Thursday, July 31, 2008

Good news

After about an hour of unmitigated panic, two boys were found safe and sound.

The repairs to the van were about one third the expected expense, with the understanding that the poor thing requires persistent babying through it's golden years.

The concussion is "relatively mild." The teeth can be pretty well repaired. These things have occupied us rather thoroughly over the last week, but less so now. All is not precisely well, but grace covers things, and it will be well. Phew.

Thank God, thank God, thank God.

Edited to add: At 1:30 the next morning I'm still burning adrenaline like it's kerosene over the first good thing on the list. What a week, huh?

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Randy was a good man. His legacy will linger in his own words and in the lives of those he touched. But most of all in his family.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The van has been making a funny noise and the battery light has been on for a while now. Today, the noise became alarming and I took it in, relying on the coast down the big hill to get me to the shop. Turns out the rack and pinion are outta here and the alternator has been overcharging the battery (!?) and wrecking itself. Between the two, the repair costs total nearly half the value of the vehicle.

So I don't know what to do. I need something I can afford, which would be more or less zero in monthly payments, but I could wring a little bit out of the budget. Without a down payment or credit history (marital status changes one's credit rating), a payment becomes downright unimaginable.

The recommendations I'm getting from mechanics are, on the low end price-wise, to go for a Chrysler product that will just get us from point A to point B. On the other end, one that seems more functional for the long term, is the Dodge Sprinter or similar vehicle. In between lies the Toyota Sienna. It's accessible enough to take us through perhaps the next five years, up to the place where Q has become too heavy to lift in and out of a seat/chair. The mileage is good, the repair histories nearly unbelievably trouble free. The price is still way out there.

I'm kicking around perhaps paying for the repairs and taking the next six months to scrimp and save, praying that something gives. I've asked the repair shop to see what else might be ready to crack inside there, to give me some idea what else I might be staring down and how soon. They'll get back to me in the morning.

It's funny. I've had some offers for help with school stuff, inquiries about what we might be needing. Before we left this morning, I almost posted that I've got most of the supplies (still looking at some Usborne books -- wink), but that now, the real fun begins: ramps, lifts, access to home and vehicle are the big, big, and now looming ever larger issues.

And here we are. The boy is about 28 pounds. He's growing, but not as fast as I'd feared or hoped -- it's a double-edged sword. I'd planned to get him some software to use with his new buttons and a backpack that I could then have modified to haul him on normal family endeavors -- hiking and etc. I'm thinking about all that again. He would benefit from those things in a very large and definite way, no doubt there. But therapy is important too and all those doctor's appointments... We have to have some way to get there.

I dunno.

I'm off to think some more, make more physical order while things feel all out of sorts, and entertain the boy who is running out of patience with his formerly delightful orange maracas.


See mommy run

Q and I had a big fun day: paperwork, OT, groceries, pharmacy, berries, Speech, bank, and we topped it off with a fast walk around the lake. We covered two miles in just under half an hour, including those little hills. I was racing to get back to the van so I could call the big kids. We ended up out of breath and giddy, both of us. Me from working up a thorough sweat on my way to endorphins (and children), him from the wind in his face and trying to keep track of all those puppies out walking their people. Anyway, we were just goofy by the time I got him buckled from stroller/chair into his carseat.

It's nice to get out and really move fast. The giggly part was fun too, even if it meant lots of drool -- which reminds me, it's time to wash the straps for his equipment (pausing to stretch). Now the boy's out and it's my turn. The morning brings more raspberry jam and tidying, errands and phone calls, hopefully also finalizing the last of the curricula. G'night. Sweet dreams.

(Unless you went to bed at a sensible time and rose accordingly, in which case: Good morning!!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The day

The sunset last night was a river of juice: syrupy tart grenadine, an array of mango to papaya then pineapple, topped with what surely must have been freshly squeezed sapphires. The vast and gentle curve of the earth upheld the luminous ribbon of colors, each bleeding into the next, suspended seemingly ad infinitum...

