What’s the Best Case Scenario?

Tonight I was feeling antsy. Not quite in a funk, but teetering, despite my best efforts to stay positive. I needed to get outside. We went to a park and as the sun went down we watched herons and the kids did some swinging and some climbing. It was just the thing. Fresh air. Trees, glorious trees. Cleveland is good for that. It is so very green this time of year.

Riley knocked our socks off, climbing what used to be the bane of my existence. She went higher tonight than she’d ever climbed before, and while there were kids half her age who made it to the very top, she was proud of herself, and not concerned with them. Not a tear was shed, though I almost lost a few happy ones. I was telling my friend Cindy yesterday about this blessing. This getting to be full out stoked about the seemingly smallest things. This never taking anything for granted which comes with having a kid on the spectrum. I’ve come to appreciate living life this way.

It should be noted that Seth made it to the top for the first time this evening. He’s always been a little scared of heights, not panicky, but not adventurous. Look at him up there, proud as a peacock (and hello cute little redheaded dude, whoever you are).

I was listening to an archived service at The Agape International Spiritual Center today, and Rev. Michael Beckwith posed the question, “What is the best case scenario?” In any situation….he advised us to ask this. I was surprised how many times today, I tried to ask the question, and my brain could barely go there. It was difficult to stay focused on the best case scenario outcome. Worst case was somehow easier to imagine.

Flip it.

So…I’m feeling a little funky. Nothing is exactly wrong,….but what is the best case scenario for this evening?

We go to the park and enjoy the sun going down together, and breathe in some nice fresh air in the hour before bedtime, and wind up having a good evening. And we did.

Super climber girl with excellent coping? She was just icing on the cake.

Do Unto Others and They Will Totally Make Your Day

Willy,ever sharp in his black hat and suit

After the peace pole was planted in the ground, and after Let There Be Peace on Earth was sung, the parishioners started to disperse. There was a grassy hill to navigate down, and I noticed one of my favorite parishioners, Willy, standing there. He is an older gentleman, and not wanting him to lose his step on the way down the incline I walked over and casually hooked arms as we walked down the hill. He looked delighted. That’s one of the great things about Willy. He always makes you feel like he’s tickled to see you.

We made it down the hill, arms linked, and as we got to the door, he said, “My mother always told me to help people. Whenever I saw an older person, she said, go help them. One day you’ll need help and someone will help you.”

He smiled at me and said, “You made it come true!”

I already adored him, but that is how Willy officially melted my heart on Sunday.

Such a sweet, sweet man.

13 moon walk 4 peace

Today at Unity Center of the Heights, we had visitors from 13 moon walk for peace, a group who walks the globe, bringing a message of love. 13 moon walk for peace goes into places many of us wouldn’t dare go, letting people who often feel forgotten know they are seen.

Everybody wants to be seen.

The group is leaving behind peace poles, creating a trail across the country. Their goal is to awaken the heart of America.

Audri Scott Williams spoke for the group today, and one of the things which moved me is she’s brought her elderly mother who has Alzheimer’s along on this walk across the nation.

Be it Alzheimer’s, or autism, the tendency sometimes is to not bring them along because they might be disruptive. I love inclusion.

Audri Scott Williams asked today, “What does peace mean to you?”

I’d love to hear your response to the question in the comments.

Kids are home sick from day camp today, so I’ll do a rampage of appreciation…

Because camp is only four weeks. And they don’t go to school. So this is the only time all year which was carved out to be truly mine, and I’d been soooo looking forward to it, and I’m feeling a bit victimy about their sniffles and sore throats…. (Seth was home yesterday too).

Those first three days of camp were pure heaven. And I’m glad I didn’t work myself to the bone doing projects. I did some regular things, laundry, light cleaning, but also read Courtney Sheinmel’s latest, All the Things You Are, which is awesome! The narrator is a girl whose mother gets arrested and sent to prison for a white collar crime and she’s left to live with her step-dad. It is riveting! And there is brief mention of a trouble maker in the book named Michelle, after me. And another one named Carrie, after Carrie! Carrie and Michelle are in cahoots. Love it! I would love this book even if I didn’t know the author and even if my name weren’t in it.

