SISIS Quarterly Newsletter

When Riley was a wee screaming peanut, we met Stacey, a young occupational therapist who would change our lives. She was the first one to take us seriously about Riley’s intense meltdowns. She explained sensory integration dysfunction and talked to us about what it might feel like inside Riley’s body. Suddenly there was a reason we could put behind the behavior.

Several months back, Stacey asked me to write a little something for Sensory Integration Special Interest Section (SISIS) Quarterly Newsletter, a professional publication for occupational therapists. The focus of the article would be what it is like to parent someone who has sensory processing difficulties. 

Here is what I came up with.  Scroll down a little to find it. Hit the download button at the top to make it bigger.

As per usual with me, I forgot what I wrote two seconds after it was sent. I was a tad worried, because I vaguely remembered being in a wry, dry mood when I worked on it. Turns out it isn’t too terribly obnoxious, though with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I do bash the writers of television shows for children, and not for obvious reasons.

What’s it like to parent someone with sensory issues?

It’s restrictive, and it’s freeing. It’s all in how you look at it, day to day, moment to moment.  

 

*Riley and Stacey, working hard, in 2004.

Girls On the Run, Albuquerque

“At Girls on the Run I’ve learned more about being nicer, and health, and discovering what makes you unique. It makes me feel happy when I’m running and it’s also a fun experience.”
 
                                             – Riley, 10 years old

Last year, the planets aligned and my dear, longtime friend and sometimes roommate Kathleen who lives in Albuquerque, found herself in Cleveland with her husband, to care for her little niece, while her sister was in a wedding. Still with me?

While she was here, Kathleen attended Girls on the Run with us and became inspired, which is really cool, because it’s not exactly like she’s a warm & fuzzy touchy feely person. No offense, Lardna (we both call each other Lardna, don’t ask).   

Well guess what? She’s starting a Girls on the Run program in Albuquerque! Albuequerque is a hard city for kids. Poverty is rampant. Girls there especially need Girls On the Run.

Kathleen is in the process of fund raising to get her group up and running. If Riley has ever inspired you, and if you feel called to do so, please consider donating any amount (even five bucks) in her honor to help start the Albuquerque program. 

Here is Lardna’s fundraising letter. If you donate, not only will you be helping girls in New Mexico, but I’m betting Kathleen will let you call her Lardna too.

Hi Friends!

“At Girls on the Run I’ve learned more about being nicer, and health, and discovering what makes you unique. It makes me feel happy when I’m running and it’s also a fun experience.”
 
                                                    – Riley, 10 years old

Was this how you felt about being 10 years old? Probably not many of us can say it was . . . but we wish it had been.

Riley has participated in Girls on the Run in Cleveland for the past 2 years. As a member of the Steering Committee to start a chapter of Girls on the Run® in Bernalillo County, I’m committed to helping girls locally share her experience. But we can’t do it alone – we need your financial support.

Founded in 1996, Girls on the Run “combines an interactive curriculum and running to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles” for girls in grades 3 to 8. Our goal is to provide girls with the tools to make positive decisions in their lives, improving critical adolescent concerns such as body image, eating attitudes and self-esteem.
 
The program curriculum teaches life skills, incorporating running games and workouts. The girls learn to give to others through a community service project, and the program ends with a celebratory 5K running event.

Our girls are counting on us. Maia (age 11) of Albuquerque can’t wait to join the program, saying, “I would like the chance to be active and make new friends while not being afraid to be myself.”  Please help Maia share Riley’s positive experience.

Warm regards,

Kathleen (aka Lardna)

P.S. – Please send your donation TODAY. To meet the national organization’s requirements, we must act quickly and raise $2500 by September 1st of this year. Every dollar counts! You can donate online at http://gotrbernco.blogspot.com/. THANK YOU in advance for your support!

