Monday, April 8, 2013

Celebrating my name in print: Chicken Soup for the Soul, autism-style

It was a crisp winter day in upstate New York, and I emerged from my salon feeling like a new woman. I was as close to looking like a supermodel as I was going to get, and I yearned for a destination. I needed somewhere to go, somewhere to swoosh my hair and to walk with a spring in my step.  After all, I'd just had two hours out of my house.

Away from my kids.


I listened to hip music.

I drank a cocktail.


I wore high heel shoes.

Suffice it to say, I was feeling anything but a special needs mom, and it was simply wonderful!!!

I unlocked my car door, slipped into the driver's seat and simply sat. The keys to the car remained in my lap, and I drank in the silence. Oh, how I longed to go somewhere, anywhere; however, I simply couldn't. My time was up. I was expected at home.  Who knew what condition that house would be in when I returned?!

Just then, my phone sounded. I had received a text from home which read, "There is a large box waiting here for you from the publishers of Chicken Soup for the Soul."


The advance copies of the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum had arrived!!!  Suddenly, there was nowhere I wanted to be that moment other than in my home, and I raced there with great anticipation.  You can sure bet I had that spring in my step as I approached my house and placed my hand on that doorknob to our kitchen door. Turning the knob, I flung open that door and bound into the house, ready to tear into that box and celebrate this long-awaited day--the day I would first see my name in print!

But, it didn't happen that way at all.

I opened the door and was assaulted by the sound of my older son screaming in pain and anger from the downstairs bathroom. Our younger son was acting like a spastic animal playfully beating on a respite worker, and, somewhere in this auditory chaos I could also hear sounds of frustration from my husband, who was trying to work with our older son, who is notorious for withholding his bowel movements.

Bye-bye newly minted author. So long supermodel. Hello special needs mom.

I figured the respite worker could hold his own with our younger son, so I charged to the bathroom to find our older son naked and hovering over the toilet. Daddy needed a break--believe me, we all do at one point or another. I tagged him out, bent to my knees in order to be on eye level with our son so that I could better communicate with him. As soon as I did, I felt something squish between my bare toes.

Mama had knelt into a pile of poo that was now on the knees of my (dry clean only) pants--pants that only supermodels wear on salon days.  Said poo was now globbed in a mess that ran from my knee down to the tips of my feet. Super! Just super!  I'll also add that once the damage was done, I didn't scream or get up. That's the hallmark of parenting special needs style. Yep. I stayed in the pile of poo to attend to our child, who was still hovering over the toilet and screaming.   Happy Advance Book Day to me!

Turning my attention to our older son, I saw that the pile of poo had apparently traveled because he seemed to have sat in it. Our naked child had it all over his bum and legs. In fact, he, too, had stepped in it. Good gracious, if the toileting job had not been completed by this point, it wasn't about to be from where things stood. I decided clean us both and abandon the effort.  Toileting is a tough process lately in this house. I judged no one, but I also knew a failed situation when I saw one. Time to move forward.

"It's okay, Buddy," I soothed him.  "This whole thing was a disaster, wasn't it?" I hoped that the tone of my voice would calm him, but it didn't. As soon as he was clean. He stormed out of that bathroom, crying, and began to pace around the downstairs indignantly.

I remained behind with all the bleach products I could gather.

Once I had finished cleaning, I walked out of the bathroom, smelling of bleached hands, soapy feet and poo-stained knees.  Our older son was pacing and screaming, pacing and screaming. Was something more bothering him than a bruised ego? Was he in pain? I studied him.

"Don't worry about him," my husband told me. "Let the respite worker deal with it for the moment. Let's look at your books."

The books! Yes! Let's celebrate the books!!! We walked into the kitchen, and I heard, "Mama? Can you make me some food?" Ugh. Our younger son's medication had him always thinking of food. What could I fix him that was healthy? What could I make?

"Not now," my husband said to him. His voice interrupted my thoughts.  "Mom's books are here."

"Her books are here?!" our younger son asked. "I want to see! I want to see! I wanttoseeIwanttoseeIwanttoseeIwanttosee!!!"

He was all hands. Having no concept of personal space, he was up in my space grabbing where I grabbed, spewing words up my nose as loudly as he could. All the while, in the background, our older son cried and paced, cried and paced.

I finally released the packing tape on the outside of the box and found my way to the stack of books inside.  Our younger son reached for his first, but then my fingers touched one of my own. They were simply beautiful.

"Where's your name? How do you spell your name? I don't see it? Where is it? Where can I find it? Where? Where? Where?" our younger son was screaming below me. My husband worked with him while I opened to the Table of Contents.

However, before I found them, our younger son grabbed the book from my hands and asked to see the name of my entries. I smiled and decided to give into his excitement. There would be time for quiet contemplation later.

"Let's take pictures!" my husband suggested.

Oh my, I thought, remembering what I had been doing just minutes before. Yet beside me, our younger son was already posing and saying, "Cheese." Sigh. I asked my husband to please take pictures from the waist up.

So, here we are, our younger son and his mom with poo on her pants. With imagination, one can hear the sounds of our older son, pacing and screaming in the room to the left, angry about a failed toileting session.  It was a celebration special needs style, 'cause we don't roll any other way.


  1. I can almost imagine the whole day. Supermodel to special needs mom in a flash with celebrated PUBLISHED author squeezed in. Please your amazing and gigantic heart for all you give. I'm speaking of the children and all of us who read and who love all of you.

    Celebrate in each quiet moment my friend because you have accomplished a feat so many thousand writers have never and will never achieve.

    Be proud. Be satisfied. Be grateful. Be you.

    1. Thank you, dear Jo. I will be me in poo-stained pants because that is all I know how to be!

  2. ..."but then my fingers touched one of my own. They were simply beautiful"... THIS is where my tears started on this one. I swear, I've cried more about your books than I did mine! I'm still glad you had your moment earlier - salon, music, cocktail and high heel shoes. But the HEART of this writing is what you opened the door to when you got home and the grace and love you handle it with.

    Carry on and please do continue to bring the rest of us along on the journey to learn, to share and to lend support in any way we can.

    1. My gosh, Amy, cry about this because YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!!!! I tell anyone who will listen to this beautiful story. I was a mom in a cave. Thank you for believing in me.

  3. I've seen that picture, but from now on, when I see it, I'll know its little secret. :O)

    I'm so dazzlingly proud of you, Amy. For the book, yes. And for so many other reasons, too.

  4. Amy, this story is exactly what makes you so amazing. You write with such honesty and compassion that we feel like we are part of the family living right along with you. We feel the love and gentleness with which you handle each situation, no matter how chaotic. Your boys are so blessed to have you as a mother, just as we are all blessed to call you friend. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  5. Wow! What a life you have. Poo on knees or not, you are absolutely gorgeous. I hope the kids sleep well and give you a chance to enjoy your published story.