22 search results for "Carpet"

White Carpet

Jeff spent the weekend ripping out carpet and installing indestructible flooring in the upstairs hallway. It is a corridor that has seen a ridiculous amount of poop and vomit. It’s also seen far too much red punch, blue Sharpie, green playdoh, caramel-colored Coca-cola, white shaving cream, and pink shampoo.

Welcome to mi casa.

While the top layer of that once-white carpet (we didn’t choose it) was a depressing amalgamation of stains, the underbelly was truly a nauseating sight. It needed to go a long time ago.

It’s denouement has blessedly begun..

The replacement flooring is so seriously durable, so easily cleanable, so totally unaffected by standing water and intense scrubbing and objects crashing into it that I want to gaze lovingly on it and sing it’s praises while I caress it with my mop.

It’s difficult to overestimate just how much the poo-packed carpet of Jack’s early childhood was sucking my soul away, Dementor-like. I certainly wanted to shriek like a Dementor when I looked at it, and walked on it, and, heaven forbid, tried to clean a smashed-in deuce off of it.

Well expecto patronum to you, nasty cow pie carpet. We are finished with your disturbing tendency to crunch beneath our feet. We reject your dark high-traffic-spot trails made by the dirt of a thousand footsteps. We are finished with you. You have no more power to depress the heck out of me now that you are lying in a heap on the garage floor.

Who knows how many evenings and weekends of DIY demolition and installation it will take until the old and trashed “white” floor covering yields completely to the man-made wonder-stuff of today. This evening when one boy pooped on the floor and the other in his pants, I dreamed of a speedy timeframe to our ongoing project, even as I recalled a line from the movie Life of Pi.

It’s a moment when the grown-up Pi Patel is recounting his harrowing shipwreck experience in the Pacific Ocean, in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger as his companion. The young writer who listens to his tale of survival ponders it and says, “I’m trying to make sense of what it all means,” to which Pi replies, “It happened. I suffered. Why does it have to mean anything?”

How refreshing the notion that just because something difficult happened, we do not necessarily need to assign a great deal of meaning to it. Crap happens, simply and predictably. It happened to our floor covering. We suffered at the sight of it. Why does it have to mean anything?

It doesn’t mean a thing except that my metaphorical days on a raft adrift on an ocean of filthy carpet with two poopy tigers actually happened. 

Off Day

We are having an off day. Saturdays are always already “off,” but this one is even weirder than all the rest.

Jack has been a bear—a tired, grumpy, flailing bear who would not nap, despite me lying next to him on my bed for a very long time as we watched a sixty minute youtube video of a woman vacuuming her living room carpet. He soaked it up. It was stimming without the actual stimming. But he never did sleep.

I fell asleep for a few minutes. When I woke up, she was still vacuuming that rug.

Charlie and Truman were balls of anxiety, first that Santa was going to drive past our house on a fire truck at an unknown time, and second that they might somehow not hear the blaring sirens and the booming honk of the horn, and thus miss Santa Claus. And so they screamed about warm clothing and being outside and hearing the siren but not actually seeing Santa.

We saw Santa.

We took Jack on two long rides. We drove Henry to merit badge class and back. We did laundry.

Jeff and I went on a date, which ended up being a bizarro world version of a regular date. Dinner was meh. I couldn’t finish it. We left forty minutes into a disappointing movie. We came home to Jack asleep on the couch well before bedtime (meaning it will probably be a dance party in the wee hours) and Charlie losing his mind over every single thing.

Aside from seeing Santa, the day has felt like a really really bad dream sequence.

What do you do when you have a day that isn’t outright tragic, but which distorts reality into a circus freak show?





It was a different experience at the psychiatrist’s office this week.

The neuropsychiatric clinic has moved from the squat, dark 1970’s building with the unfortunate carpeting and the rabbit-warren offices to the spanking new top floor of a building downtown. Everything is light-filled, modern, and perfect. Where there were once ancient toys in the moldering waiting room, now there are iPads built into a glossy white wall. The contrast is striking.

