Month: December 2014

My 5 Survival Tips for the Holidays

So how are you all holding up with the approach of the holidays ? Is your son/daughter excited one minute, crying the next, calm one minute, and overstimulated the next? Are you stocked up on vino and liquor like me, and have, ahem, already indulged in drinking some of it? Well, at least it’s only been the wine, but I digress. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  Ah yes, the holidays are a mixed blessing for us exceptional parents of exceptional children. We know it’s not their fault. Actually, our kids are heroes to be able to get through the holidays as well as they do, in my humble opinion. But none of this makes life any easier for us, their moms, and other family members and friends, immediate and extended. So, in honor of all of us, (kids with challenges and their parents), I have come up with my 5 Survival Tips for the holidays. I hope you enjoy them.

Joanne’s 5 Survival Tips for the Holidays:

1) Try to make sure the kids (and you, if possible), get a decent amount of sleep. There’s nothing worse than tired kids, and tired kids on the spectrum have an even harder time dealing with changes and other stressors.

2) Plan out what will happen on holiday with a visual schedule enlisting your child’s help, so they know as much as possible what is happening. Examples: toboganing,ย  library, play date at a friend’s house, movie at home with popcorn, fun center etc. This does help reduce anxiety in some kids with autism and other developmental issues. I’ve even drawn on the family calendar with stick figures for my son. Desperate times ladies…

3) Try and get away with your partner, friends, and get some alone time to regroup if things get too stressful with your child. A walk, a coffee, a glass of wine. ๐Ÿ™‚ You get the idea.

4) Don’t be afraid of hurting family and friends’ feelings if you feel your child is not up for a another set of people coming to the house or going out to another house. Their sanity (and as a result, yours,) come first.

5) This is a hard one for me but I’m learning: Sometimes you screw up big time. Everyone has a tantrum, (and Mom’s is the biggest), and the day is ruined. I’ve learned the best thing to do is go somewhere quiet, have a good cry, (in my case), calm down, and then go back and face the music with apologies and a promise to learn from my mistakes, which I am doing.

Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy and, as much as possible for us and our kids, relaxed holiday!

The Annual Holiday Concert and My 5 Tips to Re-Energize Myself

Every year my son’s adapted school puts on the annual holiday concert. There are many things that are beautiful about it, from the many holiday songs, religious and secular, to the combination of singing and sometimes dancing, to the beautiful sets that take time and lots of creativity to produce. Each year, I make sure to have lots of Kleenex with me for the performance that the primary team (young elementary school kids), have been practicing weeks for. This year, the magic was no different. It was you could say, the start of my own holiday spirit. Hearing the kids belting out old classic Christmas carols was nothing short but phenomenal, especially since most of these children with special needs have trouble communicating period. But as his Mom, what stood out the most for me, of course, was Michael singing. This year he sang his little heart out over the microphone. The whole gym could hear him loud and clear singing “You’d Better Watch Out” and “Frosty the Snowman”. Teachers and friends came up afterward to comment and say what a great voice he had. I thought to myself, “look how confident he is up on stage. He has really come into his own. And I need to continue to encourage that.” I really believe he was born to be a performer, and channeled in the right direction, will do great things with this gift. But, I also realized that by believing in him, I have to continue believing in myself and my abilities and strengths, and mirror that to my son. We all have gifts and talents to bring to the world. And we only feel truly alive when we do that. Sagging energy levels can take that away though, especially at this time of year with viruses, other holiday stresses, and the dark short days. What are your re-energizing tips to stay in balance for you and your family? Below are my 5 (and sometimes a 6th is added in, i.e. early afternoon power nap when I can manage it. ๐Ÿ™‚

5 Tips to Re-Energize Myself:

1) Yoga and Meditation-20 to 30 minutes in the am. My favorite site is that a fellow friend, yoga teacher and special needs Mom told me about, but there are tons on You Tube. Check em out!

2) Zumba or a brisk walk outside (preferably morning for me, but sometimes right before the bus brings him home at 3:30 works too!)

3) Writing and journaling either through poetry or just writing down what you’re grateful for in that moment. Take five minutes a day and you’ll see the difference in your mood by the end of the week!

4) Curling up with a good magazine-I love Oprah’s O, Today’s Parent, a literary magazine, or a great nonfiction or fiction book, and a coffee or wine (or sometimes tea) and taking a half hour off.

5) Listening to relaxation or jazz music or singing while I do the mundane household chores. It sparks my creativity and usually I end up writing a slew of poems or working on another writing piece.

Whatever it is that charges you up, it’s important you take care of yourself in this way. A strong Mom is a strong child and family. Iย  And you want to send that message of love, hope and strength to your child and extended family. It’s only by living a whole live that you’re truly living, after all.

Until next time…

2 Inspirational Poems to Help In Re-Energizing Your Body, Mind and Soul


Why Inspiration is More Effective than Motivation; What Great Leaders ...of my favourite Inspirational Quotes . I love collecting Inspirational ...

