Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Well this is just deeee-lightful.

Honestly, it's exactly this sort of thing that makes me dream fondly of long calico skirts, horse-drawn buggies, and remote caves. Yes, I'm fully aware that pervs and felons are everywhere, that they don't automatically exclude remote Amish communities when picking targets. But. For crying out loud! Who does this sort of thing, buys this crud for their little children and thinks it's cute? Have you seen some of the more popular Halloween costumes out there this year? Here's hoping our post-post-modern world survives the long-term effects of such pathetic, soul-sucking sexualization of nine year-olds. Do we not yet understand that children who volitionally dress like this are parroting prostitutes for fun? That children of the very same age in Thailand, India, Pakistan, and so many other places are dressed up like this and SOLD with the express intent that they be abused within an inch of their lives???

I'll just step quietly off the soap box now and try to lower my blood pressure...

One more thought: how, seriously, does one exist as a citizen of this planet and not see this for precisely what it is--a marketing strategy intent on simultaneously emptying our wallets and ensuring that future generations are even more available for such manipulation? Are we really such losers that we just follow along, panting and happy to be included in the current pop-culture wave? Thrilled that we can be so au courant that we're doing the same stupid thing as everyone else? I'd thought that the horror of Abercrombie's thongs for the under ten set had rather clarified things for most of us several years back. Apparently not.

Meanwhile, the dumb get dumber, the rich get richer (often off the sadly gullible), but aren't we all having fun? Thank heavens we're having so much fun with our plethora of shiny gadgets. I think Dorothy Sayers had some pertinent things to say about squandering our educational capital, but who cares? We're off to stock up on stupid things made in China which conveniently insult our intelligence but we're too self-absorbed to get the joke! Wheeee!!!

See, right here I'd swear, but there just aren't words that can sum up what I need to say. Vomit. That's pretty close.

Okay, now I'm done.

Non Sequitur/Validation

If you're up and you happen to be thinking of it, I know some folks, some mamas and daddies, struggling mightily to overcome and do good things, who could use every single powerful, heartfelt prayer you have. Their babies too--even some grown-up ones who've just today had a very bad prognosis indeed. Thanks very much and God bless.

The following resonated with me, for no reason in particular. Or perhaps every reason in particular. It's a story that could be told over and over in hundreds of kitchens, the world over, the details varying only slightly from apartment to mansion to yurt.

John and Martha, two Harvard PhD candidates, are up, making cookies in the middle of the night, worrying about their unborn, probably disabled baby boy, when the mixer breaks.

"Oh, great," said John. "Just great."

For some reason, this was just one thing too much for me. I curled up in my chair as best I could, my knees pressed against my pregnant torso, and started to cry in earnest.

John turned on me, his lips tight with annoyance. "What are you blubbering about?"

"It broke," I wailed.

"Yes, I realize that," John snapped. "I was holding it."

"Everything breaks," I sobbed. "Nothing goes right, everything goes wrong. Something's happened to us, John. We can't do things anymore. Not anything. I mean, how could you expect us to make a good baby when we can't even make a good cookie?"

"Oh for crying out loud, Martha!" John's voice was getting loud. "Would you grab the reins? I'm sick and tired of hearing how miserable your life is."

I cried harder. "I'm just scared," I said.

John cracked two eggs into the mixing bowl and started whipping them into the other ingredients with the wooden spoon. He looked as though he had plenty of energy to compensate for the broken mixer.

"Scared of what?" he said. "Of a little baby who's not as perfect as you think he ought to be?" He dumped flour into the mixing bowl and began to thrash at it with the spoon. A mist of flour rose from the bowl, covering his hands and forearms.

"I didn't say I wanted him to be perfect," I said. "I just want him to be normal. That's all I want. Just normal."

"Bullsh*t," John barked. He measured salt and baking soda into the dough and went back to work with the mixing spoon.

I raised my dripping face out of my hands. "Excuse me?"

"That is total bullsh*t," he repeated. "You don't want this baby to be normal. You'd throw him in a Dumpster if he just turned out to be normal. What you really want is for him to be superhuman."

I squinted at him. "What the h*ll are you talking about?"

John added chocolate chips and beat them in. At this stage, of course, the dough is sticky and stiff and hard to mix. But John whipped away at it as if it were nothing but egg whites. He was starting to sweat.

"For your information," I said in my most acid tone, "I was the one who decided to keep this baby, even though he's got Down's. You were the one who wanted to throw him in a Dumpster."

"How would you know?" John's voice was still gaining volume. "You never asked me what I wanted, did you? No! You never even asked me!"

I was so stunned I stopped crying. "What is going on with you, John? I thought--"

"Yeah, that's right!" he shouted. "You thought, you thought, you thought! You thought all kinds of things, didn't you? You thought old John would just strap on the saddle and take you wherever you want to go. And then I'm supposed to feel sorry for you?"


He went into baby talk. "Poor wittle Mawfa," he simpered. "She has to have a bad baby. She has to have a freak, instead of a perfect little boy like she wants."

I was staring at him with utter incredulity. "What planet are you from?" I said.

"You act like you're on some big moral pedestal," John shot back. "You think it's such a big deal to keep this baby. But I know what's really going on inside you. You don't want him. He disgusts you. The only real reason you're having this baby at all is that you didn't have the guts to get an abortion."

