Our little mini ABA therapist

Having a brother with autism is definitely not easy. But my daughter doesn’t remember life when she didn’t have a special brother. She was 2 when he was born. Oh, how simple life was then… I didn’t know how easy I had it!

I should probably come up with a cute little nickname for my daughter since I don’t really want to use her name… though of course it’s public knowledge so it’s not that secret… but I would prefer to not use it. So hmmm…. what should I call her? Chatty Cathy? Fire Head Red? Super Sis? Freckles McGee?  The Female Child? She-Who-Talks-A-Lot? Little Tweeny? That Kid Over There? Decisions, decisions.

Having a brother with autism is tough and can be quite a challenge, but she does so well. She loves him so much. Just LOVES him! And she always has. She is a very loving and protective big sister and Sammy has looked up to her since he was born.

Of course I hear like 20 times a day how unfair I am. They fight over toys and she tells me at least once a day that I love him more than her. I look like I am always watching a tennis match, my head tuning back and forth to keep an eye on the action, since I need to pay them both attention but they are usually going in two different directions.  And no matter how hard I try, in her eyes I still tend to favor him more. Which of course I don’t.

But in between all of those moments – are moments of amazement. She is so calm and patient with him. And she is naturally such a great teacher. She is also really good at knowing what he is trying to tell us. The other day she was playing with this rocket splash toy (it’s from Discovery Toys and we love it) Here’s a video from youtube showing the toy in action:

Sammy loves watching the rocket shoot up  into the sky and then crash on the ground. And Big Sis Fire Head Red was the rocket controller. She grew tired of playing with it and walked away from it. But Sammy still wanted to watch the rocket and didn’t know how to work it himself.

There are a few steps involved:

First flip the switch to off so the rocket can charge, then place the rocket on the launch pad thingy, then stand back and flip the switch and watch it take off. Sam had trouble with the charging part. He didn’t wait long enough before flipping the switch back so it didn’t have time to build pressure and it didn’t work.

I was watching them through the window as I cooked and tried to get dishes done, etc. You know, the usual. I yelled out to Red Head Freckle Face: “Please just help him do it so I can finish dinner.”

But she didn’t want to. I even tried to bribe her with money but she wanted to swim instead. But then I looked out the window and what did I see? She was teaching him how to work it. And she did it better than I would have. She is patient and on his level. Our little mini ABA therapist.

First she took him, hand-over-hand, and flipped the switch off so the rocket could charge. Then she said “Wait.” The she took him, hand-over-hand, and picked up the rocket and placed it on the launching pad. Then, hand-over-hand, back to the switch to flip it on – and blast off!

He didn’t get it the first few times, and she just kept calmly walking him through each step. After about 10 – 15 tries he had mastered it and can now do it all by himself with no help.

Words can’t even describe how she makes me feel, but I tried. I opened the door and said “You have no idea how proud I am of you. You are absolutely amazing!!”

She will change this world big time – I can just feel it. She has  compassion, patience, and understanding that cannot be taught. She is amazing. And she’s my daughter! Wow!! 🙂

How much of me am I gonna give you?

I have read things with suggestions about how much info someone should make public on their blog. I read some good tips like:  the last person in the world that you would ever want to read it might read it. And that creeps me out…

And I have read differing opinions about using real kids names, many bloggers use cute little nicknames like “cheeze monkey” when talking about their kids.

I haven’t thought up any good nicknames, and so I usually just refer to them as “my son” and “my daughter”.  And that takes the same effort as typing “cheeze monkey” so it seems to work just fine. But I know that my kids names are public knowledge. If you know who I am, you can find out what I named my kids.

So then I think, well then might as well use their real names. And if you have done your blogger stalker homework then you already know I slipped on Facebook and used my son’s real name. His name is Sam. AAAAHHHHH!! They know his name now!!!!

And if you do a tad bit more homework you can find out my last name, you can take that and search databases and find where I live, look at a google map image of my house… really if I think I have any kind of privacy on these here internets then I am just fooling myself.

So if the last person in the world who I would ever want to read my blog reads it then they will really not gain any info they cannot find with some simple 21st century cyber stalking — they will just know more stuff about autism and all that fun stuff.

So I really don’t know how much info I want to put on my blog. Haven’t figured that out yet. Since I have ninja like reflexes and a pit bull I am not concerned about anyone intruding in my little bubble. Only a  fool would mess with me!

So here’s a start. Here is a picture of my super kids. They are too cute to not show off! 🙂

There is plenty of time for worry – this is time for calm

I often get asked how I handle my stress and I usually have the same answer: I meditate. When you think of meditation what pops into your head?

When I used to think of meditation, I would picture people sitting with their legs crossed, their hands on their knees, with perfect posture and in a place of total enlightenment:

And that’s awesome. But my back hurts. And when I try to sit like this, instead of quieting my mind, all I can think about is how uncomfortable I am and how much my back hurts. And so that was when I would stop meditating and declare it doesn’t work and give up. Then I saw an interview with Deepak Chopra  and he said to meditate you should get into a comfortable position.

