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?

Pillow Talk

The other night, I turned out the light, then requested HT spoon closer.

“How can I get closer?” he asked.

“I want your molecules, all smashed up against mine,” I said.

He snuggled in a bit more. After about ten seconds of this I had a hot flash. Throwing off the blankets I said,

“Blow on my neck.”

“What?” HT asked.

“Blow on my neck,” I said, my hand holding the hair up off the back of my neck in the dark.

“Did you just say, “Blow on my neck?”

“Yes.”

“Blow on your neck?” he asked again, incredulous.

“What part of BLOW ON MY NECK do you not understand?” I implored.

At which point he cracked up. We both did.

He went on, “So if I said something like…lick my elbow…don’t you think you’d ask…what a couple of times?”

I’ll admit, it was a slightly odd request.

But blow he did. Eventually.

We couldn’t stop laughing.

“Shhh…you’re going to wake up the kids.”

Drifting off to sleep, my neck was cool, and my belly hurt from laughing.

It was a really good way to fall asleep.

Friday Rampage of Appreciation

I’m feeling kinda in love with life today. It was the first day of the new homeschool co-op session. I am teaching a Lego class:

Seth preparing borrowed Lego, getting ready for the class (JACKPOT)!

It went well. We worked on two dimensional projects today. We’re going to slip in some architecture concepts, careers in Lego, and lots of challenges, but mostly it is just fun. Lego literally means “play well,” and I plan on sticking with that theme. I am getting a lot of ideas from Lego Quest Kids. I appreciate the website so much! If you have Lego lovers in your house I highly recommend it for ideas.

Seth's creation (MJ-because obsessions aren't just for Asperger's)

Hot Toddy has arranged his schedule so he can come to co-op most days

In the afternoon block, Riley is taking a puzzles and games class. They did some brain teasers, then moved onto a charades type of game, and in the middle of it, she dismissed me. She did the “come here” motion with her index finger and whispered in my ear,

“Mom. I don’t think I need you in here.”

It was awesome!

I let her go to a scrap booking class last session by herself (me out in the hall within earshot) because it was small. Just one other kid, and two instructors. This class had about eight kids. She did great, even getting up and doing the charades, and dealing with it when people weren’t guessing what she was acting out. I held my breath for a second…she was clearly feeling worried and on the spot, but she got through it on her own. It was after that, when she gloriously gave me the boot.

Also this week….Riley’s Spanish tutor is 70. She has taught homeless men, juvenile delinquents, those with dementia, and those with autism. She uses art and music. She told me she prayed for just the right client and here Riley is. This sweet woman stood in front of me and told me my child is the answer to her prayer. Any parent would love that, but this mom, who remembers her darling girl getting kicked out of preschool…it balms those wounds. We all want our kids to be included and loved.

We had homeschool book group this week. Such a great group of 8-10 year olds. We read Frindle, by Andrew Clements, about a boy who has the idea of inventing his own word. The kids were so enthusiastic and I have to say they stay on subject better than the adults in most of the books groups I have been in! Various moms take turns hosting at their houses (we don’t have it at our house because of cat allergies) and I lead the discussion. The best of both worlds for me. I get to lead the book group, which I love, but don’t have to clean for the occasion!

Speaking of “the best of both worlds,” this is the phrase I have coined for going to bed, backing up to Todd in a spoon position, stealing his body heat. He falls asleep while I read. We get to snuggle. I get to read. It’s “the best of both worlds.” One of life’s greatest blessings.

Okay, I’m gonna wrap it up before I make you gag if it’s not already too late.

May you have a beautiful and blessed weekend.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Fill in the ________.

One of the songs we are doing in Windsong this season is called Stand. One of the lyrics in Stand is…

“It starts with a whisper, the smallest I am.”

When we were working on this song in rehearsal my friend Jan scribbled, on a piece of paper, “That line reminds me of Horton Hears a Who.” (Of course she did this when Karen our director was working with a different section…we second sopranos are always paying attention at rehearsal).

I scribbled back “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Jan scribbled back,

“A person’s a person, no matter how _________.”

Fill in the blank.

Perfection.

And since we’re on a Dr. Seuss roll, the following is an e-mail exchange between HT and I last night.

He worked evening shift yesterday, and earlier I had whipped up a nice dinner for him(not a daily occurrence but he sure appreciates it when it happens), packed it up and sent him off to work. Later, I received this e-mail:

I ate my dinner and it was delish. Thank you very much. I appreciate you so very much and think you are the greatest. I hope you have a good night and I’ll talk to you later.

