Is Your Kid the Welcoming Kind?

Cleveland Circle of Friends (2009)

One day when Riley was in third grade, I met her on the playground after school and she fell into my arms, sobbing.

“Why doesn’t anyone like me?”

No one had made fun of her. No one had shoved her down.

But no one had included her. Lots of playdates happened every day after school. No one ever invited her.

Soon after, we started a monthly “circle of friends” group in our home. Initially, we talked about Asperger’s, and how it affected Riley; her gifts and challenges. We talked about how those girls could support her as friends, and they did. They were awesome once they were given the tools to know what to do. We usually did one activity, and then had free time and occasionally I’d lead them in a guided meditation.

You’ve probably given your kids the “don’t you ever bully” speech.” Or even, the “stand up for someone if you see them being bullied,” speech or maybe the “get help if you see someone being bullied” speech. But have you taught them how to include someone who might be struggling socially? Because excluding someone is bullying’s cousin. If done deliberately I would go so far to say it is bullying. But like the girls in our circle of friends group, I think many good-hearted kids simply don’t know how to include someone that doesn’t easily jump right in.

It isn’t just autism. It could be shyness. It could be anxiety. I have a friend whose sweet daughter (who happens to be chubby) was the only girl in her class not invited to a birthday party…in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

Even as an adult, excluding someone from a community has serious emotional consequences on the person being shunned. I’m not sure the popular people, people “social” comes easily to, truly get the long term ramifications of shutting out another human being. If it’s never happened to them, they might not understand just how crushing it is.

I know when a group of kids ignores the presence of a quiet kid, they’re not plotting, “I’m going to scar this person for life.”

But it can.

It also scars their mother.

Teach your kids to be gracious and welcoming. To look out for the one who is struggling. Teach them to be kind and to have the common courtesy to acknowledge every person in the room. Offer them guidance on what they might say to welcome someone who is shy or holding back. It can be as simple as a smile, a hello to acknowledge their existence. A stepping back and widening the circle to include them in a group conversation. Lead by example. Compliment others that are gracious with new people, (in front of your kids). Let it be known that you value this welcoming quality in a person.

My child has worked all her life on developing social skills and it still doesn’t come easy. She is so brave.

If your child were on a group hike, and sprained their ankle, and no provisions had been made for the injury..no choice but to soldier on, would it be reasonable to expect one or two kids to slow down, to maybe walk with that child? Might they even see some rich and beautiful scenery that would have been a blur had they kept pace with the rest of their classmates?

Would it be reasonable for those classmates to trade off? They of course don’t want to spend all their time at someone else’s pace, but could they go a little more mindfully for 20 minutes, and then let someone else walk with that classmate? Might they recognize and honor the one that is working harder than any of them, just attempting to keep up?

Would it be okay with you, if your kid was part of the group that ran ahead and left that child to limp for miles, alone?

Forgive us our trespasses

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT works a second job, part-time at a small compounding pharmacy. The owner of the pharmacy is generous enough to treat his employees to a nice dinner around the holidays, his way of expressing appreciation for all they do. We were having a fine time Saturday night. People had a few drinks. Dessert had already been served, things were winding down. I couldn’t really hear much from the other end of the table, it was so noisy, but then it happened. The husband of one of the employees, started making fun of someone with Tourette’s. This guy is generally the life of the party, joking around; he has people in stitches with his stories.

I don’t know how it started, but he was suddenly mimicking the tics of a grown person with Tourette’s, someone that he knows. Like he was doing a comedy impression. It went on for a bit. Then he talked about how the guy he knows, with the Tourette’s, was abused as a child, insinuating this caused the tics, or made them worse.

I waited for my husband to say something.

He didn’t.

The man quickly shifted his topic to being a (his words) “deplorable” Trump supporter. He was loud and proud about it.

I looked at Todd and what I told him with my eyes was IT IS TIME TO LEAVE.

We got up and walked to the other end of the table, to the owner of the pharmacy, who seemed so happy to have everyone gathered. As we said our good-byes I stood inches away from the “deplorable,” and had a vision of flicking him in the head as we walked past. That vision seriously came to my mind. What would happen if I just picked up a cloth napkin off the table, and twirled it tight and snapped him in the head with it, like a towel in a locker room?

We stood outside the restaurant waiting for the valet, our eyes met and HT said, “What?”

“You know what! How could you not say something? Were you expecting me to handle it? These are YOUR people.”

“Do you want me to go back in?” he asked.

I glared at him.

The valet pulled up with our car.

Taking out my phone I pulled up a photo of our son. The one with tics. The one that can suddenly, overnight, look like he has Tourette’s when a virus or bacteria causes his immune system to over-react and attack the movement area of his brain.

Shoving the photo in HT’s face I asked, “Don’t you feel kinda like you just betrayed your child?”

Eternity went by in his one-second pause. He bowed his head and replied quietly,

“Yes. I do.”

His willingness in that moment to be honest and vulnerable, turned the ship around. Had he gotten defensive it would have been so much worse.

It was a long, 45 minute drive home, and we fought some more, (with me texting a friend for support behind his back) but the edge was off. We were getting back on the same team. Once home, around 11PM, we walked the dogs, and we talked more. I acknowledged that this was a big night for his boss. And that confronting the “deplorable” would have ruined it, especially so late in the evening when there wouldn’t be time to recover the mood. HT said he would address the woman who’s husband caused the scene, and tell her how hurtful it was, when he saw her on Monday. Not that it’s her fault, what her husband says, but she was giggling along with it, and so were some others. I forgave him for not knowing what to do in the moment. The truth is, I didn’t quite know what to do either. I was stunned.

