Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I was thinking about prairie wives this morning, as I am wont to do. I wonder what prairie wives thought about? Staying alive, that's what. Between the blizzards and the rattlers and the ne'er do wells at the local saloon, and by local I mean like a day away. I bet there was less crime out in the dugouts and soddies, because by the time the ne'er do well got there, they'd either be sober or dead from rattlers or blizzards. Prairie wives, they just had their babies, maybe a kindly Native American woman would happen by with some oxwillow or something, or maybe not. Maybe they would just birth their babies all alone and then cook up a mess of flapjacks. Have a baby, whip up some flapjacks, slap a grizzly bear on the nose and call it a night. Them were women, y'all. Nowadays we call each other superwoman if we go grocery shopping with 2 toddlers. Which is super hard, respect. 

I tell you what has always creeped me out the most about prairie wives, the solitude. Now, right this second I would pay cash money for some solitude, primarily in sticky nickels and pennies, but these women had too much solitude. I read some book one time about a prairie wife going crazy. (You'd love it, Brooke.) I guess her husband was off somewhere, as husbands tend to be, harvesting corn or playing their rock axes in Arkansas or whatever, and she didn't have any kids yet, or maybe she did, that can add to the crazy, and she was miles from another woman and she just stared out at the tall prairie grass as far as she could see any direction and something just snapped and she went nuts. I don't remember what she did, maybe caught the grass on fire or something, but I haven't forgotten the primary elements of alone, tall grass, bonkers.

That scenario has always been very concerning to me, along with the risk of accidentally trapping myself in my sheets and bedspread and never being able to find my way out, or choking to death on a sip of water. I'm not morbid today, I just hit a roll of concerns there and was unable to stop myself. Which brings up another fear, brakes going out. Prairie wives be like whaaaat? we got WILD BOARS AND TUBERCULOSIS up in here. 

I was thinking about it all because I spend too much time on Facebook and I think it's because the lure of instant connection is just too good to pass up. Not only can I be connected to the best angles of my friend down the street, I can also see the most flattering parts of the days of my friends across the world. I'm thankful for that, for the ability to communicate and commiserate, even if it's your "best self". As far as neglecting our children, prairie wives neglected their kids to milk the cows and quilt and stuff, which was all meaningful and contributed to the good of the household so I know it doesn't hold up, but quit your judging. It's keeping me from prairie madness, so just be thankful for that.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I had to take Brynn to the doctor yesterday. That's a thing with kids, doctors. They have to go. Now, I know some of you hippies don't take your kids to the doctor and I don't mind that at all. But if you ever happen to have a 2 pound kid (my specialty), then you learn to love them. Doctors, that is. Kids are easy to love when they're 2 pounds, even though they look kinda like aliens.  Where am I here? Ah, right. Doctors. So we went and then the doctor asked me what does Brynn eat.

And with that, the world went a little slo-mo as my mind tried to remember what the child eats. She's six, for pete's sake. She has eaten a great deal of things. Being the only girl, she has eaten fewer insects and under-chair gum than her brothers, but still, there is so much to be said. So I am blank, blank and I don't say anything, which sounds pretty damning from a parenting perspective. Then I remember the terms "Standard American Diet", used in a derogatory sense on multiple food documentaries. Oh yeah, I watch food documentaries, until I start getting terribly stressed out about the thought of eating only kale for the rest of my life. Organic, happy grass-fed kale. "Standard American Diet," someone sneers, while flashing pictures of obese people eating all of the things I love. 

Anyway, I told her that Brynn primarily eats cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese, which I can't say I'm proud of, but you don't lie to a pediatrician. First rule. "I always plan to get healthier," I say weakly. That's true, I always do plan that, but somehow every day just ends up being a surprise somehow, like I wasn't expecting everyone to need lunch again. On Monday, I think, things are going to change around here. And they do, they always change, but that change typically means another scattered and carbolicious meal, rather than some kind of studious healthier choices. 

Truthfully, I'm just shooting for getting to the place where we are eating less fast food and more meat and vegetables. Not kale-fed free range buffalo from my backyard, just maybe less soy/beef from McDonald's. You know? When you are like me, and this is how you have always eaten, "health" can be terribly intimidating. So I'm just going to aim for "health-ier". But not tonight. Tonight I'm eating brownies. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I often tell myself, "I am going to be the worst mother-in-law ever," and then I'm like, "Don't be so hard on yourself, self!" but I don't listen, because by that point I'm usually thinking about cookies, and the cookie brain is the strongest. Mmm, cookies. Hang on a minute, y'all.

I'm just acknowledging that I might have a little blind spot in regards to my children. I didn't really think I was capable of that, seeing as I am a pretty realistic person and I know, I know that I am raising small humans who carry at least my husband's flaws. At least. But you know, as time passes and I run into things about them that need to be corrected, it's always a little bit of a surprise that maybe they are not better than all of the other children in all of the world. But maybe they are, who am I to judge?

