Monthly Archives: May 2015

How to go to the cabin, in three easy steps

1. Know where the McDonald’s locations are en route. This is because, by necessity and autism, going to the country for us involves fast food. And next time, order 60 chicken nuggets instead of 40 because the guys INHALED those things and were still hungry. Also, I hate McDonald’s. Except for their Cokes.

2. Enjoy the scenery. Enjoy the greenery. Sit on the back porch and listen to the river. Watch for the Sandhill cranes. Listen to Jack vacuuming in the kitchen. Pile the kids in the Mule for a ride through the fields and around the pond. Have a campfire and roast meat on sticks for dinner. Watch Baby play trains. Play in the barn. Look around and enjoy it because it’s lush and rich, an embarrassment of riches after this wet spring. But it won’t stay that way. So remember it verdant. 

3. Don’t let Jack eat any of that giant package of black licorice that he found somewhere and was wolfing down on the porch. And don’t let him eat any of the Red Vines Charlie had in the car, for Pete’s sake. DON’T DO IT. Licorice in any form acts as an enema for Jack. Just know that when we all get home from the cabin, Jack will transform the HOUSE AND BACKYARD into POOTOWN. And it will happen right when the home teachers swing by to check in on how you’re doing. Which you will answer with an abbreviated explanation and a refusal to shake their hands, as you are currently undertaking a HAZMAT operation. Which they can undoubtedly smell from the porch where you stand and talk.

There it is.


Helicopter Parenting

“How did your first day of summer go?” my friend Heather texted me this afternoon.

I responded, coolly.

“It was fine.”

“Except for the part when Charlie took off to the Chevron on his bike without me knowing and shoplifted four helicopter toys.”

For real. Insert screaming and rending of clothing here.

Oh my stars, people. $24.00 dollars in stupid plastic helicopters with crummy candy stashed in the bottom, unabashedly lifted from the gas station by my seven-year-old.

Aaaaaaand, now it’s Summer.

Summer + Charlie = hell’s bells.

Summer + Charlie – Mom’s brain cells.

Summer + Autism (Are you kidding me?)

(Some of these math problems may not be complete. I know this. What I don’t know is how to make them complete. I’m an English major, yes? The maths are not my forte.)

When I drove the three blocks down the hill and found Charlie riding up the hill, he was eager to show me his new helicopters, two clutched in each hand on the handlebars.

He didn’t think he had done anything wrong. He thought I was mean for putting his bike in the back of the van, ordering him into the car, and driving to Chevron to return the dumb helicopters.

When Dutch and I sat Charlie down to talk about not a) running off by himself to b) steal things, he didn’t get what on earth we meant. He wanted to go to the Chevron and get helicopters. End of story.

It wasn’t until we brought up the police who tend to get involved in cases of children wandering off and also in cases of thievery, that Charlie started listening. Cops have gravitas, you know. Parents don’t. We tend to be lame.

School’s out for summa, fair citizens.

Buckle up.

Are You a Pill?

Do you ever look at yourself and say, “I am such a pill?”

Because I said this to myself today at Charlie’s last day of school party. Three autism classes joined in for a minion bash to celebrate the end of school and it was amazing. The teachers and aides had decked their hallway of the elementary school to look like minion heaven, basically.

I can’t even stress the level of decorating, planning, and crafting that went into this party. Balloons! Silverware bundles that looked like minions with which to eat the banana splits! Handmade minion hats for every kid! A minion photo booth! Soda bottles decorated like minions! Pin the eye on the minion!

It was unreal, and the kids loved it.

And I loved it. Except near the end when I felt a little like I had autism because there was a lot of noise and energy in those rooms and I wouldn’t have minded just a tad less volume among the minions.

Anyway, there was a moment when I looked at the decor and the teachers leading the myriad games and I thought, “There was a time when this would have made me crazy. Angry, even.”

It may be that all these years of survivalist living have done a number on me. For a long time after Jack was born I felt like we were up a creek without a paddle. The harder family life became for me, the more I became irrationally bothered by fancy parties and elaborate celebrations. Just living had become so unmanageable, that seeing someone else succeed at something so frivolous as throwing a party kind of infuriated me.

“I can’t even go anywhere, ever, in public with my child and expect normal, decent behavior, and these people who are gifted with the party-planning gene have the time and energy to spend on something so unnecessary, so fleeting,” I would think with vitriol. “It’s ridiculous.”

Meanwhile birthday parties for my kids were simple to the point of being puritanical. Partially because life with a profoundly delayed child is all-consuming, and partially because I was not born with the party-planning gene.

But today I opened my eyes to the care, the creativity, and the goodwill that went into that minion party. Miss Angie and the rest of the crew put a lot of time and love into that minion party for a bunch of children with autism.

I was a pill about fancypants parties before, you guys. But today, I wasn’t. I saw that party for what it was: a big, happy celebration of my son and all his unique and wonderful peers.


Full Circle

Memorial Day could’ve gone pear-shaped for us. It sort of looked like it was going to because:

*Dutch was on call and had to go into work.

*Jack was having none of the game I invented called “Let’s stop eating all the sliced Havarti that is locked up in the garage fridge.”

