of dogs, earrings, and faith


My girl was terrified of dogs. I don’t mean that she was afraid of them. I don’t mean that they made her nervous. I mean that she was TERRIFIED of dogs.

Her body would begin to tremble involuntarily at first sight. Her hands would contort into claws. Adrenaline would course through her body urging her to seek refuge in any way possible. She would climb the nearest human as a bear cub climbs a tree to escape a lion. No thought; just fear.

And then one day she decided that she wanted a dog.

Just. Like. That.

“We would bring him home,” she said.

The fear wasn’t gone.

But she had decided that something else was more important.

It took three weeks. Three hard, messy, torturous weeks. Three weeks in which we wondered if we’d made a horrible, horrible mistake. Three weeks in which she scaled furniture, climbed people, cried, shrieked and ran screaming from the dog.

Three weeks in which she, step by step by tiny step, grew stronger and more powerful than her fear. Three weeks in which she grew to love the dog that is now part of our family.

Because one day, she declared that she was ready.

And we believed her.


Brooke and Winston, 2010


Yesterday, we were at the mall. Sunday was Katie’s shopping day with Mama. Monday was Brooke’s. It was just the two of us. And she made a declaration.

“I will get Snow White earrings,” she said.



“What’s that, honey?” I asked.

She grabbed her ear lobes as if to help me understand. “I would get Snow White for my earrings,” she said.

The last time that we’d talked about earrings was two years ago when she’d worn magnetic ones for fifteen minutes and then *seemingly* lost interest in them entirely. But here we were, as if we’d been in the middle of a conversation about them all along.

Not believing that the words were coming out of my mouth, I asked if she wanted to get her ears pierced. “I will!” she said, the excitement vibrating in her voice. “I never had my ears pierced before! It will be my very first time!”

I explained what we’d talked about when the subject came up two years ago. That she wouldn’t be able to take them out afterward. That we’d have to clean them and take care of them every day. That she couldn’t touch them.

She was not remotely deterred. If anything, quite the contrary.

“I will have them all day!” she said as she walked. “And all night too. They won’t come out forever or ever. I will get my earrings today!”

I texted Luau.

Brooke says she wants to get her ears pierced.

She’s serious.

Are you there? I think we’re doing this.

He wrote back.

Oh boy

Fingers crossed! Good luck! Be brave.

I couldn’t believe we were really doing this, but her excitement was infectious. I couldn’t stop smiling.

As we passed the fountain in the center of the mall, she pulled me toward it. “I will touch the water first and then go for the very first time to get my ears pierced,” she said.

I followed her to the fountain. I watched her drag her fingers every so lightly along the surface, then look around for what to do with her wet hand. I offered up my pant leg, which she took without a word.

“Wait!” she yelled. “I should get candy first. And then we will get my ears pierced for the very first time and I will have earrings.”

I pointed the way to her favorite candy shop, then followed as she led the way there.

I helped her scoop the candies into the bag – the gummy strawberries and cherries, then opened the drawer of lollies so she could pick a DumDum.

“Ooh!” she yelled as she ran toward Brookstone, before I’d finished paying. “I will go there!”

She headed straight for the bouncy chair, just like the one upon which Katie spent her life savings for her room. She plopped herself into it and began to bounce, a grin wrapped around her face. “Okay,” she said after enough bouncing, “now we will get my earrings.”


And so it was that we went to the Piercing Pagoda in the middle of the mall on Labor Day weekend and my girl said, “I will get my ears pierced and it’s my first time getting that!” to the nice lady behind the counter.

And so it was too that when a baby cried in the distance and Brooke shrieked in response and the nice lady said nonchalantly, “Oh, don’t worry, honey, it won’t hurt,” I explained that the shriek was not earring related but autism related and nice lady said, “Gotcha,” without so much as a flinch.

And so it was when I said, “I need to ask for your help with this. There are a couple of things we’ll need,” and then began to rattle off, “We’re going to have to do both ears at the same time. And she’ll need to know what you’re doing, so please, without too many words, just make sure to tell her what’s coming next and what she’s going to feel, but not with too much lead time,; just tell her right as you’re going to do it. Oh, and please try not to block her line of sight,” that the nice lady said with a grin, “I used to be a preschool teacher and I worked with autistic kids. You got the right person.”

And so it was that I kissed my girl’s head and thought, “No, SHE found the right person. Somehow she always does.”

And then my girl got her ears pierced.

Just. Like. That.

And it wasn’t that she wasn’t afraid. It was that she decided that something mattered more than the fear.


More and more I see my job as Brooke’s mama changing. Wait. Let me try that again. Not changing, becoming clearer.

My job, more and more, is to trust my daughter and to have faith that her journey, whether it is or is not immediately recognizable to me, is exactly what it is meant to be.

My job is to empower her with every tool that I possibly can and then to believe, not just in her ability to use them, but to know when the time has come to do so.

