Sunday, March 2, 2014


I have a new fancypants website, thanks to Dutch "The Brain" Husband! We (by which I mean he) are still working out a few bugs, but here it is.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

True & Absurd

I'm in the middle of a very smart crime novel which contains this line:

"Most things are both true and absurd." (Norwegian by Night, Derek B. Miller)

Do you agree? Discuss.

I think that most of life feels very solidly real, even when one wishes it weren't quite so solid. And I agree that it can be truly ridiculous at times.

This book makes me want to live in Norway. But only in the summer months, just like Roald Dahl in his childhood. And without the crime drama. Just the fjords in summertime.

On an unrelated note, last week I participated in a writing exercise of choosing five words that describe me. It was completely painful. Try it, see how it stings. I could only think of my flaws, my ugliest qualities. My list looked like a summary of my worst traits. So shameful.

As I've mulled my list of self-descriptors, I've decided that I need more than five. I am angry, emotional, short-tempered, irritated, irrational, and impatient. I'm also creative, honest, snarky, compassionate, forgiving, and drawn to funny, strange things.

I like the way keeping a blog allows me to be hyper aware of little moments: happy, funny, lovely, and bittersweet.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What NOT to Say to Special-Needs Parents

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post gets a little angry. It's pretty heavy on the snark too. 

You have either decided to stop reading now, or you are curiously waiting for the rant to begin.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

I often leave conversations with other special-needs parents with a bunch of new stories about weird/unfortunate/insensitive things that people have said to us. And continue to say to us. 

And while I totally know the feeling of sticking one's foot in one's mouth and saying something really dumb that just comes out wrong, I couldn't resist making this list. It might sound angry, but it's origin lies mostly in weariness.

Okay, here it is:

Things NOT to say to parents of a special-needs child

There must be a lesson you need to learn in all this.

My jaw actually fell open when a fellow mom told me she hears this all the time. She and I agreed that the people offering this gem probably need to learn a lesson themselves. This statement is arrogant and super lame.

I would never be able to handle it.

Frankly, we never thought we could handle it either. Nor did we want to. But when things happen to your child, you don't honestly have any other choice. We're not superheroes. We are normal people struggling with big challenges. Also, you're making my challenge about you. Stop it.

I would never want to raise a special-needs kid.

Someone said this to me a few years back and I blinked my eyes in stunned silence before opting to back away slowly from the conversation before my head started spinning around in circles. What do you even say in response to this? I honestly don't have a clue. Thankfully, I've only encountered this one just once.

Do you ever wish your child didn't have special needs?

This is like asking a puppy if it wished it were a turtle instead. It's a totally pointless exercise in futility. We have children. They have disabilities. The question assumes we would rather live in a dream-like state of wistfulness than face reality.

I heard about a study that shows ___________ (insert chemical of choice--pitocin, B12, Tylenol---whatever) causes autism.

Mothers who took especial care of their pregnant selves for nine hard months and who now spend their entire lives in the service of their children with disabling 
conditions do not wish to be told they and they alone are solely to blame for their child's issues. Let's all make a pact to stop blaming the people whose very lives are dedicated to caring for special children for unwittingly causing (in some people's opinion) the conditions that God sent these valiant children to earth with.

Do you think your younger child will have special needs that crop up?

I have been asked this question a truckload of times, and yet it still baffles me. It assumes that my family has imperfect genes or really back luck or something---that we're destined to birth disabled people, while the people asking the question apparently have nothing to worry about in their gene pool. So what if my youngest were to develop a disabling condition? Why do people think it's okay to ask me this? Also, FYI, parents like me are already completely aware that disabilities aren't just vague possibilities that happen to other families. We know it could happen again. We don't even need anyone to point this out to us.

Sometimes we all need to slap a filter on the thoughts leaving our mouths more than 
on our Instagram pics. I'm guilty of this too sometimes. The truth is that I really do appreciate when people engage me in conversation about my life and my kids' issues. 

Let's talk. And let's do it with sensitivity, and a genuine desire to understand. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

"It Folds Up Into a Spear"

Jack's bedroom has become a wasteland. It's the tundra of our home, at the top of the house, with nothing there except a mattress. And the Jack Cam taking it all in.

There is no bed in his room because Jack has taken to using his bed frame as a battering ram. When he gets mad, he slams it into the walls. So currently, he simply has a mattress on the floor.

I suggested to Dutch that we get a Hollywood frame for the mattress and forget about fancy headboards and such.

Me: "Let's keep it simple and just get a Hollywood frame."

Dutch: "When you take the mattress off a Hollywood frame, it folds up into a spear. Jack will put it through the window."

Me: "Let's just leave the mattress on the floor."

And so, Jack's mattress remains on the floor, except when he decides to stand it up against the wall for kicks when he is having a time out in his room.

His bed frame sits in the upstairs hallway, leaning up against the linen closets whose doors Jack broke, and whose contents are now exposed to the world.

It's a wee bit of ghetto in the tundra.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dinner Time Without Footmen

A Rare Jewel: Eating Together

The past two Sunday evenings, we have seen the miracle of the entire family sitting at the table to eat dinner together. It's something that practically never happens here, not because we don't believe in family meals together or because we don't eat home-cooked food. We are believers in dinner-table culture. We do cook at home.

The rare tableau of my family sitting down to eat together has more to do with everybody's food aversions and their dislike of being in close proximity to their brothers. Two of my children might enjoy family dinners better if our dining room looked like a diner, with everybody sitting at his own booth, eating his own plate of French fries.

