Monthly Archives: April 2015

Stream of Consciousness Post. Buckle up.

I’ve turned into one of those people who can’t finish a book because I’m too busy falling asleep. 

I’m only days away from a book club discussion of The Boys in the Boat and my kindle tells me I’m only 24% through. And yet, between kids and appointments and meetings at school and sneaking away to write, I cannot seem to make this happen. 

Thing is, it’s a pretty good book. I’d like to finish it. Do you ever feel like you need a weekend away just to finish even one thing—a book, the latest episodes of Wolf Hall, some sort of project that requires focus and no special needs kids hanging around?

In the time I’ve spent whining about how I’m too busy and too tired to read a book for book club, I could’ve read up to, I don’t know, like 26% through The Boys in the Boat. 

This is so Bridget Jones of me. 

Also, I held back part of the truth earlier. I manage to stay awake and find time to watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt often enough. I have no good excuses.

I am tired, though. For real.

Last night I fell asleep ubër early and dreamed that I was in a large open room in a lovely old house with wood moldings everywhere and high ceilings and crystal chandeliers. It was sort of von Trapp family ballroom-ish. 

I was there with people I seemed to know, although I can’t think now who they were. A couple of them opened a large double door and let a polar bear into the room. 

I immediately freaked out, darting around looking for an escape from the wild animal in the room. Everyone else acted like I was overreacting. 

“It’s just a little one,” they said. “He won’t hurt you.”

I did not believe them. And though they were treating it as a pet, playing with it in the von Trapp family room/ballroom, I still wanted to get the heck away from it.

They had put a collar and a giant flowered lei on the pet polar bear. And they thought I was the crazy one.

I told Dutch about my dream today and he said, “I’m not making this up, but around 12:30 last night, you started thrashing around and said, “‘Polar Bear.’ I had to talk you down, tell you there were no polar bears anywhere. I’m serious.”

And so am I. I need sleep. And I need to lay off the Kimmy Schmidt/Wolf Hall episodes until I finish my book.

Dr. C and the IEP

Let’s talk about victories.

Yesterday, we took Jack to Shriner’s Hospital, which entailed Dutch taking off work so he could ride with me and help mediate car drama. We expected to hear that it was time to set a surgery date for putting pins in the growth plates of Jack’s ankles. We also anticipated stress.

But a few things happened that we didn’t anticipate. The x-ray techs were like magical radiology fairies who took films of Jack’s legs in practically no time at all. Jack didn’t even have time to freak out, they were so quick. That was the first victory.

Jack sat enjoying the fish swimming in their enchanting tank in the lovely waiting area. We sat beside a sweet little immobile dude curled up in his little red wagon and listened to a darling boy sitting in his wheelchair play snatches of Debussy and Chopsticks on the piano. Shriner’s is a light, beautiful place where valiant children converge with lovely staff and remind people like me that life is beautiful and unexpected and hard.

 Then we saw Dr. C, who is one of my favorite physicians ever to walk the earth. I love her. She is funny and smart and pretty and normal and real. And she told us that we don’t need to do surgery. At least not now. We can keep watching Jack’s growth because his x-rays look a little bit better every year. She gave us some low-tech stuff to try to help with his pronation and the swelling in his left leg and foot.

And she said no surgery. So I love her.

Then today. I went to Charlie’s IEP meeting. These meetings are not known for being fiestas. They usually stress a parent out. But Charlie’s meeting was great. He is on this terrific path that is moving onward and upward at a fairly consistent pace. He still has so much to work on, like you know, READING, which he is loathe to do. Again, I will note that one of the great ironies of my life is that my children do not like to read. WHY???

But overall, Charlie is loved by his teachers and classmates and is honestly progressing beautifully. He is set for another year in a small-group autism classroom, which I see as a sort of little educational greenhouse for my tender little seven-year-old plant, who needs just the right amount of extra nurturing and nourishing to grow and catch up to the other plants.

I’m going to say a little prayer for Miss Angie and Mr. Derek and the rest of the team who are teaching Charlie with love and gentleness. And structure.

There are so many good people in the world, and I get to know them and they willingly help my children. That’s going in the prayer, too.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Demands Retreat

After a near-death car trip with Jack last week, me and my PTSD left for a glorious three days at Solstice Writing Retreat. I don’t want to talk about the car disaster nor the downward trajectory of my life with Jack, so let’s focus on my beautiful escape to a high mountain valley, where I wrote and laughed a lot, and honestly cried a few times from beautiful writing and music.

