Friday, August 30, 2013

The Post Where I Pose a Question

Does the Internet ever annoy you?

Because it sometimes annoys me.

Clearly, I am enamored with the the Internet on many levels. I love the accessibility, the convenience, the endless possibilities for research and sharing and shopping and blogging. But sometimes it just seems too.......


Don't you think?

I will acknowledge that my annoyance with the net probably says more about me than it does the web. I'm using it poorly, or too much.

Recently I've found myself looking at my tablet and saying aloud, "I hate the Internet," and yearning to read an actual paperback. Or make a list on a real notepad with one of my purple pens. Or sing Old MacDonald with my toddler while admiring his bouffant red curls, without once snapping his picture to put on Insta.

Haven't we all gone through a phase where we detest Facebook?

Yet I seriously don't want it to go away. I like it all too much. I need my daily dose.

So I sincerely ask, how do you handle the omnipresence of information all the time?

When did healthy eating become so complex?

This was the kind of week which makes a person want to gaze at the universe and ask, "Really?" And not in a hopeful, expectant kind of a tone either. It's more a question asked with chagrin and a looming sense of foreboding that the universe is going to say, "Yeah, really." And perhaps also, "Deal with it."

So naturally, I decided to start this very week to make healthier food choices.

I don't recommend doing this.

Timing is key; mine was unfortunate.

Here are the things that I learned from my not wholly successful attempt at improving my diet:

A) Healthy eating takes considerably more time. Plan on spending too much time washing, coring, peeling, chopping, cooking, and seasoning things.

B) It's not a bad time of year, theoretically, to attempt to be healthier since people with burgeoning gardens are offering you plenty of tomatoes, green beans, corn, and the like.

C) It's unclear if eating all this fresh produce still counts as being healthier if you garnish it with butter and salt before consuming.

D) Healthy eating used to be easier. Back in the day, it was all Food Guide Pyramid simplicity, or even (waaaay back in the day) the Four Food Groups. Badda bing, badda boom. So. Very. Manageable. But now it's all about raw, and grains and gluten are wicked!, and smoothies come in unholy shades of green, and everyone takes supplements, and "treats" are berries or nuts instead of cupcakes and peanut butter m&m's.

E) I preferred the simpler times, when I added a salad to our dinner, and ate some fruit with my sandwich at lunch and called it good.

Anyway, to cap off my week of trying harder, food-wise, the hubs and I sneaked out on a mini-date where we split a French dip sandwich and I ate my greens in the form of some three-cheese cauliflower soup and a Key lime tart.

Whatever, universe. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back-to-School Quarantine

Everyone within the sound of my whine knows I look forward to back-to-school time with the same intensity that a dehydrated, lost wanderer in the desert yearns for water. I need the replenishing eau-de-vie of a structured school schedule. The guys and I need buses and teachers and aides and occupational/speech/behavior therapists to help restore order and vitality to our floundering, frenetic summer days.

We need school so that when we are all together as a family, we like each other.

These are a few of my favorite things about back-to-school: new sneakers for everyone in vibrant colors, packing sack lunches that get people jazzed, that my children are learning vital things from someone they will actually listen to (i.e. not me), that parts of my house can sometimes stay clean for a couple of hours during the day.

But this year, back-to-school has been a fickle little turncoat. To be honest, back-to-school is currently a complete cluster cuss of heinousness. If back-to-school were a person, I would take away it's cell phone, subject it to a long and excruciating lecture about how to not be a such a jerk, and then send it to solitary confinement.

Back-to-school has brought my children into contact with all the germs we didn't care to know about and has stricken us with the plague. Specifically, the past week has involved a mystery virus complete with fever, chills, and a loss of the will to live; a trip to the children's hospital ER for the nonverbal special needs nine-year-old; three trips to the pediatrician; a grandparent with blood clots and a serious infection (unrelated to back-to-school, but happening in conjunction nonetheless); and Hand Foot & Mouth disease. The latter is something you get when you spend too much time hanging out in cow pastures while eating things with your toes, I presume.

