Open


So much has been going on. So much has not been going on. I’m in limbo. Last week Riley went to shadow for a day at a local special needs school. She was so excited. She had no qualms about me leaving her there. She marched confidently into her day. Just a couple of hours in, I got a call. They had given her math work to do, along with the rest of the class. She panicked because it was presented in a way she wasn’t used to. She raised her hand, but the teacher was busy with another student. She wound up crying and running from the room. She managed to finish her day. She felt happy about it. When I picked her up, the principal said she’d be meeting with the teachers about Riley and getting back to me. It’s been over a week. No word. I called Monday, left a message. She has not returned my call.

Seth was supposed to visit a private school this week. He’s been doing quite well with his PANDAS, and hadn’t been sick in months. His tics were becoming less severe. Hardly noticeable if you didn’t know him. On Saturday they flared up again. On Sunday night, he complained of a sore throat. By Monday it was severe. We had to postpone his visit.

It’s a great school, but I’m left wondering if this is the right thing to even consider? Will being in school just keep exposing him to more strep? Will he constantly be sick? Will it be a never ending battle? Is it worth it? Neither kid is entirely thrilled at the possibility of going to school. They are perfectly content being home. It’s me having a hard time with it. But why? Is it really that bad?

I’ve figured some things out over the past few days. I have a friend whom I love dearly, and I’m in daily e-mail contact with her. She runs a thriving business. She can’t imagine doing what I am doing, homeschooling. It is her worst nightmare. So, whenever I have a bad time…I find a great ear in her. I can commiserate and she can be all, “Girl, you have to get out of that house! You have to get their butts in school!” It feels like she actually kind of pities me being at home.

And she means well. And I’m not blaming her. I’ve certainly been asking for it. But it’s not what I need.

When she has bad days or weeks at the office, I never say, “Girl! That job sucks. You should quit immediately. I don’t know how you stand it! Close down the business!”

I tell her, “You are smart. You can do it. You are good at it. You know what you are doing.” Because she is smart. She is good at it. She does know what she’s doing.

I need someone to tell me that. I need to ask for that.

My kids just might be homeschooled for the duration. If that is the case, rather than running to someone to validate why I hate it, (and btw, I only hate some parts of it, just as she only hates some parts of her job) I need a different kind of support.

Homeschooling is such a radical departure from mainstream society. There is little validation for it. Even in the homeschooling community, families are going about it in so many different ways. I never quite feel like I’m doing it right. I always feel lacking. I always feel worried about the future. Their futures.

Settling into bed the other night, I said to Todd, “If I knew we were all going to die in an accident in fifteen years, I wouldn’t change anything about what we’re doing right now.”

He replied, “Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee that.”

And we laughed! 

I hate feeling unsettled. I hate not knowing what is going to happen. It’s so unnerving.

I feel like it’s time to shut out the opinions of everyone else in the world, and listen to my own heart. Trust my own instincts about what’s best for them, and what’s best for me.

Today in the shower I put a hot washcloth over my eyes and pressed down until little sparkles appeared behind my lids. I felt a calm come over me and a sense of gratitude.

Thank You.

Thank You for this.

Thank You for the not knowing.

Thank You for this moment which will lead to the next beautiful part of our lives. It’s okay not to know. It leaves the door wide open to possibilities.

Previewing this post I click to enlarge the photo I chose and notice Seth, our angel baby, ahead of us on the path, both feet off the ground.

Mr. O’Rourke, on Perfectionism

The guy in the yellow is Mr. O’Rourke, my friend Ann’s dad.

Ann and I were roomies in college. We grew up near each other but didn’t know each other prior to being roommates. She is nice, and she has red hair, and she married a nice guy and he has red hair, and they have three nice beautiful children with green hair. Kidding. The children actually have red hair too.

Anyway, Ann’s dad decided it would be great fun to jump out of an airplane when he turned 85 last summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann is one of four siblings and after their sweet mom died several years back, the question was where should he live? It was a tough decision, because everyone wanted him at their house. Ann got him. He lives with the red heads.

It occurs to me I have absolutely no idea what Ann’s dad’s profession was/is? I do know he has lived a good life. His family loves him. I know he’s a success.

On Facebook the other day, Ann posted this quote from her dad:

“Don’t try to be a perfectionist. Even Mary and Joseph lost the kid for three days.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love it. And I’ll try to keep that in mind. Thanks Mr. O’Rourke.

In My Mind We’re Fred and Ginger

Did I mention Hot Toddy and I are taking ballroom dance lessons?

For one hour on Wednesday evenings, we meet in the cafeteria of a local high school. Our instructor is Mitzi. She’s a senior citizen. She’s about five foot. She’s got an eastern European accent. She wears her hair in a bun at the top of her head, and a floral wreath encircles the bun. She often wears blue eye shadow. She wears sweat shirts and running shoes. She’s in better shape than any of the couples there. When Mitzi pulls you out of the group to demonstrate something, you discover she’s strong as an ox. When she leads, she leads. I adore her.

So far she’s taught us the basics to The Fox Trot, the Rumba (in which she complimented HT on his hip action…he beamed), The Cha Cha Cha, Swing, and The Waltz.

Since the class is in a cafeteria, and there are tables, and it’s only an hour, we bring the kids and let them sit at a table and play on their iPods.

I love dancing with Todd. We have so much fun. We have a long way to go before we aren’t looking down at our feet, or missing steps, or getting it wrong, but we are laughing. He doesn’t know this, but deep in concentration while we’re dancing, he presses his lips together and tilts his head. It’s cute. He’s discovered the secret of leading, which has a lot to do with a firm signal from his right hand on the back of my ribs. And oh…how I need someone to lead something. Someone, just tell me what to do, and don’t make me think, okay? I love it.

Every now and again, I look over Todd’s shoulder at the kids, and they are watching us. Riley smiles, Seth will give me a wink. On the ride home, they are still on their iPods and they are replaying “us” dancing. They weren’t playing games, they were recording. They’ve added special effects. They speed it up, and slow it down, and make us different colors, and they giggle. And I feel good about this family. I feel good about kids watching their parents dance. And mess up. And laugh. And love.

Together, 24/7

What is something in your life that you have an attachment to that is somewhat limiting your vitality?

This was our question to ponder at last night’s 40 Days weekly meeting.

Mine is that I am the only person in the world who can give my children what they need at this time, even if it is killing me somewhat limiting my vitality. I don’t see a clear way out of doing what we are doing presently, but I’m actively considering there might be other ways to live and learn which can work for all of us, including me.

“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.

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.

The Great Pumpkin had a good run. Well played, Seth O’Neil

When the kids were little they had all kinds of dietary restrictions and candy was a big no. Wanting them to still have the joy of trick-or-treating, we made up a story (thank you Charles Schultz) about The Great Pumpkin, a benevolent character, who loved kids so much, and cared about their health so much, that children had the option of leaving their candy out for him on Halloween night and he would replace it with toys.

They loved it until last year, when Riley took me aside and said, “Mom, I don’t want to believe in The Great Pumpkin anymore. My friends look at me funny when I mention it.”

It was a poignant moment. She was growing up. She noticed friends looking at her funny and decided on her own what to believe. I hugged her and explained the ruse. How we wanted her and Seth to have all the joy of Halloween and not feel deprived. She understood. She agreed to let Seth believe as long as he would.

So I wasn’t sure about Seth this year. He’s nine. Did he still believe? Had his sister spilled the beans? There was no mention of The Great Pumpkin leading up to Halloween, no mention at all on the day. I was suspicious. And then I forgot with the business of getting them dressed up and out the door. I also forgot to buy toys to replace the candy if Seth did still believe. I figured there was about a 2% chance he was still in on it. They went out trick-or-treating and had a ball with their neighborhood friends.

After tucking them in last night, I suddenly remembered, and went into Riley’s room and whispered, “Riley, does Seth still believe in The Great Pumpkin?” She’d be the one who knew.

She rolled over, looked and me and said, “Yes, I think so. I think he does.”

Crap.

I went into Seth’s room and said casually, “Seth, do you want me to leave your candy out tonight?”

He said, “Why?”

