Dull or Annoying?

Would you rather be considered annoying or dull? This was a question after dinner recently, when we were playing “Would You Rather?”

For some reason, the very question had us in stitches.

For the record, HT would rather be dull. I’d rather be annoying.

Of course there is no stopping anyone from being annoying and dull. So dull they are annoying.

I don’t know of dullness. There is never a dull moment around here.

For that, I am glad. Mostly.

Bite Your Tongue? Or Save the Cheese?

“He’s a smart man. I don’t get it?”

I was talking to Amy about HT. Lately, after almost 15 years of marriage, he’d taken to leaving blocks of cheese in the fridge drawer, unwrapped.

Amy was sympathetic. She shook her head and said, “Phil would never do that. Cheese means too much to him.”

“I know, right?” I sighed.

Every time I happened upon a block of cheddar, the end all rubbery and unusable, I’d shake my head, and take a breath. I rationalized, there are lots of things I do that probably make him nuts. I leave a wad of hair in the shower drain. I never replace the soap. He doesn’t complain.

But cheese is like, five bucks a block! He’s wasting it. And why now? What made him get cheese lazy after all this time?

Finally I could take it no more. Very gently, I approached the subject.

“Um, Honey? Why do you keep leaving cheese un-wrapped in the fridge?”

He looked at me like I was high, as Seth quietly skee-daddled out of the kitchen.

Sometimes it’s good to bite one’s tongue. My gramma always said, “If you can’t say something nice….”

On the other hand, it’s good to talk and air things out. How many blocks of cheese would have been sacrificed had I not brought it up? 

Seth never just went into the fridge and helped himself to hunks of cheese before. Apparently, now he does. Who knew?

HT, I apologize for ever doubting you. And I’ll try to be more considerate about the hair in the shower drain.

Love,

Effie

“Mommy will never forget you…”

We are half way through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book. So far, I’ve read every one of them out loud to my children. Sometimes we snuggle up on the bed. Sometimes I read during their dinner, if HT’s getting home later and I plan on eating separately with him.  These are thick books and it is taxing sometimes, but I love it. I do. I especially love when we grab something from our reading and keep it with us.

In the first Harry Potter book, Hagrid the giant is forced to give up the baby dragon he’s been raising. It is dangerous and out of control, and it just has to go:

Hagrid sobbed, as Harry and Hermione covered the crate with the invisibility cloak and stepped underneath it themselves. “Mommy will never forget you!”

It’s funny because Hagrid is a big ogre, but he’s taken on the role of mommy to the dragon, and he’s nothing but a softy. Oh how the kids laughed at that line. 

This has become my standard farewell. Whether I am going away for a day, a weekend, or just to get groceries or to yoga for an hour, I fake sob in a low Hargrid voice to the kids,

“Mommy will never forget you!”

They fake sob back, hugging me with all they’ve got.

It is a ritual which will hopefully be passed down for many generations. If Seth has kids I’m suspecting they’ll especially love it. It will be even funnier coming from a daddy.

14 Years

I was out doing some Christmas shopping and Todd was home with the kids. A song came on the radio, and Riley leaned over to Seth and out of the corner of her mouth said, “If Mom were home, she and Dad would be slow dancing right now.”

The song was on our “must play” list 14 years ago today at our wedding reception. And Riley was right. We’d have dropped what we were doing and been slow dancing in the kitchen. And soon a little guy in a fedora with a Chihuahua in his arm would have globbed onto one side of us, and then a beautiful tween, not wanting to be left out would smoosh onto the other side, and maybe even an Aussie/Shepherd mix would be encouraged to stand on her hind legs and join the sway. It isn’t a graceful dance, but it’s ours.

Happy Anniversary Todd. Thank you for your steadfast, unconditional love.

I could never do without you. You are my love, my treasure, my gift.

Lunch Time Compliments

We were sitting at the kitchen table for lunch yesterday, and I made a request,

“Riley. Tell me something good about your brother!”

Munching on a piece of apple* she said, “Well, he’s fun to play with and he does nice things.” She paused, and added,

“He’s a do-gooder.”

I don’t know where she picked up the term. You don’t really hear “do-gooder” very much anymore. And if you do, it’s usually in the pejorative sense, but she meant it absolutely sincerely. I almost fell off my chair from the love.

