I love me some crazy Christmas lights.

We had a fabulous Christmas. Really. One for the record books.

Billy got it. All of it. And he LOVED it. The Christmas tree, the ornaments, the lights and the Santa business. He didn't get upset by present-opening, and we, in return, learned to let him pace himself.

I tell you this not to rub your nose in it if your holiday wasn't great. And I know it wasn't for some of you, because I heard from you, commiserated with you. I so relate to you. We had three Christmases in a row that were pretty much non-stop screaming.

But I want you to know it can get better. Maybe Christmas isn't your holiday. It might NEVER be your kid's favorite. For all we know, this may be the last one Billy enjoys -- though I hope not. The biggest lesson I learned this year is not to be afraid to give it another try.

I was. I started out with such low expectations I almost ruined it for everyone. And as usual, my special guy showed me that life on the spectrum is full of surprises ...






Billy runs in, tosses his backpack on the floor and points at the dark Christmas tree.


BILLY: Plug it in! (He wants the lights turned on at 3 in the afternoon.)


ME: Billy, we don't just shout orders at people. If we want someone to do something, what is the magic word?


(Billy stares at me, thinking.)


ME: What is the magic word?


(He's still thinking.)


ME: (trying to hint) P-p-p .... Plllllll-- ....


(Billy's face lights up!)




I plugged it in. He gets points for creativity.

And I continued to "plug" all day, every day. I put my cost-conscious and energy-saving, environmental concerns behind my kids' enjoyment of bright Christmas lights.

It was worth every penny.

I know I'm kind lame, only writing this much after such a long hiatus, but I have SO MUCH good stuff to share that I'm going to evilly stretch it out over the next few weeks like the Grinch I am. Tomorrow I'm including the scoop on our trip to Disney and why you should NEVER go there with an autistic child on New Year's Eve. Most of the trip, though was awesome ...

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Welcome back, Proudfoot!

By all means, feel free to brag on those rare occasions where things go well! I'm enjoying your stories about your trip to the magic kingdom, as well.

Welcome Back...Happy 2011!

Hi Amanda:

Welcome back to Blogland...we missed you! Happy you had a good Christmas! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures!


Glad you Had a Great Christmas!

I hope all the Christmases in the future will be as special!


That's funny!

Hello again!

Hello you! Great to be back here, reading your lovely blog. Glad you had a good Christmas with your family, and I look forward to reading about the holidays. I love the new magic word. :-)
Hugs from London
Sunshine xx

So much has happened!

So much in the blog world has changed and so many exciting things have happened while you were gone! Nope. Not at all. It is good to hear from you again.

I can't believe you put your the health of our planet at risk just so your son could have lights.

Just kidding :) Of course you did! It's so worth letting him have some joy and experience that. I love that he gets it now. It's so good to have you back!

Lights were huge for Brian too- every morning he would come downstairs and plug the Christmas tree in. If he came home after school and found it had been unplugged it would be the first thing he would do. It was kind of a fun year with him- he was into decorating and he "talked" to my Dad on the phone about it "tree, tree, tree" :)

Total 17 comments


I realize I went radio silent sort of suddenly, and despite my last post about being inundated with actual paying work, I've received a few emails from concerned reader, wondering what has happened to me and my family. One email included a reference to “I know you've been having some problems...”

Really?! Are you talking about the nail biting – cause I do that even when I'm feeling stable, happy and fulfilled. Or my inability to carry on coherent phone conversations? Maybe my rant about Denis Leary was more vitriolic than usual – but I actually wrote that months ago.

Trust me: I'm OK. We're OK. Believe it or not (and sometimes when I'm blogging a lot, I find it hard to believe), we continue to exist and function whether I write about us or not. I've been working; Dave's been out of town or a week, and I'm still finding the balance between motherhood and work and blogging and getting the dishwasher loaded occasionally. But we're starting to settle into a good routine again ... just in time for Christmas break to throw everything out of kilter.

Here are a couple of highlights from the last couple of weeks:


All he needs are a pair of Ray-bans and a motorcycle.

Walking to school

We've had sub-freezing temperatures on and off for a couple of weeks now. Billy is fascinated beyond belief by the fact that our breath in the cold air creates “smoke.” He likes to see me do it, because he can see my breath better than his own.

Billy: Mama make smoke.

(I dutifully blow a puff of cold air and Billy dissolves into giggles.)

Billy: Mama make smoke.

(And again.)

Billy: Mama make smoke.


Billy: Mama make ... fire!


She's actually taking the ornaments OFF the tree in this picture.

It's beginning to look a lot like ...

The last few years I have battled Billy over the Christmas tree from the moment it goes up to the moment he finally manages to pull it over on top of himself. Ornaments get broken. He nearly chokes himself with garland. And he once pulled the Christmas stockings off the fireplace and wore them on his feet out into the yard.

Anyway, long story short, this year I gave up. No ornaments on the tree. Just a pre-lit tree in the corner. Looked kinda pretty, actually.

Of course, this is the year Billy FINALLY “gets” Christmas. He talks about Santa and tells me every morning that our “stockings are hung by the chimney with care.” When he gets home from school, he lies on the floor under the tree just staring up at it.

