Monthly Archives: September 2014

He Said, She Said

Things the hubs and I have said to each other recently:

Me: “If I tell you something, are you going to make fun of me?”
Dutch: “Probably.”

Dutch: “I had a dream that there was a woman at church who was a retiring magician, and she wanted to give us all her old magic props. When we said our life wasn’t really conducive to staging magic tricks, she couldn’t believe we wouldn’t want her stuff. I had to keep turning it down and it was really awkward.”
Me: “All we need is a box where the boys can saw each other in half.”

Me: “You act like you’re so easy-going, but you are completely opinionated, just like the rest of us in this house. Which Christmas card do you like most?”
Dutch: “I’m not opinionated. But I don’t like any of those Christmas cards.”

Me: “Remember the year I wrote a funny letter to go with the Christmas cards and you said, “I don’t like it. I think it should just say, ‘We are all well. We hope you are all well too.’ And I said, ‘That is so dumb. It’s like saying nothing. We might as well say nothing.”
Dutch: *turns pink, laughs*

Me: “Did you know that my sister used to work with a woman whose last name was Handfinger, and one day they had a training meeting with a manager whose name was John Armhand? She kept hoping they would address this strange coincidence during the meeting, but they didn’t. Apparently the Handfinger woman got married, but opted to not hyphenate her maiden and married name.”
Dutch: “Why, what was the married name?”
Me: “Brown.”
Dutch: “Good call.”

Me: “Do you think the boys could handle Disneyland?”
Dutch: “They can barely handle The Pie Pizzeria.”

Me: “At your cousin’s baby shower, I showed everyone our family pictures. Aunt Janny said you look just like Jeb Bush.”
Dutch: *howls riotously*

Me: “I don’t think the ice in the ice maker keeps melting into a giant ice blob and clogging up the ice dispenser because the kids leave the freezer door open. I think water is dripping into the ice and causing it to melt into an ice blob.”
Dutch: “No. It’s definitely the kids leaving the freezer door open.”
Me: “I disagree. Engineers don’t always know everything.”
Dutch: *ignores last comment while breaking apart the giant ice blob in the ice maker*

Room to Think

I’ve stepped back and stopped writing much recently. I needed to be quiet and empty and still.

Life at my house is still a vortex with many a Code Brown and daily mopping of Jack’s pee floor. I did manage to carve out some moments of peace and reflection, though. It was a fruitful writing hiatus, because I concluded something that fills me with a pulsing, vibrant sense of gladness.

It’s this: My children have taught me to be more than I was before. They are valiant.. They respond resiliently to their challenges. They have altered the priorities, shape, and trajectory of our family.

I like us better now.

Children are an Heritage

We have returned from our annual Heritage Weekend at the cabin. It’s three days where twenty-six people, including fourteen children, do family bonding things. We launch water bottle rockets into the sky, have a cousin sleep-out in Grandma’s barn, pick pumpkins from Grandpa’s garden, and repeatedly kick the kids off their mobile devices.

September is a glorious time of year for Dutch oven dinners, campfires, hoops in the driveway, toddlers playing trains, and Jack vacuuming up the dead Box Elder bugs.

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At our Sunday devotional, we talked about relatives and ancestors who have influenced us. Three of my brothers-in-law told us about men in their lives who made a profound positive impact on them. They said things like,

“My grandpa was the constant in my life. He was there when my unstable parents weren’t. He taught me how to live decently. He taught me how to be a man.”

“My grandpa found small ways to connect with me. He showed interest in things I was interested in. He spent time talking with me. His influence shaped me into the person I am.”

“My dad had his faults, but he loved his family and created traditions of camping and being together outdoors–things we still do. He couldn’t always show that he cared, but he did care and I’m grateful he was my dad.”

We planted a burr oak tree in remembrance of my great-grandpa Lawrence Criddle, a man with big hair and a generous heart, who my dad described as, “the finest man I ever knew.”

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Raising up and nurturing a younger generation requires selflessness and character. It gives our lives meaning and purpose.

Like the burr oak, it is something beautiful.