I came out of the chair straight at him, my head low, like a bull in the ring. I had a few steps to pick up speed, and I weighed considerably more than usual. My shoulder hit John right below the rib cage, knocking him back against the counter.

John had to struggle for a minute to get his breath back. "Oh, that's good," he said. "That's just wonderful. Physically violent women make great mommies."

I wanted to kill him. All the emotion that had been hidden behind weeks of careful, civilized silence rushed from my guts into my head, my heart, my arms and legs. I felt like a tiger tearing down a trap. I wanted to rip the plumbing apart with my bare hands and beat down the walls with it. Instead, I grabbed a lump of cookie dough from the mixing bowl and pushed it into John's face.

"How dare you talk to me like that?" I screamed. "How dare you? Is there one tiny molecule somewhere in your brain that can begin to understand what this is like for me?" I thumped myself in the abdomen with both hands, so hard that I could see John wince through his mask of cookie dough. "This is my son!" I sobbed. "He's a part of me! If you don't want him, you can leave us both, but he is my son, and that's why I'm keeping him, even if he is a freak!"

"There you go!" John shouted. "You can't even mention him without calling him names, can you? No matter what he does, he'll never be good enough for you. Never!" He scraped a lump of dough off his cheek and threw it at me.

I dodged. "What the hell are you talking about?" I hollered. "Are you completely insane?"

"Do you know how this baby is going to feel?" John yelled. "Do you know how you're going to make him feel? Every day of his life, he's going to know he's not good enough. He's going to try and try and work and work and work and work and work, and it's never going to be enough for you!"

He seized another piece of dough from the bowl and slung it at me. I turned my head at the last second, and it hit me just above the ear, clinging to my hair like a misshapen barrette.

"Why can't he ever be enough for you?" John was still yelling. Another lump of dough whizzed by me and stuck to the wall.

"Why does he have to work so hard?" This one hit me in the arm.

"How come he has to be perfect, and do everything just right, and never make a mistake?" Another dough ball landed on my shoulder and stuck to my bathrobe.

"John," I said, in a low, dangerous voice. "John, calm down."

"Why can't you just love him because he's a little boy?" John screamed as a final projectile missed me and landed in the sink. "Why can't you love him as he is?"

His voice had degenerated into a hoarse sob, and tears were running in two steady streams over the cookie dough on his face. John touched his cheek and brought his hand away slowly, staring at it in amazement.

"There's water on my face," he said in a baffled whisper. He looked at me with complete bewilderment. "How come there's water on my face?"

I don't think John had cried in front of another person since he could remember. I looked at him, and the anger drained out of me all at once, leaving me scoured and exhausted.

"Honey," I said, in my normal speaking voice, "you realize that you're not really talking about the baby, don't you? You're talking about yourself."

John nodded.

"Do you also realize that you're not really talking to me?"

He raised his eyes to mine and looked into them almost desperately. "I'm not?" he whispered.

"No." I moved forward and wiped some of the dough off his cheek. "Listen to me," I said. "I'm not your mom, and I'm not your dad, and I'm not your church, and I'm not Harvard. Actually, I'm not much of anything. But for what it's worth, I love you as you are. I thought you knew that."

John's dough-smeared face crumpled, and for the first time ever, I saw him really cry.

From Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


So last week was a kick. Or something.

G got the last of his sealants done on his permanent molars, K got the impressions done for her spacer. There was something extra scheduled every single day. On Wednesday Q had an ENT follow-up. At the follow-up visit for his broken ear drum, the pediatrician saw a bit of gunk stuck onto the membrane itself. She hesitated to give him the all clear without knowing what was going on behind the glob, but didn't want to disturb it for fear that she might be dislodging new tissue and causing further damage. Irrigating an ear drum without knowing whether or not it's intact isn't such a good idea either.

So after piano lessons, we had potluck lunch with friends at their place, then took off for the appointment. We arrived at the ENT office to see Dr. C, handed over our already filled out paperwork. After waiting for awhile, we headed back to the exam room. The sweet nurse took notes on Q's history (abridged version), and went to get Dr. C. Shortly, Dr. C enters with his laptop, takes a seat, glances at the top sheet and says, "Oh. Excuse me just a moment will you?" He gets up, goes out, doesn't come back. His nurse comes back, apologizing all over herself, followed closely by the receptionist, also apologizing. It would seem that Dr. C doesn't contract with the state sponsored insurance and so won't be seeing Q.

I almost cried. Most of the time I can take this kind of stuff in stride, but good grief. From 11:30am to 6pm that day was spent entirely on getting us to that appointment and home again. It's only a half hour drive, but we had piano lessons in the morning, then all the other miscellany.

I hesitate to use that word: discrimination. I feel for the professionals whom, in order to provide care through state agencies, must agree to take a significant hit when billing. How can people expect that to continue? No wonder Dr. C doesn't want to take that insurance (it's basically Medicaid). I mean, he has at least as many hoops to jump through for them as for any other insurance, but gets back about 1/3-1/2 (in most cases) compensation as he would for "regular" insurance. On the other hand, how on earth are we to expect parity in care? This is a caste system, people. Those who can afford it will get it, those who can't will just have to enjoy a different kind of socialized medicine. Don't kid yourself. It's here. (And here are some more thoughts on the subject.) The whole experience was just demoralizing. I've never encountered anything like that before.

In all the tripping over themselves to apologize (I felt terrible for them by the time they were done), we got Q immediately rescheduled for Friday with Dr. C's colleague. By the way, I bet the colleague's wife and family just love him. He couldn't see Q that day because he had to leave for a kid's game right now, so sorry, but any other time..... On one hand I wanted to holler at somebody, he would have been handy, on the other, well--what a man. What a man. What a very good man.

The colleague saw him Friday afternoon as the kids occupied themselves with schoolwork and toys in the waiting room. (Oh yes, they did. Under penalty of no punkin carving if they happen not to complete the goals for the week. Amazing what fervor we can show over the top of an otherwise friendless math book.) This ENT was super, funny, nice, thorough, knowledgeable, asked if with my grasp of terms had I gone to med school. I grinned, but chuckled in my head. I guess in all that quizzing of a certain someone, some things must've stuck. Of course, then there was my cadaver lab.....

So on with the story, then.

Today G and E had their second opinions for orthodontia. (Thanks for sharing your experiences, by the way.) This guy's treatment runs $6880, and it would last approximately 23-26 months. I'm not the only one noticing that this isn't better, right? Holy cow. E will revisit this in a year or two, when all her permanent teeth are in--nothing too urgent there. G, on the other hand, is another story altogether. This office also believes his mouth needs rather more immediate attention. I've no idea what to do about this.

I talked at length with Q's OT Monday morning. She told me that it's incredibly difficult to get feeding chairs paid for, so I should go ahead and get whatever I can that's commercially available and make it last as long as possible, because Q is gonna be one big guy. Thus, we want to wait as long as possible before heading down the road of circus tricks required to obtain a feeding chair of appropriate size. She also noted that if we're very lucky, perhaps he won't need it after about 45 pounds. (What? Woohoo!) I've dithered a bit, but think I may go with this. We had a much earlier version of the same brand for the older four, but it didn't tilt. Can you believe it made it through FOUR kids? My only objection: by the third, whatever non-stick-ability it originally had was fast disappearing. Getting that thing clean was quite a task. It was white. (Yes, I picked it out for my first child. Doh.) I never did figure out how to get the straps off, so I soaked them in bowls of warm, dish-soapy water. It worked okay for getting the goo out, but after four little "sweet potato piggies" had their way with them, the white straps turned kinda orange. Glech.

We also talked about how to get Q some mats and other stuff for home use. I asked the lovely OT if she'd ever heard of ABR. She hadn't. But she gave me an emphatic lecture on making sure that in being curious about these things, I don't set aside my other kids or sacrifice everything in the name of some supposedly miraculous cure. She's known families who spend every vacation and all their money on getting little guy or girl "better" and end up broke, exhausted, and disillusioned, only to see any progress evaporate if their efforts slow.

Well, that's not me. I admit to the guilt part. I admit to being curious about other therapies and "things to do" (because I do so love having Something To Do). But tossing everything for one kid? I can't do it. Hey, I even have guilt over that. I mean, shouldn't I be jolly well able to just work myself to death if it means keeping any of my punkins at their peaks? No, no and no. I have a hard time even identifying with people who spend lots of time chastising themselves for whatever they must have done to "cause" their little one's issues. Not that I don't ever think about it, but I can't spend much time there. It is what it is. It is. It's nobody's fault. It just is. And there's nothing to do but keep on keepin' on. Whether it's therapies or hugs and kisses, all the stuff that needs doing just needs doing. No arguing. Just doing.

Well, I got rather far afield from the starting point. It's those pesky rabbit trails. Or my squirrel brain. I'll probably hit post and then remember everything else I wanted to say. (grins)


Thursday, October 25, 2007


It's been a tough week. California appeared to have been literally going up in smoke (it's not done yet), the moon was full, family members of exes seemed to have taken up permanent residence on the fringes...

The good news: it seems that everyone I and my family knows in SoCal is more or less intact, though my heart feels squeezed nearly to death at the stats and stories of heartbreak. The moon is waning (Oh glory be!) and all the other people have been successfully handled, contained, passed quietly by. I hope.

In the wake of such wrenching devastation, here's my challenge: go do something. Give blood. Hug a firefighter. Say a big thank you to someone who slaves away with nary a thought to self. You know how to do this--call your local Red Cross if you're stumped. These kinds of weeks call for us to be more, do more, think and give and love more. Our hearts expand, eventually the green shoots will live again, the homes will be (mostly) rebuilt. And we become better for engaging fully in the human experience, for reaching out to those so clearly (or not so clearly) in need.

Say a prayer for those families who are missing some of their people tonight. Whether it's fire, flood, abduction, or miscellaneous evil, those empty spaces ache awfully.

"Kiss those babies."

P.S. If you're reading this, then you're not amongst the folks mentioned in the first paragraph. No, these people are rather far afield and most have nothing whatsoever to do with me in any way, shape or form. (Hope I didn't give anyone a heart attack there. Grins. Hugs.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More FAQs

The italics relate what I think but don't usually say, the regular typeface is what usually comes out of my mouth.

Moooo-ooom, where aaaaaare yoooouuu???
Right here! What do you neeee-eeed?

Are you busy?
Who me? (looking around to see who else could be addressed here) Nevah.
Nope. or: Yup. Can I call you back? or: I have to leave in five minutes, but I can talk while I load up. or: Let me call you later. or: Do I look like I have nothing to do here? Hello?