*Charlie was running feral from the backyard to the front, amping up his brothers and stirring up malcontent.

*Jack wasn’t into the sporadic rain showers and the “being inside.”

Everyone was wholly snippy and grumpy. Until:

*Jack’s sitter came by and I took the little boys for a picnic in the park. I looked around at the families picnicking around us and thought, “Look at us, doing a normal family thing, a simple thing that for us isn’t simple.” 

*Truman went down the twisty slide at the park 87 times, making train sound effects every time. His curls bounced heartily every time he ran for the stairs of the play structure and he told me, “I’m the fastest engine going up the bridge.”

*Charlie agreed to have quiet time in exchange for a dumb whirling helicopter toy from the gas station.

*Henry mowed Grandma Shirley’s lawn with a deft hand. He could probably do it in his sleep now, nimbly.

*Jack sat nicely in the car all the way to Grandma Joyce’s cabin, and spent most of the evening laughing and sucking down Otter Pops. We call this VICTORY.

*We went on a hike to the water tower and Moose Poop Ledge. Charlie ran for all of it. Every step. The other boys ran for most of it, because boys like running uphill and downhill. 

*We ate Joyce’s roast chicken and watermelon and orange watermelon (which is what we call cantaloupe so that Charlie will eat it) and spinach salad and cupcakes.

*I thought about my parents and Dutch’s parents, and what it means to be a part of a family. 

*I thought of my grandparents and Dutch’s grandparents, picturing them in the different phases of their lives. “They did this too,” I thought. “They raised children and worked and cleaned up and felt tired and ate watermelon and chicken with their families on summer holidays.”

It was a day that threatened to go pear-shaped, but which instead took me from my boys to our parents and grandparents, all the way back to Dutch and me. Full circle.


Blogs! Blogs! Blogs!

I keep hearing that nobody writes or reads blogs anymore. This can’t be entirely true, because there are still plenty of famous bloggers earning fat incomes from their blogs which happens because THEY HAVE LOTS OF READERS. Obviously.

And yet, apparently I came onto the blogging scene after all the cool kids everywhere had tried it and were now done with it. Whatever. Fewer bloggers now means I don’t give a crap because I LIKE TO BLOG.

And I like to write phrases in all caps, I’m finding. ALL CAPS! YAY!

My blog remains therapeutic to me. It’s a joy, an escape, a purpose, an outlet. It’s a connection with my friends, other writers, and other parents. The world and I have a convenient little portal for interfacing in this blog.

I also read blogs. Nothing too famous, because NO THANKS and also BORING. Just the blogs of people I like, who are unique and marvelous.

Here they are:

There are a few other private blogs I read and love, too.

The Internet is nice to have around.

Better Living Through Chemistry

A significant portion of my day is spent crushing pills, mixing them into liquid elixirs, and administering them to the boys. I do this a lot. Like, more than I sweep or write or eat dark chocolate from the hidey hole I’ve contrived in my sock drawer.

I dose the meds roughly as often as I do laundry. It’s the new normal and believe me, it’s better than the alternative of having my eleven-year-old hurtling around like a 120 lb blunt instrument, hurting people and things. And nicer than my seven-year-old spinning off into space as a ball of shrieking anxiety.

And so, meds. They are a gift from heaven. Anyone who doesn’t think so has never raised my children. Better living through chemistry, my dad always says, to which I say, “AMEN!” and also “Pass me that ibuprofen, please.”

The pediatrician asked to what I attribute Jack’s recent improvement, and my answer was and is, “the meds, duh.” We have changed behavioral strategies and routines, but all that is ancillary to Jack’s brain and body feeling less frantic and tormented. The meds dial down the neuroses and bring happy Jack back, mostly.

Of course, nothing’s perfect, because otherwise it wouldn’t be real life. It would be paradise. The issues don’t entirely leave us, but we do manage to mostly peel them away and discard them, if we keep at it with regularity.

The anti-psychotic, the anti-anxiety, the anti-impulsivity, the anti-diarrheal, and the appetite suppressant are working together as a mystical cocktail to give us back our Jack. Most of the time.

So, as it remains, this is what I do here at home in my own little compounding kitchen-pharmacy. It’s a necessary thing, if a consuming one.

We do what it takes.

My Place

Houses populate my dreams.

I’ve been dreaming of neighborhoods. Sometimes it is the neighborhood of my childhood, but more often I am walking in my sleep through different houses in different neighborhoods:

1970’s suburbs squating on the benches of Mount Olympus.

WWII-era bungalows in Sugarhouse tucked between trees whose branches reach up and over the streets to touch.

Rural farmhouses scattered along a hilly highway that runs beside a valley teeming with grasses and cows.

A tiny downtown apartment, in a large city, with carpeted walls (wha?) and easy access to a train.

A Depression-era clapboard house that resembles the one we rented in Logan when we were students. But this one has an extra, hidden story upstairs that we didn’t know about.

The wide, shady street where we bought our first home–I know it’s Hartford Street, but all the houses look newer and somehow wrong.

