I heart my readers

A little light reading at bed time.

Walking in to tuck Riley in for the night, I got a little verklempt at this sight. I mean, the kindness of the readers of this blog!

*M* is mom to a child with Asperger’s, and she’s a librarian, and she shipped us a box of wonderful books to help with our homeschooling adventure. Riley reads the thesaurus she sent, for pleasure.

Back when Riley was hating her name, certain it was only for boys, *M* sent little charms. One for Riley, one for Seth, each had their name on it, and a little stick figure type character. The Riley charm was most definitely a girl because the character had a dress on. This sweet woman bought the charms and took the trouble to mail them to me, in an effort to help Riley believe her name is feminine and beautiful. I can’t seem to photograph them correctly because they are metal and all I get is glare, but trust me they are adorable.

Another reader and Asperger’s mom who has become a dear friend (and confidant) sent me a beautiful piece of her own artwork, a drawing of a mother and child.

These aren’t the only gifts that have been sent our way. There have been others, and I appreciate every one of them. And my God! The donations for the dog. I will never ever forget the generosity of my blog readers.

And the sweet e-mails. There have been a few that have really touched my heart. I mean really touched my heart.

And the comments. So supportive and loving and kind.

And the fact that anyone reads this blog at all? That people are rooting for us. It blows my mind.

Readers? I adore and appreciate you.

Thank you so much for the joy you add to my life.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

When Animals Talk Jane Goodall

Every week we take out a bunch of educational videos from the library. Riley can pick anything that interests her. Once or twice a week, we snuggle together on the couch and watch one. Today we watched When Animals Talk featuring Dr. Jane Goodall. It was one of the most interesting films I have seen in a long time.

In it, there is a man who stands in the ocean and plays harmonica for wild killer whales. They come to him curious and open. These whales would just as soon eat a sea lion, but they let this man touch them.

There is a part about rats trained to help clear land mines in Africa.

There is a part about the 2004 Tsunami, and how the animals all knew it was coming.

There is a part about elephants, and how they communicate over miles and miles of terrain. The open minded scientist who figured out how they do it is featured in the film.

There is a heart wrenching part about a search and rescue dog in NYC who was one of the first responders, and worked 18 hour days after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. When everyone around him was reeling in horror, the dog stayed calm. He had a job to do and he did it.

If you ever get a chance to rent this film, or borrow it from the library, do. Or you can buy it on Amazon. It’s not expensive.

You don’t have to be an animal lover to find it fascinating. The film leaves you basking in the notion there is more going on in this world than we understand.   

I just love that.  

*For more sensitive viewers, there is one short scene of sea lions being attacked by killer whales. It isn’t close up, or gory, but Riley had to bury her head in my shoulder for that part.  

 

Riley + Dad = Whiz

Yesterday, we picked Seth up at school, on our way to the next activity. In the car, Riley and Seth chitter-chattered about their respective days. I’ve learned not to ask. I get a lot more info just listening.

Seth talked about what went on in the lunch room.

Riley talked about math.

In school math was a constant trigger. It was a big problem. It wasn’t that she isn’t capable. She just had so much anxiety around it, which resulted in meltdowns, which resulted in constantly being pulled from class which resulted in a fear of falling behind, which resulted in more meltdowns. 

For homeschool math, we got the Life of Fred Fractions book recommended by Kyra. Fred Fractions is a funny book. It keeps Riley in stitches and she can’t wait to tell Seth what Fred did each day. The book picked up almost exactly where Riley left off in school. In the first couple of weeks we caught some major blocks. She wasn’t solid on subtracting three digit numbers, but the class had already moved on to division. A fundamental building block was on shaky ground. We worked subtraction ’til she knew it inside and out.

In the last two weeks, Todd has pretty much taken over math. He’s home in the mornings and it’s just worked out that way. Man are they are cooking! He has a degree in chemistry, and a degree in pharmacy. He uses math all day every day. He’s patient. He’s smart, and he loves her. When she starts to flip, he says, “Riley, it’s just you and me, and I don’t care if you don’t know it. There is no one to compete with. We’ve got no time frame. Let’s figure it out.”

They’ve been figuring it out.

We are in week four of homeschooling and Riley has completed nine chapters of math curriculum. She’s solid. No shaky ground.

So in the car yesterday, after hearing about Seth’s lunch and recess, Riley said,

“Math was really fun today.”

Then smiling, she added, arms ticking away with excitement,

“I’m kind of a whiz at math.”

And so it is.

Special Sibs

This is Seth, forcing Riley to smile. She’d been fussing, so he moved right in and did this, making her laugh. The pic was slightly out of focus, so I was playing around with it, and I liked how the solarizing made her doll house and dresser pop. I thought the special effect captured perfectly the goofiness of my weird and wonderful kiddos.

