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,



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

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

“Tomorrow,” he said.

I closed my eyes and nodded. Good.

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

With that, I hoisted myself into our day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The grass is always greener. No path is perfect.

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

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

We’re really not so far off.

It’s possible.

Seeing it is important.

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

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

Ciao. May you have a beautiful day.

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.

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




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.



 My babies.


 My guys. 


My girl.


Monkeys watching the monkeys.



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

I’m not a shark ma’am, I’m a dolphin.



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.



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?


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


She claims “the chocolate made her do it.”

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

Happy Easter!

IMG_2568 by you.

At church tomorrow, the adult and children’s choirs are combining, and Riley has volunteered to do a solo! She just flat out claimed it. No one asked her. She wanted it. She’s never done anything like this before. I am in awe.

I am the total opposite. I hide as much as possible in the back of the choir. It is strange, given Riley’s overall shyness, for her to be so gung ho. It is strange given my overall non-shyness, to be so fearful. I am thrilled not to have transferred my fear of public singing onto her. She has a very sweet little singing voice. 

She’s actually been quite sick the last few days. Hopefully she’ll be up to speed in time for the Easter service.

IMG_2564 by you.

I can’t promise she’ll go through with it, but it seems like she’s going to.

If all goes well, I will post video.

IMG_2565 by you.

 Hope the bunny is good to you. 

IMG_2563 by you.

Love and singing, 


Good Men (no fooling)

Forgot to post this.

The night of the school dance, I got the kids in the car, then realized I forgot my camera. I went back inside to get it, and came out to find this little man, attempting to scrape my windows.


He could barely reach the windshield, but he’s seen his dad clean off my car plenty of times. He saw the need, and wanted to help. I’m sure Todd watched his dad do the same when he was a little guy. 

I so appreciate those little acts of thoughtfulness. 

I love my guys.

A Wicked Good Night

Why is this couple smiling?

A) A cute little blond haired boy is taking their picture.

B) They got to *sleep in* this morning while their kids brains slowly melted away in front of the television.

C) They are on their way out the door to the theater.

D) All of the above. 


The correct answer is D.

Last night we left the kids with a sitter, and jaunted off to see Wicked. Rumor has it Cleveland boasts the second largest theater district outside of NYC. Don’t know if it’s true, but that’s what I hear.

This is a photo of the ceiling in the lobby of The State Theater.  As you can see, it is quite fancy.  I wouldn’t dream of taking a photo inside the theater. A “Red Coat” might get me, and then I’d have hell to pay. You don’t want to mess with a Red Coat.  

This is HT coming back from the men’s room.

He’s looking a little embarrassed because some lady he doesn’t know is snapping his picture. Once he got up close he recognized me. It’s been a while since he’s seen me in make-up, and clothing other than sweats.

Our seats were great. We enjoyed the show. Particulary Loathing and Popular,  and of course For Good. The leads were well matched and the sets were amazing. During intermission, I got to educate HT on “steampunk,” since the set is so steampunk-ish. He was dazzled with my knowledge. 

We bothed thanked Goddess we didn’t bring the children. They would have been terrified. Our kids are still pretty sheltered re: entertainment. (Riley recently sobbed over a small sword fight cheek gashing incident at the end of The Princess Bride. In no way could she have handled this production).

The show is the wispiest version of the meatiness that is Wicked, the book. Entirely different but altogether enjoyable.

Riley and Seth as always, had a ball with their favorite baby-sitter. She’s kind of our only baby sitter. Yes, our lives hang precariously on the availability of a busy 14 year old. On weekends, we put an air mattress in Riley’s room, and Seth sleeps in there. They talk and talk until one of them falls asleep. Despite the fact Riley has the comfiest bed in the house, this is how we found them when we came home last night. That’s Riley under the blanket. They are both on the air mattress.

The only thing better than going out, is coming home.

First Grade Sleep Competition

HT accompanied Seth’s class on a field trip today. There was cow milking and ice cream making. It was a fall festival type of thing.

The kids were out in the fresh air all day. They ate bagged lunches.

On the bus ride back to school, one of the first grade teachers raised his hand to get the attention of the children, and whispered out of the side of his mouth to HT, “Watch this. They’ll all be asleep in five minutes.”

Todd didn’t believe him.

“Okay, listen up. We’re going to play a game. Whoever falls asleep first wins! Everyone close your eyes, and no peeking, because if you open your eyes you don’t win. Ready, go!”

Todd said every single kid on that bus, (about 40 of them) fell asleep, and stayed asleep the whole quiet 30 minute ride back to school.

Competitive little bunch.

The teachers had to shake some of them awake to get them off the bus.    

Everybody won.

Off We Go!

ready to go!After almost a year of waiting we leave tomorrow to meet  Riley’s service dog. The bags are packed. The groceries are bought, the cat/house sitter arrives in the morning(poor cats, they’ve never met a dog in their lives)!

I honestly have very little idea what to expect at 4 Paws. I do know the dog sees its family as a pack. I like the concept.

Pack O’Neil, reporting for duty.

I’ll be blogging about the experience on the service dog page (up and to the right). Thank you to everyone who has supported us on the way to Jingle.   

Much love,

Pack O’Neil