It was a good ending to an odd and frustrating day. It's never easy to pack the kids up to send them off for weeks at a time. (See previous post for my opinion on that.) But it was a nice flight. The flight attendant was sweet and attentive, moving kids around so we were all positioned more closely together and no one was seated alone. She told me, behind her hand, that if anyone put up a fuss, she'd bribe them with a drink. Heh. The ubiquitous screens seem to act as a sedative for the crowd, offering something for everyone. They worked their magic quickly. The best part, the part which would allow me to recommend this airline to everyone, forevermore (Virgin America*), is that the very same flight attendant walked the aisle with a baby when he started to fuss. The mama had held him the entire time and it had gone well, but when he awoke, he wasn't all that thrilled to be where he was and the mama was plain tired out from the usual race to the plane and clenching a sleeping infant for upwards of two hours. So the flight attendant took him and walked with him. And then she stopped and let me drool all over him and burble baby talk and tickle his little naked feet. Now that's the kind of crew we all hope to have. Every single time we fly.

After we landed, there were the expected adamant requests for the nearest bathroom. The first three women's restrooms were closed for either construction or cleaning. By the time everyone pottied and we got through to baggage, I was cutting it close. There was no apparent way out of the baggage claim area and back into the actual airport so I could find my flight home. There were a couple of elevators with warning signs on them. There were lots of limo drivers waiting, holding up signs. There was no one at the various baggage offices or travelers aid counters. Finally, in desperation I walked toward the customs guy who was sitting behind a big panel of glass doors marked quite sternly "DO NOT ENTER." He shook his head at me and motioned me away. I kept smiling, walking toward him with my hands out, shaking my head. He approached the door and through it asked me what I needed. I explained that there was no other person to ask for help and where I was trying to go. He opened the door a little and told me to "stand under the blue sign and get on the shuttle" and that it would take me where I needed to go. So I did.

As I hopped up the steps, grabbed the pole, and the bus pulled away from the curb, it occurred to me, "How do you know this is the right shuttle? If this is the wrong bus, you're dead meat." So I turned and addressed the entire crowd. "Excuse me, does anyone know how to get to _____?" The passengers were kind, giving unmistakeably clear directions, while the driver pulled ahead, honking long and loud at the next shuttle to keep it from moving before I could sprint to get on board. The next driver was also kind, dropping me off on the other side of the airport and about a hundred feet closer to the correct ticket counter than he had to. I ran two flights of stairs (what is up with the access issues?), then the length of the counter, and still missed the plane. But again, the lady at the counter was just so nice. The guy who checked my ID and boarding pass complimented me on my "beautiful smile." (Aw. Curtseying, blushing...) Even the security line and TSA people were super. Maybe it was all the adrenaline, but it seemed like everyone was just being extra... kind, I guess. Maybe I had a sign over my head: Shhh. Be nice to her. Pat her gently as she passes by.

I must have said thank you a thousand times before I got through the security maze. I noted also that I need to have a different response to the airport employees' good wishes; somehow my automatic "You too," when they've just wished me a good flight doesn't seem quite appropriate.

While I waited the two hours for the next available flight I noticed some things. Mostly that it's a tragedy that the courtyards are locked up. I thought that the agapanthus and jasmine would be a welcome change from the combined stench of jet exhaust and whatever had apparently died that day in the ventilation system. When I spotted the blossoms I actually lurched reflexively toward the windows, thinking/feeling something alongs the lines of, "Hallelujah!" Maybe the airport powers that be are afraid folks will smoke despite the signs posted out there (which would also lead one to believe that the doors are unlocked, at least upon occasion) or choke to death on the wretched air, but seriously, it's mean to tease people with flowers.

So the drenching wave of the sunset was sort of a hymn, for me. It wrapped me and the day in ethereal velvet, placing parentheses of glowing grace around those things less pleasant, giving everything soft edges and cushioning the fragility one sometimes feels at the least (or most) expected moments.

Q's out now so I'm going out too. Sweet dreams, all you dear people.


*I've also had some truly great experiences with Alaska Airlines, but no one on any flight I've ever been on has been as nice as this particular lady.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Getting ready

Grandpa has G at the ortho office with a loose bracket. Again. We did this a week ago. After much quizzing, it comes out that both events were preceded immediately by ingestion of soup and it's attendant bread bowl. Argh. Bread bowls bad. Bad, bad, bad.

