December 21, 2012

Moms’ Night Out

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , at 11:04 am by autismmommytherapist

wash one

I love my family (as I’m sure all of you reading this love yours as well), but I have to admit I spend a decent amount of time plotting ways in which to indulge in a few hours of respite from all things “mothering”. Said respite was on my mind a few weeks ago as I spent seven glorious hours driving solo in my annual round-trip visit to my DC crew, a period of “quiet time” I will share with you that I enjoyed immensely.

Since I also enjoy the company of others, a nice chat, and (of course!) good food, while clocking the miles to Washington I racked my brain for a cheap, easy way to accomplish those goals on a more frequent basis than once a year. Then it came to me. I would create an entire evening solely around the magnificence that is Bonefish Grill’s Bang Bang shrimp.

If you order it, they will come.

I admit that while part of my desire to have a regular Moms’ Night Out gig comes from my perpetual desire to eat, a good portion of my intent came from an evening out in the DC suburbs with my teacher friends, all of whom are (and eternally remain) fabulous women and helpful advisors to me. As I sat that evening and listened to one former co-worker (and my “little sister” in the truest sense of the word) discussing how she’d creatively figured out how to help a child just that morning, it struck me how much I missed these conversations, talks which had been a huge part of my former professional life.

We didn’t have a water cooler back then, but we did have our classrooms, and within those walls many insightful educational decisions were made in regards to our students, and the programs we wanted to implement for them. I didn’t always agree with everything my team said, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that they always made me think.

Hence, the impending Bonefish Grill thinktank.

The truth is, I’m not sure how my family would have made it at times if it weren’t for the second sisterhood I’ve immersed myself in up here, namely my circle of friends who have and who work with our differently-abled kids. The connections, advice, and quite honestly, laughs I’ve had with these women have been an invaluable resource to me since we “sort of “moved back home seven years ago. Although I get to see these women at POAC events and PTA meetings, I think it would be great for us to get-together in a more informal place (again, a place which serves bang-bang shrimp, and lest I forget, wine).

So, my proposal is as follows. The first Wednesday of every month, starting  on 1/2/13, 6:30 at Bonefish Grill in Brick, will be a gathering of the very tired minds and bodies of moms with kids with special needs, and those who work with them. In the spirit of inclusion I’m of course extending the invitation to those with neurotypical kids as well, but I want this to be a forum where women can exchange ideas, business cards, and have a good laugh while feeling entirely comfortable discussing their kids (or not). It’s pay as you go, and I should warn you I will not be sending out email blasts as reminders (hell I’ll probably forget to post it on Facebook) as my post-Sandy brain still has not completely recovered. The best part is, you don’t have to do anything but attend. No RSVP required, just show up.

That’s one of my favorite parts.

I have a core group of women interested in “hosting” it with me, and between us I can pretty much guarantee at least one person will be in attendance each month, so if you’re going solo, you’ll find a new friend. I figure we’ll hang in the bar area, so just look for a bunch of extremely ecstatic childless women eating well.

I’m short and blond and will have a big bowl of crustaceans in front of me, so don’t be shy.

I know we’re all ridiculously busy, but if you can sneak out of your homes once in a while for a little fun I hope to see you, and if not, I truly wish you and yours the happiest of new years!

September 22, 2011

It’s All in Your Head

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , at 8:58 am by autismmommytherapist

I slide serenely into the MRI “tomb”, white walls embracing me with their sterile closeness and clicking sounds, and I lie still so I won’t have to repeat this test again. It’s my second one in two days, prescribed by the neurologist I’d been to see who assured me the incidences of dizziness and blurred vision I’ve been prone to recently were not all in my little blond head. The good doctor thinks the images resulting from these exams will reveal pinched nerves in either my cervical or lumbar spine, most likely a result of picking up my eight-year-old too frequently, an activity which now needs to cease. I had never realized pinched nerves could have such an effect upon a person. I suspect he’s right, and that Justin will have to become even more independent when disembarking from rides and horses. I am also open to the possibility the good doctor may be totally off-base, and that these dizzy spells I’m experiencing may be a result of years of unyielding, unimaginable stress catching up to me.

The irony, of course, is that things have never been better.

I refer often to my theory that all things are cumulative, that while I attempt to fully deal with and process trying situations as they come, I may not be as good at it as I think. Truly, I make an effort to take care of myself. At meals, there is at least the occasional consumption of a fruit or vegetable. Attempts are made to get seven to eight hours of sleep, when my children and my own body permit me to do so. I’ve incorporated a fairly regular exercise schedule into my daily life, in part because it helps me reach those sleep goals, and in part because much of my writing fodder is gleaned from that pounding of pavement. I schedule outings with my husband and girlfriends because those events make me happy, which renders me a better mother. I also do this because although the boys do take up just a bit of my time, I recognize the importance of carving out some for myself as well.

Unless Shirley Maclaine is right, this is the only life I’ll get. Momma needs some fun occasionally too.

In short, I’ve really tried to live as full and balanced an existence as possible, despite the sporadic tempestuousness of this household. I’ve attempted to model as often as I can what I thought my life would encompass- the rigors and joys of motherhood, work, marriage, and friendships. After years and years of sleepless nights, refusals to eat, pinching of flesh, loss of language, and religious adherence to ritual, my family has finally tempered a truce with my sons’ autisms. The thought that I may not be able to fully enjoy this peace because the last few years are catching up to me, frankly finds me enraged. My fingers are crossed that my eminent neurologist is correct, and that the nerves in my spine have rebelled against their overuse, because there are methods to alleviate those aggravated nerves. And truly, I need to figure this all out, because the prospect of blacking out while with my non-verbal moderately autistic child in public, is not very pretty.