Stickers Doctor informed me that my family's communicable disease status is simply further proof of a well-documented fact: the first month of school involves more viral illnesses than the other eleven months combined. We are just doing our part in a national month of sickly-ness among the school-aged crowd. We like to be team players.

This basically means that our first two weeks of back-to-school have been really raw and not pretty, sort of like the exact opposite of what you might find on Pinterest (or Satan's website, as I recently heard it described). Instead of tableaux of pretty jars of sharp-pointed coloring pencils lined up against a sunny window, we were all fevers and mouth sores and irritable sleeplessness. We went all Instagrammy on the first day of school and then we retreated into our quarantine on the second.

We are a house of illness, mothered by an anti-Pintite.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Indicators of Uniqueness

I recently stumbled across a list entitled "You Know You're a Special-Needs Mom When..." It was a giant list of esoteric situations, and it got me thinking about my own strange list. I've been mentally composing it all week.

You know you're a special-needs mom when...

* two different buses arrive at your door just minutes apart to ferry two different children to their respective schools.

* you know instinctually to sprint to the bathroom and snatch a packet of fruit snacks out of the toilet, just as it is being flushed down.

* your husband remarks "It's sad how good I've gotten at pipe-snaking and re-seating toilets" because of all the flushed toys, etc.

* you're thrilled that your child pooped in the bathtub, because at least it was in the right room, if not in the right spot.

* sacrament meeting at church is the most stressful and maddening hour of your life, every week. Seriously though.

* the receptionist at the pediatrician's office knows everything about you.

* your food storage (for two members of the family) consists of Doritos and Goldfish crackers.

* you tell the babysitter, "Here is the key for accessing all the food and clothing in the house," and "Be sure to lock the door to the garage so Jack won't power sand the car.

* you consider purging your house of all the toys, because your people prefer playing with vacuums, extension cords, and vibrating foot massagers.

* you fall asleep at night to the green glow of the live video feed of your nine-year-old's bedroom.

* ear-tube surgeries are a semi-annual event.

* your family's behaviorist brings you chocolate on a no good, very bad day.

* people willingly engage with you in conversations about poop.

* everyone in your circle of friends knows the meaning of the phrase "Code Brown."

* your idea of a perfect day includes everyone in the family discreetly doing their two-sies independently.

* your Kindle contains the titles What to do When Your Life Falls Apart, and Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A little existential musing, no big deal

A dear friend of mine has a blog that I devour on a weekly basis. I love it because she lays it all on the table with refreshing honesty. Recently she mused about this idea: if you could change one thing about your past, would you?

I'm pretty sure she and I are psychic wonder twins because I had been mulling this very concept in my head all week. While driving my kids to the pediatrician, to football practice, and to kindergarten assessments, I wondered, if I were given the chance to change something big about my life---something that changed everything that came after it---would I do it?

In some ways the question is moot, because it's not an opportunity that presents itself to people outside of movies and books. This is the real world, not the set of Bedford Falls. There isn't a portly middle-aged guardian angel showing me what life would look like without George Bailey in the picture.

Asking if I would like to have a do-over seems kind of silly, like if someone were to ask me, "Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you didn't have children?" Or  "What would your life be like if two of your kids didn't have special needs?" Since I totally do have kids, and since two of them absolutely have special needs, considering the alternative is sort of an exercise in pointlessness.

(For the record, I have pondered both questions anyway, and the answer to both is this: It would be easier, dummy.)

There are choices I have made which have made my life much harder and way more complicated: like having two children after having a child with a rare syndrome and cognitive delays. This decision wasn't something Jeff or I took lightly. For us, the possibility of having another disabled child was not just a vague, uncomfortable possibility. It was a real possibility. But we pursued it because spiritually and intuitively, we knew that our family was not yet complete.

We had two more sons, post-Jack, and one of them has special needs of his own. The nature of our family has gone from complex and difficult to vastly more complex and difficult.

