Monday, May 31, 2010

What I hope my kids remember

At the amusement park today, happy to be siblings, happy to be together.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What my kids are listening to

Yes, they own Silly Bandz. They love Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. They dabble in pop culture from time to time. But what my kids are entranced by this weekend is this:

 Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789 - 1996
Not only are they singing about getting on a raft with Taft, they've waited for the Millard Filmore wagon, and know all about Tippecanoe (and Tyler Too).The Bill Clinton campaign's variation on the Fleetwood Mac song, "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow" is like nothing you ever imagined. But my vote for worst campaign song is split between Gerald Ford's "I'm Feeling Good About America" and the Lyndon Johnson variation on "Hello, Dolly".

Why I can't remember your name

The girls have dragged out the electric keyboard. Eldest bought it back when she sang with a sophisticated youth choir, and was required to take piano as part of the curriculum. She made quick progress, and apparently taught her sisters to play a bit. (I discovered this last fall at my sister's house when I heard a respectable version of Fur Elise wafting up from the piano, and found out Dancer was playing. I didn't even know she knew middle C!)

Yesterday Snuggler said, "Mom, do you want to know the words to the latest boring song I've learned on the piano?"

"No," I replied, "But I can sing you the words to the first stupid song I learned on the piano."

The kids looked at me wide-eyed as I sang:
Here we go
Up a row
To a birthday party.
 (C-D-E, C-D-E, D-C-D-E-C-C)

Everyone agreed that it was, indeed, the most insipid song ever. There were periodic bursts of hilarity throughout the day as we modified the words to fit everything we did.

But this begs the question: why is this particular memory in my brain all these decades later?!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Forget Barbie the computer engineer

I took Snuggler to the big art museum today. While meandering through a display of Egyptian artifacts she commented, "The reason I always wanted to have a Barbie in the house was so I could wrap her in toilet paper, add some shiny things from the 99-cent store, and put her in a shoebox. It's fun to make mummies!"

Go, Barbie. They had great accessories back then, you know.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Books, and threads of thought

This last trimester the book group at my weekly homeschool co-op chose to read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. We had ten weeks to read and discuss it, but everyone whizzed through the book in three (and most of us in one). Great discussions, lots of interest, and a million rabbit trails to follow. So instead of moving on to another book we each went off and read related material: some people read up on Islam, some about women in third world countries, some about immigration and economics.

I read different theories of social justice, because I'm interested in the difference between toleration and what we tolerate. Then for different reasons I began reading Rapt: Attention and the Focused Lifeby Winifred Gallagher, which is about how the things we choose to pay attention to shape our lives. That had some oblique ties into how religion affects decision-making. This week I picked up Sheena Iyendar's The Art of Choosing, and found a wealth of thought-provoking ideas about how living in a culture that values individualism leads to different perspectives on choice than living in a culture where the collective good is valued.

I love the brain-popping electricity that comes from connecting disparate lines of thought. Bring me to the meeting point of culture, religion, economics, and neurobiology, and I am intrigued and very much alive. (Though I realize I am more than my brain, especially since this morning I started reading Out of Our Heads by Alva Noe.)

Some day I'll figure out how to get a nifty sidebar that shows what I'm reading, but my inner Luddite thinks it's still preferable to write something about my interests from time to time.
InfidelRapt: Attention and the Focused LifeThe Art of ChoosingOut of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Book

Hurrah! Ten days ago I signed a contract to compile and edit a new book for Guideposts. It's a collection of daily devotional readings for new mothers, due out in 2011.

The challenges: to find the writers; edit 366+ pieces; figure out how to put them together into a compelling and interesting book; write 26 pieces of my own; write the flap copy, introduction and incidental blurbs; and deliver it by November 5. Six months, start to finish. Oh, and did I mention I've never done anything like this before?

Doing something new is exciting, with a slight undertow of nervous. Today I'm giving a nod to the willies (yes, they're lurking in a corner!) and turning to focus fully on what needs to be done. The real challenge will be juggling the work with everything else in my life. That is something I refuse to dwell on, because it's like a crossword puzzle clue that's beyond my ken. 

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cathedral parenting

Many years ago I spent a couple of weeks in Jakarta, mainly to help a friend who'd just become a single mother move back to the States. One day I went to the big museum downtown. When I came outside, I decided to go for a walk. I meandered this way and that, and when I turned around to go back I found I had lost my way. So there I was, in a huge city where I didn't speak a word of the language, where my normal gauges for what was safe and what wasn't didn't necessarily apply, in a warren of tiny crooked streets, jammed in with street vendors, looking relatively well-to-do and very much like a foreigner. In a word, I was vulnerable.