No More Drama

Last night we did something crazy. We went to Lilith Fair. Outdoor concert, six hours long. Loud. Both kids did AWESOME. I was there for Marty and Emily of the Dixie Chicks Courtyard Hounds.  So much more to say about the concert, but had to share this…

Mary J. Blige was incredible. She is just such a soulful, love filled, strong, strong presence. When she was singing her hit, No More Drama, she was really giving it her all, passionately jumping in the air, then she went down to a crouch, etc. Riley leaned over to me and whispered,

“She’s actually being quite dramatic.”

 

 *video from the 2002 Grammys

“Maybe a singer, an astronaut, an artist, a wisdom teacher, an actor, a fashion designer, a mom…”

HT took the kids to the Great Lakes Science Center and came home with these photos.

 

Of course upon seeing Riley in a space suit I thought of Temple Grandin’s quote. The one where she refers to NASA as “the largest sheltered workshop in the world.”

I have a love/hate relationship with quotes like that.

Love. I love the idea Riley could work at NASA or any other place she wants to, hold a job, live independently, make good money, etc.

Hate. I hate when people minimize the challenges of those with Asperger’s. Oh they’re just a little quirky, no big deal. Ha, ha. Not that Temple Grandin generally minimizes, but that kind of quote sweeps under the rug how truly debilitating Asperger’s is for many.

It’s more than just being “quirky.” It’s so much more.  And that pretty much explains Riley. She is more of a challenge, but she’s also more in a good way too.

Example: No one can touch her in kindness.

One day we were out for a walk, and she was complaining about something she couldn’t do. I can’t even remember what, and I talked to her about the kindness she possesses.

“Riley do you know how many people come to see spiritual teachers, pay good money to hear them speak, they themselves striving to find the kindness and compassion in their hearts that is already right there, out in the open, in you?”   

We walked silently for a while as she thought about this. 

Finally she smiled at me,

“Maybe I’ll be a wisdom teacher,” she said.

“Maybe you will be,” I said.  

More.

Far as I know, most ten year olds aren’t considering “wisdom teacher” as career choices.

Riley O’Neil.

“Has not missed a day of wisdom teaching since June of 2000.”

That will look good on a resume.’

NASA would be lucky to have her.

Handy dandy travel tip for vacations with children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have a bin, up high in the hall closet where tchatchkes go after they’ve been home 24-48 hours. Every little prize from the doctor or dentist. Every cheapo toy incentive from a well meaning teacher or librarian. 

It’s a melting pot.  

The tchatchkes come along on all road trips. Each time, the kids are delighted to see them again. They set up tchatchke colonies all over hotel rooms. They make believe elaborate scenes where monkeys and Garfield, Smurfs and elephants, Pac Man and Barney live in peace.

I’ll have my nose in a book. Todd will be watching ESPN, and they’ll play with the tchatchkes. It’s a vacation tradition.

Todd and I don’t give a rip if a tchatchke turns up missing. In fact, we encourage it. One less tchatchke. There are so many, the kids barely notice if they lose one.  No doubt some of our tchatchkes are hiding in crevices, behind curtains where maids fail to vacuum. They’ve definitely been left at rest stops along the side of our nation’s highways.  We know of one who is sentenced to a lifetime of solitude under a table connected to a fold out bed on Holland America’s Westerdam cruise ship. (That time we fit as many tchatchkes as we could into a two gallon zip lock bag and threw them in the suitcase). There was no way to rescue him. Seth had a hard time letting that one go. Two years later, he still misses him.

I love our tchatchke bin and what it represents.

I love our kids.

I love HT.

Amen.

Memoir Writing Intensive with Jennifer Lauck

I started this blog because author Jennifer Lauck suggested I do so. I was one of her first writing students, and at my second or third workshop, she said all of us should be blogging. Oh, the thrill, the first time I hit “publish.” Oh, the lack of sleep which came with feeling so very exposed. But the thrill!

Jennifer taught me so much about writing. She honored the beginner. She challenged the more experienced writer. Back then, she made me believe I could really do it. My first published piece, (and the one I am still most proud of) came during my first writing workshop with her. That piece was written with my whole body. Every cell. Something gave way that day up in the Colorado mountains. It was a huge release.

I had Jennifer’s list of writing rules taped to my computer where I could see them for years until I no longer needed them. That list was gold, baby!

