Happy Independence… From the Christians

Jul 4 2017

I feel like it’s safe to say there are two kinds of people in this world: those who would never, ever, EVER laugh at people who experience developmental delay — you know, the conscientious, compassionate, kind type of person — and Terrible People like me.

It’s just that my two kiddos with disability have been entrenched in an argument that’s lasted days. They’ve yelled at each other. They’ve called each other names in ragey voices. They’ve rolled their eyes. They’ve tried to bait the rest of us into taking sides. And still it’s not settled why we’re celebrating Independence Day on July 4th.

Aden insists we’re celebrating independence from the Christians. Ian says we’re celebrating independence from the Nazis.

For a while, they were blaming the Jews, but they believed me when I said that wasn’t it. Whew! On the other hand, my contention that we’re celebrating independence from the British was met with unified derision. It was ridiculous when I suggested we’d need to be independent from the Land of Crumpets and Tea. I mean, what could we possibly be fighting against the British for? Their use of “chips” instead of “fries?” Their corner on the digestives market? No. Mom clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. At least they agree on something.

Ian: It is the Nazis, Aden.

Aden: IT’S THE CHRISTIANS.

Ian: Nazis.

Aden: CHRISTIANS.

Ian: Evwebody knows Nazis are bad guys, Aden. Evwebody.

Aden: It’s the CHRISTIANS. … Wait. Mom, are we the Christians?

Me: I am, Aden. You get to pick.

Aden: Oh. KILL THE NAZIS then. KILL THEM DEAD. KILL, KILL, KILL.

Ian: Ha! I told you! It’s NAZIS. HAhahahaha! I am wight and you wong! Ha, Aden. HA!

Aden: Wait. No. KILL THE CHRISTIANS. Except Mom. KILL ALL THE CHRISTIANS EXCEPT MOM. Unless I’m a Christian. Then we KILL ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE.

In conclusion, even though I keep laughing at them, I feel like my kids have a general bloodthirsty grasp on this whole Independence Day thing and also theological schisms in general… Christians who flee religious persecution from Other Christians and arrive in a new land to persecute and massacre others.

I feel like we’re really slow learners, guys.

Also, I made blueberry cake to celebrate. And I’m going to go have a beer.

Wishing you a Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans!

With love,

 

I’ve Decided to Collect College Kids. Also, We Should Probably Pray for Greg.

Apr 30 2017

We’ve mostly been with Abby since arriving in Hawaii. Not a ton of time on our own. We’re helping her hunt for next year’s apartment. Doing the grocery shopping. Gasping over the cost of bread one minute (FIVE DOLLARS, you guys, and that’s for a cheap loaf) and piling All the College Kids in our car to force feed them pancakes at IHOP the next. It’s like feeding puppies, y’all; they’re just so wiggly and enthusiastic and grateful, and they look at you with those eyes, like, “You fed me, and now I’m yours forever,” and suddenly you’re all, “MORE PANCAKES FOR EVERYONE. EVERY KIND OF PANCAKE. ANOTHER ROUND ON ME,” and, “Can I KEEP them, Greg? Pleeeeease? I will do ALL the work. You won’t have to do ANYTHING. I will walk them EVERY DAY, and I will feed them and water them, and I will never ask you for anything ever again in my whole life if you just give me All the College Kids.”

I have searched, lo these many years, and I have finally found my calling; feeding college students. I was born for this. This is my sacred duty. This is my calling from the Lord. This is how I shall fulfill my destiny.

Greg says I can’t keep them, though. He says they don’t belong to me. He says we already have five kids and that five kids is enough kids.

I’m not sure about his logic. I think there’s a flaw in there. I’m pretty sure collecting College Kids isn’t the same as collecting Kid Kids since College Kids are technically grown-ups. Also, they’re way cheaper than Kid Kids because College Kids only cost you pancakes. Greg says they don’t only cost pancakes; he says they also cost tuition and fees and apartments in Hawaii. I say that’s practically the same as just pancakes; we can call it pancakes and sundries, and we’ll be fine. Surely, we can fit pancakes and sundries into our budget. How hard can it be?