I often feel conflicted about how happy it makes me to leave home and how hard it is to come back. It feels kind of tragic that I love leaving so much and that I so dread returning. I hear people say that the best part of a vacation is how good it is to be home. This concept is foreign to me, you guys. Going home is like stepping back into the poorly-run mental facility of my life where I am the entire staff.

But, Solstice.

One of the writing exercises assigned by the ineffable Louise Plummer was the six word memoir. We wrote snatches of our lives in six word sentences, which sounds laborious but is actually pure fun.

JoAnne, a redhead with good stories and a sense of humor, wrote my favorite six word memoir:

Why motherhood? It’s a good question.

Hahahahaha, we roared.

My first attempt was my best:

Megan has first baby, nails motherhood.

The rest of my SWM’s ended up telling a story:

Jack is born, life blows up.

And then:

I deal in poop and vacuums.

Autism and delays make weird bedfellows.

Disabilities slough off any unnecessary thing.

Only crucial, care-worn, vital things remain.

I’ll try my hand at a few new ones to continue the story:

I’m sadder and kinder, jaded too.

There are no easy answers now.

This: a joy and a chore.
What isn’t a chore? My writing friends, and our fairy godmother teachers. They are just joy. Here are half of the gorgeous women from my writing group and our generous teachers all trying to pose gracefully in a row. It’s not an easy thing. I love them.

Left to right: Lauren, Jennie, Louise Plummer, Ann Cannon, Blue, Sarah, and yours truly.

Angel

It was 5:45 pm on a Wednesday in April and we were driving home in rush hour traffic from Jack and Charlie’s psychiatrist appointment, normally a 45 minute drive. We had been in the car for an hour and were not yet home. This ride pushed Jack’s limits of acceptable car behavior. His moaning and thrashing increased. Charlie darted out of Jack’s angry clutches several times. I drove as fast as I could.

“Sit down, Jack.”

“Buckle your seatbelt, Jack.”

“We’re almost home, guys.”

“Jack! Sit nicely!”

But when we were still 20 minutes from home, Jack leapt from the back row of the van and started choking Charlie. I pulled over and turned on my flashers. Jack got in the front seat and lunged at me, biting, scratching, and yanking my hair. It was the same kind of assault that happened in December, when our already precarious life went into lockdown. Jack’s behaviors, always a big factor in how things are done at this house, now control everything.

I called Dutch.

“I can’t stop him from attacking me, and when he’s not attacking me, he’s hurting Charlie. I don’t know what to do!”

“What should I do? Do you want me to come?” he asked.

“I can’t wait 20 minutes. He’s all over me—” Jack knocked the phone from my hand and yanked my hair down, trying to bite my face. He then unlocked the door, opened it, and started to bolt.

I screamed and swore and lunged out to pull him back inside, my left hand fumbling for the button to lock the doors.

“God, I need help!” I yelled. “Help me!”

Jack clawed at me, partially scratching off a mole from below my collarbone. His fingernails were bloody. So was my chest.

“Stop, Jack!”

Charlie cried from the backseat.

“I don’t know what to do,” I thought, while pushing my son away from me again and again. “This isn’t working. I’m not bigger or stronger than Jack anymore. I don’t know what to do.”

Suddenly a dark sedan with tinted windows pulled behind me, red and blue lights flashing in my mirrors. Hot relief swam through my bloodstream. I exhaled. Jack yanked at my hair and bit my forearm.

A tall blond plainclothes detective who looked a little like Thor approached Jack’s side of the car, saw him assaulting me, and ran around to the driver’s side and opened the door.

“My son has special needs. He’s attacking me. I can’t make him stop.”

He put his hands out, his eyes wide, and asked, “What should I do?”

Jack stopped his assault momentarily and sat sullenly, glancing sideways at the detective.

“Can you wait with me while my husband comes to help me?”

“I can wait with you,” he nodded.

I called Dutch. Jack climbed in the back of the van and I followed to stop him from hurting Charlie or opening the door and running into traffic. For the next twenty minutes, Detective Thor sat halfway in the driver’s seat, facing us, his long legs outside the car. He talked to Charlie and asked us questions. Jack scratched and bit me several times, pulling at my hair repeatedly. Each time, I told Jack that Dad was coming and everything was going to be okay.

“I am really shaking, Mom,” Charlie said.

“I know, buddy. That was really scary, but you were so brave.” I ruffled his hair.

As twenty minute increments go, this one was right up with waiting for an epidural to start working during labor after they’ve jammed needles into your spine and injected medicine.

