The King’s Speech, Stuttering, Tics, PANDAS

The other night we went to see The King’s Speech. If you have not see it yet, I’m sure you’ve at least heard about this gorgeous movie. Colin Firth won an Oscar last night for his performance in it. The film is about a relationship between a speech therapist and a man who eventually becomes the King of England.

The future king has a stutter, …the result of emotional trauma as a child.

Seth stammers. Or is it a vocal tic? Or a combo of both.

Sometimes it’s barely noticeable. Sometimes it can take him 15 tries to get the first word of a sentence out.

And watching the movie sent me reeling…all the guilt about what this boy has endured as a special needs sibling. All the moments I had not one drop of energy left for him. I stopped breastfeeding him in one day when he was six months old because I had a panic attack and could not deal and had no support. All the times during those very trying years when I needed to run from the house, to catch my breath, leaving him behind. Both parents got away separately, even just a trip to the grocery store, but he never did.

What was it like for him to be woken from every single sleep as an infant and toddler to the sounds of his sister screaming(not your fault Riley, you could not help it)? What is it like to be so “perfect” all the time, not rocking the boat, because intuitively he knows his mom and dad are counting on him to not make waves.

What’s it been like to never not once take his frustrations out on his sibling, because she can’t help it/handle it/will scream more.

What’s it been like to grow up in a home where it is rarely about him?

Then again, maybe it isn’t a stutter. Maybe it’s PANDAS. Seth’s tics overall have been exacerbating lately, and it happens after he’s been sick. Sometimes I wonder if his love of Michael Jackson’s moves is because they are so jerky and staccato and can hide a lot of tics. Right now it’s a full body seize followed by an arm circle. They change up a lot. He seems to be able to hold them in a bit before really letting them out. Is it Tourettes? For a few weeks I was laying awake at night, wrestling with how to help him, worrying about long term repercussions of an inflamed brain (the hypothesis behind PANDAS and tics) vs. the repercussions of long term anti-biotic use.

After trying many different modalities of boosting his immune system so he will be less susceptible to strep, we are also finally going the antibiotic route for him. We’re at least trying it to see if it helps.

His regular pediatrician doesn’t seem concerned(or knowledgable about PANDAS). He was not at all interested in reading Saving Sammy. I wonder how he would feel if it were his child suddenly wracked with tics overnight?

Luckily, our kids’ other doctor, the one who treats autism is very knowledgeable about PANDAS, and very comfortable treating it. The only problem is she doesn’t take insurance. Which is actually good, because she isn’t governed by insurance companies on how to treat patients, but you know. It costs a lot.

I’m feeling this need to take him away for an extended time, just me and him, go to the mountains. Go to the beach. I don’t know. Not really do-able, but the desire is there. I’ve signed up to teach a Lego class (architecture, history of Lego, etc.) at the co-op because it is his passion.

Lately, I notice in play with other boys he is not standing up for himself. They like to take his hat and play keep-away with it. He acts good natured about it, but I know it bothers him, and there have been times when he’s looked on the verge of crying when it’s happened. (And let me be the first to say, I’d have been the kid having a good old time taking the hat when I was his age). I admit to stepping in and I probably should just let him lose his shit on these kids but I’m not sure he would.

Intuitively I know he is okay. I know he is a deep, deep soul who will be fine, fine, fine. I’m not trying to make drama where drama isn’t due, but I’ve got my eye on you buddy. You will not slip through the cracks. I promise.

Anyway…I loved the The King’s Speech. It was brilliant and beautiful.

Just like my boy.

Appreciation Saturday

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While the guy is painting our living room downstairs, Riley, Seth, Jingle, Yippee, the cats, and I are piled into the bedroom. The kids are watching TV while I type away. Seriously, why don’t we do this every day? So cozy and fun! I am in love with technology. How is it I can sit here wireless, writing under a big down comforter? It is still such a miracle to me. How is it we have electricity? Phones? Cell phones? Plumbing? It is all so amazing. Someone figured it all out, and I didn’t have to. I don’t have to do everything! I can just come along and reap the rewards. The Universe is abundant, I tell ‘ya. People who invented these things, wherever you are…I appreciate you. I love brilliant minds. I love learning.

Did you know there is a website called Khan Academy where you can learn just about anything?