Seth considered this, and smiled shyly.

Next, I asked Seth to tell me something good about his sister.

“She’s nice. And she’s a good listener.”

It’s true. Seth is chatty. And he’s home all day. And mothers have many, many things to do, like check Facebook, so they aren’t always available to truly listen. Riley is much better than I at absorbing him, and being interested in all he has to say about Lego and Michael Jackson, and Chihuahuas.

One do-gooder.

One good listener.

And one mom who is head over heels for both of them.

*I  put a little cinnamon and sugar in a sandwich bag and put the apple slices in and shake it up to coat them. It’s a quick, easy, healthy-ish treat and jazzes up the apple, because let’s face it. Apples get boring. I added this just in case you care.

 

“If you were a musical instrument, which one would you be and why?”

Playing Chat Pack yesterday after dinner, the question was, “If you were a musical instrument, which one would you be and why?”

These were our responses.

Seth(9): A keyboard. Because I am fun and like doing a lot of different things.

Todd: Acoustic guitar. Steady. Uncomplicated.

(And beautiful I added. There is something so pure about the sound of acoustic guitar. I’ve always loved it).

Riley(11): A flute. Kind of shy, but with a pretty voice that loves to sing.

Me: Piano. Eight octaves represents huge range of interests and responsibilities, and the black and white keys represent the contrasts in how I feel. Either really really really good, or everything is the end of the world, screw it, what’s the point.

Funny how our responses to these questions pegged us so well.

If you were a musical instrument, which one would you be? And why?

Meditation Before Glee

Busy day, and now in the first lull, the the kids want to watch Glee, which means I have to sit there with them because there are parts I must forward through. Not really into it but it means the world to them. I strike a deal.

“I’ll watch Glee with you, but first we do a meditation.”

Riley groans. Seth shrugs compliance. I bring my computer into the living room and sit on the floor, Riley sits next to me, Seth on the pink couch.

I bring up iTunes and choose a Martha Beck mp3 on anxiety. Riley and I snuggle up on a pillow on the floor, she rests her head in my arm, then moves it around in non-verbal insistence I stroke her hair. She’s pushy like that. Sometimes it gets on my nerves. The mp3 starts and it is nice and relaxing, and soon Seth is tucked in my other arm, and Yippee is on my chest, and we’re all in a heap on the floor, and yes, I’m stroking her hair.

And I forget being annoyed about it, because how lucky am I? To have these kids? Ones who at 9 and 11 will indulge their mother and get on the floor and meditate with her and how awesome it is that we came from a place of almost constant anxiety and walking on egg shells for years and now we pretty much just delight in each other.

Soon we’re all breathing deep and slow, and I’m no longer “the mother” but just with them, and we are all in a place of stillness, no thought, no time, together.

Twenty minutes later, we’re watching Glee, and the day marches on.

But the meditation, it’s there. It’s in us.

Self-care

Todd has today off and is not working until tomorrow afternoon. With his encouragment I am at a hotel two seconds away, and for the next 22 hours, I do not have to answer to anyone. No one will demand a thing of me. I’ve got my Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups. I’ve got my Limeaide. I’ve got my O Magazine. I’ve got my iPod with all my meditations.

I’m going to take a long hot uninterrupted unhurried shower. I’m going to snuggle up with Oprah. I’m going to catch my breath.

Fighting the urge to justify it by telling you what I don’t spend money on, that so many women do. But you know what? To hell with that. I’m rocking the hotel and the peanut butter cups. I need it. We can afford it. I’ve already spent too much time on this short paragraph.

See ‘ya later alligators. I’m ’bouts to get all rejuvenated.

Ringing in 43

Tucking her in the night before my birthday, she could barely contain her excitement. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and was as happy for me as she would be if it were her own birthday eve.

I have a wonderful daughter.

We had a typical day. School work in the morning. Hurray for our great tutor! Reading aloud in the afternoon. Charlotte just started wowing the townspeople by weaving SOME PIG! into her web. Later, Riley went to music therapy and Seth and I sat outside in the gorgeous sunshine reading The Hobbit. Seth listens so intently, and remembers details I couldn’t begin to retain. I love reading with him.

Pizza for dinner, then, they sang to me and gave me cake that tasted like the most delicious giant Ring Ding.

