Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The first store was old and musty. They had just one kid sized cello. Riley sat on a chair to try it and the woman was abrupt.
"Move forward." she barked. "No, put your butt on the edge of this seat."
Her directives (and her tone) were confusing. Riley was trying to obey the requests, but getting agitated.
I don't know anything about cellos, but the fit didn't look right. It seemed to me, Riley's hand should be able to glide her bow across the strings evenly, not in a contorted position. It was like her arm wasn't long enough to handle this cello. Perhaps she needed a smaller size. The lady poo-pooed me. I obviously didn't know anything about cellos (and besides she didn't have any smaller sizes).
For good measure, a man came out from the back room, possibly her son. He rolled his eyes at me and stated, "She's big enough for that cello."
I told them we would look around and possibly come back, at which point she warned me that I didn't want to go to "such and such" store, down the road, because they charge a deposit.
We immediately headed toward "such and such." Riley cried, "But Mom! They charge a deposit!" She had no idea what that meant, but knew it didn't sound good.
I explained that charging a deposit guards the store against people damaging their instruments, or stealing them, or not paying their rental fees. Deposits might just mean the store really cares about its instruments. I think of the cello we just saw and the smiley face sticker someone had slapped onto the back of it.
"Also," I said, "It is unprofessional to badmouth your competition. It says much more about the first store than it does about the second one."
We went in and the second place was clean. The instruments gleamed. The service was impeccable. The man at the counter concluded Riley needed a size right in the middle of two sizes, and found a German 1/4 size just for her, whatever that means. They cleaned it up, and delivered it to our house that evening.
They charged a refundable deposit, and six dollars more than the other store per month, which we're willing to pay. At any point, we can put what we've paid to rent it, toward purchase.
If there is one thing I've learned from having a child on the autism spectrum it's to go with my intuition. If it doesn't feel right do not proceed. I could not get out of that first store fast enough.
Her first group lesson was today.
She insisted on no help from her father as she walked into school today because after all she is not a baby. He watched her with her heavy backpack, carrying that rented cello (worth 2K, BTW) up the stairs and then she turned the corner and was gone.
Tonight we couldn't get much out of her about the lesson other than "it went well," and "we plucked."
I'll take it.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
After I dropped her off I didn't hear a thing all day. It was torture!
At 2PM I picked up Seth on one side of the building, and then we swung around to meet Riley and HT on the other side. There she was in the parking lot, holding her hands together to keep her tic in check. The arm tic means she's happy.
Seth said, "She's not crying so it must have gone all right."
When I got up to her she looked in my eyes but didn't spill it.
"Well?" I asked. "Did you give your speech?"
She smiled big.
We high fived, both hands.
"And what happened?" I asked.
"I get to be the back up," she grinned.
Six candidates. She came in third. She technically isn't in student council, but she wasn't kicked to the curb. If one of the two elected candidates does something un student counsel worthy or decides to quit, she'll be up for election. 'Til then we don't have to do a thing. Best of both worlds if you ask me.
SHE RAN FOR STUDENT COUNCIL AND GAVE A SPEECH IN FRONT OF HER CLASS.
I'm over the moon proud.
Then I didn't sleep for three nights.
Will she read it one day and convince herself I didn't love her? Will she blame herself? Am I a horrible person for having those feelings to begin with? Is that something I should just keep secret? Will it hurt her? Will the "you shouldn't write about your kids" nazis get on my tookus?
Come read about how it all worked out over at Hopeful Parents.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Riley and I spent some time on the computer over the weekend, looking at the 4 Paws for Ability website. I told her the story of 4 Paws Founder Karen Shirk, and how a black German shepherd named Ben saved her life, and how she founded 4 Paws as a testament to how much he helped her when she was ill. I showed her the page about the children Karen has adopted from all over the world. We looked at pictures of the outside play structure and the training room at 4 Paws. We looked at pictures of other kids with their dogs.
We gazed longingly at all the dogs in training, wondering which one we'd be bringing home with us soon.
It was so fun enjoying it all and connecting this way. I asked if she had a guess as to which dog she will get and she said, "Maybe if they think I'm an amazing kid, they'll give me Stryker, because he looks just like Ben."
Squeezing her tight, I assured her they'll think she's an amazing kid, whichever dog she gets.
Then she asked,
"Mommy, will my dog make mistakes?"If you've read this blog at all you know Riley has a huge problem with perfectionism, thinking she has to know things already (instead of learning them gradually). Many things do come very easily for her, but when things do not she can quickly fall apart.
