Thursday, December 27, 2012

Silver Lining

This evening Jeff and I went on one of our mandatory mid-Christmas Break dates, part of an overarching holiday strategy for keeping mom and pop out of any in-patient mental health facilities.

I'd been looking forward to it following the busyness of Christmas Day, the exhausted ennui of December 26th, and the mixed bag that was today.

For dinner we ate tacos before catching a movie which is getting quite a lot of Oscar buzz. I loved it for the performances and the story and all that, but mostly I loved it because everyone in it was crazy.

Truly, characters with varying degrees and types of mental illness populated this film which made crazy seem super normal. It was refreshing. And real. And funny.

It felt relevant to me as my recent days have involved overseeing my eight-year-old son's vacuuming fetish, which isn't as domestically fabulous as it sounds at first blush. Just know that our home is filled with din at all times, and that Jack likes to drag the vacuums all over the house while dismantling them and spilling their dirt contents asunder. We spend a great deal of time and energy reassembling parts so we can begin the process of "cleaning" again.

Never mind that we are also doing therapy and playing with new trains from Santa and playing in the snow and watching movies together. Vacuums rule and that is that.

We've also spent the past week or so searching for a handful of items which we are now fairly certain were thrown away in the garbage barrels at some point during the month of December. By someone who lives in this house. And who is eight.

Jeff and I have rescued numerous quality items from the trash bins over the past several months when Jack figured out that ****-canning things is good fun. Apparently we somehow missed the day when he threw out the baby's little ride-on bike. And also the day the Wii bit the dust.

Crap on a stick. Our gaming system took a dirt nap.

Anyhow, I loved the imperfections and the weirdness of the people in our movie pick. They really nailed the wacky happy family, with which I have loads of expertise.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

It's Christmas Eve afternoon and my four-year-old just opened a present. I did not give him permission to do this. He then walked across the freshly mopped floor with slushy boots, after which he woke the baby from the only nap that he will get the rest of this busy day by opening and slamming baby's door half a dozen times.

I yelled.

And then I freaked out.

Nice job, momma, on keeping the spirit of peace and love alive on Christmas Eve.

On another note, I learned this afternoon that Jack can, with his bare hands open that impossible sort of toy packaging for which Jeff and I require sharp, pointy tools. He freed Charlie's toy binoculars from their plastic cocoon in just a matter of seconds.

Wow, Jacky.  Just, wow.


We are home now from the festivities, and the children are quiet, all snug in their beds.

Jack enjoyed thoroughly vacuuming both of the Grandma's houses we visited this evening.

The rest of us enjoyed turkey, the trimmings, and pies, followed by an eclectic variety show. The annual reading of the family predictions by my two younger sisters foretold that 2013 is the year when I will "decide to dress like a hipster and buy some nerd glasses," while Jeff will "edit and compile a viral video of the greatest clips from the Jack Cam."

We, meaning Jeff and I plus the boys, wowed the audience with a kazoo rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Later, after a venue change, we sat around the Christmas tree as Jeff's grandparents distributed gifts to each of their twenty-two great-grandchildren, including handmade, pieced "quillows" for each child. It is essentially a quilt which folds up nicely into an attached fabric bag with handles, which can be conveniently carried places, and which also makes a nice pillow in a pinch. Grandma S's quillows are pieced from vintage fabric pieces she has accumulated through decades of sewing projects. Pretty much, they are totally rad.

Grandma S. is 85 and suffered a fall this year, where she fractured a few vertebrae in her neck. Her recovery was long and painful, and in her homebound days, she stitched and tied twenty-two quillows to "take her mind off things." Grandpa, aged 90, helped her finish them up, assisting with the quilt-tying.

Their gift to my boys is a tender offering. It is bittersweet because they are frail and often in pain, yet Grandma and Grandpa still devoted countless hours to handcrafting quilts to wrap around their littlest loved ones.

They gave of themselves, which is the best kind of gift.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sparrow's Flight

"Life is a sparrow's flight through the mead hall."

This line from the ancient poem Beowulf repeated in my mind over and over last week when the tragedy in Connecticut began to sink in.

When I discussed the devastation with my eleven-year-old, he said, "Shootings happen all the time, Mom. Why are you so sad about this one?"

He then proceeded to tell me about the frequent lockdown drills they have at school, which include moving for cover behind the thickest classroom wall, double-locking the door, and closing the window blinds. He said they've also learned to hide in the classroom cupboards if someone is about to break through the door.

I feel stunned and sad that my son is growing up in a time when shootings happen all the time, and when lockdown drills to hide from gunmen are more commonplace than fire drills at school. It is not unlike the feeling of gloom which weighed on me after 9/11, just two months prior to Henry's birth.

Life is a sparrow's flight through the mead hall.

Two things have helped me as I've worked through feeling heartbroken for the families in Newtown:

1) I went to church and found comfort in a gentle lesson and a heartfelt discussion of scriptures which outline peaceful, reassuring gospel principles. I felt calm descend over us as we talked about faith, hope for a better world, eternal progression, and how God can make weak things become strong in us.

Truly, to me these truths are a balm.

2) My perspective changed. Life seems fleeting, more fragile. It may be a cliché, but I am noticing and appreciating small moments of goodness. "This is the day which the Lord hath made," it says in Psalms. "Rejoice and be glad in it."

If it's brief in it's duration, the day can at least be made to spark with some small act of kindness, some gentler and more patient interaction, some expression of forgiveness or love.

It may be brief and erratic, and require flapping our wings through smoke, smells, and the din of the world, but I'm feeling appreciative that I am experiencing this flight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Here are some of this week's actual events:

1) Charlie got sick. Sick enough that after he couldn't keep anything down for 36 hours, we schlepped ourselves to Stickers Doctor, who hooked us up with anti-nausea meds.

2) I had the enviable opportunity to pin down my obstinate four-year-old and, while he hollered, toss one of the dissolvable tabs in his open mouth. It was also my bucolic task to then hold his jaw shut for ten seconds while Señor Zofran dissolved therein. Had he spit it out, we would have had to drive to the hospital for IV fluids. So there.

3) Because anti-nausea drugs completely snow a person under for a good while, it was also my responsibility to wake and cajole a drunken, sleepy preschooler into sipping his blue Gatorade several times per hour to avoid dehydration. Best week of my life, folks. Best. Week. Ever.

4) In the foggy hinterlands of my mommy brain, I wondered why nobody in my university or graduate training ever thought to enroll me in something USEFUL, for Pete's sake, like a practicum on administering anti-nausea meds to stubborn, scared preschoolers. Actually, there probably is a practicum for that. In nursing school. Curse my right-brained liberal arts education!

5) Jeff did something evil on our Costco date and purchased an enormous tub of nacho cheese. The only person in the house who apparently has a predisposition to Que Bueno addiction is me. Shizby.

6) I escorted Jack and Henry back to the ENT, who found yet another infection in Jack's left ear (which, I am beginning to think, has been the unfortunate target of a hex). This time it didn't look like fungus, so we went back onto our much-practiced regimen of anti-bacterial ear drops. But not before Dr. P and a helpful passel of nurses pinned Jack down, extracted a sample of drainage, and cleaned out that beleaguered ear. See you after Christmas, Dr. P! We are your job security, I daresay.

7) I caught a cold. Nobody had to pin me down to take my medicine.

8) My thieving sons pilfered every last morsel of chocolate from the advent calendar, but the mom-controlled magnetic calendar reveals that in twelve days it will be Christmas. The four-year-old and I are of the same mindset on this one: Christmas is magical and even the anticipation is sweet.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Prince of Peace

Six years ago I was having a miserable Christmas season.

Jack's diagnosis plus his behavior death spiral had turned life into something unrecognizable.

We couldn't go anywhere: the behaviors were too unpredictable and not fit for public display. Being at home wasn't much better: Jack's inability to communicate beyond melting down and tantruming on the floor, and my inability to understand him made home life equally difficult.

Life as we knew it had crumbled into ruins around us, and we were starting a new life as it were. The only trouble was, we didn't know what the heck we were doing, and I was still grieving what our life had been. I cycled through the stages of grief practically daily.

With Christmas approaching, I found that none of the trappings of the season brought me any joy. I felt sad and Christmas should be a happy time of year. Can't we just skip it, I thought? Can't we just go directly to January, or better yet, mid-March?

Whenever I heard Carly Simon sing that she wished she had a river she could skate away on, I actually (literally) wished I had a river I could skate away on, leaving my problems at home and finding nothing but frozen crystalline beauty and stillness.

Despite my wracked emotional state and my hard candy shell, some seasonal gems managed to shine through the cracks. I remember sitting in church hearing two men in our congregation sing O Holy Night, and feeling like light was streaming into my body. I played Christmas hymns on the piano every evening after putting my boys to bed, which felt a little like applying a balm to my stinging heart.

One afternoon I whined to my neighbor Karleen that I didn't understand why all this misery had to happen at Christmastime. She listened to me and replied, "Maybe it's to remind you that Jesus came to earth."

Her words were a bud of truth which I pondered as it opened slowly in me, a blossom of hope.

This December, I've been processing and coming to terms with the challenges of a different son. It's been a similar struggle, played out on a smaller scale than the one six years ago.

But this season is lovely, not sorrowful. I am daily breathing the fragrance of that flowering blossom of peace that began when Jesus came to earth.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Do Your Ears Hang Low?

My new pastime is visiting the pediatrician's office.

We've gone three times in the past five days. Three separate visits for three different kids with three varying ailments. It's just what we do.

I feel like I need to friend the office staff on Facebook since they pretty well already know all of my daily troubles as well as my weekend plans, and I know how their kids' sports teams are doing, what their holiday plans are, what their childhood Christmas decorations looked like (yes, really) and where they like to shop for shoes.

At today's appointment, I asked Dr. M what course we might expect Jack's current illness to take. I wasn't sure if I should snort or hang my head when he responded, "We'll, there's what I tell everybody else, and then there is what I tell your family."

