April 7, 2011

Get the Picture

Posted in If You Need a Good Laugh, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:59 pm by autismmommytherapist

Dearest Picture People,

My name is Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty, and I have been a loyal patron for almost eight years now, a customer who has spanned two states to buy your particular photos. My family’s relationship with your establishment began a few months after the birth of my eldest son in northern Virginia, where I would faithfully schlep him to our local mall at least three or four times a year to capture his cuteness on camera. We’ve since relocated to New Jersey, where I make a longer schlep to take my two sons, both of whom have autism, to your shop. Between Halloween, Christmas, and birthdays, during the last decade my family has frequented Picture People on many, many, many occasions.

Trust me, I could wallpaper an entire room (we’re talking family room, not bath) with the amount of product I’ve purchased from you.

I know this may sound like a nutty obsession on the part of a woman who clearly has her hands full (there was a time I could barely get my first child into a car, much less get him to smile for a photo shoot), but I am a self-professed shutterbug. After my passion for writing (okay, and perhaps scrapbooking, I am THAT cool), I admit I adore photography, and have used up almost every square inch of wall space we possess to project the images of my little boys. Frankly, it’s just one giant photo shoot chez McCafferty.

The truth is there are a multitude of things I could be doing with my children other than running maniacally around a portrait studio as I attempt to make them smile, but I enjoy having those formal photos around the house, and it’s worth the effort to me. Having two children on the autism spectrum has forced me to give up any number of things I took for granted I’d experience when I reproduced (you know, like the eventual return of a full night’s sleep, and a chance at retirement), but having gussied up pictures of my kids is one slice of “normal” I refuse to relinquish.

I’m just that stubborn.

So when I heard from one of my favorite photographers yesterday that not only have you discontinued the practice of emailing these digital memories to customers to peruse at their convenience (a Portrait Club Member perk I adored, since my husband is even pickier than I am), I will share that I did turn my head faintly in the direction of JC Penney’s for a moment. When I was further informed that your store would only be keeping my kids’ photos on file for twenty-four hours now despite my “elite” customer status, I admit I pondered whether my GPS would work indoors to help me find your competitor.


So, I simply have this to say to those in charge. I am one of those annoying people who always says they’re going to write a letter of complaint and never does (the discontinuation of McDonald’s fried apple pie and my desire to abolish “skinny jeans” both come to mind), but today, well, today, I’m venting my wrath in prose. I’m not asking you to light up your studios blue (although I’d appreciate the attempt at added autism awareness, I understand those cerulean filaments might not make for a prime photo opportunity for everyone). I’m not requesting an exception for those of us with children who might not be capable of waiting an hour-and-a half post-shoot to bring home our pictures (hell, I’ve been there when it’s taken thirty minutes just to upload and view our take on a computer screen). Truly, I’m not vying for special treatment.

You’d know it if I was.

I also understand the economy sucks. I completely comprehend the principle of “once they leave the sale is lost”, or whatever far zippier phrase those marketing geniuses have concocted to raise revenue. I get the bottom line here. Despite the furry Easter props, and the admonition to “make special AND unique memories AND have a great day” every time I place a call to your company, the ultimate goal is to make money.

It’s always about money. Sadly, it’s no longer about me.

But I am asking you to consider this. I’ve been at that mall, walked by your store and recognized a customer, then seen her hours later on that same swivel chair with her sobbing infant after I’ve completed half my Christmas shopping and had a manicure. There are plenty of children who do not reside on the autism spectrum who can’t wait around for mommy to bring home their preciousness, “normal” children who risk slipping into a total meltdown that can be heard from the outer limits of the parking lot (trust me, I’ve heard the faint cries as far away as Macy’s). And given that economy I mentioned before, I’m willing to bet any number of those stressed-out moms might actually have jobs they can’t boycott to return the next day and claim those images, particularly within your draconian twenty-four hour limitations.

It was suggested to me I partake of this option. Since we’re usually five minutes from the Apocalypse at my house on any given day, I “politely” declined.

So please, dear Picture People executive-types, kindly consider what I’ve penned. Bring back the opportunity for the “slide show of joy” I can view with my spouse in the relative comfort of my bedroom. Have respect for the fact that our (and I mean the global, Kumbayah, “our”) children might not tolerate the wait/screaming babies/overwhelming crowds/PMS-state mothers every single time they mug for the camera. Take pity on families trying to forge memories of what their kids looked like in this crazy world, and grant them some options.

Give us back the gift of time.

Because I’ll tell you, there are days in my household where the random sight of those grinning cherubs is the only thing saving my sanity, as I deal with the sometimes tragic, and often profoundly irritating consequences of living with autism. Honestly, just glancing at their photos, in those silver frames I’ll never get around to polishing, simply makes me happy. So come on Picture People, have a heart, and make a Jersey girl smile.

I’ll even let you capture it on film.

November 17, 2010

One Good Deed

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , at 10:40 am by autismmommytherapist

One questionable act of kindness, and all hell breaks loose.