Pondering the alternative to my current life has reinforced to me why I chose to have more children. I didn't do it because parenting children like mine is easy. I didn't do it because having lots of children is fashionable (four is the new two, said no one ever). I didn't do it because I was hoping for extra farmhands to help out on the family farm. I didn't do it because we were trying for a girl.

I did it because praying and meditating illuminated this as the right path for our family.

I'm on that yellow road, the one less travelled in Frost's iconic poem; my choice was grassy and wanted wear. More than that, it felt right and I took it.

If I could change my decision to have a big, complicated, unusual family, would I? If I knew the ongoing struggles which would figuratively bloody our shins and rub our noses in the mud and literally fill my life with poop and screaming on a daily basis, would I do it again?

My epiphany was this: I would.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

I have a son who turns into a feral animal circa 7:00 PM daily. He loses all rational speech. His eyes  start rolling around like a spooked horse.

He becomes so wound up and freaked out and irrational that only the following things work: quietly coaxing him to come down off the six-foot fence bordering the neighbors' yard, picking up all 55 lbs of him and carrying him whimpering and whining upstairs like an oversized baby, humming children's hymns to him as he alternately looks warily at you and fights closing his heavy-lidded eyes---essentially, being the sea of calm against his flash-flooding thunderstorm.

It's the only way to reap positive change with my children: keeping calm and neutral.

It's not something I'm very good at either. You fall on the floor and have a screaming tantrum, I want to scream right back at you. Start running around bellowing in the produce section at the grocery store because you didn't get to buy popsicles and I really want to subdue you with a few well-chosen martial arts moves, glaring at you archly as I hold my foot on your neck.

But I don't. Seriously, I don't even know any martial arts moves.

I have a hunch that I am not the only person whose natural, instinctual response to complete shrieking lunacy is to want to scream right back. Preferably while clawing someone's eyes out or throwing a bunch of rapid-fire punches. But someone has to be the grown-up in a scenario where people and things are falling completely apart.

I attended a special-needs conference years back when I was desperately trying to get my footing in this new deluge of parenting a child with disabilities. In one class, the presenter asked us what we wanted to see, behavior wise, from our kids. I raised my hand and said, "I want to take my children to Target for twenty minutes and not look like a circus freak show."

You know what the presenter, a smart and experienced behavior therapist, said I should do? She told me to pack up my kids and get us hence to Target, and to remove all emotion from the experience.

She urged me to prepare myself for such an outing by accepting that I might leave the store without a single thing that I needed on my list; that the entire shopping trip could feasibly involve nothing save me not caring if the whole thing blew up and we aborted the mission.

It seems sort of counterintuitive to plan an outing with the express purpose of not caring if the outing completely fails. But I can attest that it is the only way to function, at least if you have kids who fall outside of ordinary.

You just can't care if it all goes up in smoke. Shrug it off and say, "Oh well. We tried. Maybe next time will be better."

It seems really ironic and funny to me that in order to help one's beloved children through situations where they are completely overwrought, one must convey essentially no emotion.

Except, of course, love.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We are now boarding the flying school bus

If you want the first day of school to be all "Look at us, Pinterest!" then consider these tips:

A) When Larry the bus driver for your special-needs nine-year-old calls a week before school and tells you he will see you promptly next Tuesday morning, go ahead and assume that he actually won't because he will quit the day before school starts.

B) Also assume that Steve the substitute bus driver doesn't know his way around your neighborhood and will show up after you have returned from dropping your kid off yourself. In your pajamas. With two pajama-clad younger sibs in tow. Let's not forget about the bed head either.

C) While watching for the phantom bus, keep a closer watch on the five-year-old who will disappear and poop on the downstairs carpet.

D) Embrace the reality that you will never be one of these über-fit women who wears her yoga clothes to drop her children at school, looking awfully chipper, coiffed, and glamorous at 8:00 AM.

E) Try not to have kids at three different schools, with three different first days of school. Seriously, just no.

F) Just roll with it. All of it---the poop, the bus, the rocky transition.

I mean hey, summer is over. We survived another one, with a few shreds of mom's sanity. The best season of the year may now commence.