I appreciate my kids aren’t seriously ill. My daughter is doing phenomenally well. I appreciate the home we live in. The good organic food in our fridge and cupboards. Running water. My computer. A library within walking distance and more books than I could ever read. Music. Good coffee. The fact that suddenly, I have no running I must do today. I appreciate the vast amount of support I have received for my writing since I started, from readers and other writers. The kindness of so many people. The green green green back yard, a result of plenty of hard rain. The home repairs we are having done this summer. My friends. So many wonderful friends have blessed my life. They are so much fun.

I love how stinkin’ cute my kids are, even though they are home and not at camp. I love how polite they are. How considerate they are. How loving they are. I know we will snuggle today and read Harry Potter (we’re on book four) and it will be lovely.

I love being healthy. I love feeling good. I love being okay with where I am and eager for more. I love allowing myself to feel angry and resentful for a bit and letting it blow through, rather than denying my feelings and letting them fester.

I love my kind sweet husband, who looks extra handsome in black and/or white (he’s a winter). I love his salt and pepper beard. I love his shaved head (I could never go back to hair). Seriously, the guys I notice out these days? Not that I’m looking but I’m not dead, ….the ones who catch my eye? Shaved heads.

I love knowing to do this exercise when I’m feeling sorry for myself. I love knowing how transformative it can be.

I love knowing “cable” and Tivo will be a big help today. The kids are obsessed with a new show called The Amazing World of Gumball, and who am I to deny them, what with their sore, sore, throats? Perhaps a Gumball marathon is in order. It’s like the Cartoon Network made the show just for me.

I love that my coffee is ready. And I’m going to go drink it and I’m going to have a good day, because there are so many things I can focus on to appreciate.

I love knowing I have a choice about how I feel.

I love knowing things have a way of working out.

I love.

Lil’ Italy in the AM


I’m a friendly driver.

If you’re trying to pull out onto Mayfield, from one of those tight one way streets in Little Italy, and there is a long line of traffic, and you’re just sitting there waiting for what seems like forever….I’m your gal.

But here’s the thing. Often, when I’m right there, giving them an opening, smiling even, ’cause I’m a morning person,

“Hey poppa! I gotcha’!”

or

“Go on little lady! It’s all yours!”

They don’t even notice.

They are on their phone. Or they are rummaging through something in the passenger seat, or they are not looking in my direction, …or they are otherwise zoned out.

And I’m all….do you see this line of traffic I am holding up for you?

And they don’t. So I move on.

And I believe the Universe is like that. Like, all the opportunities are just lined up waiting for us, but we aren’t paying attention. And…it’s not a big deal, because eventually we’ll get a break, but wouldn’t life be a lot smoother for us if we were taking advantage of the good that is always being offered? If we expected it, and looked for it?

The other day I had the opportunity to give someone a ride home from a function. There were a whole group of us, and I had the urge to offer, but I had the kids with me, I knew someone else would step up, and they did.

What if she had a valuable piece of info for me? What if she knew a great baby-sitter who would be perfect for us? (Ours has plans to go to college, hmfph). Who knows? She didn’t live far from us. It wouldn’t have been such a huge schlep. And she got her ride. Everything worked out fine. But that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

Now the moral of this little tale isn’t to give every Tom, Dick & Harry a ride. This ain’t the Martyr Express. The point is to look for openings for your good which are happening all around you. Expect them. Feel for them. And listen to your feelings! And when the opportunities present themselves, be awake and take them!

And when I let you out in traffic, I appreciate a nod or a friendly little wave back.

Thank you.

Thank You North Coast Men’s Chorus!

This weekend was so much fun.

Windsong was invited to perform with the North Coast Men’s Chorus, and those men are some of the most gracious, kind, generous, sweet people I’ve ever met. Men with big open hearts. Humor. Talent. Loads of fun. The group in the photo above did a number called Ladies Who Lunch, originally written for Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” Their rendition was hillarious.