I replied with this:

Would you love me on a boat?

Would you love me on a float?

Would you love me though I bloat?

He shot back:

I would love you on a boat, on a float, and in a moat. I would love you on a train, in the rain or on a trip to Spain.

Note the glossing over of the bloat situation.

Well played, Todd O’Neil.

The Tutors Have Arrived

So I think I mentioned here before how Riley was granted the Ohio Autism Scholarship. What that means is we now have two different tutors coming to the house a total of 8 hours per week, and they are teaching math, science, and Spanish (using music and art). They are seasoned teachers. They are loving and warm. They “get” Riley, and let me tell you the teachers who get her always fall in love, and that process has started.

While Riley is working on math with her tutor, Seth and I read a bit of Indiana Jones, then we do other important things. Sometimes we do a meditation, sometimes we do an abundance/appreciation exercise, sometimes we have a tickle fight. Sometimes we put our faces very close together and say, “You have one eye,” over and over. Seth and I rarely had time like this when he was tiny.

Your hat’s in my eye.”

Former State Rep. Jon M. Peterson, (a Republican!) is responsible for the creation of the scholarship Riley is receiving. I’ve heard he has a daughter with a form of autism. It is one of the first special ed voucher systems in the country. Parents who decide to pull their kids with autism from school may receive up to 20K per year in tutoring services by approved providers under the scholarship. Services must coincide with IEP goals, and therapies not specifically written into the child’s IEP are not covered. The school district is getting money (a lot more than 20K) from the state for Riley. It is only fair some of it should be spent on her, especially since she was not thriving in school.

It’s been two weeks since the tutors arrived. We are enjoying the support. Riley is fully engaged. We’ve learned as far as education goes, not to look too far ahead, but for now we’re in a good place.

If you’ll excuse me I’m going to go do something I’ve never done before. Write a thank you note to a Republican.

Riley’s always teaching.

This Cat

We got her at a shelter when we lived in Virginia. She was the lone calico kitten, and Riley wanted a calico. All the other cats were crammed together in little rooms, but she had her own cage up front, and she was chillin’ in a hammock…the kind you see ferrets lounging in at pet stores.

She’s a bit of a prima donna. Very vocal. For the first few years, she would sit beside you, but did not want to be held. If you pet her the wrong way, she let you know it. Now, suddenly, being held is acceptable. She doesn’t fight it.

She drove the stray we took in after her, to a nervous breakdown, trapping her under Seth’s box spring and not letting her out. We wound up giving that cat to my sister. (No need to thank me Kelli).

I’ve had good cats in my life. The kind who melt in your arms, and purr at your feet. She’s not one of them. I’ve always had the feeling she’s out for herself. We humans are a means to a full food bowl, and a clean litter box and nothing more. Riley loved her unconditionally anyway. She didn’t know any other type of cat. She doesn’t know any other type of love.

Meow.

Meow.

MEOW!

But lately, lately…this kitty is softening up. She’s getting cuddlier. She sits in my lap and snuggles. She doesn’t squirm when you pick her up.

Who is this affectionate bundle of color? And what have you done with Ms. Cranky Pants?

Nevermind. I don’t really want to know.

Whatever is making her happy, we’ll take it.

HT’s Perfect Response

Writer Elizabeth Aquino is asking special needs parents to answer this question:

What would I say to the parent I was the day before my child was diagnosed with his or her disorder or the day before I knew?

She’s putting together a video of parents holding signs with their individual bits-o-wisdom.

Thinking about the question, I wondered, how could I narrow it down to a sentence that would fit on a little piece of paper? What would I say?

I thought. And I thought.

Finally, I tossed the question out to HT as he was grabbing his jacket and slipping on shoes, ready to take the dog out one last time before bed. He put his index finger in the air and said, “I’ll get right back to you.”

I sat at the computer thinking hard. What would I say? What would I say?

I was deep in thought when HT came back in the kitchen.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said sincerely. “That’s what I’d say to the parent I was before we knew what was going on.”

“It’s going to be okay.”

Can’t top that one.

What would I say to the parent I was the day before my child was diagnosed with his or her disorder or the day before I knew?

You’ll have to wait to see the video for mine. I’m still thinking.

If you’d like to be part of this project, please send your photos with your bits-o-wisdom to Elizabeth: elsophie AT gmail DOT com.

And remember, it’s going to be okay.

