November 23, 2010

Abundant Gifts

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , at 9:26 pm by autismmommytherapist

Seriously, what am I NOT thankful for this year?

That poor, Cinderella/pre-handsome prince/turkey day always seems to get short shrift in the McCafferty household, what with being book-ended by two holidays hosting an endless supply of sugar and PRESENTS for God’s sake, so I’m going to try and give it its due. A number of truly wonderful things have happened in 2010, and I’ve chosen to write about them now in lieu of scribing them at New Year’s (which used to be one of my favorite holidays until I gave birth and no longer saw the need to stay up past ten to usher in anything). So here’s my “top ten list”, including a few poignant moments for those of you who like that kind of stuff (and believe me, I’m with you sisters).

  • I’m thankful I still like my husband and he does his own laundry (come on now, that’s HUGE).
  • I’m thankful my mom helps me with all of my “projects” no matter how crazy, time-consuming, or how much of the work I actually delegate to her.
  • I’m thankful for all of my girlfriend posses, from teachers to autism, from high school to college, plus just the random cool chicks I’ve recently met.
  • I’m thankful Friday Night Lights has one more season (Panthers be damned!), and that I can finally tell my husband I like football (okay, mostly the casts’ “back-stories” AND looking at Taylor Kitsch, but it’s a step).
  • I’m thankful for all the help I’ve gotten with this blog, from those brave souls patient enough to instruct me both in how to create it and how to make it pretty, as well as for the people who are actually READING it.
  • I am ridiculously grateful to my sons’ schools, not only for tolerating me but for loving my kids and TRULY understanding their respective needs.
  • I’m grateful someone coined the term “clandes-tini”, which I will explain in a future post.
  • I am thankful, as always, for my “original” family, for helping us, for spending time with us, and for their inherent lack of drama (we make enough of our own here).
  • And of course, I’m grateful for my beautiful boys. There are so many reasons why. Here are just a few.

JUSTIN

I took my boy to a nearby local museum this weekend, one we’ve frequented many times before but haven’t visited recently. He’s technically both too old and too tall to go there anymore, as there’s an entire room that’s for the six and under set, but I can’t step foot in the building without letting him explore the Under-the-Sea wing or I risk a full-blown meltdown. The people who work there know me and Justin by now and continue to graciously wave us in, so I figure I can work this just a little bit longer for him. Hell, the Christmas trains come out next week and he loves that display, so I figure I can buy him one more year of perseverating on engines and freighters simply because the employees are nice. It’s just that at the end of the day there’s not much to do with your autistic kid in central Jersey in the winter, and I’m loathe to relinquish this one hotspot yet.

I guess I’ll have to stop sneaking him in when he’s fifteen.

They’ve changed the main display of the building from “space” to “weather/Mother Earth” recently, a decision which Justin has regarded with great disdain (I don’t think he’s going green anytime soon), but he still loves that “fishy” room. After perusing the wing dedicated to climate for a grand total of forty-five seconds (okay, eleven minutes, but that’s what it FELT like) we eventually end up immersed in crustaceans, dismantling lobster puzzles, and sliding down the giant whale’s tongue as tired mommy races around trying to prevent him from bowling over the two-year-old crowd. I refuse to get banned from this room just yet.

We finally end up at the wing’s treehouse that’s actually formed in the shape of a tree, the one that affords him the climbing experience that always interests him, and usually caps our trip. He is a creature of habit, and today he doesn’t disappoint. He scrambles quickly to the top, surveys the land before him in a manner that would make James Cameron from Titanic proud, then after allowing me enough time to actually sit down and relax for a few minutes, he slowly shimmies down, shoes in hand.

It’s been decades since I was thin enough to climb an internally constructed treehouse, so I suppose I should add “grateful he brought down his shoes” to the above-bulleted list.

He good-naturedly shoves his sneakers at me, waiting for me to prompt him to at least attempt to affix his velcroed footwear on the correct appendages, and with our combined efforts, within a minute he is once again fully dressed. I know this moment signifies the end of our adventure, and as he walks rapidly to the exit my mind is already engaged in figuring out just how many errands we can conduct on our way home before he freaks out. We are about five feet from the threshold of the doorway that leads to the entrance hall when he suddenly stops dead in his tracks, turns to look at me, and grabs my hand. I’m assuming he wants something, and am ready to tell him he can have a juice or snack when we’re back in the car, when I realize he’s looking at me. Intensely, truly looking at me.