But we have just one table, and for Sunday dinner we'd rather eat beef roast and mashed potatoes.

The Rest of It

It hasn't been all potatoes and gravy. Jack continues down his backwards behavior slide. Today he tried to throw the iPad off the deck; when Jeff stopped him, Jack attacked Charlie.

Jack is speaking more, which is marvelous and wonderful. He is also restless, aggressive, and destructive.

School days go well, at least most of the time. Jack has a teacher and two classroom aides, a bus driver and bus aide, an occupational therapy team, the speech and language pathologist, and an adaptive PE teacher all working together to help him make progress. Saturdays and Sundays and weekday evenings though, I am the team. Jeff and Henry help whenever they are around.

I wouldn't mind if I had a team of helpers waiting below stairs to pick up the slack when Jack needs more sensory input or more one-on-one time than I am able to give. If this were Downton Abbey, I would simply ring the bell and summon the staff.

It's not.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No Comment

Whenever I read the comments attached to one of my articles, I think to myself "Stop reading the comments attached to your article, dummy!"

Also, "You know this won't end well sister."

And I would be wise to listen to my inner warning bell. But I pretty much always read the comments anyway.

I read them because, like several of my children, I'm lacking in the impulse control department. 

I read them because sometimes there are comments from people with nutty families like mine, who write that my words resonate with their experience. How can I pass up hearing that?

I read them because I'm a curious little monkey.

Sometimes it's like watching a train wreck. But I can't look away. I already know that haters gonna hate and trolls live in the interwebs and there is so much meanness in the world, it's ridiculous.

Trolls and mean people aside, there is always that one comment that comes from left field and is practically nonsensical in it's cluelessness. Those are actually the ones I like to read aloud to the hubs.

We laugh. 

I wrote a silly little fluffy piece about how the last days of summer are like living in a fire swamp. It contained an abundance of Princess Bride allusions. Someone commented, asking if Utah has fire swamps in it's geography. ?????

The comments section got a little raucous following my article on baby name trends. Creative baby-namers got defensive and traditionalists went on the attack. It was a hot spanky mess.

The better comments are those left by people who follow the link from an article to my blog. They are real and thoughtful and decidedly anti-troll. They pop up in my email notifications like buttered popcorn in the red melamine bowl at my side while I watch Downton "Days of our Lives" Abbey with Dutch.

Please feel free to comment. Or to back away slowly from the comment section. It's your call.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Can We Stop With the "Amazing"?

How apt that on a day filled with sedation dentistry, a doozy of a code brown, a Charlie meltdown, and mom's precarious mental health, this article was published.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Best quote I encountered this week: "Boredom is what happens to people who have no control over their minds."  (Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead)

Most satisfying recent conversation: Explaining to our bishop about Jack's disastrous church behavior and having him just get it.

Tastiest part of Valentine's Day: Vast quantities of Reese's chocolate and peanut butter hearts, unequivocally.

Unintentionally funniest kid quote: Truman, looking at my shadow the lamp was casting on the ceiling, "It's a giant, Mommy."

Most extravagant feeling: Beginning a new book. In hard cover. Not on a tablet.

Best way to feel like you're trying on swimsuits in front of an audience: Participate in a memoir-writing workshop and read your crappy first-drafts aloud to a bunch of strangers.

Quickest way to feel like an aged mother in a time warp: Watch your sixth-grader participate in his first school dance, doing the foxtrot and the merengue while looking dapper in his suit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Motivates Us To Begin?

"Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly." Alain de Botton

I found this quote yesterday in an Atlantic article. Apparently Monsieur de Botton knows a thing or two about writing, procrastination, and the psychology of genius vs. work and failure as key components of creativity.

He nailed it.

The blank page or the blank screen glaring back at you can squash the creative process. At least it can if the creative process is about greatness and perfection. But AdB's quotable idea suggests that laying down some crappy text is part of the process.

It's a freeing concept.

I've been applying the same idea as I watch the Olympic competitions. Are the athletes born with a tremendous amount of athletic prowess? Or is more of their success attributable to practice, tenacity, and determination.

At what point does the mental component outweigh the natural grace and strength of an athlete? How much is talent, how much is sheer doggedness?

I suspect both are at play.

I think I prefer to focus on the hard work aspect of creativity. It seems more equal-opportunity. It feels more real-life applicable. It makes the creation of something seem more accessible.

It is essentially the point of a blog, right? Daily, imperfect blathering about whatever---it's the antithesis of polished perfection. Blog = writer's notebook or artist's sketchbook. Unless you're a big-time blogger with plenty of minions to make the daily "whatever" appear amazing.

I do think it's kind of funny (and maybe kind of sad) that all work is the result of fear. At least according to AdB. Fear, not passion or love. Maybe it's the fear of not saying whatever burns inside you to be said.

I suppose I'm down with that.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jack Speaks

Last week Jack's daily note from Ms. Sue described the following situation from school during which Jack uttered a complete sentence:

During Smartboard time, Jack said, "Kayla?" (the name of one of the classroom aides)
Kayla said, "What?" 
Jack replied (clear as day), "I'll kick you."
Kayla asked, "Do you need a break?"
Jack responded by picking up his card that says "I need a break" and handing it to Kayla.
Jack and Kayla left the classroom for a short walk and Jack did not kick anyone.

Mind. Blown.

I am utterly blown away. That he spoke a three-word sentence. That he thought about a need and communicated it before throwing feet and books. That he refrained from tantrumming. That words trumped acting out. That he tried. That it worked.

I'm rosy and glowing with pride.