I couldn't read the street signs, and didn't know which way to go. (Not that signs are all that reliable: one I got lost in Florence and decided to follow signs pointing to something, figuring it would be downtown; it was only after 45 minutes of wandering that I realize there was no site named Paso Unico; it simply meant 'one way'!) There in Jakarta I could feel the panic rising, and I called on my city-dweller training to at least make it look like I knew what I was doing. As I walked purposefully down the street wondering how I was going to get myself out of the situation, I happened to glance upward. There in the distance was the spire of the cathedral.

I knew that if I could work my way to the cathedral, I could get home from there. So as I wound through cramped streets, packed up against strangers, absorbing novel sights and smells, with no grid to go on and no clearly defined path, what held me together was being able to glance upward periodically and re-orient myself toward my goal.

For me, this is what parenting is like. There are a lot of times I don't know what to do, don't know which way to turn, aren't sure if I'm doing the right thing or am in the right place. Choosing my landmarks, the cathedral spires I'm aiming for, is incredibly important.

In my early years as a parent, the spire I aimed for was to make my children happy. Not happy every minute of every day, but happy overall. I now think that was a mistake. Happiness is an emotion, not a goal, and we're remarkably poor at predicting what will give us lasting pleasure. Happiness shifts around, and is affected by many things we can't control. It doesn't make a good (or stable) cathedral spire.

I found that if I aimed for bringing joy into the family instead, I was in much better shape. Joy is different than happiness; it hits the soul instead of your seratonin level, and helps you grow into a better human being. I think of joy as the quiet, long-lasting type of happiness that makes you glow all over again when you remember an event years later. It's unencumbered by selfishness and materialism, and tends to have a peaceful quality about it.When I aim for joy I can keep longer-term needs in perspective with short-term desires. It makes it a good 'cathedral spire' toward which to orient my parenting.

 The picture of Jakarta Cathedral is from the official Jakarta Tourism site.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Anxiety disorders

When I tell people that Big Guy has an anxiety disorder, they're often not quite sure what I mean. As mental health issues go it sounds pretty innocuous, kind of like a fancy way of saying someone worries too much. That's not it at all.

Try this: think back to the time in your life you were most anxious. Find that memory and hold it in your mind. Consider how easily irritated you were then. How jumpy did it make you? How prone to misinterpreting or overreacting to events? How rational in thinking through minor challenges? You were certainly not at your best, and chances are you remember that time as being a nightmare of erratic, debilitating feelings. Big Guy's anxiety disorder means he feels a high degree of anxiety all the time. He lives with it the way some people live with chronic pain. His baseline is probably close to my high water mark.

Clinically speaking, anxiety differs from fear because it's not a response to an external stimulus. Functionally, however, the two feelings are close cousins. Fear, embarrassment, disappointment, and other strong feelings cause surges in adrenaline which (in most of us) drop after the immediate situation has passed. With an anxiety disorder some portion of the instinctual fight-or-flight reaction seems to get stuck in a loop. If you're a worrier, you have some idea of what this feels like: it's that can't-shake-it feeling you get at 10pm when your brain just won't let go of a problem. Ramp up the intensity and take away the known cause, and you've got what we call anxiety.

The term anxiety disorder is a catch-all for a variety of things: phobias, social anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and panic attacks. Many anxiety disorders are readily treatable with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT combines cognitive exercises -- which teach different thinking patterns -- with new behavioral patterns that help to alleviate the tension and adrenaline rush of anxiety. There's a nice variety of the latter in Your Anxious Child by John Dacey and Lisa Fiore. Like the relaxation practices or I've been teaching Little Guy or the kids' books on What to Do When..., the behavioral stuff takes consistent practice to be effective. But it really helps.

Big Guy has what's called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which sounds pretty tepid until you realize that generalized doesn't mean vague, but pervasive. It permeates someone's being in a way that's hard to root out. We keep rooting.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Where to live; book heaven

Made out of books (though it would be hard to take one out to read, I guess!) For more book dwellings by Matej Kren, look here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Preserving things

My mother's mother preserved apricots. My father has lively boyhood stories of glass jars of homemade saurkraut exploding in the basement. The summer after I graduated from high school, my family went away for a week -- I had a job and stayed home -- and I had to snap, parboil and freeze a grocery bag's worth of green beans from the garden every night.