The fountain, the candy, the bouncing in the chair – every one of those steps was necessary, and every one of them was dictated by HER.

Every stop led her to where she needed to be and when.

I point the way and then I follow.

And then that last part.

The part about the nice lady behind the counter being such a specific kind of angel. How about that, huh?

That’s my girl’s journey. Every time.

And that’s what I need to remember.

To believe.

My job is to live inside the faith that my girl will find the angels on her path.

And that they will be there exactly when she’s ready for them.




33 thoughts on “of dogs, earrings, and faith

  1. Love the post. A practical note: From experience, I know that sometimes the backs of the Piercing Pagoda starter earrings can come off. As long as you can find the missing back, it will go back on easily enough. May this not happen to you and may they stay in as expected, but just a note in case they don’t ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Oh. I cried. At the part of the nice lady. Because she simply understood and didn’t argue and it was just right.

    But you are even more amazing. Your understanding and love just bounces off the page. It’s beautiful.

    Did she end up getting the Snow Whites?

    • Aw, thank you for your kind words ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Sadly, no Snow Whites. After choosing gold Minnie Mouses with pink bows and finding out they were out of stock (grrrr), she chose small white enamel daisies with pink centers ;).

  3. โ€œNo, SHE found the right person. Somehow she always does.โ€

    I believe you and Luau have taught her this. She recognizes the right people because you have made the effort to find so many of them in the past.

  4. This is awesome. I love those moments — those cover your eyes with fingers spread because you’re afraid of what might happen but you still want to see because what might happen could also be awesome moments. Those. Congratulations.

  5. Just a great reminder for us all…follow your child’s lead. Good reminder for me as my 10th grader tells me he wants to join the debate team!!! Talked to him about why it might be challenging and that he would have to work really hard at it. He’s determined, so here we go!
    Hope the earrings work out well…she looks so cute in them!

  6. Our “dogs and earrings” story is Melonhead’s (hair cuts for kids). We used to walk past in the mall, and my son would pause, watch kids getting their cuts sitting on fun chairs. I never said a word. Never pushed him to try. One day (after years of this), as we paused to watch, he said, “I want to get a hair cut”. And he did. I *know* he was terrified of the clippers and the multiple TV’s were too loud and a toddler was shrieking in a way that makes him loopy, but he did it. And he was so pleased. It’s about allowing them their own victories. To do it any other way would be to rob them of the process, which is needed to carry them through future challenges. It’s not baby steps — but giant leaps with lifelong meaning. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Yay Brooke! Iโ€™m sure youโ€™ll find some Snow Whites in time for Christmas or whenever the first ones can come out. I’m trusting my kid right now. He has always loved the violin, and the strings program in school starts at second grade. Tomorrow is his first lesson. He has weak fine motor skills, but he’s interested and our grown up preconceived notions will not interfere. From my letter to the strings teacher: “We always start from a place of competence, and set him up as much as possible for success, success that doesnโ€™t have to look like everyone elseโ€™s, but success for him to feel good about.โ€ I also asked her to let me know if his IEP mandated support in strings does not materialize, and her reply stated that his aide will be there, with a violin of her own. Does any (okay, ALL) of this sound familiar?? Thank you thank you thank you for showing us the way to get things done, and the way to trust our kids. Cheers!

  8. i just love how she lets you know, you know? amazing to me how many times, and how many different ways, she communicates where she’s at, what she needs. such a huge step she took here…not only did she get her ears pierced, but she did it at the mall! so much sensory input going on, yet she marched in there, got it done. she’s amazing, that one.

  9. I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my face. Thank you for the reminder…it is their journey, and theirs alone. We are spectators, guides, cushions, protectors. She’s beautiful with her earrings!

  10. Dear Jess, Brooke, Katie, and Luau,

    Tommy read this entry with me. It is the first blog entry he has ever read! He has read some of your recent facebook posts, and was captivated. Here is what Tommy had to say;

    “Hey, Brooke likes dogs!!! I remember now. Does Brooke remember that sign that says “No pets allowed” or “No dogs allowed” ? I just remembered that Brooke had a pet dog named Winston. Does Winston keep an eye on somebody? Does Katie start playing water polo, or running? Or does Brooke? I bet Brooke got some earrings that are white of snow, just like her big sister, Katie! I bet Brooke got Disney Tangled dolls looking like Rapunzel and Eugene, also known as Flynn Ryder, and her new teddy bear named “Pirate”. Does Brooke sing like her big sister Katie? I’d like to go on the stage to watch “Tangled” stage version with Brooke and her big sister Katie. Does Brooke like “When Will My Life Begin, reprise 1 and 2″? Does Brooke start on the chores and sweep until the floor is all clean, like Rapunzel? Polish and wax, too? Do laundry? And mop and shine up? Sweep again? At 7:15 am? Read a book? At 2:00 pm? Add a few new paintings to Rapunzel’s gallery? Play guitar and knit? And cook? Puzzles and darts and baking after lunch? What is Brooke’s first favorite lunch? Reread and reread books? Paint the walls some more? Brush, brush, brush, brush your hair, like Rapunzel’s? Stuck in the same place or be a director of Walt Disney presents One Hundred and One Dalmatians Animated, Disney,1961? Keep wondering and get an idea? Or think about funny scenes from all movies? Make paper mache of herself? And a bit of ballet and chess? Pottery, and ventriloquy, with a puppet looking like me, and herself? Make candles, stretch, sketch, climb, or sew a dress for herself? Look at the world, go running, racing, dance, chase, leap, bounding, flying, heart pounding, splash, reeling, feeling excited, and happy, and fast and light?”

