February 27, 2011

The Nanny

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:51 am by autismmommytherapist

My husband just walked in the door with suitcase in hand, and except for the time my water broke in the middle of the night, I have never been happier to see this man in my entire life.

It’s been an interesting few days chez McCafferty while my spouse has been “working” in DC (just kidding hon), leaving me to fend for myself with the next generation. He only travels (abandons me) a handful of times a year, and for the most part, things run pretty smoothly during his absences. To date there have been no broken limbs, no trips to the ER (except on cable to visit Clooney), no true catastrophes that I haven’t been able to handle. I’ve been lucky, for although I used to command classrooms of thirty pre-adolescents with comparative ease, on occasion I have been brought to my knees by two particular children (you guessed their names correctly!) who reside in the single digit crowd. Fortunately, these occasions have yet to occur when I’ve been playing the role of single mom.

I believe they’ve consciously taken pity on me. I am grateful.

For the most part the past week has only been particularly challenging because I’m sick and subsequently not sleeping well, having contracted what I was certain was the Ebola virus, but fortunately turned out to be just a garden variety sinus infection. Seeing as this secondary infiltrator followed a three-week bout of bronchitis not nasty enough to incapacitate me, but serious enough to convince me I’d drown in my own fluids, I wasn’t really up for the solo parenting gig this time around. Throw in a gratuitous four-day weekend (the kids haven’t had five consecutive days of school since November and reality tv rules the world, are the presidents REALLY that important anymore?), and it is readily apparent how excited I was to spend some quality time with my kids.

Forget birthday presents this year. Somebody just buy me a damn nanny.

Despite my longing to crawl into bed with some Sex and the City DVDs, Dayquil, and if I’m honest, a “clandestini” (I saw it on Facebook once, have no idea what’s in it, but doesn’t it SOUND fun?), I managed to rise to the occasion, and do my job. For the better part of a week the children were fed, potty-trained, and bathed. There were trips to the arcade, Fun Time America (which, as you hopefully read, was quite an accurate description), and a twenty-four hour stint with an equally ill, yet still extremely helpful, grandmother.

Zachary, in particular, really made out. Every afternoon my youngest, after a great deal of manipulation on his part, convinced me I wouldn’t die if I got off the sofa and “played trains” with him, and I complied. After promising not to breathe in my general vicinity he was even the eager daily recipient of couch cuddles, followed by multiple variations of storytelling involving Zachary, Baby Jessie, and Rexy-the-Medium-Sized-Dinosaur. Hell, I even dragged my butt to Michael’s while he was at school and bought him Saint Patty’s Day crafts.

All in all, for once, it was good to be the second child.

I have to admit that when Jeff finally walked in the door, triumphant from a great work session near our nation’s capital, I was feeling a bit full of myself for handling the home front on my own. After all, I’d gone through six boxes of Kleenex and two bottles of Nyquil but the kids were still alive, and the house looked (relatively) decent. After Jeff ditched the suitcase, conducted the requisite rounds of hugs and kisses, and returned the exclamations of “He’s back, he’s back!”, he folded his large frame carefully and knelt down next to Zach at the kitchen table. While discussing the merits of dipping or not dipping a morsel of hot dog into ketchup Jeff waited until he had his youngest’s attention, then took his hand and asked, “Zachy, did you have fun with Mommy?”

My son continued to chew thoughtfully, regarded my husband seriously, and replied, “No”.

Really. REALLY?!?!

I wasn’t looking for either the medal OR the monument, but I admit I was searching for something a bit more complimentary than one negative, solitary syllable. Jeff regarded me quietly with a slight smirk on his face that I vowed to make him pay for later, shrugged his shoulders, and bent back down to answer an all-consuming question about the Chuggingtons from my deeply ungrateful child. I turned and headed back toward the sink, lightly touching the head of my oldest and momentarily favorite offspring.

After one brief stop at the refrigerator for the reward of that dark piece of chocolate I felt was my due, I reached that silver chasm of dishes and once again wielded a sponge at the hundredth utensil I’d cleaned that day. I sighed, relegated myself to the ranks of the unappreciated, and summoned the phrase so often stated by my grandma when I’d regale her with stories of poop, vomit, sleepless nights, and more poop, back when Justin was a mere babe.

Welcome to motherhood.

November 9, 2010

Gratitude Attitude/Night of Too Many Stars

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , at 10:01 am by autismmommytherapist

Yup, I’m grateful for a telethon. I’ve entered a new circle of hell when it comes to gratitude.