So my kids come from a long line of people who preserve things. Which leads me to wonder... what went wrong with the gene pool?

(Yes, water balloons. Packaged in water.)

Being cool

About five years ago I took Eldest aside and had a confidential mother-daughter talk. It went something like this:

We need to talk about growing up. See, in a year or two you're going to start thinking that I'm not cool. It's one of those things that happens to teenagers: suddenly their parents are embarrassing and old fashioned and not cool. So I want to tell you right now that when you think I'm not cool... you'll be right! Cool isn't my god. I've built my life around what I think is important, and sometimes those things are cool, and sometimes they're not. So don't get too worked up about whether or not I'm cool. I'm not even trying.
I have enough kids that I know that one conversation rarely makes a difference. But can I tell you about my Eldest as she approaches 16? She enjoys opera and literature. She likes her skirts long and swirly, and has only recently taken to wearing jeans. She prefers singing choral music over listening to rock; her abiding love for the past decade has been math. She doesn't seem to need to prove anything to anyone except herself. She is an amazing big sister, and chooses her friends thoughtfully. In my book, all these things are extremely cool. She is interesting, funny, and sweet.

And now I've probably succeeded in embarrassing her, which is not a cool thing for a mother to do. But she is SO awesome that I bet she'll forgive me, some day. I love you, Eldest.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


On Sunday Andrew and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. We went out to dinner at a nearby Spanish restaurant, and had a grown-up conversation about books we wish we'd never read, and books that are famous but not worth reading.

Dancer, who is adept in the kitchen, spent a couple of hours that afternoon figuring out how to use a decorating bag and icing tips. She baked a cake, and made white buttercream frosting and yellow royal icing. When we came home (time elapsed: two Star Trek episodes), the cake was ready and we all enjoyed it.

Not shoddy for an 11-year old! (And it tasted good, too!)

An aside

One day last week Little Guy and I were heading through the park to pick up Snuggler at play rehearsal. We passed a sign, and Little Guy asked what it said. "It says herbicide has been applied here. Herbicide is chemicals that kill certain plants, like poison ivy." That started a conversation about other 'cides, like rodenticide and suicide and matricide and fratricide. Big Guy likes words.

Today at lunch, Dancer tried to convince Little Guy to dip his pita chips in some hummus. Little Guy abhors anything chickpea-ish. He replied, "What are you doing? Trying to commit hummus-cide?"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New technology

Today during church I noticed that during a hymn Little Guy was gently clapping his hands rhythmically over his ears.

"What are you doing?" I whispered.

"Stop-motioning the song," he replied.

He is a boy of many talents. The talent shown below is not stop-motioned.(The video rotates to vertical when you start it. Clearly I'm not the tech whiz of the family!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Crossword puzzle parenting

About five years ago I realized that a lot of parenting comes down to logistics. Think about it. How much mental energy do you expend on questions that begin with How am I going to...? When the kids were little, it was figuring out how to get the stroller, toddler, and preschooler up and down the subway steps, or wondering what to do when I'd used the last diaper but there was a blizzard outside and my first grader was throwing up. Nowadays it's how to deliver Snuggler to play rehearsal at the exact time Dancer starts ballet in another part of town, which is when Big Guy arrives home from school (but has lost his house key), and Little Guy needs to buy a present for a birthday party. The how-do-I-get-this-done-nesses in my life are huge. Almost as big as food planning.

What was great about this realization about parenting and logistics was that it taught me something that has reduced my stress level immensely. Logistical problems belong in the crossword-puzzle-solving part of my brain. They don't belong in the stress center. They don't need to be worried about. They are crossword puzzle clues for which I don't yet have the answer. No one is going to die or require a trip to the ER if I don't figure them out.

Hah! Now doesn't that take the pressure off?! I don't have to sweat the fact that I don't know the answer. I can pencil something in lightly, or I can move on to solving 17 down instead of banging my head over 12 across. Lemme tell ya, it is unbelievable how often this approach results in answers to problems I thought were impossible. It's almost as if the decision not to worry frees up extra brain cells.

Since I adopted this method of crossword puzzle parenting, there have been only a very few times when the gotta-go time has arrived and a solution hasn't. On those occasions it's obvious that there is no answer... which lessens the pain and stress of not being able to do whatever it was I'd thought I had to do.