The detective and I talked about anti-psychotic meds and how they don’t necessarily always work, about Charlie’s Avenger’s shirt, and about the fact that he (Thor) normally doesn’t stop to assist people in traffic because his job as a detective is to investigate things.

I called Dutch again. “Where are you?”

He was muscling his way through backed up traffic and onto the shoulder where we were.

Dutch arrived and everything was okay. Jack got calmly into the other car. I shook Detective Thor’s hand and thanked him.

“I don’t know where you were going tonight or how much we messed up your plans, but I am so glad you stopped.” I said.

He looked at me with kindness and a furrowed brow and nodded, “You’re welcome.” We all climbed in our separate cars and drove away.

At home, we gave Jack meds and dinner and put him to bed. I walked into my bedroom and looked at my disheveled hair and bloodied chest. Now I couldn’t stop shaking.

I have felt for some time that we are riding a tidal wave toward catastrophe. Something bad is coming. It feels inevitable and I’m powerless to stop it.

Somewhere between the winter that almost killed me and the spring that tried to finish me off, I’d come to understand, in a moment of grace, that it is very likely that things may never be great for us with Jack. I’d had this confirmation that it really could stay this difficult, maybe even for the rest of our lives. Or it might even go up in smoke, but that if it did, it would all ultimately be okay.

Because of Jesus.

I don’t have to fix it.

I can’t fix it.

Only God can, eventually.

Because of Jesus.

This revelatory moment happened weeks before the red and blue bulbs on Detective Thor’s unmarked cruiser flashed in my rear view mirror as my son assaulted me on the side of a busy road. And it helped.

Everything still hurt.

But it helped.

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The Word is Good

The people who pay the most attention to words are possibly a) writers and, b) toddlers. Wordsmiths all, because these folks are on the cusp of emergent language—creating it and receiving it. People in these groups have a greater tendency toward experimenting with words.

I fit into one of these categories and I’ll just say it. I really like words. The precise word. The unexpected word. The delicate word. The flamboyant word. The curse word. The zippy word. The vintage word. The droll word.

I like them all.

I have a running list on my phone of words that strike my fancy. Words that I don’t want to forget because oh my stars, they are delightful. Most of them are botched words. Like the way my friend Mandi’s little boy used to pronounce Home Depot as Home Bo Bo. I like it so much better than the original. And the way my friend Kristen’s kids call Chuck-a-Rama, Chuck Your Grandma. It just works, you know?

Children are uninhibited with the crazy word mashups and approximations. They are operating purely from what they hear in passing, so can you blame them for thinking that gloves are pronounced glubs, and Chuckee Cheese Is Chunky Cheese, like I did until I was seven?

My son Charlie nonsensically called apples zeh-bupps for the longest time, and another son, Henry, knew fruit snacks as woog snacks for years. My friend Liza’s toddler daughter thought that the classic Disney movie was called Snow Wipe, and Charlie still thinks Madagascar is pronounced Master Ass Car.

My husband and I had a Honda Accord that we sold to his parents when we outgrew it a few years back. It was and still is a reliable car, even though one of the back doors doesn’t open and a mysterious smoky/musty smell clings to the interior. Once, my sister-in-law Mia was babysitting some neighbor children overnight and loaded them into the old Honda to drive them to school the next morning. The kids, who had apparently never ridden in anything but spanking new SUV’s, moaned over the nonfunctional door, the cramped backseat, and the mystery odor. “This car smells like Pirates of the Caribbean,” they whined. Who thinks to compare old car smell to a Disneyland ride? Children do. 

Incidentally, Mia called the car Pirates of the Caribbean after that.

Charlie calls duct tape “goose tape,” because a goose is bigger and better than a duck, you see. Henry as a preschooler referred to our dermatologist as Dr. Eyebrow for no apparent reason. My nephew spotted a goose at the cabin and called it Mrs. Piano Face, because it had a black and white face, striped like a keyboard.

And yet, childhood isn’t the sole bastion of botched, fabulous wording. My dad once called the Sistine Chapel the Pristine Chapel during a game of Trivial Pursuit, which we will never let him forget. He also said one time as we passed a billboard for Arby’s on our way to Yellowstone, “Now, Arby’s….that’s not Burger King, is it?” Nope. Arby’s is not Burger King.

Basically everyone in certain areas of Utah and Idaho refers to a creek as a crick.

And we have an old family friend, a farmer, who always changes the word inevitable to invetible. So now we all say it that way too.

It’s wrong, but at least it’s streamlined.