While I was glad he planned on talking to his co-workers, I felt the need to say some things too, as a mother. I wrote an email, describing who our son is, and what his struggles have been. I attached photos of how little he was when his PANS started, and photos of him now, because I wanted them to see his face. I wanted them to know that making fun of someone for something they can’t control is ignorant and cruel. I sent it to HT’s boss asking him to forward it to everyone that had been there. I hoped that even if the “deplorable” didn’t take my message to heart, maybe someone else in the group would. Maybe it would be an opportunity for learning.

Driving to teach a yoga class the next morning, I thought about times I have inadvertently offended someone. When you know better you do better, and there have been times in my life where I didn’t know better yet. Maybe he didn’t know better. While I feel it was the right thing to do, to address this, I also have to look into my own heart and know, without a doubt, that I have been on the other side of this equation. And undoubtedly, there have been occasions I’ve offended people without even knowing it.

This passage from The Lord’s Prayer said over and over in my childhood, my grandmother’s voice, with mine mumbling underneath it in church,…and said every night at bedtime prayers…..repeated in my mind,

Forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT’s boss called the next day to apologize for not setting the tone at the dinner. The “deplorable’s” wife apologized via email and in person to HT on Monday. Another colleague also apologized via email, and in person.

I have gone back and forth about whether it was necessary to address this, in this way, and if I let my ego get the best of me. Could I have been a bigger person? Would it have been better to take him aside and talk to him privately at the dinner? Perhaps, but I didn’t have that presence of mind at the time, because I was upset. Because I am human. Because I was stunned. HT was too. Some people think it is cowardly not to address a person face to face, but those are usually people that have the words, right there, in the heat of the moment. They are good arguers. Quick tongues, quick on their feet. I need to think first. As a special needs parent, I’ve come to respect different learning styles, and different ways of expressing. I express through writing.

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

In the heat of the moment, I freeze and can’t talk. Or I cry. I’ve gotta feel really safe to express myself when I am upset, and I didn’t know this guy. And he didn’t seem all that safe to me.

So, that’s how it all went down.

I felt like if we didn’t address it we were betraying our child and others like him.

Trump might have won the election, but it is still my country too. I don’t want my world to be a place where making fun of people with disabilities goes unchecked.

I didn’t flick the guy in the head. For now, that’s going to have to be big enough.

Swimming at Sunset

Not every night, but often enough, after dinner, we head to the beach. Some days the waves are big, and Seth is happy. He lives for riding the big ones. Some days the waves are gentle and Riley is happy. She likes to leisurely bob and float. I never knew how varied the ocean was day to day, before living so close to it.

It is less work for me to go to the beach here, than it was to go to the public pool in Cleveland. I bring nothing but towels, and quarters for the parking meter. When we are done we hose off our feet at the outdoor shower, go home wet, sitting on our towels in the car. No worries. We change into pajamas when we get home. Easy.

What gets me every time is the evening sky. We are on the east side of FL so we don’t get the sunset directly over the ocean, but it colors the sky in glorious ways. The cloud formations are vast and just before the sun disappears, there are pinks so neon, it feels otherworldly.

Yesterday evening, Riley, Seth and I were bobbing on the gentle waves, kneeling so just our heads were out of the water. They both faced me, and behind them was a sky of such beauty, pink and white and blue and grey. I didn’t have my camera but the photo above was from another recent night, similar.

I had to shake cobwebs out of my head, is this real? The three of us turned slowly, 360 degrees, taking in the view. The clouds, the waves, the sand, palm tree silohettes, back around, and the sky, the blazing pink!

Their faces, so bright and happy, as beautiful and shiny as the masterpiece sky behind them.

The pink only lasts about ten minutes. Their childhoods whiz by.

Let me remember this time. Let me remember their faces, who they are, Seth at 10, Riley at 13.

4100 Pages

We just finished the Harry Potter series. We started five years ago and have tackled one every summer, and some during the winters in between. I have read each of those 4100 pages out loud to my kids. The first book starts with such innocence and it perfectly matched where Riley and Seth were at the time. As Harry grew and matured, so did they, right in step with him.

The last book gets very dark, and it is appropriate that they didn’t read that book ’til this year. They can handle it now. They couldn’t have before.

The first one we started on a porch swing at a house we were renting when we first moved to CLE. The kids were 8 and six. The rest have been read snuggled together on our king sized bed, or I’ve read to them while they’ve eaten dinner on evenings that Todd worked.

I have loved reading aloud to my children. I am almost ready to be done with it. I am tired. Seth might have one more series in his future, he wants me to read The Lord of the Rings to him. We’ll see.

I’ve already read him The Hobbit and also the Indiana Jones series and a bunch of other less meaty books. Mostly while waiting for his sister while she’s been at various therapies. He’s become quite the independent reader, but the fact that he still wants me to read to him, still wants that closeness, I might not be able to resist. It won’t be much longer, I’m afraid.

When we finished the last words of Harry Potter today, he was on my left, she on my right. Spontaneously, they both hugged me, and in doing so hugged each other and we stayed there like that, in a group hug on the big bed for a thoughtful while and then Seth broke the moment with, “What’s next?”

