The Skin We’re In

Being thick skinned takes work, whether it comes to parenting or Air Frying pork belly.

When I cook, one of my self care routines, I find parallels with parenting a child with FASD.

My cousin gifted us an Air Fryer for Christmas and it’s been amazing to make recipes on my bucket list, most recently roasted pork belly.

I got a 1.5 pound cut of pork belly, with good distribution of skin, fat and meat.

I boiled the meat for 15 minutes to remove the impurities then rinsed it under cold water.

I then poked holes on the skin using a fork – you can use a toothpick or skewer – which allows for bubbly crispy skin.

Don’t poke into the meat or the meat juice will spoil the skin crisping.

For the skin to crisp up, it’s important to dry up the skin.

I brushed it with vinegar then salted generously to draw out the moisture.

I put it in the fridge uncovered for 48 hours, taking it out after a day to pat the skin dry and to score the meat in one inch squares; then seasoned the meat with five spice powder.

When I was ready to air fry, I wrapped the sides of the meat in foil then sprinkled more salt on top.

I roasted it for 40 minutes in 390 degrees Celsius.

And voila! It exceeded my expectations – the skin was so crispy and the meat was juicy.

Being a parent of a child with FASD can feel like a pig being slaughtered and roasted.

Many parents of kids with FASD often share challenges with verbal aggression – and the hubby and I are certainly not immune to it.

“Shut up” is T’s go-to phrase when he doesn’t get his way or when he’s refusing to comply. When he’s very disregulated, he will hurl threats or hurtful comments, such as “I hate you” or “you’re the worst.”

I’ve learned to be better at not taking it personally – and to reframe his behaviour as symptoms of his disability: impulsivity (says the first thing on his mind) combined with difficulty regulating his emotions (says the thing to inflict the most hurt).

I came across the very useful QTIP acronym on Jeff Noble’s FASD Caregivers Success Group.

But I’m only human. No matter how thick skinned I am, things get to me if I am consistently poked at – like pork belly – and it gets to me, because I parent with my heart wide open to T.

I feel horrible when I don’t react with calm and grace in moments I feel like I’m submerged in boiling water.

I’ve learned to be less bothered when the comments are directed at me. Because I know that in one moment, T could be screaming I’m the worst parent because I’m ending his bath then moments later, we’re snuggling with a book in bed and he tells me he loves me.

What bothers me are the reaction – said out loud and unsaid through body language – by people who see T at his worst.

I remember one family member remarking on T after he was so awesome throughout my sister’s funeral service. Instead of attributing it to maybe, just maybe, he’s a good kid, the comment was, “Did he take his medication?”

People are quick to judge and to label kids into black and white buckets based on disregulated moments and these overshadow the moments when T is good, kind, caring, funny, regulated, compliant and empathetic.

But unlike roasted pork belly, our skin and spirit do toughen up – and I choose to focus on the positive and the things I can control: advocating for T, raising awareness about FASD and increasing understanding, one heart and mind at a time.

Unlike roasted pork, I don’t want life as a special needs parent to make my exterior hard, coarse, crisped – and jaded and cynical.

So it means to not dwell on the small stuff and to brush myself not with vinegar and salt but with the good stuff that fill up my heart and spirit.

And that includes indulging in my cooking adventures.

41 thoughts on “The Skin We’re In

  1. Great job on the pork belly! You’re right that even if we are thick-skinned things get to us sometimes. As a freelance writer and copywriter, I get so many rejections. The first cut was the deepest, and some rejections mean more than others, but I feel like I’m in a good place now, just like you are

    1. Thank you! 😊 Freelance writing takes a lot of perseverance and thick skin indeed and good for you for keeping at it. 😊

    1. Thanks so much. Food is part of life’s narrative, for better or for worse. And I love that you use the word “Grace” – I meditate and reflect a lot on this specific word. 🙏

  2. My younger sister has an air fryer and raves about. She says it’s a total game changer when it comes to saving time on cooking. It sounds like quite the process to prep the pork belly, but the end result sounds like it was worth the effort, just like parenting T. Good luck shoveling all the snow we got last night. Apparently more is on the way on Friday (the forecast is calling for 15-20cm of snow)!!

    1. Thanks Linda. The air fryer has been an amazing gift for us and saving time is one of the reasons. 🙂 And the pork belly was amazing. But truth be told, it’ll be faster to just buy it from the store too. 😆

      Yes, about to head out to shovel before work starts. I’m ready for winter to end!!! Good luck with yours.

      1. Ha, no kidding. But that’s part of the fun though! And it certainly makes you more appreciative of some of the food we eat that’s already been prepared! Good luck shovelling. We did most of the shovelling last night before heading to bed. I just need to do the bottom of the driveway to get the snow that the snow plow left behind, which is always the worst.

  3. I’m not sure I could have a thick skin to the I hate you comments. Kudos to you for getting better at it. I would be furious if someone said to me “Did he take his meds”! People can be so rude and hurtful without even realizing it. That skin on that fish looks like it has SO much flavor. Now I want to fix the walleye in the freezer that my son gave us. Lol

    1. Thanks Diane. You’ve worked with special needs individuals so you know just how challenging it can be. I anticipate T to have difficult years in his teens and I dread how those disregulated moments will get. But as life teaches us every day, we can only take it one day at a time. 🙏 And to focus on the positives.