I have met so many wonderful people as a result of Jennifer’s workshops. Dear, dear friends.

Jennifer is having a workshop in Pittsburgh in September. Details below. I won’t be there, life takes me in a different direction at this time, but if you feel the pull, go! Jennifer is a talented writer. You will learn much.  

Memoir Writing Intensive with Jennifer Lauck

Memoirist, novelist, poet, journalist, essayist and the one who writes dreams in a journal—all are welcome. If you are a writer, new or seasoned, you will be profoundly renewed by two and a half days with Jennifer. Her interactive teachings, a combination of the practical and the spiritual, will guide you to the heart of your lived experience and give you courage to write your truth with beauty, grace, tenderness and a great humor.

Lauck is the author of New York Times Bestseller Blackbird, Still Waters, Show Me the Way and soon to be released, Gone Home: A Memoir. Her books have been featured on Oprah and have been translated into more than twenty languages and sold in twenty nine countries.

Memoir Writing Intensive
Where:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(Workshop location & discounted hotel block to be determined)

When:
September 24th thru September 26th, 2010
Friday Evening, September 24th 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 25th 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 26th 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Cost: $350 to $500 (sliding scale)
50% deposit required upon registration. Deposit non-refundable.
Upon registration please include approximately 10 pages of your writing and a brief summary of your writing dreams, goals and visions.

50% deposit required upon registration. Deposit non-refundable.
Upon registration please include approximately 10 pages of your writing and a brief summary of your writing dreams, goals and visions.

To register via mail, send your deposit to:

Jennifer Lauck
2249 NE Couch
Portland, OR 97232
For Details:

Jennifer Lauck jennifer@jenniferlauck.com or phone 503.367.3696
Kathee DiPietro katheed@hotmail.com or phone 412.833.3017

www.jenniferlauck.com

Cool As a Cute Little Cucumber

Today was the last day of music camp for the kids. The end of camp performance, Zeus Lost in Cleveland featured none other than Riley O’Neil in the female lead role of the Greek Goddess Herra. This morning, she woke up early and insisted I paint her fingernails gold, and curl her hair, and paint golden glitter into her locks. As I got her all dolled up, I held my breath, remembering the stage fright debacle of Easter 2010. HT assured me it would be okay.

And it was! 

Riley nailed every line. She was the star of the show! This little girl who was so scared last year at camp, strutted out there with nothing but excitement. This is an inclusive camp, but the majority of campers are typicals. What is striking to me about it, is the special needs kids aren’t off to the side, letting the “popular” kids shine. They are truly included. Seeing Riley, (and another girl, and a boy with autism), be right in there, part of the whole thing, Riley leading the whole thing, …that these kids get a turn, a chance to really, really shine… I had to hand HT my camera because I simply couldn’t take it.

Can you feel the lump in my throat?

The dance teacher, Erin,(who also teaches Riley’s therapeutic dance class throughout the year) cried with me afterward, saying Riley is exactly the reason she does what she does for a living. She was so very proud of our girl.

Riley’s aide Ms. Marilyn makes camp possible for our daughter. She cares deeply about children. We are so very blessed to have her in Riley’s life. A better advocate would be impossible to come by. She knows when to hang back, and when Riley needs support. She navigates seamlessly behind the scenes paving the way for Riley and allowing her space to soar. She’s been working with special needs kids for over 20 years. She is the best.

Seth the proud brother was part of the performance as well. His first year at this camp, he was in the background, part of the younger kids ensemble. As campers get more seniority they get more challenging parts.

It was just four weeks, half day. Next year both kids want to go full day. Riley has dreams of one day becoming a camp counselor.

Her dance teacher told her she should become a counselor, and that she posesses a lot of leadership qualities already.

And I saw Riley take those words into her heart.

We’d have loved her no less had she run from the room afraid, but it feels so good when she has positive experiences like this.

Here is just a snippet of our little Goddess, thriving. 