I am really loving the whole learning at home thing lately. I admit we did it out of necessity initially, but more and more it makes sense for our family. And cue sunshine and rainbows please….we recently were approved for the Ohio Autism Scholarship for Riley which will allow us to have a tutor come to our home during the week to teach her(at no cost to us). I cannot tell you how much this will help our family. This is the best case scenario. She gets to be home, but we don’t have to bear the full responsibility of teaching her. We don’t have to do everything! This will afford us more one-on-one with Seth, and allow me to get things done around the house while the tutor is here.

I used to joke, “I’d love for her to be homeschooled; I just wish someone else would do it.”

Dreams do come true.

I’ll never forget the relief I felt in her pre-kindergarten year, when the wonderful private teacher we hired said, “I’d like to take care of the educational piece, so you can just be her mom.” She was a special needs parent too, so she knew. For so long I’ve had to be everything. Doctor, advocate, attorney, teacher, nutritionist, coach, you name it. I am feeling sweet relief.

We are finding now that Riley doesn’t have to keep it together 35 hours a week at school, (with homework on top of that) she is much more sociable. She is starting conversations (in small groups). She is joyful. She can follow a conversation through lots of twists and turns. We belong to a co-op which meets on Fridays and has anywhere between 40-60 kids each session. There are very small classes. Each child picks two classes and there is an hour long recess in between where children can eat and play. At first she stuck with her brother like glue but the last couple of weeks she’s been hanging with the girls her age. An outsider looking in would never be able to pick her out of the crowd as “the kid with autism.” She is more relaxed. Part of it has to do with the company.

This is what I’ll tell you about the homeschooled kids we have met.

-They are polite.
-They are kind.
-They do not feel “entitled” and are respectful not just of adults but of other children.
-They are not particularly competitive.
-They are creative.
-They seem to nurture each other.
-They happily eat nutritious food.
-They are accepting.
-They are happy with a big long thick rope, playing tug of war. Piling on. Dragging each other around, all over the gym, for as long as we let them.
-They are enthusiastic learners.

So, it is going well.

And of course, one of the very best things about being home is the ample time the kids get to spend with their animals.

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Some days are more challenging than others, but today is a good day, and it deserves a mention. Good coffee. Good kids. Good dogs. Good computer. Comfy bed.

Date night tonight with Hot Toddy. We’re seeing The King’s Speech.

Life is good, yo.

For real.

Love.

The mess before the sparkle

Snow day here in Cleveland. Our homeschool co-op is canceled. I was so glad not to have to dig out and get on the road. That being said, our house is in total shambles. We are having the living room painted, and the guy we hired got as far as the trim yesterday. He was supposed to be here today but it’s treacherous out there..so he probably won’t make it ’til tomorrow.

One more day of harsh yellow.

Back in Virginia, I had the perfect shade of yellow on our walls. I loved it so much. And I have not been able to replicate it. Colors are either too light, or too garish, and I’ve given up my yellow dream. Maybe another day, in another house…it will happen. Soon the living room will be “cappiccino,” with white trim. My sister had those colors in her last apartment and they looked really nice.

Everything from the living room is now in the dining room. A total mess. Today I am going to mercilessly go through it all, chucking everything that isn’t useful.

I wrote a post recently about what a wreck my house is. Just writing it freed me. As soon as I hit “publish” I suddenly had the energy to clear space. I went through closets, and cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed. I carried a garbage bag around for days, chucking stuff. Three full bags of crap we’ll never miss went to the curb. I don’t know….it was weird. I’d been so stuck, and suddenly I wasn’t. Then, Todd got wind of a guy who paints, someone at work recommended him, and he had a couple of days RIGHT NOW or we’d have to wait ’til spring so we went for it.

AND…last year my sister got me a gift certificate for a cleaning service (two hours, four people come in and deep clean everything) and they called and said, “Yo..loser…you have not used your gift certificate and it will expire,” so they are coming next week.

Soon, everything will be all spiffy and sparkly.

My goal is be able to manifest what I want, without having to sink into despair, have a mini-meltdown, feel completely lost and overwhelmed first, before feeling like it’s justified.

That will be so cool. I’m this close.

Pics of our babies on the wall in the upstairs hall. BTW…that’s not my wallpaper (LOL).

Gotta go tackle that dining room.

Love.

Standing in Another Hollywood-istic Place

Just over two hours ago I woke my husband from a sound sleep and told him I couldn’t take it anymore.

