Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Thing With Feathers


imageI had one of those existential days this week where I looked around at the parts of my life that I’m usually good at shoving aside and not dwelling on because they make me crazy. But this time when I tried to shove them aside, they wouldn’t be shoved. They stayed.

I tried to ignore them as I weeded the yard in the 100 degree heat. As much as I love a yard without weeds, I hate the weeding. When I am overheated, I’m learning, my life skills start slipping away. I turn into this person who CANNOT COPE WITH ANYTHING when surrounded by heat and weeds, apparently.

The day continued its steep descent, bottoming out dramatically some time later.

Ironically, Jack and Charlie were behaving nicely. They alternated following me around outside and going inside to flop down on the couch when they got hot. The problem wasn’t them.

It was me.

I couldn’t laugh or shrug off the weird idiosyncrasies that fill our life. They made me furious. I was mad about Sundays being long and horrible. I was mad that our weekends are weird and hard, and that we are so reliant on babysitters to function beyond survival mode. I was mad that I’m surrounded by kid food, and that Jack eats all my fancy cheese that I hide from him.

I was depressed about the ten thousand ways that having high-maintenance kids is limiting.

I said to God, “I know you love me, but it doesn’t feel like knowing this is helping me right now because I have to figure it out myself, or just keep enduring, or whatever, because that’s the way it is.”

Emily Dickinson wrote that “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” And it totally is, I concur, and they shimmer with iridescence. Sometimes, though, the feathered thing feels dead.

At church, my friend Jana spoke, saying that often we think that God will give us a stone or a serpent when we ask for bread. She talked about how we erroneously think we have to figure it out on our own (I wondered how Jana KNEW???) or continue suffering indefinitely. Then she spoke of miracles that she saw in the lives of the people in Kenya who prayed and believed.

“God wants to help us, not hurt us!” She exclaimed.

People, I too have experienced miracles in raising my family, and yet I still brace myself for the stone or the serpent that I expect to fall on me from the sky.

Why do I do this?

Am I so jaded that I can’t remember all the gifts that have also landed on my head? I am jaded, yes, but the thing with feathers does still live within me.

We have hoped for good things, and the gift is that when bad things happened instead, we somehow managed to keep going anyway.

God gets it. He knows.

He wants to help us, not hurt us.

And so he gave me Dutch, and Henry, and Truman. He gave us Jack and Charlie. He gave us friends and teachers and doctors and behavior therapists and prescription drugs and Coca Cola and date night and sleep. He gave us a plan to come back to Him and slough off the sadness of mortality.

Between all of this and the six of us in my family, there is enough temerity and chutzpah, meekness and tenderness, eye-rolling and pissed-off longevity, to see us through.

All of it is a gift, the brimstone and the lightness of being. God knows it is.


Nacho Cheese

It seems I have reached the point in the summer when my mind has separated from my body and has taken to floating around the upper corners of my house. Meanwhile, my automaton self keeps driving people places, cleaning up, and making food.

It’s okay. Though I am kind of brainlessly wandering through my days, I don’t feel completely lunatic as I have in summers past. I just feel disconnected and sleepy. Dutch tells me to cut myself some slack as it is the dog days of summer, to which I say, “yeah.”

With Jack in day camp and Charlie in half-day reading camp, things are moving along at an efficient clip. We are holding steady, we are doing this. But summer days start too early and go on for ever and ever because it never gets dark and my people don’t know how to fall asleep in these conditions. Or how to sleep in when they’ve stayed up too late. I feel like I’m complaining here, which I don’t mean to do.

The facts are:

1. We are doing far better this summer than ever before.

2. For this I am deeply grateful.

3. I’m still tired.

4. There is little time for writing and reading and mulling, which I’ve just realized is the real reason for my ennui. I just need a little uninterrupted Megan Time for the crafting of the sentences.

“Why don’t you write when the kids are in bed?” one might ask.

Because I am hot and lethargic, and after taking off my clothes and brushing my teeth, I lie down on my bed and let the ceiling fan waft cooler air over me. And then I fall asleep before I can start typing, or reading, or even finishing the third season of Call the Midwife.

Dutch had a companion way back in the Georgia, Hotlanta mission of the early ’90’s who, everyday at lunch when they returned to their apartment, took off his clothes down to his undies and sat in a recliner eating nachos. His mom had shipped him an enormous number 10 can of nacho cheese called Que Bueno! Elder Lybarger thought the little upside down exclamation point before the Q was and “i” and so called his nacho cheese “i Que Bueno.” Dutch tried to explain about the Spanish punctuation with no luck. Elder Lybarger was like, “Duh. No.”

And so that dude ate his nachos in his underoos and then fell asleep in his easy chair, every day. Dutch remembers him fondly. But now he has taken to comparing me to Elder Lybarger, minus the i Que Bueno! Because I am in my underwear and I am falling asleep, and that’s just the way it is.


Oxygen. Chocolate Doughnuts. Honey.

Father’s Day began with Jack climbing between us in our bed and elbowing our stomachs and ribs with his elbows. But there was no Code Brown today, so it WAS a holiday. 