Love.

a flutter

At church on Sunday, Riley was very snugly. She’s so calm there. She seems to enjoy sitting with her family, taking in the message, enjoying the meditation, Jingle at her feet. So we were sitting there, side by side, my arm around her, and she did the “come here” gesture with her index finger. It seemed she wanted to whisper something in my ear.

I leaned in and instead of whispering, she fluttered her eyelashes on my cheek, giving me a butterfly kiss. I pulled back and looked at her, and she smiled.

She was seven the first time she gave me a kiss, unsolicited. This was my first of the butterfly variety.   

I’m still celebrating.

Why is this boy smiling?

 

A) Because he adores his mother, and especially loves her taking pictures of him.

B) Because his mother is beautiful.

C) He’s in a state of appreciation for all his mother does for him.

D) He’s forsaken his mother, developed a crush on Emma Roberts (Julia’s little niece…star of Hotel for Dogs), and he is hiding a picture of her he printed off the computer behind his back.

Little dude isn’t even eight yet! I thought we had more time! I thought we had a deal, he would love me and only me, forever! HT thinks I should find solace in the fact she’s a petite brunette, “like his mother.” Nice try HT. I searched for solace but came up empty.

 

Okay, so it is kind of cute, the way he’s carrying the picture around, putting it on the music holder of the piano as he plucks out little tunes. To her I’m assuming. And it is sweet how his face turns red at the mention of her. And though I was hoping for a fabulous gay son, I guess it’s okay he’s evidently straight.

As long as Emma doesn’t mind moving in with us. ‘Cause I’m never letting him leave me.

 

*Photo from cleveland.com

A Regular Hootenanny

Last night I went to a party thrown by Karen, the music director of Windsong, and her partner Holly. That’s Karen in the Windsong shirt under the lights, with Windsong singers Sarah and Amanda. It wasn’t just Windsong there, but we made up a good share of the party.

Husband’s and children were most welcome, but after a quick scan of where I’ve been emotionally lately, Todd and I decided it might be best for me to attend alone. Love them dearly, but some days, the last thing I need is more time with my kids.

What a man, what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man.

Karen and Holly had quite a spread, and most everyone brought stuff too.   There was so much food, you couldn’t see the counters in the kitchen. I had a plate, and then a few hours later, had another plate! 

It was so nice to have time to socialize with the women of Windsong. Most of the season we’re all business. Rehearsal for two hours on Sundays, in and out, rushing off to our lives. Having time to sit and chat was delightful.

Here is Melody, second soprano. Second sopranos rule.

Here is Kate and her little baby girl, whose cheeks I could barely resist. And her curls! And her little baby biceps!

Look at those legs. She just started walking.

Of course there was music. Lots of singing. Someone brought their guitar. Kathy brought a bag of percussion instruments to thrust into unsuspecting hands. The members of Windsong who were in attendance sang Away Ye Merry Lassies, a jaunty little cacophonous tune we’ve sung in concert, 

“I told me mum I was goin’ out, she asked what I was all about, I asked if I could take the broom, I’m goin’ to meet the girls//Cause it’s the girls night out, away ye merry lassies, get your brooms get ’em out, we’ll ride the wind tonight.”  

Here is Kathy with her drum. She’s the music director at the Unity church we attend. I forgot my camera and felt lost without it, so I just took pics on hers all evening.

Twenty two members of Windsong just got back from a conference in Chicago, where 600 women singers came together to perform and share music. They learned a little ditty while they were away and were happy to perform it for us, a song about singing with your feet, and also something about loving your vagina, or taking good care of it, or nude sunbathing. Sunshine and vaginas, is all I remember. Something like that. Right Cindy?    

While in Chicago, Kathy Face Booked something about improv singing, and how fun it was, and I responded to her status update that it sounded like hell. Not knowing what you were supposed to sing? Being put on the spot? No thank you!

Why do I tell her these things? Of course before the night was over, she had me singing improv.  