It's one of these victories that seems very small to those unfamiliar with Jack, and yet reveals a staggering degree of growth and progress of our nine-year-old redhead.

Jacky did it. He said those words he had in his head. He articulated so we could understand them. He spoke.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Whineypants Snaps Out of It

When I walked downstairs this morning, I spied a pearly sky with wispy layers of pink clouds hovering above Mount Timpanogos. It was an auspicious start to a Tuesday that bloomed with blue skies (at least for a few hours) and temps in the low 40's.

That was the first lovely thing.

The second lovely thing was a link that appeared in my fb news feed after I completed (and should've medaled in) the intense event of Getting Everyone on Their Busses. 

While not technically a competition, I am racing against the clock when I do this. I'm also trying to jump start Charlie, who is as slow as molasses in January, first thing in the morning.

Today though I mostly battled Jack, who decided to whack Charlie on the head with a broom and then remove his clothes and shoes, minutes before the bus arrived. Dude. Srsly tho.

But the second lovely thing--the link--appeared just as the guys got on their respective busses. It was a mother's eulogy for her eleven-year-old son with special needs and it snapped me out of the state of weary sadness that has descended over me. 

The entire thing was beautiful because it revealed the source of this woman's strength and the well from which her hope springs. 

And I drew from it. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

We Are the Red Olympic Ring

This has been the sort of week when I'm feeling like my family is that red Olympic ring. You know, the one in the Sochi opening ceremonies that didn't open. The one that is already on a clever t-shirt available for purchase online.

But our ring fail has taken the form of an epic church meltdown, a corresponding mom meltdown for the ages, and Jack repeatedly doing his potty business...not in the potty.

We are that stuck little snowflake. The one that couldn't get with the program and do what was expected in rehearsal. The one that didn't blossom or join in with the rest of the rings while all the nations of the world watched.

It's not for lack of trying, that's for darn sure. Dutch and I dug in our heels and suffered through a most heinous of sacrament meetings (child behavior-wise), to no avail. Three of the four children behaved like stampeding wildebeests with Jack turning the crowded post-sacrament meeting church hallway into his personal theatrical stage on which he delivered a loud, nonverbal soliloquy along the lines of "Get me hence, ASAP, yo" while kicking me.

Jeff helped me manhandle him to the car, along with Truman, before returning to teach Gospel Doctrine. We hastened hence.

With Jack home and happily dismantling a vacuum, I turned on the Olympic coverage and wanted to jump inside the TV when I saw a Coca-Cola commercial of a cozy little cabin snowed-in, high in the mountain tops. It's the one with a Coke machine just outside the cabin door (bonus!), with prints in the snow from gentle woodland creatures who like to make use of soda vending machines wherever they are available.

I want to go to there.

I want a cabin so remote, so inaccessible, so snowy, and so secluded. I definitely want the Coke machine and the woodland creatures.

Mostly, I want no more situations ever like the one at church on Sunday. Or the less public (still grueling) ones at home throughout the rest of the weekend.

I want to live in that wintry place where no one will come and expect us to behave like regular people. We can simply remain our complicated little tightly-wound snowflake selves.

I want to retreat to this quiet imaginary alpine cottage where the guys and I can make sensory snow angels and mugs of hot cocoa with whipped cream tops. I want to watch the snow fall silently outside and fall asleep before the fireplace hearth. I want to glimpse forest animals frequenting the soda machine.

Is it too much to ask?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Shabby Sweet

Part of my ongoing project of coming to terms with my family's limitations is to embrace our beat-up house.

My home once lacked carpet poop stains, shredded furniture, and literal holes in the walls. In days past it felt pretty clean and fairly attractive.

But my children came in like a wrecking ball.

I told Dutch that we should re-envision the entire house as mid-century modern: spare furnishings, purposeful simplicity, relative emptiness.  Just nothing, anywhere.

The problem with new (read: pricey) clean-lined furniture lies in it's rapid initiation by the wrecking crew.

So we sit on dining chairs whose farmhouse thatched seats have been picked ragged and now sport large gaps and views of the floor. We ignore the spots on the rug and on the drapes. We decide we don't care too awfully much about the hammered paint on the banged-up walls, or the bathroom sink drains whose stoppers have all been pulled out and lost by the nine-year-old.

We just can't. Because if we did, we would be in a permanent state of disappointment.

Trashed house = part of the deal with two sensory-seeking, unintentionally destructive boys with special needs.

Last night as we ordered sweets at the Kneaders bakery counter, I gestured to the display of lovely home accessories behind us and said to Dutch, "Look at these beautiful things Jack would love throw off the deck."

Being honest about what happens to pretty things in our house is one of the steps of my self-imposed twelve-step program. Some of the other steps: banish Pinterest (done and done), avoid purchasing lamps (or, Things Made for Dragging Around by Their Cords), and ultimately stop giving a shiz about what visitors might think of our shabbiness.

Another of the invented 12 steps: context. The reality remains that my beleaguered home could be considered a bastion of beauty and excess in terms of the living standards of much of the world's population.

So I'm one of the lucky ones. I have special boys who live in a raggedy, comfy house with a family that is special by association.

Such luxury.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pool Protocol

Flyer I Should Have (in Hindsight) Prepared in Advance to Hand Out to Everyone at the Rec Center Pool During My Kids' Swim Lesson:

Good evening fellow pool patrons, swim instructors, life guards, and pool manager! 

You've probably figured out that I am with the lanky boy in the short-shorts wetsuit-type swimsuit--the one with scary looking red spots all over his arms and legs. I sense you are concerned about pool plague. 