After sacrament meeting, we visited Great-Grandma and Grandpa Snow. Within two minutes of arrival, Jack had pillaged Grandma’s supply of lemon chiffon yogurt, which she eats every day at lunchtime with a chocolate doughnut. Also, she is diabetic but is clearly sticking it to the diabetes. Rock on Grandma Snow. 

Then Jack turned off Grandpa’s oxygen. That he uses to breathe.

Grandma Joyce turned it back on, and then cousin James turned it down from 3.5 to 1.5. The great-grandchildren were really tough on Grandpa Snow’s lungs today. 

Seeing those two was a Father’s Day treat for me. I want to be like them when I’m in my upper 80’s/early 90’s. With more than 40 great-grandchildren, they remember each of their birthdays and send them each a gift. Same thing at Christmas. And they’ve worked in the temple for years and years and years and years. This brand of selflessness seems rare and precious.

Who calls their 40-year-old grandson with silver hair “Honey?” 

Dutch’s grandparents do. 

Coming home is hard to do

I am experiencing post-vacation let down. I’m an anomaly among humans apparently because I don’t start missing my home and my routine on vacation. I want to stay and live in fantasyland forever. Is it too much to ask? I don’t care for returning to reality.

Let’s revisit the trip for the purpose of allowing me to savor it a little longer.

* We saw grizzly bears. One climbing a hill near the road and another through the spotting scope in the Hayden Valley. Bears, you guys. They are real and huge and wild and we saw them. Charlie was over the moon.

* We saw foxes, too, which are adorable, and for which I feel an affinity because of this movie.

* The weather was stormy and moody, cool and wet, sunny and clear. All of it was gorgeous.

* Truman called our accommodations at the Lake Hotel Annex our “hoe ‘n tell.”

* The general store at Mammoth had sea salt caramel truffle ice cream, of which I approve.

* Our three-year-old hiked like a hiking machine. And the cousins scuffled with each other for the privilege of holding his hand on the hikes. He relished this with a certain smugness. There were rather a lot of train references by our caboose when it came to hiking. He waited for me to catch up to him while walking back from Mystic Falls, took my hand, and said, “Engines hold hands.”

* Charlie also hiked like a boss. And he put Dutch in his place. On our way to Roosevelt one morning as we drove past Canyon, Charlie called from the backseat, “That’s too fast, Jeff.”

* Storm Point was magnificent. I’ve never seen it in a storm before. It was better this way. Maybe there is a comparison I can make here to life, like how the storms reveal a depth of beauty that’s missing from a sunshine-y tableau. Yes, that works.

* The Lamar Valley was its typical stunning self, showing off for the bison who don’t care, as long as there is a lot of grass for grazing.

* Also spotted in the Lamar, two park ranger trucks with flashing lights that had pulled over an actual hearse with Mourning Wood Funeral Home painted on the side. For real. That’s what it said. We died laughing.

* We encountered many a footbridge on our treks through marshy meadows. I loved all of them.

* Someday I would like to wake up at five am and see the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River from Artist’s Point all by myself, minus the tour busses. It’s exquisitely lovely and probably much better in solitude.

* Trout Lake offers views that make one’s heart flutter. The world, my friends, is astonishing. Glorious and beautiful, indeed.

* Truman was enchanted by Mud Volcano, which we affectionately call Mud Buh-cayno because Henry called it that for years. It is also known among my people as Goo Geyser, because my nephew Michael said so. Our walk around Mud Buh-cayno took an unexpected turn this year when an enormous bison walked onto the trail and decided he wasn’t going to move. We had to leave the trail and bushwhack a large detour around him to get back to our car.

* The sky was all, “I’m stunning and I know it.”

* We slept in until 8:00 every morning and didn’t have to clean up a Code Brown.

* I had quality time with these people.

See why I wanted to stay?

Things I am Thinking

1. You can’t run away from your problems. 

Not that I am trying to. Rather, Dutch and I spend a lot of time talking about how we could improve things for our family (i.e. a less poo-smelling house, fewer lakes of urine to clean, a basement that hasn’t been destroyed, etc.)  and we got nothin. 

We can fix it, and the problems will return. We can bulldoze Chez Goates and start over with fresh-smelling new construction and will we shortly be right back where we are now. We can’t make it go away. Changing locations doesn’t really change anything.

2. Sundays are hard.

They just are. Church plus kids who suck at church make for no-good Sundays. 

And then the bishop relayed some instruction from SLC over the pulpit yesterday and it was all, “the Sabbath is so incredibly important. Please recommit yourself to keeping it.” This is all well and good until you look around and realize that you have exactly zero clues about how to make Sundays better than they are.

I suppose that our dogged, ongoing weekly trudge through the three-hour block and the rest of the long Sabbath despite the awfulness of it is a testimony. Church is hard but we love Jesus so we go.

3. Everyone talks about the First Day of Kindergarten and the Leaving for College milestones in parenting, but I have heard little about the Sending Your Thirteen-Year-Son to Scout Camp for Six Days milestone that is making me feel like I am on a freight train and my life with Henry is shrieking by. 

