December 31, 2013

New Year’s Evolution

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 3:10 pm by autismmommytherapist

This piece originally ran on 12/31/10

Z Book Fair Dec 2010 026
We made a gingerbread house today, my youngest and me. Not the fancy version mind you, with its cinnamon-spiced cookie walls and sticky-sweet icing for snow, but the felt version, as I have yet to figure out how to create an edible construct that’s gluten and casein-free. The form doesn’t seem to matter to Zach however, as he seems content just to forge this linen building with craft glue and discretely adhered masking tape. He is simply happy to sit at our designated table with his mommy, and design his own.

I am thrilled to be here with him as well, as this is the first “Christmas house” we have built together, and the added bonus is it conjures up the requisite images of festive architecture from my childhood past, pleasant in their remembrance. As I sit with him and attempt to gain better purchase on the tiny chair I am well aware of the enormity of this gift, the ability to carry on a tradition with my child, one who is eager and willing to perform it with me, one who miraculously was able to request its creation.

It’s the last month of the year, and as always, just like the commencement of the school year, it’s a time of reflection for me. I consider where we’ve been and where we now reside as I help Zachary construct his house, watch him carefully separate out the pieces of his one-dimensional art form with such care, and manipulate the tiny forms with such ease. He desires to begin at the top of his home and work his way down, and as I’ve never been one to insist on coloring in the lines we alter our blueprint a little, an act we’ve committed time and time again in our family of four.

He begins with the roof, which he tells me firmly we require because “it will keep everyone warm and cozy.” As I contemplate how he’s incorporated the latter adjective into his lexicon of words I am simultaneously reminded of the outpouring of care and compassion we’ve received over the years, the small and grand acts of largesse, and the kind words both spoken and written to encourage our clan in times of conflict. These acts have blanketed us, permitted this family to retain the heat, the fire necessary to forge through the most searingly difficult times. We could not have built our own home without them.

Once the roof is safely adhered Zach moves onto the windows, neatly punching through the cloth panes of glass to afford us a glimpse of the other side, allowing us to widen our view. I recall how watching my youngest son’s language expand, and my oldest son’s increasing desire for social interaction, have both enabled me to envision a different world for my children this year. We now inhabit a home in which the future may hold more than just fleeting glimpses of a “normal” childhood, one in which both of them may actually one day possess a true friend. I am so grateful for that expanded vista, for the possibilities inherent in those translucent frames.

Finally, Zach addresses the foundation, shoring up the edges with his tiny fingers immersed in solvent, asking me if his careful ministrations are correct. I smile and tell him his house is lovely, as in its own way, is our own. Our foundation has also been conceived in patience, moored in consistency, cemented in love. It’s not seamless, and there will always be cracks. But it will continue to stand.

It will always stand.

And my wish for all of you in every year to come, is that your own house, no matter how it’s constructed or what form it takes, will continue to stand, wind and weather-battered, as magnificently strong as ours.

I’d like to take just a quick moment to extend my immense gratitude to all of my readers this year. I am so appreciative of your continued loyalty as I’ve shared our story. I’m including the photos that made it to the McCafferty family Christmas card this year below. Thank you to everyone. and I wish all of you a joyous and happy 2014!

Summer 2013 Part 2 117
My beach boy

Disney and Halloween 2013 189
Family photo at Disney

Summer 2013 Part 2 022
Zach conquers the dinosaur

January 3, 2012

Just Relax

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:24 am by autismmommytherapist

(Gratuitous photo of my boys.)

Ah, the silence.

There’s nothing quite like getting your kids off to school after a long vacation, then sitting down to write about said vacation (even if your husband is snoring gently in the background because your “office” is in your bedroom). I’m honestly not sure which of us was happiest this morning. It could have been Zach, all afire to tell his teacher about Coco Key, the water resort that is his new favorite place on earth. Maybe it was Justin, who literally took my hands and jumped up and down for joy at 6:00 AM when he saw his backpack lounging casually in the corner of our living room. Perhaps, instead, it was their very tired, but very relieved, mother.

Hell, who are we kidding. It was totally their mother.

