Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cry Baby

So, we've had kind of a tough week.  Ronan's behavior has been off.  He hasn't wanted to cooperate.  That lack of cooperation plus those behaviors have turned into frustration.  That frustration carries over to me.  How I handle things can make or break the next few minutes that we're together and how the rest of the day goes.  If I handle things well, Ronan has the chance to bounce back.  I can too.  If I don't handle things well, though,...well, it won't help either one of us.  

I don't always handle things well.  Some days, I want to retreat.  I want to retreat from the situation, from the frustration, and from the thoughts that sometimes weigh me down.  When things get really, really tough, or later, when I cannot shake my own sadness or frustration, I do retreat.  I will never walk away completely, but I know that I need to take a minute, or two (or five) to stop, to walk away, and to breathe.  

That kind of retreat can be healthy.  It can work in other situations and for other people, too.  For me, when I'm trying to diffuse a situation or prevent Ronan from having a meltdown, after I have stopped, or walked away, or taken a minute, or two (or five) to breathe, I can jump back in with clearer thoughts.  I'm careful how I return because my reaction, my response, and my presence needs to be calm and collected.  Ronan, like many other children - typical and special needs - can pick up on a parents' emotions.  He needs my support, respect, and love at all times but most especially during and after he's had a massive meltdown like has happened four times this week.  

This week, with as many meltdowns and frustrating moments as both Ronan and I have had, I have not cried.  I'm not saying that I'm a big 'ol cry baby, but there are times when the only response I can offer during an overwhelming event is to break down and cry.  

That's happened when a typically birthday went terribly wrong.  

That's happened when Ronan wandered from our home one cold, winter night.  

That's happened after wondering what I'd do differently even though I know that I can't change anything from the past.    

The last few days have been less than stellar, but I didn't crumble into a ball of emotions as has happened before.  I think having our new therapists close by has helped.  I have an extra set of eyes watching.  I have an extra pair of hands helping.  I have an extra thought or two to consider that I'd never thought to consider before.  That helps when we go over what just happened and come up with a plan to prevent it next time.  

Next time.  

I'd love to not have to prevent a next time.  The next meltdown.  The next frustrating event.   The next trying situation.  The next emotional breakdown, mine not Ronan's.  

I believe that some emotional releases are healthy.  I've tried bottling up my feelings before, but that hasn't worked out very well.  Expressing emotions has helped.  If that includes crying, well, I let the tears flow freely.  I don't just feel the emotions, I can process through them.   

The cure for anything is salt water, sweat, tears or the sea. 

We happened to be by the sea when I saw that quote for the first time.  It was fitting.  I recall this quote on tough days.  I actually recall it not just on tough days but on days that I've cried tears of joy as well.  Tears can help - ones that are cried in frustration can cleanse.  Ones that are cried during moments of joy also cleanse and can usher hope, too.  

Credit: Isak Dinesen
Of course, I'd love to only cry tears of happiness and of hope.  But if I ever find myself crying tears of sadness, of frustration or even of anger, once that ugly cry is over, like I've done in the past, I'll wipe those tears from my cheeks.  

I'll stop.  

I'll walk away. 

I'll take a minute, or two (or five).
I'll breathe.  

And I'll jump back in ready to try, try again.  

xo, Cat

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Carried Away

I shared some major gains that Ronan's been making in my Sunday post last weekend.  I might've jinxed myself for sharing all that awesome though.  Monday was not so awesome.  

As we left the Big Box store that Ronan's been able to navigate like a boss lately, he melted.  Oh, how that child melted down.  Maybe it was because he didn't fall asleep until after 10:30 pm the night before.  Maybe it was because I had to wake him up early on a day that he normally gets to sleep in.  Maybe it was because I had to race him and his little sisters to the girls' school because I'd overslept and the girls missed the carpool.  Maybe it was because I later took him to a store he had no interest in going.  Maybe it was because we left the store through a different door.  Maybe it was because he didn't get the special treat he's been offered during other recent shopping trips.  Maybe it was because of of all of those reasons.  Maybe it was because of none of those reasons.  

Whatever the reason, Ronan had a meltdown that lasted for 33 minutes - ten of which were in the parking lot in front of a lot of other shoppers.  The other 23 minutes were in the car.  Those 23 minutes were not any easier.  That's when things got a little carried away.  