I told her the dog would certainly make mistakes, just like everyone does.
It is going to be wonderful to see all the dogs in training. Maybe they will help Riley see learning as a process.
May they make a lot of mistakes.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Fortunately, the eagle has landed, and after a rough week, all things are rainbows and sunshine in the land of O'Neil.
I love these chips with all my heart and soul. You can eat them plain and enjoy the salty goodness. You can eat them with hummus or any other dip. You can melt cheese over them and use them for nachos. You can be happy because they are free of genetically modified organisms. You can be happy because they are made in the USA. You can be happy because there are actual real live vegetables in them.
Nothing further. Talk amongst yourselves. Chomp, chomp, crunch,....
Thursday, September 24, 2009
"Why can't you wear one of these?" I said, pulling two skorts out of her drawer and jiggling them in her direction.
"I'm just too cute in those," she said earnestly.
What she meant was "baby-ish." Cutesy. Little kid cute. But the way she said it was too cute, and I didn't correct her.
Tomorrow I'll tell her, fill her in on the nuance.
Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I'm going to let her be "too cute" for one more day.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Ms. Riley came home last week with a form for the school orchestra.
She wants to join.
She thinks she'd like to try, the cello.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
She was tired.
A long day of school followed by Girls on the Run. I let them watch TV while I made dinner.
Homework started out okay. Seth at the dining room table, Riley in the kitchen. Always separate them because if she notices him finishing first, there is trouble.
Spelling was done, she'd moved to geometry. Checking her work, I noted she had written two mistakes in a "match the word with the meaning" exercise. She'd just flipped them. Easy fix.
She could not deal.
For twenty minutes she screamed and cried and hit herself in the head, and even bit her arm. For a mistake that could have been fixed in three seconds. She could not just erase it and move on.
"We'll skip it. Let's go back to geometry. Sorry I interrupted."
She could not skip it. And she could not move on. She'd entered a continuous loop of...
"It's too hard!"
"It's too much homework!"
"I am tired."
"I'm so lazy."
"Riley you are not lazy. You are overwhelmed," I said.
She'd rather DIE than leave her homework incomplete, but she just could not get it together. Looking at the clock, it was getting late. 25 minutes 'til bedtime.
Seth kept coming in to offer bits of,"She's making all that fuss over one little sheet?" And, "I'm glad she's not in my class." Not his usual Buddha. He was tired too. "GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN SETH!" He ran off to work on a new Lego Todd's sister sent him for his birthday. Thank God for the distraction it gave him.
She started back with Geometry but the assignment wasn't clear cut. The answers don't scream out at you from the book. There is grey area and deciphering is required.
More screaming, screaming, screaming, and finally I lost it. I took her homework sheet, crumpled it up and shot it across the room.
Riley why is your homework wrinkled?
Why yes teacher, it's because my mother lost her shit and crumpled it up.
"RILEY UP TO YOUR ROOM NOW!"
I could feel myself shaking.
I am such a loser.
I have not come any further than when she was two.
I want to run away and never look back.
I am sick of it.
I could have handled it differently.
I didn't need to yell at her and crumple her work.
This is too hard.
As I walk up the stairs to the bathroom, she comes out of her room and meets me in the hall. Her face blotchy and red.
"Mommy you need to calm me down," she begs.
Anger wells in me.
"I can't calm you down Riley. You have to calm you down."
"But can we do a meditation?" she asks through her crying hiccups.
My heart softens.
We go into the bedroom. I light a candle, turn out the lights and shut the door. We lie side by side on the king size bed and I begin.
Let's tense our toes. Squeeze them, squeeze them. Now with a big exhale, let them go.
Now our ankles and our whole feet. Tense them, really tight. Breath out and let them go.
Tense the calves all the way up to the kneecaps. Squeeze, squeeze.....now let them go with a big breath..........
Next are the thighs, tense those muscles, really really hard.......now breathe out and let them go.........
Both of us are doing the exercise with all we've got. I can hear her big exhales.
Now your butt. Let's tense our butts Riley. Squeeze! Hold it! Now let it go. Breathe........
Now our bellies. Tense every muscle in our bellies.
Let it go........
Our chests. Squeeze.
Let it go..........
Let them go.........
Let it go...........
Our arms, all the way down to our fingers.
Let them go..........