It felt appropriate that the surroundings weren’t the same, because during this routine visit for my two youngest boys, our psychiatrist told me that my youngest son, Truman, is on the autism spectrum.

This means that seventy-five percent of my kids have autism.

I have suspected this for some time. Dr. M evaluated him a year ago and diagnosed my youngest son with generalized anxiety disorder. At that time, she didn’t feel he displayed enough signs to be diagnosed with autism.

But this time things had changed. She saw what I have been seeing for months. Truman, aged four and a half, has pervasive anxiety. He is now increasingly rigid, wanting things to go exactly as the image in his mind tells him they should go. When they do not, he is overcome and melts down.

He has stopped eating most foods; we are down to about four or five things he will reliably eat, and they still have to adhere to his strict requirements. He requires the same treatment for gastrointestinal issues that both Jack and Charlie need. He covers his ears at loud noises, just like Jack and Charlie do. He needs chemical intervention to fall asleep at night and to keep the feral anxiety wolf at a reasonable distance when he is awake.

When Truman began needing all the same strategies, techniques, and meds that his two brothers on the spectrum need, I would tell myself, “Dr. M thinks Truman is fine.” But in my belly, I knew I was deluding myself.

And so, the world completed another rotation around the sun. Truman screamed a lot and cried over things which seemed small to the rest of us, but which felt disastrous to him. He has resisted potty training with his whole being. We are inching closer to age five and we just can’t check it off the list. Whenever we use public bathrooms with those heinous auto-flushing toilets, Jack, Charlie, and Truman all cover their ears in unison. They talk loudly in quiet places. They panic about all the things. While they have differing ability levels, the way they see the world and respond to it are quite similar.

So why do I feel the need to explain this?

Since I sat in that beautiful new office and heard Dr. M say exactly what I have been thinking for a year or more, I remembered a news article I read years ago about a family with several children, four of whom were on the autism spectrum. I was overcome with emotion at the time, thinking of the parents of these children, who all had diverse needs.

The thing that resurfaced in my memory was something the mother of this family said in the article. She said that people often asked her why they continued having children when autism appeared in their family. She went on to explain that they didn’t know that their older children had autism until after the younger siblings were born. When I read this, I wondered who these impertinent people asking these questions were. It’s nobody’s business. I remember being dumbfounded by this.

And now here I am, sometimes being asked the same question. Why did you have more children after Jack? Weren’t you worried they would have disabilities? The quick answer is, Jack’s syndrome had never occurred more than once in a family, as far as the research showed. We knew there was a risk of autism, but we acted in faith, knowing that our family wasn’t complete.

The long answer is, it’s complicated. And while it’s nobody’s business, I will happily tell you if you honestly want to know.

We didn’t know Charlie had autism when we had Truman. The signs did not appear until after Truman’s birth, and they manifest differently from Jack’s disability.

After Charlie’s diagnosis, people would sometimes ask me if I was worried about Truman having autism. I didn’t know how to respond to this. I didn’t know if Truman would have a diagnosis. Life had taught me not to be cocky about these things. I supposed that the people asking the question were projecting their own fears as they wondered about this. Keep in mind, Truman was already born. It’s not like I could send him back, or that I even wanted to. Children aren’t shoes you order from Zappos.

We had our children in faith. We asked God if we should have more kids, and he gave us repeated spiritual promptings to tell us that Charlie and Truman were part of our family, too. I think this is the hard part for some to understand. If you don’t believe in asking for divine intervention, or if you don’t think it exists, then it may not make sense to you why someone would ask for direction and then follow it, even when it seems counterintuitive.

I feel it’s important to say that Autism Spectrum Disorder truly is a vast spectrum upon which probably all humans could be placed. At one end of the spectrum are individuals like Jack, who is nonverbal and profoundly delayed. Somewhere near the other end are individuals like Truman, who have many abilities even as they face sensory, social, or other challenges. There are as many variations in how autism may affect people as there are people with autism.