He gets our weirdness. He knows from experience that Murphy's Law applies with a vengeance to my boys and their health.

Among other things (like rare syndromes no one has ever heard of and pretty much the gamut of behavioral health issues) we are particularly known for our cursed ears and their predilection for infection.

Last week, our ENT dug a giant wad of spongy fungus from Jack's left ear. Not really your everyday ear problem, but that's the way we roll.

That office visit was rather like something in a horror film. Let's not go there.

At our house, we plan ear tube surgeries like other families plan summer beach vacations.

Baby is already on the second ear infection of his short life and threatens to follow in the path of regularly recurring bulging red and painfully pus-filled inner-ears like his brothers.

"Maybe Truman won't have as many ear problems," Dr. M optimistically suggested at a recent visit. "You need ONE kid who has healthy ears."

Cluck, cluck, silly Dr. M. Don't you know that simply thinking something should be doesn't make it so?

Nevertheless, I value the concern. And the otoscope. And the endless supply of stickers.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This evening Jack said a new word.

When his big brother flippantly hopped up onto the kitchen island's counter top and started walking around, I barked, "Dood! What are you doing?" Jack laughed and immediately repeated, with perfect enunciation, "Dood!" He said it a few more times, just to feel how it sounded rolling off his tongue.

Jack has never been able to say Henry's name, though in therapy we have tried to help him attempt it. I'm thinking that Dood is a perfectly reasonable replacement name. This means that because Jack is now capable of saying "momma," "papa," "baby," and "dood," he can almost name everyone in our family. Only Charlie remains. Maybe Chachismo needs a different, more easily pronounceable nickname. Hmmm.

Jack also took up spitting on people and things. He thinks it is hilarious. I think it is boorish. And also a major drag. But if I discourage this behavior too strongly, Jack finds my reaction totally funny and completely validating. Current approach: essentially ignore the spitting.

In other news, we ate crazy amounts of pie this week, which I don't really regret.

We also saw a bunch of movies. This was part of my Survive Thanksgiving Break Master Plan. It worked. Watching "Lincoln" made me grateful I live in this fascinating land. Watching "Life of Pi" made me glad I am not in a lifeboat in the Pacific with a tiger. Watching "Breaking Dawn Part Two" made me realize that I am really really done with that series.

We spent silly time with cousins. We cut a fresh Christmas tree and adorned it with things that the baby likes to pull off and deposit elsewhere in the house.

I gave thanks for a warm house and my boys who fill it; for good food and books (both life-sustaining); for Jeff and for a messy, sprawling, seriously not-boring life.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Few Disparate Observations

A) Jack is equally horrified and ecstatic annually when the pre-lit Christmas tree comes out of storage and once again takes it's place in the corner of the family room. He fears it, yet he also loves it. One might conduct a fascinating psychological study on the dichotomy of emotions wrapped up in the advent of the Christmas tree at our house. Jack "helped" Jeff carry the tree in from the garage by sounding off a few enthusiastic courtesy grunts. He does this when we are lifting heavy things and he is not lifting anything, but watching us with amusement.

B) Family dinners with my extended family are not unlike eating in a raucous and deafening cafeteria, where one must be fast and scrappy in order to survive.

C) When it snows like two feet of snow in early November, it feels like Christmas.

D) Sundays at church with Jack make me want to scream and throw things in the chapel. But he is already doing that, so I refrain.

E) There is peace on earth when former sitters/therapists return from college to visit, and offer to take Jack on a sensory walk away from the chapel.

F) I think I may need to twist the arms of my support group friends into meeting weekly through November and December to help me face the holidays. They may be able to help me piece together the scraps of my mental "health."

G) I shouldn't count on finding any of the dozen or so tubs of frosting I purchased recently to have on hand. They will not be neatly stacked in the cold storage room, ready to top the sugar cookies I baked of a quiet(ish) moment on a Sunday afternoon. This is because they have ALL been secretly injested with a soup spoon, over an indeterminate period of time, by one unnamed person who lives in this house. We know who did it. He knows he did it. And believe me, he is completely without remorse.

H) This bullet features the nickname of the frosting tub offender. Ha!

I) If you are wondering to yourself why I didn't simply whip up a batch of buttercream icing for the homemade sugar cookies, I have nothing polite to say to you right now.

J) It is almost possible to take a Sunday afternoon nap around here without risking the discovery of a Code Brown upon awakening. Just let Jack have the vacuum while you rest. You may not be sleeping because of the din, but you will always know where he is and what he is doing.

K) Babies in little bright green Adidas are ridiculously cute.

L) The new James Bond film is rad. It's darker and less cheesy than many of its predecessors. Daniel Craig doesn't toss out quips like, "he lost his head," while pummeling the bad guys.

M) There is nothing sweeter than a sleepy, happy four-year-old, freshly bathed and tucked cozily into his bunk bed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Which Isn't the End of the World

There are two currently popular schools of thought when it comes to "when Christmas-y things should begin happening."

The dispute--between those who favor the moment Halloween is finished and those who like waiting until Thanksgiving has passed--is all over Facebook and the radio and even, to a mild extent, my neighborhood.

This morning as I shuttled the school carpool, my eldest son listened to a few bars of my (totally charming, by the way) She & Him holiday album before asking, "What is this weird stuff?" From her seat, our third-grader carpool charge furrowed her brow and narrowed her eyes at me, while saying, "Isn't it a little early for that?"

I informed them that because I was driving the car, I picked the songs. And if they didn't want to listen to some warm, happy music, then that was their problem.

I'm super nice to be around at 7:55 A.M.

I just don't get why people are grumpy about other people enjoying Christmas.

So they aren't ready to put up a tree and sing carols and bake cookies yet. Fine. Wait until you're ready.

But why do we have to moan and wail about a radio station playing continuous Christmas music starting in early November? Why are we snarky and cynical about our neighbors or Facebook friends who are adorning their homes with lights and holiday decor before we do?

I'm really not sure why we all can't just live and let live on this one. Is it that many people associate the holiday season with stress, and thus do not want to see it sneak up on them sooner than it must? Is it that they want to avoid Christmas Creep, where December is no longer special because the season stretches longer and longer?

Who's to say?

Here is my take on the discussion: if celebrating the season early makes you feel happy, then by all means, please indulge. If the two radio stations (which ALWAYS play "soft" and "cozy" hits, mind you) bother you with their holiday music in November, change the station. Or listen to your iPod and quit bellyaching.

When I commuted 45 minutes each direction to visit my preemie in the NICU twice a day all through the month of November of last year, I listened to Christmas songs on the radio the entire drive. Listening to nostalgic and beautiful songs became something I looked forward to with all the driving back and forth between my baby and the rest of my family. And putting up the Christmas tree in mid-November was a happy outlet that diverted my mind from the gavage feeds and newborn weight gain and milk-pumping issues which otherwise filled my days.

It seems that my Jack is of the "embrace the season" school of thought, like me. Today on his outing during therapy he chose a massive candy cane roughly the diameter of PVC piping at the dollar store, and giggled as he licked it and stickied up his therapist's car on the drive home.

When we went for ice cream later in the evening, I also treated my sons to a substantial helping of Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, and Vince Guaraldi's holiday hits. I heard no complaining this time.

As we arrived home, we noticed that our neighbor had illuminated his house with tiny red and green lights.

Christmas is coming, folks. The goose is getting fat. And you seriously don't need to let it ruin your day.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


*Author's Note: this post was penned on a day when my children and I have experienced Halloween hangover, which is ironic since none of us drink. You know what I mean. Just keep this in mind as you commence reading.*

Yesterday reminded me that holidays are for normal families.

We (my decidedly not-typical family) tend to tool along moderately well most of the time with our  daily routines specific to each of the boys. But throw a holiday at us with cultural and familial expectations, as well as a whole lot of breaking with those life-saving routines, and you know what happens?

This happens: my family life is like a satellite, while holiday traditions and expectations are like the earth. We cruise along relatively peacefully until we attempt to approach and engage in the holiday, and then we burn up entering the atmosphere.

I do not recall with fondness the irritating and storied history of my children behaving poorly at holiday events, such as:

--The Christmas Model Train Show where young Henry became a horrific spectacle when mom and dad didn't buy him the $2000.00 antique Lionel locomotive he yearned for, and where toddler Jack proved to all the old guy train aficionados who run these gigs that he truly didn't understand NOT touching the train displays.

--An unpleasant string of visits each October to a local Fall Festival which features bouncy castles and giant trampolines, where we struggle loudly and publicly with waiting in line, taking turns, moving on placidly when our turn ends, and coping with crowds.

--The Thanksgiving dinners in our home where our guests have sat awkwardly alone at the table while Jeff and I each addressed different tantruming children.

Halloween used to be sort of a scary day for Jack, but not for the obvious "spooky" reasons. He was terrified of wearing a costume all day at school, parading around the school for crowds of people to eye, and trick-or-treating.

For the first time this year, Jack decided that wearing a costume wasn't all bad. He left it on for almost the entire dance party at school.  He also peacefully ignored the trick-or-treaters who graced our porch, in favor of doing puzzles on his ipad and munching on fun size candy bars while curled up on the couch. This is the good news.

This is the bad: Charlie took over as the kid who wouldn't wear a costume, wouldn't march in his preschool costume parade, and wouldn't trick-or-treat.

Maybe it's my fault for perpetually trying to make the holiday "normal," when we just aren't.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Best & Worst

The group of young women I teach at church has a tradition at the beginning of their Sunday lesson. They call it Best & Worst, and it involves each person sharing something from their week which fits these categories, respectively.

This week we noticed something counterintuitive about the "bests" and the "worsts." In every single case, the two were connected. Interestingly, the best and worst were usually the very same thing, event, or situation.

It (whatever it was) began badly or unexpectedly, yet somehow managed to become something positive, to the extent that my girls rendered it as the best part of their week.