Our chorus did some of our own pieces and some combined with the men. Standing on the risers, lights glaring, singing all out with Windsong and over 100 men, audience having a blast, I couldn’t help say to myself, “Good manifesting, Michelle.”

Life is supposed to be fun.

Bitter Sweet Father’s Day

The Bitter

About five years ago, after over a decade of total estrangement, I began allowing my father in, just a tiny bit. Having a little boy gave me empathy about what it must have been like to be “little” him, in the volatile environment he was born into. As I’ve worked on healing myself, my anger toward him has receded. Our relationship was far from close, but he was sending gift cards for birthdays and Christmas, and maybe once a year or so we’d talk on the phone and maybe once a year or so, I’d see him at a family function and I was okay with it. During the time of our estrangement, I could not tolerate being in the same room with him, so this was improvement and I felt comfortable with it. I heard he’d been reading my blog, and though it made me a bit uneasy at first, I got used to it. After all, the blog is public. Anyone can read it.

Last week, my father made a request I did not feel comfortable honoring. My immediate reaction was NO. I sat with it overnight, and still felt like it would not be in my best interest, so instead of leaving it hanging there, I wrote him and told him why I was choosing not to honor it. I told him what was true for me, in as kind a way as I possibly could.

He responded, telling me there is something wrong with me, and I should just consider him dead to me, because he can’t take it anymore, and that obviously nothing has changed. He vowed not to visit my blog anymore and said I wouldn’t be hearing from him.

That night, I curled up in the arms of my husband and cried. Not for me, but for him. I have a photo of my father when he was tiny, maybe three or four years old. I pictured him that age, and cried because he was hurting. My denial of his request hurt him, and that little boy just wanted to be included, and I felt so sad I couldn’t honor it without forsaking myself. I’ve worked long and hard to cultivate my inner guidance, and I know not to ignore it, but I don’t enjoy hurting anyone. Ever. It pains me.

[little+dad.jpg]

The whole thing brought up the notion of forgiveness. Did setting a boundary mean I had not forgiven? I had to look at that. I believe I have forgiven. Actually, I believe you can’t ever accurately judge someone and be in a position to “forgive” them, because you have not ever walked in their shoes. That doesn’t mean I forsake my own intuition to please someone with active and severe and never addressed addiction.

Anyway…it’s a sad situation. And as sad as it is, there is a sense of relief.  And I know his little written explosion was a gift.

He said nothing had changed, and while that may be true on his end, I can look at that statement and know for certain, it isn’t true of me. On this Father’s Day, I feel no anger toward him. That is a big change. I wish him peace.

The Sweet

So today is Father’s Day.

Todd and I were friends for about six months before we ever started dating and I liked him. I remember thinking, “I want someone like that for my kids.” Not him, of course. Why, that’d be crazy! We were both dating other people, though not seriously. He was just a pal.

What did I see? What was that fatherly quality? He had a certain steadiness about him. We worked together, and if he was the pharmacist on duty that night, I felt somehow protected. Like, it was going to be a good night, because Todd was working, and he could handle any situation the hospital threw at us. He was unflappable. Capable. Reliable. And funny!

Oh, the funny.

At first, when you meet him, he’s quiet. But once you get to know him, the one liners come sailing out. His comedic timing is spot on. He’d create catch phrases, and soon the whole department would be saying them, and people wouldn’t realize he was the one who initiated them, because he was so quiet. He didn’t need a whole bunch of glory.

He had this cute face, with a great smile, perfect teeth, dark expressive eyebrows that said so much with just a fraction of movement. After a while I started liking him, liking him. A lot.

Anyway….here we are 16 years later and man, was my intuition about him right. He has proven to be such a good daddy. Nothing has been off limits. Poop. Throw up. Wait…I take it back. Nail trimming is off limits. He refuses. Eleven years into parenting and he’s still afraid he’ll nick their little fingers and toes.

He loves our kids fiercely. He honors their mother. He’s held me up so many times over the years, and has taken good care of me, so I can take care of them. His passion is this family. He works for us. He lives for us. He always puts us first. He never lets us down.