A long silence filled the air. I felt like he knew, but he was gonna make me say it anyway.

“For The Great Pumpkin,” I muttered.

He paused a moment, weighing his response. I could almost hear his thoughts telepathically.

If I say yes, I get a toy. 

If I say no, she’s not going to let me eat all that candy anyway.

“Um…okay,” he finally responded.

On the 2% chance he still believed, guess who was running to Target at twenty minutes to ten last night like a bat out of hell?

So, this morning, they came downstairs, candy was gone. Toys were there. One for Riley. One for Seth. Riley sucked her in breath and said, “THANKS MOM!”

Seth played cool as a cucumber, but the jig was definitely up.

“That Great Pumpkin, sure must be nice!” I said.

He smirked.

“That Great Pumpkin must really, really love you guys to care so much about your health!”

Big old grin on my boy’s face.

“And I bet she’s beautiful,” I added wistfully.

Seth turned and looked directly at me and smiled.

He knew. 100%.

And that’s the end of that.

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.

Charlotte’s Web

I facilitate a book group for 9-11 year olds and this month we are reading Charlotte’s Web. It was my first “big girl” book when I was a child. So charmed by it, I do believe it set me on the path to becoming a lifelong reader. And it’s hard to be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s an important book for me on so many levels.

I’m reading it aloud to my kids and falling deeply in love with it all over again. I have not read it since I was about 11. I love how the book is not fearful of tackling difficult issues, specifically death. Wilbur the pig finds out the plan for him to be slaughtered, and Charlotte the barn spider tells him to stop wigging out. She “can’t stand hysterics.”

Charlotte isn’t all warm and fuzzy. She reminds me of some of the best people I know and have known. They aren’t prone to sentiment, there is a dryness to their humor, but they love me and have my back. They wouldn’t presume to know what my life is like, but they do unflinchingly know my heart. They show up.

The three of us cuddle up on the big chair to read. I love that my children are hearing Charlotte’s  words out of their mother’s mouth. I want her wisdom to seep into their bones. Everything we love, we will eventually lose. I want them to know that loving is worth it. I hope this book about a spider and a pig can in some way prepare them. So when they experience losses, and they will, they’ll know it’s a part of life. It is okay. All will be well.

I was inspired to pick Charlotte’s Web for this month’s read by this beautiful interview on NPR.

Thank you E.B. White. Your brilliance lives on in your stories.

 

Glee – You’re on Notice

Shuffling out of my bedroom still half asleep, I’m greeted by my bright-eyed tween with her usual morning after questions.

“Did you watch Glee?”

It’s our Tuesday night assignment. She can’t watch Glee ’til we’ve watched Glee and screened it. And she might explode if she doesn’t get to watch it, today. She’s as “hopelessly devoted” to Glee as I was to Grease when I was her age. Only more so.

I hug her tight and she stands on her tip-toes, arms around my waist. The tip-toes are to make herself taller than me. It’s new, and she can’t stop doing it. We look at each other eye to eye.

“We need to talk about Glee.”

“Was it appropriate?” She asks, hopefully.

“Well, most of it was okay, but there was a part that really upset me.”

Her face drops. I call her father and brother into the room. Todd and I talked for hours the night before about how to address this and I can’t say we’ve really figured it out.

“Riley, you know how sometimes kids with Asperger’s, when they are having a hard time, they can be misunderstood and people think they are brats?”

She nods.

“I mean, even Dad and I didn’t get it at first, right? When you were little?”

She waits for more.

“Well last night on Glee, there was this new character, who behaved really badly, and said because she had self-diagnosed Asperger’s, she was entitled to act like a brat.”

“What did she do?”

“She insulted the Glee club, and even though she wasn’t talented, she felt she should be the star of the show, and she was really mean and rude.”

Todd adds, “She might not have really had Asperger’s, we’re not sure, but was using the diagnosis, as an excuse for her bad behavior.”

Riley looks back and forth to each of us.

I continue, “And we really were mad about it, because it’s not fair to stereotype kids with Asperger’s like that. You have Asperger’s and you would never act that way. You are never cruel. You don’t think the world owes you favors. That’s one of the reasons I love writing about you, because it gives people an understanding of how sweet kids with Asperger’s are. You’re a great ambassador for Asperger’s.”