My experience was no different from theirs. My week has seen a tsunami of laundry and sickness as a contemptible stomach virus ravaged our household.

I bemoaned to Jeff that the universe doesn't give a fig when the mom of four sick kids is also sick herself. Unfortunately, neither do those children care that their caregiver wants to crawl under her electric blanket and shiver herself to sleep, rather than launder their nasty linens and clean the foul bathrooms.

Moms don't get sick days.

In the whirlwind of illness, a couple of points stamped themselves onto my psyche.

First there was this: in the context of a hurricane causing havoc and destruction on the east coast, I gave thanks for my washer and dryer, and for the uninterrupted power supply which kept them humming productively all through the night.

And then there was this: a friend of a friend of mine died last week of an amniotic embolism as she delivered her second child. While I didn't know her, she lived nearby. I had actually met her briefly the day before she gave birth and never regained consciousness.

I thought of her as I slogged through our sick week, and I was glad to be here, sick and caring for my sick ones.

See how it happened? Worst became best.

Monday, October 22, 2012

In Good Hands

It's almost here.

Less than two weeks from now will mark the one-year anniversary of my baby's wild entry into the world.

One year since my water broke at four in the morning six weeks before my due date, I got up to clean the kitchen and move laundry, all before waking Jeff and telling him that he wouldn't be going to work that day.

In case you're wondering, 34 weeks gestation is way too early to birth a baby. I don't recommend doing it.

I drove myself to the hospital that morning, whilst Jeff got the oldest boys off to school and arranged for someone to watch Charlie. It was surreal waddling into Labor and Delivery by myself. They asked me if I was married. I should have snorted and said something snarky, but I didn't.

We spent a day in Labor and Delivery, just waiting. They don't let you leave once your fluids rupture because a) risk of infection and b) the baby's delivery is inevitable. I find it curious that all of our tremendous medical advances still can't use a little duct tape to patch the leak in one's uterus, so to speak. Water breaking = baby coming. Even if it's too early.

Truman arrived 24 hours later. In the first few hours of life, he struggled to breathe and underwent a stressful hour of invasive prepping in order to take an ambulance ride to a larger hospital with a bigger NICU, which contained the specialized ventilator his tiny lungs required.

I stayed behind at the little hospital, sans baby.  I also do not recommend doing this.

Certain memories glisten as they surface from the murky depths of my mommy-brain when I think about the twenty-five days which followed.

Eating pork enchiladas in my hospital bed with my bosom friend Chris, who let me tell her all the disgusting details, and who made me feel sort-of normal again.

Crying via iphone to my dear friend Terra in Hawaii, who checked on me regularly and cheered me up just because she always "gets" it.

Listening, en route to visit Truman for the first time, to my pal Bea tell me about the already-arranged weeks of dinners my neighbors had volunteered to bring us.

My sis Kate mopping my floor.

My SIL Mia (post-partum herself) bringing me a casserole and some teeny tiny baby socks.

My next-door neighbor holding my tiny preemie.

My other next-door neighbor driving my 4th-grader to school all winter long.

My sisters bringing baby gifts to the NICU, and making it feel more like a party and less like a black hole that sucks you in and doesn't let you leave.

My support group sending bagels, freezer dinners, diapers, and baby gifts--all packaged and delivered by self-designated spokeswoman Traci (because moms of special children have nothing else to worry about, right?).

While far from being exhaustive, this list reveals something.

It was something which crystallized and clearly illuminated my befuddled brain in a time of sleep-deprivation and stressed out other children.

It was this:  while Truman grew and slept in his isolette, God held me in the palm of his hand.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Breakdown

This evening marks the conclusion of Fall Break. Here is a quick recap:

Jeff painted a dresser which we inherited a scrumptious turquoise color selected by moi. He called it "robin's egg blue." The paint chip (and I) called it "true turquoise." We both called it sort of Tiffany & Co-esque. We both agree that it looks fabulous.

Somebody finally potty-trained. Finally. Fi. Nal. Ly.

Somebody else still has a love/ignore/reject relationship with the potty. However, two kids trained out of four is 50%, which is much, much better than 25%.

Jack smashed a lamp on the bathroom floor.

Jack ripped apart a book and shredded approximately 40% of the contents of a photo album, and sprinkled it all about the house.

Jack kicked the baby over, threw the vacuum down the stairs, dragged the blender around the backyard, chucked my curling iron at the wall, and dumped the contents of one of the trash cans onto the driveway.

On Day 4 of the break, I struggled to contain and redirect Jack, who somehow during this school holiday got stuck in "destructive mode," and also "rampage mode." When I thought about Thanksgiving Break next month, and the probable repeat of Jack's behavior death spiral, I climbed into my bed and cried myself to sleep.

Jeff and I moved Charlie out of Henry's room and into his own room, which is much closer to mom and dad and which is working out capitally. As part of this endeavor, we moved, reoriented, and hauled loads of furniture and tons of STUFF. I'm realizing that I need to have another cleanse of all the THINGS in our house, and I need to do it, stat.

Jack vacuumed the dusty, crumby floors uncovered by our furniture switcheroo. And he truly didn't mind at all.

I bid fond farewell to my Gospel Doctrine teaching gig and re-entered the Young Women program at church.

I introduced Jeff to the irresistible crinkle cut sweet potato fries at Rumbi on our date. We inhaled them. At the cinema, we were charmed by Emma Watson's depiction of an alternative American teen. Her accent was pretty convincing, but not as bewitching as her native lilt.

Baby has revealed that much like his brother Charlie, he hums every time he eats. When they both eat at the same time, it sort of harmonizes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Keep it Clean

This week I'm contemplating how and why my family has so much stuff. It seems that the things in our house are growing like mold spores. How does it all multiply?

A few days back, the thin layer of toys and junk which coat our floors and counters no longer seemed to be just another element of life with kids. Instead it struck me as an affront to my sensibilities.

I kind of freaked out.

Why did we let it get to a point where, even when the house was "clean," there were cluttered drawers, messy closets, and endlessly migrating piles of things surrounding us, one might ask. I've always tended toward rigorous tidiness; what happened to me and my organized cleanliness?

I'll tell you what happened. I delivered my fourth son. With the swelling of our family size, came an unwelcome troll of a houseguest:  perpetual junk everywhere and less time to deal with it.

So I sent my jewel of a husband off to Grandma's house with our brood, and I spent a heavenly evening relentlessly pitching out, cleaning deep, and bagging up loads of STUFF that is taking up too much of my mental and physical energy.

Eight giant bags went to goodwill and I filled an entire garbage can. Half of the toys now live in storage--they can entertain the boys some winter day when we are all clawing at the walls--and they won't be recreationally dumped out constantly in the meantime.

So very, very cathartic.

With birthday season (for some boys) approaching, and the Christmas season hot on its heels, I believe my mantra for gifts will be this: it had better be useful. And also this: keep it simple. I may include this as well: if the thought of Jack dragging it through the house and either a) launching it off the deck, or b) hurling it into the window well spurs feelings of rage, DO NOT BRING IT HOME.

There it is. We may now proceed.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sane Expectations

I am in no fit state for writing, yet here I am. These days I feel I am swimming against a current of poop. Two boys are doggedly waging the war of the human refuse. It's them against me.

As a matter of principle, I am honestly disinterested in participating in most forms of competition. However, I totally WILL NOT let these two stinkers win this war.

They may have taken some of the battles, but this momma will not complicitly allow her seriously stubborn offspring to steal her sanity. Especially not over poop, for Pete's sake.

I will win.

In the meantime, let's talk about something else. These things are happening:

Charlie has developed an affinity for Dr. Pepper, which he calls Dr. Pepperoni.

Baby started crawling.

Jack digs taking trips to the dollar store during therapy once a week to stock up on fun sensory play items. You never can have too many sparkly tinsely wigs or tiny plastic award trophies, you know.

Henry went to an exciting college football game with his two best friends. They were quintessential ten-year-olds: rowdy and silly. Jeff overheard this gem of a post-game conversation, "If a vampire sucked my blood and then sucked your blood, we would be blood friends."

When Jack ripped a page out of my hymn book on the piano during family night this evening, I spontaneously exclaimed, "What the hell?!" Nice.

Henry pointed out that swearing probably wouldn't help much in the above situation. Touché, my son.

Jeff and I are now completely up-to-date on Downton Abbey, and can't wait for season three to cross the pond. Like now, already.

I am reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and finding that it is not the odious chore it was in high school. Rather, it is funny, intuitive, effortlessly eloquent, and surprisingly addictive. Time to indulge.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Power of the Home Depot

Since my last post, the bulk of my time has been spent addressing Jack's untreatable eight-day completely nasty gastrointestinal virus, as well as my own stomach flu. My illness, while horrific, was merely a blip on the family radar. Jacky's disease was epic, explosive, and completely all-consuming. And it lasted for soooooo long.

It's over now, thankfully, and tomorrow Doris and Missy can once again bus my redhead to school. I can start recuperating.

Jack's icky bowel trouble kept him from coming to the cabin for a fall harvest-y weekend with cousins and pumpkins. He stayed home with Jeff and played with the electric train and the shop vac, and went on an outing to the Home Depot.

Who knew that Jack would love the Home Depot so much? Certainly not Jeff, who gambled on Jack behaving himself during a new and unknown-type of outing. Turns out, the Home Depot is a complete wonderland for a boy who loves ceiling fans, light fixtures, and shopping carts.

It must have seemed like one ginormous garage, with it's endless cache of power tools and extension cords, stacked lawn furniture and bags of fertilizer. Jack can't ever get enough of messing things up in our garage. Jeff reported that Jack was quite exuberant.

He was loud enough and vocal enough that apparently Jack garnered some strange and questioning looks--the kind which used to wither a piece of my soul, but which now scarcely register on my inner dialogue of "do I care what a few clueless dolts think about my sweet Jacky's boisterous excitement at going someplace fun? No I don't."