Riley had been sick all night, (tummy trouble associated with autism)and though he took the first shift, and was up ’til 2AM, by 5AM I was spent. Because not only is she sick, she can’t deal with the sensory issues of being sick, so she cries and moans, and ruminates on every bad feeling and worries and worries and worries and worries and worries, and worries and worries and worries and worries and I have spent so much time on the bathroom floor with this kid lately, flu bugs, and colds and now this, and my body is cold and achey and I lose compassion and feel the years being taken off my life because everything is just so much HARDER than it is for most, at least typical kids, and on and on, sinking my own self into despair.

And here’s the thing about Todd. I can come in and wake him when he himself has only had three hours of sleep, and I can say things any other person on the planet would judge and condemn me for. Things mothers should not say.  And he can look right through it and know my heart, and tell me he gets it, and it’s okay, and then two minutes after I cry and blow my nose and get it out, I can have him cracking up laughing…goading him to tell me whom he would tell to F off, right now if he could. And he indulges me.

And it’s after all this, I can put things in perspective, and remember the absoutely great day Riley and I had, and be grateful, so very grateful, to be her mom.

She had her first professional manicure yesterday (and I got a pedi). She was so cute reading People Magazine. Searching for Glee characters, and she found them.

She chose two glittery shades and was pleased,

“I feel like a celebrity,” she said, admiring her nails. Sorry for the blur.

Then we were hungry so we went to a restaurant, and had the good fortune to witness a man propose to his sweetheart at the very next table. We clapped! And then Riley whispered to me,

“Isn’t she a little young to be getting engaged?”

She was. Good eye Riley.


She had a gift card to Justice Just for Girls, a Christmas present from her grandparents so we went there. The ever so helpful girls who work there, asked every two minutes if they could assist us. Trying be polite and make conversation, I mentioned to one, “She has a gift card burning a hole in her pocket.”

Riley leaned in, looked the salesgirl in the eye and said, “She doesn’t mean that literally.”

She spent a nice chunk of her gift card and saved some for next time.

From there we went to Charming Charlies and she bought even more accessories, cause the girl is all about accessories lately.

I love when Riley makes up her own words, which she did here after trying on this headband, “I feel very Hollywood-istic.”

Indeed.

We spent less than $25.00 at Charming Charlies and she got a whole lot of bling. She even tried some of it on her dad.

So at 5AM, I might have been stretched to my cold achey limit, but I can look back several hours and stand in a another place. I know I have linked to this video before, but I do it again, because I need to be reminded of it.

Special needs kids have it harder. Special needs parents do too. But we also get the amazing highs over things parents of typicals take for granted. No one has ever been more in love with their kid than I was yesterday on our first girly girl mani pedi shopping day.

Bliss. Because a couple of years ago, she never could have stepped into a nail salon due to the smell.

Stand in another place.
Stand in another place.
Stand in another place.

In this minute, you may feel like crap, but you won’t always.

Thank you Todd. Thank you, thank you.

And Riley,

I do so love being your mom.

I See Weird People

Joy.

My kids are happy folk.

Seriously. They are having so much fun being them.

I am thankful for them. Thankful for the loving sibling relationship they have. Thankful for their kind and generous hearts. Thankful for their silliness. Thankful even for the voices they use to express what their dogs are thinking…in which they stay in character and carry on conversations for hours, (high pitched, strange inflection, kinda like Scooby Doo mixed with Alvin and the Chipmunks…totally doesn’t grate on my nerves…not at all…why would you think it might)?

They are weird, and wonderful.

Looking up from my computer I ask HT, what would you say about our children, and their weirdness?

He chuckles, then says, “I think they are both highly sensitive and in touch with their own joy.”

And just like that, I have an end to this post.

Dogs and Kids

Yippee likes to sleep with his nose in Seth’s armpit.

Eventually he comes up for air.

Little Man loves his dog.

And then, we have the girls.

Jingle was over at her BFF’s the other day,(they like to romp together in our neighbor’s big fenced in yard) and when I went to get her, she was nowhere to be found. I knocked on the door, and the neighbor’s dog was inside. Apparantly she’d barked to come in. We don’t know if she wanted to come in because Jingle left, or if Jingle left because her friend went in. Either way, Jingle found a way to escape the fence and she was outta’ there. It’s a tall fence too. We don’t know how she did it.