And then he smiles.

Not just a small smile mind you, but a full-blown, take-over-your-face kind of grin that illuminates, well, everything. Without words, he explains that he had a good day. With his gaze he shares he’s appreciative that I schlepped him up here for the millionth time. Even though he doesn’t approve of weather as a museum focus, he lets me know in no uncertain terms he nevertheless approves of my Sunday outing choice.

He’s just happy.

And I am thankful too, not only that he’s finally, after many long, long years, capable of that state of grace, but that he can convey as much of those emotions in one expression, in one brief moment of connection, as my other child can in words.

ZACHARY


It’s “school observation week” here in Jersey, an event which unfortunately falls just a week shy of conferences and the other half of the month of November, that thirty-day span in which both of my children will be around so much I can consider them home-schooled. Suffice it to say “mommy-time” is out the window, but the least I can do is suck it up with the best of them and get my tired ass to Zach’s pre-school and rock his world a little bit.

I know, nominate me now for 2011’s “mother-of-the-year” award.

About half the class ends up having a parent “represent”, and the moment I walk in the door I’m glad I decided to join the crowd and forego watching Rachel Ray that morning. He is overjoyed to see me, runs to my open arms with haste and bestows one of his sweet, chaste kisses on me, then runs back to his seat and resumes his appointed activity.

No histrionics. No begging me to sit with him. No tears wiped dramatically in Days of Our Lives fashion from his face. He’s happy I’m there, but he’s got work to do.

It’s the Christmas miracle come early.

For the next thirty minutes I get to watch my youngest son (the one who communicated solely by crying a mere year-and-a-half ago) dazzle me by matching the correct turkey to its requisite number, surprise me by cutting vegetables better than I do (given my culinary skills that’s not saying much, but still), and astonish me by sharing WILLINGLY with his neighbor. He transitioned to three different centers without prompting, blew his nose in a tissue rather than on his arm when asked, and didn’t adhere himself to my body even once with the conviction of a half-starved boa constrictor.

I know. He’s a prodigy.

For an entire half-hour I got to see how my son conducts himself in school, chat with other mommies (one of the best parts), and not get treated to a scene straight out of Sophie’s Choice when I told him it was time for me to leave. Thirty consecutive minutes of watching a class full of children engaged, chatting, happy.

I love both my kids (if you’ve read this blog at all, that’s pretty apparent by now). But I’ll go on record as saying I am so grateful for the progress my youngest has made this year, for the leaps and strides that have permitted him to attend a classroom without his own personal assistant, for the chance to have “real” playdates with children he considers his actual friends, and for the ability to convey his thoughts without struggling to speak them. I’m mostly thankful for these gifts for his sake, because his life has been made indelibly easier by these accomplishments.

I’ll share something else with you too. I’m also grateful for me and my husband that we get to experience this peek into a tiny “slice of normal pie”, this glimpse into the world I anticipated I’d inhabit so many, many years ago when I was pregnant with my first. It’s not a perfect universe. It’s still not always easy here.

But overall, it’s just so much damn simpler.

And in this week when our country traditionally gives thanks for so many things, both serious and trivial, I am grateful for the opportunity at times to be with one of my children, put aside my worries, and just breathe.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

October 24, 2010

The Bottle Blonde But Still Ambitious Tour

Posted in If You Need a Good Laugh, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , at 10:25 am by autismmommytherapist

The weather was lovely this past Sunday, as it often is in early October, and in an effort to get two stir-crazy boys (and two equally stir-crazy parents) out of the house, Jeff and I decided to make the drive down to the Seaside Heights boardwalk, the infamous home of the Jersey Shore crew. We’ve found if we’re willing to walk to both piers we can appease both boys with the ride selection (they’re discriminating customers), and everyone is ultimately happy. It was while walking back from the farthest pier, wondering whether or not we could chance the next one and escape the rain, that I looked up and saw the sign, nestled between yet another Kohr’s custard stand and the fifth millionth “Best Pizza Place” ever. It was a giant placard, as very little in this town is subtle, and it declared its message in huge, red capital letters, a combination of words that were difficult to miss. It read:

“SNOOKI SANDWICH SOLD HERE!”