My littlest boy, who we call Baby, is charming and sociable. He is bright, determined, happy, and funny. He has a big vocabulary and an excellent memory. He is the same terrific little boy today that he has always been.

The day after Dr. M told me the news, I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes and contemplating my family. I abruptly remembered Tabitha from the New Testament. I’ve always liked this story because a) it is one of the few in the scriptures that actually names a woman from ancient times and b) the name Tabitha has just the right amount of history, sass, and style, and it isn’t on any top ten lists, which makes me love it. I once held it in reserve for the day I had a daughter (which turned out to be a mythical day, but whatever).

Over the years, I had two noteworthy experiences in the temple connected to Tabitha. I relate Tabitha’s story to my family, because in both instances, I went to the temple with the express purpose of asking God if we should have another child. In both cases, the answer was a clear yes.

The story is found in the Book of Acts, where we read that there was a disciple named Tabitha who lived at Joppa. She was known by her good works and generosity. After an illness, she died and was laid out by her grieving friends, who heard that the apostle Peter was nearby. The women sent two men to ask Peter if he would come to them.

When Peter came, he went into the chamber, “and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning to the body said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.”

For years, I thought my Tabitha/temple experiences were about a little girl who would be mine. But after receiving diagnoses for yet another of my children, the spirit clearly told me that that isn’t the meaning of this experience, which repeated itself exactly the same way a second time, on a different day, in a different temple.

I stood in front of my kitchen sink this week and looked out the window at the rustling leaves on the Cottonwoods, and the shade dappling the grass and the trampoline. I remembered that every time I asked God about my future with my children, he audibly responded, “Tabitha.”

I now understood that God was comparing my life to her story.

Tabitha was a woman who wanted to do good for people. When she died, Peter used the priesthood to raise her up again as a witness of God’s power in those who believe.

I’m not always filled with good works. But my children give me unending opportunities for giving and serving, because that is what they need. Handling three boys with autism has at times felt like it’s killing me. And yet, with another kid’s placement on the autism spectrum, I feel peaceful. My boys are special, and God loves them even more than I do. Experience has shown me that when I pray and keep going with even a kernel of faith, Jesus stays with me. He is strong when I am not.

Sunlight slanted onto my hands last Tuesday as I stacked dishes and cups. As I worked, I heard the spirit whisper to me that, like Tabitha, God is raising me up.

Peter said Tabitha’s name, and she rose from death.

When I beseeched God about my family, he said “Tabitha,” and lifted me from sorrow.


Dear Blog

Dear This Blog,

I’ve been having a hard time with you, of late.

The only things I want to say to you aren’t heartfelt treatises on the beauties found in the struggles of life.

Turns out, the things I’ve got to say are raw, difficult things—things so real they make me feel guilty for sharing.

But, my blog, you are mine. And this is what’s inside me.

So I will tell you about behavior problems.

Blog, I had dinner recently with two friends who have children sort of like Jack, at least in the unpredictable violence/aggression/destruction arena. We ate carbs and cried a little as we talked about what it means when your child has behavior problems.

When your child has a disability which inhibits a) impulse control, b) communication, c) the ability to wait, d) social and emotional maturity, or e) coping with disappointment, strange things happen, and they happen so regularly that they become part of the daily landscape. “Normal,” if you will. But not, actually.

Things like:

  • broken windows
  • holes in walls
  • dents in floors and refrigerator doors
  • broken appliances (kid stepped on open dishwasher door, etc)
  • paint on carpet
  • shredded rooms (scientific term for a room that has been dismantled by a special needs minor in less than five minutes)
  • glassware thrown across kitchens
  • toys lobbed at people and walls
  • biting
  • punching
  • kicking
  • screaming
  • raging
  • manic pacing/running as if on speed
  • waking up at four or five am
  • staying up until midnight

It’s not an exhaustive list, dearest blog, but you get the picture.

