Monthly Archives: December 2012

Silver Lining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a Wonderful Life

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

I yelled.

And then I freaked out.

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

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

Wow, Jacky.  Just, wow.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, friends.

Sparrow’s Flight

“Life is a sparrow’s flight through the mead hall.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truly, to me these truths are a balm.

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

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

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

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Here are some of this week’s actual events:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince of Peace

Six years ago I was having a miserable Christmas season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Your Ears Hang Low?

My new pastime is visiting the pediatrician’s office.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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