Greg says I’m the one with flawed logic and that I need to work on my budgeting skills. Since I recognize an expensive loaf of bread when I see one, though, I’m not sure what he’s talking about.

Then he called me a cow, which was mean and temporarily put my Collect All the College Kids plans on hold.

Greg feels like it’s important at this point to note for the record that he did not call me a cow, but I was there so I would know.

See, we took one night to ourselves while we’re here. One night while Abby was studying with the rest of my Future Children to walk the beach in Waikiki. We found a little patio restaurant at sunset looking at Diamond Head. We took this picture and posted it on Facebook.

He ordered the pulled pork sandwich. I ordered the fish tacos. We eavesdropped on our neighbors’ conversations while I had a pretty drink, the color of the purple clouds in the azure sky.

Greg leaned over and took my hand. He looked into my eyes and said, “I really like that trough they served your tacos in.”

That trough, he said.

That… trough.

 

“Greg, did you just say I’m eating out of a trough?”

Greg looked afraid.

“NO,” he said. “I definitely did not say that.”

“Did you, Gregory, or did you not just say that this is my taco trough?”

“I DIDN’T,” he said. “I SWEAR.”

“DID you,” I asked, head tilted curiously to the side, eyes turning as black and alien as the approaching night sky, eager to swallow the human before me, “therefore liken me to a trough-like creature? Say, a horse? Or a cow?”

“NO!” he said.

And now, days later, he continues to deny it.

Whenever I want to mess with him, I just whisper, “trough.” He winces, and I giggle. I haven’t told him yet how many College Kids he has to let me keep for me to let the Trough Comment go; I’m holding that part in reserve for negotiations to be held at a later date.

In conclusion, let’s pray for Greg, friends. Although he must have committed some sort of heinous crime in a previous life to have to go through this one with me, he really is a dear and doesn’t quite deserve the eye tick I’m giving him.

Dear Jesus,
Please help Greg survive his trip to Hawaii.
And also his life with Beth. 

In your precious name,
Amen

 

 

 

P.S. Greg loves travelling with me. My family calls him Poor Greg. I don’t know why. He’s the luckiest.

32 Things: A Day in the Life of, Like, EVERY PARENT I KNOW

Mar 26 2017

Just a quick review of the day, friends, in a list of 32 things. Honest to God, as much as I want to think today was unusual, honesty compels me to admit this is just like every day for, like, EVERY PARENT I KNOW.