What’s next?

We are moving. They are growing up.

A chapter is closing.

When they think back on their childhoods, I hope they fondly remember Cleveland, and the boy with the lightening scar on his forehead, and the mom that loved them so much.

The Business of Baby

The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line, by Jennifer Margulis.

I will give this book to every newly pregnant woman I meet for the rest of my life. I believe in it so much I will champion it to anyone who will listen. I will go into book stores and I will move it to a prominent place of display, (in front of What to Expect), every chance I get. If you have children, no matter what the age, buy this book. Tell everyone you know. This is a VERY IMPORTANT book. 

I wish this book had been out when I was a new mommy. Oh…how much easier I would have breathed about so many things. If I’d read this book, maybe I would have trusted my own judgement more about my babies, rather than handing over my power. I would have enjoyed them more and worried less. I wouldn’t have felt so scared and alone when facing off with physicians I didn’t agree with.

You know that old parable about the roast with the ends cut off? And it goes on that way for generations until one day a woman asks her great grandmother, why do we cut off the ends off the roast? She thinks there is some important culinary reason behind it. The great grandmother says her mother didn’t have a pan big enough to fit it in.

So much of what we do as parents is just following along, not questioning. Doing what has always been done. In this book Margulis uses her critical thinking skills, her undercover investigational skills, and tons of scientific research to question things we commonly subject our babies to without even thinking about it. But unlike corporate America whose job it is to scare us into buying more products, this book is empowering. So empowering! You will worry less after reading it. You will trust yourself more. You will be a better parent. A thinking parent.

The Business of Baby is full of information. And a book with so much info could be dry, but not this book. It reads like a novel. Or a conversation with a friend. It is so interesting and engaging. It is full of personal stories. Margulis tackles the subjects of breast feeding, diapering practices, circumcision, vaccines, the corporate grip on our physicians, our ridiculously high infant death rate in the U.S., the overuse of ultrasounds, and overall fear mongering that gets us to buy products and agree to practices that are not in the best interest of our children.

She talks to physicians about what it’s really like to run a pediatric practice business. She talks to an outspoken vaccine proponent, who privately tells her he admires Jenny McCarthy and those who are questioning the over-vaccination of children in our country.

This book needed to be written. Margulis, a devoted mother of four and a beautiful writer stepped up to the plate and did a very thorough job. I am so happy for the generations of children that will benefit from it.

Jennifer Margulis dedicates The Business of Baby to her mother, the late Lynn Margulis. Lynn Margulis was a prominent scientist whose work “helped transform the study of evolution.” She bravely challenged the ideas of many other prominent scientists and since then, her theories have become “accepted evolutionary doctrine” according to The New York Times.

Jennifer Margulis is the perfect combination of someone who truly values science, having been steeped in it, and who is also entirely devoted to mothering. Like her mom, she is “sticking her neck out,” challenging ideas that have been widely and unquestioningly accepted. The Business of Baby will be an important part of the evolution of parenting as we currently know it, as reader by reader we begin to think, begin to question, begin to wake up.

Her mom would be so proud.

BUY THIS BOOK! Read this book. Give it as a baby shower gift. Tell your friends. Be part of the change.

Amen.

* For more on author Jennifer Margulis, click here.

* Like the Facebook page for The Business of Baby here. 

Easter

Yesterday I was so flat out exhausted. Todd knew it and offered to take over morning routine today so I could sleep. We’re good that way. I think it is one of the reasons our marriage is strong. We intuit when the other one needs help, validation, sleep. We do our best to give it to the other one. Whoever needs it most.

So I was attempting to sleep in, when my eyes popped open. Easter. It’s the Thursday before Easter, last day before break and my daughter goes to Catholic school. It’s her first year there.

Being a very sensitive child myself, I remember being traumatized by the story of the crucifixion. Why would God allow that to happen to His son? And, why would God give a crap about me if He didn’t bother to help Jesus? Riley is even more sensitive and certainly more literal than I was. We needed to talk. I hopped out of bed, rubbed my eyes and went into her very pink bedroom and shimmied under her covers. She stood there in her uniform, brushing her long hair in front of the full length mirror.

“Riley, they are going to be talking about Easter today, and they are going to be talking about the crucifixion and I want to offer you something to think about when you are hearing all of this.” She knows the crucifixion story, of course, but it hasn’t been hammered into her skull all her life. It’s been on the periphery. “God loves you” is mostly what she’s been told. It’s served her little sensitive Aspergian heart well over the last 12 years.

She stopped brushing and looked at me.

“The real story of Easter, the message of Jesus, is the resurrection. Beaten, tortured, Jesus said, Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

She gives me a beautiful, soft smile.

I continue, “On the cross, Jesus had every reason to hate, but he didn’t. He saw only love. He saw only love in everyone, even those who ridiculed him. Even those who were actively killing him. He was so tapped into God, he knew so adamantly Who He Was that nothing could make him stop loving. And he said he wasn’t special. He said we all have this power inside us.”

My throat tightens. I am not into religion, but Jesus moves me. He does. The love.

“The real story of Easter is that love cannot be killed. That’s why we’re still talking about Jesus today. The real story is the resurrection.”

Riley tipped her head to the side and thought about this for a moment.

