River’s Birthday Party

I have struggled writing this post. When I write these I tend to put all of my heart out in text. I don’t seem to be able to keep things out. Putting your heart out with all of its pains and flaws alongside the joys is not a bad thing. It is a scary thing though. Revealing my heart and my life and my family to strangers is odd and terrifying. Knowing that people read these posts and can know such intimate things about me and form opinions based on those tidbits of information has made me nervous. I chose to keep this blog because people encouraged me to share our story. Do I keep it simple or do I really share our story? I choose to share the story.

So River turned 18. It happened. We celebrated!

Rio baby

River’s first day!

On the 9th we had a family dinner just the three of us. I made the meal he requested and we had banana splits that were extravagant and delicious. He got his first gifts from me, a new Halo game and an xbox gold membership to play online. That may not seem like a big deal to some, but it is somewhat of a big deal to us. I am protective and have limited the online interactions my kids have been allowed.There are weirdos on the internet (some even keep blogs). So he was beyond excited. I had reached out to a few friends and garnered him some safe gaming buddies to get him started. So he ate and gamed and was a happy dude.

I had so many emotions leading up to his actual party. I invited quite a few people. Some we have known for many years, some we are just getting to know. There were people who are really important to me that wouldn’t even give us a definitive response on if they would come. Some people completely ignored the invitation. This is really hard to process, how that makes people feel. When people you care for don’t even acknowledge an occasion like this. Kids don’t deserve that. This is the part I have struggled with in writing this out so I won’t go into it any further, but it hurt that this happens.

On the 14th we had a birthday party. I was terrified about this party. Our gatherings in the past have rarely turned out. Usually only my parents take part, but they wouldn’t be with us this time because Pops was in the hospital and Mom was with him. River has never had a birthday party where friends came to celebrate him. 18 years of no friends. I was so scared that he would be disappointed and sad.


Presents are always a bonus

2pm rolls around and it looks like rain is coming so the BBQ on the patio idea quickly became an indoor shindig. Our first guest showed up. One of my oldest friends and her 16 year old son. River and J sit down to some video games while his mom helps me finish getting food ready. Ok, this is a promising start. I am still a bundle of nerves hoping others show up.

3pm and the next car pulls in, a group of my friends who are all adults but they are like family. They come in and chit chat with me after the initial “yay your here” River goes back to games with J.

3:15 and T, a boy from River’s school rides up on his bicycle. (HUGE DEAL to mamma here). A friend from school, River has a friend from school at our house for his birthday. This has never happened before. T joins River and J for some games and River is obviously happy. At this point I am starting to relax and focus on food and such. The fact that there are already people in my house and River is having a party is good enough to call the day a success.

A few minutes later another car pulls in and the D family join us. Their kids are closer to EPh’s age and he jumps on the excited train and scoops in to hang with them. Then comes one of Eph’s friends B from school and his mom and we have a full house. Food is out and people are snacking and chatting, kids are playing games and having a good time. At some point they go out and play basketball for a bit and everything is going really well.


Basketball with friends

I cook up the burgers and hot-dogs and people dig in. Our house is crowded and loud and glorious. I had to step away and cry at one point, I really thought things would go bad. Then the S family shows up and that is four more teenagers and their mom. This is another family we met through school and River really likes them. I believe at this point there was some guitar hero going on upstairs and all of the kids disappeared for a bit. Candles are blown, cake is eaten and I am in awe of what has happened in our home.


that smile says it all

The day is passing and some people are starting to go home. Eph’s buddy B is gonna stay the night so as people head off, I start cleaning up while the three boys are having fun upstairs. River had received some amazing gifts including a Lego set that they are checking out and putting together. Another car pulls up and My friends A and M show up with A’s kids. A’s daughter is the little girl I have mentioned here. She is an intelligent little girl  who also lives with autism. River has formed an amazing bond with this little girl that surprises me more every time I see them interact.  This little darling had made River some presents herself.  Very creative and lovely gifts that River has displayed on his desk and book shelf.

I got to sit for a bit and visit with A and her brother M while the kids played upstairs and about an hour later around 8:00 pm their sister and my other friend showed up with her family.  This is Eph’s best friends family and so they all quickly ran upstairs to join the kids and we decided Eph’s buddy would stay the night as well.


My attempt at a Sonic cake

We visited for about 2 more hours and sometime after 10pm they all left and the day ended. The boys and the two boys who were staying the night played games and legos and other boyish fun for a couple more hours before bedtime and all was well in the world.

To most people, I suppose this day won’t seem out of the ordinary for a birthday party. For our family, this has never happened before. Seeing my children laughing and playing with friends is something that we never had before this year. The only other kids that were ever around were my friends kids that we saw on occasion but they had never made friends on their own.  It is hard to explain how much it meant to see my son opening presents and eating cake with other people. Our lives have been so isolated. Autism can distance you from the world in ways people don’t understand.

When it came time for me to stop working outside of the home because River could no longer manage school we lost most opportunities to meet people. The heavy schedule of therapies and routines that were necessary to get River through day to day life pulled us out of the small social circle we had. People started to distance themselves. When Eph was born sick, things got even more complicated.

In movies and feel good stories you see familys in crisis and all of their friends rally around and life gets better. In reality when things get hard people disappear. The longer the duration of the difficulties the further people fade away. You have to say “no we can’t make it” or “I’m sorry we can’t have people over today” so often and  it gets hard to answer the phone and return calls so it gets to a point that people just stop trying to be in your life or keep you in theirs. It is a sad truth.