All that comes naturally to him, but he’s also really worked to be a good dad. We had a kid who could not be parented the “typical” way…and it wasn’t easy to switch from traditional society’s “I say jump, you say how high” but he sure did it, because it was what his child needed.

I adore Todd. There is no one I’d rather spend time with. No one else can make me laugh like him. There is no one I trust more. There is no one else I’d ever want to be with on this parenting trip.

I love you so much Mister.

Happy Father’s Day.

I thank God for you.

It Gets Better

This weekend, Windsong, Cleveland’s feminist chorus is getting a wonderful opportunity to perform with The North Coast Men’s Chorus.

They have roughly 125 members. Windsong has about thirty. Rehearsing, we are crammed together so tightly on those risers there is not a speck of space between us. Shoulders pushing against shoulders. The men’s choir is really something. They have a whole dance number lined up to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and one can only guess what else they have in store. Their director has wonderful energy. Strong but kind. It’s fun having our director hop on into the choir and sing with us during pieces she is not directing.

One of the songs we’re singing is It Gets Better, which is the anthem for The Trevor Project, an initiative to put an end to the tragic suicides of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender youth around the country.

I’ve got to say, standing there singing with so many gay men and women, just lightly noting and touching what each one has been through, living in a world where so many condemn them for being “different”…I got a big lump in my throat. Out of the corner of my eye I was kind of looking around, wondering….why isn’t everyone just a blubbering mess?” ‘Cause I’m ’bouts to go there.

It gets better.

A good thing to remember no matter who you are. It would have helped me a lot as a child if someone had said it to me, growing up in poverty under the cloud of alcoholism. At the time I couldn’t imagine anything different. I couldn’t wrap my brain around growing up and having my own life. It would have helped me a lot as a parent of a toddler who screamed non-stop. Because I could mostly handle the screaming. The hard part was imagining the screaming lasting for the next 21 years or more. That’s when I despaired.

Yesterday, we were in the car and the rain came down so hard we had to pull over. Traffic lights went out. Tree branches fell. An hour later, we were having dinner. The sun was shining brightly. I said to the kids,

“Remember this day. Every time it feels really dark, every time you have a problem that brings you to a halt…remember the sun always comes after every storm.”

Seth grinned, and holding his fork in the air said, “Literally and metaphorically,” at the same time his sister said, “Great metaphor Mom!”

Metaphors covered? Check.

But truly, I want them to know this.

It gets better when you step out of the problem and into the solution. One solution is The Trevor Project which offers a hot line for GLBT teens considering suicide. One solution is visualising a better life for yourself. One solution is putting the problem aside and taking a walk, giving your brain a rest while focusing on something else. One solution is avoiding negative people who perpetuate your feelings of victim-hood. One solution is surrounding yourself with people who love and support you. One solution is meditation, and prayer of the listening variety. You don’t have to jump from despair to joy immediately. Just take a tiny step in that direction. Do one thing differently, then another. One solution is looking around and making a list of things to appreciate. One solution is to sing…

Hey friend

When you feel like you’re alone

And the world throws out a lot of hate

It’s not the end

You’re not out there on your own

There’s still so much in life to celebrate

Just look up

Cause those skies are going to clear

There so much more than just the here and now

Just look up

Cause a better day is here

Tomorrow feel the sunlight shining down

It gets better, better, better

The pain will let up, let up, let up

If you fall just get up, get up, get up

Oh, cause there’s another way

It gets better, better, better

The world gets lighter, lighter, lighter

So be a fighter, fighter, fighter

Oh, just live to see that day

Yeah, live to see that day

Live to see that day

Hey friend

We used to feel like you

No end in sight

Fearing everyday

Just defend, the part of you that’s true

Find yourself and you will find the way

Don’t give up

Just take another look

And you can shine

It’s time you took the stage

Don’t give up

Cause your life is like a book

All you got to do is turn the page

There are friends yet to meet,

There are songs to be sung

There are beautiful sunsets

And battles are won

There’s love to be found if you just stick around

Don’t give up

Your life has just begun

It gets better, better, better

The pain will let up, let up, let up

If you fall just get up, get up, get up

Oh, cause there’s another way

It gets better, better, better

The world gets lighter, lighter, lighter

So be a fighter, fighter, fighter

Oh, just live to see that day

It gets better, better, better

The pain will let up, let up, let up

If you fall just get up, get up, get up

Oh, cause there’s another way

It gets better, better, better

The world gets lighter, lighter, lighter

So be a fighter, fighter, fighter

Oh, just live to see that day

It gets better, better, better

The world gets lighter, lighter, lighter

So be a fighter, fighter, fighter

Ohh, just live to see that day

It gets better, better, better…

Gleeked Out

Rather than have a birthday party this year, Riley chose to see Glee Live. She loved it so much. She was right in there, screaming along with the crowd. She was dancing. It was the kind of loud which makes your ears ring for a while after you leave. There were fireworks with huge BOOMS! We had to take escalators, big ones. There were steep steps to navigate up and down. There were crowds to negotiate through. There were insults from Sue Sylvester on a big screen between acts,and Riley roared with laughter, at being called a sucker, etc. Those of you with kids on the autism spectrum might appreciate the significance of tackling all these things. Of escalators and steep steps, and depth perception issues. Understanding sarcasm and that kind of humor. It would not have gone over well just a couple of years ago.

Our seats were waaaaay on the side, the furthest you could go without being behind the stage, and often we could see backstage. For instance, we saw Artie (I’ll call them all by their Glee names) hop out of his wheelchair and walk down the steps. We saw Kurt, do a lot of arm stretches, and bounce around working out the adrenaline just before the curtain went up. Kurt, BTW is taller than I expected. He seems like a very petite thing on the show. I mean, he’s thin and all, but not as short as I thought he would be. He did “All the Single Ladies” and it was awesome.


Brittany did her Brittany Spears number (without the snake) and she is an incredible dancer. That number was as racy as it got, and it wasn’t too bad. Quinn and Sam did their sweet little version of “Lucky.” Rachel was technically perfect as ever. They all were good, but Mercedes is the one who rocked the house. At one point she stood alone on a tiny platform at the back of the auditorium and really belted it out.

Behold a couple of our barely recognizable pics. They don’t even bother to tell you not to take pics anymore. So many cameras flashing all over. It’s a losing battle.

Santana and Mercedes

 

Kurt and Blaine

I’d like to pause here to mention we got a large popcorn to share, and some waters, and I got a draft beer. My beer caused a woman seated near us a lot of angst. She kept staring at it, giving me side glances, seemingly appalled that a mother, would sit there having a beer at a Glee concert with her family. It was perplexing, and I wondered what her story was. She seemed very conservative in her dress, and so did her friends. Like the Mormons accidentaly stumbled into a Glee show. I whispered the sitch to HT and he gestured the “slushie” move, and that made me laugh and reassured me I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t drink much. I go weeks, even months without having a drink, seldom have more than one, and never have more than two, but growing up in a family where alcoholism was an issue, the question sometimes haunts me.

Bless her concerned little heart. She must have had a reason for her discomfort. The woman and her friends left early.

Okay….where was I? Back to the show!

Riley swooned over Puck(the one with the mohawk). She’s had a crush on him for a while and several months ago gave her dad a heart attack, explaining her infatuation. “I like bad boys,” she told him. And then he died.

Blaine was just as yummy in person as he is on the show. All the Warblers were there. Santana and Mercedes blew the roof off River Deep Mountain High.

The whole thing was way overpriced, but it meant the world to Riley. The kid who cried when she was five at a middle school theater performance, because the applause were too painful for her sensitive ears. There was a time I wondered whether we would ever be able to do anything fun as a family. I know I say this every time, but I am still in awe. Still so grateful. I’ll never take it for granted. Here is a little video of the show. Well…it’s really of our two, enjoying the show, which was the show, for me.

Bathing Suit Shopping

Riley had a birthday gift card burning a hole in her pocket, and she wanted to go to Justice to buy a bathing suit. She’s outgrown everything from last year. She picked out two to try on, and in the fitting room she shimmied into the first one.