Old Crone Speaks

I’ve become the thirty-something equivalent of a creepy old crone in a fairy tale. I’m all hunched over and crabby, with stringy hair and buggy sleepless eyes, foreseeing doom and gloom everywhere I look.

I’m basically a Disney witch.

I’ve been so angry that a) Charlie won’t sleep, which means b) I can’t sleep and c) the behavior problems and anxiety for the third child are spinning him (and thus me) like a top.

Sometimes I am so mad at the universe.

I read a post on my Facebook support group feed by a mom who has three children, two with feeding tubes. She is approaching the necessity of her third child getting a feeding tube as well. I felt such fury on behalf of this woman who I don’t even know personally. I wanted to scratch someone’s eyes out and scream that it is so wrong that this mom has such consuming issues with all of her children, that she spends all of her energy handling their feeding/allergy/infection problems, and doesn’t know how she can manage it long term.

Sometimes I feel such blinding rage that TWO OF MY CHILDREN have so many cognitive and behavior problems. And also, life, are you kidding me?!

Oscar Wilde said, “Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.”

It’s a nice sentiment, Mr. Wilde, but it’s wrong.

Life is complex because it is filled with complicated people managing their complicated problems.

If I did have evil supernatural powers, right now I would totally be stirring a giant cauldron in my ragged cloak while cackling beneath a vortex of dark thunderheads, which I had summoned of course. I would start throwing thunderbolts around, scaring the forest animals (and possibly even my children) into obedience. Also, I would be cursing Oscar Wilde.

Life is hard and it isn’t fair.

It just isn’t. It’s life.

And in my experience, the right thing is usually the hard thing.

You are free to disagree, but beware the flying thunderbolts.

Great Mercy

Dutch and I are closely following the adventures of our friends Layne and Jana Flake on their LDS mission in Kenya. The pictures and stories on their blog are an exercise in perspective for me.

The people of rural Kenya are desperately poor. They have so little, and yet Jana wrote that they consistently say how blessed they are to know they are God’s children and that He has brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

The Flakes spend much of their time helping at an orphanage and school called Great Mercy. All of the cooking for the children at Great Mercy is done in two pits inside a mud hut, which fills with smoke from the fires. My family is working with Layne and Jana to raise $600.00 to improve the kitchen conditions. They recently added a sink with clean running water. Next, the plans include building a counter and improving the kitchen’s ventilation.

The images of the orphanage in this slide show are more powerful than my description. It is rewarding for me to be involved in helping these little orphaned children. If you would like to contribute to our fundraising effort, I would be most grateful, as would the Flakes.

One hundred percent of any donations goes directly to improvements for the school and orphanage. The Flakes daughter, JaLayne Grow, has a dedicated PayPal account for this purpose. You can find it by logging onto your PayPal account, selecting “Send Money,” and then typing dajagrow@yahoo.com into the address section and selecting “payment to friends or family.”

If you prefer to send a check, make it out to Jana Flake and it will be deposited into their account. Checks can be mailed to:
JaLayne Grow
9495 Pinehurst Drive
Roseville‎ CA‎ 95747
United States

or local friends who wish to contribute can contact me and I’ll pick it up from you and send it off.

Realistic Christmas Wishes

I looked at Christmas cards online today. Because it’s only mid-September. But we had family pictures taken this week so I’m trying to be on top of something.

The thought of the holidays makes me want to put on sweatpants and take a nap.

And then wake up and eat cookies.

Anyway, I perused Christmas cards which all read, “Peace and Joy!” or “Merry and Bright!” or “Always Joyful!” which frankly all seem just a leetle beet unrealistic. Even generally happy people aren’t always joyful, right?

I’ve never considered myself a Scrooge, but page after page of cards commanding me to “Be Merry!” made me sigh.

Am I the anomaly for feeling like the pressure to be happy! is sometimes too much? Christmas is great, but we don’t need to set the happiness standard so high that normal, struggling people can’t reach it.

There were more pun-ridden brightly cheerful holiday cards devoted to dog-loving families than there were basic, simple, (dare I say neutral) cards. Maybe basic, simple, neutral types shy away from sending greeting cards. Perhaps they retreat into a state of reserved simplicity, rejecting overt demands at joyfulness. I’m not really sure.

