Got Milk Pants?

Those of you who read Jingle’s page know she was featured in a Fetching Tags contest a while back. Her taglines were “Comfort & Joy” for her collar, and “I’m Here For Riley” for her harness.

Jen, of Fetching Tags generously donates the tags to the dogs featured in her contests. Check out her hysterical commercial below. My favorite is the Chihuahua, or not. I think maybe we all should have a tag line. Why do dogs get all the fun? What would yours be? Mine would be Full Soul Ahead!, of course!

Synopsis for the visually impaired:

Fetching Tags presesnts, Got Milk Pants?

Do you drool?

Picture of a dog, with a big drool. Close up…his tag reads: “Random Acts of Drool.”

“We’ve got your tag.”

Close up of another dog.

“Are you itchy?”

Close up of tag reads: “Scratch my butt.”

“We’ve got your tag.”

Next dog is tiny with big ears pointing straight out. Text reads, “Not a Chihuahua?”

Close up of his tag reads: “I’m not a Chihuahua.”

Or maybe you’re a young bull terrier who wears milk pants? To bottle feed baby goats?

The bull terrier stands on top of a bale of hay, with little pants on, a large bottle strapped to either side. Baby goats run to him and drink. He stands there stocially, blinking his eyes. Doing his job. Little goat tails wagging as they drink.

His tag reads, “The Amazing Milk Bull.”

Text reads: “We’ve got your tag too.”

Moving in the Right Direction

Since I talked with the campers last week, Riley has been jumping out of bed, getting dressed (in fly outfits, complete with accessories) with zero prodding, and she’s raring to go each morning. She is having a great time. Being understood is a good thing.

At church yesterday, she went and got herself a reiki treatment. There are practitioners in the back offering rieki during each service. She says she finds it “relaxing.”

During the meditation, they turn out the lights and put on a star machine. It’s a projector, that makes the whole room look twinkley, sometimes you’ll spot a shooting star. The kids LOVE it. The adults do too. Something about the stars floating all over the room provides instant calm. I tend to close my eyes during meditation, but the kids watch the stars, always.

Anyway…after the service Riley decided she wanted to spend all her birthday money, and it would take all her birthday money, to buy a star machine of her own for her room.

Lolly asked about Law of Attraction in the comments yesterday. Off the top of my head, re: Riley’s running away as of late…let me take a look. Her running has been for different reasons each time. At the Botanical Gardens it was an overactive imagination causing her to scare herself. If I think about where my mind went when I couldn’t find her, you can see perhaps my own overactive imagination was going full throttle.  

At the beach, she was worried she wouldn’t fit in. Worried people would think she looked foolish without a bathing suit on. Worried about drawing negative attention to herself. The first thing that comes to mind from my own inner world is the singing. Yesterday our chorus had our listening party, where we played the CD from the recent concert, and as my solo came up, it was just as painful for me to hear it as it had been to stand there and sing it. I actually hid my face. Now…do you think these women gave a rip about my ten second solo? Were they all pointing fingers and whispering how much it sucked? Probably about as much as the people on the beach cared Riley was in shorts and t-shirt, and not a swimsuit. 

In the third scare, Riley ran ahead, because she wanted to be the first one back to the park area where we started. She thought she knew where she was going, she saw a structure that looked similar to where we began and headed that way. She wanted to be proud. Kind of like when Todd and I both leave in separate cars heading to the same place, (maybe we have separate places to go afterward), and I want to get there first. It’s fun. Maybe if I take this side street, I can miss that light and beat him. Riley has some physical challenges, (low tone, depth perception issues) which make it hard for her to feel mastery on a physical level. She was soaring along ahead, running, beating us all. She felt proud. I was just talking with a friend the other night about how one of the challenges of being a stay at home mom, is never quite feeling a sense of competence or mastery. There are no tangible measurements to go by. Especially with a child on the spectrum. No paycheck at the end of the week. No way to win.

My study of LOA tells me contrast creates expansion. There is a momentum that gathers in a difficult time which propels you forward if you do the work of changing your thoughts, and seeing things differently. Breaking patterns isn’t easy. It is work, it is hard. But not more hard than staying miserable.

If I do the work, (and there a many many processes I can use) I’ll be guided where I need to go to find relief. If I keep focusing on what is, I’ll get more of the same. 

So yeah, it’s been a little rough lately. I obviously have some work to do.

