Teaching Each Other Who We Are

Every traffic light was red. We got to martial arts late.

Riley maintained calm. She walked in. Ran to the bathroom to wash her hands(she’d had a snack in the car), then joined the class in progress. This was big, as being late is a trigger for her.

It was a substitute teacher. He does things differently. He is a wonderful person, but he does things differently.

Riley maintained calm.

She did 100 sit ups for the first time ever! No one holding her feet. 

But he does things differently.

Three fourths of the way into class, she lost it. He had the kids do a drill, and it got kind of loud, and chaotic and she ran screaming from the room and into the teacher’s office. Her blood curdling screams went on and on. I followed her and closed the door. Usually if she’s that far gone, it’s all over.

She threw herself on the office sofa, still screaming. Sitting down I pulled her close and held her tight.

This time I didn’t tell her,

“Stop screaming.”

I didn’t tell her,

“You are disrupting the class.”

I didn’t tell her,

“You need to get it together.”

I didn’t put my hand over her mouth as I’ve been prone to do in public places.

This time I said,

“Mr. S. does things differently.” My sentence hung in the air a while.

She sucked in her breath and the screams became whimpers.

I said, “It can be confusing sometimes with a different teacher.”

Riley turned to me and buried her head into my neck.

Stroking her arm, I began to speak in my softest whisper, what we’ve practiced in mediation. 

“Riley. There is a part of you that is bigger than this physical body sitting here on the couch with me. This larger part of you is not separate from you, but part of you. It is always there. Part of you came here, in this body, to help expand All That Is. You, and everyone you meet, are extentions of God. You are a very important person! Your Higher Self is so grateful to you for being here. You are doing such good work. Your Higher Self knows how strong and brave you are. Your Higher Self, this part of you, is always calm. Always knows what to do. You can always turn to It. It is pure Love. It is where you came from, and where you will return to. It is always with you, always loving you, always there to show you the way.”   

We sat in silence for a while. I felt her body slowly let go of the tension. Then she was ready.

She returned to class and finished it successfully.

My daughter and me. 

Teaching each other who we are.

First Grade Sleep Competition

HT accompanied Seth’s class on a field trip today. There was cow milking and ice cream making. It was a fall festival type of thing.

The kids were out in the fresh air all day. They ate bagged lunches.

On the bus ride back to school, one of the first grade teachers raised his hand to get the attention of the children, and whispered out of the side of his mouth to HT, “Watch this. They’ll all be asleep in five minutes.”

Todd didn’t believe him.

“Okay, listen up. We’re going to play a game. Whoever falls asleep first wins! Everyone close your eyes, and no peeking, because if you open your eyes you don’t win. Ready, go!”

Todd said every single kid on that bus, (about 40 of them) fell asleep, and stayed asleep the whole quiet 30 minute ride back to school.

Competitive little bunch.

The teachers had to shake some of them awake to get them off the bus.    

Everybody won.

DVD Helps People With Asperger’s Find and Keep a Job

For those who might be interested:

 We purchased a video from this company about social skills/manners and it was nicely done. I will be ordering this one as well.

For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 29, 2009
WINSTON-SALEM, NC — Employees who have Asperger Syndrome describe secrets for getting and keeping a job in a new DVD titled, “Asperger Syndrome At Work.”
The DVD, produced by Coulter Video, includes two programs: one for job seekers and one designed to show potential employers the advantages of hiring people who have Asperger Syndrome.
People with Asperger Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, tend to have normal to superior intelligence and often have special interests and abilities.  However, they also tend to be socially awkward and have some odd behaviors, which can be obstacles to steady employment.
In both programs on the DVD, six employees with Asperger Syndrome and their supervisors, coworkers, and job coaches describe the ways the employees used their strengths and reasonable accommodations provided by employers to become valued, productive job holders.  The job seeker program concludes with a demonstration of how to interview for a job.
The DVD’s bonus features include a summary/review of the recommendations in the job seeker program and an interview with the video’s producer, Dan Coulter, looking back on his career in light of recently being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome himself.
Here’s what experts in Asperger Syndrome and autism are saying about the new DVD:
“Superb! I love the straightforward and practical presentations for job-seekers and for employers.”
Teresa Bolick, Ph.D., Psychologist and Author
“…provides both practical suggestions and an important personal perspective on the critical topic of work.”
Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., Director, Indiana Resource Center for Autism
“…a wonderful look at Supported Employment and all aspects of it for people with ASD.”
Gary Mesibov Ph.D., Professor and Director – Division TEACCH of North Carolina
“…strategies for dealing with all kinds of workplace challenges…an information-packed look at the valuable contribution that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome make in the workplace.”
Barbara Bissonnette, Principal – Forward Motion Coaching
The “Asperger Syndrome At Work” DVD can be purchased on the Coulter Video website:
www.coultervideo.com for $39.99 plus shipping and handling.  Additional information and free online previews of the DVD also are available on the website.
Coulter Video is an independent video production company based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.