Neither child knows what an ambassador is, so we explain the concept, while inwardly I question whether that’s a bit much to put on a child. Will I ever feel like I’m not winging the parenting thing? Ugh!

Seth nods along, affirming his sister’s awesome ambassador worthiness.

Riley listens intently, then says, “Maybe the writers didn’t mean to depict Asperger’s in a bad way.”

That’s my kind hearted girl, always giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Todd says, “Maybe not. And maybe they’ll take the story line further and explain more about what Asperger’s really is in future episodes. We don’t know.”

Her face suddenly twists up with worry.

“Can we just assume they aren’t talking about me?” she asks, her voice rising a couple of octaves.

The second agreement from The Four Agreements pops into my mind. Don’t take anything personally. Could I just assume they aren’t talking about Riley? Could it really be that easy?

Somehow I feel I have to protect her from what the world thinks of Asperger’s. She’s not rude. She’s not lacking empathy. She’s not robotic. I hate those stereotypes. And I’m not sure Riley really understands the repercussions for kids like her if negative stereotypes about Asperger’s are propagated unchecked in our society.

But then again, I know how pushing against something makes it bigger. Why not just let Riley do her thing, and continue to touch the people she touches, and change perceptions in her own little microcosm, one heart at a time?

Finally she looks at me with tears in her eyes and squeaks out her worst fear about the whole thing,

“Are you not going to let me watch it?”

This is where I want to put the powers that be at Glee on notice. Seriously. Ryan Murphy? Brad Falchuk? Ian Brennan? Dante Diloreto? (My daughter told me your names. She has everything about the show memorized). It’s really unfair to make people who are so vulnerable the butt of your humor. What’s next, kicking puppies? You better redeem yourselves or I’m leaving your viewership and taking a whole lot of people with me. The autism community is a big one, and it’s a divided one, but I think we can all agree, don’t mess with our kids. And BTW? We have lots of friends. 

I look at Riley and tell her, “We’ll keep watching it, and we’ll keep talking, okay?”

She sighs big. Relief all over her face.

She loves you Glee.

Keep that in mind.

Children Get Older (…but just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it. If everyone else were jumping off a bridge, would you do it too)?

At nine, he’s Lego and Harry Potter and Indiana Jones and MJ moves.

He’s more generous and patient than I’ll ever be.

He’s never been cruel, not a second in his life.

He always holds the door open for people, touching the hearts of strangers wherever we go.

He’s not into sports, but will wear a Yankee’s shirt, for his dad.

He’s a great dancer.

He has his own fedorable style.

He had a birthday over the weekend.

I can still pick him up.

I can still pin him down for tickling.

He still thinks I’m pretty cool.

I begged him all year not to turn nine, but he didn’t listen.

For now, he’s promised to give me piggy backs when I can no longer lift him.

It’s something.

It’s what I’m clinging to.

Big Fun and Mac’s Backs After Tommy’s

We went to the Coventry area for dinner tonight. It was too hot to cook. Attached to the wonderful Tommy’s restaurant is the infamous Mac’s Backs. A local independent. A Cleveland establishment. I brought some of my bumper stickers and put them on the bulletin board, but when it came to talking to Suzanne, I totally chickened out. I can promote the daylights out of anyone else’s work, but for some reason, my own? Not so much.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the book. I do. I know it has an audience. Over and over I am hearing from readers, “I couldn’t put it down.” People are reading it in one or two days. I’m not saying Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is a masterpiece, but’s it’s my own, and people (even those I don’t know) are e-mailing me unsolicited and saying good things. 

Back to Mac’s Backs. We walked out. I had lots of excuses. I needed to put more money in the parking meter. The kids were suddenly thirsty. So many reasons why I couldn’t talk to Suzanne. Not then. Maybe another day, when the kids aren’t with me. It’s too hard. I don’t want to bother her. Gotta run. 