Ronan was still not cooperating once he was in the car, so we continued to wait things out.  After several failed attempts at getting Ronan to communicate, I brainstormed with our therapist.   At this point, I was in the backseat trying to encourage and to redirect Ronan to sit safely in his car seat.  Since Ronan loves his movies so much, I thought if we could get him to request a movie, we could turn his behavior around.  But then I thought of something better.  Maybe if I turned on some music first, he'd asked for me to change it.  Before I changed the song, I'd ask for Ronan to sit in his car seat.  If I could get him in the car seat, I could buckle him up.  If I could buckle him up, we could get going.  That sounded simple enough, but because the situation had already gone south, and quickly, I wasn't sure my plan would work. 

It didn't.  

I turned on a CD.  A favorite of mine, I thought for sure that Ronan would immediately sign "change".  

He didn't.  

Instead of signing change or asking for a movie, Ronan relaxed.  Still firmly planted on the floor of the car, he quieted down, leaned into me, and enjoyed the music.  

As much as I loved that Ronan was enjoying my favorite music and was finally not in fight mode, that song choice wasn't working.  So, I switched to another CD.  I picked a song that I knew Ronan did not enjoy.  Within seconds of The Sound of Music's The Lonely Goatherd started, Ronan indicated that he was just about ready to get back to his happy little self.  

That's when he made eye contact. 

That's when he signed change.

That's when he responded politely.

That's when he climbed into his car seat appropriately.  

That's when a 33-minute meltdown ended.  

That's when all was once again right with the world. 

That's when it was time for us to drive away from the Big Box store and get on our way.  Once we were a safe distance away, a peace and calm fell over all of us.  

Autism meltdowns are never fun.  We work so hard to avoid them.  But they happen.  And some of them last a long, long time.  I'll sit down with our therapists later to come up with a new plan for these types of shopping trips.  We can't avoid stores, the public, and the world entirely, so we'll brainstorm new strategies.  
I hate that we lost some of the momentum Ronan was gaining, but I'm so grateful that we have support to try, try, try again.  We will always try, try, try again.  

xo, Cat


Sunday, December 13, 2015

All Rise!

See that photo above?  I took it at Church today.  I know, I know.  I probably should've waited until after Mass to take a photo.  But if I'd waited until after Mass, I wouldn't have been able to capture Ronan holding my hand while sitting perfectly in the pew next to me.  Let me repeat that.  

Holding my hand.  

Sitting perfectly.  

In the pew.  

Next to me. 

Ronan's had other successful Church days, but he hasn't been able to go to Mass in quite some time.  In fact, it's been several months since he went.  It's been even longer since he really wanted to go.  None of us are happy about that, but we understand that taking a child with special needs to Church can be a challenge.  As much as we've tried to make it easier, it has not been easy.  

I've written before about Ronan's lack of enthusiasm when it comes to going to Mass.  I've written about what happens when we Ronan won't budge.  It isn't the best solution, but it is a solution.  I don't like it when we have to resort to Plan B and watch Mass online because that usually means Ronan has adamantly refused to get out of the car, but completely skipping Mass is not an option. 

I'm not sure what made today so super awesome, but it was so super awesome!  I walked into Church with Ronan riding piggy back on my back.  He stayed on my back until it was time to sit for the First Reading.  Then, he sat comfortably on my lap, face-to-face, resting his head on my shoulder.

Looking around, Ronan pointed to the stained glass window next to us.  He looked at the the ceiling, the altar, and then he fixed his eyes on something behind the altar.  During the Second Reading, Ronan raised his arm, pointed to the Crucifix, and tried to say something.  

Did he?  No!  Did he just try to tell me that he knows that that is Jesus?  

I wouldn't know unless I asked.  Ronan has a crucifix in his room, given to him by a dear friend who we've known for-ev-ah.  We point to the crucifix when we say prayers, "Ronan, look!  It's Jesus.  You can ask Him to pray for you."  

When Ronan kept pointing and trying to say something today, I leaned over and whispered, "Jesus?  Do you see Jesus on the cross?"  


Satisfied that he heard the word he was trying to say, Ronan put his arm down and sat peacefully in the pew.  That's when I reached for his hand and held it.  We held hands for a few minutes until Ronan remembered that I'd brought a snack for him.  Having the snack helped because Ronan continued to sit happily sandwiched between me and Izzy for at least another ten minutes.  Then, Ronan indicated that he was ready to go.  