The newest development among the 6 and 7 year old set is the sass mouth. I can't say I'm shocked. Sass Mouth is a condition that runs in our family for many, many generations. Some people have even suggested that I have it. To that I would gently reply, and I mean this from my heart, "Your mom has a sassy mouth."

I've always considered my sense of humor a gift, a tool to help life work more smoothly, to bridge gaps and lift spirits. I'm seeing it now as a possible problem, because these punk kids are hilarious. They are sometimes defiant, disrespectful and demanding, but so funny. I'm always warring within myself (is this a theme?) between grounding them or giving them a high-five. I know the answer. I've been reading parenting books since I was 5, for lack of childish reading material. I know I have to be the boss. Which reminds me of a hilarious thing that Toby said, when the MOG took the whole case of bottled waters into his office and locked the door, "Why does he get all the water? Does he think he's the boss or something?" I, being a parent and responsible adult, laughed excessively and then explained that he was, in fact, the boss. I think they believed me.

I'm making progress. At dinner, we've moved from "This fish tastes like DIRT." (somewhat true) to "Mom, how can I say this nicely? This tastes like nothing." or, "This is not my favorite,  but that's just because I don't like any of it." How do you keep a straight face, maybe you're thinking. I don't. I laugh all day long and so everybody around here thinks they are the Comedy Boss and I am their semi-competent hired hand and driver.

I'm gonna get a grip on all this really soon and I'm going to lay down the LAW on these kids. And then we'll all laugh and laugh....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We didn't put R2 in school until he was 9. Up to that point I had attempted to homeschool/preschool him, but it seemed like he needed more structure and routine, plus physical, occupational and speech therapy, so we put him in public school and he loved it. Most days he seemed annoyed to come home.

This past Thanksgiving break is when he stopped walking and started his rapid decline, so we haven't sent him back since then, because he was so terribly sick. A teacher from his school comes to our house an hour a day, and that seemed to be working until last week when he started screaming "OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE!" at her. Like us, she was mostly just overjoyed to hear him talk. Later we figured out that what he was trying to tell her is that he wanted to go to school outside our house. He verified that by screaming the word SCHOOL at me for an entire day later that week. It was loud and frustrating and totally awesome. 

Our first trial run was the "job fair", an exhibit the school district holds annually, in which the special education kids get to practice job skills that they might be qualified for. At first I was kinda like, hey, isn't this a little insulting, with the silverware rolling, shelf-stocking and other menial tasks, but then I watched 70 special teenagers go from table to table, learning these skills and getting so excited when the timer beeped and the teacher would hand them a prize ribbon or medal. Richy had the best time. He was so excited to see his friends, and they were yelling his name and making little excited noises. He had to have a lot of prompting to get a can from the table to the shelf, but once he got started he was so proud of himself. He earned 3 medals, which he wore for days. 

The next day we drove up to his school to try an hour or so. I was so touched that every teacher we saw knew his name and was thrilled to see him. It's hard to send a nonverbal kid to school and to trust that he's known and understood and loved. I have total confidence now, though, after seeing teachers who don't even have classes with him cry out of happiness that he's doing so well. We spent an hour in his classroom, and he played the visiting rockstar, only participating in activities that he liked and snubbing the other choices. He didn't talk for them, but he did a lot of jumping and chuckling, and more than one teacher and administrator dropped in to tell me that they had been praying for him and planned to keep it up. 

So we're going to give it a shot. His energy level is super high but he doesn't understand endurance, so he still gets really tired after a little while. Starting next week (this is spring break), we're going to send him on Tuesday and Thursday and see how he does. 

It's hard to believe, still, that he is almost back to normal and in some ways, better than normal. It's starting to get super happy, though. I'm thinking about doing some jumping and chuckling myself. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

R2's recovery continues. Yesterday and today he and I did little test runs to see if he's up to returning to school and it was such a good experience, and I'm gonna tell you all about it, but not today, because this is Funny Week, in honor of my dear friend Tracie. Y'all pray for Tracie's son Mattie as he fights a serious infection and consider helping in a practical way. Now, back to Funny Week.

And just like that, the funny is gone. The pressure, people. I'll tell you my first joke, one that used to slay 'em when I was 2. "There's a guy, walking down the road, and..." (a healthy pause, because timing is everything) "and a PIE SMASH IN HIS FACE!"

Obviously, it was a calling. Now I deal primarily in the, "Nice to meet you, Hungry," game, which is met with open derision. "That is not funny, MOM," they say, like I asked for a review. I could tell them that people on the internet say I'm funny, but it wouldn't make any difference, because I have convinced them that the internet is a web of lies, which has helped Toby install less freeware on our computers, but may have lessened my impressiveness around the ol' domicile.