So anyway…right near Mac’s Backs is a store called Big Fun. Seth’s favorite. A novelty store full of crazy toys, nostalgic things, gross things, FUN things. Some freaky things. Packed to the gills with “Big Fun.” Even the ceilings are painted in graffiti. Riley has never gone in. It has always been too, too much for her heightened sensory system. Merely peeping in the window has frightened her.  

Tonight as we were walking by I asked if she would like to go in. Predictably, she said no. We stood in front. Little brother perfectly willing not to push for it, not to upset her, totally wanting to go in. I said, “Riley, I think you are at the point where you could do this now. You are handling things so much better. You are really growing up.”

She is.

Seth looked hopeful but tried to act casual. He shrugged, hands in pockets, fedora on his head.

“I don’t know,” she said.

Gently I said, “Riley, I think your fear of this is worse than the actual reality of what’s inside. You can do this.”

We stood there, the three of us taking deep breaths, getting up her nerve. She clutched my hand tightly and at last, we went through the door. Once in, she was cautious for about sixty seconds, repeating to herself, “I can do this. I can do this.” Then, she wound up loving it. So many fascinating trinkets to look at. So many whoopie cushions.

Watching my daughter explore the store, I admired her so much. She is so brave. I am such a chicken.

The kids had their big fun for a half hour. Stepping out of the store, it was my turn. If she could be that brave, I could too. Back to Mac’s Backs.

Suzanne was there, warm and lovely. Supportive. She bought a copy of Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar (which I had in my bag) and said she’d order more to sell in the store. Can you hear me exhale?

The Universe wants to support me, if only I’m brave enough to ask.

I can do this.

I can do this.

I learned it from my girl.

Her Mother’s Eyes


Riley steps out of the shower and I put the towel around her, draping it over the top of her head so just her face peeks out. I pat her dry a bit then hold her by the shoulders and stare into her eyes.

Somehow in this mundane moment, I am overcome. I love her so much. I remember her little face peeking out of the towel when she was a baby. Those same huge, innocent eyes. She smiles at me.

“Riley…when you look into my eyes, what do you see?”

I want her to remember it. This feeling of her mom looking into her eyes and loving her. I want it in her bones. In every cell of her body. She’s growing up on me. I want her to remember this, if nothing else from her childhood. Her mother’s eyes full of love for her.

She looks at me thoughtfully, and replies, “sockets.”

Executive Function


I have several phone calls to make. I have laundry to do. I am fixing Riley’s supplements. Where was I? Oh…I was going to call Lidi to see how she’s holding up since her dog died.

Watching me spin my wheels, trying to decide what to do first, Riley says, “Mom, I think you have a little autism.”

Curious about where she is going with this, I say casually, “You do? Why?”

“Well…because you had me, and I have autism, and you are having executive function issues.”

Here is where I did the blank mommy, “You don’t say?” kind of face. Give nothing away. Do not laugh. Do not smirk. Oh my God she’s so cute. Do not laugh.

We discussed executive function issues the other day, after she spilled a whole glass of water on the table, where my laptop sat, but proceeded to sit down and eat her snack, rather than clean it up, because she was hungry. Made sense to her. Todd, who has worked in hospitals for the last 20 years commented that day, “It’s like she has no triage ability.” After it happened, I explained to her how she is not a bad person for doing this, but it is something we need to work on, because despite all her awesomeness, she does have challenges in executive function. We focus on her gifts, yes, but we also need to keep bringing up the rear, you know?

She adds, “Plus, we kind of look alike.”

Smiling at her I say, “Riley, if I am like you at all then I’m glad because you are awesome.”

She flashes her sweet smile.

Truly…how did I get such an incredible kid? I adore her. I want ten more just like her. Okay…I admit, that last sentence was a bit overboard, even for me.

But every day, I just enjoy her more. 

Now, where was I?

The Halloween Catalog

Every year a Halloween Costume catalog arrives in the mail. Riley desperately wants to flip through it. She wants to see the girlie girl costumes. She wants to see the animal costumes. She LOVES Halloween. The catalog calls to her. But there are always the gruesome costumes. And she could never do it. She’d hold the catalog in her hands, trembling, until I went through and ripped out the offending pages. Then, all would be well with the world. She’d take the catalog and pour over it for days, and weeks.