These behaviors do not happen all the time, but for a family like mine, some of them happen daily.

My friends and I discussed, as we carb-loaded, the difficulty with severe behavior issues. We decided that one of the biggest concerns we have is that people are horrified by violence in children. It is not something people understand. It’s foreign. It’s disturbing.

It’s borderline shameful.

One should not openly discuss the fact that one’s mentally disabled preteen throws things at one’s head.

It makes people uncomfortable.

It makes me uncomfortable.

Little blog, while I do not like the daily house destruction or sometimes having to guard myself and my children from the disabled son’s outbursts, it is most painful when other people see the nature of our behavior problems.

Others do not live with Jack and know his goofy sweetness.

If you only see his behaviors, can you recognize his goodness and purity?

Will people see Jack’s bravery for living life in an unwieldy body with a mixed up brain?

I love Jack. I hate the behaviors.

Thanks for listening, blog. You remain a lifeline.



Word Life

Jack colored the carpet on the stairs with dark slashes of black crayon. He shoved eight slices of bread into the crevices of the couch. He knocked over a soda on the rug. He voided on his bedroom floor. He left eighteen candy wrappers underfoot. He head-butted me with brute force when I didn’t instantly retrieve candy for him because I was doing the dishes.

Then he went into the garage and began rearranging the snowblower, lawnmower, bikes, wagon, buckets, filing cabinet, tools, nerf guns, and scooters.

It’s the weekend.

Autocorrect just turned the last sentence into “Pits the weekend,” hahahahahaha.

Whatever. I shouldn’t be complaining because I got to go to a writing retreat Friday night in the canyon with the lovelies in my writing group. We talked until 2:00 am and slept until 10:00. We ate Indian takeout and croissant breakfast sandwiches. We read each other’s essays. Crying happened, but so did laughing.

Anyway, I’m about to get really real here. Super real. Whatever, here goes:

Sometimes I feel trapped in my life. Raising people with disabilities is claustrophobic.

This doesn’t mean that I’m ungrateful or that I want to reject everything. It simply means that the nature of disabilities is to box one in with high, thick walls and suck out all the air.

There is just one tiny window that lets in a slice of light. I open it every day for air and for words.

Words are oxygen.

Writing, reading, thinking, and teaching about words is a deep, cold breath.

Clean and bracing.


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.

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. 


Weirdly Beautiful: Home Edition

More weird/lovely pics have popped up in my in box and I LOVE THEM.


Archie sent this photo of his family in their NYC apartment. He wrote, “Since we have a one bedroom apartment in a Harlem brownstone, our home has 2 rooms: the bedroom and the big room. The big room has our kitchen, our table, our elliptical, our Legos, our furniture, our books, our TV, and our games. We spend a lot of time together having fun and making memories in this small apartment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Did I mention that this happy nook where Archie and his people live is in NEW YORK CITY? The cool factor and the force is strong with this one. I can say that about Archie with authority since I’ve known him forever.


Julie M. sent a picture of the carpeted stairs in her house, which caused a wave of envy to crash over me because this carpet is clean, while the view from the top of my stairs looks like people have been changing the oil of old, rusted-out cars in the basement.

She explains, “The weirdness of my life includes children who only eat when they can graze and who don’t have the executive functioning required to follow rules about food staying in the kitchen.  So my carpet is disgustingly dirty most of the time.  And in true opposition-in-all-things form, the depth of my sorrow over cruddy carpets is only equal to the sublime joy I feel when they’re freshly clean.”

Oh Julie, honey. I hear you.

And then I talked to my dear friend Shilo, who lives too many states away from me. We decided that everyone has a hard, weird life in some visible or invisible way. But there is also a lot of good threading through it.

   It is vastly reassuring to me knowing that while I’m living head-down like a horse pulling a heavy load uphill, people everywhere are also doing this. And that while we pant and pull and strain, we have the foresight to look around and notice the gifts, the shards of beauty at our feet.