Setting intentions. 

Focusing on what I do want.

Appreciating what I have. 


Breathing, staying present, sometimes moment by fearful moment. 

As much as possible, associating with only postitive people, as if my life depends on it. Because it does.

Asking myself, when I get all worked up about something, “Is this worth dying over?”  

Cutting people a break when they “offend” me.  

Contacting the right people, when my ego threatens to take the reigns. You know who you are. Thank you.

So many things I can do to feel better. I’ll start right now.

And tonight, for a while, I’ll cuddle up with Riley under her stars.

One Foot in Front of the Other




I’d been itchin’ to get out in nature. Every place we’ve lived over the last ten years, I have found it. Hiking trails. Streams. Trees. Oh the trees. I love them so much. I got teary looking at a video of the Redwoods recently. They call me. They do. I’ve never even been to California. Two days after the Botanical Gardens incident, I tried for some trees. We went to a state park we’d never been to before, just me and the kids and it was “Lake Erie beach,” not trails. Noonday sun. Not what I wanted. Still we decided to check it out. Riley’s OCD kicked in, she wasn’t in a bathing suit, everyone else was. It upset her. I thought she was right behind me, as we walk to toward the water. Turned around, she was gone. I hadn’t quite recovered from the previous scare, and I went ape shit when I found her, hiding in some bushes. 

I said, “We’re leaving.”

She fought it.

I dragged her in a headlock to the car and said things I wish I hadn’t. Seth was crying, following behind us. He really wanted to see that beach.

Beside the parking lot, I stopped and sat down on the grass. Put my head on my knees. Dejected. What am I going to do? How am I going to do this? I am so tired. My hormones are out of whack again. Hot flashes round the clock. I have been to four doctors. No sleep in weeks.

Riley sat on the grass too.

Slowly she inched her way toward me, so we were sitting side by side. Six inches apart. Both of us steaming, but she wanted to be near me. I wasn’t ready. Kept my face down. So tired.

Seth came up behind us and silently put a hand on each of our backs. I was still breathing hard. Still angry. He stood there, one little hand on my back, one little hand on Riley’s. I felt the diffusion happening. The love of this little boy calming me down. After several minutes, when he intuitively felt it was okay, he leaned in and hugged both of us, smooshing us together. Family hug.

“Mommy, I’m sorry I hid,” Riley said.

“You have no idea how scary it is for a parent when they feel like their child is missing.”

 “I’m sorry,” she squeaks. Then adds,

“You don’t know what it feels like for me, when everyone else is in a bathing suit, and I’m not.”

No I ‘effing don’t. I want to smack her. Put my head into a wall. I breathe. What would love do?

We went to the van, (where I had the bathing suits, had she given me a chance to check the place out and decide that’s what we would be doing).  

I let them play in the water, while I sat on the beach, feeling battered and bruised.































Yesterday, I found what I was looking for. We hiked for miles.



















I feel like a good mother when I get them out to places like this. Places that calm my own soul.





















I spent half my childhood in the woods.




In a short time they were covered head to toe in mud. My camera battery died so I don’t have pics of that.

I wish I could say Riley didn’t run away, but she did. On the way back she did. We let the kids run ahead on the trail, and told them to stop when they got to the road. Oh how glorious to let them have freedom, to run in the forest! They got out of our site. Seth stopped at the road. Riley didn’t. He ran back to tell us. She ran ahead, and took a wrong turn and could have gotten massively lost in the woods if two parents weren’t there to branch out. 

Riley has never been a runner. She never did this at two or three years old. She was always terrified. Always attached at my hip. Is she making up for some missed developmental milestone? I don’t know.

After we found her I just totally checked out. Let Todd deal with the whole thing. Held Seth’s hand and walked ahead.

“I get worried when Riley gets lost,” Seth said.

“It’s not always easy, is it Seth? But you are an awesome brother.”


He never fails to say “thanks.” 

From behind, Riley muttered something about not wanting to be treated like a baby. Not wanting to hold Todd’s hand. Todd said something about not being able to trust her.

One foot on the trail in front of the other, I continued to breathe.

Look at the trees.

Look at the trees.

We will find our balance.
















Walking the Tightrope

Second day of camp, I pick them up and Riley’s been in the office for the last hour. Her eyes are red. She’s spent. She won’t talk about it.