Well…the catalog came the other day. She walked over to me as I was doing the dishes and said, “Mom. Will you go through this for me and pull out the scary pages?”

Drying off my hands, I took the catalog, then reconsidering, handed it back to her, “No.”

She was shocked. Mean, mean, meanest mommy.

“Riley, I think you are old enough, and strong enough to deal with this.” I fished around on the counter and came up with a black Sharpie. “Take this, and any costume that is gross or scary or ugly, I want you to black it out. Take your power back. You don’t need to be afraid of a silly Halloween catalog anymore.”

She looked at me wide eyed, then ever so slowly the corners of her mouth turned up in a smile. She was in!

She attacked the catalog with a vengeance while Seth and I cheered her on. Her brother has a deep fear of one costume in particular (which I am not allowed to mention), and she took special pleasure in blacking that one out. She’s never been able to play the role of protective big sister much due to her own intense fears, but the times they are a changing. 

She actually said, “A little blood won’t hurt us” as she scribbled.

And when she was done she said, “I can’t believe I did it!”

Believe it, baby. Believe it.

There is nothing you can’t do.

 

Love Thy Neighbor

For over two years, the house next door to us was vacant. The previous owners foreclosed, and left in the dark of night, never to be seen again.

Neighbors took turns mowing the lawn, making it look “not” vacant. And we waited. And we hoped. And finally a lovely young woman bought the house. Hurray!

Over the last several days, she has proceeded to have three of the gorgeous very mature trees on her property cut down. Trees that provided our yard with privacy and shade. Todd and I have felt sick watching it. Like we’re standing by witnessing a slaughter. The trees are what make this neighborhood special. The lovely, old, huge, trees. The house is small. She’s a young woman. This is likely her “starter” home, and she’s going to hack down something that’s been there probably a hundred years?

To add insult to injury, they’ve been cutting them down, all day, during the precious time when the kids are at camp, the only time this homeschooling mom has to herself to enjoy peace and quiet all year, and I’ve got to listen to the buzz of loud chain saws. It’s been deafening. We don’t have A/C and I can’t have the windows open or the sawdust floats in. Grr.

The other day I noticed our disgust had trickled down to the kids. Seth was peering out the window, shaking his head, and his fist, and something inside me said, enough of this.

A lesson from A Course in Miracles went through my mind, “I do not know what I am looking at, so I cannot judge what I see.”

Crap.

After sorting it through in my head and heart for a while, I decided to talk with the kids. We really don’t know why she is cutting the trees. Perhaps they are dying or diseased, and she was advised to do so. Perhaps they are in danger of damaging her home. Perhaps she’s afraid the next wind storm will bring a big limb onto our house? Perhaps she has seasonal affective disorder and craves sunshine and couldn’t get a blessed speck of it with all that glorious shade. Perhaps none of this is true and she’s just totally unconscious and doesn’t think twice before she does things. Even if that were so, is it reason to hate? No.

Either way, the trees are coming down. I can make myself sick over it, or I can entertain the possibility I don’t know everything, that I’m not better than anyone else, that just because I would choose differently doesn’t make another person wrong. She seems like a good person. Like everyone else, she’s a child of God, living her life and going about her business. Which, BTW, is none of my business. Even if I can no longer walk by my upstairs windows naked.

The kids and I talked and talked and during our conversation, we all felt more expansive. I told them how my Grandmother always said… “When you point the finger, you have three pointing back at you.”

We discussed what we don’t like about this situation? And how are we demonstrating the very qualities we don’t like, in our own lives?

She isn’t seeming to consider the value of the trees or how destroying them will affect her neighbors.

Are we considering her desires for her yard, when we judge her?

Crappity crap crap.

So, the O’Neil’s are letting it go. She’s got a lovely yard, with a gorgeous coi pond which she’s restored beautifully. She’s a good neighbor, never a problem. She’s a nice person. She has a vision for her yard, which we don’t understand, but which is none of our business. We’ll honor that with love, as her vision unfolds.

The whole situation has inspired us to plant some trees in our own yard, which is truly the only thing one can ever tend to.

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.

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.