I stood in the silent yard, attempting to stay calm, thinking, she’s got her tags on, she’s micro-chipped. Also thinking….how am I going to tell that little girl I can’t find her dog?

And that’s the thing about love isn’t it? If you do it, with all your heart, you risk loss. You are suseptable to being hurt.

I made my way down to the end of our neighbor’s driveway, and there was Jingle, sitting politely on our front steps, as if she was just waiting for me to let her in. She’d been “missing” roughly ten minutes. Good dog!

My children will one day lose their beloved pups. Hopefully a long, long long time from now.


But what they’ll learn, is the love…it will have been worth it.

Inspiration is Everywhere

This is my sister Kelli. Nine years ago she had a very serious form of breast cancer. She was reeling, scared she might not see her children grow up. They were ten and five. Today she is thriving. Look at her glow. This picture was taken in Colorado, where she went over the weekend with her new love, Tom. She is lovin’ life. Man, is he lucky.

Speaking of love…my sweet girl has a mad crush on the bad boy of Glee, Mark Salling(the one with the mohawk). HT can’t handle it but I, being supportive went looking on the Internet for a picture of him to print off, per her request, so she can carry it around and stare dreamily at it. In my search for the right photo (not the one with his shirt off) I somehow stumbled upon this blog. I think this girl is adorable. I love her attitude. I love her sense of fashion. How many times do we think a few extra pounds precludes us from dressing how we want and looking cute? To hell with that. Twenty years old and she already gets that. Very cool. This is a video from her blog. Just a quick perusal of her site inspires me to be more girly.

And speaking of inspiring, check out the amazing photography here. Seriously, click it. I promise you won’t regret it. It is a collection of aerial photography produced by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Simply stunning. My friend Lidi sent the link in an e-mail.

And on a radio program today (Dr. Oz XM) I heard author Marci Shimoff, her book is titled Love for No Reason say that just taking a moment and placing your hands over your heart, causes your body to release oxytocin…the love hormone, which causes you to relax and feel good. So lets all do it, okay? Hands over your heart. Take a breath. Ahhh…..

Inspiration is everywhere. I love it. I love breathing it in, filling my lungs with it and what’s really fun, is passing it around.

Valentine’s Day

HT didn’t have to work today and it afforded us a few moments in bed together before going downstairs to greet the kids who were already up.

He wrapped his arm around me, and absentmindedly I stroked it.

“Sorry I didn’t get you anything for Valentine’s Day,” I said.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I didn’t get you anything either.”

“Not even a card?”

“Nope,” he said.

“Promise?” I asked.

“Promise.”

“Good. Me too.”

We lay there for a few moments, and then he said,

“You have the nicest touch.”

I smiled. He loves when I run my fingers over his skin. A simple arm rub is so appreciated.

A minute later he said, “I thought about getting you a gift certificate for a massage.”

“That counts,” I say, then add…

“And I rubbed your arm.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

We’re good.

We gave the kids chocolate Valentine lollipop hearts. They were thrilled.

I used his time off to completely de-clutter the bedroom. He dealt with the children all day. Our bedroom has never looked better. All organized and neat. Candles everywhere.

Evening. We ordered take out from a local pub, and forced the children to early bed so we could have our dinner, in peace.

I got a portabella mushroom sandwich(with blue cheese on ciabatta bread..with a Raging Bitch beer). He got a jalapeno burger, no bun, ice water. Fries, we split. Him catsup, me honey mustard for dipping.

We had a wonderful heavy deep and real conversation in which I apologized for not being able to handle it when he gets fearful about money. After all, I get to be fearful about lots of things, and he never shuts me down.

After we were done eating, he excused himself to take care of a pile of papers on the computer desk in the living room. That pile has been bugging me forever.

“Your Valentine’s Day present,” he said jokingly.

I go to the computer and begin writing.

There is really nothing better he could have given me.

Happy Birthday to The Fun One

Yes, It’s Valentine’s Day, but it’s also the birthday of Carrie Link!

Recently Carrie did a post on determining your essence. I thought about it and e-mailed her, stating I thought her essence was fun.

Carrie has given me so much laughter in the years I have known her. I love her humor. I love her writing. I love her friendship. I love who she is.

Happy Birthday Fun One. May you do only that which you want to do today.

Love.

