Monthly Archives: April 2014

Replenishing the Vessel

Something magical happened to me.

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I went to this place. With this guy.

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We’ve longed for an escape from the bottom of the figurative pit in which we have been dwelling. We seem to have found some footholds and are now climbing out of the dank deep and into the sunshine.

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If you dislike vacation photos, stop reading now. (I tend to like other people’s vacation photos, as long as I am not in a current state of endless daily summertime misery and desperation—which is when most people take their trips and post their pics. It’s just reality; and it’s my problem, not theirs).

Alright then. Carry on.

We went to paradise, as you can see by this Bird of Paradise beside our lanai.

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We went to the PCC and spotted a sort of rameumptom. Rad!

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Spent a delightful morning exploring Waimea Valley, including it’s falls and botanical garden.

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It looked like a movie set. Enchanting.

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We went to the LDS Temple in Laie, which was glorious and beautiful.

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Dutch and the Mrs. visit the temple.

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Did a little blogging, Aloha-style.

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Sampled Matsumoto’s Shave Ice, which does indeed rule the North Shore shave ice scene.

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Took a selfie at the beach. Actually, took lots of selfies at the beach. This is the one I embellished. Yay for me! Text on pics!

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Succumbed to this spell.

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Saw turtles.

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Went hiking.

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Saw the beach where Catching Fire was filmed.

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Spent time with this precious friend.

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Visited the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, a solemn place.

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Toured the USS Missouri with one happy little Dutch.

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Relished this.

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Found happiness.

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Because, Hawaii.

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The Happiest Moment

I stumbled into the happiest moment of my life.

It wasn’t an obvious sort of moment like giving birth to my children or wedding my husband.

It wasn’t a thrill of victory as I summited a mountain or completed a marathon (nor will it ever be that one. Nope).

It was a moment of insight a couple of years ago that snapped me from my tired reverie and gave me a piercing new perspective.

It was the culmination of many arduous, contemplative moments before it.

Okay, enough with the suspense. Here it is.

I realized that despite some Stonehenge-sized megalith challenges, my life is the culmination of all my hopes and dreams.

It is what I always wanted, essentially.

It is entirely imperfect. No one is pinning anything about my train-wreck household to Pinterest.

We defy typical. Our world is a consummate mess, mostly, and yet we are doing it. We are living life.

I’m doing it. This is totally happening.

My family is made from scratch and is something real and lovely.

Figuring that out was a gift.

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The Second Happiest Moment of My Life

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Happy moments are those things we post on Instagram.

The happiest moments, though, are sometimes too personal, too meaningful to let people simply scroll past casually. They are those things we look to with what Wordsworth called the inward eye. They are the memories we hold tenderly and carefully unwrap to caress and remember.

Two and a half years ago, the second happiest moment of my life to this point happened.

A few days after Christmas, with my newborn fourth son sleeping peacefully in his orange and green nursery upstairs, instead of in the NICU isolette which had been his home for the first month of life, my family sat down to watch a movie.

Other families might skip over this mundane event, wondering when the big happy thing occurred. Was it after the movie? Did Jack suddenly start speaking? Did every boy in the house spontaneously use the potty, and use it properly? Did someone deliver a major award to our home while we watched our little movie?

None of those things happened. This is what did happen.

Dutch and I sat at either end of the couch with our three big boys between us.

A bowl of buttery popcorn floated from lap to lap.

The five of us watched Wes Anderson’s very Wes Anderson-y stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox, the whole way through.

Let me emphasize that no shenanigans took place during the entire film. No one screamed. No one dropped a deuce on the floor. No one hit or pushed his brother. No one paced the room, shredding papers, and cramming them in the heat vents or below the refrigerator.

Everyone sat. We sat beside each other. We stayed put.

We laughed at the cluster cusses.

We sang along to “Boggis, Bunce, and Bean,” and it’s progressively higher variations.

I inwardly thrilled at the last line of the movie, when George Clooney voices Foxy telling everyone to raise a glass, “To our survival!”

It’s the movie line that named this blog. I love you, Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson.

What happened that night never happened before and it hasn’t happened since. I relished the taste of calm, the glimpse of what could be.

Remembering it fills me with happiness.

Hope is happy.

Jet Planes, Lactation, and Jack

I flew on a plane yesterday. It’s been a little bit since I’ve flown, and yesterday reminded me that flying is essentially like riding a crowded bus in the air.