Morning, Actually

This is how the morning went: 

I woke up coughing. 

I put Jack in the bath. 

I started cooking hash browns and eggs. 

 Jack pooped in the bath, then got out and sat on the carpeted stairs, sliding down and wiping off his dirty bum. 

Henry left to catch the bus. 

I administered meds. 

Truman screamed at the top of the stairs because he was too scared to walk down past the poop. 

Dutch and I cleaned up the Code Brown. 

And kept cleaning, because Jack managed to tag so much of the house with this particular BM. 

Dutch showered and left to buy doughnuts for Charlie’s class, a belated birthday celebration. 

I combed people’s hair much to people’s chagrin. 

I packed lunches. 

I set backpacks by the door. 

I waved to the bus driver in my bathrobe and my red fleece polka-dot socks and felt slovenly.

I showered in roughly 45 seconds and hustled with Truman to Charlie’s school to see an ACTUAL PLAY where Charlie said two ACTUAL LINES. 

I held a box of doughnuts while Charlie passed out Halloween napkins (because he likes Halloween stuff) to his class. 

I saw this wall in Charlie’s classroom.    

I ate a maple doughnut. 

I hugged Charlie, who was wearing his birthday crown while working on math problems, and told him I love him and am so proud of him. 

And so you can see, Crazy Poo Morning became Lovely Morning.

Mountain Goat

I’ve been dreaming about mountains. Literal peaks of really tall, rock-strewn mountain ranges.

I’m either driving on roads cut as switchbacks into the sheer sides of a mountain, or hiking on steep dirt trails. Twice, I’ve dreamed that I can’t find my way back to the road to get home, and my children will be getting off the bus soon at home. Then, there’s panic.

It would be really easy to superimpose my dream consciousness on my real life and say something like, “The mountains represent the challenges we are currently facing with Jack.” Maybe that’s where the mountains of my dream landscape are originating, but I’m not entirely sure.

In these dreams, while the mountains are high and the trails are narrow and steep, they feel the way mountains have always felt to me—fresh and big and wholesome, maybe a little bit wild and scary, and completely not everyday life.

They are there in the periphery of my normal life, since I live surrounded by mountains. But when I actually spend time in them, mountains are a good escape.

In one of my dreams, I walked along a trail that meandered, criss-crossing a creek in a narrow valley deeply set between surrounding peaks. It was morning—misty and cool, and the sunlight backlit the sage and yarrow bordering the trail. I was alone.

Another dream featured my children running away from me on a vast slope of the foothills where we walked. They scattered and I couldn’t catch up to them. I called to them and the wind whipped my voice away. I felt slow.

Once I dreamed that when backpacking I spent the night in the waiting room of an orthodontist’s office set  high in the mountains. Because camping out at the Swiss chalet orthodontist is a perfectly normal thing to do in a dream.

And then last week, I dreamed I was driving to meet my family at a cabin in the mountains. As I drove, I looked at groups of cabins set in the valley below the road, and at the ones sprinkled on the hillsides. They were all huge. Billionaire magazine photo shoot, huge. I passed enormous log, shake, and stone vacation homes with four-car garages and private boat docks on the lake.

I noticed them in the way that I notice what starlets on the red carpet are wearing: they are nice to look at and vaguely interesting, but are you kidding me? And also, No.

So I drove my van along in my dream state, looking at cabins fit for the Kennedys, wondering where my family was. They couldn’t be waiting for me in this place. We are decidedly not the Kennedys.

I woke up feeling in my subconscious that just around the bend in the dirt road, I would find a squatty, 1960’s era well-worn cabin with a screened-in porch and campy, old-school cabin decor. I surfaced from the dream like a bubble from a lake, feeling that this is where my family would be: Jack dragging a shop vac through the dirt, Charlie scaling hillsides with his Nerf gun, Henry and Truman shooting hoops. And Dutch holding it all together.