I was so engrossed in getting River through everything and getting Ephraim healthy that my whole life was appointments. Doctors and therapists and specialists, hospital stays and surgeries and interventions, these became all we knew. I stopped being Domoni and was just River and Ephraim’s mom. I had no time for anything else. It was worth it though.

River will always have autism, but now he has the tools to help him get through the hard parts. Ephraim is still learning to live with his autism and his health is still a day to day worry but it is better and we have settled into a real life. The boys have this wonderful school and now they have friends. Again I say, it was worth it.


18 and happy!

So it wasn’t a huge extravagant party, and we didn’t get to go to Lego Land (but someday we will), but it was an amazing day. River said it was the best birthday he had ever had and I don’t think I have ever seen him happier. My baby boy has friends who accept him and celebrate him. My family has friends who see how amazing my kids are and give me hope that our lives are only going to get better. We are finally moving out of the autism isolation bubble and back into the real world. It is still a scary transition but we are getting there.

To all of the people who wished River a happy birthday and to those who came and gave him a day he will never forget, thank you. You may never know just how much you have meant to us.

Always Love,


You can learn more about us and what we are doing at https://www.facebook.com/Riosdreams

donations can be made at: http://www.youcaring.com/other/building-blocks-for-birthday-dreams/151773

and purchases can be made at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/RiosBdayDreams


Proud Momma share

Happy quick little note today. The Little Dude completed school for the year. Aside from one more in person science class next Wednesday all of his school work for the year is over. Next year he will be doing 5 grade. YAY! He is of course super happy about getting to move over to the summer sleep schedule of staying up an hour later and sleeping in, which makes me giggle as I almost never wake him up early or even at all. One of the perks of homeschooling is we start when we feel like it. So hooray for the Little Dude on finishing school 3 weeks early.


Now to the Big Guy. He came home in a great mood today. He has completed his history course for the year, including the final. Which he was super happy to say he only missed 2 questions and one of them he said was he accidentally clicked the wrong answer. Either way only missing 2 questions on a final in a course he somewhat struggled with this year is fantastic. We are so super proud of him for this. One course down and getting very close on the others. Seeing him come home from school so obviously proud of himself made this mommas day.


Tomorrow we all get a break and are going on a field trip with the school to OMSI to see the dinosaur exhibit. We are all excited for this one and to spend some time as a family in a place we love. This mom is super happy and really needed this day. It makes everything a little lighter when the kids are so exuberant. Perfect ending to a long week.


Always Love,



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Ephraim says….

Does your child know they have autism? Do they know what it means?

I asked Eph, my 9 year old, what he thinks about autism and his life.

Ephraim says….

What is autism?

“Autism means I don’t think the same as other people do.”

What does it make your everyday life like?

“Sometimes I kind of miss what happened before and can’t happen again. I worry too much about things I used to have.”

What is good about autism?

“Autism is good because I like what other people don’t like. Sometimes I just am happy for no reason and I can just run and bounce around.”

What is bad about autism?

“Sometimes I imagine things that are scary and I can’t stop thinking about them. I feel very sensitive and I get sad easily.”

Do you like having autism?

“umm, a little bit.”

Do you dislike having autism?


Would you make it so you don’t have autism if you could?

“No way. I wouldn’t make it go away because I wouldn’t be me and I only want to be me.”

Ephraim has known he has autism since before his official diagnosis. His answers make a lot of sense. Ephraim is a very sensitive boy and he cries easily. If he thinks you are upset with him he may cry. If he thinks you are mad at him he will cry. If he thinks you are hurt, he will cry. He has more empathy then most people I know.

His memory is scary good, and it is often sad. He will think about things and they get him down. One odd recurring sadness is a pair of teething keys, he talks about them often and always wishes he still had them.

Ephraim is a little lover. He is affectionate and has to hug every person in the room before we leave any place. He is the sweetest kid and people take to him easily.

Ephraim never questions why he is the way he is. He has never asked why he was different he just enjoys being him, most days.

Some days, being Ephraim, can be horrible.

He doesn’t talk about the days where he can’t control himself. The days where everything gets to be too hard. The days where he screams and cries and lashes out. The days where he tells me he is the worst child in the world and that he should die. Those days, we like to pretend don’t exist. When everything overwhelms Ephraim, he injures himself. He pinches and bites and hits and screams. Those days kill me a little bit more every time. Luckily those days don’t happen often.

Often we talk about what it is like to raise a child with autism. The parents of ASD children gather on social media, reaching out for a connection. We need someone to understand what we feel. The horror of the bad days, the joy of the good. We need advice on therapies and finding doctors. We need to vent about the IEP process. We need to be able to talk about poop.

The thing I have noticed in the many years I have reached out, we don’t talk about how they think of it very often. We reach out because we are tired and exhausted and we need someone to understand how very hard it can be. Let’s take a moment and be sure we notice how our babies feel about it though too. Many times they are just as tired. They are just as scared. They need to be understood too.

Ephraim wants you to know….

Sometimes is is hard to have autism, I don’t like to be sad and scared. Sometimes it is awesome because I like to play and I like to be happy and I have a lot of happy in me.

A little share from our family to yours.

2014-03-26 19.43.55

Always Love,


You can learn more about us and what we are doing at


donations can be made at:


and purchases can be made at: