January 3, 2019

Resolution Evolution

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 12:19 pm by autismmommytherapist

It’s only January 3rd, and I’m already wavering on my “reduce chocolate” resolution.

Maybe some things are for the best.

Generally I am a person who takes New Year’s Resolutions seriously. The holiday reminds me of my teaching days, when the end of August usually found me setting up my classroom, excited about a clean slate with my incoming students. Most of the time that enthusiasm, that drive to make this an even better year than the one before, lasted until June.

There were a few years however when my charges brought me to my knees by October.

I usually find my January resolutions last for at least a few months, sometimes longer. This is the first year in many, many years losing weight is not one of them (stress is a bitch but great for my BMI). I still have my resolutions for 2018 written on a scrap of paper on my desk, mostly for the boys. I had half a dozen for each, and got to three and two respectively for each kid.

Not a bad haul after all.

But this year I decided to change things up a bit. Most years I am very specific in my “improvement desires,” but this year I went old school.

My resolution for 2019 for this family, and for me, is just to be happy.

I know, it probably sounds like I’m slacking a bit (and maybe I am, but frankly the last two years have been hell, and I’m finding I don’t rebound as easily between disasters as I used to in my youth). So this year, I’m keeping it simple- bliss, in whatever form that takes for every member of my clan, is the goal.

And although I’m writing this for my brothers and sisters who have been in the autism game as long as I have, or much longer, I’m also writing this for my brethren who are just starting out, or any of you in crisis with your child.

Those of you who have just received a diagnosis for your child, or are realizing they will probably reside on the more severe end of the spectrum, or are just thinking about reaching out to Early Intervention to have your son evaluated, this is for you. If your kid is taller than you now and aggressive or self-injurious and you often contemplate how to get through the hour, not the day, this is for you.

No matter what is going on with your child, you have to take care of yourself, and find some “happy.”

For years, I didn’t do this. I threw myself headlong into being my eldest son’s ABA therapist when he was eighteen months old because Early Intervention barely exists in Virginia, and I kept up a grueling pace for two years before we moved back to NJ, no fun in sight. When my son has moved through what I call his “relentless cycles” of insomnia, aggression, extreme OCD, etc. I focused entirely on him, never thinking of my needs. Doctors visits got postponed; exercise was a thing of the past.

Fun, of any kind, was not on my radar.

I have people new to the autism journey ask me often if I could go back and change things, what would I alter. Aside from firing a few therapists a lot sooner than I did, I can honestly say the one big thing I would change is the fact I didn’t take care of myself, and allowed myself very few opportunities for respite.

That choice has affected my health, some friendships, and my overall outlook on life, which has generally been disgustingly positive.

I have vowed never to let that happen again.

So please, whatever is going on with your child at this moment, do whatever it takes to create some “happy” for yourself. Go beyond that daily run or that gynecologist exam- figure out what brings you joy, and move mountains to allow yourself those hours just for you. If a neighbor, friend, or relative has offered to babysit, take them up on it (even if it’s a disaster you’ll get out once!). Remember, your family and partner need a whole, happy, and healthy person in their lives- do whatever it takes to get there, and leave those other resolutions in the dust. They’ll be there waiting for you down the road, but you are the priority- you come first.

Do whatever it takes to find your happy.


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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!)


Happy 2012!