Monthly Archives: February 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?

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.

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.


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 9×13 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 9×13 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.