Jack was greeted heartily by an older employee, who didn't understand why Jack wasn't responding to his questions. When Jeff mentioned Jack's cognitive disability, the man seemed a little embarrassed, probably, I'm guessing, because he felt he shouldn't have been asking a disabled child questions. Not sure. Anyway, he needn't have felt embarrassed. But he could have followed up with a high five or a fist bump, or a "bye," which are all really basic social gestures which Jack has mastered.

I like that when Jack goes out in public, he is an ambassador of sorts for people with special needs. He just is. I used to put specialty stickers hand-crafted by my sis (who could probably find a comfortable niche selling such wares on Etsy, I'm suddenly envisioning) on the back of his shirts. They said "I have autism." When he wore them, we no longer got the stink-eye from other people, and we certainly no longer got the "you should learn how to be a parent" comments which are burned in our memories.

Back at the home improvement store, Jeff said that as they checked out and headed for the car, they were nearly struck by a cart being pushed gleefully by a boy with Down's syndrome, whose dad was doling out advice on how NOT to run into people while driving the shopping cart.

Jeff felt a moment of flickering kinship with the dad of the happy cart-pushing boy. Just a couple of special kids scoping out the Home Depot with their dads on a Saturday afternoon.

I'm struggling to verbalize exactly why this warms my heart so, but it really really does.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Early Thanksgiving

I received three phone calls from Jack's school this week. I've already written about the paranoid uncertainty which accompanies each call. Will it be about Jack kicking another student? Did he drop trou on the playground and do his business? One never can tell. This post is a rundown of the three calls.

1) Jack's teacher called to personally explain to me what I would be reading about in Jack's folder from school. He'd had an off sort of day--lots of mood swings. After happily participating in PE, Jack returned to the classroom, walked straight to his teacher's desk, picked up her laptop, and smashed it on the floor.

Complete mortification.

Miss Sue kindly explained that this event wasn't the end of the world as she was already due to receive a new laptop anyway.

Still, completely mortified.

When I apologized and expressed this to her, she gently told me that Jack is a person who makes his own choices, and that this time, the behavior was a result of his disability. She then expressed her love for Jack, and told me that she knows Jack is loved at home--that we teach him and work with him daily, even if the lessons from our efforts don't immediately take.

2) The second call was from Missy, the bus aide. She gave me a ring one morning simply to let me know that Jack had been such a peach that morning on the ride to school. She described to me how he had sat with his hands folded and his legs crossed, quietly watching out the window. When they arrived at school, a situation with another student prevented them from getting off the bus for several minutes. Missy wanted me to know that Jack didn't complain or try to get up. He just waited, quietly. She told me that while sometimes Jack has his moments, she just absolutely loves him.

3) Then yesterday, Jack's principal called. Paranoia set in as I waited for her to reveal the purpose of the call. I need to be less paranoid.

She asked me if I would be willing to serve as one of a handful of parents on the School Community Council, which addresses various school concerns, as well as writing a plan for achieving the School Trust Lands goals.

Heck yes, I'll do it. I was intrigued, and also just pretty happy she wasn't bringing up that broken laptop.

I often feel that my family is given many blessings which help us navigate and survive life with a multi-disabled child, while raising a bunch of other children as well. So many blessings, I suspect, that we probably aren't even cognizant of them all.

I am, however, very aware of the priceless gift that Jack's school, bus, teacher, principal, OT's, SLP's, and aides are.

And I am grateful.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Down and Up

Here are a few highlights (and lowlights) from our weekend:

Low: While at Stickers Doctor for our annual FluMist inoculations, preschool-aged son first punched baby, then spit a logie on baby's head, all before melting into a writhing and steaming pile on the exam table when it was his turn for the nasal spritz.

High: On the bright side, we are now ready for flu season, including me. Thanks Stickers Doctor for inoculating moms too!

High: Watching the Thunder football game was uniquely pleasant, thanks to cool morning temperatures and my cute and energetic passel of Henry's buddies. They were funny and rowdy and they kept the team spirit alive.

Low: The opposing team wiped the field with us, beginning with the touchdown that they scored five seconds after the game started. Who are these fifth-graders and where do they come from?

High: Perusing the Costco book table at my leisure to kick off our date night. Yes, please.

Low: Broken bones and a broken front tooth. Not us, but our darling nine-year-old neighbor who took a nasty spill on his bike and now has the wounds to prove it.

High: Our family was only mildly to moderately loud and distracting at church today. We might be getting a bit better. Only time will tell. Let's just NOT ask the other families who sit in the back near us, okay?

High: Jack provided the nursery treats today and happily shared some super yummy NutriGrain bars. He also spent a few minutes, post singing time, cuddling with his kind teacher Liesel. She and the other leaders love Jack. He loves nursery. And I love all of them for being so sweet and giving Jack a place to fit in at church.

High: Bedtime commenced without drama. Weekends tire out our guys and that works for me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

August is the Cruelest Month--And it's Over

School is back in session. Here are some signs that things are changing around here.

A) I am cooking again. Real food. Planned, prepared dinners. The fridge once again houses leftovers (yay for ready-made tasty lunches and second-day dinners!).

B) I agreed to host the neighborhood book club at my house. That I feel brave enough to invite a bunch of neighbors to my house, many who are new to the area and do not yet know me well, reveals that select moments in my life are now free from chaos (which, by the way, I've heard stands for Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Since I'm now able to snatch little bits of respite, I can conjure the time to whip up come cookies and clean up the place (sort of...).

C) I am reading again. Henry and I are working on Sounder, and I actually finished a memoir called Let It Go. When my life gets too busy for books, I inevitably feel like something vital is missing. Reading soothes and inspires me, and I'm relieved to have reclaimed the time for it. Feel free to recommend any fabulous reads. I'm on the prowl.

D) Jack is really peacefully happy. He is ecstatic when Doris and Missy drive the bus to our house each morning, and he is thrilled to see Miss Sue and many other helpers when he arrives at school. He relishes his mornings in the sensory motor room, and adores his spins on the adaptive bike. Class time is pretty great too, especially when they bring in power tools and adjust the desk heights, and such. And there is always the vacuum which lives next door in Miss Gay's class, waiting to be visited. Structure has returned. Happy souls live here.

E) Football practice, chalk-talks, training, gear, and games have become all-consuming. This is a new adventure for a not-very-sporty couple like Jeff and me. We are, however, enjoying the excitement and happiness, discipline and responsibility it is cultivating in our eldest son. 

F) Daily behavior therapy is evolving into a sensory-rich, organic look at the myriad learning opportunities right here in Jack's home, backyard, and neighborhood. It is less about puzzles and learning games at the table in the therapy room, and more about contributing through household tasks and socializing in the family room with little brother. Jack is eating it up. He loves to sweep and wipe off the table and practice talking while walking to the park. Change can be really, really good.

G) The scrub oak on the foothills are beginning to simmer with red and orange. The air carries a hint of fall. Charlie's preschool starts tomorrow.  I. Love. Autumn.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bus Watching

'Tis the eve of the first day of school, but only for boy #1. It's a teaser for Tuesday when that big yellow bus chugs up our street and puffs to a halt in front of our abode. When Jack traipses onto that bus, summer really ends.

Good freaking riddance, summer "break."

You've been...real, I guess. Now don't let the door hit your can on the way out.

Bring on the best season of the year:  the season of cool mornings and sunny afternoons, fall leaves, pumpkins, apples, harvest abundance, Halloween & Thanksgiving. Best of all, autumn is the season when school resumes.

If you are inclined to judge me and my attitude of unabashed happiness at school once again being in session, just keep it to yourself. I love my boys. We all love each other with more decorum and placidity, and less theatrics and hysterics when our school routines return.

Jeff and I looked around this weekend at the ridiculously messy state of our house. Jeff observed, astutely, that it looked like the scene of an '80's high school keg party in a John Hughes film, minus the actual party (or the keg).

This is Jack's handiwork when he enters the end-of-summer-death-spiral.

We spent a few busy hours tidying the wreck before taking the boys to Grandma Joyce's cabin where Jack enjoyed an evening of vacuuming the deck, the rug, the basement, and all the little crannies.

He gets so excited when the bus drives up and the door swings open. We are ready for it. Now it just needs to happen. It's almost time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crazy Town

How do you know you are starting to lose your mind?

Well, you can start by walking into the chapel at church (really quite late when everything is really quiet and reverent) with the back of your skirt stuck up inside the waistband of your undies, like I did today.

Yep, that just happened.

Can I get a what what?! for my friend Amanda, who pointed it out to me and shared my moment of horror like a kindred spirit.

This gem of a sacrament meeting entrance pretty much sums up the past couple of weeks.

I guess I could blame my embarrassing wardrobe malfunction on the fact that I was too busy wrenching a toy lawn mower away from a kid in the church parking lot and returning it to the car before it noisily made it's way into the church, to give my own problematic knickers a once over.

But I won't.

I didn't really intend to be a peep show during sacrament meeting, but what can I say? It happened.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that we are all getting a bit nutty around here. I'm not sure if I feel this way because we have a giant inflatable Santa Claus which boys #2 and #3 are compulsively dragging around the house and plugging in to watch it whir and slowly inflate.

Check back with me in a few weeks to see if the academic calendar has restored my lucidity. In the meantime, I will likely continue to find myself distractedly singing Christmas carols, which isn't at all creepy in mid-August.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

We Made It

While summertime is not officially over yet, I can sense the end is near. How do I know this?

1) I am starting to go bat **** crazy.  The fun summer activities which have filled our time for many weeks no longer seem appealing to any of us. This August ennui leads me to think that we will all find the change invigorating.

2) Henry's class list has been posted on the front doors of his school, his teacher has posted a list of recommended school supplies, and two different school open houses are on the calendar for my two school-age boys. This stuff is a lifeline for me at this point in the hot, endless, lingering summer days when Jack's behavior takes a predictable backward slide.