Let me take this opportunity to explain that:
A) my son's skin condition is not contagious,
B) it's called Gianatti-Crosti Syndrome. Google it. Also,
C) thanks for staring.

A few points of interest to you this evening: 

* My lanky son with the short-shorts wetsuit is so clad to prevent him from disrobing in the pool. The wetsuit is hard for him to remove without help. Voilá! No more public nudity.

* My two boys are here for their private swim lesson. This is the expensive alternative for special-needs kids who can't tolerate the cheaper public group swimming lessons. No big deal. All part of Water Safety! Initiative, as well as the Therapeutic Sensory Water Play! Initiative. Also part of the Let's Spend Like Ten Grand Teaching Our Kids To Swim! Initiative. 

* Many of you have noticed that my kids have one volume in public. I have also noticed this. And what's more, I do not know at this time how to turn the volume down.

* I think we should all take a moment to ponder the miracle invention that is the lazy river in the rec center pool. Isn't it majestic? It's a sensory heaven and purgatory wrapped into a single life vest, swirling through a swift channel, in my boys' opinion. It's a little bit scary and a LOT super fun.

* The shrieking and bellowing coming from the family change room is because if a certain someone gets so much as a drop of water on his dry clothes after swimming, he MUST SCREAM HIS RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION. On a related note, poolside change rooms are permanently wet, making the after-swim ritual of getting dressed with inevitable drops of water on our clothes totally Sisyphean.

* Smart people, like my sister Sarah, sometimes think of genius solutions better than shell-shocked automatons like me. Everyone waiting in line for the soaking wet family change room can thank Sarah for the "terry bathrobes" idea that will simplify our future post-lesson departures.

That about covers it. Hope you enjoy your night at the rec center pool, folks. We will see you next week.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


So I am totally NOT a food blogger.


That would be cool if I were Pioneer Woman-ish, but alas, we mainly eat tacos, spaghetti, French toast, and oven fries. And sometimes soup. Particularly on snowy days like this one when I yearn for something warm simmering on the stove all afternoon.

But after reading my article on casseroles and hardship, some people have asked for recipes. From me! Like I'm a casserole authority!

Thus, in the spirit of generosity, I will share a couple of recipes which I use all the time, but for which I can't really take credit. One I commandeered from my sis Amber; the other probably came from a magazine but I can't remember which one.

Here they are. Because they aren't fancy but they are tasty. And because I like people who share their recipes and don't hoard the goodness.

Amber's Red Pepper Chicken Enchiladas

2 cups diced, cooked chicken
6 oz. (1 1/2 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sliced roasted red bell peppers from 7.25 oz. jar
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chilies
1 cup sour cream
1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce
8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
6 oz. (1 1/2 cups) shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x13 inch dish with nonstick cooking spray. In medium bowl, combine chicken, Monterey Jack, peppers, chilies, and sour cream; mix well.

Top each tortilla with a half cup chicken mixture. Roll up tortillas; arrange, seam side down, in baking dish. Top enchiladas with enchilada sauce and sprinkle with Cheddar cheese (if freezing to bake later, I save this step with the enchilada sauce until just before baking---otherwise it can make your enchiladas a wee bit soggy).

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes until heated. If the edges are getting too brown, cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray; sprayed side down,

Lasagna with Italian Sausage

3/4 lb. bulk Italian pork sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 (15 oz.) cans Italian-style tomato sauce
2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) container part-skim ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan
12 oz. (3 cups) shredded mozzarella
12 oz. (12 noodles) uncooked lasagna noodles

In large skillet, cook sausage and onion on medium heat for 6-8 minutes, until cooked. Drain. Add tomato sauce, basil, and salt. Mix well.

In medium bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, and 2 cups of the mozzarella. Spoon 1/4 of the sausage mixture into a sprayed 9x13 inch pan. Top with noodles. Top with cheese mixture and more sausage. Layer remaining noodles, cheese, and sausage.

Cover and bake 35-45 minutes. Uncover for last few minutes.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


My article on food and comfort is on today. You can find it right here. Kind of makes me want to whip up some enchiladas for emergency standby.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Going Snape

I believe I have crossed an invisible threshold and have become an old mom. Not old in terms of my actual chronological age, but crone-ish in my attitude and perspective.

Old mom doesn't care what people think about her parenting. She doesn't give a rodent's patootie about people-pleasing. Old mom dares you to cast judgment.

This became abundantly clear during a recent IEP meeting for one of the boys. It was all going swimmingly, with a beautiful sense of cohesion among all members of my kid's team. The adaptive PE teacher and the speech/language pathologist actually combed the school for a basketball and little hoop, and carried them to the conference room to entertain my hoops-obsessed toddler. Seriously, rainbows and butterflies, all the way around.

Until....the team denied something that my son has always had access to, and which he absolutely needs. And I became a hybrid of Severus Snape and a brown bear.

I'll spare you a reenactment, which still sends angry-hot pulses of fury coursing through my veins. The upshot is that the boy still has access to the service he requires. At least for one more year.

And I realized that the previous me, with the penchant for avoiding confrontation blew away like a dead leaf in a wind gust a long time ago. Current me, old me---the crone if you will---is instinctively a survivalist. She's also the resident authority on the children who live here, and their esoteric needs.

And Old Crone Mom is perfectly happy to engage in a battle of wills.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Storm Season

It's hurricane season in my household.

Never mind that we are land-locked and decidedly not coastal-dwelling. It totally feels like a cat 5 is barreling down on us. Not literally, of course. We are only metaphorically facing crazy strong wind gusts and an over abundance of water flying around and slapping us all in the face.