Todd is home, so we drop Seth off, and I take my girl out to lunch. A hip & happening place, appropriate for cool young women. No mac & cheese on the menu. She orders blackened fish. Looks around at the funky decor.

“I was on the slide, and I was scared, and I was trying to get my nerve up to go down, and this boy, he kind of yelled at me.”

She looks down, fiddles with her napkin, adds,

“He didn’t know I have autism.”

Sweet, sweet girl. Giving him the benefit of the doubt. He didn’t know.

So we talk.

We talk about how it usually goes better if people do know. How it works at Girls on the Run, and clay class,etc. How when other kids understand, they usually are really great about it. Really compassionate.

Our food comes.

“I think you should talk to them Mom,”she says, digging in to her fish.   

Trying to contain my enthusiasm,

“Okay. Do you want me to talk to the whole camp, or just your group?”

The whole camp gathers for assembly before they branch off into small groups. They all come together again at recess.

“The whole camp,” she says.

I tell her, “One day you will be able to advocate for yourself. You’ll talk to people and let them know what you want them to know about you,  but for now I am glad to do it. You’ll be really good at it one day.”

She smiles at me, then adds, “Well, one thing is clear. I love blackened fish.”

When we get home I call camp and get their approval for speaking at the morning assembly.

Later that evening, Riley and I review what I will say, and she freaks. She thinks maybe it isn’t such a good idea. I don’t dig my heels in, even though I’ve already talked to the camp administration, even though I think it is vital for her success this summer. Even though God damn it I need this break. Maybe I’ll talk. Maybe I won’t. We’ll see how it goes. I take out some words that might have triggered her.

Next morning, I somehow get her out of bed, and dressed, and ready to go. She sees the little index card I’ve prepared, and doesn’t melt. We don’t mention it.  

We get to camp. She is not running away. She knows I plan on talking and if there is one thing about Riley, it’s she would be so out of there if she really wasn’t okay with this. Todd and I look at each other. He runs his hand down my back.

Walking the tightrope, we go in.

All the campers do a morning song, and a Balinese dance they learned the day before. She’s beaming. Happy. Engaged. Twirling. Smiling. Not worried.

The main counselor introduces me. 

I tell them who I am, and I tell them about Riley. How her senses and nerves are “super duper.” How she feels things extra. How sometimes it can be overwhelming for her. I use the term “autism,” which Riley prefers to Asperger’s. She told me this the day before at lunch.

“Asperger’s has the word “ass” in it, and it sounds kind of foolish, and it is a possessive word, like…I’m not Dr. Asperger’s thing that he owns, you know?”  

So I use the word autism, and I tell the kids about my amazing daughter, with the super duper senses, who sometimes becomes overwhelmed, but you know that’s cool because there are so many really incredible things about Riley. And I name them. And I tell them how lots of really creative people are very sensitive. And isn’t that great at a camp with music and art and drama? And I tell them how inspiring she is. And how her bravery has made me more brave. And how lucky I am to be her mom.

And she sits there in a room full of dozens and dozens of campers, and she clasps her hands together to restrain her arm tic, which only happens when she is really happy. Really stoked. And she looks proud. 

Seth looks proud too.  

And we get out to the car and I breathe, because I went with my instinct, and not her fear.

And she let me.

Feeling Lost

Two days ago, we had a couple of hours to kill before the kids’ last dance class of the season. Since dance is close to the Botanical Gardens, and since we have a season pass, we decided to spend some time in the children’s section. It was a beautiful afternoon, and the kids love running around, watering the flowers, etc.

I planted myself on a bench, with my notebooks. The children’s section is enclosed, and the kids know it well. I was by the exit so I felt secure. They would run by here and there, wave, and skitter off.

After about an hour, Seth came running over to me,

“Riley climbed over the fence. She’s not in here anymore.”

Riley was gone.

Seth and I jumped the fence, which took us into the larger property with acres and acres of maze like gardens, which Riley does not know well. A million nooks and crannies. A million hiding spots. A million places to find solitude, or molest a child. She could be anywhere. A very busy city lurked outside, fifteen feet away. She could have left with someone on the street. She could already be in someone’s car.

Last year, I was flipping through the channels and landed on Animal Planet. There was this adorable baby hippo, frolicking in the water. His mama was nearby. The joy of this chubby little hippo drew me in. I smiled. So cute! He pranced and twirled around and around! Just then, an aligator came out of nowhere and dragged him under. His mom was right there. She let her guard down for one second. Let him get just out of her reach. Horrified, I stood there, remote in my hand, watching the mother. Wondering how she felt. How long had she carried that baby? How long had she nursed him?  She stood in the murky water stunned, blinking. Her baby was gone.