We plowed into it, and then Seth noticed how funny the cake looked half gone. That chunk missing in the front is where I dropped the camera on it while trying to take the picture.

I’d never licked my camera, until now.

After cake, we went to buy some trees. I’ve been wanting to plant a couple of them in the back yard. Looking through the selection, studying the likes and dislikes of different varieties (some like shade, some like sun, some are sissies for cold weather), Riley says to me, “So this is your idea of birthday shopping?” We laughed! 

I didn’t only get trees though. My beloved HT got me an iPod. Because I was the last person on earth carrying around a CD Walkman. My friend Betsy teased I might as well be carrying around a boom box on my shoulder.

We rode home laughing with trees sticking out the car windows, kids holding onto the thin trunks.

Many gorgeous people from so many points on the planet wished me happy birthday on-line, by phone, and through snail mail cards. THANK YOU!

We put the kids to bed and TIVO blasted through DWTS, and did our obligatory screening of Glee.

43 years old, I went to bed with a heart full of love, and a belly full of Ring Ding.

I don’t generally like odd numbers, but it seems like it’s going to be a very good year.

*Freshly showered and not a stitch of make-up in the photo. Posting anyway, ’cause happy is beautiful.

At least there was Fonzie

We went to the county fair today. Riley went on three rides. Seth went on two. I went on two. Todd went on one. All of us wound up ill from motion sickness. Apparently, we have delicate compositions.

I win loser mother of the year award, for encouraging Seth to get on a ride with his sister. She really wanted to go on it, and they were closing the gate, and I hustled them along, even though he had a tiny bit of hesitation. The ride proceeded to scare the crap out of him. Each time it circled around, I saw his face, utterly terrified. His little body clinging for dear life to the bar snapped shut in front of him. His eyes pleading with me in that two second whoosh each time it came around to PLEASE, please, make it stop. Riley was pretty much oblivious, smile on her face. She didn’t feel ill ’til the next ride. But Seth. My baby. He looked like he was going to puke, pee his pants, and cry all at the same time, and there was nothing I could do.

Will someone please explain how rides are fun?

This is me just seconds before Seth’s nightmare, as he’s being strapped in for the ride. Check me out all lighthearted, you see….it’s funny cause I’m wearing his fedora. Heh-heh.

It was so not funny!

Anyhoo…

We saw lots of animals at the fair.

How YOU doin?

Lots of cute little 4H kids with their award winning rabbits and chickens. Bizarro girls in tiaras thinking they were the bees knees for winning Little Miss something or other pageants.

There was also a barn full of award winning collections I could not figure out. Old dishes. Sculptures made of kitty litter bags. A Pez dispenser display. But then we happened upon this collection and it no longer needed to make sense, did it?

‘Cause it was The Fonz.

And not just Fonzie. Laverne & Shirley, Potsy & Richie, Lenny & Squiggy(why?) and Shaun Cassidy. Tell me you aren’t thinking “Da-do-run-run” right now.

Oh…I almost forgot. We also saw the cutest little potato.

On the way home I got pulled over for speeding. I tried to explain to the officer I had a carload of people who were ill from the rides at the fair, at which point Riley leaned forward and said, “I’m fine Mom. I’m feeling okay now.”

Thanks dear-heart. Thanks for that.

Somehow he took pity on me anyway and didn’t give me a ticket. My own green tinge must have been quite impressive.

This little outing was to be our training ground for bigger and better amusement parks. It’s pretty obvious that won’t be happening any time soon.

Shhh….

Mayfair Seat Co 4296331 Round Wood Seat Ni Hng

Behold the Bemis. The Bemis “Whisper Close” toilet seat.

No more being startled awake in the night to the sound of lid slamming on porcelain. Oh Bemis! Those days are over.

Much to Todd’s delight, it’s “seat fastening system” promises never to loosen.

And…much to Riley’s delight, the box says it’s anti-mircobial.

HT installed it this afternoon, and each time we pass each other in the house, we share a quiet, knowing, “Shhh…….”

If only it cleaned itself, we’d be all set.