I Can Do Scary Things

My neighbor has a blossoming homegrown company that makes and sells organic makeup. She asked me to help her with a marketing campaign that defines beauty as being a result of living with purpose. 

Like an idiot, I agreed to do her a favor and be photographed, filmed, interviewed, and embarrassed by pretending to be a makeup model, when I am definitely NOT. 

I thought last night about sharing the resulting video, and I fell asleep with knots in my stomach. 

I lay there with my eyes closed, remembering what my friend Jessica said to me when I told her about this ad campaign that I agreed to do for a friend, but which I wished would NEVER EVER be seen by ANYONE, ANYWHERE EVER in the whole world. I expected a little sympathy, possibly with some nodding in agreement as Jessica, who is also my hair person, did her thing with my hair.

But as she basted my scalp with product, she instead said this, “I think you need to get over it and do it.” 

“And also shut up and stop whining,” she didn’t even need to add, because from her tone, the message was clear. She may as well have snapped me with a wet hand towel while smacking me upside the head. 

“This is what it means to be vulnerable,” she explained. “It means trying something even though it’s scary, because without putting yourself in new, uncomfortable situations where you risk being vulnerable, how will you grow?”

As it was, we had just been having a conversation about Brené Brown’s research, which found that a commonality among healthy, successful, happy people, was a willingness to risk and be vulnerable.

Damn Brené Brown. Also, why is Jessica always right, about hair and everything else?

So I decided to try to get over it and stop wanting to vomit whenever I think about it. 

Curse vulnerability, gah!

Anyhow, here it is. I am that person in the center of the screen doing weird things with my mouth, as though I were thinking about eating the person interviewing me. I wasn’t, by the way, thinking of eating my interviewer. *Sigh*

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=l5-f6Bnpz6s

Retro Post: What’s in a Name

People keep asking me why I refer to Husband as “Dutch” on ye olde blog. To answer this question, I decided to repost my original explanation.

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I’ve been filling out school forms and registration forms in copious amounts recently. A common question on all these official documents asks what the child’s preferred name is, as opposed to his or her given name. All this form-completing got me thinking about the names we call our boys when we aren’t calling them by their actual names.

The birth of a nickname often follows a roundabout, nonsensical path, at least it does in my family. While the evolution of a pet name isn’t always logical, to a family member it makes heaps of sense. It has a story, or at least years of shared living to inspire it’s use.

We call my sons:

H, Mr. Horse, Mr. Higgins, Hdawg, Hman;

Jacky, Jacky Jackerton, Jackeroo, Jackmandu, Jackadoodledoo, Jackers crackers, Jack the digger;

Chachi, Chachismo, Charlie Pickles, Chully; and…

Baby. Also Baby von Schnabey. Sometimes Trubaby.

A few points of interest I noticed when mulling our list of nicknames:

1. The mostly nonverbal child has the most pet names. This is probably because he can’t tell us to be quiet and call him by his actual name. He just goes with it. And we just keep adding affectionate nicknames.

2. Our youngest may go to kindergarten someday thinking his real name is Baby. It’s all we ever call him. He responds to it better than to his real name. He points to his reflection and sweetly peeps, “Baby!”

3. The nicknames really have a way of accurately reflecting the personality of the boy. I mean seriously, Hdawg and Chachismo belong to two of the sassiest boys ever. They own those nicknames.

I don’t really have a nickname. The diminutive of my name is Meg, but people rarely call me that. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they did, because to me it sounds like the name of a quirky, strident, opinionated old woman, who has crazy bad hair and bakes buttery desserts in her messy, inviting kitchen. I could embrace Meg.

Jeff was called Jéfe in high school Spanish, and it stuck for awhile. His parents still occasionally call him Jeffer, but his pet name of choice is one of his own invention, which is Dutch. The irony is that nobody has ever actually called him Dutch. He gave it to himself because he likes the way it sounds. He thinks it makes him seem….what? Rural? Crotchety? Good-natured old guy? I don’t really know, and I don’t think he cares that the only person who refers to him as Dutch is, well, him.

He tells me he wants it in quotation marks between his first and last names in his obituary. I tell him that I’m not sure an obit is the best venue for introducing one’s new nickname.

But I guess at that point, why not?

 

Tipsy

One does not need a muse when one has my children. We live a rowdy existence, which inspired this article in the Deseret News this week.

And tonight I got to go to this place.

 

So I’m feeling fine and enjoying this beautiful bubble of contentedness.

In other news, I always make temples look like they are tilting in photographs. I have a problem.