3) Our next-door-neighbors and some of our boys' favorite playmates are imminent to return from the frozen north where they summer. Yay! Happy days are coming!

4) I'm starting to daydream about what our days will look like when we return to the structures and routines which Jack depends on. We can climb out of summer survival mode and stretch a little.  Life  will move at a pleasant clip, instead of spinning in a nauseating vortex.

5) I find myself getting really happy when I think about the weather changing from hot and smoky to cool and crisp.

6) Fall clothing and shoes are my cup of tea. I'm ready to blow off this "maintaining a pedicure" business and put on some jeans and boots. Or sweats and sneakers. And long-sleeved tees with cozy hoodies. Huzzah, I won't have to spend ten minutes applying sunscreen to my brood every time we go outside.

7) Charlie is getting wildly excited about returning to preschool and I am equally pleased about the prospect of three afternoons per week when the house is quiet and the baby is napping.

8) Football season is practically upon us, which suddenly means something this year as I have a son who is enamored with playing, watching, and attending football games.

9) I am waxing proud of the fact that we have essentially survived another long and blistering summer. We made it.

10) I am also feeling happy and grateful for the numerous highlights we experienced in the past three months. See number 9, above.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Otitis Media

I called the pediatrician today following forty-eight hours of Jack smashing glass, ceramic, and porcelain things on the hardwood. Smashing typically means just one thing: Jack's ears hurt.

He never gets a fever. His nose doesn't run. He does not tug on his ears. But he tells us he is in pain the only way he knows how--he throws things across the room. Or from the stairs onto the floor below. Recently he favors casually knocking framed pictures from their wall hooks and watching them shatter and break apart. 

Shizby, Jack!

You would think that after the bazillion ear infections that Jack has suffered since infancy, we would have long ago figured out a way to see when one is barreling down on us. Sadly, we have not.

I want someone to invent a magic scanning wand for the mother of a nonverbal mentally disabled child. All I want is a simple electronic device which I can pass in front of Jack in a scanning maneuver. "Is Jack sick?" I would ask the wand. "Yes. His ears hurt," would be the mechanical, omniscient reply. 

Is this too much to ask? Apparently, it is.

However, while I do not have a magic scanning wand, I do have Bonnie the receptionist at the pediatrician's office, who always finds us an accommodating appointment time on the same day we call. I also have Jennifer the nurse, who knows that Jack is scared of the measuring tape which hangs from the ceiling, as well as the blood pressure cuff, and doesn't insist on getting a current height or bp every time we visit. 

I have Charlie, who will drop whatever he is doing and  happily come along to "stickers doctor" on any day of the week with brother. And we have our pediatrician, who bumps knuckles with Jack, stays current on the poop progress, understands our daily challenges, and asks me how I would like to proceed with treatment. 

We also have an ENT who time and again compassionately peeks in those poor little ears and carefully places tubes therein. And we have a great children's hospital in our midst.

It's not a magic scanning health wand, but all together they get the job done. Jack's ears and I are thankful.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Clear and Present

We are rapidly approaching the summer doldrums. Jack's summer school is a distant memory, but the first days of school are still far off, wavering like a mirage in the desert heat. We have planned for these endless, end-of-summer weeks by taking some of Jeff's vacation time so that he may be around to help with the wrangling of children.

The past week was one of these delicious periods when we've managed to shake up the routine a bit and steal ourselves a bit of peaceful time away, both alone and together. Jeff seized a chance to go fly-fishing for a day, and when he returned, I sneaked away for a long afternoon to myself.

I feel that the past week of my life has contained an embarrassment of riches. Because, you see, after my lovely day out and about, Jeff and I left for another long-planned mini-break which serves the dual purposes of a) celebrating our fifteenth year of marriage, and b) keeping us mentally healthy for the month of August.

We stayed the night in a historic hotel downtown, which was completely charming. We dined al fresco at various beautiful venues for every single meal. We visited with old friends. We drank homemade horchata on my sister's quaint old-timey porch. We went to three movies in a twenty-four hour period. We slept late. And we spent a fair amount of time just sitting together enjoying unhurried conversation. We soaked it up, this peaceful, quiet time.


I feel slightly more ready now to face the next few weeks of busyness. Not entirely ready, but a bit more.

As I was sitting in a quiet place on my solitary day away this week, I had this recurring thought: now is a good time to focus my energies on the problems at hand, instead of fretting over what the problems may be like at some point in the future.

This little epiphany perhaps might seem rather elementary to most, but to me it was a pleasant realization that I can stop pushing my figurative heavily-laden wheelbarrow of worries about the future. Instead, I can park that bad boy someplace out of the way and get to work addressing only my current challenges.

It feels more manageable to simply focus on now.

Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery.
But today is a gift--
That is why it is called the present.

(Name that movie!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Perfect = Boring

This week I read an excerpt from a book by a single mom who raised three successful sons. She stated that her target audience was single parents, but as I read about the challenges she faced parenting her young boys on her own, I felt that many of the lessons she discussed applied to my family dynamic, too.

First, she said that parents coping with less-than-ideal circumstances have to do one central, important thing: get rid of the notion of nearly perfect. It will never happen and it must be banished forever. I love this woman! I contemplated how much grief I have given myself in striving to reach a standard of nearly perfect at various times in my life. It's a game a reformed perfectionist like myself just couldn't win. Rarely did things measure up to my ridiculous expectations.

I recently celebrated my birthday and ruminated about the fact that I really like being a thirty-something. I believe that somewhere in the process of parenting my unique boys and growing into a grown-up, I discovered the truth that when things are nearly perfect on the outside, they typically aren't all that interesting, nor are they realistic to maintain. Growth involves struggles, changes, and messes. And boy, are we growing around here!

The single mom from the article also shared this maxim: identify what you think is important for parenting your kids and then start eliminating items from the list. As I read this, I realized that she had essentially summarized what Jack's presence in our family has been teaching me for years. We can't do it all, but we can focus with laser-like intensity on those few things which are paramount.

For the single mom writing the book, those non-negotiable things did not include home-cooked meals, clean bedrooms, or attractively-dressed children. They did include politeness, kindness, church attendance, family time together, and sports participation (because it wore her boys out and taught them responsibility). I admire this writer for deciding that Hot Pockets as a regular evening meal for her boys was really not the end of the world and she wasn't going to let it get her knickers in a twist. For her and her children, being at church each week was important; that her boys looked like bedraggled orphans while there was less so.

My list of absolutes isn't really all that different from the single mom's. I admire her for realizing that she couldn't do everything, but she could prioritize a few things she wanted her family to learn, and then work resolutely to make those things happen.

So while these dog days of summer are doggedly testing my stores of creativity, problem-solving, and energy, the fact that it's "all kids all the time" doesn't have to wear me down completely. I just have to remind myself that nearly perfect is not only nearly unattainable, but also pretty darn boring. And while there are lots of things you could call my family, boring really isn't one of them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jack Cam

I am currently watching a live video feed of Jack rolling around his room. He is fighting sleep, as are his brothers. I'm not sure why I seem to be the only exhausted person in the house when 9:00 P.M. rolls around, but such is life.

The Jack Cam has been an oft discussed topic in these parts. After literally years of talking about it, Jeff ordered a system and installed it yesterday morning between work calls and Jack's bus returning him from school.

It's pretty sweet: it offers a birds' eye view of Jack's entire bedroom and has infrared capabilities, which means we can see what he's doing in the dark. Yep, Big Brother is watching Jack with night vision. Or rather, Big Momma and Big Pop are.

Henry are Charlie are fascinated with the Jack Cam. They take turns watching the monitor and running into Jack's room to wave at each other. I don't blame them. It IS pretty fascinating.

We are waiting and watching for the pre-BM moment, when we can avert a Code Brown and redirect Jack's little tush to the bathroom. I think it just might work. Jeff already rushed in once after the Jack Cam revealed one pale boy jettisoning his pj's and undies.

Jeff has promised to soon have the Jack Cam ready for portable viewing on my iPad, meaning no matter my lccation or current household task, if Jack is in his room, I will be able to see him preparing to duece and (theoretically) help break the Code Brown habit in favor of a new era of clean self-sufficiency.

In the past week, Jack has pooped in the potty a record FIVE times. This was all pre-Jack Cam, mind you, and it is a new, phenomenal record. Perhaps the Jack Cam will help cement this pleasant and welcome behavior.

I'm filled with hope!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Dependents' Day

This week I've been thinking about two of my sons: specifically, the two who flank Jack in birth order. I believe these boys came before and behind Jack for the purpose of being kind, watchful, protective helpers for their special brother.

Henry has always watched over Jack and helped him in myriad ways. When they both shared a train fascination, Henry would set up and run the Polar Express locomotive train set to Jack's delight. When they were just little boys, Henry would watch movies with Jack and make sure he didn't venture off the sidewalk and into the street. He buckled Jack's seatbelt and washed Jack's hair in the bath. Now he often helps Jack open tricky packages or retrieve favorite toys which have been lobbed into the window well.

Charlie seems to have emerged from his early years of being intensely disliked by Jack with great devotion and everlasting fondness for his big, silly brother. Chachi isn't the least bit concerned that Jack completely despised him in his infancy. He just seems to revel in the fact that Jack follows him through the house and backyard--swinging when he swings, bouncing when he bounces, and vegging out to Tangled when Charlie does. These two often roll around like a couple of little bear cubs. They don't say a whole lot to each other vocally during such moments, but their tactile play fulfills a need for sensory input and brotherly wrestling.

This close physical connection proved very handy yesterday when Jack, who had spent the morning resisting therapy, breakfast, and backyard playtime, decided to unlock the front door and bolt at full speed down the street. I heard him take off but was holding an almost-sleeping baby and wasn't as fast as Charlie, who followed Jack and chased him several doors down, where he grabbed Jack's shirt and held on with all his might. The four-year-old stopped Jack dead in his tracks. Good work, Chach.