I could talk a little trash about the man I love, but he's delicate these days, what with the near-death experiences and whatnot. I tell you what's gonna happen. I'm going to hit publish and then 40 things will pop in my head and I'll be giggling at myself all night, ALL ALONE.

So that's it, that's the end. Don't worry, Tracie, I'm gonna have a comeback real soon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

A Kansas City woman exhibited unimaginable courage and creativity this morning by buying groceries at Walmart. Jessica Clark, 34, took the proverbial bull by the horns today and brought home multiple bags, sending shockwaves through her home and surrounding neighborhoods.

"It was a pretty normal morning," said Clark, a well known Facebook status-updater and mother of 4 medium sized children. "I was having some toast in my bed, you know, holding it up high so the baby couldn't reach it, catching up on some TV, and it hits me: we are totally out of milk." It's a scenario we've all feared, a dilemma that strikes at the very core of every human. These are the moments that define us, will we rise to the challenge or fall by it?

"If there is no milk," says Nobel Prize winner and renowned molecular biologist Hazi Neutenberger, "then what is there? Is there cereal? Dry cereal? Is there anything? There is nothing. Without milk, the people will die." Clark was not unaware of the risks. "I can't say I thought about it for long. The choices were no milk or, you know, putting on real pants and going to get some more." She tells the story in a self-effacing manner, downplaying the agony of struggling into her medium-fat jeans and dressing the baby, moments that any of us would recognize as overwhelming. No one would have blamed her, says an anonymous neighbor, if she had just let it go. "We watched her, from, like, the window. She was just walking out there like it was, like, nothing, just putting the baby in the car and pulling out like, like, well, like a hero," the neighbor says, breaking into tears at the retelling. "I don't know what I would do, I don't know if I have that."

Clark, seeing no way around it, drove her minivan to Walmart and bought not just milk, but extra baby wipes and a frozen pizza. "I seen her," says the cashier, "I seen her standing in line, feeding the baby them colored Goldfish and I thought, my God, what a woman."

Was it easy? She says it wasn't. "The waistband of these pants is starting to really dig in, you know? And it's just... parking is not easy. It's not, we all know that. And it's like 11 in the morning, so I'm breakfast hungry but McDonald's is already on the lunch menu, and I don't, you know, want a cheeseburger for breakfast..." Eyewitnesses watched her load the sacks into her Toyota Sienna, wincing in the cold wind.  When we asked her about her achievements despite the odds, she answers with a chuckle, "Listen: I'm no hero. I just did what anybody would do," she says, humble even in the face of staggering accomplishment. "I don't want to answer to my kids someday, say, well, it was hard, so I didn't do it, I didn't get the milk. Now I can say, you know, eat your cereal."

It's a lesson for all of us, a day to eat our cereal and to be our better selves. Thank you, Jessica Clark. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I was an old kid. I was a weird kid, bookish and awkward (but hilarious, seriously, I think I was very funny) but I spent most of my time with my parents and their peers. Adults have always made a lot of sense to me, not so busy with chasing each other with bugs or making extensive lists of “Boys Who Are Cute”. I had a list, but Reagan was on there… anyway. I was odd. I am odd.

I tell people, “I have always been 40,” and that is not true in a numerical sense, although 40 seems to be gaining speed as I cruise through my 30s. But I was an old soul and then I got married young and tragedy hit repeatedly through my 20s and now I am old.

So I’m just going to be old here and say something to all you youngsters, and that is, none of us know what we’re talking about. We’re all winging it through life, trying to do what we think is right for our kids, for our careers, for our bodies and our relationships, and sometimes we hit gold and something goes right and so we write a book about it, like the formula will work for everyone. It won’t.

I’m not anti-advice. I’m not anti-parenting books or nutritional advice or relationship tips. It’s just that they mean less, the older I get and the more I realize we’re all screwed up a little bit and there’s no cure. You know what I mean? There was only one perfect guy and His book is a little vague about vaccinations.

I’m gonna dish out some advice, since that is the thing to do: love what you’re passionate about, teach from what you’ve learned, and give grace to everyone else to learn, too. Takes all kinds, y’all. Your life will be much easier if you are not offended by the way other people live their lives.

So if your friend feeds their child only jelly beans and they sleep hanging upside down like sloths and all of their clothing is made from foil, but they seem happy and healthy, maybe just bless them on their journey and love them for their weird selves and don’t try to fix them.

And get a haircut and a real job, ya darn kids.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I've had the revelation lately that maybe Doubting Thomas gets a bad rap. I think he and I could have a slightly cynical conversation over a couple of pots of tea and both get up encouraged. See, I have an easy faith in God, I feel like I get the basics of His heart (like 1/gajillionth of His heart), that He loves us and He weeps with us and rejoices with us and so on. What I don't have a lot of faith in is how much control we have over the events in our lives, how prayer affects that, how "faith" affects that. Lots of questions there. So I kind of have a "Won't hurt to ask" policy, which anybody with big that-leg-is-gonna-grow-back-on faith would find seriously lacking.