The alternative, that these episodes are simply stress-related, is just not acceptable, although it may be reality. Truly, short of entering an ashram and engaging in meditation all day, I don’t envision much of a serious respite from my life for the next ten, to perhaps thirty, years. I am honestly doing the best that I can, and I’m not really sure my clinician’s suggestion of a warm nightly bath will do the trick, although with just a bit of lavender included, it does sound lovely.

Here’s to hoping the hovering hum of this MRI machine proves it’s not all in my head.

Author’s  Note:  Thankfully, pinched nerves it was. That pretty x-ray my neurologist displayed for me was a reminder of both how “physical” this life can be with our kids, and how important it is to take care of ourselves regardless of what is transpiring in our lives. I hope this post reminds everyone to do just that!

May 15, 2011

What a Trip

Posted in If You Need a Good Laugh, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , at 10:48 am by autismmommytherapist

Last week, I had the profound and fortunate pleasure to escape to Mexico with my husband to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary. Due to the grace of my mother, my father-in-law, and our babysitter, Jeff and I were able to loll around in the sun for five consecutive days, where my most difficult decision daily was when I could start imbibing the “pretty drinks” and not fall asleep by 8 PM. We happily divided our time between beach and pool, napped, and people-watched for hours. I ignored my emails, and the only time I thought about the words “Face” or “Book” was when searching for the lovely countenance of the man bringing me my next “Mango Loco”, or while reading Bossypants by Tina Fey, our comedic national treasure.

For almost a whole week I was technologically Amish. It was bliss.

We planned every detail of the trip for months, remembering to clear our schedules several days prior to boarding that godsend of a plane because we’ve noticed over the years that something, or several somethings, always conspires to occur just before we leave. One time just days before one of our fairly frequent trips to Vegas to stay with friends, Jeff took a tumble down the stairs and broke his foot, which put a severe damper on our disco nights. The following year, Justin came down with a severe rash all over his body that turned out to be “hand, foot and mouth” disease (I actually looked at his pediatrician and asked her if she was making the diagnosis up just to mess with me), and for the next seventy-two hours we watched anxiously to see if several hundred red bumps would do us the honor of disappearing.

Ironically, this time around everyone was healthy, but it seemed as if the gods were conspiring against us anyway. Jeff got a flat tire while trying to cram in food shopping the day before our departure. We finally realized that funny odor in the pantry was mouse droppings, and my brave husband dedicated four hours on Sunday trying desperately to eradicate that succulent smell before we left. I went to bed before the glorious news of Osama bin Laden’s death, but my husband spent most of the night wondering if we would still be able to depart. We were, and we did.

And I admit, it was fabulous.

Of course, not every moment of the trip was perfect. I burned a quarter of a boob when my suit apparently “shifted” in direct sunlight (the only time I’ve gone topless was for five minutes in Greece in 1988, after which my Puritan ancestry kicked in and started screaming for me to “remember decency!”). The night we ate in the “French” restaurant our waiter proudly proclaimed our aperitif to be “chicken fingers with sauce”, and while my husband beamed with anticipation I heard the strangled cry of a million Frenchmen as they screamed “Non, c’est pas vrai!!!”  Sadly, we once experienced three entire drops of rain one day as my groom and I walked along the mostly deserted beach together.

Yes, I’m just kidding with that last one.

I could tell you that this vacation we try to make every five years, as we attempt to celebrate the “fives” and “zeros” of our union, is important because we desperately need the time together away from our children just so we can breathe, and that would be true. I could impart to you my adamance this type of trip occurs at least twice a decade for us because I’m neither sure how long I’ll have the generosity of my mother’s help, nor certain if there will come a day before Jeff and I turn eighty that Justin will not be solely under our care. I could share with you that I simply appreciate the opportunity to sleep four nights a year.

Hell, I could tell you that sometimes, I just like some silence.

All of the above is true. But the real reason this vacation is so crucial to us is because it’s the one time of year we feel like we actually have choices in our daily routine, because with two children on the autism spectrum, our lives don’t leave us much opportunity for wiggle room. Honestly, for several days, we simply reveled in the welcome absence of rules, the constraints that autism often insinuates into our everyday existence. I didn’t have to plan seventy steps ahead of an outing to anticipate what might strip my chances of success while bringing Justin out into the community. I wasn’t forced to recall which spot on Zach’s favorite plate always welcomes the ketchup, or be faced with a tantrum of such inappropriate proportions I’d rue the day the condiment was invented. I didn’t have to think about how autism ordains Justin’s life, how it will ultimately result in his requiring lifetime care, half of which will transpire without me.

Frankly, for five days, the only rule was that I didn’t have to think.

I realize how lucky we were to have this opportunity. I am fortunate to have the luxury of a stable partner, the understanding of my father-in-law, the stamina of my mother. The word “gratitude” does not begin to convey how grateful I am for this confluence of circumstances, this perfect storm of luck that conspired to enable us this break from an often extremely stressful life. Trust me, most of the year my “downtime” is spent sitting in the car reading for fifteen minutes while I wait for one of my kids to get off his bus. It’s not always happy hour around here.

But for 120 blissful hours (not that I counted), it was. I just want to say thanks to everyone who made it happen, and for all who wished us well prior to departure. I’ve traveled to a number of countries at this point, and I have to say I’ve never encountered a people as genuinely warm as the residents of the Yucatan Peninsula, and I certainly hope to see them all again (especially the reincarnated Michael Jackson who performed for us, who knew the legend is actually alive, just living in Mexico?).

I’d like to add one final note to my husband, a man with whom despite the oft-insanity of our lives, I still enjoy spending time.

Love you, hon. See you in five years.