Being Fluid

The best, most valuable lesson I have learned from having a child on the autism spectrum is: be flexible.

I don’t get it right every time, but over the last several years, I have learned  to get it right the majority of the time. And when I forget. When I forget….that’s when a whole heap of pain is headed my way and quick.

This morning I picked out an outfit for Riley (choices are sometimes overwhelming, if time is of the essence and today it is). She balked. I was frustrated and in a hurry, but instead of digging in my heels dictator style and insisting she just get dressed, I took a breath and asked her why she didn’t like the outfit I picked out. One of her favorite shirts. Pants with no stains. It all matched, which is important to her.

“I like it, but the last time I saw M. (whom she’s seeing today), I was wearing that.”

There is always a reason behind the behavior. Even if she doesn’t articulate it.

We could have had a really crappy morning had I “been more firm.”

“Being more firm” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“Being more firm” is often a recipe for disaster.

Being fluid is what has saved our mother/daughter relationship.

And as I’ve learned it, she’s learned it.

Recently she’s taken to debating with me, instead of having a meltdown when we disagree. A huge and wonderful step. And beyond that, she’s listening and sometimes even saying,

“I see your point.”

When you’re willing to see someone else’s point, they’ll often be willing to see yours.

My girl taught me that.

She’s dressed, and ready to go, and I even had time to write this post.

It could have been a very different morning.

((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.

A Very Successful Clay Session

My childrens’ self-portraits. It’s uncanny, isn’t it? The resemblance?

We are up to our ears in pottery.

As in…next class…if there is one, they are only making pieces to give away. Hot Toddy thought of it and I second the notion. Hear that friends and family? It’s your lucky day.

This is a set of plates they made.

And you can never have too many coil pots. No sir.

We went the whole eight week session with no problems. Not one. Riley has grown so much in the last year. It is beautiful to behold.

How you doin’?

Riley cut her wispies (by herself) a few weeks ago and now has some “signature bangs” which she incorporated into her sculpture. I tried to talk her into getting layered bangs, to kind of hide her work, but she insisted she likes her signature bangs, so there you go. Liking yourself just as you are? I’m not going to argue.

Working with clay requires one to be flexible. That includes moms.

Flexibility. It seems like the very thing, the one thing Riley and I have been teaching each other since before she was even born.

We’re getting there.

We really are.

She Has Buckets of Empathy

Today was the first day of this season’s Girls on the Run. I had the lesson prepared, my flashcards at the ready and was enjoying leading the new group. Seth usually hangs out in the gym while we meet. Smack in the middle of our session he came running over to me, holding his mouth. He made it to the trash can where he proceeded to be sick. Repeatedly.

We needed to leave.

The other coach heroically stepped in and winged it, and offered to drop Riley off later.

As soon as Riley got home, she ran upstairs to check on her brother. Then, she brought a picture of his crush (Diana Agron from Glee) and taped it to his pillow to make him feel better.

This girl, is not without empathy. She has such a big heart.

Our little man may not be feeling so hot, but he sure is well loved.

P.S. Don’t Seth and Diana make a cute couple?

Appreciation Saturday

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While the guy is painting our living room downstairs, Riley, Seth, Jingle, Yippee, the cats, and I are piled into the bedroom. The kids are watching TV while I type away. Seriously, why don’t we do this every day? So cozy and fun! I am in love with technology. How is it I can sit here wireless, writing under a big down comforter? It is still such a miracle to me. How is it we have electricity? Phones? Cell phones? Plumbing? It is all so amazing. Someone figured it all out, and I didn’t have to. I don’t have to do everything! I can just come along and reap the rewards. The Universe is abundant, I tell ‘ya. People who invented these things, wherever you are…I appreciate you. I love brilliant minds. I love learning.

Did you know there is a website called Khan Academy where you can learn just about anything?

I am really loving the whole learning at home thing lately. I admit we did it out of necessity initially, but more and more it makes sense for our family. And cue sunshine and rainbows please….we recently were approved for the Ohio Autism Scholarship for Riley which will allow us to have a tutor come to our home during the week to teach her(at no cost to us). I cannot tell you how much this will help our family. This is the best case scenario. She gets to be home, but we don’t have to bear the full responsibility of teaching her. We don’t have to do everything! This will afford us more one-on-one with Seth, and allow me to get things done around the house while the tutor is here.

I used to joke, “I’d love for her to be homeschooled; I just wish someone else would do it.”

Dreams do come true.