Of course as an autism mommy, business owner, mommy of a typical 8-year-old, domestic goddess,  etc… I don’t get a lot of “me time”. Very rarely is there quiet in my home. Usually it is quite the opposite:

So my version of meditation is not a very zen version of calm. Maybe we need a new category for meditation – the busy mom version.

I catch whatever few moments of calm I can find and use those moments to take deep breaths and quiet my mind. My favorite place to do this is my bed – lying flat on my back, no feet on the floor or hands on knees with palms facing up… just lying flat. But I do touch my pointer finger to my thumb, this helps center me in my happy place. My happy place is the blue ridge mountains.  

And maybe I am doing it wrong – but it works.

I try to get at least 20 full minutes of meditation time a day but usually I have to just split it up into several little moments throughout the day. I sometimes close my eyes for a minute and focus on my breath at red lights, or in the car line while picking the kids up from school (I recommend putting the car in park if you try this haha) And even when I can’t close my eyes I just take the time to intentionally focus on my breath and calm my mind. And one of my favorite times for nice quiet meditation is when I get in bed to go to sleep.

I breathe deep. Inhale big and exhale longer than I inhale. I clear my mind. Which is next to impossible since I usually have to listen to the kids and translate the sounds to determine the level of destruction they are  causing in my absence. But that’s okay.

Thoughts will enter my mind, I worry if I paid that bill or what’s for dinner or if homeworks done or if the dogs need to go out, but then I just usher the thought out and clear my mind again. There is plenty of time for worry – this is time for calm. And lots of thoughts enter, and they just get ushered out. I just keep my focus – picture my mountain view – and clear my mind.

Another approach I have tried is to focus on what I want. Once, I really wanted to win these concert tickets so every day all week I meditated for 20 minutes and pictured myself on a mountain with the tickets in my hand. And you know what? I won the tickets!!! It was awesome!! But I didn’t have the same luck when I pictured myself with a giant winning lotto check in my hand. Doh! So I went back to just clearing my mind and not thinking about anything except how it feels to be on the mountain looking at that magnificent view. It feels happy and calm 🙂

I have moments of being a very stressed out person. And I am often irritable and overwhelmed, I am always grumpy in the morning, and exhausted by 2pm though my son usually doesn’t settle down (if he sleeps at all) until after 11pm. My typical daughter can drive me batty with her constant chatter and questions – and one liners — like last night when I was cleaning dog pee off the floor and yelling and mad at the dog and then I slipped in the pee and fell and hurt myself — she chimed in with “Well that’s what you get for yelling.” And of course my son with autism keeps it interesting by climbing and/or breaking  and/or peeing on everything in sight.

Sooooo… of course I drink plenty of booze.

But aside from that — one thing that really keeps me sane in this crazy world — is meditation. And a positive outlook. And realizing that this is my life, I need to be here now and enjoy it before they are all grown up and I am a lonely old woman with a perfectly clean house and no more kids running around keeping it interesting. Well except for the grandkids…

An anonymous poem I found in a magazine reminds me of what is important:  “I hope my children look back on today, and remember a mom who had time to play. There will be years for cleaning and cooking, but children grow up when we aren’t looking”

So I just have to roll with the punches and realize how blessed I am. One day I will look back fondly on this time as “the good ol’ days” 🙂

The House That Autism Built

I used to be such an organized person. If I wanted to find something, I knew exactly where it was. And I would spend time cleaning and arranging the china cabinet — and sit back and admire my nice, clean, organized house.

Then my son came along…

.. and yeah, we don’t have a china cabinet anymore and all of the china, passed down for generations on my husband’s side,  is tucked away in a box for safe keeping.

At first he was the easiest baby. I could put him anywhere and he would stay put and be happy. Sometimes he would be so quiet and content I would think I forgot him and check the car seat or stroller to make sure he was  there.

That was for about the first 6 months of his life. From the moment he was able to move around he started testing his limits. He became determined to climb everything and he would try to walk and then fall. I even bought him a helmet (Bumper Bonnet – we loved the Bumper Bonnet!)

I understand certain opinions one may have about this ... but he never wore it in public, and he loved it cause when he fell it didn't hurt.


He started walking at 9 months.

And pretty much since then the level of chaos and destruction has grown exponentially by the day.

My son has super-human climbing and balance skills… and he is always working on improving his craft:

And of course he keeps the messes interesting:

And so here I am… I have about an hour before I have to get the kids from school, and I should be cleaning “the house that autism built”. But it’s so hard to get motivated to clean the same messes again and again. So instead I will just sit here and write about how I should be cleaning. Good plan, eh? 🙂

Join me on facebook :)

Hi — I just set up a facebook page for Super Mom Jess 🙂


I need 25 fans before I can have a real url I guess … please hop on over there and “like” my page…thanks 🙂

May 2011