Off and Running at Riley


I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately counting my blessings. I love my new job at Riley Children’s Foundation AND the family-friendly schedule so much, that I kind of worry I’m being “Punked.” Like someone’s going to jump out at me in the parking garage with a camera, pointing out the impossibility of this situation. “Let me get this straight – you honestly thought you could have this great job in this happy environment where you’re making an impact on the lives of sick children – AND – they let you work 4 days per week AND offer hours that let you be home with your kids at night? Plus holidays?! SUCKER! Back to the night shift!”


But somehow, I haven’t woken up from the dream yet. Although I’m very busy in my new job, I am very much in honeymoon mode, walking around the office with a silly grin on my face.

Last week I got to interview several Riley patients and write articles for an upcoming publication. Mickey Deputy made an especially huge impression. She’s 14, was born with Down Syndrome, and has survived major heart surgery AND leukemia.

But the hard stuff wasn’t what she wanted to focus on. Was it hard losing her hair? “It was FUN!” she told me. This hilarious gal actually turned her locks into confetti when it started coming out. “I throw it at Mom and Dad!”

Was it hard dealing with cancer? “I liked the treatment part, but not the cancer part,” she told me. When she was bored, she made “soup” out of a cup of water, and any condiments the nurses could dig up. Ketchup, salt, pepper, crackers. “I encourage all kids at Riley to do this!” Mickey told me. But, she confessed, “I didn’t taste it.” Today Mickey is cancer-free and the world’s biggest supporter of Dance Marathon fundraisers for Riley. I can’t think of a better ambassador.


So of course I’ve been bringing home stories like Mickey’s to share with my own kids. I use a small digital voice recorder on interviews, so I’m even able to play for them little bits and pieces of stories, like Mickey’s soup recipe. They had a million and one questions. It was cool to see them learning so much about conditions like cancer and Down syndrome, while at the same time becoming enchanted by the spell of this charismatic young teen.

Of course adjusting to a totally new schedule has presented a few bumps in the road at home. My husband, Ian, is working a lot of nights lately, so I’m in solo-parent mode pretty often after work. Calvin, my 3rd grader, isn’t used to having his homework scrutinized quite so closely. Mean, Picky Mom actually makes him write legibly, use correct grammar and spelling, and add interesting details when he’s writing stories. We’ve had a couple knock-down, drag-outs over the homework, but I have stood my ground and I think we’re on track now. (Jeez, I hope so, anyway.) When baseball and video games are at stake, he tends to find motivation pretty quickly.

And I was waiting for THIS moment – last night, when I told Clara she’d get no dessert unless she finished her dinner NOW, not later, she insisted: “But CRYSTAL let us!” I know they miss their sitter. I miss her too. But I know once we get through the growing pains and adjusting to the rules, the will thrive under the consistency of Mom and Dad’s rules, all the time.

In the meantime, I will soak up those peaceful moments, when I’m stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce or chasing Daisy through the leaves in the yard when I would normally be on the news desk. I swear I will cherish even the most grueling parts of the “witching hour” home routine. And – let’s be honest – I’ll keep the wine rack well-stocked for after bedtime. 🙂

Hope your week is a great one!


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