It merely feels like a vortex of difficulty is spinning around us and threatening to pick us up and scatter us somewhere in the next county. Or rather, maybe we are the vortex, inexplicably whirling while the rest of the world carries on outside our storm funnel.

It may be a little dramatic, this comparison, but the image fits the way things have been operating at our house. It's kind of a wild ride.

Within the past couple of years, we've experienced a difficult pregnancy, a premature delivery, a NICU stay, multiple ENT surgeries, several behavioral death spirals, aggression, potty regression, destruction of property, sleep disturbances, children prone to wandering off, and the official diagnosis of a second child with a second set of special needs. 

I do not outline all of this as some sort of martyr exercise. Martyrdom doesn't interest me.

It's simply an inventory of the true things that have come flying through the air and landed on top of us in recent months, not unlike Dorothy's house atop the Wicked Witch of the West's sister.

Interestingly, when I give myself permission to lay it all on the table, I feel validated. It's like, no wonder I feel like we're stuck in a vortex. Everything is crazy. And it's okay to acknowledge that fact. It would be foolhardy to ignore an actual hurricane coming our way. Why is it any different to pretend that a vortex of difficulty isn't battering us around?

The key to our surviving a storm of this severity is to hunker down and hold on while the wind and water whip all around us, finding refuge in the power of the rock to which we cling. 

"And now, my sons, remember, 
remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemder, 
who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your
foundation; that when the devil shall send
forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind,
yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you,
it shall have no power over you to drag you down
to the gulf of misery and endless wo,
because of the rock upon which ye are built,
which is a sure foundation,
a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
Helaman 5:12

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hairy Scary

I had my hair done yesterday. As my lovely platinum-blonde stylist Jessica basted my head with a concoction of creams, I told her that I daydream about having a pixie cut. All the starlets are doing it. Jennifer Lawrence. Emma Watson. Michelle Williams. Anne Hathaway. A bunch of others that I can't remember right now.

It looks so carefree, a pixie cut.

While it seems dreamy, I did not tell Jessica to chop my hair off. Here's why:

1. I inherited my dad's ears. They are pointy and stick out rather dramatically from my head, not unlike the ears on the elves in The Hobbit. Except I am not lithe and graceful and perfect like Legolas and Tauriel, so pointy elfin ears don't really do anything for my look.

Speaking of The Hobbit, we saw The Desolation of Smaug yesterday. Though you did not solicit it, here is my review: The giant spider scene was about eighteen minutes too long. The effects and costumes were good. It's super violent, but apparently that's okay for a family movie if only Orcs and monster arachnids are biting the dust? In my view, the entire movie should have been absorbed into the first Hobbit, and into the next and last one coming out later this year. But I suspect I'm not in Peter Jackson's target demographic, so what do I know.

I digress.

2. Starlets with pixie cuts are gorgeous. They would look great bald, or in stocking caps, or in rainbow Afro wigs. When they pare down their hair, their beautiful features are the main attraction. The rest of us might just look like regular folks with regular faces, and a really short haircut, amirite?

3. I have this feeling that as I age, my hair will get shorter and plainer in direct correlation to my will to style it. I'd better make the best of it now, before it's uber short, frizzy, and battleship gray. And framed with a pair of elf ears.

When I reach the short/frizzy/battleship gray stage of my hair's life, I wonder if it will be uninhibiting. Will a bad head of neglected hair unencumber me? Will I embrace my unconventional ears?

Let's start a campaign to bring back the cloche hat from the 1920's.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I'm In The Newspaper

My article in today's Deseret News is about the insane clown posse that is my family at church. You can read it here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Let It Go

My husband, who doesn't believe in setting New Year's resolutions, has given up soda. Effective January 1.

I wished him happy trails on his journey of drinking more water from the orange Camelbak water bottle he got for Christmas. I'm happy for him, but I'm not willing to give up Cherry Cokes. Sorry Charlie (by which I mean the hubs and not our son who is actually named Charlie).

The trouble with traditional New Year's resolutions for me is that they create all kinds of work. In the interest of improving ourselves, we add various new items to our list of daily responsibilities. This is where I lose interest in resolutions. I already have way too much to do, peeps. I need simplicity, not added pressure.

Snarky types might pipe in at this point and inform me that I should make a resolution to simplify my life, which is sort of like telling someone who is up to her armpits midstream crossing a big swift river, to use the footbridge several miles downstream instead. I am in the middle of navigating life, snarky types, and currently it's intense. I am already in a constant state of trying to simplify. So, to the geniuses who may suggest it, I respond with slow sarcastic clapping. That's brilliant guys. Thanks so much for the suggestion.

Anyway, I realized that a resolution doesn't have to be the acquisition of a new habit, like juicing all your food from fresh produce, or making a ninety-minute workout the first part of your day. No thank you to both those propositions, btw. Like Dutch with his switch from soda to water, I could simply let something go.

Letting go, giving up, jettisoning---this concept holds much more appeal for someone like me. I am willing to give something up. In fact, I'm totally into going all Elsa from Frozen for the new year and I will Let. It. Go. People.

The thing I'm relinquishing is a burden that I have unwittingly allowed to weigh me down for some time. And really, it's the dumbest thing.

It's comparison.

Namely, the act of comparing my family to other families who do not have a Jack and a Charlie in their midst.

It's ridiculous, I know. And now I'm not going to do it anymore. No more feeling inadequate that my family can't do all the things that lots of other families can. It simply is what it is. We do not claim to be "normal." No need to "keep up with" anyone.

I let that thing go, and I'm pleased with the sense of weightlessness.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reading List

We have now reached that point in January when my instincts to climb into bed and stay there until mid-March are threatening to overpower me. Daily responsibilities? The raising of children? Fiddlesticks. All that matters is my bed. And my down comforter. And my electric blanket. And my quilt.

Please leave me alone. I'm trying to crawl through the rest of winter. It's avoidance behavior at its best (i.e. worst). I can't take the inversion, the grayness.

It's so bleak.

I am using books as a sort of lifeline to happier times and less-arduous months of the year. Here are some self-centered reviews (simply my gut reactions, without wasting time here summarizing plot and characters) of books I've recently read:

The Rosie Project: Delightful, hilarious, fun, refreshing. It was a glimpse into the mind of an Aspergian, which made me think author Graeme Simsion is a complete genius. Is he on the spectrum himself? Is a family member? Read this book if you need something happy and so funny that you find yourself mentally recreating the funniest scenes throughout the day and smiling foolishly. I love how real this book felt.

Sweet Tooth: A sort of creepy tale of a young woman working for British Intelligence in the early 1970's. Weird. Smart. It's by Ian McEwan who wrote Atonement, so I had to read it. Everyone is suspect. I kind of thought the narrator, Serena, was an idiot. For someone who is supposed to be so smart, she seemed awfully clueless. Literary. Unsettling.

The Mistborn Trilogy: A fantasy young adult series that sounded super promising and was really inventive, but which lost me before I finished book one. I kept waiting for this hero Kelsier with the je ne sais quoi to show up and act like a hero. But he wasn't and I found him disappointing. Maybe I should've stuck with it and found the reward in the story's arc. But honestly, it's January and I'm simply holding on. Slogging though winter, currently. Can't slog through meandering stories.

When Women Were Birds: Terry Tempest Williams is haunting and heartbreaking writing about her mother's empty journals which she left to her only daughter when cancer claimed her life at a young age. There were passages when she seems to enter a trance and sort of chant things that her loss has revealed to her about her mother. Those parts were a little otherworldly for me. However, it made me think deeply about things---my beliefs, my relationships, my priorities. Nonfiction.

The Light Between Oceans: I am in love with this book, but rumor has it, it's going to tear my heart out and throw it out to sea. It feels like a fable---the way it unfolds, the language by which it comes to life. I'm forty percent through it and I feel a sense of dread about how this book will end. *sniff.

A Red Herring Without Mustard: Alan Bradley's mystery-solving preteen heroine Flavia de Luce continues her escapades in a crumbling English country house in post-war Britain. It was good. I still love her dysfunctional family so very much. This one made me long for more stories about her departed mother, Harriet. I'll probably keep coming back to this series because they capture adolescent angst in a funny, puzzle of a package.

The Witch's Daughter: Time-jumping story of a "real" witch. Sad. At it's heart, the tale of how people who are different can be vilified and misunderstood. I think I'm approaching capacity on my current phase of witch books. I'll change my mind, of course, when The Book of Life comes out this summer. I've been waiting for it! There's a Discovery of Witches movie in pre-production!

Bottom line is this: there is a lot of time- and energy-intensive child-rearing happening right now. Books are my natural high, my non-chemical cloud. Sanity. Escapism. Literary addiction. Label it as you wish.

I read to forget it's January.

I read so that I may be lucid the rest of the time when I am raising the children.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

You Say Holland, I Say Hawaii

Dutch and I just returned from a week in Hawaii.

Just kidding. I'm speaking in code. "A week in Hawaii" actually means "a night in a hotel downtown."

Whatever. The important part is that we got away, albeit briefly, and emotionally filled our inner vessels. While I fervently wish I had been lying on a Hawaiian beach, I was instead enjoying dining out and catching up at the cinema, close to home and at bargain rates, relatively speaking.

Hawaii, someday. Overnight downtown dates, now. And at frequent intervals.

It reminds me of the poem Welcome to Holland, which every mother of a special-needs child everywhere in the world has been given by a thousand well-meaning people when her child is first diagnosed.

That poem is like the unofficial membership card into a club you didn't realize you were joining for the rest of your life. If you have disabled children, you know exactly what I am talking about.

But in this case, Hawaii is my Italy, and a hotel for a night downtown is my Holland. Except that Holland is also my everyday life. I live in Holland. Except I'm not eating Danishes all the time. Do people in Holland eat Danishes? Am I thinking of Denmark? Remember, my husband's nickname of Dutch exists for no logical reason. Help.

That poem, seriously. It's great, and I appreciate the message that there is beauty in an unexpected journey. Yes, I get it.

But enough about Holland already!

Sometimes the last thing you want to hear (especially on a day when you can't seem to get your kid's anti-psychotic medication at the right dose and he attacks his baby brother before the bus comes in the morning and throws a family portrait across the room---let's hope this isn't some sort of a sign---and tries to bite and kick you while you are moving him to a safe location) is about the unexpected loveliness of Holland.

Stop. Just, no.

Perhaps someone can write a poem about the tender mercies which pick you up and push you along when you are strung out on parenting.

Even as I typed this, I realized that someone already did.

Actually, two people.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bad Cattitude

Let me begin by saying I am not fond of cats.

I tend to be more of a dog person. Cats strike me as smug, superior, and a little bit creepy---all qualities which I do not admire in animals. Or in people either, actually.

I probably just alienated myself with that statement from a number of readers. I'm sorry if this disappoints you. I'm deficient in cat tolerance, what can I say.