I took a few more steps, felt the bile rise in my throat and tried to get to my “happy place”, which was conveniently located at the Kohr’s next door. There’s not much custard can’t solve for me.

After purchasing my usual vanilla with chocolate sprinkles concoction (I am so predictable), I walked back over to my husband and my boys. Jeff looked at me, took a slight step backwards, and said “Honey, there’s something I saw on Comcast this morning that I forgot to tell you about. Snooki has a book coming out in January.”

I looked up at him, asked him if he was messing with me, and if so, he should really rethink this choice if he ever wanted to be intimate with me again. He returned my gaze, took a deep breath, and said “Nope, it’s true. It’s called A Shore Thing. She’s writing it with a collaborator.”

Of course she is.

All of us locals from central Jersey have been dodging the fallout from Jersey Shore, but I think this is the one outcome of this show, and reality shows in general, that has finally put me over the edge. I understand that life is not fair. I accept that “The Situation” is now worth five million, will through his burgeoning fame be able to launch his album/clothing line/gym simply by throwing up occasionally, sharing some pithy commentary, and showing off his six-pack (or so I’ve heard). When I was ill this past spring I will come clean and share that I willingly watched a few episodes of the Bachelorette, and I grudgingly admit that I admired her obvious charm and wit. I also admit I was secretly hoping the plot twist would be she was a lesbian with no intention of searching for heterosexual love, instead was simply hoping to use the show as a vehicle for her own perfume/clothing line/book deal. Ultimately I was disappointed, but at least she didn’t end up with that creepy guy with the glasses. I’m hoping for his sake he already has a good day job.

I can rise above and stomach all of this “faux fame” because I know this is how the world works, that you don’t actually have to possess a talent to become well-known and reap the often dubious rewards that notoriety brings. I have to draw the line somewhere however, and I have chosen to make my mark in the sand at a book deal. Hell, let’s face it, even if my manuscript gets published and I have a wardrobe malfunction on David Letterman, more people will ultimately read Snooki’s anyway (even if it’s on my good side).

The truth is, that despite the odd rules of our society, I’ve decided I can’t let Snooki show me up. My ambitions are quite paltry compared to hers, as I’m not really expecting our President to know my name, or frankly anyone outside of central Jersey. I’m not looking to make writing my new career, have my book be the autistic version of Eat, Pray, Love, or have it made into a movie, although I’ve already decided who would play us. Coach Taylor from FNL is a ringer for Jeff, and when I use my imagination, Reese Witherspoon for me . Apparently she’s anal in real life, and by the time the film hit theaters she might actually look old enough to play me ten years ago. Finding a child actor to play Justin would be a bit challenging however, so we’ll have to hope the Fannings push out another kid down the road.

So while the manuscript is edited and the blog is going strong I’ve realized I still need to ramp things up a bit, and since I’ve already ruled out reality TV despite the blessings of my liberal husband, I have one option left to me.

I’m going on tour.

Unlike my little brother I will not be darkening the doors of the Wachovia center. Instead, I’m taking my words to my peers, speaking to teachers and parents of special needs children, and we’ll see what happens next. The irony of my choosing to do this is that I’m fairly shy in large groups, was the student who always volunteered to do her oral report first just to get it over with, although during spelling bees I was completely confident.

Bring it, “ubiquitous”.

No, I have fairly pedestrian goals. I would eventually like to see my book grace the shelves of someone I’m not related to, as well as add to the coffers of Parents of Autistic Children by donating a portion of any profits made.   Down the road, in my wildest fantasies, I’d also enjoy landing a part-time job in our education-ravaged state more interesting than that of hallway monitor. Wish me luck. Trust me, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I know, I dream big, but I figure if a girl from Brooklyn can get a carb named after her AND a book deal, a real Jersey girl might realize her dreams one day too.