The day Mommy went for a ride…

So yesterday…I was on the treadmill, mindin’ my own business. Listening to Mozart, not a usual pick for me but there it was, so I put the CD in my “Walkman” (yes Walkman…Riley is the only one in this house with an ipod), and I was moving along at a fast clip. Riley’s tutor was set to arrive soon, so for a brief second I hopped off the treadmill to open the window shades so I would see her pull into the driveway. Stepping back onto the moving treadmill I was careful to place my left foot on the edge, then I swung my right foot over to the other side, to get my bearings before hopping back on the moving conveyor belt. Only thing is, my left toe hit the belt, while my right leg was still swinging mid air toward the other side.

Smack!

I wiped out good.

Landing on my right elbow, my left hand, my right knee and yes, my butt, I quickly was taken for a ride, the length of the conveyer belt and spit off the treadmill onto the floor. My Walkman went flying and crashed. Mozart, the headphones, and the batteries parted ways…all in different directions.

The cat rose from his position on the bed, concerned.

It took me a second to realize I was not seriously hurt, and then I just laid on the floor laughing hysterically. My children were in the next room, singing at the top of their lungs along with Riley’s ipod to new Glee songs we’d just uploaded the night before. I could have been dead and they would not have noticed.

The cat readjusted himself, and sunk back into the down comforter on our bed.

The tutor came. I acted cool.

This morning, everything hurts, especially my pride.

This is my finger today. Swollen and purple. Can’t even begin to get my rings off.
(Thank you macro lens. Do I need to start shaving my knuckles)?

In other weird news….Seth has this thing where he rolls his eyes back to freak people out. It lasts just a second and he enjoys the reaction he gets. I said to him, “Seth…you can’t really see what that looks like, ’cause your eyes are in the back of your head. Let me take a pic to show you.” He was all for it, until he saw it.

Perhaps no one has been more freaked out by it than Seth himself. We’ll see if it stops.

This morning another strange thing happened. When we woke up, Riley and Seth were downstairs, fully dressed and ready to roll. Getting dressed has always been a difficult process for Riley. There is so much to worry about with it. Do things match? Might there be the tiniest speck of a stain on something? Is what she picked appropriate for the weather? Does it itch? Might there be a fuzzy on something? The list goes on and on. But today, there she was, proud as a peacock. Fully dressed,

“And I told Seth to get dressed too,” she beamed. Both of them stood there, full of themselves, and Todd and I reacted with huge,

“WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHO ARE THESE GROWN UP KIDS?”

So I may be a little achey. But I am grateful I wasn’t seriously hurt. I may have a weird son, but he’s also the sweetest little guy on earth. My kids might not notice a huge thud and their mother crumpled on the floor laughing hysterically, but they got dressed this morning with no drama.

The sun is shining brightly in Cleveland, and today is a good day.

P.S. It went a little something like this, minus the dancing.

Meandering


It had been a long week. Too many appointments. Not enough down time. HT had to work the weekend, and yesterday I woke, not quite wanting to climb back into my life.

“When is your next day off?” I mumbled to him.

“Tomorrow,” he said.

I closed my eyes and nodded. Good.

“It just happens to coincide with your next day off,” he added.

With that, I hoisted myself into our day.

It was a big one for Riley. She’d been invited to a party and was going unaccompanied by me. I had to skip chorus to be available at a moment’s notice. I love chorus and quietly resented missing it. But she is not invited to many parties, and this one was with a mom I trust implicitly. It was a good one for her to forge on her own. Still, if she had a hard time I did not want the mom to have to deal with it, and take away from her enjoyment of her daughter’s party. I was on call, just down the street.

Seth and I stayed home, had rare and precious one-on-one time. We made snacks. We watched a movie, all snuggled up together with Yippee the Chihuahua and Sam the cat on his chest, together in perfect harmony. (Yippee usually chases Sam). We also got Seth started on his second oil painting. This time he’s painting the same thing he painted last time. Another portrait of Yippee. From a different angle. A profile. What can I say? He’s passionate about his puppy.

Riley did beautifully at the party, BTW. She had fun. Not enough can be made of that.

So today is my “day off,” though I do have to coach Girls on the Run later. I went for a long walk this morning over crunchy snow. It felt good to have the sun shine on my face. Forget sunscreen. I just want to feel it beaming into my skin at this point in winter. Suck up that vitamin D.

Despite the lovely time with Seth, by last night I was feeling caged in. I get that way often enough. Not so much since Todd changed his schedule and is no longer working a 7 day in a row shift. But there it was. This feeling of a total “disappearance” of me.