A Better Week

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Riley and I went to the Great Lakes Science Center yesterday. We promised her weekly field trips and she’s holding us to it! It was wonderful to see her so relaxed, yet utterly engaged. She practically skipped from one hands-on interactive display to the next. We’d been before, but never when we could just take our time and let her explore at her own pace. There was no crowd at all.

There is a theater at the museum. Before yesterday, we’d never ventured inside. I thought it was just a regular movie theater. The movie was about water, specifically a trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Lord! When I purchased the tickets, I didn’t anticipate what we were about to do, or the sensory bombardment we’d experience! I have never seen anything like it. Picture being inside a giant egg, and the whole shell is the screen and  it’s in 3-D or something close to it! The seats are extremely steep, so Riley (with her depth perception issues) was already nervous walking in. Nervous, but oddly game.

The film was absolutely gorgeous, and filled with action. Much of it was shot from an airplane. It truly felt like you personally (not in a plane) were flying out over the Grand Canyon. Riley and I held hands and flew! It reminded me so much of my sea otter dream. I gave Riley many opportunties to leave, but she opted to stay. I was totally blissed out sitting there with her watching this breathtaking film in that amazing space. She closed her eyes a few times and buried her head into my shoulder, but she most definitly wanted to stay.

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 After the film we explored the museum more.

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We even ate junk food (Pizza Hut) from the cafeteria. It was a thrill. Since August I’ve personally prepared every bite of food that has entered my kids’ mouths (per Seth’s health issues). It was so nice to just sit and eat together and have a conversation.

This morning I found Riley leafing through her All Cats Have Asperger’s book.

“Riley,” I asked, “Do you think it would be a good idea to take that book to clay class today?”

She nodded. It’d been a whole week since our clay class fiasco.

We brought the book, and we brought Jingle. We had a lovely conversation about Asperger’s with all the kids. The teacher had a cat/dog  theme going on which was perfect. Riley made a sculpture of a cat. The children were wonderful. It seems they always are, if you fill them in.

Thank you to everyone who offered words of support or flung love in our direction after last week. I felt your encouragement and it lifted me up.

To those who judged, I felt that too. 

It’s all learning.

Thank you God, for eternal expansion. 

I love this girl. I love this life.

Amen.

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The Baby-sitter’s Here – Dar Williams

Every other Sunday when Todd has to work, our baby-sitter comes to watch the kids so I can go to chorus. She’s a darling high school girl who lives on our street. She can redirect Riley and have her calm quicker than most trained professionals. Being a cool teenager carries a lot of clout. She even got them through it when Seth took a dive and bloodied his nose. You see, it was a disaster on two counts, Seth crying and bleeding, and Riley who DOES NOT DO BLOOD.

When I left last Sunday, a Dar Williams song came on in the car, and it occurred to me we have a baby-sitter. A real, regular baby-sitter. I cried a little. For so many years we have not had any support, and I mean none.

Todd and I have only had two weekends away together in nine years (and one of them was for an autism conference and I was sick so it doesn’t count). We’ve never lived near family, and there was never anyone we felt we could leave them with due to all the special needs and instructions. No weekly dates. No monthly dates. I’m sure there were times we went years.  

Our baby-sitter’s mom thinks we pay her too much. I thank her profusely when she comes and again when she leaves and she looks at me like I’m a little crazy. A little too grateful.

She has no idea what it means to us to be able to leave the kids, leave Riley, and be able to have a bit of adult freedom.  She has no idea how much we appreciate her.

Riley and Seth both adore her. It’s happy all around when she arrives. Hurray! The Baby-sitter’s here!

*Do not miss the video. It is precious.

  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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When Courtney recommended I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I avoided it for a few months. I knew nothing of the book, but didn’t like the title. It sounded corny. Oh Courtney, how could I have doubted you?

It will go down as one of my favorites. So witty. So funny. So moving. So tragic. So informative. So hopeful.

I loved it,

so much.

Secret Instructions

We had a better day today. Todd sent me to my room, and didn’t allow me to come down until he was headed to work at 12:30. He did “school” today. Riley had a wonderful playdate this afternoon at our house with a dear friend from school. They made snowmen and had dinner together and played Littlest Pet Shops and really hugged it out when it was time to say good-bye. She has so many more successes than failures, truly.

I do too, as her mother.

One of the perks of being homeschooled is she gets to stay up later than her brother. A whole hour. She has to read or do something quiet in her room, but she just loves this new freedom. Tonight when I came in to turn off the light I found her already asleep with this book in her hand. 