I’ll never forget the relief I felt in her pre-kindergarten year, when the wonderful private teacher we hired said, “I’d like to take care of the educational piece, so you can just be her mom.” She was a special needs parent too, so she knew. For so long I’ve had to be everything. Doctor, advocate, attorney, teacher, nutritionist, coach, you name it. I am feeling sweet relief.

We are finding now that Riley doesn’t have to keep it together 35 hours a week at school, (with homework on top of that) she is much more sociable. She is starting conversations (in small groups). She is joyful. She can follow a conversation through lots of twists and turns. We belong to a co-op which meets on Fridays and has anywhere between 40-60 kids each session. There are very small classes. Each child picks two classes and there is an hour long recess in between where children can eat and play. At first she stuck with her brother like glue but the last couple of weeks she’s been hanging with the girls her age. An outsider looking in would never be able to pick her out of the crowd as “the kid with autism.” She is more relaxed. Part of it has to do with the company.

This is what I’ll tell you about the homeschooled kids we have met.

-They are polite.
-They are kind.
-They do not feel “entitled” and are respectful not just of adults but of other children.
-They are not particularly competitive.
-They are creative.
-They seem to nurture each other.
-They happily eat nutritious food.
-They are accepting.
-They are happy with a big long thick rope, playing tug of war. Piling on. Dragging each other around, all over the gym, for as long as we let them.
-They are enthusiastic learners.

So, it is going well.

And of course, one of the very best things about being home is the ample time the kids get to spend with their animals.

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Some days are more challenging than others, but today is a good day, and it deserves a mention. Good coffee. Good kids. Good dogs. Good computer. Comfy bed.

Date night tonight with Hot Toddy. We’re seeing The King’s Speech.

Life is good, yo.

For real.

Love.

Standing in Another Hollywood-istic Place

Just over two hours ago I woke my husband from a sound sleep and told him I couldn’t take it anymore.

Riley had been sick all night, (tummy trouble associated with autism)and though he took the first shift, and was up ’til 2AM, by 5AM I was spent. Because not only is she sick, she can’t deal with the sensory issues of being sick, so she cries and moans, and ruminates on every bad feeling and worries and worries and worries and worries and worries, and worries and worries and worries and worries and I have spent so much time on the bathroom floor with this kid lately, flu bugs, and colds and now this, and my body is cold and achey and I lose compassion and feel the years being taken off my life because everything is just so much HARDER than it is for most, at least typical kids, and on and on, sinking my own self into despair.

And here’s the thing about Todd. I can come in and wake him when he himself has only had three hours of sleep, and I can say things any other person on the planet would judge and condemn me for. Things mothers should not say.  And he can look right through it and know my heart, and tell me he gets it, and it’s okay, and then two minutes after I cry and blow my nose and get it out, I can have him cracking up laughing…goading him to tell me whom he would tell to F off, right now if he could. And he indulges me.

And it’s after all this, I can put things in perspective, and remember the absoutely great day Riley and I had, and be grateful, so very grateful, to be her mom.

She had her first professional manicure yesterday (and I got a pedi). She was so cute reading People Magazine. Searching for Glee characters, and she found them.

She chose two glittery shades and was pleased,

“I feel like a celebrity,” she said, admiring her nails. Sorry for the blur.

Then we were hungry so we went to a restaurant, and had the good fortune to witness a man propose to his sweetheart at the very next table. We clapped! And then Riley whispered to me,

“Isn’t she a little young to be getting engaged?”

She was. Good eye Riley.


She had a gift card to Justice Just for Girls, a Christmas present from her grandparents so we went there. The ever so helpful girls who work there, asked every two minutes if they could assist us. Trying be polite and make conversation, I mentioned to one, “She has a gift card burning a hole in her pocket.”

Riley leaned in, looked the salesgirl in the eye and said, “She doesn’t mean that literally.”

She spent a nice chunk of her gift card and saved some for next time.

From there we went to Charming Charlies and she bought even more accessories, cause the girl is all about accessories lately.

I love when Riley makes up her own words, which she did here after trying on this headband, “I feel very Hollywood-istic.”

Indeed.

We spent less than $25.00 at Charming Charlies and she got a whole lot of bling. She even tried some of it on her dad.

So at 5AM, I might have been stretched to my cold achey limit, but I can look back several hours and stand in a another place. I know I have linked to this video before, but I do it again, because I need to be reminded of it.