One afternoon, I was watching him watching the tree ...


In all it's beautiful, half-decorated, lopsided glory.

I asked him, "Billy, what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas this year? Would you like a toy? Or some books?"

There was a long silence, and I really didn't think he was going to answer me. Then his jaw started working and I knew he was trying to get something out. Next comes the blinky-eye movements and lots of enthusiastic pointing before he finally gets out, “MAMA ... can I ... have some ... ORNAMENTS...PLEASE?”

Needless to say, I brought out every Christmas ornament I could drag out of the attic and we covered the tree with them. We broke some, played with some, flushed one down the toilet, but if all he got out of it was one happy afternoon decorating the tree, that experience is priceless to me.

Hope you and yours are making beautiful memories this holiday season.

Reader Comments

I may be in withdrawal!

I miss your posts and I was just thinking about you guys! Hope you had a very merry Christmas and that things are going well for you and your adorable family. =)

Finding a balance is hard....really hard. That's one I work on, or need to work on, often.

How cool is it that Billy 'got' Christmas?!!! :> And I think 'a happy afternoon' is always a fantastic thing.

Pre Christmas isn't usually our challenge, but every year I watch and wonder when will we reach the tipping point. You know, when the noise gets to be too much, the anxiety & anticipation for the day, or just the general excited energy running through the people and the room. And I think this is the first year that there wasn't a landside or avalanche. There were less of us this year and I'm sure that contributed to the success. Whatever the reason, I'm thrilled for it and am just relishing it. :>

Merry Christmas!

Flushed one down the toilet

Dude. That is very very funny. My daughter said she wanted to be Santa this year. Sure, child, I thought. The beard alone would send you into a sensory fit. But seriously? Glad all is well. We're having a beautiful Christmas week of stomach flu. VERY. slow. week. Lots of opportunity for re-decorating the tree like your little one above :)

Have a wonderful Christmas, my friend!

What? You continue to exist even when not writing your blog?

I assumed that when you weren't writing that you did cease to exist! Actually, I pictured you feverishly working on some amazing novel or something. Now I'm kinda disappointed!

My guy LOVES the smoke thing too! How funny.

Christmas in Autism-Town is a Wonderful Thing

How funny! He wants ornaments! That's the way it goes...just when you are resigned to a change to suit your child's needs. I actually DETEST christmas because of how obsessive my son gets over presents, food, the mess, sensory overstimulation...the works. Hope you and your family have a happy holiday!


There is NO SHAME in a teeny tiny brake from reality.... :)

Hey, I just gave you an award! Come on over to my blog to claim it!

Happy Holidays

So glad you are surviving over there. I'm right there with you sister — buried in freelance ... PLUMBING freelance! Ugh! Love the pictures of your kids & the tree ... they are just adorable. I figure when I'm about 75, I'll have a glamorous tree (after the grandkids are older you know!) Btw, congrats on winning the Nigerian lottery. I won last month!

Total 17 comments


I'll leave it to you to decide which of us Amandas is the most amazing conversationalist.

I'm not a chatter. I find it extremely difficult and awkward to sustain conversation without a specific goal in mind.

For instance, this is what I consider a successful conversation...

Me: What time is dinner?

Somebody: Seven o' clock.

Me: Thanks!

By contrast, this kind of conversation is a challenge ...

Somebody: Hi! I haven't seen you in sooooo long! How ARE you?

Me: Umm. Great. Or OK. OK, yeah. Do you mean today or in general?

Somebody: Today ... I guess.

Me: Today I'm ... uh, really stressed actually. Billy has therapy and I have three freelance assignment due this week and I think Willow may have an ear infection.

Somebody: Well ... that sounds .... GREAT TO SEE YOU! (scurries away)

OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. I have no problem talking with my family or close friends. But outside that very limited circle, I get nervous and I either talk too much or too little and no matter how innocuous the conversation, I replay it over and over again in my head later and analyze just how stupid I sounded and how much the person in question is probably currently making fun of me to lots of other people that we both know.

Did you ever see the movie Trainspotting? You know the scene where the guy goes to a job interview on speed? That's me at any given party setting without any chemical enhancements. Either I'm maniacally over-talkative, or I spend most of the night in the bathroom, texting people.

The telephone is the worst. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have an actual phobia of talking on the phone. I truly truly hate it and will avoid talking on it at all costs. Love email. Love texting – now that I've figured out how to do it. Even like Skyping, because I can see people's faces and don't have to wonder whether or not they're rolling their eyes or frowning in confusion as we talk.

My idea of a SUCCESSFUL phone conversation...

Dominoes guy: Dominoes! Hello, Mr. Broadfoot (they see David's name on their caller ID).

Me: Large Supreme pizza, please.

Dominoes guy: We have a special--


Dominoes guy: Are you still at 18--

Me: YES! (hang up)

I know that I'm unlikely to screw up a phone conversation with the Dominoes guy. Anything more open-ended will probably involve lots of awkward silences until one or the other of us claims to smell something burning in order to end it.