Riley was gone, and those hippos were the first thing to pop into my mind.

You idiot! Being so complacent. Sitting on a bench writing in your damn notebooks, not a care in the world.

Seth and I ran around in circles, looking in this section and that. My throat getting tighter and tighter.

“I’m worried,” he said. 

“I’m worried too,” I said, holding his hand, tight. 

I asked a few people, “Have you seen a girl, ten years old, orange shirt?”

They shook their heads, and I hated them for not seeming concerned in the least.

The thought came to me, “If she finds her way back, and we’re not in the children’s garden, she’s going to think we left her, and run off again.”

We headed back, me looking for an employee all the while.

“Do you have cameras?” That was my plan. To ask if the gardens are under surveillance.

My mind switched back and forth from panic to anger. I tried not to cry, for Seth.  

“I swear to God Riley I have not worked so hard, been so devoted to you your whole life for it to go down this way.” Soul to soul, I was FURIOUS.

We got back to the children’s area, and I looked around frantically for an employee and then I saw the orange of Riley’s shirt in the distance. She was there. At this point she’d been gone between ten and fifteen minutes. 

Her thought process: She and Seth had been playing hide & seek. She was pretending he was a “maniac,” and got so into the play, she freaked herself out. Thus terrified, she jumped over the fence, and ran off into the larger gardens. Then she got lost and was very scared. Ten acres of gardens. She went around the whole place, through the Japanese gardens, and ended up at the main entrance.  She must have been running the whole time. Once at the main entrance, she followed the signs back to the Children’s Garden.

“RILEY!” I screamed at her.

“Mommy I’m so sorry! I thought I might never see you again!”

I was so angry, I marched them out to the car, chewing her out the whole time.

In retrospect, I probably should not have done that. I don’t want her afraid of getting in trouble, on top of everything else, should she ever get lost again. 

This was Wednesday.

Thursday, I went through the motions. I felt numb. I felt irritated. A solid wall up between me and my family. I couldn’t stand Riley.  Todd tried to rub my shoulder and I could not tolerate his touch.  We fought. I told him I didn’t know how much longer I could take this. Something has to give.

I went upstairs to sleep on the twin bed in my office. No sleep.

2AM. I crawled into his bed. Head on his chest, I whispered about the baby hippo. I fell apart.

He took me by the shoulders, and put me back together. Told  me I am a good mother. Promised me. Told me he sees it every day. Told me anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy. Told me I did nothing wrong. It was okay to let her play. She is safe, she is safe, she is safe.

The inconsistency with Riley’s kind of autism is so cruel. One day she’s a ten year old. One day a four year old. She does not want to be babied (asked me specifically to sit on the bench and let them be), but can’t be trusted not to freak out and scale a fence and get lost. 

It is maddening. It would be easier if I knew what to expect. It’s always changing. Lately she’s being very impulsive. Doing things she never did at three and four years old. She would NEVER have climbed a fence and gotten so far away from me before. She’s also being defiant. She actually hit me (has never hit anyone in her life) twice this week.

If I could just accept, she has autism, and all things are expected, it might be easier. But she goes in these spurts where she’s doing so well, and I let my guard down and then…suddenly BAM!   

I don’t know.  

I’ve gotta sort it all out on a metaphysical level, where it will make some sense for me. There is no safety. We’re all safe. We all die. We’re all eternal. All things working in Divine order. Blah,blah,blah.

Tell that to the mama hippo.

For now I will hang onto knowing I will eventually see things differently. I’m never lost for long.

P.S. To anyone who accuses us of “hovering” too much, consider this post a  personal invitation to entertain the possibility you might be wrong. 

P.S.S. We did not have Jingle with us, because the kids wanted to run around, and she would have had to sit beside me. She would have wanted to run around with them, and would have cried and been annoying the whole time.

The Morning Song, Rickie Byars-Beckwith

One of the most poignant moments during the recent Great Lakes Unity Music Conference was when Rickie Byars-Beckwith asked if anyone had recently experienced the transition of a loved one. Two women stepped forward, both from our local Unity congregation. Both had experienced painful losses. Rickie had us form a circle around the two. She stepped into the center with them, and rested a hand on each of their shoulders. We huddled around raising our hands toward them and began to sing Rickie’s gorgeous Morning Song.

It is call and response, we’d only practiced it a couple of times, not knowing what was to come of it during this workshop.

So imagine you have experienced a great loss, and sixty people form a loving cocoon around you, and Rickie Byars-Beckwith’s soulful voice leads them in singing,

The spirit of God is all that I am now.

Don’t worry about me, now I am alright.

That body I had, let it fade into the light.

I am more than flesh, I am more than time.

We are more than flesh, we are more than time.

No I could not do, what I could not see.

Lift up my name, for what I tried to be.

Don’t worry about me, now I am alright.

That worry you have, let it fade into the light.

The spirit of God is all that I am now.

The spirit of God is all that we are now.

If I could not do what I could not see,

lift up my name for what I tried to be.

And don’t you worry ’bout me, now I am alright.

That body I had let it fade into the light

The spirit of God is all that I am now 

and so on…  

Tears streamed down the faces of the two women in the center, one repeated over and over, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You,” as we sang, her hands raised high, her body visibly releasing so much grief.  She’d had significant losses, including that of her son in the last year.  

The other woman’s face beamed as if the love was just being poured in through the top of her head. She stood there, eyes closed, tears coming down, positively lit up.

I came across the video below in my Internet travels this morning. Rickie Byars- Beckwith and Tim McAffee Lewis will be at The Omega Institute in July.  If you feeled called to go, do. It is a life changing experience.


Rickie Byars Beckwith “Morning Chant” from Omega Institute on Vimeo.


Somewhere in the darkness

there’s a glowing

that sounds buzzing to your ear

It’s a friendly little fly that lights up

its rear

It’s a very friendly firefly

that shines up the night

And when they go

they still light up the night

Da da dum

Da da dum

Da Da duhh

-Seth O’Neil’s first crack at poetry/song writing, inspired by a night walk this evening. The tune is a bit of a waltz.


So far, summer has been fantastic with a capital F! Hee-hee.

It has been so nice to have some freedom. No schedule to adhere to (at least not until camp starts).

I’ve given myself a pool pass as in, I’m not taking these kids to the pool. It is hell for me and frankly, I’m sick of it. Unless two adults can come, it ain’t gonna happen. Period. No Riley can’t swim yet. Yes, Seth is just starting to be able to, and yes, I know it is a safety issue, but my mental health is an even bigger safety issue. I’m too happy right now to discuss it, but let’s just say, the pool gives clay class a run for its money.

So…we’ve been working in the kitchen. Here they are peeling carrots for yesterday’s creamy carrot ginger soup.


And today we went to the library, which is nothing new, but what was new, is they got to stay as long as they wanted. No rushing. No, hurry up and get what you want because we have to go, go, go. I planted myself at a table in the children’s section where I had full view of the exit, and told them “Be off, take as much time as you want. We can stay for hours!” We’d just had lunch, so we were good for a while.

After years and years of having to follow Riley around navigating every possible social situation, waiting for the screams, I was the mom who got to just be in the vicinity, in ear shot for sure, but not hovering. Not in eye shot. It was bliss. One of the things about having a kid on the spectrum is you take nothing for granted. Every gain, every uneventful moment is a miracle.

I got a lot done at my little table. I’m singing a duet with Kathy at church on Sunday and I was able to go over the music. I did some writing that needed to be done for a project I’m working on. My little ducklings checked in often enough, piling the table with things they wanted to borrow. We filled two bags.

Un-rushed kids are happy kids.


 Here they are looking through Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic.



 They couldn’t wait to show me this illustration:



It reminded them of a certain parent they know. The one who is on day two of a seven day stretch. The one they won’t be seeing much of this week.

The one who is never far from their hearts.


todd nails
















Presently they are watching The Princess and the Frog (borrowed from the library). Seth is dancing to the New Orleans sound. Riley is sprawled on the couch.

Later we’ll take the Jing for a walk.

Did I mention I slept ’til nine today?

Fantastic with a capital F.


The Nailbiter

Some people manicure their nails,

Some people trim them neatly,

Some people keep them filed down,

I bite ’em off completely.

Yes, it’s a nasty habit,but

Before you start to scold,

Remember, I have never ever

Scratched a single soul.