We pack ourselves in and ship ourselves par avion with a couple hundred other people, including babies, canoodling young couples, the four-year-old girl with ants in her pants across the aisle from me for six hours (can you blame her?), and dozens of grown ups watching Frozen (me included).

It was uneventful, as flights should be. It reminded me of a flight Dutch and I took our two young boys on eight years ago. Like crazy people, we decided to fly to the Big Island of Hawaii with a four-year-old and a two-year-old with as-yet-still-being-diagnosed behavior and cognitive issues.

Jack spent eighty-five percent of the flight messing with the portable DVD player. Not watching it, mind you. For four-ish hours, Jack:
A) Unfolded and folded shut the DVD player.
B) Ejected the DVD.
C) Manhandled the DVD, coating it in what Dutch calls “kid cheese.”
D) Replaced the DVD.
E) Snapped the lid shut.

Over and over, this happened. He also kicked the seat in front of him nonstop, which is another tale. It was before the days of iPads. He was a destructive, repetitive force on ye olde DVD player, but if I tried to stop him, he would shriek. And so it continued. Until…

Several hours into our journey across the ocean, Jack fell asleep mid-DVD manipulation. I slowly exhaled, trying not to move. I exchanged a hopeful glance with Dutch. Everything was blissfully quiet and easy for twenty-three glorious minutes.

Then the woman sitting across from me, the one who was traveling with her six-week-old baby (because who doesn’t want to take a newborn to Hawaii postpartum?) stood up, fumbled around in the overhead bin above Jack and me, and then slammed it loudly three or four times before actually closing it.

And that was it, Jack was up. For the duration of the flight. Cue the DVD destruction.

I wanted to leap from my narrow airline chair, shake the woman by the shoulders, slap her face, and scream at her sleeping baby to wake it up.

I didn’t.

Instead I watched the woman nurse her baby, replace him in his infant bucket, then (for some baffling reason) stand and face the entire cabin of passengers as she wiped spit-up from the front of her shirt, making big, sweeping circular motions over her engorged breasts. Her chest was mere inches from my parents’ faces; their seats a front-row venue to this unsightly hygiene display. I saw them gaze uncomfortably at this woman’s baby-throw-up-soaked shirt, then turn and stare at each other in shock.

We called her Milk Boobs.

Still do, actually, eight years hence.

You never know what you’re going to run across on a flight. Basically you can have no expectation of reasonable quiet, ample leg room, an airplane cabin void of smells, or an absence of shirts covered in regurgitated milk.

Babies will cry, toddlers will fidget. Lactating women may give themselves a breast exam/shirt cleaning before your very eyes. A child may kick your seat, over and over again.

It’s a bus in the air. Unless you want to pay three times the going fare for first class, it’s your bus in the air.

And it’s okay, as long as it lands safely and you can nod your gratitude to the pilot as you disembark.

The Barber-Surgeon of This House, and Other Tales

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Spring Break is currently happening for my boys, and for me by association. Here’s the round-up:

1. I went to a Writer’s Retreat in a cabin in a canyon (like my darling Clementine, except I didn’t drown with my ruby lips above the water/blowing bubbles soft and fine) one Day One. This sort of thing is a little bit of pure joy for me. It was glorious.

2. Spring sprang and everybody got a little bit sunburned. We forgot that we can now hang out in the sunny outdoors, burning our fair, freckled skin in the delicious, warm sun.

3. I took the boys to the park. The really cool park with the really cool pyramid climbing structure and the basketball standards that are lower than standard height, so dudes like Henry can dunk the ball. We lasted an entire hour, which breaks all family records of attempts to play at parks like normal people, doing normal things, for normal amounts of time. Yay us!

4. We learned Charlie is an exceptional climber. Like honestly, a naturally gifted little climbing monkey. I’ve always intrinsically known this. But watching him scale with laser focus climbing walls and the rope web within the hulking high pyramid really hit it home. I now have new anxiety about Charlie getting really into rock climbing in his young adult years and falling to his death. I’m good at switching into Anxiety Girl mode, lickety-split.

5. While I was cleaning up an outside Code Brown (apologies to my neighbors) in the backyard, Jack had a hose-water-running-into-our-foundation-spurred tantrum and reminded me that Spring Break is too long.

6. My toenails are now painted a sky blue. I like gazing at them.

7. Henry fulfilled the role of barber-surgeon to Charlie, who lost his first tooth. As big brother, he twisted and pulled that tiny wobbly tooth until it succumbed on the kitchen counter. Brothers are cool.