After the third boy's school starts next week.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Last day of the Summer of Jack (the Summer of Charlie yet remains)

Jack threw his therapy iPad over the fence after dinner. It landed on a bunch of rocks in our neighbors' backyard. The screen cracked.  It still works.

I'm pretty certain that my children are on speed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Home Improvements

We got a few areas of the house measured for new carpet this weekend, which set me spinning like a top thinking about other minor improvements I'm going to tackle in an effort to undo the years of damage wrought by our boys. Like moving the furniture around, because it always looks better when I move it into a new arrangement. Then I wonder why I didn't think of the new arrangement sooner. The answer: because it wasn't the right time then, silly, but now it is.

The room which I like to think of as the library because it has built-in book shelves and a piano (and because it makes me feel very upstairs in a Downton Abbey sense) has taken a pounding this summer by two sensory-seeking little boys who love books to death. Truly, these two are book killers, which flabbergasts their mother, a devoted bibliophile. So you don't want to sit and read books with me, fine. But must you shred the books, my little opinionated people?

I dream about getting new drapes, ones with no applesauce or Doritos stains, which aren't crushed and perpetually wrinkled from two sensory-seeking boys hiding in them. I dream also about new throw pillows in hip geometric patterns and fashionable colors like teal. I'd have to lock them up, of course, only bringing them out when we have guests (which is currently never). Otherwise, they would go the way of the old throw pillows and be employed by the two boys who use them to wipe their faces, their hands, and their bums.

I think about buying a cool mid century modern lamp, but then I remember that to Jack, lamps are  "things made to drag around by their cords" and also "things for throwing off the deck."

Special needs individuals are especially rough on stuff, you may surmise.

A few more lessons in housekeeping, courtesy of my children:

1. If you want it to live to see another day, you must lock it up.

2. If you want it to be cleanable, get it in leather, vinyl,  laminate, wood, plastic, or microfiber. We shun fabric-upholstered furniture like Dracula shuns garlic.

3. Murphy's Law applies. Plan on something happening to your stuff. If it doesn't, it will be a lovely miracle.

4. Stuff is ephemeral. It doesn't last and, ultimately, it doesn't matter.

5. A house is for living in. It's the setting for the raising of a unique pack of wonderful boys. It's absolutely not a showplace.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stay Classy

I took Henry to a large destination-type sporting goods store, which (in case you were wondering) is a big place that sells sweat pants and team jerseys next to an indoor Ferris wheel.

Jack came along for the ride and was enjoying himself immensely...until he wasn't. One minute he was scampering around gleefully watching two preteens jumping and stomping on the squares of a dance video game, and the next he was bellowing and slamming into me. It got loud and intense fast.

I could see the anxiety on Henry's face. He knew that Jack's behavior meant we would have to leave before he decided what he wanted to buy with his earnings. This is the sort of sibling dilemma which happens in our family more than I care to admit. Four children with vastly different abilities living in the same family; two parents trying (in vain, much of the time) to meet the needs of each kid.

I instructed Henry to go back to browsing--to take his time and make a good decision. He knew to leave his purchases with the cashier and come get me from the car where I would be sitting with Jack.

Ultimately, everything worked out, which isn't to say it was like butter. Pretty much every person in that giant store watched us make a very loud, flailing, unhappy exit. Ditto with everyone in the parking lot. But here are the good parts:

A) While people glanced our way, nobody stared. (Thank you, people riding the Ferris wheel and shopping for hoodies, for just being cool).

B) Three different people smiled and spoke kindly to us, in spite of the screaming and the lunging. It takes a special sort of person to not simply give us a wide berth, but to actually engage us with sweetness and concern in the midst of a meltdown.

C) Henry was a champ about shopping independently, switching places with me to watch Jack in the car so I could go back inside and pay, and not letting it ruin his day. Eldest boy deserves a gold star.