But she was right. It was really cool. You stand in a small circle, it was Kathy, Ginger, Kelly, Kate, Cindy and me. Kathy started by singing a random rythym and then everyone else joined in, one at a time, adding the rythym they felt in their heart, and then Kathy pointed to me, my turn!, and I didn’t know what to do! But these women are so talented and amazing, and you just feel like they’ve got you, and you feel safe, and they are not judging you, so I let go and joined in, and soon all six of us were making this beautiful music, and you can’t worry, you have to be right there in the moment, for it to work. It somehow all melds together, and flows and twists and turns and then the energy sort of disappates and we all intuitively knew when to wrap it up. It was awesome. 

This is Maria(red), Ellen, and Chris on the right. Maria and her new husband just got back from their honeymoon.    

That’s me in the purple shirt. All alone. Was it something I said?

Here is Karen, our fearless leader, enjoying a purple popsicle.

One of the highlights of the party for me, was a quick little moment I had meeting Karen’s dad. He was so cute. We were getting food in the kitchen, and we introduced ourselves, and I told him I sang in Windsong, and he told me he was Karen’s dad, and he just had this proud little twinkle in his eye. Karen is an amazing music director, she leads not just Windsong, but another more professional audition choir and I think maybe a church choir too? God only knows how much work goes into these endeavors and what else she does. The music she picks is so inspiring. I feel priveleged to sing under her direction with so many phenomenally talented women. 

And speaking of talent, here is Karin, our incredible pianist.

Chris below in the purple hat has a gorgeous singing voice. She’s also a terrific writer and a colassal wise ass.

And here we have Kelly in the floral hat. We wear uppity little hats like these for one of our numbers called,

“Why can’t you girls be nice?”

The party was still in full swing when I left. I had to park half a mile down the quiet road, and as I walked under the stars with my empty chicken salad bowl, I thought about how overwhelmed I’ve been feeling lately. How claustrophobic I often get at home. How I’ve missed singing during the summer break from Windsong and church choir. How good it is to get out and do something without the kids. I love my children so very much, but there is more to me than being their mother. It’s all about balance, and when you are home with them, especially having homeschooled Riley since January, finding that balance is sometimes precarious.

So…thank you Karen and Holly for a most lovely time!

I’ve got to make a point to hop on my broom more often.

Art is to Todd, as sports are to Michelle

We had about an hour before we needed to pick up the kids at half-day camp. We were looking for a cafe’. He didn’t want to go to a coffee house. The diner wasn’t yet open. I suggested The Cleveland Museum of Art, it has a cafe’! And, it’s just two seconds from camp!

By the time I was showing off my expert paralell parking skills (honed when I lived in the DC area) I’m sure HT was thinking maybe the coffee shop wouldn’t have been so bad, but we were too far in.

We had a little snack in the cafe’, and then went off to the galleries.

It wasn’t my first time at the museum, and I’ve had my Art History 101, and 102, so I felt perfectly justified in acting like an art snob to the uninitiated, pointing out this artist’s work and that.

As we walked, hand in hand, I was interested in finding out what, if any type of art he might like.

“Let me know if any of the paintings speak to you. If anything causes a stir in your heart,” I said earnestly.

He raised an eyebrow and deadpanned, “If any of the paintings *speak* to me, I’m out of here.”

He wouldn’t know Degas or Matisse or Monet if they bit him. Frankly, he wasn’t impressed by the water lilies. They did nothing for him. 

Picasso, at least, amused him. Seth likes Picasso too, while I’ve never really felt a resonance. It’s like my brain won’t stop trying to figure Picasso out. Picasso frustrates me.

When we came upon Van Gogh, we lingered. I love the thick brush strokes; painting on the verge of being sculpture. I love the swirls. I like to get up close and look at the texture. The emotion.

Todd stood back, silently taking it all in, and after a while he said,

“It’s as if Van Gogh invented new colors.”   

And that’s how he does it. No pretension.   

I’ll study spiritual texts for years, sharing tidbits with him, thinking “he just doesn’t get it” and then he’ll say something so profound, it is clear he does in fact get it, and perhaps more so than I, who cannot see the forest through the trees which have been cut down to make the books I have my nose crammed in.

He laughed this morning when I said,

“I’ve been thinking about LeBron.”