Blossoms and a bare bum

springToday while baby slept and Charlie and Abby did therapy, I retreated to the backyard with two blankets, a pillow, and Jack. Lying in the warm sun of April in one’s backyard is a particular pleasure during Spring Break.

While I curled up in a ball and closed my eyes, Jack:

*Pulled one of the blankets from beneath me and made it magically disappear. If my neighbors find a green fleece throw with sticky yellow cottonwood seed pods everywhere that made the journey over the fence, they will know from whence it came.

*Sat on my arm. 90 lbs of Jack, giving some deep-sensory pressure goodness to moi.

*Curled up beside me and threw his leg and his big hobbit foot over my knees.

*Got naked and pranced around, his gleaming white bod a pillar of pale on the greening grass, which strikes me as rather appropriate for a happy, sensory springtime ritual of someone who doesn’t care one bit about what other people think of a nudist welcoming spring.

Prayer of Thanks

Dear God,

When I beseeched you in my car that rainy night while rounding the Point of the Mountain, I had hit a wall. The kind of wall I’ve scaled a hundred times before, but after these ten years of special-needs parenting, I couldn’t climb it.

I knew you were listening. So I decided to stop with the delicate, white bread sort of praying and get serious.

Because I know you are there and I know that you love me, I raised my voice at you and told you that we are at a point of emptiness with the challenges of our children.

The relentless demands of the last decade have taught us many things. They have also brought us to this worn out place.

And so I prayed and said it is time for you to step in, which as you know, I have never before demanded.

The remarkable thing is that you did step in.

Shortly after my loud, earnest supplication, things started changing. You set them in motion.

We found the right medication at the right dose and our son’s behavior improved dramatically.

The state called, saying our son is coming off the wait list for disability support and will receive services for the rest of his life. You know that we’ve been on that list for six years with no real hope of ever coming off it. And yet, as with the loaves and fishes, you somehow made it enough to include us.

Our parents offered to come to our home and watch our boys so we can take a vacation.

I started going to yoga, and felt you there.

Spring came.

For these miracles, Father, which I need more than I deserve,

Thank You.

Understanding Special-Needs Families is Key to Lending a Hand

I’m not going to lie. I am proud of this article on ksl.com. Many of my friends who are raising special needs children weighed in and helped me find the right things to say on this vital topic.

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Slice of Autism Life

jesus-christ-0107This morning I emerged out of my NyQuil haze and some deeply weird dreams to begin the morning routine under the influence. I don’t know why things like OTC cough medicine turn me into such a quiet (non-menacing) zombie, but they do.

I pounded a Coke at 7:00 AM in hopes it would be the perk I needed to shake me from my sleepy reverie. It helped a little. That and moving around in repetitive paths between the stove, fridge, kitchen island, and laundry room two hundred times while getting the guys ready for school.

I managed to step on the same stray graham cracker every single time I rounded the corner into the back hallway. At first it felt like failure. Subsequent times it just felt sort of familiar.

While packing lunches, dosing meds, and coaxing people to put their clothes on, I coughed. My cold is on it’s way out, which means my cough sounds like that of a chain-smoking lumberjack with a bunch of pine needles stuck in his lungs.

It’s not dainty.

I guess neither am I. I’m tall, not petite. Opinionated, not demure. I definitely don’t have a tiny little dainty shoe size. I’m okay with this.

What am I not sure I’m okay with? Our Family Night attempts. This week it went like this:

During the song (always I Am a Child of God, no matter what, for years and years, because it’s pretty much all we can handle), everyone sang except baby, including Jack, who repeated the word ‘God’ a couple dozen times throughout the song. Gold star for Jacky!

While showing the guys a painting of Jesus Christ I found on my phone, I reminded the boys, “Jesus loves you.” Charlie said, “Santa loves you,” which is sort of true. Okay fine, Chach, but Jesus reallyloves you.

Our discussion of the Savior continued like this:

Me: “Charlie, what did Jesus do when he came to Earth?”

Charlie: “What’s ‘Earth’?”

Me: “It’s the planet where we live.”

Charlie: “What’s ‘live’?”

Me: *sigh*

Jeff: “Charlie, what did Jesus teach people?”

Charlie: “What’s ‘teach?'”

Jeff: “Okay, good family night guys. Time for jammies.”