I decided I'm proud of my hometown for staying classy when we were a hot mess.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Nothing to Write Home About

A few observations:

1. If you have taken photos of the forlorn toy kitchen and wooden play food and dishes that nobody cares about anymore, and set them by the door and begun to list them on your town's online yard sale, suddenly everyone in the house can play with nothing else. Wooden watermelon triangles! Tiny metal muffin tins! An itty bitty beeping microwave! That lone plastic cob of corn! It's Christmas in August, with stuff that has always been around.

2. When Jack begins screaming and crying for no apparent reason, and bangs his head against vacuums and walls and furniture, something is amiss. Today it was a sinus infection. Stickers Doctor did a good job sleuthing with our nonverbal boy to figure it out. I'm still waiting for someone to invent the diagnostic pediatric wand, which parents and pediatricians can wave in front of the nonverbal special needs child to scan and magically intuit what is wrong. Seriously, why can't somebody invent this?

3. The last days of summer invariably turn us into a house of pirates. And not the jolly kind of pirates, unfortunately. Definitely not eyeliner-wearing, tipsy Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow type pirates. Just dirty, ill-mannered, boorish salty dogs. We need to drop anchor and get the heck off this nauseating summer cruise ship.

4. When you have been married for sixteen years, you just may spend your wedding anniversary shopping for new carpet to replace the old carpet which has been beaten to death by your progeny. And you might feel resplendent about such a possibility.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Granny Pants, Modern Gal

I spent part of my Saturday afternoon sitting next to my husband watching a show featuring older folks reminiscing about life in the 1930's and 1940's. Don't everyone clamber to hang out with us at once.

My husband has an affinity for listening to old folks, or "duffers" as he affectionately calls them, wax nostalgic about the old days. As he laughed at the stories of boys driving homemade orange crate cars at high speeds down the hilly streets of the Avenues, I looked at the footage of women in heels and dresses, with hats and pantyhose as everyday wear.

It dawned on me that I never would have made it, fashion-wise in the pre-war and WWII years.

I do love the glamorous hair styles of my grandmothers' generation, and the bold lip colors they wore. But tailored skirts and blouses every day, with stockings and Sunday school shoes? I don't think so, sister. Everyone thinks Katherine Hepburn was such a rogue of her era for favoring trousers and flat shoes. I think maybe she just wanted to be comfy, and to heck with conventionality.

I wear skirts plenty, especially in the summer when skirts are like wearable air conditioning. But lucky for me and my generation, maxi skirts are pajamas masquerading as actual clothes.

One of the ladies on the show talked about how coal dust used to coat everything. She said that curtains had to be washed once a month, and wallpaper scrubbed to clean off the black dust. "People today don't know how good they have it, since they don't have to do these things anymore, " she said.

I agree with her. And I will add that contemporary women are lucky ducks because we can wear jeans, boots, and cardis every darn day if we please. Or yoga pants with stretchy tees and sneakers, no up-do or pantyhose required.


Friday, August 9, 2013

My name is Inigo Montoya

You know that part in The Princess Bride when Wesley is racing to catch up to Buttercup and her captors as they sail toward the Cliffs of Insanity? Remember what is happening all around them, churning up the sea and generally making a giant racket? It's the shrieking eels, people. They are those loud, scary, toothy, aggressive snake-things that make even the Dread Pirate Roberts quake in his jaunty black boots.

My house was crawling with shrieking eels today.

The guys have gone ballistic, or some of them have anyway. There was screaming, flailing, and tooth-baring over vacuums, water bottles, flip flops, electronic devices, peanut butter m&m's, GoGurts, and watching Tangled versus Frankenweenie.

Three of the four decided to gang up on me and see how close they can drive me toward the Cliffs of Insanity. Frankly, they pushed me preeeety darned near the edge.

They almost swept their older, less shrieky brother over with me.. He and I were looking at each other like, "What just happened?" and, "Who are these crazy people?"

It didn't help that the day began at 4:00 AM when one sleep-repellent child started his day. It ended just moments ago, when the last of the three wailers was escorted to his bed. No cause for alarm, though folks. We are simply fulfilling our predestined August behavioral death spiral. We do it every year. It's a tradition.