S is running around, "packing" like a squirrel on speed. Come to think of it, this is sort of a permanent setting for her. Busy. Oh, so busy. And always finding miscellany to stuff into sundry containers, preferably ones that zip. Drawstrings are also acceptable. (I'm remembering K and E also having this phase. For E it involved a tiny backpack full of currants. Yes, you read that right.) So this morning she's been reminded that she still needs to grab her toothbrush when she exclaims, index finger in the air and eyes wide, "Yes. And I'll be getting the princess one, just like I am..." And she's already left the room at a sprint.

There are only rare moments when I'm not cracking up at whatever she has to share or pronounce. The other day she declared it a "pity" that Grandma was at work. Because, you know there are so many other, better things to be doing with one's time.

I love this part. I keep thinking that I'd better be getting all this stuff down, and quick, before it fades away. I used to keep a calendar with all the kids' quotes on the fridge so I could record all the delightful randomness as it occurred. These days, the fridge calendar has pretty much only appointments on it. Sigh. I suppose it was another casualty of the world tilting on it's axis? Or maybe I just switched venues and now I'm putting it down here?

In any case, it's time to reclaim this part of the unadulterated loveliness that represented family life and roll in it, baby.

So there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Busy, busy

I'm posting here that I intend to post more over the next couple of weeks. The kids will be off visiting again. It is always my intent to write a bunch here while they're gone and then, somehow, between Q's upset at my having made his sibs disappear ("Bad mommy, you must pay -- wait, am I next? 'Fess up, lady, WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THEM!?") which translates to lots of extra work, and my sudden lack of focus because the big kids have disappeared, I just can't seem to stomach it.

I'm resolving that this time will be different.

I have loads to do offline that may or may not get done, depending on the whims and wiles of the Q, but here's my plan for the blog: to write. At least every other day. Perhaps I'll even get around to sharing some pictures. (Don't choke. Swallow. Need a little pat on the back? There, there. You okay now?)

I've been wanting to write about first grade, since we're embarking on the last neurotypical first-grade year that this household will see. Q's been busy in therapy and there's much to share about him. I've had some further thoughts on my P.O.U.S.'s (Posts of Unusual Size), so I'll try to expand on some of those.

But for now, I've got packing and more laundry to do for the punkins. Have I mentioned how I'd rather watch my heart be diced up on a platter than send them away? I'm sure they'll enjoy themselves. (Gulp.) And let's look at it this way: it's an opportunity for me to put things away and have them stay where they've been put. That part is very, very strange. (Insert Twilight Zone theme.)

Opportunities for tidiness, while lovely and all, are insufficient. I guess I'd rather have the mess; as long as it brings the living, breathing entropy machines with it. Tra la la.

More, she promises, later.

Friday, July 11, 2008

More COFFEE!!!

So much for sleep. The boy got up at 1:15 and went down again at about 2:45. A.M.


And now it's horrifyingly late again, but I got some big stuff done today, yes I did. Three batches of strawberry freezer jam (hot tip: add a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar per batch for the best you've ever had -- they'll find you in the closet with a spoon), a couple of loads of laundry, a couple of loads of dishes, meals for the wee monkeys, and eleven whole pages of learning plans for the new school year. I'll proofread again in the morning -- you know, when my eyes uncross from all the reading. By then, my pinkies should have regained feeling too. Bonus.

Now on to lesson planning. I'll be needing a drum roll, please.

I am praying that the little fuzzbomb stays asleep. Therapy and SpEd tomorrow and then planning for more fun over the weekend. Maybe we'll get lucky and won't need me to be caffeinated, thank you very much.

Kiss those babies. (grins)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hope and coffee

We lost another itinerant chicken -- this time to a pit bull. Ugh.

My pinkies are tired from typing and collecting and working on learning plans for the kids for the coming school year.

I am exhausted. Q's been getting up between 5 and 7 lately (still going down between 11:30 and 1). Last night my bedtime was 2:30 -- laundry needed doing/folding/yadda yadda.