I feel that my family could use a Christmas card with a different sort of caption. Something like, “The Holidays: When our son decides to throw two steaming cups of hot chocolate into the front of the car, coating the van interior in Christmas cheer.”

It’s true, not trite.

More importantly, it doesn’t order anyone to start feeling joyful. Nor does it assume that family togetherness at Christmastime equals peace. We have love at home around here. Peace, however, mostly eludes us.

Another option for the Christmas card caption, “We’re pretty sure our neighbors are tired of being merry and bright about all the vacuums that are tossed from our side of the fence into their yards.”

Or “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. when Jack throws down the Christmas tree as an act of rebellion when the home teachers show up.”

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The Gargoyle of Guilt

I’m stymied. I’ve been trying to write for days, but it all comes out as a rant, or a whine, or a whimper. I’ve been too angry and sad and wiped out to say anything that anyone would want to read. I don’t even want to read it.

I feel this compulsion to write about the special needs parenting experience, like it’s my responsibility or my calling or something, but the reality this week is that the special needs parenting experience is kicking my trash.

I don’t have anything lovely to say about it. I don’t have the energy to muse about the lessons I’m learning or the ways we are growing. In the rare moments when everyone is asleep, writing guilt creeps up my spine and sits heavily on my shoulders, hunched and hideous like a gargoyle. Write an article, it says to my annoyance. Better yet, a book. “Shut up,” I think.

I can only put in my earbuds and cradle my iPad as I climb into a figurative canoe of sorts, floating and drifting easily on the sea of Dish on Demand. Dutch tells me I don’t need to feel guilty for being in survival mode.

But I do anyway.

Thoughts from the Pianoforte

I’m going to channel the decade in which I was born and quote Karen Carpenter (and her voice like melted milk chocolate) singing, “I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation…” Hum along if you know it.

Let me explain the reasons for my pure lightness of being.

Exhibit A: Last night we left Jack with Jessie, our respite sitter, and took the family to dinner. The last time this happened—all of us eating out together—was……..never. It’s never happened before.

Our children need practice in restaurant behavior and we need family memories and bonding time. Also, we need dinner. So we finally did it and everyone ate food and sat nicely (mostly), and the only meltdown was in the parking lot afterward, relating to car seat drama.

I mentally whipped a big black sharpie from the box of sharpies I keep locked up ever since Jack sharpied the laundry room cupboards in permanent black, and crossed off “eating out together as a family” from the big list of Things We Can’t Do Because of Disabilities. Thanks to respite care and perseverance with Charlie, it’s now possible.

Exhibit B: The Littlest Boy started preschool today. For the first time in thirteen years, I had two free daytime hours with no kids as far as the eye could see. I came home and sang the Hallelujah Chorus in my silent house. Then I practiced the piano.

I’ve been yearning to play the piano for months, nay years. But every time I sit down to play, someone screams to sit on my lap, or maniacally pounds on the low keys, or pulls the music from in front of me. And I refuse to ruin bedtime by playing when they’ve just fallen asleep.

So today I played. It sounded awful. I fumbled my way terribly through Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor and wondered how I ever was once good enough to play this without errors and at tempo, in front of people.

Somewhere, the spirit of my childhood piano teacher, Jenny Bennett, whom we lovingly referred to as Benny Jennett, was shaking her head at my piano skills which have so long lain fallow.

I could hear her shouting, “Count!”

“A-one-a-and-a-two-a-and-a-three-a-and-a-four-a-and-a!”

“Remember to play with expression!”

Expression was her favorite word.

Several years back when we got our piano, I wrote Mrs. Bennett a note telling her that I’d been thinking of her since all my piano music was covered in her handwriting. I thanked her for being a force for good through my childhood.

She taught me that playing the piano without expression is boring. She taught me to never turn down an opportunity to serve by playing the piano at church. She taught me to start new things slowly and deliberately, so that I could learn to do them well instead of fast. She taught me that life generally doesn’t turn out as you expect, but that’s okay because you can laugh at most of it.

I can still hear her laughing from her chair next to the baby grand in her music teaching room, and calling me “You Cute Kid!”

A quiet house and some old sheet music are good for remembrance.

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