“Thank you for telling me that, Mom,” she said.

In the kitchen while eating breakfast she reiterated our conversation to Todd.

“Nothing can kill love.”

Amen.

Now, I can rest.

Before the Healing Service

On Sunday we went to a healing service with Dr. Issam Nemeh. I recently read the book Miracles Every Day and wanted to experience his prayer for our family in person.

Earlier that morning, as we were getting ready, Seth asked, “Will he help with my PANDAS?”

“I don’t know, Seth. It’s kind of a Thy will be done thing. We don’t know spiritually what your PANDAS is here for. Are you to be cured? To be a testament of cure being possible? Are you to be a teacher with it? Will you serve many others because you have these tics, or are you to be done with them? What did your soul come here to do? I can’t say. All I can say is be open.”

Riley says, “Mom, he isn’t going to just cure anything instantly.”

I said, “Actually he’s done plenty of that. There is documentation of physical changes, before and after x-rays. Tumors gone. Diseases healed. Lab tests to prove it.”

“I’m sorry to be skeptical,” she says, raising her eyebrows.

“It is okay if you are skeptical. I just ask that you join us, and that you be respectful.”

She nods, okay.

I add, “I’m never going to tell you what to think.”

Riley replies sincerely,

“Thank you.”

Didees

My mom had twins in 1983 when I was 15. We used cloth diapers for a while. It was disgusting. It was the old rectangle of a diaper, safety pins, with rubber pants on top. They leaked. They stunk. You had to rinse them in the toilet, and then stick them in a pail of soapy/shitty water reeking in the bathroom until laundering them. She was attempting to breast feed twins (which brought us to five kids). She had a husband that never changed a diaper once or ever did a load of laundry in his life. Cloth diapers were a herculean effort. The relief I felt when God-knows-who donated disposable diapers to us! My 15 year old “second-mother” self rejoiced.

When HT and I started our own family, I knew there was a “movement” toward cloth diapers, vaguely, peripherally. I knew it was better for the environment, obviously. But I had a really hard baby. The thought of adding more work to my life was heart sinking. And I thought about all the toxins being pumped into our environment from corporate America with no consequences. I felt the teeny bit I might help the environment by diapering my baby in cloth was a joke. And I resented the guilt trip being put on women to use cloth diapers. I saw it as another way to keep women so busy they wouldn’t have time to truly look at disparities in the world, like unequal pay for equal work, etc. I’d read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. This was just the next chapter. Cloth diapers = voluntary oppression. That’s what I thought.

The idea of toxins actually in the diapers, seeping into my baby’s skin? Now, that didn’t occur to me. The idea that they actually make cloth diapers these days that are functional….I did not know that. The fact that “child centered” (aka delayed) toileting promoted by a very famous and beloved pediatrician sounded so crunchy granola, but was really a well thought out campaign to sell more diapers for more years? Nope. It wouldn’t have occurred to me. (Not that it would have mattered because potty training for kids on the spectrum is just a whole other ball game).

I’m reading an advanced release copy of The Business of Baby by Jennifer Margulis. Oh how I wish this book had been out when I was a new mommy. Oh…the heartache it will save so many new parents in the future! She covers many topics of great concern to me, and others I had not put much thought into. Like diapers. I’ll be doing a real blog post/review/interview something or other on this book next month, but I just wanted to write this little bit about the diapers while it is fresh (hee-hee)because it illustrates that we are always learning and always growing. I mean, we can be, if we’re open.

Sometimes I feel sad about my lack of professional achievements over the last decade. But when I think about where I was when I started this parenting journey and how my consciousness has evolved, I can’t honestly feel unaccomplished. I’ve studied more as a mother than I ever did as a student (and not to brag, but I graduated college with high honors). The stakes are higher. I know so much more now.

Full-soul parenting.

And I’m not the only one. So many of us are waking up, and learning to trust our own Inner Guidance. Books like this are making it into the mainstream publishing world. I love it. I want to see The Business of Baby outsell “What to Expect.” I really do.

Knowledge is power.

New parents are getting smarter. They’re getting more power.

Can you feel it? I do.

And it makes my heart sing.

Lego Therapy

Our dining room table is perpetually covered in Lego. There is also a table in Seth’s room, and they often overflow the table and creep across his floor. There are several storage bins but the Lego can’t seem to stay in them. It is the only present he wants for Christmas, birthday, etc. Any gift card he receives, or money from his grandparents goes toward buying more Lego.

Several months back, he was having a really hard time sleeping at night. We think it is part of PANS/PANDAS because he’d never had a problem before, and it was tied to great anxiety. We had compassion for him. But we wanted him to go to sleep. Both because his tics are so much worse when he is tired, and also because at the end of a long day….Todd and I need to relax. We need to reconnect. We might need to have a gluten free pizza. Or popcorn. We need non-kid time. No offense to any kids of mine who might be reading this, but it’s true. Couples need couple time.

The only thing worse than having a kid you’ve already tucked in come out several times, is sending him to bed fed up with him. Especially when he is afraid and can’t help it.

So we came up with a plan.

“Seth we know this fear isn’t really you, it’s PANDAS playing tricks with you, but we want to trick it back. We want to see how powerful your mind is. So when you think fearful thoughts, we want you to think of a Lego mini-figure. See if you can harness your thoughts by thinking of something you love. And if you do this for a whole week, you will get a real mini-figure.”