Our eyes. Squeeze them tight.
Let them go...........
Let it go............
Now the whole body.
Let it go...........
Now as we lay here, we're going to leave this Riley and this mommy, and we're going to float way into the sky. And we're going to look down at this Riley and this mommy, and we're going to smile, because we know how much they love each other.
Riley reaches for my hand.
Floating way above the earth, we can see from this perspective, how this one bad homework night isn't all that important. It's even kind of silly from up here.
Way, up, up above the clouds, we hold hands and float along, feeling how much love we have for each other. We are weightless, and worry-less. Floating, floating...........
And now we look down at that Riley and that mommy, and we see them at the kitchen table. Finishing the homework with no problem. It's easier than it seemed.
Breathing, breathing, we visualize the scene.
After a while....
And now, we are back on this bed, our hearts filled with love for each other.
We are breathing..........
We are calm.
We lay there in the candlelight.
"Riley that was such a good idea. So great you knew what we needed and suggested a meditation."
She threw her arm over my chest and hugged me.
Back downstairs, the rest of her homework took roughly ten minutes.
After tucking them in, I spend the evening wondering why my bag of tricks went flying out the window. Why couldn't I think in the moment? How did I get so far gone? Who crumples up their kid's homework? Seriously?
Focus on the turn around we made.
Look at what we do want, not at what we don't.
Let it go......
Let it go.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
"My name is Riley O'Neil and I am smart, kind, sensitive and brave."
Halfway through, I suggest, "Move the paper down so we can see your face."
She moves the paper down.
She starts again.
"My name is Riley O'Neil and I am smart, kind, sensitive and brave. I would be a good student council member because...."
"Riley, projection. We can't hear you!"
Todd, Seth and myself sit on the couch, pretending we're her classmates.
A couple of tries later, I introduce the concept of eye contact while giving speeches. I suggest she look up at the end of each sentence. Look at a person, an object or a mark on the wall.
She wigs out.
She reads the speech loudly, making ridiculously exaggerated eye contact. Think along the lines of this:
"I'M RILEY O'NEIL AND THE ISSUES THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO ME ARE HEALTHY FOOD AND RESPECTING OTHERS!"
If she were versed in FU, each "eye contact" would be punctuated with one.
The first round is her own classroom. If she makes that, she'll go on to compete against the winners of the two other fourth grade classrooms.
I'm so proud of her for trying.
It's going to be an interesting week.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
She mentioned it last week, brought home a form to fill out about it. I told her we'd work on it over the weekend. Came home today from a wonderful visit with Clarissa to find it's all done.
"Mom, can you help me edit this?" she asked.
She had to list four things about herself. This was what she came up with:
Her platform will be one of healthy food, and treating others with respect. Of course fund raising for field trips and parties will be of utmost importance.
She has to give a speech to her class on Tuesday, stating all of the above.
My daughter wants to run for student council.
If she's going to be brave about this, so am I.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
For the first time ever, Riley was a little clingy to me last night and said she would miss me.
Seth asked if there were any toy stores in West Virginia, and might I hook him up with a new Lego?
Todd said, "Go have fun with your friend and come back safe to me."
In one hour I pull out of the driveway.
I feel so blessed.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Seth sings all the time. A sweet little soprano hum, underneath whatever he is working on at the time. If he's drawing, if he's writing, if he's building with Legos, the song is always there.
But at school, Seth's song can be distracting to other students.
"I can't help it Mommy. I forget," he said.
He hung his head, furrowed his brow.
Part of me wanted to yank him out immediately, put him in a school for the arts where his song would be celebrated! He's such a good kid! He's never had a time-out in his life!
But Seth has a wonderful teacher, and he can't disrupt the other students, and he did decide to come here and live in this world where accommodations for others must be made.
"So here's the deal Seth. If you forget, and if you get a time-out, you will never be in trouble at home. You go to your desk, put your head down, do a little meditation, and tell yourself over and over, I'm a good boy. I'm a good boy. I'm a good boy. Okay?"
"Can I meditate about Legos?"
"Absolutely. Whatever brings you joy."
"You're the best boy," I said.
"You're the best mom," he said.
Well then, I guess that's that.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The music this season is so good. Almost every song has me choked up. I seriously have to concentrate on not crying. The selections just resonate with me so much. The words. The melodies. The harmonies. First day and it already sounded so beautiful.