Wow, you sure have a lot of kids. Don't you know what causes that? Guffaw, guffaw, guffaw. Snort.
What I used to say to strangers in Costco: "Yes, we do, and apparently (big, broad smile, batting eyelashes furiously) we're better at it than you." This is a little harder to carry off without a wedding ring especially since...

Have people really asked you if your kids all have the same dad?
Yes. I'm glad you find it weird too.

How's your milk supply?
Huh? Excuse me. What did you just say?
It's fine, thanks. I've always had enough milk to help out in a famine in some small third world country, this time is no exception!
Smiling cheerily, blushing furiously, exiting quickly. (For the record, this question has been mostly posed by people in an actual Need to Know position as well as some very close friends, but what is it about bre*sts and/or breastfeeding that seems to require complete strangers to opine? Sheesh!)

How do you do it (all)?
I have no idea. Not a clue.
Oh wait. I did actually say that once. To a recently separated pastor. I feel bad for being so flippant. Yikes. Well, what I usually say is more like this: A lot of people pray a lot. They pray all the time and they tell me about it and how much they love this little family. Some of them I don't even know. I write, sometimes here, sometimes in prayer, sometimes just to blow off steam. I have friends and family who kick in a little time every week--so the house doesn't come apart and so I can do the actual mommy things with each kid. I make an effort toward good self-care (rest, exercise, food, vitamins) because I cannot fall apart on any level. I try to use every moment for something productive--I often do lesson planning while the big kids are in gymnastics or read stuff just for me if Q is napping while we wait. Throwing a load of laundry in before I hit the shower is a good way to get a leg up on the day. You should see my lists and schedules and calendars and spreadsheets. I redo them regularly, adjusting as necessary, in order to make sure nothing gets missed. Many people are fine without things like chore charts, etc., but it's become quite a deal to track all the daily details.

Perhaps the most important thing, aside from the rampant and fervent prayer that swirls around this place, is this: Almost every person I come in contact with is the very model of support and kindness. Those who are not have proven such an emotional and psychological drain that, with practice, it has become almost an easy thing to kick those opinions to the curb (most of the time--I'm not impervious.) Of course one must do self-checks to see if one is in fact keeping the balls in the air as necessary, but once one has that periodic confirmation it is a waste of energy to linger over negativity. Besides, isn't everything a lot more fun if you can just get done daily what you must, have some good cheese and sweet pears, laugh a little, then some more, and go around hugging and kissing on your dear ones? Yes. And see, if one is investing anything in self-castigation, one never gets to the good stuff. Do you have that kind of time? Me either.

Does Q eat real food?
No, he eats sawdust.
Every day!

What does Q eat in a day?
Think, think, think--open the "feeding" file in your brain and download. Not the "therapy" file, not the "meds" file--think "food," silly. FOOD. There it is. Up it comes. Oh, very poor choice of words there....
Let's see. He eats about 14 oz. in pureed or slightly chunky (in pureed) fruits, veggies, or some combination thereof, a Yo-baby, about 2 tablespoons of coconut milk or 4% cottage cheese or organic half and half, about 1/4 - 1/3 cup DHA fortified baby oatmeal, about 4 oz. of liquid (usually diluted apple juice), the occasional melting cracker or cookie. He nurses five to twelve times a day, depending on whether or not he's feeling well, needs more snuggle mommy time, or is growing. Vitamins are added to his breakfast. We're currently working on getting him more variety in textures since he's acting like he really wants to chew appropriately.

Will he ever eat normal food?
Nope. Just the sawdust, poor thing. You'd think we'd at least add some salt or cinnamon, for heaven's sake.
It's anyone's guess at this point. He doesn't sit very well, rolls over sporadically, can't really contemplate feeding himself. But his initial prognosis would have him doing far worse than he really is, so who knows? Maybe he does contemplate feeding himself. Maybe one day, he'll tell me all about it as he shovels spaghetti into his mouth. Good image, that.

Are Q's issues rare?
Do you have a couple of hours? Big breath.
I suppose. There's dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and dyspraxia (difficulty speaking)--more rare than say, blue eyes, but not unheard of. I don't recall the precise statistics on Polymicrogyria, but I think that when Dr. Dobyns began his research (in the late 1970's?) there were something less than twenty known cases in the US. I believe that there are currently three to four hundred known folks living with it now--worldwide. Please correct this if I'm wrong. Interestingly, there are likely many people who have some area of PMG in his/her brain but won't know it until they need an MRI for some other reason. Those who find themselves in greater need of "help" usually have larger areas of PMG visible on films. (Q's PMG is "diffuse.") Cerebral Palsy, spasticity and epilepsy are rather more common. Developmental delay--is this technically a diagnosis? Or part of a diagnostic assessment?

How do you answer the question: Why do you homeschool?
Do I have to? No? Okay then. Back to my bottomless supply of bon-bons.
It depends on the situation and who is asking. Does this person genuinely want to know or do they want me to confess that I'm a.) incapable of teaching my children or b.)secretly bent on turning out socially incompetent, pathology-laden misfits?

I often respond with something along the lines of: "Oh, it's so cool!" or something similar (because that's what I really think) before speaking about some particular and recent experience the kids and I have had that seems to encapsulate the blessings of this road for us. e.g.: Yesterday, E's head pops up, mid-spelling lesson. She says, with a far-away look in her eye, "Boy. Life sure would be easier for penguins if they had opposable thumbs." Oh joy! Don't you just love it when they take the raw information and their own spark turns the knowledge into a roaring blaze of wonder and excitement?