Eyes up. She looked in the mirror, grinned and giggled the most tweeny giggle you can imagine and said, “I love it!”

It fit her perfectly. It was adorable. She turned around and glanced over her shoulder at her butt.

“You have such a cute little booty!” I said.

She smiled, nodded, and said, “I know.”

She’s not conceited. She’s just a straight up, totally honest Aspergian. I tell her she might not want to say that to other people, a simple “thank you” in response to a compliment, not an “I know,” does suffice, but that I love how she’s reveling in her beautiful new body.

Seeing my girl child standing in a fitting room, trying on a bathing suit, glowing and approving of herself. Heaven on earth.

I was about five when I started hating my own body. Even though I was thin, another child told me I was fat, and ever since, I have been. And of course there was a lot of other stuff I won’t get into now, piled onto that.

Now. I know Fat is a Feminist Issue. I know The Beauty Myth. I know, I know, I know.

Still….I can’t say I’ve ever shaken the body image issue. I have tried really hard not to pass it down to Riley. I have consciously never, not once, referred to myself as fat in front of her. I have never “been on a diet” for weight loss. We don’t watch a lot of TV and definitely not commercials. (I love TiVo).

I know she’s not out of the woods. Messages from society telling women we’re not okay are rampant everywhere. But today? She’s perfect, and she knows it.

May she always love and honor her body.

It’s Okay

It’s okay to be healthy.

It’s okay to set boundaries.

It’s okay to say no.

It’s okay not to get sucked into drama.

It’s okay to be joyful.

It’s okay to survive.

It’s okay to take care of yourself.

It’s okay to ask for what you need.

It’s okay for your heart to sing.

It’s okay to grow.

It’s okay to change.

It’s okay to be happy.

Even if others are not.

Even if others resent it.

Even if others wish you’d shut up and stay small in their tiny view of you.

Joining in their sickness won’t make them well.

It’s okay to walk away.

It’s okay to breathe.

It’s okay to love from afar.

It’s okay to be healthy.

It is.

It’s okay.

Seth’s Significant Other

While Riley was with her tutor, Seth and I had a chance to talk.

“So….you dating anyone?” I asked.

He chuckled and rolled his eyes.

“Anyone you’re interested in?”

He nodded.

“Still got that thing for Quinn on Glee?

He smiled.

Still nursing that crush on Emma Roberts?

.

(It’s totally looking like the boy has a type)

He nodded again.

This seemed like the perfect time to bring up the requirements for his future partner. After all…at almost nine, he ain’t getting any younger. We decided to make a list:

1) She has to be kind.

Period.

2) She has to adore him.

How could she not?

3) She has to be smart.

To keep up with him.

4) She has to be creative.

To be interesting to him, and be able to collaborate and problem solve with him.

5) She has to love to dance and to read.

Because it is fun to share interests.

6) She has to love kids.

Because I need adorable grandchildren who look just like him.

7) She has to be beautiful.

We had a nice little discussion about what beauty is, and where it comes from. How it doesn’t matter what color skin, or body type, but how true beauty lights up a person from the inside.

8 ) She has to love his sister.

Period.

9) She has to be her own person with her own ideas.

She can’t just glob onto his thoughts, ideas, and dreams. She needs to be fully her. Girlfriend needs to bring a little somethin’ to the table.

10) He has to love her.

If she has all those things, yet he doesn’t feel the spark. It ain’t gonna work.

We go over the list, reversing it, making clear he has to be all those things as well.

I vowed to baby-sit so he and his partner can have regular date nights. I vowed to keep my lips zipped about whatever parenting choices they make, unless they ask for my opinion…and even then to tread lightly(which will be tricky, since it is my nature to butt in…thus this list). I vowed to always, always, look for things to appreciate about the person he loves.

I’m glad we had the chance to discuss all this. And for Seth, I’m sure it was a huge load off. I can’t imagine why he flew down the stairs the second the tutor asked if he wanted to join them for science.