One of the songs is I Ain't Afraid, and I found it tonight on You Tube, performed by Holly Near, the woman who wrote it.
Many paths, one Source. My path isn't better than your path. I believe God is love. Only love. Amen.
Thanks to Seth, the health of our whole family will be improved.
But wait! There's more.
I've had the opportunity to educate the teachers at school and they have been very interested and gracious and understanding.
One educator who was the notorious and beloved candy giver to all children, has decided to change to healthy snacks for the kids.
Our Girls on the Run chapter will be eating GMO-free snacks this year.
Seth is loving the food, and hasn't balked once.
"This is even better than the other kind Mommy!"
"Thank you for my food Mommy!"
"Thank you for cooking this for me Mommy!"
Seth is a powerful teacher, getting healthier all the time. He is a joy.
You incredible boy.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Curriculum night went well. One year ago I would have skipped it because HT had to work, and I couldn't exactly have left Riley in the childcare in the gym with all those kids.
Tonight I did exactly leave her there; Seth too. They had a ball! I got to talk to the teachers, and they are wonderful. Totally committed. Wanting to learn. Open minded and open hearted. Both kids scored with great teachers this year!
Girls on the Run starts Monday and I'm going to be a coach. Stay tuned.
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Anyway, yesterday was the address. For Riley, the change in routine meant lunch and recess time was spent in the classroom, no mid-day swinging/calming. Later in math which itself is often a trigger, a new skill (note taking) was introduced. With note taking, there is pressure to keep up. When Riley feels rushed, the anxiety is unbearable for her. When the teacher asked her a question she didn't know the answer to, she bolted from the classroom and ran down the hall crying. Fight or flight. The meltdown that ensued was a biggie.
On our walk home, we talked about it.
"I didn't want everyone to think I was a baby because I didn't know the answer," she said.
She has no understanding of them perhaps thinking she's a baby for running from the class screaming and crying.
Seth replied, "Didn't you hear Barack? He said askin' questions doesn't mean you're not smart. He said it's part a learnin."
By the time we got home Riley was completely spent. Two hours 'til Tae Kwon Do. We got homework done with some crying. Her, not me. She and Seth chilled in front of Sponge Bob. I let them have a snack on TV trays. She needed to go elsewhere. Bikini Bottom was just the place.
Looking at the clock, I saw we had 20 minutes to get the kids dressed in their uniforms, and out the door if we were going to make it to martial arts by 5:30. We pay a lot of money for therapeutic martial arts. I hate for them to miss it. I looked at Riley's blotchy face staring at the TV, and thought, she's not ready.
Voices of the others, started to heckle me.
"You're wasting your money."
"You're letting her get away with something."
"She has to stick it out."
"You're teaching her to be a quitter."
BACK OFF! I AM THE MOTHER. I DECIDE.
I asked myself, what is best for this child in this moment?
I thought of how beautifully Lydia described the need for recovery time after a hard day.
We skipped martial arts.
Seth and Riley played outside after dinner. By 6:30, she was okay. They were all rough and tumble with big bouncy exercise balls (formerly used for floor time) in the front yard. Riding their scooters up and down the sidewalk. Running joyfully with the neighbor's five year old.
She got to see her rainbow.
Riley and Seth and our little neighbor friend shrieked and jumped for joy! They tossed cut grass clippings into the air in celebration, like confetti. They squealed and danced at the site of the rainbow over our house. Tomorrow is a new day.
"Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future."
-President Barack Obama
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
"You have to read Monica's book!"
"You have to meet Monica!" they said.
We both had difficult childhoods. We both have a child on the autism spectrum. Eventually we were introduced on-line. She generously offered to read my manuscript. Months later I took her up on it. She read it and gave me wonderful feedback and valuable advice.
So while we have not met each other physically it feels like we have. We've read each other's stories. She made a generous donation toward Riley's dog, which is a subject near and dear to her heart. Monica's new book is about her son Wills, and how a Golden Retriever named Cowboy changed his young life. Cowboy and Wills is coming out in October, the same month Riley gets her service dog. Kismet?
If you can watch the video promo for Cowboy & Wills, and not get misty, seek professional help. Seriously.
Congrats on your new book Monica. Here's to new beginnings!
I'm tipping a glass of organic wine in your honor.
Big love to you.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Sunday, September 06, 2009
"What should we do Riley?" I asked.
With twinkling eyes she looked at me, then whispered in my ear, "Can we go to a spa?" She'd never before made such a request.