Snarky confession: As a rule, I find that the act of overwhelming people with information tends to shut the conversation down. This isn't always my intention when holding forth on a familiar/beloved topic, but I can't really stop myself. Yet. Now we come to the part of me that thinks I should be a nun or something so I can spend my days working on disciplining my brain to just do what I want it to already. That part fights with relish the part of me that doesn't particularly want to have a polite chat with anyone looking simply for a reinforcement of their world view. Do you see how these parts of my brain like to thrust and parry? Are there meds for this? It's making me tired. Back to the subject at hand.

If the person raising the question wants to delve seriously into it or I get wound up and rather cheerleader-chatty, I talk about how it's too bad that our society doesn't do a better job of recognizing that every spot on the educational spectrum is absolutely necessary for several thousand somebodies and that kids deserve to have the best fit possible while we do our best to help them become adults we'd feel safe leaving our grandchildren with. I have believed this down to my toes since before I took my first Education classes, so it's not hard to state it emphatically, thoroughly, calmly. This usually turns the direction of the conversation while kind of validating the choices and opinions of the person who began the conversation--which is most always what he/she really wanted anyway.

Validation. What a powerful word.

Following that rabbit trail... Most of the time people who want to pick a fight with someone over any potentially controversial topic are so stuck in an "I'm right therefore you're wrong" mindset that it's difficult for them to see the trees for the forest. In other words, the individual points are sacrificed on the bigger altar of party affiliation, religious preference, or vegans vs. omnivores. When plain ol' people sit down and explore their details together, calmly, without being threatened by their neighbor's bumper stickers or lack thereof, it's often surprising to all concerned just how much more they have in common than in enmity. It's hard to maintain an ad hominem attack when the hominem in question becomes an individual with a family and a sense of humor and a face made in the image of the Divine.

And while we're here, let's be honest: don't we all have rather an "it's better because it's mine" approach? Be it our car, neighborhood, career, kids names, whether or not we stay home with kids, or our/our kids' schooling experience. May I suggest a truce with humanity? While working in our own sphere(s) to construct the arguments which support, legitimize, and make up our own views, perhaps we can be as gentle with each other as we'd like others to be with us. (Someone said that better, didn't they?) But that could also be part of the problem. On this broken, beautiful, messed-up planet, many of us have experienced violence and trauma and without even realizing it go on to find ways to perpetuate that same horror or worse on innocent others. I guess if that's a person's baseline, then some serious therapy is in order. Let's start with pasta. Later we'll move on to flowers and massage, m-kay?

In fact, I think I should find a way to make that an outreach effort. Something like taking big plates of steaming egg noodles drowning in browned butter and myzithra or the simplest Alfredo ever (cream and Parmesan) to a shelter, then plopping huge pots of flowers down on the tables (would seed packets be better? Longer effect? Ownership of the plant and it's product?), and popping out a massage table like a jack-in-the-box, with eggplant colored, lavender scented Egyptian cotton sheets and a huge, thick bath sheet for warmth and snuggly-ness. This is not a bad idea that's forming here. Serotonin boosters in the hot pasta and lush scents and vivid colors. And in the sacred power of human touch. Taken to people who would just plain never get this kind of care from anyone else ever unless a stranger delivered it to them. Unto the least of these...

Hmmm..... Could someone please squeeze another day into my week?

Well, that's it for now. I'm off to bed. Oh do go love on your honey and punkin-littles. Shoot, wake 'em up if you have to--the moments pass so quickly by, don't they?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Oh, whoa...

This makes me smile. Even more, I think, than the polished up version. Sing with me, people.

1 2 3 4. . .

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tra la la

Guess what? Oh come on, guess.

It would seem that the silly computer needed a vacation, that's all. After several days of resting quietly it booted up with no challenges to it's internet connection. Who'd've thunk? Which brings me to something else I've wondered ever since having my second child: What exactly does it mean when someone has been admitted into the hospital for "exhaustion?" I mean, you hear this all the time about some starlet or another. And I know they do all kinds of travelling, long hours of filming and appearances and stuff, but did they forget to drink water? They've contracted some awful bug and require IV rehydration? Perhaps they got so lost among the time zones that their poor bodies just forgot how to sleep? Because see, I get really, really tired. So tired that several weeks ago, when putting Q into a new Elmo baseball shirt with matching overalls, it took me about nine hours to figure out what those designer people were thinking when they put "Sesame" on the bib part. You know, as in "Team Sesame." Like, from Sesame Street. Yeah. It frustrated me all day.

So I've always wondered. If I can get that loopy over a piece of clothing, yet never once be offered the sweet relief of a clean bed in a (relatively) quiet place until I can somehow become unexhausted, then what on earth are those silly famous people doing? I'm sure it has something to do with substance abuse, no? But then who puts out there the "exhaustion" label? Their PR people? Somehow, I don't see hospitals being all that willing to make stuff up for their or anyone else's records. I could be wrong there. This has bothered me for years. An unsolvable conundrum.