He is always welcome to come out if he truly needs to, and we promise we will not be upset with him. We agree to come check on him every 16 minutes, until he is asleep, and usually he’s asleep by the second check.

The boy has not come out once after being tucked in, since August. On Wednesdays, he goes to what is now “the mini-figure drawer” in the kitchen, and takes out what’s due him. Some look at it as a bribe, but I don’t. I think he’s learned he can get through a fear. And yes, he’s milking it. He could totally do it without the mini-figure at this point, but what’s it hurting? Call it what you want but for three bucks a week, it is worth it to us. The kid is an angel and never asks for a thing. I can live with giving him a weekly mini-figure.

We’ve had to move to bigger measures for his fear of fire drills and lock down drills at school. Using the same concept, we are now keeping a ten dollar Lego on hand (it sits in the china cabinet, where he can see it through the glass). He knows if there is a drill at school, when he gets home that day….the coveted Lego in the cabinet will be all his.  Whereas before he was completely terrified, he now has a positive association with the drills. He hears the drill, his body reacts in fear, but a second later, he’s thinking about the Lego. It’s working. I am even able to joke with him on the way to school saying, “I sure hope there is a drill today!” And he grins, knowing the Lego is home awaiting him.

I spoke with the therapist we took him to about all of this, to make sure we weren’t inadvertently screwing him up, and she said no. It is classic conditioning. She thought it was good. One day he will not need a Lego. One day he will connect the dots and know it is not the Lego helping him, but his thoughts about the Lego. But for now, it’s getting him through. One set of fears at a time. 

Safety

Seth could not sleep last night.

When he re-entered school this year after being homeschooled for two, the biggest stress for him was not the academic work, not the social aspects of making new friends, but the fire and lock down drills. Just the drills.

We addressed his fears with the school staff. We’ve taken some measures to help him through. His teacher has a few tricks up her sleeve to help in the moment. He’s even seen a counselor who gave him calming techniques to use during drills, such was his anxiety. He was starting to handle them much better.

Then Friday happened at Sandy Hook Elementary.

So it was after 10:00 last night and he was still not asleep. I came in and laid down with him and ran my fingers through his hair.

“What if a lock-down happens and I’m in the bathroom and I’m locked out of my class?”  Visions of being on his own in the hall with a gunman on the loose would not leave his mind.

I tried explaining that his chances of being harmed by an intruder at school were very very slim. “Seth, we have a better chance of winning the lottery,” I said. “Think of all the millions of school children in our country, who were not harmed on Friday. (I know that’s not really true, we were all harmed).

The numbers are too big. He can’t fathom what I am telling him.

So I tried a different tactic. “If that did happen, if a true lock-down happened and you weren’t in your class, you could hide under the stairs. Or you could run through the exit just past the stairwell. Don’t wait for a teacher’s permission. If you have an out, you take it. You go.  You have inner guidance. You would know what to do.”

“But what if the gunman is in the stair well?”

Breathe, mama. I check in with my heart and ask for words.

“Seth. I believe we all choose when to come into this life, and when to exit. I believe those very special children, those brave teachers, on a soul level, came to change the world. I believe if it is your time to go, you will go, and no heroic measures will save you, and if it is not your time to go, no human act can change that. No one is more powerful than God.”

He hugged me.

“Because that’s what we’re talking about here, right? Fear of death.”

He nodded, “And fear of getting shot.”

I continued rubbing his hair, and we talked about the body’s adrenaline and the natural anesthesia that happens when we are in crises, and how, often times, people don’t even feel pain until hours after a traumatic event. Those children probably felt no pain. We talked about how when I hit a deer with my car, there was no time to feel fear. How time slowed down and it was all surreal. How our amazing bodies have ways to protect us from trauma. Physically and emotionally.

We talked about how we’re all going to die. Every one of us. Some people live long lives. Some people live short lives. All lives are meaningful. All of them perfect for what the soul wanted to accomplish. I believe this.

“But if I died, I’d never see you again,” he blinked his eyes hard, fighting back tears.

We talked about a guy I know, whose teenage son died. This man claimed he felt so close to his son now. Where there was friction between them, only love remained. He talked with his son all the time. He felt him, ever near.

That’s the thing about death, isn’t it? We don’t know, none of us really know. But truly, in my heart, I believe those children and those grown ups who were killed Friday, will never be far from their loved ones. Ever near. Yes.

We talked about love, and how nothing can take it away. Not even death. He is in his dad and his sister and me. We are in him. He is loved. God loves him. Love does not die.

Love is his only true safety.

This morning, our brave boy got out of the car, and hauled his backpack over his shoulder. He looked back at his sister and me in the car, and waved. Then did it again. And again. All the way down the long sidewalk and into the building, to school.

Fred Rogers Talks About Tragic Events in the News

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

-Fred Rogers

 

Thank you, that was three.

I love Seth’s teacher.

Every morning the kids have a meeting, in which they sit in a circle and are given the opportunity to share. She picks the first kid, and the child shares something and then takes three questions from his/her peers. The hands are flying, but after three questions the child standing and sharing says, “Thank you, that was three,” and then picks the next child who gets to share.

That child shares, takes three questions and picks the third and final child who will share that day.

Not every child is picked to share. Not every child gets their question answered. They learn to gracefully deal with being disappointed, but given that the teacher picks the first child to share, she can make sure no one consistently gets left out.