We will crash and burn soon enough, and then resiliently enough we will scrape ourselves off the tarmac and hobble onward. School and structured life will rehabilitate us enough that we can call ourselves "functioning," and even possibly "contributing" sorts of people.

It's just the way things work, though I really wish that sometimes things were less predictable and less strenuous.

On the bright side of things, our son's psychologist established for us a moderately complex potty-training plan that should work. It will take lots of energy and consistency and a complicated system of both positive and negative reinforcers. But we will succeed because we can and we will.

I really ought to gather the guys for a staff meeting and introduce this new motto I'm thinking we should adopt:

 "Be nutty. Really, just be your little nut self. But also be potty trained."

With this addendum: "And cool it with the shrieking."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Things I Just Don't Do

We took a trip to see Stickers Doctor recently because Jack was knocking his head against the wall and also hitting the baby. This is Jackspeak for "I'm sick."

It wasn't the ears this time, or strep, although we tested for it. We always test for it, because holding Jack as Holly the nurse gags him while she swabs his throat is an unparalleled joy.

It was an ambiguous virus making Jack crabby. We left with stickers.

Jack doesn't verbalize how he feels, but he is pretty transparent with his emotions. During his swimming lesson this week, when his teacher asked him to to kick while floating, Jack BELLOWED in a big, dramatic way. It was a theatrical version of "no."

I, on the other hand, am totally verbal. I speak all the time. (Really? said my husband in his best mock horror voice). But like Jack, I too have my things I just don't do. For those visual learners, let's list them.

Things I Just Don't Do:

1) Make my bed on a daily basis. Used to happen regularly; not anymore. Totally. Don't. Care.

2) Give up desserts in the name of healthier living. Nope. I choose happiness.

3) Dust the house much. Polished furniture is for photo shoots of homes featured in fancy blogs. Isn't it lovely to have a house that isn't featured in a blog and doesn't need to be perfectly polished all the time? I think so too.

4) Worry about how people perceive me and mine. This one excites me. It's been an ongoing endeavor with my not-so-ordinary children---a journey which makes me feel a) grown up and b) like a boss.

5) Read multiple books concurrently. My brain doesn't work that way. I not smart enough.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Grumpy Troll Guarding the Door

A riddle:

What is full of food, bundled with clothes, and hums all the time?


My laundry room.

The room designed for laundering linens has undergone a transformation around here. It now houses the nine-year-old's and the five-year-old's entire wardrobes, as well as our groceries. You might be asking yourself why anyone hasn't conceived of such a brilliant storage idea before.

Here is my response to Why? In list form:

A) It has a door.

B) The door has a lock.

C) It is a moderately spacious laundry room, meaning it can handle a whole bunch of extra stuff.

D) Who doesn't want to lock up their children's shorts, tees, and undies, along with the family's food staples?

The food in our home has been on lockdown for years, because that is the preferred alternative to a crunchy floor, covered in crushed goldfish crackers and Fruit Loops. We are accustomed to this method of storing food. Even our little neighbor pals know when they visit to ask for a key if they fancy a granola bar. In my home, open food access equals shredded carb house.

But clothing----this is something new.

After spending the summer as an overworked, under appreciated laundress, I got smart and moved the duds. No more can the two culprits with sensory issues change their outfits because a drop of water landed on their shorts, a piece of French toast touched their shirt, or because the wind shifted outside and thus everything is different now!

No more Duggar-sized laundry projects for this gal.

I am the new bailiff of the heart of the house. All who wish to eat or clothe themselves must go through me.

I may require them to answer me a riddle before they pass through into the butler's pantry/closet/cellar place to retrieve their sandals and their Honey Nut Cheerios. We shall see.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Boring List

Today I scraped up the gelatinous remains of 13 Swedish fish from the table, floor, and leather armchair.

Today I picked up 37 Pull-ups that the baby tossed from the closet upstairs over the landing and into the entryway.

Today I went hunting in the neighborhood for my son who went missing. I found him in a neighbor's backyard and coaxed him home to eat dinner.