Something about it really moved me. This girl who tries so very hard.

We talked it through last night. I told her how I get worried when she screams and cries like that in public, because I get afraid people won’t be able to see how wonderful she is, won’t be able to really know what a beautiful person she is, might be afraid to be friends with her because of it.

Her response was, “Yeah, and I get worried of falling behind.”

Her fear, just as rational to her as mine is to me.

We lay on her bed a long time and talked, heart to heart. No question about the love between us.

No solutions.

No answers.

No big “aha” to ensure it will never happen again.  

No secret instructions.

 

Cradle and All. An inside look at postpartum depression

For anyone who has ever suffered postpartum depression, Lisa Romeo’s powerful essay in Sweet: A Literary Confection is a must read.  Honest and brave, beautifully written and ultimately hopeful.   

Lisa is the kind of writer, where you’re surfing along, you click on the piece, see it is long (for your short little bloggy attention span) and think, “I’m going in,” because you know every word will be put together artfully. It’s not skim, skim, blah cut to the chase, it’s, “Wow. I love how she said that.”  You know it will be worth it.

Lisa’s blog is always chock-full-o writerly gems as well. Check it out here.

90 minutes to play the role of loving mommy before I can put them to bed

Contrast=The difference between who I am being in the moment, and who I want to be. 

So we’d been waiting for this clay class. It’s at a local art studio, and the Thursday afternoon class is just for homeschoolers. There are only five in the class. A great way for Riley to meet other kids who are also homeschooling. A way to possibly make some friends, and feel like she’s not alone in all this homeschooling business. She hates being the odd one out. 

Just five in the class. Managable. I told the teacher a little about Riley beforehand, and that I’d be staying, just in case, but with only five students, it should be okay.

Seth wound up being sick yesterday, and not quite ready to go back to school today. Still, I decided to go to clay, since it is the first class of the session and Riley hates feeling like she’s behind. It would not be good to start out that way next week. So I brought both kids and set Seth up in the corner with headphones and a portable DVD player. The other kids were nice and friendly. The teacher was too. It should be good.

Fifteen minutes in, Riley noticed the other kids were way ahead of her. You see, while it was the first class of the session, these kids have been taking sessions all along. They already know what they are doing. She didn’t.

She flipped.

She hid under the table shrieking and then ran from the room screaming and crying, down a long hallway. I followed her, leaving Seth by himself, in a room full of strangers who had no idea why his sister was screaming her head off.

Such hopes I had for this class. Hopes for play dates and connections with other homeschoolers. Social opportunities on a smaller scale, without all the pressure and social politics of school. I felt those opportunities go spiraling down the drain the longer she screamed. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t normally care what most people think if she has a meltdown, but I had a lot riding on this class.

She wouldn’t stop. It went on and on.

Poor Seth.

Do I leave? Do I just pack up all our stuff? The damn DVD player, and the books? Do I try to talk her through?

I try to talk her through to no avail.

Seth has this fear of being left. He gets really scared.

“Riley it doesn’t matter. These kids have been doing this a long time. The teacher will help you.You are just learning. You don’t have to be the expert.”

Wahhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anger bubbles up and spews out of me.

“You are embarrassing me,” I tell her.

She wails louder.

They are going to think she’s a freak.

“You are never going to have any friends if you act this way,” I seethe.

She starts hitting herself in the head, in the face.

“I’m so bad! I’m so bad! I’m such a bad person.”

I don’t stop her. Let her get a couple hits in for me.

She wails louder.

I can’t take it. I start to cry.

Louder.

Louder still.

“Stop it Riley. You need to stop,” I say. 

Louder. 

What the fuck more do I have to do for this kid?

Nothing is ever going to help. My nerves are shot.

“Shut up,” I whisper yell.

I swear to God I can’t take it.

I leave her in a heap on the floor in the hallway, and head toward the room to check on Seth. I wipe my eyes, gulp a few times and dig my fingernails into my opposite palm until it hurts to distract myself and stop my tears before entering the room. I march over to Seth and whisper, “I will never leave you. I’ll be back. I’m just down the hall.”

He looks up at me. He understands.

As I head back out the door the teacher, or possibly another parent asks, “are you okay?”

I can’t deal with kindness. It might kill me. I ignore her and keep walking down the hall.

I take Riley in my lap and sit on a couch with her, cradling her like a baby. I think I’ve only cried in front of her twice before. I can’t take it though. I don’t know what has come over me. I’m wrecked. I can’t stop.

After a while I walk her back down the hall, thinking we are going to get our coats and call it a wash, but the teacher comes out and somehow talks her back into the classroom. I stand with my back to the teacher, imagining what she thinks. Crazy mom who cries every time her daughter with autism has a meltdown?