Pushing his fingers into his palm, and then slowly raising his hand and arm high above his head, his sign for "stand up", Ronan looked at me and waited.  I asked him to sign again.  He did.  

"Stand up."

So I did.  

Ronan, Izzy and I snuck to the back of the Church.  Hoping that he'd want to sit in the narthex, we walked out of the pew as the Offertory Hymn began.  Finding a comfy spot for the remaining few minutes, Ronan finished his snack, quietly watched a video on my phone, and then joined me as I received Communion.  As he's done in the past, after I receive, he says, "Yum," very clearly.  I hid a smile when I heard his sweet voice and prayed a thousand thankful prayers.  

Ronan made it through 3/4th of the way through Mass today. You better believe that we'll try to go to Mass with Ronan again next week.  

xo, Cat

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Favorite Prayer

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  Celebrated December 8th, it is a holy day of obligation for Catholics.  With hubby out of town and Ronan still not able to join us at Church, I wasn't sure which Mass I'd be able to attend.  Our parish offered 5 Mass opportunities, and thankfully, I was able to go to the Vigil Mass last night.  Not only did I get to go, but I got to go alone.  And oh, how peaceful it was!  

Usually surrounded by my children, I, of course, missed them dearly, but a sitter had them safe at home and would have them in bed before Mass was even over.  Being able to go to Mass alone, after flying solo for several days, at the start of another very busy week, and at the end of a jam-packed Monday would be an over-tired, over-worried, super busy mom's dream.  

It was.  

In that hour that it was just me, I had time to really listen, to prayerfully reflect, and to actually pray without any immediate distractions.  Sure, there were other families present, some with young children, but their busyness and their noises did not distract me as sometimes happens.  
Depending on who is with me, I can easily get distracted by my own children at Church.  Trying to shush them, trying to get them to sit still, trying to get them to stop fidgeting and to pay attention, I know that it's sometimes tough for a kid to sit and attend at Mass.  With gentle redirection, and sometimes with 'the look', I can get mine to focus better.  Last night, I didn't have to do any of that.   

As much as I missed them last night, I was thankful for the one hour that I was away.  Keeping my children and my family close in my thoughts, I prayed for them.  I asked Mary to pray for them, too.  

Today, my children woke up so excited.  It's Mary's feast day! they squealed.   She's never far from my thoughts, but I'll remember Mary all day today.  My children will as well.  They will go to Mass today and will celebrate this holy feast day with their classmates.  They will sing, pray, and honor Mother Mary.  They will enjoy special activities and each other's company on this special day and will tell me all about it when they come home.  I'll be ready to listen to their stories.  I'll be ready to look at what they made.  I'll be ready to smile at their excitement and soak in their joy as they tell me just how special Mother Mary is.  She's pretty neat, that Mary, and I'm so glad to call her Mother.  

xo, Cat 


My oldest took another amazing picture yesterday.  She edited it and then added a layer of awesome to it.  Then she said that I could use the photo for whatever I wanted!  After going to the Vigil Mass last night, I knew that I'd use the photo as a backdrop for my favorite Mary prayer, The Memorare.  

Thank you, Fin, and thank you, Mother Mary!

Sunday, December 6, 2015


The kids got a free book from one of the restaurants we frequent.  Seeing it made me smile.  

I used to play Mad Libs with my siblings when I was a child. It shouldn't surprise you that I still have one of the ones we wrote in from the mid 80s.  A few years ago, I found a jumbo-size Mad Libs book and bought it for my children.  We had lots of fun filling in the blanks.  We had even more fun reading the stories aloud to each other.  

I hadn't thought about it in awhile, but I wrote a piece a few years ago using a Mad Libs-styled theme.  I know it's not the case yet for everyone, but now, especially with how many are being recommended, when I took a step back and look at what parents are being asked to have injected into their child, it's maddening. 

I'm glad I know a little bit more about the vaccine program.  I've been able to make better decisions about vaccines now that I know what I know.  Of course, I wished I'd know more about them when my children were younger.  Maybe then I might not be so mad sometimes when I think about what happened post-vaccination.  

Since I can't go back in time and change what did happen, I can and will continue share that I think about the vaccine program.  For those new to reading what I share on the topic...I think that the program really, really ________. 

xo, Cat