I took two of my boys to a swimming lesson for children with special needs, part of a week-long series of lessons organized by the son of a friend for his Eagle Scout project.

I drove the guys to Target where a certain child got to choose a prize for doing a deuce in the toilet (awwww yeeeeeeah), because this was a big deal and the reward needed to be memorable.

I broke up several loud skirmishes between my children. In these waning summer days, our house is more and more Lord of the Flies-ish.

Every time I sat down today, a big, jolly, sensory-seeking son sat on my lap and asked for "tickles." He is 85 pounds of elbows, knees, and boney bum. A real meat-tenderizer.

Today I spent way too much time online, because it's easy to do on a smartphone and because sometimes the brain starts to wither from too many sticky Swedish fish and shrieking people.

I cleaned up a Code Brown from a different son who didn't get the memo about potty = Target prizes.

I opened an envelope this afternoon containing a packet of forms to fill out for Jack's school, which commences less than two weeks from today.

I considered how each August I find hope in the signs of school resuming and our lives turning less heathen. I also pondered how we must always first descend into a canyon of misery that is the end of summer.

Today I spoke to my mother on the phone, who asked me how things were going today with the guys. When I sneered "fine," she knew better.

I looked up all the upcoming movies to see what there is to look forward to, and the answer is: nothing. At least until November, when a bunch a good stuff rolls out. One bright spot later this month---Austenland, based on a funny book by Shannon Hale.

I mopped up 8 puddles created by the littlest boy, who thinks he should drink from a big-person cup like everybody else. One-year-olds have such sass.

I cracked open the box of road trip car kits which we assembled for the boys prior to our family vacation in June, and which we promptly left behind in the garage. Jack was mighty pleased with his crinkly packages and crappy dollar-store toys.

Today happened, and then it ended, which is sometimes the nicest part of a day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


This summer, we have become regulars at the gas station near our house. The Chevron is to us what Cheers was to Norm and Clif. We go there like clockwork in the late morning where we follow a routine which includes a) peanut butter cups, b) bubble gum, c) 32 ounces of happy bubbly (mine, keep away).

This daily sugar and sugar substitute run serves several purposes, including rewarding one behavior-challenged kid for listening and obeying, giving mom her raison d'être, and giving another bored son an outing to look forward to. 

My Summer of Suffering has compelled me to find the little things which bring me happiness and rejoice in them. I heart the Chevron.

I noticed this week that they now have all the fixings for a dirty Diet Coke, or dirty Dr. Pepper. This is reason enough to stop, even without the guys in tow. But stop with the guys we always do. We're gas station people. We can't help ourselves.

When I was young, my family got one thing at the gas station, and it went in the gas tank. There was no snacking, people! After I married Jeff, he always stopped for snacks on fishing trips with my dad, where he learned that while my dad scorns stopping for junk food, he will happily take over and polish off someone else's bag of corn nuts or salt and vinegar chips. Easy enough for a savvy son-in-law to handle: he simply bought extra snacks so there was always plenty to go around.

But our family's most memorable gas station trip took place about twelve years ago at a bustling Flying J in a rural town. Jeff stood in line with his purchases when a guy came charging in the convenience store and loudly said, "Um, is there supposed to be a horse galloping around the gas pumps? Because there is. It's running all over the parking lot and it almost jumped on top of my girlfriend's Camaro."

At this point, everyone in the joint swiveled and looked out the window, where indeed! a horse was totally galloping around, inadvertently threatening to stomp on some woman's bad-boy car.

Jeff left that day with a big drink and an irrepressible urge to see a horse leap a Camaro. He also won for Best Gas Station Story, hands down.

We also heart random.

Oxygen Masks

I started a new book last night. While I'm only a few pages in, it holds promise. I'm already attached. Its about a 1970's rock star who travels through time to fin de sicle Vienna, because what 1970's rock star doesn't dream of doing this?

It's a thrill to find a delicious book, particularly when my reading time (which is to say, my sanity) is severely squashed by the demands of summer "vacation."