  1. OK. I went to church this morning, but I couldn’t find my travel mug for coffee. My 4th grader suggested I use my whiskey flask. I was seriously tempted because whiskey flask + church makes me happy the same way profane embroidery + church makes me happy, BUT, contrary to public opinion, I do occasionally behave in socially appropriate ways, so I did NOT drink my coffee from a flask in church. I was simply late — as always — because I obviously couldn’t go until I found my travel mug.
  2. It was in the car.
  3. There was solidified milk in it.
  4. I didn’t gag when I cleaned it out — and it fell in one heinous, gelatinous, fetid mass into the disposal — because that’s apparently one of my super powers now.
  5. I was leaving the house with my clean, filled travel mug when I discovered the dog chewing on a glass ball she stole from the Christmas tree.
  6. Yes, the Christmas tree is still up and it’s the tail end of March.
  7. Yes, of course the ball was already in shards.
  8. Yes, of course I checked her mouth.
  9. Yes, of course it was full of glass. I pulled it all out. Piece by piece. She’s fine. No cuts. Sad dog, though, that I took away her toy.
  10. Yes, I got glass and dog slobber all over myself.
  11. No, I didn’t change my clothes. I’m not a rookie. If I changed my clothes every time I was encased in things like slobber and glass, I’d never do anything but change my clothes.
  12. I wiped off the slobber as best I could with someone’s sock, discarded for, I imagine, just that helpful purpose next to the door.
  13. I made it to church with coffee and without a trip to the emergency weekend vet, so goal accomplished.
  14. I came home.
  15. I made homemade stock. You know why? BECAUSE I’M A BOSS, and that’s what bosses do. BOOM.
  16. “Mom?” asked my kid, peering into the pot. “Is that a mole you’re making into soup?” 
  17. He didn’t mean mole sauce.
  18. He meant mole, the animal.
  19. It’s not a mole. It’s a piece of smoked pig. But I saw no reason to say so.
  20. “Yes,” I said. “Yes. We’re having mole soup for dinner. I caught a mole, I marinated it, and I threw it in the stock pot. Should be DELICIOUS.”
  21. “Huh,” said the child. “Am I allowed to add cheese?”
  22. “Yes,” I said. “You may add cheese. Cheese is, in fact, the traditional garnish used with any type of rodent soup.”
  23. “K,” he said, and he ran off to watch a video.
  24. I, in other words, have lowered standards SO FAR that my son thought a soup made from dirt-dwelling rodent flesh, albeit smothered in cheese, sounded acceptable.
  25. I have officially won parenting.
  26. I have not won dog-sitting.
  27. In fact, I had to come to terms this very afternoon with my dog, Zoey, leading sweet baby Hazel, a lovely baby Golden Retriever I’m watching this week for my cousin, astray.
  28. Unlike for mere slobber and glass, I DO strip down to wash muddy dogs.
  29. My kid videoed that bit, Internets. You’re welcome. Now you get to watch me sit in the bathtub in my granny bra and lecture the baby dog. “IF ALL THE OTHER DOGS JUMP OFF A CLIFF, HAZEL, YOU DO NOT JUMP, TOO.”
  30. I suspect this lecture will turn out to be as effective for the puppy as it is for my children. Which is to say, I suspect she’ll become a cliff diver any minute.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. Poor Hazel…

It Was a Cat in Heat. Or a Baby Crying. One or the Other.

Mar 24 2017

I rushed out of the house, wearing just my nightie, at 6:30am a couple days ago and peered over the front porch railing, looking and listening. I waited, silently, looking and listening more before I tiptoed down the front stairs and around the sides of the house to repeat.

No cat, though.

No baby, either.

The sound was totally gone.

I’d been laying in bed, dozing off and on for 30 minutes, listening to what I assumed was a cat in heat, yowling, then silence, then yowling some more when it occurred to me it might not be a cat. It might be a baby. Like, a human baby someone abandoned. And left on our porch. For me to find. Which I was not doing because my bed was very warm and the baby inadvertently sounded like a cat. Listen, we have discussed Lizard Brain and the fact that I have it, and once it occurred to me that it could be a baby — even though it really, really sounded like a cat holding a seance and trying to open a portal to the Netherworld — there was no way Lizard Brain was going to allow me to sleep. We can put this on the list of Things Lizard Brain Cannot Live With — FINDING OUT LATER THAT THE ABANDONED INFANT DIED BECAUSE YOU WERE TOO LAZY TO GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED, BETH.

So, fine, Lizard Brain.

Got it.

I hauled said ass out of bed, draped inadequately in an obscenely short nightgown which is fine for running around inside the house but less socially appropriate for, say, running around outside the house, and, with the sun poking over the horizon and plenty of daylight for all my neighbors to see me, I went traipsing around our property in my best imitation of Chubby, Barely-Clad Suburban Mommy-Turned-Spy-Ninja. Stealthy. Sexy. Focused on my mission. Not to brag, but it was some of my finest work to date.

I stayed out there for 15 minutes. Twenty, maybe. Barefoot on gravel. Looking under the porch. Sneaking around corners.

No cat, though.

And no baby, either.