Special needs kids have it harder. Special needs parents do too. But we also get the amazing highs over things parents of typicals take for granted. No one has ever been more in love with their kid than I was yesterday on our first girly girl mani pedi shopping day.

Bliss. Because a couple of years ago, she never could have stepped into a nail salon due to the smell.

Stand in another place.
Stand in another place.
Stand in another place.

In this minute, you may feel like crap, but you won’t always.

Thank you Todd. Thank you, thank you.

And Riley,

I do so love being your mom.

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.

Clay 2011

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After our first disastrous run at homeschool clay class last year, I was afraid to ever go back. What seems to be true though…. is some of our most tumultuous moments appear to stick with me, way longer than they do my girl. We took a session off, and then she was just begging to jump back in. I couldn’t fathom why she would want to. The thought made my stomach hurt. But she was adamant. This time of course, Seth is on board too.

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The teacher is an amazing woman, who simply loves kids. She wasn’t phased by Riley’s screaming or my tears last time. She gave me such a huge hug back then, on that darkest day. Somehow, miraculously, she was glad to see us again.

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Just a couple of weeks into the current session she… (gulp)…she wanted to let the kids try their hand at the wheel. You know…the wheel, which requires hands and feet to work together. The wheel which can be highly frustrating. The wheel, which can throw your clay across the room if you aren’t careful. The wheel which can collapse your masterpiece instantly if you don’t hold onto it just right.

I’m not Catholic, but between you and me? I crossed myself for luck.

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Both kids worked really hard.

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Riley’s first crack folded in on itself, just as she was getting on a roll. And you know what she did?

She tried again.

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

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

Seth is having fun too.

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I’m so glad I didn’t let my fear keep them from signing up this time.
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Sometimes what seems like the worst scenario can propel you forward into new, uncharted territories, making you realize things have to change. Things have to give.

That awful day last year, when I lost my mind and said things I never wanted to say to my child, I sat on a window seat in our bedroom, distraught. Practically catatonic with grief, I held up the camera I’d been absentmindedly holding in my hand, put it in front of my face and pushed the button. I didn’t publish the photo because in it, I looked hideous. Ugly. Old. Raw. Used up. Like those photos you see of meth addicts who age 30 years in 12 months. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, because I didn’t feel I deserved sympathy. I felt like the biggest loser monster mother ever. At the time I was certain all my hard work, all the mother-love I’d given this child her entire life had been smashed to smithereens. (Of course that was untrue).

When I look at the photo, I see a mom who is beyond exhaustion. The expression on my face is pure grief.

Todd took Riley to a couple of those clay classes last year. Talking about it the other day he described it as “inhumane,” what we all went though during that time, dealing with her truly debilitating anxiety.

I learned so much from that awful experience. Huge life lessons, and not just about Riley and parenting, but about people and about judgement.

Most of all, that awful day pushed us to find more help for our girl, and to take better care of me.

Oh Riley. You are and have always been my teacher.

One night recently, Todd and I were tucking her into bed. It was a lighthearted mood, with both of us being silly, kissing her on opposite sides of her head and I said, “Riley I am so sorry for every time I’ve ever yelled at you, your whole life.”

Todd added, “Me too!”

(FYI we’ve hardly ever truly yelled at either one of the kids).

She sighed, reached out her hands and lovingly patted each of us. After a moment she said,

“We’re all humans.”

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And forgiveness. I learned about forgiveness. Forgiving myself, and forgiving those who may have judged me harshly. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have to go on.

“We’re all humans,”she said.

That we are little love-bug. That we are.

I love you beyond measure my sweet, sweet girl and I am so very blessed to be your mom.

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Yippee for HT

Emotional roller coaster week for Riley. She’s still not quite back to her baseline. So much screaming.

It feels like the family is holding on by a thread. Actually, Seth is seeming quite okay, but he’s gone a lot at school. He’s begging to be homeschooled next year too, but man little buddy, you might just need the break.

Riley’s cello teacher finally came out and said it; she doesn’t feel qualified to teach her. She thinks a different instrument would be better. Like piano. She’s taught cello for decades, and decades, but she can’t teach my girl. I feel like laughing one of those crazy laughs, one that might turn into a cry, but just hangs on maniacally instead.

So many people think we are making a big deal out of nothing with this kid. Let her be! She’s FINE! She’ll be FINE! You hover! I just don’t seeee it?