I firmly believe I’d be a better mother if I could get out of here and work part-time. We have not yet been able to figure out how that would be possible with Todd’s all-over-the-place work schedule, and our kids who can’t be left with just anyone.

I know it’s all relative. Some women wish they could stay home with their kids. Do I have a right to my feelings, anyhow?

The other day a FB friend complained about her  kids being home from school, (snow day or such)and how it interfered with her work at home schedule, and it hit a nerve. I wanted to yell through cyber-space BUT YOUR KIDS CAN GO TO SCHOOL, CAN’T THEY? THEY’RE HEALTHY,RIGHT? YOU DO HAVE AN AMAZING CAREER, DON’T YOU?”

Again, it’s all relative, she has a right to her feelings too. Of course she does.

The grass is always greener. No path is perfect.

Very few men have to juggle work around their kids. I feel victimy about it sometimes, but I know men have their own vulnerabilities and pain. Todd would actually love to be a stay at home dad. Working in a hospital pharmacy is not his dream, no matter how good at it he is.

Today on my walk, I visualized the life I want. If I could choose it out of a catalog, what my schedule would look like, what the kids would be doing, etc. How much time I would need to really feel a balance between being me and making sure their all encompassing needs are met.

We’re really not so far off.

It’s possible.

Seeing it is important.

Appreciating all we do have, is the key to unlock the door.

And so…off I go to do my daily rampage of appreciation.

Ciao. May you have a beautiful day.

((Hugs))

The only thing better than being a boy obsessed with Lego, and having a new Lego to put together…

is when your sister, whom you adore, suddenly, inexplicably, begins sharing your interest with you.

Here they are, beginning to work on one of Seth’s Christmas presents. We like to space things out. Save some for a snowy day. Seth is so happy she is playing Lego with him. Letting him lead. He is the Lego expert you know.

In other news, Riley hugged HT the other day. She is not a cold unaffectionate person by any means, and always allows our affection, but it was the first time she spontaneously hugged him, and he could not wait to tell me. It’s one of those things an outsider just does not get. If you were hanging out with us, you wouldn’t assume she’d never hugged her dad on her own before. It would be a given for most kids.

My dear friend’s husband died when her son was just five. She says, one of the hardest parts has been…the feeling of there not being another person who knows stuff like this. Shared intimate moments about your kid. Only Todd and I know what Riley looked like the morning when she was six months old, and he returned from a business trip and we lay in bed, and she showed him how she had learned to clap while he was away.

Only the two of us remember when Seth used to say, Yi Yuv You Yie-yee, (I love you Riley).

So when he tells me she hugged him, I get it. The depth of it, reflected in the glint of his eyes as he smiles.

When she shares her brother’s interest, we know what a big deal it is.We’ll remember it.

The gift of autism, for us, is we don’t tend to take things for granted.

I mean, sometimes we do, but typically we don’t.

She makes our lives so much richer.

Just ask her dad.

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.

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.

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.

One Foot in Front of the Other

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

I said, “We’re leaving.”

She fought it.

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

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

Riley sat on the grass too.

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

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

“Mommy, I’m sorry I hid,” Riley said.

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

 “I’m sorry,” she squeaks. Then adds,

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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I spent half my childhood in the woods.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks.” 

He never fails to say “thanks.” 

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

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

Look at the trees.

Look at the trees.

We will find our balance.

 

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Love.

Walking the Tightrope

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

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

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

She looks down, fiddles with her napkin, adds,

“He didn’t know I have autism.”

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

So we talk.

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

Our food comes.

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

Trying to contain my enthusiasm,

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

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

“The whole camp,” she says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the tightrope, we go in.

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

The main counselor introduces me. 

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

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

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

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

Seth looks proud too.  

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

And she let me.

Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Un-rushed kids are happy kids.

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

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 They couldn’t wait to show me this illustration:

 

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

The one who is never far from their hearts.

 

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

Later we’ll take the Jing for a walk.

Did I mention I slept ’til nine today?

Fantastic with a capital F.

 

The Nailbiter

Some people manicure their nails,

Some people trim them neatly,

Some people keep them filed down,

I bite ’em off completely.

Yes, it’s a nasty habit,but

Before you start to scold,

Remember, I have never ever

Scratched a single soul.

 

-Shel Silverstein