He knows I couldn’t pick LeBron out of a line-up.

“If he leaves, maybe it is a way for him to individuate. He’s a kid, Cleveland is like a parent. He might just feel too much pressure here. He might just need to explore the world on his own, outside of being Cleveland’s darling.”

Todd considered this thoughtfully. Since we’re not originally from Cleveland, he isn’t too terribly emotionally invested in LeBron, but he is following closely, like every other sports fan. Oh my Lord it is OUT OF CONTROL.

What

Will

LeBron

Do?

Hey, I’m not suggesting my thoughts on LeBron are as brilliant as HT’s thoughts on Van Gogh, but if he’s willing to spend time a little time in my world, I’m willing to dabble in his.

Weird Inspiration

At the fireworks the other night, J & V, two little girls who live on our street showed up donned all in black, like ninjas. They’d taped glo-sticks all over themselves and were walking around in the dark. They set up camp near us, and generously shared sparklers and glo-sticks with Riley and Seth.

If you know these two, it would not surprise you they might arrive at 4th of July festivities dressed as ninjas with glo-sticks taped all over themselves. J, the oldest of the two (who will be entering 4th grade next year) has been known to wear her hair in a mohawk and her creative fashion choices are definitely all her own.  Happier, friendlier kids you won’t meet. I like them.  

Anyway….as J was fussing with a sparkler, a boy about her own age walked by and said in her face….”Hi weird person.”

Without missing a beat she said back, all friendly, “Hi other weird person.” Totally owned it. Totally rocked out the wierd.

Riley leaned over to me as we sat on our blanket, “Mom. Did you hear that?”

I did, but she replayed the conversation for me anyway.

He said, “‘Hi weird person,”

and then she said,

“Hi other weird person.” 

I nodded.

Riley looked at me a long moment, and then she smiled. I smiled back at her. 

Then she added, kind of dreamily,  

“J & V are so inspiring.”

Sitting there watching the fireworks with my family, my heart felt happy and hopeful. If Riley can be moved watching someone else embrace their “weirdness,” perhaps she is getting closer to embracing her own.

My Apologies to Kelle Hampton

There is an opportunity for healing here.

Recently I began following the amazingly beautiful blog of, Kelle Hampton. She’s a professional photographer. Her pictures are gorgeous. She has a little tow-headed three year old daughter, and the most exquisite baby girl born just a few months ago, with Down Syndrome. The story of Nella Cordelia’s birth sucked me in completely, and I’ve been reading Kelle Hampton’s blog ever since.

This mom is way more insightful than I was at her age. She is doing motherhood her own way, not listening to people who warn her how hard DS is going to be. She is a positive person. I believe in that, you know? It’s like, my thing. Law of Attraction. What you focus on gets bigger. My success is measured by my joy.

But lately, when I read her blog, (and seriously this has nothing to do with her) I can’t stand her. And not just because she looks great in a bikini a few short months after giving birth. Her beautiful story is bringing up so much pain for me.

Her little three year old, and the fun they are having, the sweetness and light of their relationship. It makes me cry. Because I wanted that. I wanted a happy little three year old girl. And my sweet little girl mostly just screamed at that age. And sometimes it is hard not to think about how much we missed. We weren’t having faerie parties. We were at occupational therapy, and autism doctors, and dozens of other therapies(not covered by insurance), etc. I wanted to be that mom. All laid back and fun, and crafty. But I was wasn’t. I felt like I was racing for my daughter’s life at the time. My brow was permanently knit. I wasn’t at the beach “sucking the marrow” out of life. I was worried. I was swimming in fear.

And then here is Nella. The most adorable little baby. I don’t know this family at all, but that little baby has my heart. I believe she will have the heart of every person she meets, her entire life. Her sweetness just oozes off the page of her mama’s blog. And it brings up another hurt.

Riley will never get the instant benefit-of-the-doubt Nella will receive.

