February 20, 2011

Land of the Lost

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , at 4:16 pm by autismmommytherapist

“MOMMY, DADDY, I NEED YOU!!” screams my four-year-old from his room upstairs, in his usual dramatic fashion. I sigh, because Oprah’s assistant is freaking out about how best to convince her boss that an hour about thirty-something virgins would interest America (this woman is amazing, I wish she’d live here and organize MY show), and I’m certain the next few minutes will be completely compelling. I also exhale dramatically because assisting my son will require me to actually put down Francis Ford Coppola’s vineyard coup AND rise from the couch, and neither action is particularly appealing to me by 9:00 PM.

I suck it up and quickly take the stairs two at a time, but not because my youngest is in distress (this is a nightly event now, he is most assuredly safe). No, I’m exercising more than I have in days because the thought of my youngest waking my oldest (and taking me away from reality television for an hour or two), is simply unacceptable. After all, I did six loads of laundry today AND kept both kids alive. Mommy deserves her rewards.

I enter Zach’s room with Jeff close behind me, and slide into the sanctuary of muted light and soft sounds emanating from his sleep machine and humidifier. Both boys have enough white noise in their rooms to block out the apocalypse, as Justin has a penchant for that 3:00 AM wake-up call, and sometimes Zachary doesn’t fall asleep until 10:00. One of my worst nightmares is that both will awaken simultaneously one evening while Jeff is away, and I’ll be forced to enact my own nocturnal version of Sophie’s Choice, which I’m certain will have me regretting not having had those tubes tied a little sooner. As a precaution to that event we’ve basically recreated the womb for our children, and this time, I expect them to stay in it.

Zachary spies us and shouts a gleeful “Mommy! Daddy!”, as Jeff quickly shuts the door behind him to drown out his enthusiastic greeting. We approach him with arms outstretched and quizzical looks on our faces, as it’s apparent he hasn’t pooped, which we’ve told him is really the only acceptable reason to call us back into his room after he’s been deposited in his crib. He looks at us with utter seriousness and says “The T-rex is back!  He’s outside my window right now! SCRITCH-SCRATCH, SCRITCH-SCRATCH!”. He’s adapted and plagiarized that last little bit from his new favorite book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and while I’m impressed at his ability to convey the sounds of an extinct monolith ruining our outside paint job, I admit I’m a little annoyed. This is the fifth night in a row he’s been up late, which means the next morning his emotional state will undoubtedly resemble full-on menopause (and no,  I’m not quite there yet).

Jeff bravely takes one for the team, and attempts to reason with him. “Zachy, remember, the dinosaurs have been gone for millions of years. There are no dinosaurs outside of your room.”

Zach regards my husband with a mixture of mild amusement and disdain and responds, “No Daddy, not the REAL T-Rex. It’s the pretend one.”

Right. Of course. How silly of us.

I lift Zachary out of the soft folds of his blanket and seat him onto my lap on his glider, and together we tell his daddy to “fix his crib”, until every blanket, sheet and pillow is aligned perfectly and conducive to what I hope will soon be my son’s slumber. I remind him that his parents would never let anything or anyone bad into the house, no ghosts, goblins or pre-historic giants, either real or imagined. When he tells me he heard a sound, I respond that he’s only heard the wind whipping the eaves of our house, and ask him if he remembers we’ve told him he’ll always be safe here with us. He smiles, and says he does.

He somehow smells slightly of cinnamon and nutmeg, although given my baking inadequacies, I’m not sure how.  When Jeff completes his ministrations within the blankets I’m loathe to return him, even with Oprah Behind the Scenes on pause. Eventually the allure of cable wins, and I return him to his crib carefully, and watch as he snuggles into the blankets his father and I gently rearrange around his relaxed form. He asks for a “hand hug” from us both and we comply, then wish him a good night’s sleep as we exit his room.

And as Jeff returns to work and I head down the stairs for the mecca of brief escape, I remind myself, no matter what time of day they occur, to always savor the good fortune of my youngest’s repeated encounters with the land of the lost.

November 23, 2010

Abundant Gifts

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , at 9:26 pm by autismmommytherapist

Seriously, what am I NOT thankful for this year?

That poor, Cinderella/pre-handsome prince/turkey day always seems to get short shrift in the McCafferty household, what with being book-ended by two holidays hosting an endless supply of sugar and PRESENTS for God’s sake, so I’m going to try and give it its due. A number of truly wonderful things have happened in 2010, and I’ve chosen to write about them now in lieu of scribing them at New Year’s (which used to be one of my favorite holidays until I gave birth and no longer saw the need to stay up past ten to usher in anything). So here’s my “top ten list”, including a few poignant moments for those of you who like that kind of stuff (and believe me, I’m with you sisters).

  • I’m thankful I still like my husband and he does his own laundry (come on now, that’s HUGE).
  • I’m thankful my mom helps me with all of my “projects” no matter how crazy, time-consuming, or how much of the work I actually delegate to her.
  • I’m thankful for all of my girlfriend posses, from teachers to autism, from high school to college, plus just the random cool chicks I’ve recently met.
  • I’m thankful Friday Night Lights has one more season (Panthers be damned!), and that I can finally tell my husband I like football (okay, mostly the casts’ “back-stories” AND looking at Taylor Kitsch, but it’s a step).
  • I’m thankful for all the help I’ve gotten with this blog, from those brave souls patient enough to instruct me both in how to create it and how to make it pretty, as well as for the people who are actually READING it.
  • I am ridiculously grateful to my sons’ schools, not only for tolerating me but for loving my kids and TRULY understanding their respective needs.
  • I’m grateful someone coined the term “clandes-tini”, which I will explain in a future post.
  • I am thankful, as always, for my “original” family, for helping us, for spending time with us, and for their inherent lack of drama (we make enough of our own here).
  • And of course, I’m grateful for my beautiful boys. There are so many reasons why. Here are just a few.