Who gives a shit what she thinks.

Riley winds up  staying and finishing the project, creativity at full-throttle.

I wonder what kind of damage I did, telling her she embarrassed me. Telling her she will never have friends.  Telling her to shut up.

I wonder what possessed me to do so.

I wonder when I’m going to stop having expectations, because they always bite me in the ass.

Things cook along so nicely and then I’m blindsided.

We come home. I make dinner like a zombie. Feed them. Let them play with their DSIs and don’t start the timer. Play until your eyeballs pop out. I don’t care.

She’s happy, all smiles, playing with her brother. Whatever it was moved through her and she’s fine now. 

My body refuses to let things go so easily. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.

90 minutes to play the role of loving mommy before I can put them to bed.

Windsong Concert Coming Up

Windsong is having its winter concert on January 24th! Yes, I’ll be singing my little heart out, attempting to hold my own with this group of very talented women. For the last two concerts I have been asked to write the descriptions for the song dedications. Dedications are sold as a way to raise funds for the chorus and they appear in the concert program. Writing the song descriptions is a lot of fun for me so I thought I’d share them with you. It gives you a feel for what we sing, why I love being part of this group.  

Set Her Free
Somewhere tonight there is a woman, trapped by circumstances, fear or doubt. This song honors her and offers the solidarity of others holding space for her as she gathers strength.

Blackbird
A Beatles original, this delicate ballad speaks of rebirth and flight and how the worst of times can be the impetus for new beginnings.

How Can I Keep From Singing?
This hymn, composed specifically for Windsong, is about rising above the tumult and strife of the world and finding one’s place in the infinite wisdom of song. Dedicate it to the singers in your life or to those who make your heart sing.

Heroes
Witnessing another person’s courage often helps us find our own. This song pays tribute to many female heroes who have paved the way, making life better for women today. Dedicate it to the heroes in your life.

Harriet Tubman
This song is a tribute to the courageous Harriet Tubman who escaped slavery and led many others safely to freedom on The Underground Railroad. Dedicate it to those brave souls who are making a difference in the life trajectories of others.

Katie Cruel
“Oh that I was what I would be, then would I be who I am not, here am I where I must be, go where I would, I cannot.” This song honors women who wonder of themselves what might have been. Written for Windsong by current member Jan C. Snow.

Wood River
Show me your heart and I’ll show you mine. Rising above trouble and doubt, this poetic song depicts an intimate moment between lovers on the side of a river, at sunset.

Yonder Come Day
Inspired by a traditional Georgia Sea Island Spiritual, this song speaks to a vision of freedom and better days ahead.

Stairway to Heaven
Yes, that Stairway to Heaven. The true test of a song lies in its diversity across genres. Whether the rock version of the seventies or a melodic choral arrangement, this song stands the test of time. And it makes you wonder…

Like a Mountain
No one can push back an ocean. Like nature itself, the spirit of a woman is eternal. No matter what happens on a physical level, a woman’s song is indestructible. Dedicate Like a Mountain to women who have indomitable spirits, and to those who don’t yet know this about themselves.

What I Want
This song brings to focus the abundance of life’s blessings. Love, light, breath. Dedicate What I Want to someone who is a blessing to you.

Draw Down the Moon
Patterns of the tides, cycles of rebirth, reverence for all. This song honors the sacred connection between the moon and all things feminine.

Why Can’t You Girls Be Nice?
Those annoying women suffragists! If only they’d behave. Sigh! Dedicate this song to those in your life who push the boundaries so that one day all may be treated with equality and respect.

Rosie the Riveter
This famous song is about a woman doing her part to help the American war effort in World War II. The song helped increase the number of women working outside the home 57% between 1940 and 1944.  Dedicate it to your favorite hard working woman.

Faith Comes Out of the Closet
Dedicate this song to those who dare leave the “safety” of lies, for the freedom of truth.

Sister
Dedicate this song to the women in your life who have been there to share your sorrows and your joy.

For Good
From the Broadway show Wicked, this song is about how relationships change us. Dedicate this song to someone who has changed you, for good

.I Ain’t Afraid
This song speaks to how religious ideology often obscures the true expression of Divine Love. Dedicate it to those who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they truly believe.

Feel the Love

This is the face of a little girl who has just had a massage with essential oils. A real massage, in a spa, by a massage therapist who understands kids with special needs, because she is mom to one. Look at the love going on here.  

What would the world be like if nine year old girls were routinely encouraged to take good care of themselves?

So many people are rooting for you Riley.

May you always feel it. May you always know.

Love.