Henry's kindness for Jack again played out today when he came to the rescue. I had stopped at my parents' home where the three boys were going to hang out while I took Jack to Shriner's Hospital for his yearly x-rays and check of his leg-length discrepancy and knock-knees. In the two minutes while I used the restroom, Jack went outside to the pool, which was stuck partially open because the pool cover had broken down beyond repair, and got himself soaking wet. Five minutes of panic ensued because a) Jack was drenched, b) we needed to leave NOW for Shriner's, and c) we had no spare clothes.

In frenetic desperation, I found a tee shirt with the logo of a university my eldest refuses to wear and pulled it quickly over Jack's head. Then I turned to Henry and asked if he would loan Jack his shorts and make due with something scrounged from Grandma's drawers. Without argument or even hesitation, H simply handed over his camo shorts. And suddenly Jack, while "going commando," was decent enough for a visit to see the orthopedist.

Brotherly love, indeed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer School

Things my children have recently taught me:

A) "Clean" is relative. My standards have changed regarding cleanliness, and I'm okay with this. I suspect if other people aren't, they will just not come over here much.

B) There will be poo.

C) Swimming pools in the summertime NEVER get old, and are SO MUCH FUN!

D) Walking outside is less preferable to simply standing in the doorway with the door wide open, with nary a thought for flies, bees, or cool air-conditioned air entering or escaping.

E) Summer evenings in the backyard NEVER get old, and are peacefully satisfying.

F) Dinosaur-themed birthday parties with balloons, cake, and treat bags are wildly pleasure-inducing for four-year-olds.

G) Summertime is really, really strenuous for moms.

H) Sometimes getting a mid-day babysitter for Jack and baby so Mom can take the other boys to an afternoon movie is totally worth it.

I) When someone pours water in the sink of the toy kitchen and adds Swedish fish, the results are not appealing.

J) Driving through at Arctic Circle for cones of an afternoon NEVER gets old.

K) Date night is life-sustaining.

L) Janet the bus driver is a welcome sight for both Jack and Mom during four precious weeks of Jack's summer school program.

M) Everybody needs a break sometimes: Henry at Grandma's, Charlie with a friend, Jack at school, Truman during nap time. Mom and Dad wherever and whenever they can finagle it.

N) There is something very physically and psychologically refreshing about venturing into the mountains and away from the valleys.

O) Febreze's Hawaiian-scented sprays are making the post-poop house a little nicer to live in.

P) Shop-vacs are sort of destroying my sanity, even while they boost Jack's mood infinitely.

Q) Kindly neighbors who notice Jack streaking through their houses and then attempting to leave with their shop-vacs, but who don't let him actually make off with said appliances and who don't really get all bent out of shape over it are really SO FABULOUS.

R) Having a ten-year-old is lots of fun. I'm getting excited to see my kids get bigger.

S) Pancakes and bacon in the morning (every morning) are the key to one kid's heart.

T) Capri Suns and SpongeBob GoGurts in the fridge are the key to another kid's heart.

U) Chips, chips, chips, and Dino nuggets are yet another boy's joie de vivre.

V) Littlest brother wants every food, except rice cereal, and he wants it NOW people!

W) Savory moments, like that lovely interval between children falling asleep and my reluctant bedtime, are really so nice.

X) Summer reads are really so enjoyable. This week: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Dandelion Wine.

Y) Hoses in the hands of young children NEVER get old.

Z) I can do this. Particularly, if I have a big soda within reach.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fire Sale

My neighbors and I had a big adventure last weekend when a wildfire burned across the hills next to our neighborhood. We did not fall within the evacuation zone, but a neighboring community did, and as the day wore on and the black smoke rolled closer and closer to us, we entertained the idea that we might be required to evacuate.

As we watched the hills and tracked the flames, most of us began to gather a few things which we could quickly put into our cars should we be asked to leave. My son assembled a giant garbage bag filled with his clothes (he values a well-rounded wardrobe), his iPod, and his baby book. I piled four tubs of scrapbooks, photo albums, and journals by the back door before removing my grandma's quilts from the walls where they hang and folding them on top. "Irreplaceable" was the standard by which I determined what I would kick myself for not taking with me later, should our house succumb.

Jeff thought I was decidedly over-doing it. Especially when I began stacking framed family portraits and the framed embroidered pictures my mom has made for each of my babies. Maybe I was over-reacting. But I rationalized that if anything sentimental was going to come with us, it would be my task to bring it along. Jeff's prepared supplies consisted of a tidy fanny-pack sized bag containing essentially a toothbrush and a change of clothes, as well as a Manila folder with everyone's birth certificates and other essential documents.

Together, we assembled another sizable pile of diapers, formula, a port-a-crib, and foods which the morbidly picky eaters known as our sons find acceptable. My adrenaline spiked at bedtime as I lay visualizing how quickly I could rouse my boys and get them into the car in the event of evacuation. Every car that drove up the street had me imagining that this was it--they were sending in volunteer firefighters to mobilize us. It made for a not very restful night.

Happily, we didn't have to go. Our neighbors returned safely to their homes and the fire burned across the mountain and away from populated areas. The entire experience was an exercise in evaluating what is meaningful and irreplaceable. During the 24 hours or so when things were uncertain, I found myself repeatedly walking through the rooms of my house pondering if any of it meant anything, ultimately. If it burned, would I be heartbroken?

For almost everything, I felt confident that I could let it go and move forward, replacing what was lost with something else--perhaps even something completely different, but just as effective. I attribute this sense of detachment solely to Jack, who constantly schools me in the futility of getting attached to material possessions. With Jack around, things break. Constantly. Useful things, pretty things, electronic things, random things, cheap things, expensive things--Jack is no respecter of monetary value or aesthetic appeal.

The fire reinforced what my son has been non-verbally telling me for years: things don't matter, people do. And my people are safe, whole, and happily going about the business of shredding, disassembling, smashing, and otherwise tactilely exploring the things which fill our lives.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Don't Read This Post While You Are Eating

My house smells like someone has smeared poop all over the place. Someone, in fact, has.

Summer school has begun for Jack, and it seems that this transition, while it is a positive one which he is quite happy about, has triggered the need to Code Brown.

Our approach to the indoor poopapalooza trend is to respond with complete neutrality. Open the door to Jack's grotto to find a stinking, smeared mess? Poker face. Silence.

Strip the bed. Sanitize the floor, walls, and window. Isolate the perp away from the crime scene, thus NOT reinforcing the behavior by allowing him the fun of watching the janitorial response.

It's a nasty job, and it still makes my blood boil when it happens. And yes, it still happens, despite the advice of experts and our best efforts in prevention. But I am fairly certain that the way I respond to the Code Brown says more about my parenting efforts than does my inability to eradicate it.

I live in Poo City, and that is just the way it is. I am weary of talking about futile solutions with experts. I am tired of trying to catch Jack in the act, or just before. I am not loving the barnyard stench which ubiquitously wafts through my house.

Perhaps I am reaching the acceptance phase in the grieving process of having a chronic poo-casso in my life. I am too tired to deny that it's a problem, or to try to bargain with the universe to make it stop, or even to feel perpetual anger that it still happens.

I'm at peace with the smelly veneer of crap in my house. Okay, not really, but I do find solace in the hard-working Kirkland Signature Household cleaning wipes, which really help to get the job done.

And I appreciate my husband, who is my partner in restoration.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Thanksgiving

This week I feel a surge in gratitude for the following:

A) Girls' Night Out with good friends. The relentlessness of summertime parenting at my house makes a GNO outing to Zupas and the Megaplex make me feel like I've sampled manna and briefly experienced nirvana. I didn't even need that wacky milky/waxy spa treatment-thing Charlize Theron demonstrated in SWATH to feel renewed and rejuvenated (but not exfoliated). Conversation with two darling friends effectively hit the reset button for me to go home and try again at this child-rearing business.

B) My parents, who every summer take Henry to Yellowstone so that he can join in on the fun and memory-making of campfires, hikes, geyser-viewing, and wildlife-watching with his cousins. One of these summers, when we have effectively solved the toileting issues and the other behavior problems which currently beset us, we are going to be able to take all of our children on a full-fledged family road-trip to our nation's oldest and best national park. Until that happens, thank heavens for Lynn and Shirley for including our eldest child in the good times.

C) A handful of wonderful therapists and sitters. I alternately think of these sweet young ladies as "support staff," "adoptive family members," "angels," and "tender mercies." They fill all these rolls, and they effectively enable our family to function. Best of all, they do it with enthusiasm and love for our boys. They don't realize how much I love them for the cheerful service they render to my family.

D) Jack's excellent car behavior. He is buckling his own seatbelt and keeping it on, my friends, which means that he is no longer dancing around the van whilst we streak down the freeway or mooning other drivers when he decides to remove his pants.

E) Truman's overall demeanor. My sister Sarah once said that my family is like a puzzle with each family member possessing different strengths and qualities, which nevertheless fit together perfectly. I love this analogy, not only because it references the autism/puzzle piece connection, but because it really sweetly recognizes that while we are all over the place in terms of age, personalities, and abilities, we are all in this together and somehow it is working. Thankfully, baby Truman fulfills the peacefully sweet and tolerantly flexible piece of our family puzzle.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Walking on Broken Glass

There is a picture I copied several months back on facebook which has really been bugging me lately. I liked it at the time. Now, I find it totally irritating. It says something like, "Are you happy? If yes, keep doing what you're doing. If no, change something."

I've been thinking about it with annoyance quite a bit this first week of summer. I thought about it yesterday when Jack smashed a glass bowl and a glass candle jar. I consequently put him in his room for a time out, and the dumb picture again popped into my mind when Jack immediately dismantled his room (I had to drag the bed frame into the hallway when he upended it). I thought about it when he later pooped in his bedroom and then tantrumed because I simply wiped him down and skipped the reinforcing bath "reward" he was banking on.