It took years to get a correct diagnosis for Riley. I was so very alone as a new mother. No therapists coming to the house. No support from our pediatrician. No support from anyone, really. We had moved to a new state, and I hadn’t one friend nearby to bounce things off of. When Riley started having severe meltdowns, there was no one to hand her off to. How do you ask a casual friend, a neighbor, someone you don’t know well, to look after a child, who by the way, won’t stop screaming?

And this other blogger? She has such a solid support system. She has a whole huge community both physically where she lives, and on-line, celebrating her very special baby.

No one ever celebrated us. No one ever said, “Hey, you have a kid with autism, and it is going to be such an amazing ride if you allow it to be.”

No circle of women gathered around, treating me with reverence.

Todd did his best to support me, but he hadn’t a clue either. Both of us, relatively well adjusted ’til then, had panic attacks for the first time in our lives by the time Riley was three.

Oh how my heart goes out to those younger versions of ourselves. Oh that we managed to be kind to each other, under those circumstances, it just brings a lump to my throat.

And I thought I was okay. I thought we were in a mostly good place. But when I start finding fault with people, I have to stand back and ask, what’s hurting? Seriously, what’s going on? Especially if my fault with someone is that they are “too positive.” That’s just kind of funny, given what I believe. Oh ego, you are so very clever.

If given the choice, I wouldn’t trade the daughter I have for anything. She is mine and I am hers, and I do believe we’ve been together for lifetimes. She is the exact daughter I was supposed to have. I was meant to be her mother.

I had this very vivid dream back in 1994, before Todd. Six years before Riley would be born. A baby sea otter was taking me on an ecstatic ride, gliding me through the ocean. The love I felt for this little otter was pure God force. I’d never experienced anything like it. The love was so vivid, so powerful, so raw and wild, I woke up, my heart beating fast, and wrote it down. The next day I took the only medium I had at my disposal, and drew the feeling in crayon.

I forgot about the dream, tucked the drawing away somewhere, but the instant Riley was put in my arms it flooded back to me. It was her! The baby sea otter I loved. The baby that would take me to wild and amazing places. The soul friend-sister-daughter-mother who would lead me through the fire. I thought the drawing got tossed, but found it last year in a box that hadn’t ever been unpacked in several moves.

I have it framed in my office now. This drawing reminds me, Riley and I are doing important work here. We’re doing things I can’t even wrap my mind around yet. Kelle Hampton is doing her own important work. To entertain the thought that her life, is somehow better than my life? Source does not agree. And when we think thoughts that go against the truth of the Universe, it hurts! When we forget how absolutely vital each one of us is, to All That Is, that’s when we suffer. And when we suffer, we start finding fault with others.

And you know what? I never could have figured all of this out, if not for Riley and the places she has taken me. Loving her, has caused my heart to shift and open a  million times wider than it ever would have. My compassion muscles are really big now. This includes having compassion for myself, even when I’m ugly. Even when I make mistakes. Even when I think petty thoughts. But I can no longer leave things there. My soul won’t tolerate it. I have to dig deeper now.

So, my apologies to Kelle Hampton. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to grow. Keep “sucking that marrow” Kelle. You and yours are so very beautiful.

And we are too.

July 4th

This morning, the kids took part in the Fourth of July bike parade on our block.

Much care was taken to decorate the scooters in red white & blue streamers, USA signs, and patriotic elephants.

Riley had her outfit planned for weeks, down to the last detail.

 

From the parade we hopped on the train and went directly to the baseball game.

It was Hot Toddy’s Father’s Day present from the three of us. Sports make him happy.

Riley surprised us again, by being heartily into the game. “Go Tribe!” she shouted.   

While I’m not really into sports, I’ll be a sport and go to a game now and again. My brain can’t possibly follow it. It’s like I’m genetically against sports, but I do have fun. You’d be amazed at all the things I can do and think about to pass the time. Taking pictures for instance. 

 Riley brought Alvin along, of course.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jonathon Livingston Baseball.