-Shel Silverstein

We Want the Funk

Riley got two different Glee CD’s for her birthday. We were in the car a lot today and it was the first time I’d listened to them. Some of the lyrics are a bit “mature” for my sweet little petunia, and I wasn’t sure about the appropriateness. Then again, it ain’t rap with the nasty explicit language and misogynist message. It could be worse, and you can’t keep them from everything. I pondered these questions as we drove along.

Then a remake of Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical came on. Holy sexual innuendo! But you know what? As a kid when that song came out, I totally thought it was about aerobics. I actually thought it my whole life until today when I listened to the words. So…I’m guessing my girl will be okay. She’ll only hear what she’s ready to hear and the rest will go over her head.

I was so happy to hear the George Clinton remake, We Want the Funk…and we went cruising down the road, “turnin’ this mother out!”

Yeah, baby…that was us in the maroon minivan. Check it.

You’ve got a real type of thing going down, gettin’ down
There’s a whole lot of rhythm going round

I know. I need help. 

But I really do want the funk.  

Riley’s Party at Cleveland’s Botanical Gardens

Today was Riley’s 10th birthday celebration and we did a low key party, at The Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

We invited only as many as our two cars could carry, and a couple couldn’t make it, so it was just five besides Riley and Seth.

They ate cake (lemon/mango sorbet) by the pond.

They spotted butterflies.


Homemade cards and perfect presents.

Riley has been to the gardens so many times, she feels like she owns the place. She’s good and comfortable there. No surprises.

It looked like it might rain today, but the weather held out.

It was perfect.

With low key celebrations, you get to really enjoy your friends. You get to talk as you eat your cake, and go at a leisurely pace.  

I love how our daughter has taught us bigger and louder isn’t better.

Sometimes small things, are the sweetest of all.

Pretty Woman

Flipping through the channels, we accidently get sucked into Pretty Woman on TBS. We hadn’t seen it in forever.

George Castanza is in Pretty Woman? And so is Laura San Giacomo! Who knew? Doesn’t she have a kid with autism? Maybe I’m wrong.

Slumped on the couch, leaning on HT, I ask,

“Do you ever wish I were a hooker?”

“No,” he says.

“Do you ever wish I were Richard Gere?”

I take a sip of wine and admit,


And he laughs.


Last line of the movie:

Him: “So what happens after he rescues her?” 

Her: “She rescues him right back.”  

Smart Girl/Sticky Situation


Yesterday, Ms. Riley was invited to an impromptu last day of school celebration at one of her friend’s houses. There were ten little girls. I walked her over to the school to meet the girls and then we all walked back to the house, which is just at the end of our street. I stuck around for a while, talking to the mom, (fellow Girls on the Run coach and wonderful friend who “gets” Riley). I could have stayed all afternoon and chatted with her, but I felt it was important, for Riley, for me to leave.

“Riley are you okay for me to go? I’ll come get you in a couple of hours?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m fine here with my peeps.”

I left, confident she would be okay.

But wait…it gets better.

Fifteen minutes before I was planning on getting her, the phone rang. It was Riley. I’d never received a phone call from my daughter before.

“Mom. Two of the girls who are coming to my birthday party Sunday got mad at each other, and one doesn’t want the other one to come, and I don’t know what to do.”

(It is worth noting, the girl who did not want the other girl to come to Riley’s party was the little sister of the host, and just completed kindergarten. Riley takes her point of view as seriously as she does the girls her own age, which is something I love about her).

“Riley. Tell the girl who doesn’t want the other to come, that it is your party, and you are friends with both of them and they need to work it out.”

Insert game show music when contestant makes a mistake, gives the wrong answer and is kicked off the show. Whunt whunt whunt

“But MOM! She will be really mad if the other one comes!”

I could feel her ramping up.

I took a breath,and tried again.

“Riley…you are so grown up to call me and discuss this. This is a very *sticky situation.* Let’s think about what we can do.”

Evoking “sticky situations” allowed her brain to access her beloved American Girl books (she’s read a ton of them already and got more for her b-day) and to know…

1) this is a problem all girls might run into.

2) these problems have possible solutions.

3) she’s really growing up to be encountering situations as sticky as this.

“Riley, how about this? Tell her you can’t possibly make this decision right now, and it is something which needs to be discussed with your parents.” 

She sighed, and I could feel her relief over the phone.

“Okay,” she said.

“I’m going to be picking you up in just fifteen minutes, okay?”