I sat in on the morning share time Seth’s first day, and there is something adorable about seeing your kid, standing there in his little khaki pants, looking like he’s running a business meeting and saying, “Thank you, that was three.”

Seth is busy learning all day. They have P.E. every day, which is wonderful if you are a P.E. loving boy. (P.E. everyday would be awful for Riley, which is why they go to different schools). He’s jumped back into school with such grace. His teacher was homeschooled herself so she understood a lot about where he was coming from, and was so supportive. Even though Seth was afraid at first, he was willing to go. Willing to try. He’s doing really well. I talked with the students the first day about his tics and it has not been an issue. He’s been there a little over a month, and not one child has made a remark about them to him or to his teacher.

At the end of the day I pick him up. Each child has to run to their teacher, tell her they see their parent in the carpool lane, and shake her hand good-bye. It kills me every time, seeing him act like a little man, so formal, shaking hands.

Driving away from school he tells me about his day and when we get home, I eat him up.

 

 

 

My day isn’t complete unless I’ve tickled the snot out of him.

He loves it. I love him.

Amen.

 

Sometimes she just knocks my socks off

The other day, Riley wanted to talk to me about something personal and pressing for her. We had a nice chat, in which I shared some related things I’d experienced when I was her age. When we were done she said, “Mom, you had a hard life growing up, but now you know a lot of stuff and I benefit from it because I can talk to you about anything.”

God I hope that’s true.

And if it is, everything in my whole life that led up to her uttering those sentiments, will have been worth it.

Barbara Azzara,Teaching Excellence Not Perfection

A little background. Probably twenty years ago, my friend Anna mentioned something casually in conversation about Emmanuel’s Book: A Manual for Living Comfortably in the Cosmos. This was when I was living in the DC area. I filed it away in my brain because the concept she presented, or quote, or whatever it was, was quite beautiful.

Not long after, I came across the book in a used book store and bought it. It is a lovely book. It is one you can pick up, read one page, and feel lighter. It covers huge concepts in few words. I love it. I have kept my copy all these years. A few months back, I read it again and was delighted by it again. I checked to see if there was an author website. There was. There were links. One of the links was to Barbara Azzara’s website. She’s a friend of the author. I signed up for her monthly newsletter and have been very inspired by her words. I sent her an e-mail, thanking her for her newsletter. She responded. We’ve emailed back and forth some. I don’t know her well but she is a very loving person. That much I know already.

In last month’s newsletter she asked four questions. I answered them and learned some things about myself. I’m going to include the exercise and my responses here which is a little scary because it’s so personal. I wrote this last month and put it away for a while to let it simmer. To make sure it is something I really feel comfortable sharing. Fear would have me want to keep it locked away to protect myself further.

But I had a little talk with fear yesterday, and turns out while fear might mean well, (and that’s a big might) it’s basically full of shit.

This exercise helped me and maybe it will help someone else. I feel whenever we learn and share, it is a good thing. So here I go…it’s kind of stream of consciousness, but you’ll get the gist. I don’t know why my responses are all in caps, but I promise I’m not yelling. I’m just too lazy busy to go back and change them.

1. Name your images, and understand and name: “what is the fear and the defensive behavior that these circumstances created. ”  Another way of saying it is:  are you willing to ask yourself what is the belief that my ego is built upon?  (I must be agreed with, I must never be criticised, etc.)  Done in depth, this is a freeing exploration.

I MUST BE THE PERFECT MOTHER

2. What are your self judgments and your faults, that have created your idealized self image?  Another way of saying this is:  What about you will you “not accept” so that you will alter yourself and pretend to be other then you are.  You cannot be vulnerable or transparent if you continue to NOT accept your own “imperfections”. List these self limiting values, and see how you have distorted them into “idealization”.  (I must always be “understood.” I must always be generous of my time, money etc.)

I CANNOT ACCEPT THAT I AM OVERWHELMED. I AM LOST. I OFTEN FEEL LIKE I AM BARELY HOLDING MY HEAD ABOVE WATER TRYING TO PARENT THESE KIDS.

I FEEL LIKE I MUST ALWAYS BE PERFECT AT THIS BECAUSE I SUFFERED SO MUCH AS A CHILD AND CANNOT BEAR THE THOUGHT OF MY CHILDREN SUFFERING.

I MUST FIND ALL THE ANSWERS. I MUST FIND THE RIGHT SCHOOLS, DOCTORS, I MUST STUDY STUDY STUDY TO FIND WHAT THEY NEED FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. I MUST DO IT ALL MYSELF BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO FIGURE IT OUT FOR ME AND THEY NEED HELP. I HAVE TO FIGURE IT OUT. I FEAR LONG TERM EFFECTS. IT’S ALL ON ME. I MUST NEVER LOSE MY TEMPER. I MUST ALWAYS SAY THE RIGHT THING. I MUST PREPAVE EVERY SITUATION AND ANTICIPATE EVERY SCENARIO. I MUST MAKE ALL THE FOOD BY SCRATCH. I MUST PROTECT THEM AT EVERY TURN. I MUST DO IT NOW OR THEY WILL SUFFER MORE LATER. I MUST PREVENT THEIR SUFFERING.