Fact: there really aren't that many things in life that have to get done.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Breaking through writing difficulties

I am working on a piece that's due tomorrow. It's tough going. I have a stack of ideas, but trying to meld them into something approximating unity, with a clear sense of direction, takes a lot of work. I generally like this kind of mental exercise. That may be because generally I don't have to struggle quite so hard as I'm struggling today!

So I'm taking a break, and it dawns on me to share an organizing-a-piece-of-writing technique I learned back in the far-off days when I was habitually employed. I used it with Big Guy, when I was still homeschooling him and he was having a tough time writing a paper on John Wilkes Booth.

The first step is to write each of idea as a pithy newspaper headline. This prompts for to-the-point verbiage. Big Guy came up with "Booth Born a Bastard" and "Mudd Makes a Mistake" and other somewhat eye-popping headers. Then he wrote each headline on a sticky note. He was allowed to put supporting facts as bullets beneath the headline, for later reference. I pointed him to a blank wall, where he could arrange the headlines, and rearrange them, and rearrange them until he had an order that he liked (and made sense).

From there I had him write the first sentence in the 'article' for each of his headlines. So instead of writing "Booth Born a Bastard" he put down something like, "On May 10, 1838, Mary Ann Holmes, mistress to noted Shakespearean actor John Brutus Booth, gave birth to her ninth child." Starting a 'story' from each headline encourages using strong verbs, and makes things tie together. Big Guy ended up with a good paper.

Of course, there's also the high-tech approach to organizing writing. I know a lot of people whose children have had breakthrough experiences using Kidspiration (there's a 30-day free trial). The key thing is to keep ideas from getting log-jammed by organizational challenges.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


While randomly following links a while back I came across this wonderful post on a blog called Hyperbole and a Half. It contains sanity-saving hints for dealing with people who misplace apostrophes and use the word...

Enjoy. Note that not all of the other posts on the blog are family-friendly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Motivation vs. inspiration

I read this article by Lance Armstrong's coach this morning (don't ask why; I've never seen a bicycle race, and wouldn't recognize Lance if he ran over my foot). I found this part massively thought-provoking:

Motivation comes and goes because it is a product of logic. People are motivated to exercise because of simple equations like: More exercise = greater fitness - love handles + sex appeal. There’s a mathematical, mechanical component to motivation that leaves it vulnerable to changing circumstances. Motivation goes out the window, for many people, if the equation gets thrown out of whack by poor weather, a new girlfriend or boyfriend, or mounting obligations at work. Inspiration, on the other hand, plows through the math to keep you on track for your athletic and fitness goals, even through life’s ups and downs.
Snap-snap-snap, and a whole pile of puzzle pieces that have been lying around on the card table of my mind for years fall into place. Things like why information-based sex education programs usually don't work. Why people with genuine vision succeed more than people with good ideas. Why diets go awry. Why I am sometimes a powerhouse mama.

I think it's absolutely true that inspiration is the stuff that makes us dig deeper and find reserves within ourselves we didn't know we had. Which begs the question: how do we get inspired?

Last week I read The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. It's got some interesting stuff in it, sort of a 'Carol Dweck meets Yo-Yo Ma and Apolo Ohno' kind of thing, with evidence that when you put in your 10,000 hours of practice it matters how you practice and how much you envision yourself succeeding. There was a chapter in there about how people become 'ignited', which I'm going to go back and re-read.

Meanwhile, my brain is ticking along on the word inspire, which carries whispers of spirit and breath and all that good stuff.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A second stab at a solution

I had a meeting at Big Guy's school today. It's a beautiful place, an enormous change from his former inner-city cinderblock school, which came complete with concrete yard and chain link fence. Here there are 110 acres of grass, orchards, and woods. It's therapeutic just to be there.

The school is run on the sanctuary model, which emphasizes nonviolence and learning to self-regulate behavior. It recognizes that what is helpful to one child is not necessarily helpful to another. Some kids, for example, find it soothing to talk when they find themselves slipping out of control. Big Guy usually escalates when you try to discuss anything in the middle of a crisis. A bit of time to himself, especially outdoors, is more effective. Each child has an individualized 'safety plan' which includes steps to take within the classroom if he starts slipping into crisis, and steps he can try outside the classroom if the first attempts fail. All staff who interact with him are required to know what it is. This works a heckuva lot better than the one-size-fits-all behavior mod approach at Big Guy's old school, which pretty much amounted to getting brownie points for good behavior and having burly guys haul you off to a windowless room if you fell apart.

