November 28, 2011

My Autism Play (a.k.a. What I Did Over Summer Vacation)

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:50 am by autismmommytherapist

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, since 2010 things have been going pretty well chez McCafferty (I had hoped the tide would turn with President Obama’s inauguration, but we had to wait another year). Everyone eats now, and for the most part everyone sleeps through the night as well (except for me). In general, that high-level angst we were enveloped in now seems only in evidence when Zach is not getting what he wants EXACTLY how, and when, he wants it. Fortunately, since I am a veteran teacher, this is a situation I usually feel extremely capable of dealing with on a daily basis.

When handling Zach, the fabulous Tina Fey quote from Prayer for a Daughter, “I will not have that Shit. I will not have it”, often comes to mind.

Even with the impending end of the world (again!), and the fact that scarves are the style and I still can’t figure out how to wear them, we seem to have reached a lovely little détente with autism in this house, an acknowledgment that it still lives and breathes amongst us, but perhaps isn’t the main things we talk about anymore. I believe last Tuesday, for thirty-seven consecutive seconds while I was making dinner, I actually forgot my kids had it.

Then Justin asked me to rearrange his book shelf for the five thousandth time that day, and I remembered.

The truth is, I’ve slowly realized over the past two years that I’m truly enjoying myself and having fun again, which was pretty much my main goal in life for thirty-six years before I became a mother. I’ve had to take some baby steps to return there, fought off a few mild panic attacks after having a good time for more than five minutes, until I realized my progeny were actually happy too. For me at least, it took a while to claw my way out of what Susan Senator so aptly named “siege mode”, a not-so-fun way of life within which the McCaffertys dwelled for a good half decade or so.

Trust me, I am much more pleasant to be around now. Just ask my husband.

Back in what I lovingly refer to as “good times” (or that year-and-a-half in Virginia where I crawled around after my autistic toddler six hours a day trying to get him to sign “ball” because our Early Intervention services sucked), I found myself working side-by-side both with my son, and that famous cycle of grief. I can clearly remember one particularly chill fall day, where I’d spent an hour with Justin building a ball “thingy”, soliciting great signs and extreme enthusiasm from him with ease, a double coup. When we completed our masterpiece Justin went to attach the final ramp to the tippy-top, and when he couldn’t make it click he became immediately distraught. Before I could intervene he simply smashed the whole thing to the ground, looked at me with what I swore was unbridled outrage, and threw himself to the ground in a tantrum I’m certain they could hear at the White House.

Through the caterwauling I recall thinking I’d missed Oprah’s Favorite Things for this. I admit, I was bitter.

I remember, as I tried to scoop up all the tiny plastic pieces I would certainly step on later, that I knew a year into the “therapy wars” that this wasn’t enough for me anymore. It had been twelve months since Justin’s diagnosis, and although he’d actually made a lot of progress in a number of areas, it was clear to me he wouldn’t be one of those kids who “recovered”. I also realized over the course of that year I’d made a mental shift, perhaps out of necessity, or to save my sanity. I was no longer striving to completely eliminate Justin’s layers of autism, banish them from sight.

I simply wanted the kid to find his damn happy place. Was that too much to ask?

So, I returned to that famous grief cycle and struck a bargain with the universe (nothing specific mind you, I like to keep my options open), one I will honestly confess was nothing but a win-win for me, which is how I like things. I made a promise to myself that if my child ever smiled more than he cried I’d move beyond therapy and folding laundry, and actually do something for myself, and the autism community as well. These things included (but are not limited to) writing a book/blog, creating some kind of fundraiser that could easily be schlepped around, and finally, a project me and my mom could implement within the public schools. So far, I’ve accomplished step one (at least five people RAVE about my unpublished “back-story”), and the blog is simply a joy. So, in an effort to keep true to my promise this summer I moved on to step two, and in my “free time”, I wrote an autism play.

Which, in case you weren’t aware, is exactly the next logical step for an ex-French major/housewife with one publishing credit to her name to undertake.

It’s a simple little endeavor, one which requires the actresses just to sit and read a script out loud, because at this point in middle age, I’m pretty certain I’ll never memorize anything again. I’m shooting for putting it on in April during Autism Awareness Month, even if it ends up being in my house (and trust me, that’s a serious possibility). I’ve had the great fortune of finding out last week that POAC, Parents of Autistic Children, has agreed to let me “produce” it for them as a fundraiser. If we can get people other than my mommy to show up to this play (she really liked it!), perhaps we can generate a little revenue for a great organization, and a great cause.