“Okay Mom,” she said.

“You did the right thing to call. You are just acting so mature now that you are ten. I am very proud of you.”

There was a pause and then she said,

“Mom. I love you.” 

Her voice sounded so cute and little over the phone.  

My heart soared.

Saying I love you first is brand new for her.

Tucking Seth in on his last day of first grade

“So how was your last day of school?”


“Did your teacher yell at anyone?”  FYI his teacher in not one to yell at anyone ever…I just live to make him laugh with the irony of my questions. He’s used to it.  


“Shove anyone down?”


“Punch anyone in the face?”


“Kick anyone in the shin?”    

He’s had enough of my shenanigans so he feigns sleep, pretends to snore…



“Cashew? Don’t mind if I do!” I say, taking a nibble of his ear. Long running joke, his ears taste like cashews. He squirms away, putting his blanket over his head. I pull it down.

“Mom, who was that guy, that bit that guy’s ear off?”

“Mike Tyson?”


“Why did he do it?”

“Well. He seems to be someone who has no impulse control.”

“What’s impulse control?”

“Most people have urges to do things, but our brains take a moment to think about them, and we stop if the thing we feel like doing is inappropriate, or violent, or harmful. Impulse control is what lets us take that moment and stop.”

He thinks about this for about thirty seconds then says,

“Some people think ____ (the kid who bullied his class all year) is mean, but I think he just has a problem with his brain.”

“I think you’re right buddy.”

He looks at me thoughtfully.

I kiss him good-night on the cheek.

He wipes it off, per usual.

She’s Back














After feeling progressively worse for the last six months or so, our beautiful daughter is back. The sweetness is back. Two weeks ago she could not climb this play structure. The anxiety had her shrieking by the first rung. Now she can.

Requests to get dressed, or get her shoes on, or brush her teeth, or do virtually any activity of daily living are no longer being met with blood curdling screams. She’s coping with her emotions. She’s aware of other people and their feelings. Who She Really Is, is being allowed to shine through.

The other morning, I wasn’t feeling well. Todd found her in the kitchen adamantly trying to squeeze a tea bag into a cold cup of water. She didn’t know to heat it first but she was trying to take care of me. She’d already made me a card. All this on her own.

We don’t do a sign of peace at church. This church hugs it out. The past two weeks, Riley circulated all over the congregation, (by herself) greeting people, offering hugs. Yesterday was birthday Sunday, where all the birthdays of the month go up to the front and she bopped right up there, took the mic, told everyone how old she is, and enjoyed being serenaded with the birthday song.  Todd and I were just shaking our heads.

Yesterday morning, I asked her to fill out thank you notes from her birthday gifts, and she sat down and did it, with gusto. No talking her into it. No meltdown. No help needed. No “I don’t want to,” or “It’s too hard,” or “I’ll do it later.”

I am not kidding, the last 6-9 months, every little thing, EVERY THING was a huge production. Todd and I were hanging on by a thread. It wears on you over time and you start to lose your compassion. You start to lose your mind. Our house had gone to pot. No energy for deep cleaning, or yard work. It was hell for us, and even harder for Riley. Seth suffered too.   

Three weeks ago I was dejected. I was giving up hope. I know that’s why my sister came. She just knew I needed help.

Todd called from work one day a few weeks ago and told me to look outside. There was a huge rainbow arching across the sky visible from our backyard. Todd was at the hospital, eight stories up, five miles away, right there in the sky with it.

Part of me gasped, I wanted to hope, so much. Part of me was like, eff the rainbow, I am so tired. This is no way to live. I admit to immediately flashing to a certain biblical review (hello M) and the absurdity of a God who would annihilate just about everyone and then offer “hope” in the form of a rainbow. Sorry Charlie, I don’t believe that.

I don’t know if it is the gluten free/dairy free diet. I don’t know if it is the new supplements. I don’t know if it is luck. Or prayer. It all coincides with the new doctor, so it seems we were right to make the leap.   

I don’t know why it has been so hard, but I do feel there is a reason. I’m being called to do something, and I could not do it well without really knowing the darkness. I mean, we’d known darkness, but it had been a while. Riley is being called too. Her story is hers to unfold.

This on-line community buoys me. I appreciate all of you so much. Thank you for coming back time and again. Thank you for caring about this girl, this family.

My baby is ten and she’s back.

Thank you for celebrating with us as we emerge.