Today we discussed scaling back Big Guy's school day to reduce his stress load, so it's possible for him to be successful. This has a number of advantages over partial hospitalization: familiar surroundings, familiar people, and an easier path to full re-integration in the school day. 

We came up with a series of interventions that we hope will work. Big Guy is scared, but thinks he can handle it. He is determined to stay out of the hospital. Tomorrow he returns to school. I'm proud of him, and of the way he's handling all this. 

Little Guy's Mother's Day poem

In case you can't read it:

Moms are vary nise
  they eat a lot of rise
Oh momy I luv you
Maby you are Pepe Lepuy
Mommy cood realy be Pepe Lepuy
Yumy Yumy Mommy

It's a keeper...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Betcha won't guess what this is!

It's a new invention of Snuggler and Little Guy. They call it PaintFetti. As explained by Little Guy, "You paint on a piece of plastic wrap, and then let it dry. Then you open the window and the wind blows all the little pieces of dried paint around!"

Kind of like this:

 Or this:

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

People who've made a difference in my life

Jimmy Washington 

Many years ago I happened to walk into a church in Brooklyn around the corner from my apartment. It was a neo-Gothic edifice, decorated with elaborate stencils from the Arts & Crafts Movement. Think William Morris, simplified. The year before I arrived the church had a fire. The roof had been patched, and the floor re-made with plywood; most of the pews had been replaced. But the rest of the place was pretty much a mess.

I liked the people as much as I liked the building, and ended up staying. I was single and had time on my hands, so I showed up for work days aimed at restoring the church. One thing led to another, and somehow I became the buildings manager. It was a kind of odd thing to do with my weekends, but I liked the quiet work of painting walls and designing stencils. I spent most of my Saturday and Sundays there.

One day while I was painting, a street person walked in. The pastor greeted him; apparently Jimmy showed up fairly frequently for food and other handouts. Jimmy was dirty but friendly, and I was warned that he was a rough character. I said hello whenever he showed up, went on with my work, and talked with him as much as our non-overlapping worlds allowed.

Time passed, and one Saturday Jimmy came in, bleeding. He'd been hit on the head with a brick in an altercation with another homeless person. I stopped what I was doing, got some ice from the parish hall, and applied direct pressure to the wound. It was messy, the way head wounds are. When Jimmy was feeling a little less woozy we let him go, advising him to head for the hospital but knowing he'd probably never go.

After Jimmy left and I'd washed up the pastor pulled me aside. "Julia," he said slowly, "I have to tell you something. Jimmy has AIDS."

This was the late 1980's; if you got AIDS, you died. I'd mopped up a pile of Jimmy's blood. I knew what that meant.

I went home, oddly numb. I knew it would be months before I could be tested for HIV. I probed my feelings, and found I was certain I'd done the right thing. If I had to die of AIDS, the hands-down best way to acquire it would be by helping someone. The next day I went to the pharmacy and bought purple latex gloves, the kind paramedics wear, to carry in my bag. I didn't want to be afraid to help whoever needed me.

Jimmy continued to show up at the church, and I talked to him more frequently. He was never rude, though he was still a rough fellow. He got in fights, and showed up drunk. He was a con artist who would try to cadge anything off of you he saw. Jimmy eventually moved into the AIDS home run by Mother Teresa's nuns -- and he did something bad enough there (I didn't ask what) to get kicked out.

Jimmy changed me. When I walked down the streets of Brooklyn, I looked for him. I began to look homeless people in the eye, because for the first time in my life I knew one. That man in the doorway might be Jimmy. That panhandler could be someone I could call by name.

I don't remember when Jimmy died, though I remember him almost daily. I think of him every time I pass a homeless person, because Jimmy made me a more human human being.

Oh -- and fortunately, I never got HIV. 

Martha Graham, sleeping

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mixed feelings, part two

I find the concept of having mixed feelings comforting. It's reassuring to know that it's absolutely possible (and normal) to have contradictory emotions.