What exactly should I change, I feel like asking the creator of this annoying, simplistic, bossy picture? What do you recommend? Should I rid my house of any form of glass? Should I forbid bathing ever again? Should bed frames be verboten? What's the magic bullet of a change which is going to do the trick?

The irony with this scenario is that up until the smashing and smearing began, Jack had been having a really terrific day. He had a happy therapy session, an outing to explore the lovely gardens at Thanksgiving Point, and a good share of trampoline/hose/Otter Pop time in the backyard.

Tragically, today followed a similar pattern of a stellar therapy session, a fun outing with mom and brothers, some peaceful outdoor playtime, and then: Jack pushed over a glass-fronted cabinet, destroying it when the panes shattered everywhere.

Jack's child psychiatrist weighed in on our rocky transition to summer by noting that this is another instance of Jack struggling to find his footing in a transition period. Transitions are completely brutal for him. Always. So we shouldn't be surprised. I felt a vague sense of relief and validation knowing that it isn't something I am failing to do that is sending him into this tailspin, but rather it's something he inevitably has to work through.

In the midst of yestereve's broken glass and poop extravaganza, someone knocked at the door. It was my neighbors Kara and Karleen who had chosen really the most terrifically perfect time to bring me a "Summer Survival Kit" which includes but is not limited to: Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate Squares and a bit of light escapist reading, among other treasures. Fantastically, this afternoon Jeff's sister and stepmom also popped in for a serendipitous visit, and also came bearing Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate Squares.

Interestingly, after the destruction died down this afternoon, Jack approached me quietly and calmly and gave me a long hug. He has never done this before. Later in the evening as I bounced with him on the trampoline, he again gave me a peaceful, intentional hug. Maybe he was apologizing. Maybe he was saying he loves me.

As I have pondered Jack's hugs, stowed my chocolate in the cupboard, unpacked my survival kit, and tearfully read the tag penned in Kara's lovely handwriting, I have felt gratitude for compassionate people. I have also felt like God loves me. And I'm thankful He found a really lovely way to show me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Backyard Bonanza

It has become an annual ritual of sorts for me to keep a record, each summer, of things for which I am grateful--a gratitude journal, I guess. In an effort to stay positive amid the insanity, I count my blessings and then get on with wrangling the chaos.

Today I am grateful for my backyard. It's absolutely a summertime staple for my boys and for me, as well. It may be strewn with dog poop (wait, we don't have a dog!), and it may have a trashy layer of soda cans and plastic toys lying about, but here is the good news: it's big, it's shady, it's green, and it's fully fenced. As all moms of special kids know, the fully-fenced yard is a gateway drug which leads to compulsive feelings of peace and addictive sensations of hope that one can go the bathroom and still find the children playing in the yard upon your return.

Our backyard is scruffy and a bit ragged at the edges since Jack mauled and incapacitated our weed-whacker. The deck looks worse for wear since the day Charlie and one of his pals excitedly tore off the lattice which covered the posts below the deck (punk toddlers). Our barbeque grill looks like it survived Vietnam. In reality, it is has thus far survived a boy who is prone to wheeling it all over the place, sometimes knocking it over in the process. The handle is long gone, which merely adds to the ghetto aesthetic.

I do not claim that this backyard it is a showplace. But it's pretty ideal for sensory outdoor playtime. We've got grass, gravel, trees, shrubs, swings, dirt, tetherball, slides, tire swings, dump trucks, a sandbox, a kid-sized excavator, a hose, a trampoline, a playset, a frog pool for filling and splashing, at least a dozen balls, and a window-well for throwing things in (Jack's cache of treasures).

Last fall we picked up a few sturdy and decent-looking chairs on clearance, so now we also have a comfortable place to sit. This is a good thing, as my tush is parked here for the duration of the summer.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Suddenly it's Summer

School's out for the summer, peeps. It's here, and I'm dealing with it. I'm actually glad that it is finally here, because I am tired of dreading it and ready to simply get on with it already. This is a run-down of the first three days of my summer "vacation."

If the events of Thursday could be distilled down into a single word, it might be "poo" or possibly a nastier variation of that word. Jack finished up school at 10:15 in the morning and we spent the next several hours running a couple of errands, visiting the library, and playing in the backyard. Henry and I began our summer reading together in the shade of the cottonwood trees, marred only briefly when the football he insisted on tossing around as I read missed his catch and smacked square into my face.

When therapy time rolled around that evening, I had managed to handle a backyard pooping episode, a fussy baby with a cold, and a four-year-old's nonstop comings and goings in and out of the house for many more hours than I am accustomed. But the real excitement began when during therapy, Jack got quite irate at being asked to poop in the potty and began smashing things, and we discovered a day-old cowpie in the therapy room.

It felt like an inauspicious start to a season which every year threatens to unhinge me. I had a meltdown. Jeff got home late-ish from work and encouraged me to get out of the house. I went on a long drive and wracked my befuddled brain for better poo outcomes. Nothing was forthcoming, so I simply drove home in the cooling dusk (really quite lovely) and went to bed fast before anyone could invent a reason to stop me.

Friday came and with it, my fresh resolve to plod onward. We planned a morning therapy session for Jack, and by a stroke of great heavenly benevolence and mercy, pudge baby slept during the entire thing. I cleaned up messes like a madwoman, read scriptures with Henry, cooked breakfast, moved laundry, and managed to brush my teeth.

We lunched (at the table, with each boy actually eating and not tantruming--look how normal we are starting to be!) and then piled in the car for a jaunt to the new natural history museum. It's my new favorite place to take my boys. It's completely marvelous and beautiful and interactive and fun. I handled five boys (my four + one friend) including one with special-needs, one who refuses to hold my hand in parking lots and insisted on carrying along three spin toothbrushes which he periodically used to "brush" the museum floor (okay nevermind, we're not that normal), and one little baby.

We spent two delightful hours scoping out the place. I was so proud of those five little dudes and their stellar behavior that we spent the elevator ride back down to the first floor giving each other high fives and fist bumps. The other best part of Friday: Jack waltzed into the bathroom and deuced in the potty, no fuss. Then he dashed my glorious moment of hope when he pooped messily outside and whizzed next to the table after the prayer during dinner.

Saturday brought Jack's weekly attempt to single-handedly dismantle our garage. But we managed to get a gospel doctrine lesson prepared, some sprinklers and the air conditioner fixed, the lawn mowed, and the sheets changed. Jack tried to cut his hair again but I was one step ahead of him and averted it. And blissfully, date night got us out of the house, and kept us out of any sort of inpatient mental health facilities.

It's here, folks. This is happening. Bring. It. On.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Things People Just Can't Help Doing

My friend Debbie has a notebook which she has titled, "Dumb Things People Said To Make Me Feel Better, But Which Actually Made Me Feel Worse." Her journal is the result of several tremendous challenges she has faced over the years. She said that while many people offered heartfelt words of compassion, others said some really dumb things in an effort to help her feel better. Because said comments actually made Debbie feel worse, she opted to unload them into a notebook, and ease her burden of carrying them around. I won't repeat what some of the comments are, but I'll just say this: they are really dumb.

The point of this post is not to trash people who say dumb things, because we're all guilty of it at one time or another. But as the words in Debbie's notebook attest, sometimes folks just can't help but say some negatively noteworthy things. And Debbie can't help but get them off her back and away from her psyche by writing them down. This post is simply a list of a handful of quirks I've noticed over the past few days. And, likewise, I just can't help myself from writing about them.

1) The woman sitting next to me at The Avengers last night couldn't help but carry on a running commentary of everything in the movie. Her monologue loudly noted her disappointment anytime a likeable character met with any trouble ("But I liked him...," she repeatedly whined). She also uttered a loud "UH OH," whenever disaster loomed. During the previews, I watched with eagerness a trailer for Tim Burton's next darkly imaginative film for children. When the woman in the seat next to mine opined that she thought the movie looked stupid, I had a violent urge to turn to her and say, "You're stupid!" But I didn't.

2) Every night at 10:00 P.M. when we send one son off to bed, he can't help but ask if we will make him a plate of nachos. The answer in always no, but he just has to ask anyway.

3) Jack just can't help himself from rifling through albums and bins to locate family photographs, which he carries around lovingly for a few hours before shredding them into tiny bits in some corner of the house. I used to be really touched when Jack selected, to tote around, a photo which included me. But now I know that it will inevitably meet it's demise shortly. He's doing a real number on my Gospel Art Kit, as well. We use that thing a lot, and I would really like to keep it sort-of intact. I keep hiding it, and yet somehow I still keep finding shredded bits of paintings depicting well-known scripture tales, to which I can't help myself from responding, "Curses!"

4) The young woman at the big box store who was training another young woman to be a cashier couldn't help herself from looking at Jeff's head of hair this weekend and loudly asking, "Going gray already???" I stood there aghast and a tad slack-jawed after hearing this. Jeff was entering his debit card pin at the moment and didn't register it, but he told me later that he would've probably quipped a response along the lines of, "Young lady, you have no idea just how very ANCIENT I am," possibly accompanied by lots of nodding and deep chuckling.

5) If there are SpongeBob GoGurts in the house, one son just can't help himself from eating them all day long. This is a case for never again having SpongeBob GoGurts in the house.

6) If there are Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate Squares in the house, I just can't stop myself from some daily indulgence. This is not a case for never again having Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate Squares in the house.

7) Teachers and school administrators can't help themselves from planning a raggedly exhausting schedule of end-of-year parties, picnics, parades, field trips, field days, performances, dinners, and dances. It's killing me, folks, and the crucible known as "my summer" has yet to begin.

What can't you help doing?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm a Crabby Patty

Let me be really frank with you. This post is less of a carefully crafted essay about the beauties and complexities of life, and more of a catalogue of real time incidents which have recently populated my days. Read on, if you wish, knowing beforehand that it is late on a Sunday following a frenetic weekend when I write this and I am quite (in the words of Charlie's most beloved SpongeBob SquarePants) a crabby patty.