All of this does, believe it or not, have a point. As the mother of an autistic child (who was clearly genetically predisposed to have some social communication challenges), I've had to learn to narrate my life. All Billy's speech therapists and teachers tell us that it's important to talk to Billy ALL THE TIME about what's going on in his world all around us: as we drive in the car, as we walk to school, as we play and eat and bathe and --

That is just not me. Until I had kids, I spent most of my day in complete peaceful silence. One thing that makes Dave and I perfect for each other is that we have easy silences. And when we do talk, it's about something: the kids, politics, literature, how much bread and beer we have left. Important stuff.

On the walk to school, for instance: When Dave walks him to school, it's apparently a non-stop adventure. They look out for quicksand and climb the “highest hill” (a slight bump on the sidewalk) and barely escape the Jungle of Prickles (someone's overgrown yard).

When it's my turn, I really try. But you know it's bad when my autistic son is much better at suggesting conversation topics than I am. I mostly just warn him, agree and point at things.


Me: Billy, look both ways before crossing the street.

Billy: Look out! It's the Jungle of Prickles!

Me: A jungle? Where? (Spotting neighbor glaring at us from overgrown yard.) Oh, well, maybe they haven't had a chance to mow their lawn recently.

Billy: We made it! Over the highest hill!

Me: Watch your step--

Billy: It's nice to see Christmas.

Me: Yes! It IS nice to see Christmas decorations every there. Look! They have a ... plastic baby Jesus in their yard. Sleeping in a magazine rack. And he lights up.

Billy: It's Joseph. And Mary. Mary cuts your hair!

Me: Argh.

But I'm trying. If I'm going to ask my son to step outside his comfort zone every day, to make eye contact, to smile, to greet people, I can at least make an effort to be slightly more interesting to a four-year-old.

Reader Comments

What is wrong with you people?!?!

Everybody just wrote paragraphs about how they hate chit chat....I don't believe it for a second! I can talk your ear off about anything, but it doesn't mean that I like the whole "narrating your every move" thing that we are supposed to do. That's what the TV is for. JK...sheesh.

Saying hi from SITS. Love this post. I have a son with Asperger's and I have a similar phone phobia to you. Love talking and communicating but the phone is not my favorite. As for the kid, he's either extremely verbal, or not at all. We do a lot of verbal coaching to teach him social cues that are obvious to us but not to him. I can so empathize with your situation. Love that you can blog and laugh about it!

Can I Join The "Challenged at Small Talk" Club Too?

I'm a much better writer than I am a talker (go figure, for someone who took the Broadcast Journalism course in college - maybe I just need to have everything I say scripted!).

I'm hopeless in the school yard...I'm older than most of the other moms, and I don't have much in common with any of them!

I have to talk to people who come into the store though, which I find fairly easy...I usually ask them where they're from and what kind of books they like to read...

I hate the phone...I never call anybody without a reason...I don't understand people who call "just to talk"!


Me too! Me too!

This is just a fabulous post. I can relate to so much of it! Honestly, I think the telephone is the devil. I avoid it at all cost, and when I absolutely HAVE to use it, I get so nervous I just talk over the other person, until we're both saying, "What? What did you say? No, I'm sorry, YOU go first." And then I hang up feeling as though I've just run the gauntlet of my own idiocy.

And in-person conversations? I can't hold up my end of it. Usually, I just turn the tables on the other person, like this:

Person: Well, hey, Maura, how are you?
Me: [Looking like a deer in headlights] How are YOU?
Person: I'm great. Been busy. Good to see you. How are the boys?
Me: [Fidgeting nervously] How's YOUR family?

It's awful. So embarrassing.

I wonder if that's why we've turned to writing. It's our own space to fashion our words exactly the way we want them, no matter how long it takes.

I have a feeling you're better at explaining the world to Billy than you suspect. Because lord knows you can write it!

Talking sucks

I'm trying to earn my bread working as a stock broker. Last year, at the "client" Christmas party, I told a poor unsuspecting client the exciting story of getting a pet fish for my two boys. The poor guy smiled and nodded politely, bless him. I don't think I'm going to make it in this biz.

Loved Trainspotting, too. I have a feeling my boys will love trainspotting, too, but in a more literal sense :(

sure you don't have ADD like me? =)

That sounds exactly like me! =) EVERY... LAST... BIT! Especially the phone thing. ugh. Actually I don't even think I can say especially that. It's all equally bad for me! =) Glad to hear I'm not alone. I had to go to some spouses' function for my husband's squadron, and it was miserable!!!! I never seem to realize what's appropriate to conversate about. So it's much better talking to family and close friends- because nothing's off limits! =)

You've described me to a T!

I've always earned high scores on tests of verbal skills. Not bragging, just stating a fact. It's people I don't get. Why do they insist on talking when they have nothing to say? Why are they always asking questions, but getting offended if you answer honestly? What do they want from me? Why can't they just leave me alone?

I am so with you

Man, can I relate. Online, I am chatty, quick on my feet and full of witty banter. In person, I stammer. My attempts at small talk are painful, and I don't like to make eye contact. I like your point about keeping these things in mind when it comes to our kids on the spectrum. Good post!

Total 15 comments

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