I've knocked out a sizeable chunk of computer-based work plus a batch of raspberry freezer jam this evening. Thank you M for a pleasant afternoon and progress. And the coffee. "If you're like me you need hope, coffee, and melody..." (grins)

The boy is quiet now so I'm off. G'night, rest well. Hug your honey.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


About four, maybe five years ago, I started having these niggling half-formed thoughts that wouldn't leave me alone. I've always been interested in theology, sociology, self-help, psychology, personal growth kinds of things, and how they overlap to create or explain the human condition. So having further curiosity in these areas wasn't unexpected exactly. Just sort of, well, I don't know, really. But it felt like the horizons in my head were expanding. Feelings of expansiveness seem usually to lead to greater positivity, desire for good change and increased connectedness.

I don't know how to describe the progression of things in my head. I guess some of these thoughts have gelled over time and others are still in the works. Here's what I've got so far.

Each of us is both a magnificent creation and a total wreck.

Earth shattering conclusion, huh?

Well, about the magnificent creation business. We mostly fail to appreciate our physical beauty and are unbelievably hard on ourselves, often downplaying our best traits, physical or otherwise. Women, I'm speaking most directly to you. Stop it. You're made in the image of God and you're maligning that image. Quit it.

I've been plenty guilty of this myself, and heaven knows, as long as we inhabit this planet there will be plenty of flaws to pick at, but..... Do you see what I just did there? I presented a thought that was kinda revolutionary to many females (though truly, you know you have moments in front of a mirror where you nod and smile and think "not bad, baby"), a notion which has the power to change the way we think and interact, then copped to failing at it myself, then added how imperfect I am. Well, duh! Nobody's perfect, but what standard are you holding yourself to? The one that allows you to dis you so no one will think you're too haughty about your precious self? Seriously. This is a studied phenomenon. Women continually put themselves down in order to seem less threatening to each other.

Say you give your friend a compliment about her fantastic strappy heels and incredible skirt and how nice her legs look in that particular combo. "Oh stop," she says, "I'm so fat." You reply, "Oh no, you're fine. Look at my butt. It's horrible." She replies, "It is not, you should see my belly, arms, breasts, chin, feet, hammertoes." Or say someone shows you a picture of yourself clearly enjoying a moment of fun and relaxation. You look great. You're with your beloveds. Your skin is glowing, your smile is huge, you are obviously comfortable in your own skin and the memories this photo brings back roll over you like warm honey. "Oh look at my thighs," you say, waving the photo away. "I can't stand pictures of myself. I'm so fat."

Somewhere along the line, hearing such things out of the mouths of people has become a literal bitter taste in my mouth. It's a jolt to my psyche. I actually find myself flinching.

Let's imagine that you're walking through a parking lot when you spot a fabulous car. It is shiny, sleek, leather interior, plenty of chrome, all well cared for and clearly enjoyed by the owner, who is just then exiting the vehicle. "Niiiiiiice caaar," you say, nodding appreciatively. "Oh stop," the driver says, head shaking in disgust, "Didn't you see the big dent in the back? I'll never get that out. And the wax job is three whole days old. Don't even get me started on the bugs in the grill. Can't you see this thing is a wreck?"

What would you say? I think I'd be stunned into silence. (No mean feat, that.) I mean, come on. This car is clearly loved, sacrificed for, enjoyed immensely for what it does for it's owner (not just getting from point A to point B, either, this thing is hot) and you're going to stand there and argue with someone who is complimenting you, perhaps a little enviously, on your amazing ride? Are you nuts?

So back to body image.

Are you nuts?

Well, are you? When you see yourself in the mirror are you thinking of all the things you'd like someone to take a knife to? Of how much work you simply must do to your face this morning before allowing it to be seen by anyone else? Are you plotting how to afford the best products, treatments, procedures? Aren't you tired of judging yourself into a hole? Really, really tired?

Martha Beck addresses body image and self-esteem in her column in the June 2008 O magazine. (Go read. I'll wait. Humming...) In the interest of full disclosure, I must share that reading this column in the orthodontist's waiting room is guaranteed to draw unwanted attention from fellow parents of patients. You may appear to be having a mild seizure as you try unsuccessfully to avoid laughing out loud. I'm just saying.