In the past week the following things have happened:

1) I enjoyed a lovely Mother's Day, which included a delectable serving of strawberry shortcake at church (yes, please) and an afternoon nap courtesy of Jeff, who took over on kid-duty. When I awoke from my afternoon of leisure, he said that the following things occurred while I was sleeping: a) Charlie turned on the hose and made a muddy pond in the corner of the backyard, while b) Jack took off all his clothes and romped through the landscaping, all while c) our next-door neighbors enjoyed an al fresco Mother's Day picnic on their patio. Jeff felt that if there had only been a couple of dueling banjos, the scene on our side of the fence would have complete.

2) Jeff and I shook things up by taking a weeknight date downtown to see a play. It. Was. Completely. Fabulous. Being transported to the 14th century and watching Cervantes' tale of Don Quixote unfold onstage helped me remember that there is life outside of the repetitious routines which fill THIS season of my life. Hearing the man of La Mancha sing about dreaming the impossible dream and fighting the unbeatable foe surely resonated with my daily workload. Plus, we ate at my new favorite restaurant downtown which made the evening complete perfection.

3) Henry fractured his elbow and got a cast, which will come off during the first week of summer.

4) I read a completely marvelous book about English colonists in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and on Martha's Vineyard in the 1660's. It's called Caleb's Crossing and I found it to be a purely magical escape. Must read more books by Geraldine Brooks.

5) Saturday rolled around and Jack started the day by shattering a crystal goblet given to me by my mother-in-law. He dug it out of the back of a cupboard and smashed it on the floor, presumably just to put on a good show. As the day continued, he also broke my iron by plugging it in and melting a bunch of plastic packaging to it. He took several jars of spices from my baking cupboard and poured them in the KitchenAid mixer, which he then turned on to enjoy a lively spin cycle of steak seasoning and colored sprinkles. He disassembled the humidifier and dragged the parts around the house (one part was an unfortunate participant in a Code Brown--goodbye, humidifier). He disassembled the hair clippers, but not before he buzzed to the scalp a large section of the hair right off the top of his head. He ran away and made it around the corner and partway down the street next to ours, until our kindly neighbors Keri and Tyler came to the rescue and returned him home. This happened so quickly, we didn't even know he was gone until they brought him back to us.

6) On a happy note, Jeff and I skedaddled out the door for our date with nary a look back Saturday night and saw a completely charming and sweet film full of aging Brits who outsource their retirement to Jaipur, India. We also had a really terrific pie and listened to some live music on the patio of one of favorite pizzerias. I'm not sure how to reconcile how great our date nights are with how just plain difficult things currently are at home. I've been waxing nostalgic for days in a prior life, when being at home meant peaceful times. Here's hoping the pendulum doesn't have to swing between such polarizing extremes for much longer.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Purple Blizzard

Yesterday I attended Charlie's preschool end-of-year celebration. The program featured songs that were so absolutely adorable, and so earnestly sung by such sweet children that my eyes glistened as I held my healthy and squirmy baby and listened. This phase won't last forever. Chachi will inevitably join the ranks of jaded and defiant tween-dom. He won't always run to me smiling and fling himself into my embrace. But right now, he does. Every time I pick him up from school or Sunbeams, or return from leaving him with a sitter, Charlie acts like the world is suddenly rosy.

We walked around the room after the program, gathering up Charlie's homespun art projects on display. One corner contained pictures of the students' names which they had been asked to color. A fair number of these pictures were completely, beautifully rendered. The children who produced them had used the full spectrum of rainbow colors and had more or less stayed within the lines. These children could effectively be described as "girls." Charlie's picture didn't look like that. It was kind of a hot mess. Or his free-form take on contemporary art, not entirely sure which.

As I piled this messy picture on our growing stack, I couldn't help but remember a moment from my own preschool days at the local Presbyterian church. Don't ask me why I remember such a random little event with such precision. I sat at a little table with a group of children as our teachers handed out rectangles of white paper and boxes of markers. I grabbed a purple one and launched into coloring my sheet of paper with gusto. "Don't scribble!" one of my teachers said as she looked at my drawing. "Color a NICE picture."

Little did she realize that I thought my picture was the very definition of NICE. It was totally great. "It's a blizzard!" I called out to anyone who cared. "I'm drawing a purple BLIZZARD!!!"

A few days later when I returned to preschool and took my place at the little table for snack time, the teachers began distributing plastic mugs. Each mug was personalized with a name and the pictures we had drawn onto those white rectangles of paper not long ago. In the context of "adorable art projects memorialized for future generations on a coffee mug," my purple blizzard suddenly didn't seem so great.

I looked at my neighbor's mug. It featured a well-drawn house beside which stood a tall, leafy tree and a patch of colorful flowers. My mug stunk.

There was no do-over option for this preschool project, and I drank out of my purple blizzard mug for the rest of the academic year. I hated it every time I saw it.

I uncovered the purple blizzard mug in a cupboard at my parents' home shortly after I had my first baby. I dusted it off and took it home, where we put it through the dishwasher so frequently that the purple blizzard faded to a misty lavender fog. Henry and Jack drank from it for years.

The purple blizzard came full circle. I created it as a scruffy preschooler who had a boy haircut (side note: don't do this to your preschool-age daughter as it will haunt and embitter her) and now my red-headed preschoolers were drinking from it.

It's kind of fitting, actually. Our home and my life sometimes resemble a purple blizzard. Maybe we can rest easily, knowing we are evolving toward a misty lavender fog, which sounds rather lovely.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Recently Ruminated

There is a motley assortment of random, half-baked thoughts floating around my vacuous brain (so what else is new?!) In no way do they resemble a cohesive blog post. Proceed if you wish, knowing you've been cautioned about my rambling, snarky world-view.

Recently overheard (when my ten-year-old heard me telling Jeff about a fireside speaker who grew up in Uganda during the reign of a dangerous dictator): "Mom, who's our dictator?" When I relayed this tale at an extended family dinner, my BIL quipped, "Barack Obama."

Recently remembered (when I listened to a woman on the radio voice her opinion that jogging and biking in the nude should be illegal): Whenever I visited my two sisters who then resided in San Fransisco, they warned me that if someone on the street appeared to be stark naked, they probably were. The safest bet for these city-dwellers, when their peripheral vision revealed what seemed to be dudes wearing only shoes and hats, was to look away fast and avoid a second glance.

Recently decided: the month of May flits by in two shakes of a lamb's tail, which is really unfortunate as it is lovely and temperate (like a summer's day! tremendously well-said W. Shakespeare!) I long for these fresh, mild, blossom-fragrant evenings to stretch on throughout the year. But they are trotting by amid frenetic end-of-year preschool and school festivities in a sadistic race to begin the seriously so tortuous summer months.

Recently enjoyed: a little lunch on the patio of Normandie with three of my favorite people--my mom, my four-year-old, and my wee babe. Yay for being able to take Tubs out in public places after six long months of sequesterment.

Recently planted: my favorite zinnias courtesy of my mother-in-law, who has created a lovely Mother's Day tradition.

Recently revisited: Moon Over Manifest, one of the loveliest Newberry books I've ever relished. It makes me nostalgic for my childhood and reminds me that summertime is magical. I should probably bolster this positive summertime attitude by also revising Dandelion Wine before May floats away on the breeze and June slams me to the ground.

Recently decided: a rejuvenating hair appointment is a mood-boost.

Recently photographed: my family. In a lovely outdoor setting. Artfully arranged. Miraculously, this happened without fanfare or theatrics or tears or wigging out. None of my Facebook friends have much to say about our photo, but I am pleased!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

"It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness." Leo Tolstoy

I am some kind of anomaly in my demographic: I just don't care a whit about lifestyle blogs and that pervasive purveyor of the aesthetic life called Pinterest. Blogs like Nie Nie's, as well as the endless array of lovely pin-able ideas congregating online somehow manage to turn me off in a visceral way.

I may offend some people by saying this. I don't intend to denigrate your favorite blogs or trash-talk your online pinning habit, if this is indeed your ball of wax. I just simply don't really like those things myself, and I find it sort of interesting that my take on the world of "beautiful living" which cycles around the web seems to be very much in the minority.

Do I think blogs and pins about inventive hairstyles and feminine shoes, handcrafted art projects and effervescent dessert recipes, stylish home decor ideas and fashionable baby gear are bad? I do not think they are bad; I think they are boring.

I have a couple of friends who, in the midst of the wildly popular Harry Potter and Twilight era, resisted being sucked into fan-dom. They just didn't care for books in the fantasy or paranormal teen romance genres, and their indifference set them apart from the teeming masses of excitable fans. I readily admit that I joined in on the craze and had a lot of fun reading these books and going to midnight showings of the films they beget.

But this time around, I am the skeptical, unimpressed bystander to an aspect of the Internet which is running with a full head of steam. I just haven't been able to get into pinning pretty project ideas that I have no intention of ever producing. I get crotchety hearing about posts by lifestyle bloggers which flaunt their considerable, trend-setting, avant garde style. So you have good taste, good for you. You're stylish and you blog about it all the time? I just can't bring myself to really care.

I tend to favor blogs by my friends who write simply, directly, honestly, and humorously about their lives. It's real. It's not necessarily pretty. Sometimes it's gritty. But it is REAL and it is happening! And I find it infinitely more intriguing.

Pretty things are fun to look at, but I think Tolstoy truthfully points out a common fallacy that because they are beautiful, we think they are also meaningful. Even as a maven of stylishness, blogger Nie remarked that after her dramatic accident and life-changing recovery, she began to see that while beautiful things are great, they are not as important as people. She wrote that having a good heart, a kind heart, became far more important to her.

I don't write this as an attack on my friends who enjoy peering in the looking glass of an online world to gaze at things of beauty. I simply like my interactions candid, my blogs unabashedly down to earth, and my leisure time free from a queue of beautification projects. Call me lazy. Or snarky. Or weird. It's how I feel. But my life is still beautiful.