The last weeks of summer are traditionally the most ragged time of the whole year for my family. It's an annual endurance test, perhaps not unlike a Ragnar race, but one that I do not recall signing up for. Sadly, mine is an event that does not yield a race shirt or even a Ragnar-type sticker for the back window of my car.

I would rather fancy a Ragnar-type sticker for the back of my car, come to think of it. It would definitely hold street cred with parents in similar situations. Maybe something along the lines of "Summer inferno: 2 special-needs kids, 2 typicals, and 1 mom on the edge."

Other parents of kids like mine could see it on my car and instantly get it. There would be an immediate kinship, an understanding of the endless days, the exhaustion, the regression in behavior, the ocean of poop. We could pull up next to each other at traffic lights and nod solemnly to each other, our silent gaze an acknowledgement that "I feel your pain" and also "wow, the last days of summertime really suck" and maybe even "my kid is screaming and shredding wrappers and tossing them all around my car too; and he also just wet his pants."

So anyhoo, this is why it is really terrific to find an engaging book and a few minutes to read before bed. It's a literary hit for my addiction.

The older and more harried I get, the pickier I am about what types of books I will read. I'm a book snob, not in the sense that I will only go for Pulitzer winners and the classics, but snobbish in that I only read what I wanna read. Deal with it. This condition may be common among English major types; it could be a reaction to spending years being made to read all sorts of stuff. Now we choose. And we are opinionated about it, so very very much.

These are my current criteria for books:

1. A brisk pace that clips nicely along.

2. Some humor, somewhere, even if its not overt. Just a hint of funny will do.

3. A story which sucks me in and pulls me through with the force of Jack's shop vac.

Fit these conditions, and I will be your reading audience. Happily. Because reading is like breathing: I must do it to live. And as the airlines caution us, if you don't put the oxygen mask on yourself first, you won't be able to then pin down your anxiety-ridden screaming five year old to force the mask on him, or something like that.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Last week I dreamed I cut my hair. I looked in the mirror, and tah dah!, I had a sassy little shag cut with lots of layers and straight bangs. My dream self thought, "Well lookee here!" And I was inspired.

My dream about hairdos planted a seed of change in my mind; the ennui of late summer grabbed onto this tiny verdant shoot and apparently decided to go with it.

I went to the salon this week and got my hair chopped into layers, because everyone with fine hair knows that layers are our best friends. I fulfilled the dream, minus the straight bangs, because everyone who has ever had straight bangs knows they are totally annoying to maintain (even if they are super hip, ala Zooey Deschanel).

I like that my dream self inspired my ambulatory self. Generally my dreams tend not to be quite this fantastic.

I have had a recurring dream for years where I am on vacation with my extended family in some fun, touristy place. The location changes, but the central theme of the dream is always this: I am separated from the group, helping Jack. No matter how hard I try, Jack and I cannot catch up to everyone else. Once we were in a coastal town and they were all leaving on a boat---I rushed with Jack to meet them, but the boat had left the dock when we arrived. Another time it was Disneyland: the whole clan jumped on the Monorail, but Jack was falling apart and he and I were left making a scene in Tomorrowland.

There are a bunch of variations on this concept, but they all involve me trying super hard to compel my kid to cooperate so we can join in. They also involve me failing.

You may commence analyzing the subtext of my dreams now. Aaaaaaaaand, go.

Here is the obvious deconstruction: I am frustrated in my attempts to make a couple of my boys interact with the world, or at least "keep up" with the people around them.

I did have a lovely dream earlier this summer, though. It was the anti-stress dream. Truthfully, when I woke from it, a rosy glow enveloped me and lingered all through the morning.

In the dream, I was at an event in my neighborhood, sitting next to a neighbor who I really respect. She leaned over and whispered to me, "You don't need to worry about what other people think about the struggles you have raising your children. You are doing a good job."

My neighbor said it, but maybe the words were the voice of my subconscious. Or maybe it was God, nudging me forward and onward.

Either way, it was dreamy.