Yesterday I awoke feeling happy, but surprisingly grumpy. The positive feeling was easy to identify: I was thrilled Big Guy would be leaving the hospital. It took a while longer to figure out that my crankiness was for the same reason. With Big Guy home, life will be more complicated. This isn't his fault, nor is it something for which I blame him. It's just that it's challenging to have a child around who's depressed and irritable. Add four other kids for that irritability to ping on, and life can start feeling like a pinball machine with five balls in play, with lights flashing and bells ringing and Mama flapping her flippers madly to keep someone from falling out the hole at the bottom. It's work.

I don't think I'm a bad mother for recognizing this and feeling a bit grumpy about it. I hold my grumpiness in one hand and my happiness in the other, and by weighing them both I make peace between them. Feelings aren't always a matter of either/or; sometimes they are both/and.

As it turned out, later in the day I appreciated having worked this out in the morning. When I got to the hospital to pick up Big Guy, the doctors took me aside and said the partial hospitalization program wasn't taking any more kids right now. There's an education component to the program, and it's too close to the end of the school year to add new kids.

If I hadn't already hefted the weight of how-am-I-going-to-handle-this, that news would have been overwhelming. Instead, it was like adding another weight to a load I already knew. I sagged a bit, but was able to find my footing.

So Big Guy is home, and our next steps are still undefined. The doctors made some phone calls and did a lot of talking, and they now think they can convince the day program to take Big Guy if his regular therapist and psychologist retain responsibility for his care. But we don't know yet if that will work. We'll find out on Monday. At the earliest. Until then, Big Guy's here full time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A partial solution

Andrew spent the day down at the hospital today, since we didn't know when (or where) Big Guy would be transferred. The psych unit at our hospital can only keep kids three days. The social worker called me to say there was a bed at the Hospital at the End of the World. After ascertaining that the place was accessible by public transportation (we don't have a car) I googled the name to see what I could find.

I found that it was an adolescent unit.

Oh. Right. Big Guy is now too old for a pediatric ward. That means we're on new turf. You see, big-name mental illnesses get up and running in the teen years, and that makes an adolescent unit substantially more intense. Given Big Guy's tendency to get traumatized by the behavior of others, an adolescent unit did not seem like a great idea.

The doctors agreed that perhaps we needed a different solution, and decided to postpone the transfer until tomorrow.

I went down to visit Big Guy this evening, and we spent some time -- good time -- trying to define the exact shape and size of the problem we are trying to solve. We talked about situations he thought he could handle, and situations he was sure he couldn't. We discussed how determination to keep one's actions under control is essential, and how brain chemistry can turn down one's emotional rheostat and override even the strongest effort. We talked about the need to build strength gradually. 

In the end we decided that right now Big Guy can handle home life. He cannot handle school, and he certainly cannot handle the school bus. (I am not sure any of us could handle that bus ride.) But where does that leave us? It leaves us with a problem the shape of something called partial hospitalization. So that is the solution we are pursuing.

There is a program like this on the hospital grounds, only a mile from our house. We would bring Big Guy there in the morning, and pick him up in the late afternoon. He would be at home for supper and sleep here, in his own bed.

Now we just have to get Big Guy in there. If you need direction on where to direct your thoughts and prayers, this is where to aim.

Mixed feelings

Eldest was confirmed last night. The church was hot and packed with people, the bishop was funny, three of Eldest's homeschooled friends made the trek, a friend came along. Andrew arrived directly from the hospital, having brought Big Guy a piece of cake and a book to read. I (miraculously) remembered to bring a camera. We're always rather low on landmarks-of-passage documentation around here, since my brain cells labeled 'photographic equipment' seem to have atrophied.

Snuggler snatched the camera when she realized I didn't know how to adjust it to night lighting. It make me wonder how people survive in this technological age if they don't have kids. She took two shots that were pretty good. I like this one, particularly. It sort of sums up the yesterday, with its mix of intense emotions on both ends.

Monday, May 3, 2010


In the menu of life, sometimes you don't get to choose between good and bad. Sometimes all you get is to decide which is the least worst thing to do. Sometimes things are so bad that a 'take one day at a time' strategy seems ludicrous; one hour, or even one task at a time is almost superhuman.

Big Guy is in the hospital tonight. His depression and anxiety were bigger than his willpower could overcome. We're looking at an inpatient stay for a while, until his meds are adjusted and he's stable again. I'm choosing to lean on my faith, to stay as much on track as possible, to stay aware of my other kids' needs and try to meet them.

I'm choosing to love my son every day of his life. There's a lot I can't do to help him, but this is one thing I can do.