3. Are you willing to be real, (What does this mean to you?) and then are you willing to risk being seen for all of who you are?  Are you willing to accept your own imperfections and not project them onto others.  Are you willing to take the time to write about this?  ( ex:  I am angry, but rather than admit this, I will tell you that you are angry.) 

I CANNOT TOLERATE EVEN A WHIFF OF JUDGEMENT ABOUT MY PARENTING. OVER THE YEARS, SOME HAVE BLATENTLY JUDGED. OTHERS HAVE OFFERED JUDGEMENT THINLY VEILED AS “CONCERN” OR “SUGGESTIONS.” OTHERS, STONE COLD SILENCE WHEN I’VE BEEN BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE HONEST ABOUT HOW BAD IT’S BEEN SOMETIMES. AND IT FELT LIKE A BRICK ON MY BACK THAT WOULD SINK ME. IT FELT MEAN. IT FELT WRONG TOO BECAUSE THEY DID NOT LIVE MY LIFE, OR KNOW MY CHILDREN OR KNOW WHAT THEY NEED OR APPRECIATE HOW HARD I AM ALWAYS TRYING.

4. Are you willing to do this as a spiritual practice and devote yourself to “excellence” not perfection?  Without this commitment to go beyond your frustration, without this commitment to go beyond your fear of rejection, your fear of exposure or criticism,  and without this ability to be objective, first with yourself, and then with other, you cannot be present in your heart, and therefore you will not be able to connect and to walk with another in true open heartedness. This is the way of Leadership, and this is the path of intimacy.

I HOPE TO BE ABLE TO HEAR SOMEONE’S CRITICISM. I HOPE TO BE CONFIDENT ENOUGH IN MY PARENTING THAT I CAN LOOK AT ANY CRITICISM CURIOUSLY. WHAT THEY ARE CRITICIZING ABOUT ME IS A FEAR THEY HAVE THEMSELVES ABOUT WHAT THEY DID OR DIDN’T DO OR WHAT THEY MIGHT DO. WHAT THEY THINK THEY KNOW ABOUT ME, IS ONLY PROJECTION. I AM STRONG ENOUGH TO ENDURE ANOTHER’S CRITICISM. IT DOESN’T MAKE IT TRUE. THOUGH IT MIGHT BE. I’M STRONG ENOUGH TO LOOK AT WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, WEIGH IT CAREFULLY AND DECIDE EITHER TO ACCEPT IT AND WORK ON IT OR TO REJECT IT AS INVALID PERCEPTION AND LET IT GO. I DON’T NEED TO LET IT THROW ME AND GET ALL UPSET ABOUT IT. I DON’T NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING.

I DON’T NEED TO BE PERFECT. I AM NOT PERFECT. I DON’T NEED TO BE SEEN AS PERFECT.

I CAN MAKE MISTAKES. I AM FALLIBLE. I AM HUMAN.

I AM VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH PEOPLE NOT LIKING ME. I DON’T HAVE TO BE LIKED. I DON’T HAVE TO BE APPROVED OF. RILEY HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE AT THE ORTHODONTIST RECENTLY, AND I STOOD UP FOR HER, BUT THEN WORRIED THE DOCTOR AND STAFF WOULD BE MAD AT ME. IT ISN’T MY JOB NOT TO RUFFLE ANYONE’S FEATHERS. IT IS MY JOB TO ADVOCATE FOR MY CHILD.

IT ISN’T MY WORK TO MAKE THE WORLD APPROVE OF ME. IT IS MY WORK TO BE ME.

I AM A GOOD MOTHER.

I AM NOT A PERFECT MOTHER. MY CHILDREN WILL SURVIVE MY IMPERFECTIONS.

I AM AN EXCELLENT MOTHER.

I AM NOT A PERFECT MOTHER.

I AM ENOUGH.

 

*If you would like to recieve Barbara’s newsletter aka Love Letters, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.

**The Alden Nowlan quote on my sidebar came to me courtesy of Barbara too!

Happy Birthday to Seth

He did it. He turned ten.

He was the best baby. The most precious toddler. The sweetest preschool guy. He’s a joy. He’s a happy person. He is a light. He has more patience than any adult I know. He has insight you wouldn’t believe. He looks for the good in people, and finds it. He’s quick to forgive. He abhors the idea of hurting anyone. He’s sensitive and compassionate. He is Lego and MJ and Chihuahua. He is growing and changing and figuring out more of who he is every day.

Thank you God for the opportunity to be his mom. How’d I get so lucky?

Happy Birthday Little Man!

We love you more than you can fathom.

Happy Anniversary

The first thing Seth said when I came downstairs this morning was, “It’s me and Yippee’s anniversary!”

Two years ago today we surprised Seth with his Chihuahua. It was the happiest day of Seth’s life, and will go down in history as one of my happiest memories. There is nothing as rewarding as seeing one of your child’s dreams come true.

 

He’ll Always be my Baby

“Seth!” I yell from the kitchen.

“What?” he yells back from the living room.

“Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby?”

He giggles from the living room. I get up and walk toward where he is. Standing in the door way, I look at him. He’ll be ten this week. He’s in a white t-shirt and boxer shorts. Black and white checkered fedora on his head at 7AM on a Saturday.

“Well?”

Nothing.

“Is you is or is you ain’t?” I repeat.

He giggles some more.

I walk over to him. Take his head in my hands, guiding it to nod.

This means you is.”