Dogs of Dreamtime

I read Karen Shanley’s beautiful blog for a long time but somehow I’d never read her book. In researching for the class on dogs I’m teaching at the homeschool co-op, I was tickled to come across Dogs of Dreamtime and immediately started to read it.

Karen is a gifted writer, who has a rare combination of practicality while also making space for life’s mysteries. This book was seamless from start to finish. Never was I looking ahead to see how many more pages, never was I bored reading it. The relationships between Karen and the dogs in the book are intense, and complicated. As a reader you are not only on the edge of your seat, you learn a lot. As a writer, I was all…damn…that’s some good editing! I love how this story is put together!

There are people who like dogs, and there are people who are so deeply connected with dogs it’s otherworldly. Karen does a good job explaining herself as one of the latter in this memoir, even as she navigates some tough situations and choices she’s had to make around her dogs.

I absolutely loved Dogs of Dreamtime. My only regret is not having read it sooner!

The BS Hustle for Worthiness

Today I watched a DVD of a talk by Brene’ Brown, titled The Hustle for Worthiness. It made me think about some things. So often, home with kids more by default, not necessarily by choice(at least at first), I feel like I should be doing more. Doing something “important,” or at least more impressive. It’s not enough to be raising two children, homeschooling them, dealing with a multitude of special needs issues, etc. I should also be an author (a best selling one, of course). I should be an uber blogger. I should be making lots of money. My house should also be perfectly decorated, and always clean and tidy. My body should be perfect too. No fat. No sag. Toned, baby. And I should always be loving and calm with all children, pets and others who cross my path.

Why?

Would I feel worthy then? And worthy of what? Validation from those on the outside looking in? Because the people on the inside don’t care.

Why do I ever, even for a second, take time and energy away from my precious ones, …to ruminate about what I should be when I’m already enough to those who actually love me.

So let me let you in on a little secret. My house is a freaking mess. Every room has its share of mess. I will never be able to stay on top of it, and I often give up. I found cat poop in the basement yesterday, and I looked the other way…because I did not have a drop of energy left to deal with it. HT cleaned it up this morning. Bless his heart.

Here’s another one. I have wonderful ideas about decorating, but do not have the funds to do so, and I am sometimes embarrassed about my house, and want to qualify for guests (or photos on the blog) this is not my wallpaper, I plan on changing this paint color, it was like this when we bought it…going to replace it someday, and on and on. So many blogs are so pretty. Everyone’s houses are so cute. Cept’ mine. Oh the shame.

Then there’s this….I still can’t figure out what to do about Seth. He’s got a huge flare of tics going on, and I worry he’s not getting the help he needs because he isn’t a squeaky wheel. I lose sleep over this. Something isn’t right. I feel so overwhelmed so much of the time dealing with the complexities of my childrens’ health issues.

What if I just put these feelings out there, and love myself though them? I am after all, a mom who will decorate her face with a Crayola Washable marker at lunch, just to see her kids smile. I do lots of other good stuff too but I’m not going to list them; not going to “hustle for worthiness” today.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

Let it be.

Unique business cards and other things….

Check out these unique business cards at WebDesignerWall.com.

Very clever.

I love clever.

I love so many things. I love Seth in the next room singing Michael Jackson’s PYT. I love how I slept really late today. I’m not even gonna tell you how late; it’s embarrassingly decadent.

HT works the evening tonight and he snuck out of our room this morning…turning the fan on high…to block out all noise for me. We take turns doing this for each other every chance we get. If you can’t have two partners well rested, one parent well rested is good. Better than both tired. We can hold each other up.

You know what else is clever? This:, Life lessons from 40 movies.

Off to the homeschool co-op, where I am teaching a class on dogs. Today we’re contrasting and comparing human body language, and canine body language. There will be role playing. There will be demos on personal space.

The public school was concerned kids might be terrified of Jingle. And a few might have been, but what an opportunity for them to have learned not all dogs are scary. It doesn’t get much less threatening than Ms. Jingle.

Che sarà sarà.

Things have a way of working out,

exactly as they’re supposed to.

When I stop trying to force things

and just let go.

~
Maybe I’ll make some new business cards this weekend.

Michelle O’Neil
She does her best to goes with the flow
www.fullsoulahead.com

Because we’re all important enough to have our own cards, right?

1000 Faces

Back in July 2010 I posted a video here titled The Beauty of Different. The video was put out to promote Karen Walrond’s book of the same title.