When E was a long and skinny six year-old, she was playing in her room with a friend the same age and of the same body type. You know the ones who frustrate their mothers most by being unable to keep their clothes on their skinny, growing selves? I was walking by when I heard them exclaiming, at length, how fat they were. At six. Where did this come from? At the time, both of these girls watched only sporadic smidges of PBS, a few videos, nothing else, and were both homeschooled. They were engaging in the same social game that they heard their mothers playing with their friends. Only a couple of other times have I felt the same kind of jolt. I think that was likely the place where my aversion to self-insult as sport began. There's nothing like having your small child hold the mirror up for you, is there?

The other thing I've noticed, the second major shift in thinking, also occurring over about the same time period of four to five years, is that I've begun to be open to and recognize the need for (gulp) change within myself. Please don't hit me or throw anything, or breathe too hard in my direction. I am a fledgling creature still drying her wings in this regard. When I say that I've begun to be aware for this need, I should also say that I crave change. In physical location. In politics, in other people's attitudes (though I want my actual people to remain, thank you), in traffic, social policies, the church, menu, routine, et cetera (Latin, "and the rest"). In fact I'm so appreciative of change, I may well have some sort of attention deficit issue. While never being exactly oblivious to my own faults (remember that self-help interest of mine?), it is all too easy to believe the best of one's press and then seek out the folk who perpetuate kind remarks about oneself in order to get confirmation that the dissenter(s) are crazy, but you're perfectly fine. Phew! Near miss, that one.

Increasingly over the last half decade, I've felt something akin to a gentle, persistent tapping on my skull, almost an invitation to view things a little differently. To put some effort into losing some presuppositions, insecurities, and go on to step up my ability to flex in response to outside input. Martha Beck speaks of this change too.

So while I don't know quite how to explain this, I will offer advice on these two topics anyway. Nervy, I know. I'm a firstborn, so, um, this quality will probably stick around. I'm working on tempering it so people can receive my excitement as excitement instead of as me trying to hammer them into doing what I want or else (a thought which horrifies me). Perhaps it would help to think of this as a pep talk.

First, no more of this false self-deprecation. It's wastes your time. Own your gorgeous self, flaunt confidently and kindly the preciousness with which your Creator endowed you. I remember hearing someone describe her legs, negatively, as tree trunks. Well, let's see. If you must persist in such comparisons, let's think about trees. I never saw a poem lovely as a tree... They give themselves over to holding up and constructing amazing things for us: bridges, homes, even tree houses for children's play. Do these structures remind you of anything? There's endless metaphor available for strength in relationships.

When addressing your body, do you curse it for what it can't do for you while ignoring the places it takes you, the loveliness you experience (erm) through it? Those bundles of nerves, the ability to see (appreciate), taste (slurp), touch (caress), smell (revel), hear (lose oneself in) any number of sensory and sensual experiences. Man, how can you not love your physical self for the fundamental ability to function and thereby bring delight? Those legs carry you to your next sensory feast, they draw you nearer to your lover, they let you dance with your punkins, they change your proximity to locations of work, worship, rest, healing.

This negative behavior is disingenuous at best, creepy at worst. It is insecurity hoping for flattery, which translates into a lie. Besides, men really don't like this. They can't understand what's wrong with you, acting like you don't believe you're beautiful even when they and a few hundred other people clearly disagree. This seems to them like manipulation. And most of the time, they're right. Interestingly, manipulation is the dark side of the ability to empathize. Embrace it long enough and it will become paranoia, rendering you unable to revel in those intimate moments.

While you're busy releasing your attitudes of self-flagellation, think also about letting go of how hard you are on yourself for not "having it all together." Again, stop it. Life is messy. So what? Physical chaos is all plenty fixable. It does not, however, have to be placed neatly back inside it's labeled, allotted square of tape right this second, especially if doing so requires alienating people. (People first, animals second, stuff last. Do it kindly or not at all.) As a certain someone used to say when I was exasperated with the mess that comes with little ones, "It's okay. They'll grow. It will change. Give it time." Guess what? He was right.