It’s the teachers who get it though. The teachers understand what we are dealing with. The slightest bit of constructive criticism is cause for self flagellation. This week at cello she had three meltdowns (in a half hour) and crawled under a piano to hide. All because the teacher was making minor adjustments regarding her bow grip and finger placement. In a kind voice.

At clay class today, Todd (he had the pleasure, since he was off work) had to take her out in the hall three different times. The last time, as he was trying to talk her off the cliff, out of the corner of his eye, he noted Jingle starting to squat. She proceeded to have diarrhea right there in the hall.

Insert Todd’s maniacal laugh.

The good news is, it jolted Riley out of her meltdown. The bad news is, there wasn’t a paper towel on the premises, so Todd had to make several trips down a long hallway to a bathroom and sop it up with toilet paper.

Three cheers for Todd.

Earlier in the week, at a local park, Riley was trying to climb and it was not a good climbing day. She was on the play structure screaming, and we were trying to give her space to let her work it through (but that never quite happened). It was unseasonably cold. I was shivering and Todd said…, wait for it…

“I’m freezing my yippee off.”

A new term. Folks, this is what happens when you suppress your God given drive to swear. Let this be a warning. 

And another HT anecdote, just to cheer me up from the cello bomb, is this:  At the end of church service the congregation joins hands in a circle and sings Let There Be Peace On Earth (and let it begin with me…). Well,Todd is really only used to holding hands with me or the kids, and he absentmindedly, inadvertently locked fingers with the grown man next to him. It took a couple of beats, but this suddenly felt very uncomfortable, and he had to rather awkwardly extract his digits and switch to the regular fingers/palm hand holding position. He told me about the whole fiasco later.

I don’t know why I find this so funny, but I do. There is a hand holding etiquette, no? I wouldn’t be locking fingers with just anyone, that’s for sure.

“You’re not writing about yippee, are you?” he asks as he sees me chuckling and tap tap tapping on the keyboard. I’ve been threatening to out yippee all week.

“Not only that,” I say.

He pauses at the bottom of the steps, sighs, and says,

“Write whatever you want if it gets you smiling again.”

Then, he turns and walks up the steps toward bed.

Our Easter

So what do you do after you were just bamboozled into your first solo and you want to push it far, far from your mind?  You take the kids to the zoo. How about HT’s new fully shaved head? He finally went all the way. This is us waiting for the trolley at the Cleveland Zoo. I’ve told you before how Todd’s eyes disappear when he laughs. Here’s actual proof. I have not seen his eyes in 14 years because he thinks I’m such a riot. IMG_2617

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Seth got his hands on the map, and went all “little expert” on us. It was such a beautiful, relaxed afternoon, we went with it and let him navigate. He loves to navigate.

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 My babies.

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 My guys. 

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My girl.

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Monkeys watching the monkeys.

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Candygram!

I don’t believe you. You’re that pesky shark!

I’m not a shark ma’am, I’m a dolphin.

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For some reason we wound up spending a lot of time in the aquarium. Not rushing is good. No crowds at the zoo on Easter Sunday. It was just us and a few Jewish folks.

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We leaned over a stone wall, and stared at the giraffes, mesmerized by their patterns and slow lanky movements. Each of us thinking our own thoughts,  

What’s it like to be tall?

What’s it like to be tall?

What’s it like to be tall?

What’s it like to be tall?

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This is Riley feeling victorious after duping her mother earlier in the day.

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She claims “the chocolate made her do it.”

Come to think of it, she did eat a small chocolate bunny that morning.

My Abraham-Hicks Hot Seat Experience, Part Two

For Part I, click here.

Confusion came over me as I made my way in slow motion to the steps. Walking across the stage toward the chair, I looked back at Todd in the audience and raised my eyebrows as if to say, Can you believe this? He sat relaxed, leaning back, arms folded.  He raised his brows and smiled a calm, centered, loving smile. Yes, he could believe it. I felt buoyed. Took a breath. 

Sitting down in the chair, I looked up at Esther, Abraham coming through her, and I noticed the eyes. I’d seen eyes like that before. On a retreat in the Colorado mountains, I attended a sacred Buddhist ceremony and the spiritual leader had eyes like that. Not in the day to day, but during the ritual. Glassy. Trance-like. Sparkly. Is this what enlightenment looks like?

When Esther/Abraham looked at me and nodded, I immediately wanted to cower. I felt like she/they (from here on out in referring to Abraham I will use the plural “they” since Abraham is said to be a conglomerate, not a single entity), could read my mind, and as soon as I wondered that, every inappropriate thing I could possibly think of flooded through me. A feeling of self-repulsion coursed through my body, rendering me unable to formulate what I wanted to say. 