So even during this horrible trial with R2, I was doing what the doctors said to do and asking, in my deepest heart, in the place in my heart where my first baby has his rooms and boxes, if something could change. I never expected anything to change. People around me had higher hopes, greater faith, maybe. I didn't mind that. I just had the facts and my desperate hopes.

And we've gotten some kind of miracle. I can't call it something else, the neurologist can't even call it something else. We sat in a circle in his office, the MOG and I, R2, and the neurologist, and we all laughed because it doesn't make any sense, but he is not dying, not now. He's still broken, but this threat has passed, and it seems like further recovery is underway. There is no way to know what the future holds. We're definitely more aware of his fragility than ever before. You better believe we are relishing these days.

So, how do I feel, people have been asking. I never feel like I feel appropriately. Like, I should just be ecstatic, out of my mind excited but I'm a little numb, like an observer watching a really great movie. I can tell I'm deeply relieved, that most of the weight and tension of the last 4 months has lifted, but so much of the heavy and the deep and sad has come to live with me, and so the joyful and the thankful still has that weighty undertone, there is no giddiness. I'm weighty with gladness. This has been the Narcissist Hour. Same time, same channel tomorrow.

So Thomas, in the Bible, for those of you less familiar with ol' Tom, was a disciple who wouldn't believe that Jesus was Himself, resurrected, until he could touch the crucifixion scars in Jesus' palms. I've always given Thomas a little bit of a side-eye, but now I think maybe Tom had been through quite a bit, and maybe the unpredictability and the loss just made him a little slower to catch on to the miraculous. It gives me a lot of comfort that that hesitation didn't seem to hurt Jesus' feelings at all. It gives me a lot of comfort that Jesus is really really familiar with our weakness and our humanity and He is not shaken by our unbelief, He just keeps doing what He does. It makes me feel like I can come close to Him with my questions and my fear and my immaturity and it's okay, because He likes me and He's not afraid of the work. A lot of comfort.

Monday, March 4, 2013

If you follow us on other social networks, then you probably already know what I am going to say. Kate Middleton can rock a hat. I kid, but that's true. What I'm actually referring to is the amazing progress we are seeing in R2.

If you haven't followed the whole story, I'll sum up. Our special needs son was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease a few months ago, after an extended period of losing functions, losing his ability to sit or stand without support, losing control of much of his muscular system and eventually refusing even to be spoon fed. In February his situation was so severe that our medical support recommended we call in end-of-life specialists and set up hospice care for the home. I can't even go back to the agony of those weeks. Every morning I would walk into his room, trying to brace myself in case he had left us during the night. He was so deeply tired and in many ways, we felt like he had given up on this life, had been given a glimpse of heaven and was ready to leave us.

We tried our best to release him, to explain the situation to the little kids and to tell him that we'd be okay, that he could go if he needed to go. We braced ourselves for weeks or months. And then something changed. It's spiritual, it's physical, it's all of it. He started trying again.

We went from forcing him to drink smoothies from squeeze packs to using scarfs and wrap blankets to hold him in an upright position so we could spoonfeed him avocados and bananas, with another band holding his head up since he could no longer do that, to now, sitting independently in a chair, eating anything we feed him and even experimenting with feeding himself a bite or two with much prompting.  He is walking, he is sitting up all of the time, he is so happy.

The most exciting thing to me is the vocalizing. R2 talked as a baby and then lost that function gradually over the years, about 5 years ago he stopped entirely. This week he has started trying to speak again. He echoes some words, (his first words were "thank you") but a lot of what he is doing is just trying his voice, moans, giggles and whispers. And he is goofy almost all the time. It has been so long since he was happy that I forgot his real personality. Isn't that crazy? Anyway, he is "making jokes", vocalizing these long tones and then laughing. Brynn says he sounds like the whale language from Finding Nemo. :D

I, despite loving Jesus deeply and being raised in church and Christian school (or maybe because of those things), am always hesitant to use churchy language or "Christianese" on my blog, or in my life. I can't get away from the miraculous elements here, though, y'all. I don't know what tomorrow will look like, I don't know what any of this means for the long term, but I know we're seeing miracles today. All I asked for was more time, and God is giving me back my son. It's so huge that I can't wrap my mind around it. I can't even get super emotional yet because I am just trying to process what is happening. To go from fully releasing him to the Lord to realizing that he might have a long life, and be even better and stronger than before, that's a lot to work through. I am so thankful, so amazed, so deeply grateful. Thank you all for continuing to pray for him, for us.

Here's a little video R1 and R2 made:
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