Without messes, we couldn't make or birth babies. Without messes, we would have no art of any kind. Imagine how much less useful medicine would be today without the first ever, hideously bloody autopsies. Mind you, progress was made, thank God, so med students now do their work in a clean, orderly environment with no blood involved, per se. In art, the revisions that are messy are cleaned away with only the final version to refer to, in it's shiny glory. Messes surrounding babies, which seem somehow far less objectionable than any other, also get cleaned up.

Grown-ups can get cleaned up too. Which brings me back to the tapping on my head. It's sort of a still, small voice thing, I guess. I found myself listening and hearing things differently through campmeeting, the tapping getting a little louder. I picked up a book on marriage at Costco a couple of weeks ago, wondering what on earth for, while feeling like I really had to get the book, with no good reason anywhere in sight. I skimmed the book, thinking as I started that this was crazy, not applicable to me. I mean, I don't seem to have anyone to apply newly learned skills to in a marriage, do I? (Nor do I have any desire to go looking for someone else.) And still with the pushy little sort of nameless thing requiring something more of me. Over a few months, I've been able to pay more attention to the ideas rising in my consciousness like cream on milk. It amounts to this: a growing desire to change.


Not the things like how I squeeze the toothpaste. Though perhaps that should be on the list too...

No. I think this is about being able to step back, view oneself with some sort of outsider's criticism and empathy (an important combination), then take the new knowledge, turn it into understanding, and assimilate it. This is new, so I don't know if I'm working on say, rough edges, a fundamental way of dealing with folks, my world view, or my personal preferences. I'm just beginning to understand that this emerging awareness of the last several years is taking me into new territory, so I don't even know what to call the territory, much less how to negotiate it. The best clue so far has been the words that keep coming with the tapping: Grace, meekness, loving-kindness, gentleness, humility, self-control.

Perhaps our next memory work for school will be the fruits of the Spirit: "But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely." --Galatians 5:22, 23 The Message

This feels bigger than self-discovery, because that pretty much seems to result in further navel-gazing. This road seems to be headed toward the integration of "things," for lack of a more concise term. General possibilities seem to be increasing, rather than dwindling. I'm feeling less and less locked into old patterns, more and more drawn into a willingness to see things as if I'd been drawing upside down.

I'm sharing this here because these two subjects plus a few other fringe ideas (I'll save those for later), persistent hangers-on that they are, now refuse to be ignored. I'm rather surprised, constantly, by the things unfolding as a result of this. It's a little like volunteering to have one's skin peeled off in order to become a new creation, Eustace-like. Writing it now, it seems a little overblown and yet it's impossible to overstate just how enormous these matters are to me, and possibly to you.

Disclaimers: When embarking on something of this scale, it is important to remember that there are people out there who enjoy seeing others on their faces in the dirt. Don't go on a quest for change and invite people who self-soothe with vitriol to push you down. Speak with people who are capable of great kindness, whom you trust to strive within their own experience, and request their support.

About self-care. Be clean, tidy, cute, polished, accessorized, (appropriately) sexy. Go work out, make yourself strong, and have a huge glass of water a few times a day. Enjoy some really nice lotion or a sugar scrub. Read. Sleep. (Hahahaha. Oh. Sorry.) Get a massage and/or a nice pedicure when and if you can afford it, or ask your beloved to help. This opens up all sorts of other possibilities (grins). Glory in those things, experiencing fully the sensation involved -- skin, smell, textures. Mmmmm. Then move on, letting your old negatively looping internal soundtrack seep out your pores, slipping down the drain next time you hit the shower.

If you're looking around right now feeling like your environment will never allow you to effectively measure up, consider what effort you're putting into maintaining that dynamic. Do this before you make any other changes. Unless you're at risk because of someone else's unrepentant violent tendencies (in which case, leave now, then get help) look first into the quiet places inside yourself. Check to make sure that you haven't allowed them to become mosquito breeding pools, replacing clear, refreshing thought patterns and behaviors with crud that will keep you too stung to grow. Chances are good that if you approach the people in your "group" with a desire to change things for the better, they'll be glad to help. Enlist a counselor to maximize the benefits from your efforts.

Also, when one goes about beginning to be able to pray, "Change me, Lord," and mean it, one often seems to miss the mark. Bear with me, if you can. Mind the wet feathers. Thank you. (Backing quietly into my nest.....)