Winter break is by far the most challenging of all the vacations we face around here, and even though Justin’s time home has been reduced to about four weeks a year (sending silent blessings right now to the institution of private education), ten consecutive days is a long time to fill. When my eldest looked at me with traces of utter disdain upon realizing I’d brought him to our local arcade for no less than the third trip in a week, I knew it was time for him to return to school. Our family made it through however, despite the fact that Justin’s ramped-up OCD behaviors made life particularly challenging (try shadowing your eight-year-old fourteen hours a day, and you’ll get my meaning), and the devastation of realizing that I ruined Zach’s life by buying him the wrong toy at our local aquarium.

Yet again, good times.

There were some really great (and really interesting) moments however, perhaps not ones to commemorate in my scrapbooks, but ones to remark upon just the same. I actually broke down and cried at our McCafferty family Christmas when both of my progeny decided to engage in particularly crappy behaviors during dinner at exactly the same time, making my sister-in-law respond in kind because she’s never seen me lose it before (yet recovering enough to remember to ask for a piece of cherry pie for the ride home). There was the moment in church where my four-year-old announced his extremely heartfelt “Merry Christmas!” to the entire congregation, a good three minutes after everyone else had committed to the holiday, and well into the minister’s sermon. The decision to leave a fairly agitated older child at home with his father resulted in my being able to sit like a grown-up for four hours at my best friend’s house, silently reveling in the fact that one of my children was in their basement with his cousins, unattended by a parent, and it was FINE. The latkes and brisket were excellent, but the uninterrupted conversation was fabulous.

And last, but not least, there was Coco Key.

My dear friend Babette, future author of a wonderful autism travel book called “Traveling with Your Autistic Child” that I’ll be writing about shortly, and founder of Peace with Autism, planned her eight-year-old son’s birthday party  about an hour away from our home on the Friday night of New Year’s Eve weekend. Typically, my first inclination upon receiving such an invitation would be “not a chance in hell”. First and foremost would be the fact that I’d have to find the resort in the dark at rush hour (and even with a fancy GPS, that’s not always a given). Then there’s the reality that Zach’s most impulsive time of day happens to be at the extended “witching hour”, and the possibility of my losing him in the water park was high. Of course, being forced to wear a bathing suit at the end of a month devoted exclusively to carb consumption really seemed almost too much to bear.

But then I reminded myself this was for my kid, and I should suck it up.

So, we went. Once I realized I could actually tell my child which color water slide to throw himself onto each time because he can talk, I ceased my pre-hyperventilating mode in a heartbeat, and sat back and just thrilled to Zach’s joy. I didn’t speak to a single adult (except the large lifeguard who put my son in time-out for running, which was perhaps the first time I’d seen my son intimidated by a grown-up), and it didn’t matter. I was calm. I didn’t worry about forgetting to shave my legs. I had fun.

In case, you’re not getting the full import of this, I was relaxed with one of my kids.

In general things have eased up around here over the last two years, but perhaps the last person to relinquish learned behaviors may be me. The truth is, I have two young children with autism, and things are always going to be somewhat difficult around here. Justin becomes particularly challenging after illnesses. Zach is literally testing us CONSTANTLY, and sometimes, he’s winning. It will never be easy.

But it’s better.

Usually my New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by January 5th  (or earlier), and include being nicer to my husband (it’s a goal), a repudiation of sugar (not going to happen), and a commitment to carving out more “me time”, which doesn’t occur either. So this year, I’m reducing my future achievements to just one simple word, one I haven’t really engaged in since my eldest was born. It won’t be easy, but I’m certain my elevated blood pressure will be appreciative.

This year, come hell or high water (or both), I’m going to relearn how to relax.

December 27, 2011

Purge Part Two

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , at 3:42 pm by autismmommytherapist

Yup, it’s repeat time again.

I’m hoping all of you will forgive me. Frankly, I’m only able to get any computer time at the moment because Justin is looking at a new DVD downstairs, and Jeff is being chased around the house by a carnivorous dinosaur (my youngest apparently has absolutely no issues with consuming his father on any level whatsoever). So, I have a few minutes, and with New Year’s Eve looming around the corner I just wanted to repost my last year’s missive, and once again, thank everyone for their support.

Okay, mostly I just want to say thanks.

I truly appreciate all of you who read me frequently, and take the time to leave little messages on my blog. I’m thrilled with the support I’ve seen as I’ve become “syndicated” on the central New Jersey Patches, particularly because it means I might even be able to stay there for a while, and do some good for our community. Truly, I thank you all.