 

Woman With Sandwich

Jack is on an anti-psychotic med that makes him practically insatiable. I am not exaggerating when I say that he is always hungry. We knew this would happen when we started the drug, but it was either this or Jack beating people up in frustration every day. We chose the med and the increased appetite.

In the four months that he has taken it, Jack has gained about twenty pounds and also shot up and inch or two. He’s solid, but also a little jiggly around the middle. Nobody’s perfect.

His psychiatrist recently cut the afternoon dose in half, in an effort to see if Jack would be less hungry. He may be eating slightly less, but it’s hard to say. He still wants to eat practically all the time.

And who am I to judge, honestly? I like to eat constantly, too, and I’m not even on meds that amplify the problem.

All of this nonstop eating going on around me has reminded me of a trip we took to San Francisco years ago where we rode a ferry across the bay and saw the weirdest snacking behavior ever.

I was pregnant with Henry and feeling the double whammy of first trimester nausea plus seasickness, so Dutch and my parents and I stayed on the deck of the ferry where I could feel the spray and the wind on my face, and where I could focus both on the horizon and not vomiting.

My sisters and brother-in-law sat inside the ferry. A petite middle-aged woman with a large knapsack boarded the boat and sat on the bench facing my siblings. What follows is a TRUE STORY of what happened on the ride from Tiburon to San Francisco. My sisters totally swear to it. It’s an oral tradition rooted in the family lore.

As the boat pulled away from the dock, the woman on the ferry opened her knapsack and pulled out a series of apricots. She ate all of them, neatly disposing of the pits in a paper sack.

Next out of her bag were a couple of oversized heirloom tomatoes, which she ate in their entirety, like they were apples.

Then, she pulled out a knife and a cantaloupe. She sliced it into wedges, scooped the seeds into her paper sack, and ATE ALL OF IT, people. Because who doesn’t like to snack on whole cantaloupes after eating three pounds of produce? Sarah, my youngest sister, pondered later that “The farmers’ market is good, but THAT good?”

At this point, my sisters and BIL were watching this portable feast unfold with unabashed, open-mouthed interest. “What would be next?” they whispered to each other. The knapsack wasn’t empty and the tiny woman showed no sign of slowing down. What in the world was next?!

It was a pickle sandwich. A large, deli-sized one on thick slices of artisan bread. Pickles, you guys. They are my least favorite condiments, and this lady consumed a giant sandwich filled with them. It’s probably better that I was gazing at Alcatraz and NOT at the woman chewing the large pickle sandwich.

My family members began to connive means to snap surreptitious photos of Woman With Sandwich.

And she wasn’t finished. After inhaling her apricots and tomatoes, single-handedly destroying a cantaloupe, and sucking down a massive pickle sandwich, the woman on the Tiburon ferry tucked into a tin of cookies.

She ate all of them, naturally.

 

Tie-dyed 

With only a few minutes until the bus was to roll up in front of our house this morning, Jack broke into Charlie’s therapy box and found a rainbow palette of craft paint which he opened and used to tie-dye the stairs, the rugs in the entry, and the walls. 

At some point as we scrubbed the rugs, which unfortunately remain tie-dyed, I told Dutch that this is why we need to live in cardboard. Smeared paint? Code Brown? Spilled Coke/applesauce/GoGurt? No problem, just pick up some more cardboard. Voilà. Problem solved.

In hindsight I sound so cool and collected about it, but in reality I said some hearty swears.

The boys boarded the bus. Truman went to preschool, and I Could. Not. Even. Until I drank a big Coke. 

And then the rest of the day was pretty great. I went to Costco to replenish the foodstuffs pillaged by the guys over spring break. It was just me and every single other mom of many kids there plus all retirees in the valley. Basically a zoo, but we got it done.

I took a walk to the park with Truman and bumped into people I like on the way there and the way back.

I had chips and hummus for lunch. 

There was laundry, of course. 

And emailing people, and calling people.

I played “If You Could Hie to Kolob” and “Be Still My Soul” on the piano for the guys when they got home and were inhaling cheese and chocolate milk and Apple Jacks.

The sun flooded my kitchen and family room during the pre-dinner witching hour, a small, vital infusion of life during the hairiest part of the day.

We had Family Night, and it was sort of okay. Jack sat in the tee pee, Charlie lined up superhero therapy cards, and Truman rolled around on the floor. We sang, prayed, and talked about our eternal spirits. I’m not sure how much sunk in, but there was togetherness and I wasn’t swearing.

I ate Girl Scout Thin Mints. They really go down smooth, you guys.

Dudes went to bed without fuss. Boom.

I climbed into bed at 8:58.