I don’t know if you had the opportunity to see Night of Too Many Stars on Comedy Central recently, but if you missed it and you have the chance to view it, it is well worth your time. For the past several years an ever-increasing number of A-list stars has come together at the Beacon theater to raise money for autism education (in the Garden State no less!), and I have to say that each time the show has gotten more and more hilarious. When it first began I was so grateful some brilliant person harassed that many “good” famous people to help raise money for educational programs that I would have laughed at anything, but I was pleasantly surprised to see I didn’t have to talk myself into the broadcast being funny. This year’s event was particularly amusing and I won’t ruin if for you if you’re going to catch it, so here’s your warning for a SPOILER ALERT. This past week in one fell swoop I got to see my girl Tina Fey promote her own “calendar”, watch a woman pledge $15,000 so that Chris Rock would verbally bitchslap her ex, and revel in George Clooney’s dexterity in signing a trilobite twice for charity for some lucky (and loaded) woman.

It should have been me.  Deep, deep, sigh.

Anyway, if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill (and we all have so much free time,) take a peek at it. If for no other reason, it’s both a lovely and sober reminder of how mainstream the desire to help people with autism has become.

And yes, there’s a bit with Triumph the Insult Dog, but I swear, there’s some really, truly, funny people too.

October 28, 2010

Talk, Talk…

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , at 11:32 am by autismmommytherapist

So, I loved high school, AND I enjoy public speaking. I know, I’m finding myself just a wee bit insufferable too. Readers, please bear with me.

Early this week I made my annual trek back to Washington, DC, in part to reconnect with friends I’ve had for almost twenty years now, and in part to test out my blatant “self-promotion speech” on a group of Maryland teachers. I was fortunate in that my first boss from Virginia is now a principal of an elementary school across the state line, and she was kind enough to give me the opportunity to speak to her faculty about my blog and manuscript. I ended up with an audience of about thirty educators, which is amazing considering they weren’t required to attend, and also that it took place on a Monday afternoon at 4:00. Yes, there was food, and yes I brought the good chocolate, but still, it was an excellent turn-out, and I am deeply appreciative of their participation as well as to my former principal for having me there.

I haven’t really spoken to anyone older than the pre-school set in about seven years, so to say I was a bit nervous about the event would be a slight understatement. I wasn’t as anxious about the delivery or the content as I was about the likely prospect I’d start bawling in the middle of it, but fortunately my friend Jess at www.diaryofamom helped me out on that end. Prior to leaving Jersey she thankfully reminded me that no, it was not okay to deliver my speech while simultaneously conjuring up next week’s grocery list, that in fact it would be okay if I got a little bit emotional considering the content of my talk. I did in fact end up keeping it together, but I think that particular counsel helped me a great deal. In the end, my gravest concern during delivery was the onset of the worst attack of dry mouth ever in the history of speech-giving, an affliction which will most certainly require a beverage of some kind to accompany me at my next gig.

No, sadly, it will not be a nice glass of pinot grigio. I am speaking in schools, people.

While there weren’t any waterworks, I admit the butterflies however were in abundance before I approached the podium, and as I turned one ear to the lovely introduction my former boss gave me I tried to quell those little bastards with my own inner voice. I ranged from admonishing myself to “just do it”, which seemed a little trite, to picturing Clooney from his Out of Sight days (which was much too distracting), to finally summoning up the faces of my sweet boys.

This, it turns out, is about as bright an idea as conjuring up the deathbed scene in Terms of Endearment prior to giving a wedding toast. I quickly moved on.

No, when the preliminaries were concluded I just decided to get up there and go for it, and with camera rolling so I could critique myself later (I’m a glutton for punishment) I approached the podium, laid down my carefully organized speech, and was just about to begin when that little voice piped up one more time with yet another of its bossy demands. This time, it simply said this:  “Kim, just have fun”.

And despite my need to conquer the Sahara residing in my mouth, that’s exactly what I did. Much to my surprise, I can’t wait to do it again.

There were a few other commensurate highlights of my trip. My first night in town I got to indulge my Indian food fetish with one of my dearest friends in the world, and the lovely young man who served us thought it necessary to card me despite the fact I could easily have given birth to a twenty-year-old (trust me, the lighting was VERY dim). I spent another evening with former co-workers discussing Waiting for Superman, which sounds so good I might potentially leave my couch and darken the doors of a movie theater if it plays around here. Finally, after indulging yet another fetish of mine and devouring an entire bowl of shrimp pad tai, I had the opportunity to plead unsuccessfully with the young shopkeepers at Georgetown Cupcake not to throw away their wares at five minutes past closing (we were in the NATION’S CAPITOL after all, what closes at 9:00 PM?), and despite telling them I’d commuted from Jersey for this specific carb, found myself resoundingly ignored. Clearly, the blonde thing doesn’t work as well anymore.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and one I hope to make more frequently in the future, as I believe I’ll one day be able to return with Zachary without losing my sanity permanently.