    This is also his first blog comment, ever. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Tommy also says hi to Luau and says “I did 5 intervals- 4 O’s with my dad at the greenbelt forest with my dad.”

    That seems to be all for now ๐Ÿ™‚

    -MaryAnn (Tommy’s mom)

    • Tommy,

      This might be my all time favorite comment in the history of the world! Here are my best attempts at answers:

      Winston keeps an eye on everybody, especially our other dog, Lucy to make sure she doesn’t get more treats than he does!

      Katie and Brooke both run sometimes, but neither of them have ever tried water polo. I’ll bet Katie would like it though!

      Brooke didn’t get Snow White earrings, but maybe her next pair will be!

      Brooke does have all the Rapunzel dolls! She got them at Disney World and loves them. She even got to meet Rapunzel when she was there and she asked her about Flynn Ryder!

      Brooke does sing just like Katie does. They both love to sing!

      Brooke doesn’t do all those chores like Rapunzel – sounds exhausting! If there were a stage show of Rapunzel Brooke and Katie would love to see it with you too!

      Brooke’s favorite lunch is peanut butter sandwiches. And she says her favorite vegetable is chocolate cake haha!

      She loves to think about funny scenes from tv and movies and makes herself laugh and she rereads books again and again. So does Katie!

      She also loves ballet, but she’s never tried chess. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Some of her favorite things in the whole wide world are leaping, bounding, flying, splashing and feeling excited. Are those all things in a Rapunzel song? They sound like something she’d sing about while she was stuck in the tower dreaming about being free!!

      Thank you so much for your comment, Tommy!

      • Tommy says:

        “You’re welcome! Are Winston and Lucy married? What is Brooke’s first favorite vegetable? Chocolate cake??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You made me laugh! HAHAHAHAHA!!! How about broccoli for Brooke? Starts with a “B”. And beets! Are there any more Disney Tangled toys for Brooke? How long is Rapunzel’s hair at the beginning of the movie of Disney’s Tangled? Does Brooke know how to draw herself being based on Rapunzel from Disney Tangled, or Princess Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin? Does she draw herself with Pascal, Rapunzel’s pet chameleon, on her shoulder? My mom and dad and I went to Disney on Ice show “Rockin’ Ever After” includes Disney’s Tangled, my favorite Disney show! Does Brooke look at some books with all funny parts? Does she watch some funny scenes from TV and movies, just like all of my people and me? Does she reread and reread and reread funny books? With funny words and funny pictures? Does Brooke sing like Rapunzel “When My Life Begins” from Disney Tangled?

        I don’t want Brooke to bicycle faster, faster..too fast for her Daddy, just now! You know, father and daughter thing! Do you tell Brooke not to bicycle faster and faster, too fast for her Daddy?

        Does Brooke sing like Cinderella “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella? Does Brooke listen to Lumiere the candelabra singing “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast and enjoy her dinner? What is Brooke’s first favorite dinner? Does Brooke listen to Mrs. Potts the teapot singing “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast and enjoy her dinner?


        Tommy’s mom: Tommy met Rapunzel, and Flynn Ryder too, and if you want to see what happened, the YouTube is here

        and he also met Rapunzel on her own

        Hugs to you all โค

  11. isn’t it amazing how the angels have been there each time when your daughter was ready.. in the form of a puppy and then a kind ear piercing ex-preschool teacher. I find that when I know my son is going to need “extra” in his day I pray more to the angels that I know surround us because they have been there for him, just as yours have been there for her.
    I also find – that I can be thick headed and I’ve been having hard time with my son going to High School.. a brand new high school… and this is the 2nd time I’ve heard someone say to me “have faith in your child” – as if someone is trying to tell me this week – step back and have faith in your child.. and that is what I’m going to work so hard at doing for my son – as you are doing with Brooke.

  12. Pingback: having faith … | Rainy days and Rainbows

  13. OMG, I remember getting my ears pierced at the Monroeville Mall – Pgh Pa suburb- At Piercing Pagota in like 4th grade! And yep I remember almost passing out!

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