Talking about the service dog,

tongue rollover at Hopeful Parents today.

I won’t lie, I’m hoping everyone over there at HP will get a service dog for their child(ren). I’ve been sending Carrie e-mail pics of dogs for close to a year now, trying to convince her to get over her dislike of dogs, and aquire one for her son Rojo. I’m manipulative that way. I’m learning to accept this about myself. Heck, if I had my way, I’d ask all of you to send Carrie pictures of cute dogs:

carrie wilson link @ comcast.net

Yes indeedy. Self-acceptance is the key. After all, no one is perfect.

P.S. Can you roll your tongue like Jingle? Some people can’t. It’s genetic. I myself have been blessed with tongue rolling ability. It’s one of my gifts.

No really, you shouldn’t have!

I’ve started and deleted several blog posts lately. In the middle of writing, I’ve looked at my own words and asked, “What is your intention here?”

I am a staunch believer in Law of Attraction. What you focus on gets bigger. Sometimes focusing on what I don’t want; that annoying situation or person right in front of my face, is sooo very tempting.

I could be really witty about it. Everyone would agree with me. It’d make a great story.

But is this what you want more of in your life? I ask myself.



It isn’t.

No matter what situation I’m presented with, there is another way of looking at it. Many ways of looking at it. Those who challenge us, cause us the most growth.

Thank you situation/person for the expansion! You shouldn’t have!  

I don’t know how it is all unfolding, but I do know when you focus on what you do want, and spend less time worrying about what you don’t, things have a way of working out. 

They really do.

Now, what is it I do want….? Let’s see. Let’s see. Ah, yes.  

Pardon me, while I pivot in that direction.

Man at the Market

I took Jingle to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning. After tactfully extricating myself from a conversation with my Mennonite friend who was adament animals have no souls, I walked around with purpose, gathering my wares.






“Good girl, Jingle! Good girl.”

After finishing shopping I took the opportunity to walk Jingle around the whole market, getting her acclimated without Riley in preparation for the next outing with Riley. One woman stopped me to ask about her. Then another stopped, then a man, who kind of hung back, listening to the conversation.  He seemed a bit odd. Perhaps homeless? Perhaps mentally ill? I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“She’s a service dog for my daughter. We just brought her home two days ago.”

“Is your daughter blind?” a woman asked.

“She has autism.”

The man stepped forward and touched me on the forearm.  

“I just had to touch you. Bless your heart,” he said, beaming kindness. 

He was holding me in reverence because my child has autism.

Most of us who have kids on the spectrum have been looked at with scorn. With judgement. With pity. With blame. With, “Whew, thank God I dodged that bullet.”  I don’t know if I’ve ever received reverence before.  

My first thoughts about this man were, “Perhaps homeless? Perhaps mentally ill?” I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Perhaps angel? Perhaps teacher?

Perhaps a reminder to hold reverence, for everyone.

One small request…

We don’t watch much TV.

Tivo has basically given up on us and only tapes kid shows.

But this week, in the hotel, it’s trash TV central. We were watching the Joy Behar show last night. The topic was divorce. High profile divorces. Marla Maples. The gay NJ Governor’s wife, the chick who got dumped for Tori Spelling. Lance Armstrong’s ex.

HT and I sat slumped on the couch in a day 8 coma, my body flopped over his. 

“If you ever decide to leave me, I want you to fake your death,” I said.  

“Why?” he asked.

“That way I could go on believing you loved me.”

“You are insane,” he said.

“Will you fake it?” I pressed.

“Yes. I’d do that for you,” he said.


“I want you to do that for me too,” he said.  

“Aw. Of course I would.” 

Smiling, I snuggled in closer to him.

“At least then I’d get the life insurance money,” he said.  


Wanda Sykes


A couple of nights ago I was busy typing away and HT was watching TV. He kept laughing, then roaring, then chortling, then giggling. He went into the cat trying to cough up a fur ball. He did it all.

It was the Wanda Sykes HBO special. We don’t have HBO at home. It’s a big treat. 

Last night when I got home from the mom’s night out, it was on again and this time I watched it. Almost peed my pants. CRYING laughing. Stomach hurting. Spit take laughing.  She went there, and did not hold back. Todd and I have, like, three years worth of new catch phrases.

Oh Wanda.

Thank you. I needed that.

Too Much Togetherness

Day six of being together 24/7 in a small hotel suite. I can feel myself gasping for breath. Not literally, but I do feel a slow suffocation. I’m out of my element. We can’t go out to eat (per Seth’s health issues) and therefore I’m preparing every meal in a tiny kitchenette with no counter space. No matter where I turn, someone is in my way. I am a person who needs a lot of space. I used to fight it, worried I might be too high maintenance. I no longer apologize for needing what I need.

Yesterday, during our lunch hour, I went out to the van and did a meditation while Todd took the kids to the outside play area and let them bounce on the trampoline. The wildest thing happened.

In my meditation, the whole crew at 4 Paws, all the families and staff, became a cast of performers. We were all there, doing a play about a place that trains service dogs. We were actually taking our curtain call. The two beautiful actresses playing the kids in wheelchairs, stood up and walked, unlimited in every way, smiling huge grins as they took their bows.

The  actors who played the other children with disabilities came forth one by one to the front of the stage, radiant, clear headed, composed. 

When Riley came forward, she got rave applause, her acting was so complex, yet so subtle, and had earned the respect of the audience.

We all came forward together, the supporting actors who played the part of concerned and loving parents. The siblings took their bows. The employees at 4 Paws.

Jeremy the head trainer came out, and took his curtain call with all the dogs in class. They all bowed together and the crowd went wild.

I came out of this meditation feeling exhilarated. Like I’d gotten a glimpse of who these kids really are, beyond their physical or cognitive limitations.

This afternoon I locked myself in the bedroom in our hotel suite and did another meditation. It was not filled with imagery, just relaxation. 

Whatever comes of it, I’m better when I take the time to meditate.  I’m a kinder person, a more patient mother, a more tolerant woman. I feel better about life.

I no longer apologize for needing time to myself.

If you have high expectations of the kind of person you want to be, high maintenance is required.

Cute Dog Pictures

PIMG0025Some pictures from 4 Paws today. These puppies are in a kennel, right in the same room we do our training. They are so stinking cute I can’t stand it!  They play wild, wild, wild, and then they all plop down at once and fall asleep. Love the tongue on the blondie.  



sleepy pups

 Huh? Huh? What?


This here is Monty. He’s in our class. Isn’t he beautiful? He’s being trained as a seizure alert dog, and he’s a little depressed. It isn’t that he doesn’t like his new family, but apparently German Shepherds are very loyal dogs. He misses his peeps. Jeremy the trainer says it will take him a little while to adjust.


This is Clarabel. She’s also a seizure alert dog. The little white triangle on her matt is a piece of doggy birthday cake in her honor. Her new mom shared it with the group. All the other dogs gulped it down, but Clarabel is watching her girlish figure. She couldn’t possibly partake.


And here is our Jingle. Jingle did some amazing work today. Read all about it on the service dog page.


Map of a Character

seth character map

At school last week, Riley had to do a “character map” and of course she picked her favorite person, Seth, to focus on. I don’t know if you can read the above so I will type it out for you: Seth is hungry, playful, funny and crazy.

Evidence he is hungry:

1) he tells us he is hungry

2) wants to eat more

3) eats different things

Evidence he is playful:

1) plays with me

2) fun to play with

Evidence he’s funny:

1) does funny things when we’re eating

2)tells me funny stuff

3) draws funny things

Evidence he is crazy:

1) draws weird pictures of me

2) plays weird stuff with me that I don’t want to play

So the evidence is in. Seth is a hungry, playful, funny, crazy kid.

Spot on Riley. You are spot on.

There you have it, and she oughta know.



Since this trip is all about Riley and Jingle, Todd wanted to do something special for Seth. He found a Lego store near Columbus and we surprised him on the way to 4 Paws. He was thrilled! He picked out a huge Lego Space Police ensemble. In the evenings when we get back from training, he stands happily at the desk Lego table and works on it.

He’s really talented at putting complex Legos together. Methodically, step by step, he follows the directions.

He’s such a good boy. Yesterday at training a bigger boy with autism pinched him on the back, hard. He came over from the play area and sat with me a while, told me what happened.

“I’m so sorry that happened to you Seth. He’s having a really hard time.”  Day 1 was very overstimulating

“Just give him lots of space, okay?” I added.  

“Okay,” he said, sweetly.

Sibs are the unsung heros of the autism explosion. No question about it.

My Friend at the Market

We get our produce, milk and bread from a man at a local farmer’s market. I thought he was Amish, but  turns out he’s Mennonite. I had bit of a Seinfeld moment when I found out…

“I thought I was getting advice from a Chinese woman!”

I thought I was getting produce from an Amish man!

I got over it. Besides, he hangs out with Amish farmers so he’s totally in with that crowd. 

He’s a smart young man. Passionate about his work and his beliefs. We were talking one day and the subject of corporate America came up. Whew! Don’t get him started! He went on a bit of a rampage about Satan, and the devil being behind the whole GMO food issue and what’s wrong with agriculture these days.

We don’t do Satan and the devil. Normally I would not care if a person wanted to spout their beliefs like this, to each his own, but Seth was with me and I didn’t want him to be frightend.

I had to say something.

“Well, we use different terminology for what you are saying. Instead of  of God vs. the devil, we say Love vs. fear.”

He paused, tipped his head to the side, raised his right eye brow, and piercing a hole through me with his intense eye contact said, 

“Same thing.”

I let out my breath, we both smiled.


I love when that happens.

Off We Go!

ready to go!After almost a year of waiting we leave tomorrow to meet  Riley’s service dog. The bags are packed. The groceries are bought, the cat/house sitter arrives in the morning(poor cats, they’ve never met a dog in their lives)!

I honestly have very little idea what to expect at 4 Paws. I do know the dog sees its family as a pack. I like the concept.

Pack O’Neil, reporting for duty.

I’ll be blogging about the experience on the service dog page (up and to the right). Thank you to everyone who has supported us on the way to Jingle.   

Much love,

Pack O’Neil

Hot Toddy

Not enough has been made of HT lately. He’s worked so hard on this website, and he also made a great to-do over my birthday last weekend. He made me Robert Duvall’s mother’s crab cakes, and also a cherry cheesecake from scratch. 100% organic for both. That’s love.  

He works so hard to support this family. He puts in tons of overtime without ever complaining. He comes home from a ten hour workday and tinkers with my blog for me. If he happens upon a pile of dirty dishes, he does them. He does more than his fair share of laundry. He grocery shops. He helps with homework if he’s not working. He takes the kids to activities whenever he can. He makes their lunches every single morning while I cover getting them dressed/washed/brushed.

He listens to me. He knows exactly who I mean when I mention blogger friends by name or anonymous handle.  

I’m just scratching the surface here. So much I can’t even tell you.  So much is just us. These kids we have. How is it possible? Seriously. How does a kid come out of a person’s body? The whole miracle of life thing. If you look at it too hard, it is mind boggling.

I have never met a person more steadfast. He does what he says he’ll do. He does not play games. He does not make you wonder.

Wait, I take that back.

I do wonder, how did I ever get so lucky?Hot Toddy

Blonds Have More Fun

So if I’m going to do reviews, I have to come up with a way to make it worth your while to read them. What kind of friend would I be just to steer you over to the review page to force you to read an ad.  I know no one can force us to do anything, but you get what I mean.

Should I promise an inspirational quote with each review? A juicy something or other on law of attraction? Should I divulge something embarrassing about myself? Or better yet, something embarrassing about HT? Perhaps a photo of HT? Perhaps a photo of HT doing something embarrassing?

I’ve got to figure out my angle here. Until then, I give you… 

taking one for the team taking one for the team

*click on the photo for the back story