This milestone, unlike some others, has me worrying about lightning strikes, drowning, bears, and car crashes, so thanks for the stress, Scout Camp.

Henry may only live in this house five more years, and then perhaps never again after that. It’s not that I want him to always live at home. I have at least one child who likely will never leave home. This alternative also fills me with sadness. 

I don’t want my children to leave, but I don’t really want them to stay home forever either, which means that motherhood is indeed a paradox.

4. “Can I handle the seasons of my life?” quoth Stevie Nicks. And me. This is something I wonder about. 

I do feel a sense of accomplishment that we have survived the baby and toddler years and are now humming along with a teen and big kids and just one preschooler. So many times I wasn’t sure that we would survive it.

We brought two children into the world after having Jack, which was the hardest thing I have ever done.

The landslide did not bring me down.

Bringing Up Betty

Last night I did a podcast interview. This was after I asked around to figure out WHAT THE WHAT podcasts are and why they are a thing. And they ARE a thing! I learned that. And then I did one.

I spent a pleasant 45 minutes chatting with Sarah Evans about the ins and outs and what have you’s of parenting special needs little folks. She is preparing to launch a podcast series about special needs families called Bringing Up Betty, named for her two-year-old with a rare disability. I was her first interview. We learned together.

Sarah asked me when and how my children were diagnosed, which is a bit of synchronicity as I have been writing about this very topic recently. I’ve been strolling down the minefield of my memory, looking around at the carnage littering the last decade of my life on earth. I found to my surprise that I can now view this period with less pain and more distance and clarity, with a sort of neutrality that defies the overwrought, emotional mess that I was.

It makes me feel grown up.

I’m interested to hear how the edited interview plays out because

1. I find listening to my own voice a singularly painful thing to do (will I sound gravelly? Husky? Aged? Weird? Please note that if I do, I don’t want to hear about it) and

2. Charlie walked into the room at one point and, hearing a voice coming from the computer, started chanting “I AM A ROBOT,” in a robot-y voice.

Seven-year-olds are great, but seven-year-olds on the autism spectrum are the cat’s pajamas. I’m bringing up boys and it’s kind of fantastic.

P.S. Are you into podcasts? Do tell.

Daily Charlie

Today as we drove home from picking up the dry cleaning, we saw some army guys driving army trucks so that was super cool. Charlie asked me probably six times, “How many years ago was Dad an army guy?”

My response was the same each time, “Dad was never in the army.” I think he kept asking because he found this answer disappointing.

Why would anyone NOT want to be in the army? Armies are cool and have guys who wear camo and carry big backpacks full of cool gear. They have guns and hummers and night vision. I mean, geez.

The mind of Charlie is a vivid, imaginative place with gears that never cease ticking and spinning. I don’t always fully understand where he is coming from or what he is getting at, but he brings a free-thinking, unexpected perspective to my life.

Just the other day as Truman watched Cars, Charlie asked me what song was playing as Lightning McQueen heads to California.

“It’s called ‘Life is a Highway,'” I told him.

“Can we sing it for Family Night?” he earnestly asked.

I pictured us sitting in the library/music room of a Monday evening singing an a cappella version of Tom Cochrane’s song famously covered by Rascal Flatts.

Laughter bubbled up and out because “Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long,” seemed like some weird, oddly fitting lyrics for Family Home Evening.

Ninety-five percent of the time we sing “I Am a Child of God” because we got that puppy down. Occasionally, we’ll try “I Love to See the Temple,” or at Christmas time, “Silent Night.”

Never have we sung Rascal Flatts. But I’m not completely ruling it out.


We need Jesus

I’m in a state. I want to curl up in my down comforter and sleep away the summer. I don’t have any excess energy. There is just barely enough in me to slog through the days. And what is wrong with me that I am always tired?

Please note that the first person to tell me that I should stop eating gluten and carbs and sugars and everything good can take a flying leap into hell. 

For real, I will shriek and rip my hair out in clumps if anyone starts telling me that living on salads and nuts and seeds will solve everything. 

In other news, a few very dear friends of mine are facing huge struggles right now, and I feel so much sadness for them, along with a heavy sense of helplessness. Empathy is all I have to offer and it doesn’t feel like enough. 

I’d rather gather up their problems, pack them into a tight clump, and fling them into outer space. 

To quote my friend Chris, who sometimes quotes our friend Jana, “Jesus needs to come.”

We just need Jesus to come back, guys. That’s it.


Red Vines are banned here

Two packages of candy have cost us five hundo this week. 

The tootsie pop that Jack hucked at the windshield on the way home from the cabin hit with enough force to leave a largish rock chip. Except from the inside of the car. Hours later it cracked outward into a giant semicircle, a smile of broken auto glass. 

And the licorice. The custom blend of black licorice pieces and Red Vines cleaned out Jack’s bowels with frightening efficacy. The stairs took the brunt of it. It’s like a crime scene, except with poo. The carpet cleaner has been scheduled.

A series of unfortunate events, first world in nature and pretty esoteric to the special needs experience.

Life with Jack is expensive and not boring.