Q's week this last week was weird. He's clearly been feeling "off"--teething? Growing? Meds need adjusting? And yet, he's chased the pediatrician's pen, caught and kept it, rolled over and over both ways chasing toys, grabbed with an almost perfectly open hand for the balls on a toy in OT. Thursday night he was up 'til three. At about 12:30 we were rocking, I was out of things to do to entertain him. He was clearly sleepy, didn't want to be put down. I started putting his fist up to his nose and mouth, saying, "Nosenosenose. Mouthmouthtmouth." He liked this very much. We played at this for a minute before moving on to his eyes. We've done this before. But this time, he brought his curled index finger to his eye lid, each time saying, "Eye." My mom was sewing in the same room and heard it, stopped to look. I was nearly struck dumb. He just kept going. Fifteen, maybe twenty times he did this.


It made being awake so late much easier to bear. Last night was strange too. Who knows what's up.

A few weeks ago, the girls were sitting at the top of the stairs, putting on their shoes before running outside with their friends, The Twins. K was divulging secrets. Since we're trying hard to use "nice words" (Veggie Tales) when addressing our siblings, I was listening hard. "Do you know what makes S a disgrace?" S looks up, eyes wide, mouth open, alarmed. K continues, "She doesn't like purple."

S relaxes visibly and says, "It's true. I don't."

Bwa ha ha.

Yesterday we went off to the library for our regular book orgy. We left with 50 books. I intend to herd them all through every last one of them. I'm a bit bemused by some of G's choices from the science section--not the "J" science section either. He dove right into A Brief History of Salt and has The Secret Life of Dirt in his stack as well. As we were leaving, the sky was a soft, brilliant blue, scattered thoroughly with puffs of grey and silver and buttery gold. The earth was wet and soaky, forcefully reflecting the upper atmosphere. It was divine.

The windstorms here have completely carpeted road and drive with orangey needles, even tossing in some smaller branches for green garnish. The giant maple leaves did not in fact blow away, much to the collective dismay of all responsible for them. There's enough from the two giant trees to mulch the whole garden three or four times over, or to fill the two huge yard waste bins perhaps six times. The bins are full, so off toddles the wheelbarrow to the garden. If the leaves are left in the flower beds or on the lawn, they provide such thorough cover that they protect what's beneath to death. The chickens will spend the winter in the garden as well, 'fertilizing" so the combination of leaves and well, you know, should provide a bumper crop of whatever the kids decide to plant. We haven't harvested the carrots yet. They seemed to have a rough time, so we decided to leave them be until we close in on a hard frost. G and E "tested" an orange one last week--it was about the size of a man's thumb. I wonder how the purple ones are?

A couple of weeks ago a flock of kinglets stripped the Mountain Ash, all but the very lowest branches. It took them about six hours one afternoon. Sadly, the berries were quite fresh, so no wild birdy antics or flying stunts were observed. About ten days ago, there was a hummingbird hanging out by the fuchsia, just outside the sliding door, just adjacent to the dining table. Those hyper little guys make it really hard to concentrate on school. It seems late for them to be hanging around here, doesn't it?

There's an enormous Golden Retriever who keeps showing up here. Toby thinks it's funny to run away. Fridays are best for this activity. He prefers kids--my kids and their friends--to his boring house. No kids there. What were they thinking? He'll be one in November and his paw prints are a little more than three inches across. He's so big that when I went to tie him up so he'd stay put until his owners came for him, he leaned his head against me rather insistently and pushed me over. What do you think? Is he a mutant dog? Shall we keep a water bowl here for him?

We have big old Orb Weaver spiders protecting the premises. Front windows have their share of webs, the fuchsia on the deck has a cadre of vigilant little beasties. It would be super if we could figure out how to remove the drama from arachnids for the little girls. I happened upon a wolf spider in the laundry room a couple of months ago that was nearly two inches across. I find the suddenness of their appearance quite startling (to say the least--I asked my dad to take care of it), but the Orb Weavers not so much. Maybe because they're pretty stationary, not so likely to be both huge and pop out unannounced at a person. Besides, those webs in the dew seem like diamonds on gossamer, a pairing so unlikely it begs to be touched, worn. We'll leave them up as our organic Halloween decor, at least for now. Heh.

Happy Sabbath, blessed weekend, kiss your beloved an extra time today.


Thursday, October 18, 2007


If your children have braces or if you're considering orthodontia for any family member, would you be so kind as to post a comment stating the expected length of treatment and approximate cost (or quote)?

I'm researching options, but love the orthodontist I've picked. The price here for G is $6580, including all visits and maintenance (retainers) with treatment expected to last roughly 18 mos--depending of course on how it goes. This particular guy is on sabbatical from a well-respected dental school, does everything with the latest research in mind, and usually ends up shaving several months off treatment time because of his commitment to precision. I had braces (from him) for only 14 mos. He'll make me a new retainer when I can get in--as part of the lifetime service provision. He and his office are personable, lovely, streamlined.

Thanks for your help and have a luverly day.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm here! (waving) Been without a connection for a few days. Crazy computer anyway. Seems it needs to have something disabled so it can reattach to the internets. Since that is so not my thing, I'm borrowing a connection and posting. I'm sure that if I were to spend a few hours on the phone with the manufacturer of the system (as suggested by the ISP) I could do what's needed, but the manufacturer of this particular system is somewhat out of reach at the moment. Besides, if one spends that kind of time pulling technology together, one might look up to find that all the progress just made in school, house, therapy has suddenly been thrown back to the stone age. So I'll be borrowing this sporadically until some knight rides in and waves his magic wand over the big machine.