I'm totally different than my BIL Tom who likes cats so much that he collects crazy cat-themed t-shirts, like the one my sister had made especially for him, featuring a sassy-looking feline with the caption "I've got cattitude."

No cat shirts for me, my friends.

This information is relevant because this morning as I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for a meeting at Jack's school, my neighbor Tam sent me a text saying that a cat was stuck high up in one of the trees in my backyard. I could hear another neighbor's dog barking excitedly at the treed kitty.

My first instinct as a non-cat-caring person was to go about my busy morning and let the cat find it's way back down the tree. I'm a cold-hearted wench, I know. And yet, I did inform my pet-loving neighbor Tiff about the stuck kitty, thinking it might be one of hers. I'm not overtly cruel.

A few more texts went back and forth about how cats get stuck in trees and how long we should worry about this silly animal. I left for the school with Truman. 

When I returned, Tiff met me at the door with a ladder and a determined will to save that cat. With the staccato barking from the neighbor's dog punctuating our rescue, we spent the next half hour employing a ladder, a hot dog, a cell phone, and an Ikea curtain rod (still in it's packaging) trying to get the kitty down.

We totally couldn't do it.

I finally ordered Tiff off the ladder and told her to steady it as I took my turn with Dumb Gray Cat. I climbed in a huff, bracing myself on the smaller branches of the Cottonwood even as I wielded my curtain rod. "We need something with a broad, flat base so we can lift him off the branches and not just poke at him," said Tiff.

I reminded her that I:
A) don't really care for cats because they are aloof and otherworldly and clearly not always the brightest, and
B) am not in the habit of keeping long-handled poles equipped with broad, flat end attachments for the express purpose of freeing cats from trees. 

We followed Tam's suggestion (by her fire-fighter husband) to call the fire department. She gave us the non-emergency number. I asked the nice fireman on the phone if fire fighters actually rescue cats from trees in real life. He responded with a chuckle and a few recommendations. Somewhere in our conversation I mentioned my address. 

Tiff and I looked out my kitchen window at this point in the Dumb Gray Cat Saga to see Dumb Gray himself start to fall from the tree. He managed to catch himself (feline grace, you know) and, employing his claws, made a slow and safe descent down the tree.

And that was the end of the kitty drama. Tiff left to get her preschooler. Truman and I made lunch and began watching for Charlie's bus. 

The Fire Department arrived.

This was all very embarrassing as I had called 911 a few months ago for a natural gas scare (which turned out to be a "burned-up vacuum scare" courtesy of Jack). Not my proudest moment. The neighbors were all aflutter with concern the last time as they saw me outside in my pj's at noon. On a Saturday. So much shame is wrapped up in that little memory.

Now there was a fire engine stopping to check up on the Dumb Gray Cat status. Neighbors in cars stopped to see if we were okay. The firefighters crinkled their eyes when I told them that the cat was now out of the tree, and when I rambled on about the previous natural gas/burned up vacuum incident. Why do I always unintentionally do too much back story?

Anyway, they went on their way to nobler fireman duties. And I had this nagging thought that my annoyed attitude toward treed cats could be similar to some people's attitudes or reactions to special needs children, particularly in environments which agitate my kids and bring out their more unusual behaviors.

Is it a valid parallel---a scared cat and a boy with autism? Actually, I think it probably is.

I've decided I'm going to be nicer to cats.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Big Picture

There is an art installation somewhere honoring Nelson Mandela. It is made of carved sticks stuck into the ground that together form a likeness of Mandela's face when viewed from a single spot, some distance away.

When I saw the images online I thought:

A) This is why I am not an artist. Never in a million years would I have thought, "I'm going to carve and arrange some sticks to resemble Nelson Mandela's face." Multimedia artists astonish me.

B) Cool idea, with the sticks though. It is an excellent depiction of a great leader. And

C) Does everyone really have to stand in the same spot to see the image come together? I'm having a hard time quantifying why this disappoints me.

I suppose I don't like being told how I must see something. Actually, I don't think anyone does.

I don't mean to be dismissive of artistic achievement. I simply chafe under the idea of there really being only one way to see something, whether it's a trend, a person, or a concept.

We are all given brains and hearts and eyes with which to evaluate our world. The way we do this affords us perspective.

My life has taught me that our perspectives are different, depending on where we stand and where we've been. The way we see things varies based on our vision and our interpretation of events.

So why is it that sometimes we can't see the things that are the closest to us? It's like a situation can be under our noses and yet it eludes us.

I think that we can be too close. We can lack perspective, simply because the task at hand is mashed up against our faces and we really can't get a good look at it. We are living with it, but we grow accustomed to it pressing so close that we forget what we need to do.

This is me and Jack sometimes. Things get crazy incrementally, often over many months, and until I take a step back and get some distance, I'm blind to what I need to do.

Take the "rough patch" (i.e. daily aggression and destructiveness) we are having with Jack. We have simply been coping and managing for so long, it's like I've forgotten to pursue other avenues in dealing with the behavior.

Lack of perspective is my first problem. Lack of focus is my second.

I've stepped back to see things more clearly. Now I need to stop scattering my energy and concentrate it's strength. I need to focus like a laser on my sons and my family (and my own blasted mental well-being) to better address things.

Which means I'm going to be saying 'no' to more stuff. I'll also be saying a hearty 'yes!' to other things. Things that don't outwardly make me look like a noteworthy community helper, but which make all the difference to the people who live in my house.

Time to man the giant laser beam.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I'm giving out stern lectures. Beware.