I blurted out something about having a vague sense of Riley’s soul wanting to be here, and of her having a part in choosing to be “how she is.” 

Abraham asked, almost sarcastically,

“And how is that?”     

I gulped. Felt like I might be in trouble.

The eyes now reminded me of the swirly spirals cartoon characters always get when they’re “hypnotized,” then I wondered if Abraham knew I was thinking that, and if they thought I was disrespectful. The random thoughts never stopped the whole time I was in the seat(about twenty minutes). Some of my thoughts were even sexual in nature which freaked me out. It was crazy. But at some point I “got it” that even if they could read my mind(which I’m still unclear about), they weren’t going to embarrass me. They weren’t going to punish me. At some point I concluded I was safe, and felt absolutely accepted, despite the thoughts zipping through my head. Back to Riley.    

“She’s so sensitive,” I said. “She can barely tolerate being here.”     

Abraham told me Riley made a deliberate decision to be here, and her sensitivity is her gift. They said, she is feeling the out of control overwhelmment with being compared with a lot of other people who she didn’t come forth to run a race with. They said there are souls coming forth in great numbers right now who are choosing to be “un-conformable,” because joy isn’t the norm in those types of experiences. (Side note, I heard a statistic the other day stating 80% of  U.S. workers are unhappy in their jobs). Societies are trying to force “sameness” and these energies coming forth are determined not to be the same.   

They said Riley is operating at a very high vibration. She feels things profoundly. I think about how when she’s stoked, her body shakes and her joy expresses itself in an arm tic. She experiences joy so acutely her physical body can’t contain it. They also said, she is intolerant of contradicted energy. She knows when she’s off kilter better than almost anyone. The contrast between Who She Really Is and what she is feeling in the moment is what makes her scream.

“Think about an all day every day sort of comparative experience where I don’t feel that I’m measuring up, that I’m not doing enough, I’m not good enough or I should be doing something differently. None of it is true, and the Source within her knows none of that is true, but when she lets those outside of her convince her that it is true, the resulting feeling is that knot in her stomach that is described as fear, but all it is, is discordant vibration, because she is not allowing herself to be Who She Really Is. She went to a lot of trouble to be born with a different intention. It is not that she can’t have a lovely life experience. It’s not that she’ll be the odd one out. It’s that she didn’t come to jump through the hoops in the way everybody else is jumping through the hoops. She came to let her life cause her to ask for things that she certainly has the ability to achieve and when she does she’ll be joyful. We would do everything in our power to take the comparison between what everyone else is doing out of the equation for her, and for you, and for everyone else. We would not be constantly comparing ourself against the results anyone else is getting because their results have nothing to do with you.

If she were left to her own devices she would find her way to joy, but most parents would then ask, Yes, but will she be normal? And we have to say, Who gets to decide what normal is?

The normalcy you are seeking is alignment with Source and we want to tell you some things that are normal, confidence is normal. Clarity is normal. Joy is normal.”

 So how do we help her when she’s in those moments of fear? I asked.

Abraham said talking to her about fear while she’s in the thick of the fear isn’t helpful because she can’t hear you then. And if you try, you’ll most likely end up sinking right down with her.

They said to watch for moments of clarity. When she is feeling triumphant, point it out. When she is joyful point it out. This is who you are Riley. This is you.

The next thing they said made me weep. Some of the following is directly quoted, some is paraphrased for brevity.

Imagine being her, and you are afraid, and you look over and see parents looking at you and KNOWING your well-being, because they’ve practiced knowing Who You Really Are. They have worked at it (sometimes moment by fearful moment), but they have visualized it, they see it. What would it feel like, in a moment of fear to look in a loving parent’s eyes and see their absolute certainty about your well-being?  

Compare that to being in a state of fear, and looking into your loving parent’s eyes, and seeing your own fear reflected back to you? 

Now add to that all the people clamoring around trying to help her be a whole person when she already is one.

She’s come with a big message, and that message is I’M NOT BROKEN, LET ME BE!

Someone who knows they are not broken expands into more and more and more! Someone who is convinced they are broken because of the comparitive world they live in gets more afraid as they are trained into thoughts that defy Who They Really Are.

Stand in a place of security about your daughter. You cannot teach security from a place of insecurity. You cannot teach well-being from a place of fear.

