Monthly Archives: August 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…….

……..omnipresent.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.