Q had quite a week last week. He had his SpEd time on a different day and for an hour and a half instead of his former one hour slot. He did well, even considering that he'd already had an hour of Occupational Therapy earlier in the day. His eye check-up revealed another 20/80 measurement. It's been nearly a year since it was that good. Since November of 2006, he's had 20/160 assessments, but he was especially "on" at his most recent visit and responded immediately to all his cards and cues. His doc says that we're probably seeing a combination of acuity and attention issues affecting the outcome of his exams.

Q's sneezing now, with green crud in abundance, but otherwise happily playing with his Baby Einstein caterpillar toy. Such a little doll. I could just eat him up. He slept quite badly again last night--mostly on me, which makes for a truly sore back. He's no newborn. My voice is hanging out in the raspy baritone range and everything is making me cry today. Goodness. Just typing it has me all sniffly and stuff.

E has a consult with the orthodontist in November, K will follow suit as her permanent teeth erupt. For now, K needs a spacer for her upper jaw. I had one and it was a huge help, as I'm sure it will be for K. I must admit that I thought the whole orthodontia experience would figure much less significantly than it's turning out to for each of the kids. Again, goodness.

I've had a request for an update to the Amazon wishlist. Thanks for thinking of my punkins.

I'll post more when I'm more awake and less easily flummoxed. In parting, how about a quote? "If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk?" --Albert Einstein


Hugs and kisses. Hope all is well with you and yours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You. Me.

I'm running off to finish the doings of the day, but had to post and share. Here's something to think about. (Thanks, Tracie.)

I have three girls who watch and wonder about make-up and girl stuff. I can't remember where I heard it (MFS?), but I'd like to reiterate that too many hours spent in the Departments of Hair and Make-up produce plastic, soulless people who, in not bothering to fill themselves with anything useful, intelligent, edifying, have succeeded in their goal: becoming a look. A shell. A not-person. An easily photo-shopped caricature of someone who might, with some attention, be a good and contributing and really kind, lovely, smart person. Someone he or she could be proud of.

C.S. Lewis said (paraphrasing wildly) that if one acts like an idiot, one very often succeeds in becoming precisely that.

I'm passionate about this because of my fragile/beautiful/fierce/wonderful girls. Because we see everywhere the effects of people who suffer terribly a lack of real self-esteem, because (shhh) they've done nothing which would be deserving of esteem. So much of our culture attaches value to things over which we have little to no control and yet we line up, volunteering to beat ourselves senseless for not aligning with some crazy--and often literally made-up--standard of perfection. This is nuts, people. Stop it right now.

Go forth, do things you can call your mom and brag about, things you want your grandchildren to speak admiringly of, and regard your physical self with kindness. You are okay, beautiful because you are real, beloved because you've chosen to be.

To quote Bob the Tomato: God made you special and he loves you veeeerrrry much!


Sunday, October 07, 2007


Day Bath
Debra Spencer
for my son

Last night I walked him back and forth,
his small head heavy against my chest,
round eyes watching me in the dark,
his body a sandbag in my arms.
I longed for sleep but couldn't bear his crying
so bore him back and forth until the sun rose
and he slept. Now the doors are open,
noon sunlight coming in,
and I can see fuchsias opening.
Now we bathe. I hold him, the soap
makes our skins glide past each other.
I lay him wet on my thighs, his head on my knees,
his feet dancing against my chest,
and I rinse him, pouring water
from my cupped hand.
No matter how I feel, he's the same,
eyes expectant, mouth ready,
with his fat legs and arms,
his belly, his small solid back.
Last night I wanted nothing more
than to get him out of my arms.
Today he fits neatly
along the hollow my thighs make,
and with his fragrant skin against mine
I feel brash, like a sunflower.

From: Good Poems for Hard Times, an anthology compiled and introduced by Garrison Keillor.
Also by Debra Spencer: Pomegranate

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I am so glad to read this. I don't even have the homoer*tic issues to which the author attests (snort), yet I feel almost exactly the same way he does on this topic. And now I can say that I'm relieved to not be the only one taking a mental vacation during the singing of those songs.

I found this cool site while looking for an alphabetical list of the elements.

This is what I'm trying to get for Q. He's had a hard time with food today--not wanting what he's offered, more coming out than goes in. If you know of anyone who might have it for less, please let me know.

Earlier, I spent an hour or so putting together new schedules for each of the kids. The girls were painting, G had gone to entertain Q and fell asleep on the bed next to him. The pair of boys were so cute. Not a word G enjoys in application to himself these days. With no one needing anything, it's amazing how much one can accomplish--and how thoroughly one might lose track of time.

Off to do stories, meds, laundry, etc.

...And I fell asleep reading to the girls. So much for a productive evening. Well, it was productive. Just in the snuggling sense.

Sleep well.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


So G and E had dental appointments this morning. G needs braces to keep him functioning orally, E has four little "watch" spots--contact areas in baby teeth. E's also going to the orthodontist so we can find out how much her prospective scenario would cost. We used to have a running joke. The life insurance would be for the therapy they'd inevitably need (ha). Seems like instead it should be for their teeth. Who knew orthodontia could be so expensive? Or so necessary? G has chipped a tooth as a result of a bad bite. He's likely to do it again, only worse. So. Another puzzle to figure out.