Hi again Moms,

While doing the supper dishes tonight, my brain went into its usual free fall. I began thinking of my last post about things I do to re-energize and re-generate me. The 5 points were all valid, but I had forgotten to add that I absolutely LOVE inspirational sayings and poems. My house is literally abloom with them! Two of my favorites are the following. The first is a poem that Oprah loves and recommends all of us women especially put up on our bathroom walls to read first thing in the am. It truly has and continues to inspire me. The second one is a poem that Michael received in his catechism classes. It is up in my kitchen over my sink. Every time I am doing dishes I can read the beautiful words that remind me what I want myself and my family to stand for. Enjoy ladies, and remember, when love and joy are in everything you do, happiness and balance follow.

“Love After Love”


The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved youall your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott


“In This Home”


We BELIEVE in living deeply,
Laughing often and loving
We BELIEVE we were
Brought together
To support and care for each other
We BELIEVE in celebrating
Our faith, our heritage,
Our traditions
We BELIEVE that everyone’s
Feelings count,
And that the uniqueness of
Each of us
Strengthens all of us
In the power of forgiveness to
And the power of love
To carry us through.
We BELIEVE in one another,
In this family
In this HOME
Author Unknown
inspiration photo: inspiration 11.jpg

4 Things I Now Do To Simplify Christmas Decorating

There we were last weekend getting up all the decorations, the tree and in general getting ready for my favorite time of year, Christmas. It is with mixed feelings that I do this though, as for my son Michael, it is a sometimes stressful, confusing time of year. Autism makes changes in routine and lots of people visiting a challenging thing to deal with for him.ย  He loves and gets the whole Santa and presents thing, and even participates in our Catholic Traditions. As a matter of fact, he loves the manger figures and painstakingly places them in the manger until they are just so. This year he put them in a several huddles like they were having separate conversations at a party! I had to set him straight that we put Baby Jesus in the center and everyone around Him. It went relatively well. Very little power struggle over where things go, unlike other years. There is a maturity about him now which is beautiful to see.

I think the reason is that after almost four years of letting him help in putting up decorations and trees, (yes, he has his own tree in the basement/play room too), I have let go of a lot of my Type A stuff. I have learned to let it go (Please no Frozen singing). That is, I have learned to let go of my preconceptions of what the holidays are supposed to encompass, how we should behave, what should happen.Don’t we all make this mistake particularly with kids with autism? We want everything to unfold perfectly, and we dread when the family members will make the inevitable comment about our youngsters. I’m sure we’ve all been there done that, and want different things this holiday season, right? If you are in agreement, let me know.

4 Things I Now Do To Simplify Christmas Decorating:

1) Breathe and enjoy the moment with your son and husband no matter WHAT happens. (with and without alcohol, preferably without or I won’t feel too good about myself being balanced and all)

2) If they don’t want carols in the background, (husband and son) don’t fight it. Something beautiful like Michael singing carols with me a capella could happen! True story and we sounded pretty darn good if I did say so myself.

3) Let everyone have a say where things go. (I tended to be a bit of a control freak with this in the past, strange but true. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

4) Hot chocolate all around when the job was finished. (The Amaretto shots my husband and I used to have after finishing the decorating in the evening were fun prior to having a child, but at two o’clock in the afternoon when we now put up the tree and decorations, something non-alcoholic is preferable and reasonable with a small child around. Though there were times in the last four years… oh, never mind.

Now this non alcoholic drink thing does not pertain to Christmas Eve however. ๐Ÿ™‚ But that’s a whole other story Moms! Until next time…:)

Remembering back one year – From Depression to Exhilaration: My 5 Survival Tips for Special Needs Moms

Almost a year ago today, I was on a very different journey. I was starting back into the work world in the new year (Jan. 2014), in a field where I was to be working as a therapist with young children with autism. I had the dream of doing that while building this blog,ย  writing my autism book, and hopefully reaching a community of strong mothers who were there to support each other online as I have found at my Coffee Break Support Group in my local community. Only, the dream was never fully realized because I was out of whack with my reality, who I really was, and with asking for help. That last one was something short of a crime for me to do. So I found myself a few short months later suffering from a burnout and depression so severe, that family and friends were deeply worried about me, my son and my husband.ย  I recognized mid way through the spring that I needed help. When I fully recovered in the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to thank God for having gone through that burnout and depression. It has opened up my eyes to what I needed to change in order to be the exceptional parent and human being that my son Michael needed to guide him in this world and teach him to be a self sufficient contributing member of society, and most importantly, to be happy and healthy himself. I want to share the invaluable advice and tools I received from some wonderful women, my extended family I call them, as well as my immediate family, who helped save me from myself and make me finally be the person I was meant to be. I hope this blog can help other Moms of special needs children know that they are not alone in their moments of agony, and that helping yourself is the best way to help your child and to life the fullest life possible. Life is a journey, and life with a child with autism is a more complex and exciting journey. There is no handbook, so we need to live in the moment, and go with our gut. Here’s to all of us!

