the young, but  judging by the way that minivan in front of me (with the phone glued to the left ear of the driver) is drifting all over the road, it's a problem across the board.

So, I'm trying to up my game.

I'm taking the Phone Down; Eyes Up Challenge with Anna at Motherly Law. I will turn my phone off. I will put my purse in the backseat so I am not tempted to pull it out. If I need to pull over to make a call, I will pull over.  Does this add a little time to my drive?  Sure.  Is that call from my husband asking me how my day is going worth the risk to myself and everyone around me? No.

So what do you think?  Can you give up your phone while you are driving?  Will you take the challenge?  What would you be willing to risk losing to keep that phone in your hand and your eyes on the screen instead of the road?


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