      It’s actually pork, not fish, haha, and it does have so much flavour indeed. Probably not good for my cholesterol so only making this once in a while! 🙂

      I bet a walleye in the air fryer would be great too!

      1. OMG I really did read it! I have no idea why my mind jumped to fish. I honestly have never had or made pork belly but this is a keeper! You definitely have to prepare ahead of time for this recipe, but well worth it.

      2. It’s ok. I do silly things like that too. 😆 I know you like to go to the butcher’s, so something you could ask for and try out one day!

  4. Ok, first, the pork looks delicious! I haven’t tried cooking in an air fryer, but we got my mom one for Christmas, and she likes it a lot!
    I’m sure it’s a challenge to try to stay objective when T gets upset and says hurtful things. But, wow, it sounds like you already have so much patience and understanding. As for people making negative comments. It always happens. I’m not sure why they feel the need. But obviously you and T have an amazing relationship and that’s all that matters ❤️

    1. Thank you! We are thrilled with the air fryer and maybe you can borrow your gift from your mom? Haha. And thanks for the kind words. I know no malice or hurt was intended in the comment but it goes to show how kids can be so quickly labeled based on their behaviour. It’s kinda heartbreaking to be honest.

  5. Yum! I can imagine how crispy the skin must be just by looking at your photos. But I must say at first you got me thinking what crispy pork belly has in common with parenting a child with FASD. Then I came to the conclusion that just like pork belly which becomes delicious after being “tortured” — the boiling, the poking, the frying — the challenges you have to face as a parent will make you a better person.

    1. Oh Bama, you made me laugh. I know you didn’t meant it that way but the “being tortured” comment has me chuckling. Cuz it’s so true. 😆 I was telling a fellow blogger above that last night was a rough one and it did feel like torture. But the boiling, poking and frying that comes with life does make us all better people. So thanks for the reminder. 😊

      Off to start my work day now! Enjoy your evening.

      1. When I was writing my comment, I was hesitant to use the word “torture”. But I couldn’t find another word, and hoped that you’d get what I meant instead. 😆

  6. OH AB! Such a great blog – and analogy! Loved it! I have an air fryer – it frustrates me because you have to fry in batches, and it takes too long – BUT it’s so good! V

    1. Thanks Vickie. Yes, I would say that’s one of the things about the Air Fryer that’s a downside, it doesn’t have a lot of cooking surface area. But I guess that’s one way to portion control too. Which helps a lot on our end. 😆 What do you like to make with it?

  7. So much to say here! First, the rude comment … well, it says more about the person who said it than anyone else. Second … I received an air fryer as a gift two years ago and still haven’t tried it out!!! Maybe someday. Third … I don’t eat pork (except bacon on occasion), but admittedly that looks pretty good! Hugs to you, your hubby, and T!

    1. Thank you Jill. I don’t think there was malice meant in the comment but yes, it came across as quite unhelpful. It’s the kind of comments that unfortunately will continue to be said (or unsaid in other ways) over the next while. Just have to keep raising awareness.

      I think you should try out your Air Fryer. There was a recent product recall though so please make sure your model is not on the recall list. And enjoy all the Jolly Monday meals you can make with it!

      1. Agreed … keep raising awareness. People can be unintentionally cruel, speaking without thinking.

        I probably should … I just never felt the need for any other new gadgets in my culinary world! 🤣

  8. It’s unfortunate and hurtful when people that perhaps should know better say things without thinking. It sounds like you are determined to set a positive path for yourself and your son Ab. Even on the hardest of days I think you have the forethought to mirror positives for T.

    1. Thank you Deb. I think that’s the best thing a parent can try their darnest best to do: to set a positive path for ourselves. 😊

  9. Wow – what a delicious looking meal. And your preparation is impressive.

    I love that you aren’t brushing yourself with vinegar and salt. Because ouch, that comment at the funeral was hurtful. But I wonder if the metaphor extends deeper into your cooking one – the meticulous preparation of the meal brought the best out. And you, with your wisdom and self-care do the same. It doesn’t happen overnight or without effort, but you know the recipe for staying hope and love-filled and follow it. Beautiful — and inspiring!

    1. Thanks Wynne! I left out the gross step of plucking the excess hair off the skin with the tweezers. I think that would’ve been TMI. 😆

      The comment was said off the cuff but it’s those kind of comments that are not very helpful, for the child or the parents.

      I appreciate the comment about the meticulous preparation. It certainly takes daily effort and some days are just a disaster, like last night unfortunately, but you learn to keep chugging along. 😊🙏

      1. Sorry about the disastrous night. It is such a roller coaster!

        The comment reminds me of something Jack Canfora wrote in a post, “There will be things you say and do in an offhand way that you’ll quickly forget about that will stay with others their entire lives, for better or worse”

        No, comments like that are not helpful – and point to an attitude or outlook in the person who says it more than anything. Right?

      2. Thanks Wynne. Jack Canfora is so right. I’ve been unfortunately on both ends and I can certainly relate. Sigh. On a more hopeful note, 1 day down, 4 to go till the weekend! 😊

  10. An air fryer has been on my list of things to purchase because I keep Haring about how great they are, lol. Maybe one day I’ll get around to buying one.
    Your dishes look amazing! Sometimes I can smell them through the photos😊

    1. Thanks Tammy. We had been eyeing it for a while too and are thankful we got it as a gift. It’s been a wonderful addition to the kitchen and much healthier than deep frying.

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