We went on to OT for G, speech for Q. Errands after, then lunch and school all afternoon. Which reminds me--yesterday, when we were doing the narration for the Aesop's fable (First Language Lessons) about the crow and the water pitcher it was time for me to ask prompting questions. This is really for K, but S pretty well holds her own. When I asked about the problem the crow had to solve, K said, "He was thirsty." Yes he was. Good job, K. S nodded and said, "He should've just gone down to the nearby lake." Huh? There's no lake in the story. Oh, wait. You are your parents' daughter--the ones who chose not to answer, but both argued, to the examiner, each making nearly identical points, the orientation and validity of the same Myers-Briggs question. You cute little contrarian, you. I hope you also inherited the sense of humor. Sweet girl.

Q napped between 5:30 and 8:30 this evening. I got everyone almost down and was just about to sneak into bed myself when he got up. Argh. I am so tired that my face itches, my throat burns, my nose wishes it was running. The last weeks have been crummy for real accumulation of rest and recharge time. I was about to dissolve into a puddle of tears when Q decided he could nonchalantly nurse and pass out. So he just went down and I'm going to head off too. Piano in the morning.


Sweet dreams, nice people. Mwaaa.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I stink.

I've spent the day painting and moving stuff. Have you ever painted hard enough to count it as an aerobic activity? You might consider adding it to your list of things to do before you die. It's great. It mostly results in blisters, hand cramps, and miles and miles of pretty, clean, fresh walls.

As I was slathering on the bazillionth coat of red (if you've ever used red paint on your wall, you know that it does, in fact, require at least one bazillion coats to make it look almost opaque), I was thinking about the delightful messes of life. The colors in the palette today were Cherry Cobbler--oh, yum; Spiceberry--a deep brown that makes one want to bite it; Prelude--a medium blue that feels like an afternoon at a far-away spa; and Plantation--a light green that's not really green, but feels leafy all the same. I was all sweaty and messy, splotched with a veritable rainbow, spreading that lovely red over and over again, filling in the blue that cries out to be jumped into--splash. Listening to all sorts of good stuff on G's CD player, I was nearly knocked over with the sudden beauty of the moment. Goodness. Luscious, slurpy, rich colors, G patiently encouraging the fire blazing in the wood stove, a huge fan running to dry the durned stuff already, kids in and out, bebopping around the room like so many hoppy bunnies. Q playing thoughtfully with his best toy--a shiny deflated mylar balloon. The level of activity almost seemed like a sound-track unto itself; buoying my work as it ebbed and flowed. Did I mention that I was sweaty? Satisfying, that.

With apologies to Sarah, for lifting her thoughts directly from an old post on much the same subject, what would one do without a mess? The business of life is messy. The making of life is messy. The delivery of new life. Messy. But without messes, one would have to skip the lovemaking, the birthing, the living, the dying. Gone would be the smell of a real wood fire, the making of really great cookies, or the painting of great and soaring landscapes or plain old walls. Without messes, each and any of those things fades into rote boredom. Yuck. No sweet lingering, all gooey from adventure or muddy from a hike. I'd so much rather have the messes to clean up, the paint and sweat and tears to wash off under an almost too hot shower, the shirt soaked in breastmilk or spit-up to add to my three to seven daily loads of laundry, than to have missed a single minute from a day like today. Even though I probably won't be able to use my arms tomorrow.

It was a great day, with many accomplishments, a perfect way to round out what was a strange yet wonderful week--last week. Through a series of small and not so small miracles, some needs, even some plain old "wants," have been met and fulfilled here. Some large, some small, every single one of them in profound need of the grace that just showed up, as grace is wont to do in these parts. I know the names of a handful of people who deserve huge recognition for this, but would be tremendously embarrassed were I to out them. So instead I'll just say: thank you. For Q's warm clothes, shoes for the girls, for taking steps to relieve my heart and soul and mind. For being our miracles over the last several days. You know who you are.

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:40 (The Message)

The big kids are getting over their colds. Interesting that they were the quickest to catch an itinerant bug--they being the sleep-resistant "I want to read just a little more!" buggers they are. They seem to have inherited their parents' night-owl tendencies, poor things. How wretched a thing for Q to have snot pouring out of his nose--this besides the poor little crusty ear. Even he seems to now be doing much, much better. We had a little tense moment last night when G needed the nebulizer. It was the first time since last winter. Tonight he was much better, Q hasn't needed it at all. (Hope, hope, hope.)

Tomorrow, Q has his usual early morning OT, G will be seen for a review of his glasses (astigmatism) and I'll get his asthma check-up scheduled. The rest of the week will bring dental appointments, more therapies, plenty of school, library, piano lessons, and more. Oh, so much more.

We've got to finish up the process of getting the family room to be a friendly space. It was once, before all the silly people decided that just leaving a box or six when they were moving should be fine. Well, if you were the only one in this sector of the planet who thought that this family room was a crud depository, maybe. I'd still think it rude, but whatever. No. When at least six separate households do that over a span of twenty-seven years, well, let's just say that the dust is finally settling, we've mostly found our own stuff again, and Q's swing is going to soon be able to really fly. And the walls are gorgeous. And I'm sweaty. I know there was more I meant to say, but I can't think what.

Go kiss your beloved, even if you're sweaty. He won't mind. Shoot, he'll probably, well, never mind that. Get going.