Riley turned eleven

…and I’ve struggled with writing something about it. I’ve started half a dozen posts. How do I put my Riley into words? She’s fabulous. She’s sweet. She’s sassy. Okay, she’s not really sassy, but she dresses sassy. She wouldn’t be caught dead in the ratty old tatters her mom often wears around the house, as she “always wants to look her best,” even for bed. Even if no one will see. If an article of clothing has a stain on it, it’s dead to her. Even a tiny spot.

On her birthday we didn’t go anywhere, but she insisted on wearing a “birthday girl” pin all day, even though it was just us. That pin was from another birthday, and it was God knows where? in a box somewhere in the basement, but she knew just where it was. (Note to self…find a better hiding place for…things). I want to be more like her. Dressing to please myself, not anybody else.

playing a new Wii game she got for her birthday(playing a new Wii game she got for her birthday)

Riley has really come into her own this year. She’s so joyful. And she’s such a good and kind person. I’ve never seen her be mean to anyone, ever. She is intolerant of cruelty. Even when she used to scream, it was more an implosion rather than a lashing out at anyone else. And yes, I did say “used to” scream.  I can’t remember the last time she had a true meltdown. Can I get an “hallelujah?”

The other day, Todd walked in with some stuff from the store, and she asked, “Did you get me any birthday presents?” He set two bottles of bleach on the kitchen table and said, “Yep. I got you bleach.”

“You did?” she asked, taking him seriously, then in the next beat she smiled and said,

“I can’t believe I’m that gullible!”

They took the bleach and ran with it. All week long it was, “I can’t wait to give you your bleach on your birthday!” With him egging her on, and her laughing and playing along with the joke.

The morning of her birthday she climbed into bed with us, and snuggled up cozy under my arm. She was giddy to start her day, just bubbling over with happy. For I think the second time in her life, she said, “I love you,” to me unsolicited, then she reached for her daddy’s hand, wanting to include him in the lovie-dovie action.

Eleven years ago, Todd and I laid there on the same bed, with her between us. She was just a couple of days old, and we could do nothing but stare and marvel at her. She wore a pale green striped outfit. She had the roundest little body. Legs drawn up, used to being folded in my belly, not quite knowing they were out and could stretch all the way. How was she possible? How is she still?

How is it she comes up to my forehead already?

My baby…the one who birthed me eleven years ago…has turned a corner. We’re stepping off into a different and wonderful uncharted place. When she was three, someone I respected predicted when her peers were reaching the teen years, and their parents were starting to see the worst of it….we would be smooth sailing. Having a kid who couldn’t hop to it just because we said jump…we had to develop better ways of communicating. Parenting based on respect and not fear. Truly, we had to learn, that on a soul level there is no hierarchy. Our kids are not inferior to us or behind us on the path.

Hopefully he’s right. Hopefully we’ll just ease on down the tween-teen road. I’d like that.

So, yeah…she’s eleven.

I love this girl. I’ve always loved this girl.

May it be her best year yet.

It’s an honor being her mom.

“Normalcy” Feels Very Strange

A girl from the other end of the street just knocked on our door, and asked if Riley could come over. Riley slipped on her shoes, grabbed her brother, and off they went.

It didn’t occur to her to go without Seth. It didn’t occur to Seth not to go. It didn’t occur to me this moment would ever happen. The one where I say, “Sure, you two run along. Have fun!” The one where I come back to my empty living room, sit down and just listen to the quiet for a second.

Is this what people do? They let their kids just trot off down the street and go play? She will be eleven in two days and it’s not happened before. We’ve never had this luxury. Play dates have been few and far between and they’ve required a lot of pre-paving. But somehow she is ready. She can do this now. I feel it, and so does she.

I e-mailed Todd:

Our children just walked down the street with ____, like it’s nothing. She came to the door and asked if they could come over. I asked if her mom knew she was asking, she said yes. Off they went. I don’t know what to do with myself.

He zipped back:

Just sit and bask in the normalcy of it. You are an amazing mother and only through you is this moment possible. I love you.

T

Sitting.

Basking.

Wandering around aimlessly, confusing the dogs.

A big old lump rests in my throat and my heart swells with appreciation for Todd, for Seth, and for my sweet Riley, who is really growing up.