I’ll be writing about this periodically, so for now I’ll be keeping more details under wraps (I know, how will you survive the suspense?), but I look forward to taking you on my journey of securing actresses, begging people to use social media/witchcraft to promote this thing, and finding a venue bigger than my living room. Trust me, I’ll need help with a title (I suck at those), and a great song for us to walk on stage to (thinking “Lady Marmalade” from Moulin Rouge is fun, but perhaps a song about prostitutes might be a wee bit inappropriate). In advance, I am grateful for all the suggestions and support I know you will show me.

But most of all, I’m simply grateful for my sons’ smiles, and for enjoying the absolute luxury of trying to fulfill a bargain.

January 11, 2011

“They Like Me, They Really Like Me”

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , at 9:29 pm by autismmommytherapist

So, last week I became a recipient of the “Stylish Blogger Award”, which doesn’t carry quite as much weight as a Pulitzer, but to me is a far more substantial win than that trophy I took home for second place in the seventh grade spelling bee (damn that “j” in pejorative). I was particularly tickled to receive it on two counts, the first being that it was awarded to me by a blogger who pens Professor Mother Blog, whose writing I’ve recently discovered and found to be quite insightful, honest, and funny (pretty much my prerequisites for anyone I read these days). The second reason I was pleased was that I found myself in quite illustrious company with the other award recipients, who were Diary of a Mom, Elvis Sightings, and unOtherOne, respectively.

Of course, my delight lasted approximately thirty-two seconds as I realized part of accepting the prize (okay, completely fake award, but work with me here) would mean responding to it on my own blog. This wasn’t an issue per se, but said response would also have to include cutting and pasting of images, and Dare I Speak Its Name, the creation of several hyperlinks. Given that there was the strong possibility my husband might be out-of-town by the time I got around to posting this, I have to admit I was a bit worried about my acceptance speech.

Look, I’m only insecure about technology, driving, and cooking (although the latter is more of an aversion that borders on learned helplessness). Hell, I’m a firm believer that we all have something.

Anyway, I’m giving this a try, and in order to fully accept my prize I am required to post seven things you don’t already know about me, then tap three (okay, I chose four, sue me) other bloggers and pass this award off to them. So ladies and gentlemen, read on (I know, the suspense is killing you):

1) While I was a fairly mediocre French major (although gifted at European café-drinking and train travel), I remain completely fluent in “Ubby-Dubby” (Ubif yubou dubon’t bublubieve mube, gubive mube uba cuball).

2) When holed up in my room as a child (probably blowing off my homework) I read every piece of sci-fi I could get my hands on (Ray Bradbury, you will always have a little piece of my teen-aged heart).

3) I am (sort of) double-jointed. It is not nearly as interesting as it sounds.

4) My favorite pre-married New Year’s Eve was spent at a Hofbrauhaus with my travel-pal-Sal in Munich when I was twenty, where there really was no language barrier a good lager couldn’t transcend.

5) While I have serious issues with organized religion and deeply question the existence of an afterlife (as in REALLY, can’t I just sleep through eternity, is that SO MUCH TO ASK), I am however completely convinced there are ghosts, and watch Ghost Hunters with complete fascination even when it’s not Halloween.

6) I’d tell you my two favorite foods, but I think it’s pretty clear by now what they are (HINT: one contains cocoa, one is poured).

7) When I am pissed-off at the world I get in my car and rock out to tunes from Evita, Stevie Nicks, and “Lady Marmalade” from Moulin Rouge. I find it is impossible to stay angry for long when singing a song about prostitutes at the top of my lungs.

I am going to diverge from the “rules” a bit and pass this along to a few of my faves, and am choosing only one autism site. The rest are blogs/sites that have nothing to do with autism or disabilities per se:

There’s No Welcome to Autism Packet, What Now?

Style Epiphany

A Simple Kinda Life

KaitlinORiley

The first three women were incredibly helpful to me when I first started out in the blogosphere, and although I didn’t understand most of the suggestions they offered to increase my traffic, the ones I was able to decipher did make a difference. They are also lovely people and have fun sites, check them out when you can.

The last woman on this list happens to be one of my nearest and dearest from high school on, and is a fantastic (and published!) writer. Her genre is historical romance, I love her work, and recommend her highly. Aside from being a good read, her books are a fantastic escape, something we all need once in a while (or, if you’re me, quite often).

So check these sites out when you can, and thanks again Professor Mother Blog!