Clay 2011


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.


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.


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.


Both kids worked really hard.


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.


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



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

Seth is having fun too.


I’m so glad I didn’t let my fear keep them from signing up this time.


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.”


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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9 Responses to Clay 2011

  1. GB's Mom says:

    Great pictures! I am glad the anxiety has eased. That is what we are working on with my daughter now.

  2. Wanda says:

    The O’Ns are (to steal our friend Carrie’s line) my humans. Each and every one of you.

  3. kario says:

    I love how forgiving the clay is – that it lets you try again and again to get it right and that it somehow reminded Riley that she can learn from each mistake. I am so pleased the kids wanted to go again and I hope that through her forgiveness, you can forgive yourself and recall that you are a wonderful mother.


  4. Chris Vartorella says:

    Amazing Michelle…. freakin amazing….

  5. Carrie Link says:

    Greatest teacher, most def. NEHBM of the hat on Seth, and the head underneath it. And Wanda is right, YAMH, every last one of you.

  6. Courtney says:

    Love the post and the pics!

  7. Courtney says:

    Re: Carrie-isms … what’s YAMH?

    Also, not fair that Carrie has a pretty purple icon and mine is still puke green. I will be hung up on this forever and ever.

  8. amber says:

    “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.”

    …I knew there was a reason I needed to read blogs today.

    ps. I love that last sweet picture. 🙂


  9. a therapist says:

    I am very happy for your daughter that she is so high functioning because listening to how you snap really would make me worry for her if you had to deal with severe autism day in and day out including severe anxiety, uncontrollable stereotypy, a child who can not communicate at all, self injury, property destruction and so on. Be thankful. You don’t have it so bad and neither does she.

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