Last night I dragged my youngest child back to our local mall to pick up our holiday pictures (yes, I know it’s only the beginning of November, but it should be clear to all of you by now that I’m a planner), and even though we were smack in the middle of the “witching hour”, everything went smoothly. Although I maniacally tortured the poor woman at Picture People with multiple reprints, we were in and out of there in half an hour (THIS is why I go in November). My good fortune continued on our next errand as I was subsequently able to secure next year’s sweaters for photo shoots in under ten minutes (try finding anything red before Halloween, I DARE you). I even managed a slight detour to Starbucks and was able to convince Zach that just waving at Santa as we whizzed by would not preclude him from gracing us with gifts at Christmas (plus I told him Daddy would cry if he didn’t get to see Zach sit on his lap, and that was the ultimate decisive factor). All in all, I had those damn photos in hand, had knocked a few things off my holiday shopping list, and found a salt-and-caramel-laced hot chocolate MUCH to mommy’s liking (trust me, try it sometime).

Then I ruined everything by going home.

We were mere minutes from the warm mecca of my still Halloween-laden living room when I heard a slight, strange, guttural sound emanating from my youngest child’s mouth. I quickly slowed down, half turned my head, and asked him if he was okay. His muttered answer was unintelligible, so I scooted to the side of one of our neighborhood streets, flipped on the inside light both to see him better and to comfort him, and repeated my question. Zach just smiled and said “there’s a cough stuck in my throat, I NEED juice!”, and secure in the knowledge my son wasn’t choking to death, I reassured him he’d get it when we got home. I then put the car back into gear, turned off the light, and returned to the road.

Ooh mommy, bad, bad idea.

Immediately Zach screams “it’s dark, turn on the light”, which due to daylight savings time and the fact he rarely leaves the house after dinner, was the correct observation. I tell him in my SUPER-rational tone of voice that I can’t drive with the light on, which only makes him ramp up the volume even louder. I even inform him the police will pull mommy over and yell at her, which normally would solicit some type of compassion on his part, but he is having nothing to do with my excuses. It’s dark, and he wants to see the light.

Don’t we all.

I pull into the driveway, slide him screaming from the car, all remnants of our lovely afternoon together completely vanished. I carry him to the house but have to set him down to open the door as he is such a big boy now, but he refuses to cross the threshold. Apparently his attention has been captivated by the jack-o-lantern he’s studiously ignored since we both carved it (you know, the one which almost made me sever a major artery), and he’s decided it must get lit.

I decide I am SO in tune with that idea.

I yell for his father, because I know once I enter the house there’s dinner to throw together, two kids to get on the potty, one lunch to be made, notebooks and toilet successes to be recorded, meds to be dispensed (sadly, none for me), and even Super Nanny with her pretty charts just couldn’t do it all solo. Thankfully Jeff is already coming down the stairs to figure out what the crisis is all about, so I dub him “in charge” of Zachary, and make my way inside. I dump our treasure, field off two requests from Justin simply so I can take my shoes off, and hear the words “that’s disgusting!” belted out from my husband’s mouth. It seems tragically, that our surgically enhanced vegetable has got some nasty green going on inside of him, and he needs to go. With my youngest watching from the open doorway Jeff retrieves a large garbage bag, throws “Jack” into it, and rounds the corner to deposit him in pumpkin heaven.

Hah. And I thought driving home three blocks in the dark might scar Zach for life.

The trickle of tears turns to a torrent, with my son clutching his father’s leg and wailing “I WANT MY PUMPKIN BACK!”, and me locking eyes with his dad and conveying the message “this one’s yours, buddy”. Zach is inconsolable, so after I check on dinner status, get Justin out of the bathroom, and have the temerity to use it myself, I engage my brain and try to figure out how we’re going to get out of this one. Dinner time is often tough for Zach, reminiscent of any number of historical inquisitions. If the crying continues he won’t eat, then he’ll be up in the middle of the night hungry, then mommy will be tired.

Nobody likes mean OR tired mommy.

I switch places with Jeff and pick up my sobbing, snot-ridden son, who quickly asks “WHERE DID DADDY PUT MY PUMPKIN?!”. I realize the answer “the garbage can” will guarantee we’ll pay for at least another year of psychotherapy, so I don my mommy/teacher/blatant liar’s cap and cobble together a response.

“Honey, Jack got sick, so Daddy took him home to his mommy in the pumpkin patch”.

Tears stop mid-stream as I watch Zach processing my outrageous deviousness. He looks away from me as he always does when he’s thinking hard, then turns back to me with a slight grin and says “Get my doctor’s kit mommy. Jack’s sick. I’ll go to the pumpkin patch and make him better”.


I am scrambling now, because the allure of a good night’s sleep summons my creative side like nothing else in this world, and I look at him and say, “Well, it’s nighttime now, and Jack’s asleep with his mommy. We can practice on his brother Zach (a pumpkin unmolested by cosmetic procedures) in the morning.”

I hold my breath. The crying stops. He buys it.

So today, after securing my oldest on his own form of transportation, my youngest and I braved the early morning chill and “practiced” on sibling Zach. I am PRAYING this will appease him fully so that I’m not required to haul Jack out of our garbage can and somehow spirit him unnoticed to a nearby pumpkin patch, an outing which will not be reinforcing to his mommy, not one little bit. So far Zach seems content with taking his namesake’s temperature, assessing his heart rate, and checking his reflexes (this particular gourd is a bit lethargic), and after pronouncing his patient “cured”, he happily boarded his bus this morning. Since this kid retains things better than I do before a round of PMS I’m not taking for granted that he’ll forget Jack, but I’m daring to hope, and asking you to keep your fingers crossed for me as well.

And if this doesn’t work, you can bet my reward will be a lot more sophisticated than a caramel-laced hot cocoa.