A quiz is in order for the next one, because I don’t know the answer. Is the man in the following picture:

A. P. Diddy

B. Usher

C. Some other beer drinking pop star I’ve not heard of

Help me out here. I don’t get out much and only watch things we TIVO.  TIVO, you are dreamy, BTW. I love you with all my heart and soul. Because of you, I never have to watch a commercial again. Except subliminal ones.

Speaking of dreamy, hello little fella.

The Indians lost, but I think HT had fun (Psst. he’s a Yankee fan).

He had to work the past two years on July 4th. It is so nice he has today off! We’re home now taking a breather. Fireworks tonight. Happy Independence Day!

Love.

Sometimes a girl just likes to dream about beautiful kitchens…

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday. My tiny, tired, and get ready for it…

no-dishwasher-’cause-there-is-no-space-for-it kitchen. I know, I know. What was I thinking when we bought this house?

I could click through this designer’s blog roll all day.

Anyway…

Last night, Riley took a garbage bag full of shredded paper, and used it as “confetti” in her bedroom. It was Friday, which means Seth gets to sleep in her room on the air mattress. Seth, I’m sure, enjoyed the confettit too, but it was all her idea. I wondered why she was so adamant about helping shred all week.

What fun was had! Until I came in and had a meltdown. I seriously will be cleaning this up for years. It clogged the vacuum instantly. Once again, stuff she never would have done at three years old. She’s being quite sassy and defiant as well. Suddenly I have to watch her every second. I have to believe she’s moving through something, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on the other side of this.

For now, I’m going to dream about tidy houses, places for everything and everything in their places, beautiful spacious kitchens, and dish washers.

 

*Mad as  I was, a part of me was tickled because Riley has just never done stuff like this. Did I ever tell you about the time I found a half empty paint can and painted the Toyota and everything else in the garage pink…using my ponytail as a brush? I was four. Good times.

Touche’

Since she was tiny, we have done our best to correct Riley when she says something inappropriate. We know her heart, and know she doesn’t mean it, but sometimes she just comes across as bratty or rude, and well…she needs to know.

For many years, we’ve had do-overs.

Random example. She’d come to the dinner table, take a look at the food, scream, and run away.  I’d bring her back to the table for a do-over, demonstrating the appropriate action.

“Here’s what you could say instead: Mommy, I really don’t like green beans, is it okay if I only eat one bite?”  

Or she’d snap at one of us, meeting any question, (even those she would definitely want to answer “yes” to) with a “NO!”  The mere act of having to answer a question was too much to process.

“Riley, let’s think about how someone might feel, when you scream “no” at them like that? I want you to do it over and say more gently: No thank you.”  

I can’t even begin to tell you how many do-overs we’ve facilitated in her young life. The trick is, to take the emotional charge out of it. It’s like teaching a person a new language. If I were teaching someone English as a second language, I wouldn’t be mad at them for making mistakes, I’d just correct them. Social skills are a language too.

Yesterday was a long day. Lots of errands. The kids were in a loopy zone, not really paying attention to me. Goofing around, not being helpful, egging each other on. It made it extremely difficult for me to focus on getting what we needed at the grocery store. 

Once home, the grocery bags were too heavy for them to carry, but they could have opened the door for me. They could have moved their little behinds up the steps at a quicker pace as I stood there arms loaded behind them. They could have stopped screwing around in the doorway.

I could feel one of the bags starting to rip as I stood there waiting for them,

“Riley and Seth! Do you see my arms are full? Do you understand these groceries are heavy? Will you stop acting so clueless and hustle up those stairs please!”

Later, when I was calmer, I said, “I”m sorry. I know you are good kids. It’s frustrating when I feel like I’m doing all the work, and you aren’t helping. I need you to notice when I am struggling, and open the door for me, and at the very least move out of the way when I’m trying to get up the steps with bags of groceries.”

Riley said, “It’s okay Mom.”

And then, in her sweet voice, with no emotional charge or judgement she said,

“And Mom. Would you mind not calling us “clueless?” It didn’t really hurt my feelings too much, but it kind of made me feel like you don’t think we’re smart.”

I apologized, and though I feel bad for calling them “clueless,” her repsonse felt like such a victory, I can barely even beat myself up.