She’s come forth to teach you the power of sensitivity, and when you sat down here, you spoke of sensitivity as if it were a deficit. As if it was something that is wrong with someone, and yet here you are, having the same fearful emotions.

You have to clean up your own vibration. Not for your daughter, but for you, and when you do, you will help your daughter.

That’s what she is here to teach you. 

 To be continued:

Teaching Each Other Who We Are

Every traffic light was red. We got to martial arts late.

Riley maintained calm. She walked in. Ran to the bathroom to wash her hands(she’d had a snack in the car), then joined the class in progress. This was big, as being late is a trigger for her.

It was a substitute teacher. He does things differently. He is a wonderful person, but he does things differently.

Riley maintained calm.

She did 100 sit ups for the first time ever! No one holding her feet. 

But he does things differently.

Three fourths of the way into class, she lost it. He had the kids do a drill, and it got kind of loud, and chaotic and she ran screaming from the room and into the teacher’s office. Her blood curdling screams went on and on. I followed her and closed the door. Usually if she’s that far gone, it’s all over.

She threw herself on the office sofa, still screaming. Sitting down I pulled her close and held her tight.

This time I didn’t tell her,

“Stop screaming.”

I didn’t tell her,

“You are disrupting the class.”

I didn’t tell her,

“You need to get it together.”

I didn’t put my hand over her mouth as I’ve been prone to do in public places.

This time I said,

“Mr. S. does things differently.” My sentence hung in the air a while.

She sucked in her breath and the screams became whimpers.

I said, “It can be confusing sometimes with a different teacher.”

Riley turned to me and buried her head into my neck.

Stroking her arm, I began to speak in my softest whisper, what we’ve practiced in mediation. 

“Riley. There is a part of you that is bigger than this physical body sitting here on the couch with me. This larger part of you is not separate from you, but part of you. It is always there. Part of you came here, in this body, to help expand All That Is. You, and everyone you meet, are extentions of God. You are a very important person! Your Higher Self is so grateful to you for being here. You are doing such good work. Your Higher Self knows how strong and brave you are. Your Higher Self, this part of you, is always calm. Always knows what to do. You can always turn to It. It is pure Love. It is where you came from, and where you will return to. It is always with you, always loving you, always there to show you the way.”   

We sat in silence for a while. I felt her body slowly let go of the tension. Then she was ready.

She returned to class and finished it successfully.

My daughter and me. 

Teaching each other who we are.

DVD Helps People With Asperger’s Find and Keep a Job

For those who might be interested:

 We purchased a video from this company about social skills/manners and it was nicely done. I will be ordering this one as well.

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For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 29, 2009
WINSTON-SALEM, NC — Employees who have Asperger Syndrome describe secrets for getting and keeping a job in a new DVD titled, “Asperger Syndrome At Work.”
The DVD, produced by Coulter Video, includes two programs: one for job seekers and one designed to show potential employers the advantages of hiring people who have Asperger Syndrome.
People with Asperger Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, tend to have normal to superior intelligence and often have special interests and abilities.  However, they also tend to be socially awkward and have some odd behaviors, which can be obstacles to steady employment.
In both programs on the DVD, six employees with Asperger Syndrome and their supervisors, coworkers, and job coaches describe the ways the employees used their strengths and reasonable accommodations provided by employers to become valued, productive job holders.  The job seeker program concludes with a demonstration of how to interview for a job.
The DVD’s bonus features include a summary/review of the recommendations in the job seeker program and an interview with the video’s producer, Dan Coulter, looking back on his career in light of recently being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome himself.
Here’s what experts in Asperger Syndrome and autism are saying about the new DVD:
“Superb! I love the straightforward and practical presentations for job-seekers and for employers.”
Teresa Bolick, Ph.D., Psychologist and Author
“…provides both practical suggestions and an important personal perspective on the critical topic of work.”
Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., Director, Indiana Resource Center for Autism
“…a wonderful look at Supported Employment and all aspects of it for people with ASD.”
Gary Mesibov Ph.D., Professor and Director – Division TEACCH of North Carolina
“…strategies for dealing with all kinds of workplace challenges…an information-packed look at the valuable contribution that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome make in the workplace.”
Barbara Bissonnette, Principal – Forward Motion Coaching
The “Asperger Syndrome At Work” DVD can be purchased on the Coulter Video website:
www.coultervideo.com for $39.99 plus shipping and handling.  Additional information and free online previews of the DVD also are available on the website.
Coulter Video is an independent video production company based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.