"Well, Love. It's Sunday. Spas aren't going to be open today, but we could play spa here. Would that be okay?"
So, off to Whole Foods for an avocado, some rose petal laden sea salts and mud bath supplies.
Riley mashed the avocado with the mortar and pestle we use for supplements, while I got things ready.
First, we deep conditioned our hair, then put plastic bags on the tops of our heads to trap in our natural body heat thus locking in the conditioner. While our hair cooked, we did our avocado/coconut oil facials. She wanted this so badly, and let me do it, though she flinched every time I touched her face with the goo. The sensory stuff is still there, but she is able to deal with it. Used to be, she'd run screaming if someone had so much as a crumb on their chin at dinner.
She insisted on cucumbers for the eyes. Of course! What kind of lame salon would this be without them?
A quick shower and it was onto manis and pedis. She opted for solid green toes and multi colored fingers.
HT is transfixed by my beauty. Maybe it's the smell of my deeply conditioned hair. Perhaps it's my neon green fingernails. Maybe I'm glowing from all the avocado and mud. He can hardly keep his hands off of me.
We won't tell him how I got this way. It'll be our little secret.
A lady likes to leave some mystery.
The skunks have left town. Haven't had a whiff of them since.
Didn't even need to use the fox pee.
Apparently, mine is plenty strong enough.
Just keeping you in the loop.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
We walk to school, and try to time it just right so there isn't a lot of hanging around outside, thinking of things to worry about.
Today we rounded the corner of the school as the bell rang. We were twenty yards from her line, but they had already started moving into the school, without her. She could have easily caught up with the rest of her fourth grade class, but instead she panicked, and ran in the opposite direction, back down the street, screaming and crying. She stopped, looked back in the direction of the school and began stomping and spinning in circles shrieking,
"I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!" her backpack, thumping against her back with each stomp.
I caught up with her, took her hand and headed back toward the school. Another class was still lined up outside and they all watched Riley.
One of Riley's biggest fears right now is of everyone staring at her. I no longer give a damn what other people think when she melts, but she does. She does not want to be "different." I don't know if I did the right thing but I took her shoulders gently and told her calmly,
"Riley. Right now you are calling a lot of attention to yourself. Is this what you want to be doing?"
She cried, "NO!"
Did I make her feel worse? She was already so upset. She's already out of control in moments like this. Does pointing out what she's doing just heap more pressure onto her or is it valuable information? Is giving a rip what anyone else thinks the message I want to reinforce?
One of the educators who knows Riley came over and started talking to her.
"I'm sorry Riley, I started your class in just little early today."
I placed Riley's hand in hers and said,
"You'll be okay Riley. I know you will. Ms. _ will take you up to your class. I love you."
Hunched over and crying, Riley walked in with Ms. _.
I walked away from them toward home.
She'd had such a good morning.
If we had just walked out of the house one minute sooner.
If the teachers hadn't started the students in 30 seconds before the bell rang.
What's at the bottom of Riley's fear of being late, or left behind? Why is it such a big deal?
Is it my fault for always rushing them out of the house with, "We'll be late!"
How would I ever get them out of the house otherwise. We will be late. They putter so.
Will the dog make a difference?
How can I help this child?
I went about my morning. Lots of errands. Dishes. Phone calls needed to be made,etc.
By 12:30 I was exhausted, despite getting a good night's sleep.
I laid down on the twin bed in my office and allowed myself to rest. Head on pillow I told myself over and over,
"It's okay to rest."
"It's okay to rest."
"It's okay to rest."
Things have a way of working out. I don't need to know everything. I don't need to always get it right. Everything is okay. We're all okay.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
I heard the ruckus, and went in and told her she needs to ask before doing something (that could stain my walls and floors) like that. I'd be glad to help her, but she needs to ask first. Then I walked out.
Todd stayed. He asked.
"Sweetie, why didn't you ask for help?"
This is what she said,
"Because when someone says Riley, your nails are so pretty; who did them for you? I wanted to be able to say, I did. "
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
I sent the video above to Carrie, specifically because she's not a dog person. Unbeknown to me, although she's not a dog person, she was generously dog-sitting her in-law's litter yipper, while her husband had split town for a vacation, leaving her not only with a dog, but the kids.
The day she received this video in an e-mail from me, the dog had peed where Carrie sleeps.
One day, well into the school year, she'll laugh about it.
I know she will.