5 Tools I Use Daily to Stay in Balance (and they work!)

1) Meditation and yoga first thing in the morning (or as early in the day as possible)-a good friend, who is a yoga instructor and special needs Mom herself, runs a class for special needs Moms, and it is about being our best in the moment, living each moment being fully aware, and accepting our bodies and ourselves for who we are. She taught me to be me, not someone else.

2) Aerobic workoutsย  ideally 3 times a week or Zumba. I thank one of my sister-in-laws for sharing her love of this dancing with me. I am addicted and love this form of dance/exercise now!

3) Praying and Writing:ย  This is my salvation. A short prayer in the morning is my ‘Gratitude Journal.’ Those not comfortable praying could try a gratitude journal. We all have something to be grateful for. Start with “I’m glad to have woken up today.” And writing is my cheap therapy and my vessel to express myself, especially poetry. Man, the poems I have written since autism came into our lives! It could fill a book, oh wait, it has! Now it’s up to me to get it out there! “:)

4) Self-Compassion Exercises: Here I must thank a wonderful counselor I saw during my burnout/depression.ย  She got me to see how I had to really love myself before anything else, and how low I put myself on the totem pole. Once I stopped doing that, my power came back!ย

5) Time with Friends: Girls nights, girls lunches, underwear shopping: All my friends know who they are and how being with them reminds me I am a full woman and human being. That is the person Michael, my son, needs to be at this side. Not the exhausted, martyr, ‘autism expert/therapist’ I was trying to be and failing miserably at. When I started being his mother again, I was able to pick up from where we had left off. Now our relationship is better than ever.

I will be sharing more information of this kind with you in future blogs, as well as great resource sites I have learned about that have helped me. I recently read some terrific motivational books. Help is out there for us Moms. Don’t be afraid to take the first step. You and your child are worth it!

Soon to Be Mommy Writer- 3 Important Life Lessons I Learned Since Becoming A Mom


Ah, the words are flowing from my hands on to the screen (or not), as I enjoy my last few days of working on my novel before Michael was born. This picture was taken almost 8 years ago.There he is, the little hill that is my belly! How life changed a few weeks later. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  I came across this picture today, and it brought back so many memories. Mainly though, it has reminded me about 3 important life lessons that I have learned since becoming a Mom:

1) Take the the time to enjoy your ‘free time’ when you can, savor that cup of coffee slowly, listen to that song you love, meditate, do yoga, stretch.

2) Finish that magazine article in the toilet (hey, that’s how I finish most of my parenting magazines .It’s the only place where there is a lock on the door! ) ๐Ÿ™‚

3) Don’t be afraid to have a dream. Mine is for all my novels to be bestselling novels, and that dream is what gets me through the tough days I have with Michael.

Music and the Family Connection: Michael and I Bonding In the Car

Did you ever have a great moment with your special needs child, one that showed you that they will be ok one day, that they will be able to find their way in the world just fine? I’ve been having lots of them with my son Michael lately, despite the intense anxiety, he is constantly balancing in his brain and fighting to control in his life. His need to be in charge of EVERYTHING, from opening doors, to where we drive, to planning out where we will go or what we will do in the evenings after school, or weekends at home.ย  And often if things don’t go the way he thinks they should, there are tears, anger and head hitting, as you all know. It is stressful, to be sure, but yet I see his independence coming through and that gives me hope. I also see his sparks of creativity. Do you other Moms out there see a lot of creativity with your kids around music? Among my friends, a few of their sons are tinkering on the piano, love to sing and dance. It seems to transport them, like us, to another world, another dimension where stress is no longer top priority

Tonight, Michael and I were driving home from the local bookstore, after buying one of his friends a birthday present.ย  Yes, Michael had to pick it out, then give the credit card to the cashier, then tried to sneak in an Olaf stuffed animal with this purchase, but that’s another story. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, on the way there and home, we now listen to CDs specifically mine or my husband’s. We have listened to different genres, as our family has eclectic tastes, anything from classical, rock, R &B, to jazz, to pop. Yes, when I say eclectic I mean eclectic. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am SO HAPPY that we are through with children’s CDs, specifically Barney songs, which we had to listen to for years on end as you know, our kids like repetition, right Moms? ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, today he selected some Gospel Music, one of my favorites, a capella recordings by the Montreal Jubilation Choirย  I was so happy as it is soothing, and we’ve been having some issues with anxiety at church lately. On top of him enjoying the music and asking with interest “are they singing about God, Mommy?” the music also sparked discussion about his great grandmother Anna, my grandmother who was a very religious woman. Did I mention Michael also loves family history and stories? So, on this particular car ride, his insistence on giving minute by minute directions, inquiring what we would do when we got home, and other anxiety type reactions, was put aside to listen to music with his mother. We had a beautiful conversation about his great grandmother. He even wanted to see a picture of her which I showed him! Now he wants to see more ! I think this is the beginning of something special, and I can’t wait to see where this is going.