I was granted one last gift upon leaving, as I rounded the beltway sandwiched between the patchwork quilt of fall foliage that signifies the best month of the year in the District. I thought back to my last four trips since I’d left the area, from the weekend celebrating the birth of my dear friend’s beautiful daughter, to the trip I’d made last year, twelve months after my youngest regressed into autism, a few months after he’d begun to make his journey back to us. I realized all of these trips upon departure had been tinged with sadness, as some part of me when leaving this town always feels as if I’m leaving my youth behind once again.

And while that regret remained my companion, another one appeared to take up residence in my child-worn SUV as well. My new friend was hope, a figure eager to appreciate both what I was leaving behind, and what I was approaching as my GPS helpfully navigated me north. The truth is, both of my sons are productive, and happy. Most days my husband is as well. When I manage to get enough sleep between those pre-menopausal hot flashes, I must admit I am too. I realized, this is the first trip I’ve made since we relocated from DC that I can honestly say my melancholy at leaving is in equal measure to my desire to return home.

And that, my friends, constitutes a good vacation.

April 19, 2010

Billboard Top Ten

Posted in My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , at 3:13 pm by autismmommytherapist

She took her top off for billboards across London, which led to responses from Britain’s three main political leaders and a meeting with the country’s care minister. No, I’m not referring to myself in the third person (England, please, I’m excited just to get out of my house). I’m referring to Britain’s forty-three-year-old Polly Tommey, mother, editor, and autism advocate, who felt in order to get autism the attention it deserves, she needed to shed her shirt in an extremely public manner. Hell, and I thought I was a radical for writing a blog calling for Clooney to represent us.

This is not her first stint at raising awareness in a provocative way. A prior campaign included billboards displaying a postcard to Gordon Brown with her home phone number scrawled across it, promising to save the prime minister millions of pounds annually if he’d just give her a call. That led her to receive an invitation to breakfast with the prime minister’s wife. I’m certain there were scones.

Of course, as with all events surrounding autism, this one has proven to be controversial as well. Part of the issue is the effective way Tommey’s acquired her country’s leaders’ attention. Equally conflicting however, is the agenda behind the billboards. For example, she advocates the creation of residential centers for adults with autism. But this has come under fire by people who believe care for autistic grown-ups should be more widespread and not just limited to segregated housing.

Her own magazine, the one which she herself edits, has been criticized because of its emphasis on nutritional choices for autism treatment (her husband, himself a nutritionist, runs an autism clinic which features alternative remedies for combating autism’s symptoms). Finally, she is considered to be a somewhat divisive component in the autism world due to her backing of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose theory that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and bowel-disease induced autism has been widely debunked by mainstream medicine.

After having immersed my son for six years in Applied Behavioral Analysis, a behavioral treatment for autism that forces one to constantly analyze people’s motivations in order to achieve progress, I admit upon first reading the article about Tommey I was a bit skeptical. Was she just trying to drum up business for her spouse?  Was she attempting to draw attention to her magazine, as well as enhance its circulation?  Was I simply jealous a forty-three-year-old woman still had a nice enough chest after giving birth to advertise it across a nation?

The answer to the latter statement is a resounding yes, and I’ll have to satisfy myself that I, and the public at large, will never really know the answer to my initial queries. What startled me most was that my initial reaction was one of skepticism, not support. I spent my first few minutes after digesting this story criticizing her methodology, not praising the outcomes of her methods. I breezed over the fact that she too has come out and said the issue of vaccination and autism is too polarizing, and she hopes to diverge from further discussion regarding it. I, myself, was snarky, and succumbed to the very thing I criticize others in the autism community for doing. I immersed myself in black-and-white, and ignored the shades of gray. I missed the big picture.

Altruistically motivated or not, half-naked or not, Polly Tommey had a need to force politicians to examine the needs of adults on the autism spectrum more fully, and she got her wish.

I can promise you readers (and trust me, after nursing both boys, you will be eternally grateful) I will not be “disrobing for autism” any time soon. I will also continue encouraging myself to focus on the desired long-term effects of any positive type of campaigns regarding autism, primarily that they raise awareness, reduce divisiveness within the community, and create lasting and worthwhile change for adults and children residing within autism’s confines.

I admit, however, I will also continue to hope for Clooney.