I took my boy to a nearby local museum this weekend, one we’ve frequented many times before but haven’t visited recently. He’s technically both too old and too tall to go there anymore, as there’s an entire room that’s for the six and under set, but I can’t step foot in the building without letting him explore the Under-the-Sea wing or I risk a full-blown meltdown. The people who work there know me and Justin by now and continue to graciously wave us in, so I figure I can work this just a little bit longer for him. Hell, the Christmas trains come out next week and he loves that display, so I figure I can buy him one more year of perseverating on engines and freighters simply because the employees are nice. It’s just that at the end of the day there’s not much to do with your autistic kid in central Jersey in the winter, and I’m loathe to relinquish this one hotspot yet.

I guess I’ll have to stop sneaking him in when he’s fifteen.

They’ve changed the main display of the building from “space” to “weather/Mother Earth” recently, a decision which Justin has regarded with great disdain (I don’t think he’s going green anytime soon), but he still loves that “fishy” room. After perusing the wing dedicated to climate for a grand total of forty-five seconds (okay, eleven minutes, but that’s what it FELT like) we eventually end up immersed in crustaceans, dismantling lobster puzzles, and sliding down the giant whale’s tongue as tired mommy races around trying to prevent him from bowling over the two-year-old crowd. I refuse to get banned from this room just yet.

We finally end up at the wing’s treehouse that’s actually formed in the shape of a tree, the one that affords him the climbing experience that always interests him, and usually caps our trip. He is a creature of habit, and today he doesn’t disappoint. He scrambles quickly to the top, surveys the land before him in a manner that would make James Cameron from Titanic proud, then after allowing me enough time to actually sit down and relax for a few minutes, he slowly shimmies down, shoes in hand.

It’s been decades since I was thin enough to climb an internally constructed treehouse, so I suppose I should add “grateful he brought down his shoes” to the above-bulleted list.

He good-naturedly shoves his sneakers at me, waiting for me to prompt him to at least attempt to affix his velcroed footwear on the correct appendages, and with our combined efforts, within a minute he is once again fully dressed. I know this moment signifies the end of our adventure, and as he walks rapidly to the exit my mind is already engaged in figuring out just how many errands we can conduct on our way home before he freaks out. We are about five feet from the threshold of the doorway that leads to the entrance hall when he suddenly stops dead in his tracks, turns to look at me, and grabs my hand. I’m assuming he wants something, and am ready to tell him he can have a juice or snack when we’re back in the car, when I realize he’s looking at me. Intensely, truly looking at me.

And then he smiles.

Not just a small smile mind you, but a full-blown, take-over-your-face kind of grin that illuminates, well, everything. Without words, he explains that he had a good day. With his gaze he shares he’s appreciative that I schlepped him up here for the millionth time. Even though he doesn’t approve of weather as a museum focus, he lets me know in no uncertain terms he nevertheless approves of my Sunday outing choice.

He’s just happy.

And I am thankful too, not only that he’s finally, after many long, long years, capable of that state of grace, but that he can convey as much of those emotions in one expression, in one brief moment of connection, as my other child can in words.


It’s “school observation week” here in Jersey, an event which unfortunately falls just a week shy of conferences and the other half of the month of November, that thirty-day span in which both of my children will be around so much I can consider them home-schooled. Suffice it to say “mommy-time” is out the window, but the least I can do is suck it up with the best of them and get my tired ass to Zach’s pre-school and rock his world a little bit.

I know, nominate me now for 2011’s “mother-of-the-year” award.

About half the class ends up having a parent “represent”, and the moment I walk in the door I’m glad I decided to join the crowd and forego watching Rachel Ray that morning. He is overjoyed to see me, runs to my open arms with haste and bestows one of his sweet, chaste kisses on me, then runs back to his seat and resumes his appointed activity.

No histrionics. No begging me to sit with him. No tears wiped dramatically in Days of Our Lives fashion from his face. He’s happy I’m there, but he’s got work to do.

It’s the Christmas miracle come early.

For the next thirty minutes I get to watch my youngest son (the one who communicated solely by crying a mere year-and-a-half ago) dazzle me by matching the correct turkey to its requisite number, surprise me by cutting vegetables better than I do (given my culinary skills that’s not saying much, but still), and astonish me by sharing WILLINGLY with his neighbor. He transitioned to three different centers without prompting, blew his nose in a tissue rather than on his arm when asked, and didn’t adhere himself to my body even once with the conviction of a half-starved boa constrictor.

I know. He’s a prodigy.

For an entire half-hour I got to see how my son conducts himself in school, chat with other mommies (one of the best parts), and not get treated to a scene straight out of Sophie’s Choice when I told him it was time for me to leave. Thirty consecutive minutes of watching a class full of children engaged, chatting, happy.

I love both my kids (if you’ve read this blog at all, that’s pretty apparent by now). But I’ll go on record as saying I am so grateful for the progress my youngest has made this year, for the leaps and strides that have permitted him to attend a classroom without his own personal assistant, for the chance to have “real” playdates with children he considers his actual friends, and for the ability to convey his thoughts without struggling to speak them. I’m mostly thankful for these gifts for his sake, because his life has been made indelibly easier by these accomplishments.

I’ll share something else with you too. I’m also grateful for me and my husband that we get to experience this peek into a tiny “slice of normal pie”, this glimpse into the world I anticipated I’d inhabit so many, many years ago when I was pregnant with my first. It’s not a perfect universe. It’s still not always easy here.

But overall, it’s just so much damn simpler.

And in this week when our country traditionally gives thanks for so many things, both serious and trivial, I am grateful for the opportunity at times to be with one of my children, put aside my worries, and just breathe.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!