Hell, life is so crazy I’m even grateful when someone hits the “like” button for my posts on Facebook.

But mostly I’m just grateful as this second year of “mostly happy chez McCafferty” draws to a close for the love, friendship, and support we’ve all received from our families, our “old” friends (sorry guys!), our neighbors, our kids’ educators, and my newfound autism buddies. We could never maintain this mostly positive front without all of your support, kindness, and understanding.

Plus, I’d be a lot crankier most days, so my husband truly thanks you too.

I’ll close now, as it sounds as if said husband might be losing an important body part or two downstairs, and I don’t really relish a trip to the hospital at the holiday season. So, I’m leaving you with the pics that made the holiday card this year, as well as my 2010 New Year’s Eve missive that still just “says it all”. My best wishes to you and yours, and may all of your holiday wishes come true!

(Still loves Halloween, he is SO my child.)

(Apparently, the Easter bunny likes trains too.)

(My surfer dude!)

(No explanation necessary!)

Purge

Happy 2012!

December 31, 2010

New Year’s Evolution

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , at 9:01 pm by autismmommytherapist

We made a gingerbread house today, my youngest and me. Not the fancy version mind you, with its cinnamon-spiced cookie walls and sticky-sweet icing for snow, but the felt version, as I have yet to figure out how to create an edible construct that’s gluten and casein-free. The form doesn’t seem to matter to Zach however, as he seems content just to forge this linen building with craft glue and discretely adhered masking tape. He is simply happy to sit at our designated table with his mommy, and design his own.

I am thrilled to be here with him as well, as this is the first “Christmas house” we have built together, and the added bonus is it conjures up the requisite images of festive architecture from my childhood past, pleasant in their remembrance. As I sit with him and attempt to gain better purchase on the tiny chair I am well aware of the enormity of this gift, the ability to carry on a tradition with my child, one who is eager and willing to perform it with me, one who miraculously was able to request its creation.

It’s the last month of the year, and as always, just like the commencement of the school year, it’s a time of reflection for me. I consider where we’ve been and where we now reside as I help Zachary fabricate his house, watch him carefully separate out the pieces of his one-dimensional art form with such care, and manipulate the tiny forms with such ease. He desires to begin at the top of his home and work his way down, and as I’ve never been one to insist on coloring in the lines we alter our blueprint a little, an act we’ve committed time and time again in our tiny family of four.

He begins with the roof, which he tells me firmly we require because “it will keep everyone warm and cozy”. As I contemplate how he’s incorporated the latter adjective into his lexicon of words I am simultaneously reminded of the outpouring of care and compassion we’ve received over the years, the small and grand acts of largesse, and the kind words both spoken and written to encourage our clan in times of conflict. These acts have blanketed us, permitted this family to retain the heat, the fire necessary to forge through the most searingly difficult times. We could not have built our own home without them.

Once the roof is safely adhered Zach moves onto the windows, neatly punching through the cloth panes of glass to afford us a glimpse of the other side, allowing us to widen our view. I recall how watching my youngest son’s language expand, and my oldest son’s increasing desire for social interaction, have both enabled me to envision a different world for my children this year. We now inhabit a home in which the future may hold more than just fleeting glimpses of a “normal” childhood, one in which both of them may actually one day possess a true friend. I am so grateful for that expanded vista, for the possibilities inherent in those translucent frames.

Finally, Zach addresses the foundation, shoring up the edges with his tiny fingers immersed in solvent, asking me if his careful ministrations are correct. I smile and tell him his house is lovely, as in its own way, is our own. Our foundation has also been conceived in patience, moored in consistency, cemented in love. It’s not seamless, and there will always be cracks. But it will continue to stand.

It will always stand.

And my wish for all of you in every year to come, is that your own house, no matter how it’s constructed or what form it takes, will continue to stand, wind and weather-battered, as magnificently strong as ours.

I’d like to take just a quick moment to extend my immense gratitude to all of my readers this year. I am so appreciative of the praise as well as the constructive criticism, the time taken both to read my missives and to comment on them, and your continued loyalty as I’ve endeavored to find my voice. Thank you to everyone, and to close, here are the McCafferty photos that won a space on our Christmas card this year:

He’d wear it every day if he could…

 

The best Christmas shot of 182 taken (no exaggeration)…

 

Clearly he got the “adventure” gene

 

There are no words for this one…

 

Happy New Year to all!