I move his head in a “no” motion,

This means you ain’t,” I say.

He never does dignify my inquiry with an answer, but his eyes twinkle and it’s clear he loves me.

I’m going to take that as an “is.”

BPA FREE SEALANTS How one dentist’s arrogance sealed the deal

About a year ago, I had the kids at the dentist and she recommended sealants for Seth’s teeth. I told her I’d look into them. So of course I did my research and learned that some sealants have Bisphenol-A  (BPA) which is the stuff in plastic bottles we are told to avoid. You’ve heard of it, right? Don’t microwave cheap plastic and don’t drink out of plastic bottles left in a hot car, the plastic breaks down and leaches cancer causing materials, BPA….that’s the stuff.

I asked for literature on the kind of sealants she used. This dentist used the BPA-full sealants. So next time we were there, I asked her if she would order the BPA-free, and she said no. She said the ones she used are the best sealants. She wasn’t willing to change. Her tone was condescending. As if I was ridiculous to even worry about this.

“I use these on ALL my patients and no one ever has a problem.”

Not that you would notice short term.

“I would have to order in bulk and it wouldn’t be worth it just for your kids.”

She tried scare tactics.

“He’s got a lot of plaque and he will get cavities if you don’t do the sealants.”

I nodded politely, knowing I was willing to do sealants, just not the poisonous ones. I knew I wasn’t coming back, and we didn’t. I have not spent the last ten years getting the toxins out of my kids so some professional who hasn’t done their continuing ed can mess it all up. This dentist had already been walking on thin ice with me.

Earlier this week, Seth saw a new dentist. He too recommended sealants. I asked if they were BPA free, and he didn’t know. He looked at me curiously, but not condescendingly. He went and got a package insert, handed it to me. They were BPA-free! I was so happy. He was happy that I was happy.

Last night at porch night, the sealant issue came up. My friend Melinda’s kids go to the first dentist. And get this….she’s now using only BPA-free sealants! I of course handled this information with grace, practically shooting out of my porch chair and screaming,

“THAT BITCH!”

I wonder if she got a lot of requests for BPA-free sealants? I wonder if it was just us giving her a hard time? I wonder if she did some research. I wonder what kind of arrogance makes professionals poo-poo parental concerns, rather than listen to them and learn from them? I wonder how many dollars her business lost over the long term from the loss of our two children as patients?

If her change-over to BPA-free had anything to do with us, I am happy.

I’m also happy we’re with the new dentist. Seth gets his new BPA-free sealants this morning.  He’ll be protected from cavities. He won’t have BPA leaching into his mouth. All will be well with the world!  Until 4PM, when we go back to have one of Riley’s teeth pulled. She’s got a stubborn baby tooth that won’t come out and it’s messing with her braces. She’s never had novocaine before. Pray for us.

Never a dull moment.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Random Snapshots

Friday, the alarm woke me up and I stumbled into the bathroom. Riley was already in there, brushing her teeth. I grabbed my toothbrush and joined her, me in boxer shorts and a white t-shirt. She in her pj’s. She spit in the sink, looked up at us in the mirror for a long moment and said, “We look like zombies.”

It’s true. We did. Hair everywhere. Puffy faces. Especially me.

~~

She came home from school happy, three days in a row. It was a getting to know you/getting to know the school time. Next week actual academics start. It’s been a wonderful re-entry into school for her thus far. She loves the organizational part of school. She likes her agenda, having me sign it, being responsible.

~~

It’s strange for Jingle, Riley being at school. She greets her when she gets home tail wagging in big full circles, sniffing her up and down. She’s never had Riley leave by herself to go anywhere. Both kids went to camp, but Jingle didn’t greet her so wholeheartedly and thoroughly when they got home everyday from that. I wonder if she felt Riley was safely protected by Seth while at camp? I wonder if she just smells all the school smells. Jingle’s function is so different now than when we first got her. Riley rarely has a meltdown anymore. Still, it’s sweet to see them eat each other up when Riley walks through the door.

~~

I got a book in the mail I can’t remember ordering. I don’t remember winning it. I don’t recall agreeing to review it? No note. It came straight from the publisher. Not from Amazon, or from an Amazon re-seller. It’s called Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel. It’s fiction. It’s cute so far. Any ideas why I have it here? Refresh my memory if I stumbled across it on someone else’s blog and sleep ordered it? Anyone?

~~

Seth woke up with a sore throat last week and his tics are flaring right now. Yesterday we went to a doctor of Chinese medicine. He’s got poor Seth drinking nasty tasting tea twice a day, and ingesting another awful tasting powder we mix in honey.  I ordered blank gelatin capsules to at least spare him that part but they aren’t here yet. I’m having to be firm, or Seth will whine for an hour before taking it. Seth sat on my lap in the doctor’s tiny office. The doctor listened to Seth’s lungs and looked in his throat and up his nose and while he did this I closed my eyes and silently blessed this man, as he endeavored to help our boy.

~~

Few things as glorious as long leisurely conversations with girlfriends. I had two this week. Lucky lucky me.

~~

Todd and I start spooned, I get too hot and flip on my side facing him. He takes my hand and I pull his hand to my lips and kiss it. He pulls mine to his lips and kisses it. Often enough, we fall asleep holding hands, facing each other. If you looked at it from an aerial view it’d seem we’re about to arm wrestle in our dreams.