Walrond is an award winning photographer and I enjoy her Chookooloonks website so much I put one of her “You Are Beautiful” buttons up on my sidebar. I love it!

One of my favorite things on her site in the 1000 Faces Project. She takes the most amazing portraits and somehow…every one of them is beautiful. These are real people, not airbrushed supermodels. And yet. And because of that, they are so very gorgeous.

Looking through the faces, I wondered…how does she do it? How does she capture the beauty, really pull it out…in each person? And then it hit me. She loves them. What we are seeing in the photos is love reflected back to her.

Looking at the faces makes me feel so connected to the beauty in everyone. It makes me look at people differently.

Look out at the world with love and get it back. So simple.

So powerful.

Saving Sammy PANDAS OCD

Remember when bloodletting was accepted as standard medical practice? Or when doctors didn’t believe in germs and refused to wash their hands between patients?

Or when OCD was just a mental illness, and not much could be done other than attempt to manage the symptoms?

This is Beth Maloney and I believe she’s going to go down in the history books as a hero. She refused to take “no” for an answer, and figured out her son’s severe, debilitating, body-snatching OCD was caused by a strep bacteria, and could be cured with anti-biotics.

Her boy was twelve years old, bright, a math whiz at his school. Within a few months he could no longer leave the home, bathe, tolerate touch, sleep, and could barely eat.

Like many of us with special needs kids, she was given a lot of disrespect and abuse from those in the medical community. Like so many of us, she’s had to do a lot of research herself and has worked very hard to find the brave maverick doctors who offered her hope and eventually healed her son.

How many people are locked up, institutionalized who might be able to be helped this way?

Maloney wrote a book about her experience, titled Saving Sammy which will no doubt help countless children suffering from OCD and other mental disorders. I love the recent picture of her above. It speaks of victories, and full lives, freedom and hope.

This is Beth and Sammy on The Today Show:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Beth Maloney will be interviewed on February 11th at 8:30 on Sirius XM’s Doctor Radio from NYU “About Our Kids.” It’s a call in show 877-NYU-DOCS with a national audience.  If you have questions for her, do phone in. XM 119, Sirius 114

8:30 am ET live
8:30 pm ET replay
5:30 am PT live
5:30 pm PT replay

Click on the book cover for the Amazon link.

Chat Pack


HT had bedtime duty last night; I was up in my attic office writing. When I finally came down, I peeked in on each kiddo and found Riley still awake in her bed. I came in and gave her a kiss and she said, “I was hoping you’d come down. I thought we could play Chat Pack.” She took the little Chat Pack box out from under her covers and presented it to me.

Chat Pack is a game I picked up a few months ago at a nearby independent book store. We don’t sit down to a big family dinner every night at our house, but we do manage it at least a couple of times a week and we all look forward to playing Chat Pack after we’ve finished eating.

It isn’t so much a game, (there are no winners or losers) as a conversation starter.

In your opinion, what would be the most enjoyable thing about being a dog or a cat?

What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever found?

Those kinds of questions. It is fun hearing what the kids have to say, and it’s been surprising to find Riley so…well…chatty.

I’d been gone most of the day, and then up in my office writing for the evening, filling my cup after a long week of being cooped up inside with the kids. It never occurred to me Riley would miss me or want to connect with me. She’s never taken the initiative like that. My heart just melted, looking at her with the Chat Pack cards, her room lit up with twinkling stars from the projector she bought with her birthday money last year. To think of her waiting for me, hoping I’d come down.

It was late, so I told her we could do one question and then we’d all do Chat Pack at breakfast in the morning. She was happy with that compromise.

It made me realize how much kids on the spectrum really do love us, even if they can’t or don’t tell us in so many words.

This morning, at the kitchen table it was hot chocolate, Chat Pack, goofy kids, a beautiful man, and a mom with a very full and grateful heart.

I love me some Chat Pack. I do.

Clay 2011

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After our first disastrous run at homeschool clay class last year, I was afraid to ever go back. What seems to be true though…. is some of our most tumultuous moments appear to stick with me, way longer than they do my girl. We took a session off, and then she was just begging to jump back in. I couldn’t fathom why she would want to. The thought made my stomach hurt. But she was adamant. This time of course, Seth is on board too.