Captain's Log: 1.11.14

It was a day of mild victories (every single member of the family helped clean the church this morning--- I use the term 'help' loosely, but the fact is we all went and did our part and there were no major vacuum-related tantrums).

It was a day of violent meltdowns (Jack attacking Charlie and me in the car, after we bought all manner of treats and crafts for his new Sunday School helpers to employ tomorrow; reason for angry attack currently unknown).

It was a day of wailing (ask Charlie about how he didn't want to do therapy).

Even so, the day was fine. Honestly, par for the course.


I had a conversation with someone and emotionally everything became churning and turbid.

That's when the whirring of the fan met the splat of the crap. And I wanted to pull out a big metal janitor bucket (which I don't own, but which would come in handy for cleaning up Code Browns), upend it, stand on it, and give the world a loud lecture about the realities of my life that they are not picking up on.

You know, just yell a bunch and lay it all on the table.

I wanted to point to my teeth for emphasis while furrowing my brows as I emphatically reminded folks of the daily battles of special-needs parenting. Battles which never really end, but will always be with us in variations.

Not that anyone wants a lecture.

But I have my virtual soapbox, so step aside if you do not wish to hear this:

Your wanting our family to operate "normally," doesn't make us so. 

Then sweet Kirsty showed up and we went on a date. And Walter Mitty made everything right. End of rocky roller coaster day.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lovely Things

Reasons today is great:

1. I got to take a nap.

2. I wrote and sent out an article.

3. There is an icy dusting of snow on the tree branches outside my window.

4. I had toast with strawberry jam for lunch.

5. The fireplace is burning in my living room and no longer smells of burnt toys.

6. The laundry is practically done.

7. I'm reading a smart new mystery.

8. My children are all relatively happy. Except for the toddler. But I can deal with him.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

If You Really Must Know

It's been a week of some seriously bottomed out lows, interspersed with a few surprising highs, and it's only Wednesday. And I'm so sleep deprived that I started crying when I told my husband tonight that I will never again have the energy to clean up the den of filth that is the playroom.

He sent me to bed at 7:30 and cleaned up the playroom himself with "help" from the guys.

Here is what's happening, though I am loathe to address it:

Jack has been increasingly more aggressive. He has been randomly attacking his brothers, small children at church, and classmates at school. It's embarrassing to even write about this. I don't know why it makes me feel such shame, but it does.

We can't parent away the aggression and destruction from our intellectually disabled nine-year-old. It's a helpless and worrisome feeling. Who is he going to hurt next? How we will cope with such embarrassment and awkwardness? When is going to really hurt someone?

So I called the psychiatrist's office Monday hoping for an appointment within a few weeks time, knowing I couldn't hope for anything more. The heavens opened and the sun streamed through and the receptionist asked if I would like to come in the next morning. There'd been a cancellation.

So we went, Dutch and me, with Jack, to the psychiatrist who has always steered us on a logical, helpful course. We left with a plan, a new Rx, and renewed hope.


That the Code Browns will not stay.

That the destruction of our house and everything in it will cease.

That the biting and lunging, the smack-downs and assaults will be nothing but an uncomfortable memory.

That things will improve.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


This Christmas Break will forever be known as the One Where Jack Had Gianatti-Crosti Syndrome (And Not the Chicken Pox).

Since almost no one ever gets this rare disease, I'll tell you that it's a condition that can happen secondarily, following a previous infection. Jack had strep a month ago, so bingo. It's not contagious. It makes your skin look horrifying and feel itchy and awful. There is nothing you can do to effectively treat it. It can last up to two months.

Poor Jack is going to school tomorrow looking like a leper.

But at least, for both our fragile mental states, he is going to school.

I could also remember this as The Christmas Holiday When Jack Sprinkled Swiss Miss Cocoa in Any and All Heat Vents, and Atop Most Electronic Devices in the House. (This, btw, is simply one of many valid reasons we can't have nice things.)

It could go down in the annals as The Christmas We Were Quarantined But Didn't Actually Have to Be.

Or, The Christmas When Jack Took Up Code Browns Again.

Or, The One When All the New Christmas Toys Were Launched into the Mulch Pile Within 48 Hours.

Or, The Christmas When Jack Crammed Wooden Puzzle Pieces, Candy Wrappers, and Shoe Laces into the Louvres Above the Gas Fire Place and Made the Entire House Reek of Melting Plastic and Scorched Playthings.

Lucky for me, it's now simply known as Christmas Past.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

ISO: Movies with Pep

I'm thinking my resolution for the new year should be to stop watching so many depressing British period films.

You know what they say, a few late nights with languid, rainy shots of the English countryside and Keira Knightly/Kate Winslet/Cate Blanchett in a corset are good for the spirits; but stick too much with the deeply dramatic Brit Lit BBC adaptations and your mood just may end up in the tank.

I don't know if anybody ever actually said that, but they should have.

I love me some Austen, some Bronte, some Dickens---all cinematically retrofitted and beautifully rendered onscreen. But too many serious-themed films all at once? It's enough to make you run for a Nicholas Sparks chicklit movie, which is what I actually found myself doing recently.

A certain awful film based on a certain Thomas Hardy novel put me over the top. I can't take it anymore. When I read Hardy in Honors English my sophomore year, I didn't fall madly in love. Apparently, my feelings for TH haven't changed.

Now my Netflix queue is brimming with darkly dramatic 19th century literary adaptations (British and Russian---it's equal opportunity), and I'm desperate for something a tad less depressing.

It's January and I'm looking for something zippy.

I need a brief winter's respite from the haunting piano/violin soundtracks.