I suppose this means that place looms large in my subconscious. I’m not sure why.


About our current house:

1. It’s roomy. Maybe a tad too roomy. There’s just a lot for Jack to destroy here. So much flooring and so many walls, moldings, and sinks that need fixing because of the heavy hand of my particular eleven-year-old.

2. We have lived here ten years. Aside from my childhood home, it’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere. Charlie and Truman were born since we moved here.

3. It faces a cul-de-sac with a wooded pocket park in the center.

4. We planted poplars when we moved in and they are taller than the house, which is saying something because the house is tall.

5. We live on a hill, with a park and a church at the bottom of our street. My sister Kate once said that my neighborhood reminded her of a child’s play set, with houses and a school, a park and a church, a Chinese restaurant and a gas station. And trees. It is kind of like that, actually.

6. We live a little distance away from “town.” This is not always great when you need to drive lots of places “in town,” but is really great when you want to feel quiet and peacefully removed.

7. My children have utterly trashed the playroom downstairs. They don’t care that it’s nasty. They made it that way. I see it as a kind of heavy-use racquetball court in the basement. Things are thrown at the walls, the floor is being beaten to death, and the guys are utterly content playing xbox on their giant beanbags. My strategy is to avoid it whenever possible. Live and let live.

8. My bedroom and the library/music room/writing room are my two favorite rooms. They are the most untouched places in the house, mostly safe from kid wear.

9. At dusk, from the back windows, the western skyline is a sweeping panorama of inky blue mountains against a purple and silver sky.

10. There is a pervasive sense of kindness and community among my neighbors.


The houses in the book I’m currently reading, Burial Rites, are made of slabs of turf and peat, with wooden reinforcers and doors. Smoky, dark, damp, cold—this is the reality of a turf house with an earthen floor in 1820’s Iceland. My house is dirty sometimes, but it isn’t actually constructed of dirt.  And we have hot running water, so what was I whining about?

Home is where I cook food, take showers, do laundry, sleep, read, watch Netflix, vacuum, unload the groceries, mop up pee, clean up toys, raise children, write, clean fingerprints off windows, and return to from everywhere else. 

We live here. 


Watching my Stories

Is anyone else out there watching Wolf Hall? It’s haunting my life. Henry VIII, my word, is such a narcissist and a ruthless sociopath. Thomas Cromwell is shrewdly brilliant, yet human. And they just lopped off Anne Boleyn’s head. 

How glad am I that I did not live in England in the 1500’s when queens were disposable and female children were disappointments and houses were cold and made of stone and corsets were how torsos were forced into unholy shapes? 

So. Very. Glad.

But it’s all corsets all the time because I just finished season one of Turn, a brilliant AMC series about rebel colonist spies for General Washington during the Revolutionary War. It’s the historical turning points that make the best stories, you guys.

I’m still mostly incapable of reading anything of substance at this time. I blame stress. It’s rendered me brainless. 

And I wore a track suit two days in a row as I puttered around my warm, watertight house. It’s nice not being a Tudor. 

Kid had a Birthday, Shout Hooray

My neighbor pointed out to me that in the Chinese Zodiak, this is the Year of the Goat. 

I’m expecting greatness for me and my people now.

Jack’s birthday was great. Last year, his birthday was acutely painful for me. But this weekend I had low expectations for a good day and somehow the universe delivered it to us. Jack got a purple oscillating fan. He loved it. It’s broken now, a mere 36 hours later. We had cake. We visited Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Lynn. We went to McDonald’s (blech) and had peanut butter cups and stimmed off the new fan. 

And Jack is eleven years old now.

“Can you believe he is eleven?” A few people have asked me.

Actually, I can. It’s been a grueling eleven years, and it has felt long. 

I am sort of stunned though when I look at Jack and realize that he’s huge and tall and has no traces of pudgy baby Jack left in his face. 

The difference between this year and last is that Jack is happy. He’s calmer now—still hyper but less so. He gives hugs and he giggles. He makes happy sounds. 

I feel less despondent when it seems there is some happiness left for Jack, when we can reach the sweet, gentle curious boy who started out life as a little growl bear with gingery hair. 

Ten School Days Left Until Summer

I’m getting excited about summer. How weird is that? I think the last time I felt true excitement for the summer months was 14 years ago when I finished graduate school.

I have implemented a summer plan that draws from the good parts of past summers and sloughs off the soul-sucking parts of previous years. It’s gonna be good, guys. I know it and I will accept nothing less.

Summer is free to go ahead and throw whatever negative crap at me that it wishes, but it will be met with a moderately pissed-off woman repelling all of it with a crap-blocking shield of Hell No.

We have a weekly schedule for Jack’s day camp, Charlie’s reading camp, Henry’s basketball camp, hiking, swimming, the gardens, museums, nap time (mostly for my benefit), swimming, hiking, napping, and swimming. The schedule also includes regular behavior therapy and quiet time in addition to nap time, because summer days can be these endless frenzies if moms don’t impose some structure.

I got myself some cool, flowy pants and some blousy tees that are like, “Yeah, I like Cokes and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips. Deal with it.”

I’m taking back summer, people.