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The teacher is an amazing woman, who simply loves kids. She wasn’t phased by Riley’s screaming or my tears last time. She gave me such a huge hug back then, on that darkest day. Somehow, miraculously, she was glad to see us again.

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Just a couple of weeks into the current session she… (gulp)…she wanted to let the kids try their hand at the wheel. You know…the wheel, which requires hands and feet to work together. The wheel which can be highly frustrating. The wheel, which can throw your clay across the room if you aren’t careful. The wheel which can collapse your masterpiece instantly if you don’t hold onto it just right.

I’m not Catholic, but between you and me? I crossed myself for luck.

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Both kids worked really hard.

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Riley’s first crack folded in on itself, just as she was getting on a roll. And you know what she did?

She tried again.

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She’s doing so much better this time. Jingle comes with us now, but has not really been needed.

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(We always wipe our bottoms because the glaze will stick to the kiln if we don’t).

Seth is having fun too.

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I’m so glad I didn’t let my fear keep them from signing up this time.
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Sometimes what seems like the worst scenario can propel you forward into new, uncharted territories, making you realize things have to change. Things have to give.

That awful day last year, when I lost my mind and said things I never wanted to say to my child, I sat on a window seat in our bedroom, distraught. Practically catatonic with grief, I held up the camera I’d been absentmindedly holding in my hand, put it in front of my face and pushed the button. I didn’t publish the photo because in it, I looked hideous. Ugly. Old. Raw. Used up. Like those photos you see of meth addicts who age 30 years in 12 months. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, because I didn’t feel I deserved sympathy. I felt like the biggest loser monster mother ever. At the time I was certain all my hard work, all the mother-love I’d given this child her entire life had been smashed to smithereens. (Of course that was untrue).

When I look at the photo, I see a mom who is beyond exhaustion. The expression on my face is pure grief.

Todd took Riley to a couple of those clay classes last year. Talking about it the other day he described it as “inhumane,” what we all went though during that time, dealing with her truly debilitating anxiety.

I learned so much from that awful experience. Huge life lessons, and not just about Riley and parenting, but about people and about judgement.

Most of all, that awful day pushed us to find more help for our girl, and to take better care of me.

Oh Riley. You are and have always been my teacher.

One night recently, Todd and I were tucking her into bed. It was a lighthearted mood, with both of us being silly, kissing her on opposite sides of her head and I said, “Riley I am so sorry for every time I’ve ever yelled at you, your whole life.”

Todd added, “Me too!”

(FYI we’ve hardly ever truly yelled at either one of the kids).

She sighed, reached out her hands and lovingly patted each of us. After a moment she said,

“We’re all humans.”

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And forgiveness. I learned about forgiveness. Forgiving myself, and forgiving those who may have judged me harshly. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have to go on.

“We’re all humans,”she said.

That we are little love-bug. That we are.

I love you beyond measure my sweet, sweet girl and I am so very blessed to be your mom.

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You Are That, From the Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter 6

Click here to read a beautiful passage of a father teaching his child Who He Is.

My babies…you are part of everything good and beautiful. Integral parts of the larger whole.

Oh the glorious beauty of words.

Oh the endless sources of inspiration, always more to be discovered, God is everywhere, do you see?

The ever unfolding of All That Is.

You are that.

We all are.

Amen.

Driving in the Snow

Driving in Snow

Driving in the snow, I look in my rearview and talk to the kids.

“You know, I’m lucky. I had a really awful beat up car when I was young. It had a big dent in the side. Sometimes I had to start it on a downward incline to pop the clutch.”

They look at me funny. They don’t know what “pop the clutch” means. They’ve never had a car break down, leaving them stranded, (such was my life for way too long).

I continue.

“When it snowed, I would take it into empty parking lots, and drive around, swerving, hitting the breaks hard, letting it spin out, getting a feel for how to drive in the snow. It’s why I’m not nervous driving in the snow today. I wouldn’t have gotten that experience with a nice car. I’d have been afraid to damage it.”

They smile.

“So you see, I didn’t like having a crappy car back then, but the experience really served me.”

Riley says, “I hope when I’m sixteen I’ll get a car.”

Seth asks her, “What kind do you think you’ll get?”

Before she can answer I interject cheerfully, “Hopefully a beater!

Silence for a while and then Riley says,

“Mom, I’d really prefer a nice car….no offense.”

~

*Photo from http://www.bestcarsguide.com