The sound was totally gone, and, fortunately, after a quarter hour of frozen performance art for the neighbors, Lizard Brain was gone, too.

I headed inside and made my way back to bed.

Laid my head on my pillow.

AND HEARD IT AGAIN EXACTLY LIKE BEFORE.

Which is when I realized it wasn’t a cat in heat at all. Nor was it an abandoned baby. It was just Greg, breathing. Wheezing on the inhale. Like a cat in heat. Or a crying mini-human.

All of which is to say, Greg and one of the 10-year-olds left for Mexico yesterday to help build houses for people in need. They’ll be away for 10 days. I will miss them terribly. But not, you know, completely. 

#BEDtoMYSELF #SLEEPINGALONE #PRAISEJESUSandALLTHESAINTS

Sincerely,

 

My Parents Gave Me Syphilis for Christmas

Feb 3 2017

My parents gave me one of those automatic vacuum cleaners for Christmas.

My sister-in-law got a membership to a wine club.

My brother got $50,000. (Or $50 plus books. Whatever. Same same.)

Greg got a 3D printer.

I got a cleaning implement.

My brother was jealous. He’s a younger brother. It’s what they do best. “SURE,” he said. “I get a money and books, and BETH gets the COOLEST VACUUM EVER. So what do I have to do to get a gift like that? JUST NOT CLEAN MY HOUSE FOR 12 YEARS, LIKE HER?”

Yes, Jeff.

Yes; that’s exactly what you have to do. Not clean your house for 12 years. And in retrospect? TOTALLY WORTH IT. Look at me, planning ahead!

So we have an automatic vacuum cleaner running around our house these days.

Greg named him Sisyphus, after the Greek mythological King of Corinth. As the tale goes, Sisyphus was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, on repeat, forever.

We don’t know what our vacuum robot did in a previous life to have to be reincarnated as the object that tries to clean our house, the ultimate act of futility, but it must have been BAD, friends. Very, VERY bad.

Some of our kids, though, can’t remember how to pronounce Sisyphus.

They call him Syphilis.

As in, “Syphilis got stuck under our couch again.” And, “Mom, have you ever noticed Syphilis seems to be EVERYWHERE in this house?” And, “Mom, I like to play with Syphilis and see if I can outrun it.” And, “MOM! Syphilis got me again!”

You know, we try really hard not to have secrets in this house. We’re much more of the Live Life Out Loud Even Though We’re Weird kind of family. And BE BOLDLY US. And LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS. I feel, though, like Syphilis should be the exception that proves the rule.

In conclusion, my children are not allowed — EVER — to talk about our vacuum robot at school. Syphilis just became our family secret. I mean, what could go wrong??

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me Syphilis for Christmas. I like it very much.

P.P.S. I’m supposed to write a post about the February book for our Escapist Book Club, but people at my house are still barfing, and it was easier to write about Syphilis. Sorry. Here’s the February book, though, in case you’d like to get started:

More soon, I hope, about January’s book which I thought was RAD.

I Have a Kid Home From College: Here’s What I’ve Learned the First 3 Days

Dec 19 2016

I have a kid home from college for the very first time. It’s been 3 days. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. The Freshman Fifteen is a real thing. Unfortunately, there’s a little known Freshman Fifteen sub-clause which states that if the freshman neglects to gain it herself, her mother has to do it for her, which I have dutifully done. (NOTE: She and I are not finished discussing the importance of her doing her own work in the future.)

2. Be grateful for ANY AND ALL COMMUNICATION, no matter how pathetic. Listen; she’s been away and on her own for several months. She’s used to doing what she wants when she wants to do it. She’s been putting up with your constant, helpful texts, reminding her, for example, NEVER TO DO CRACK. Now’s your chance to pay her back for her patience by not losing your ever-loving crap when you ask her for information and she says “unknown.”

fullsizerender

 

3. Set clear, but reasonable rules like NO DYING and NO GOING MISSING. 

 

fullsizerender-1

She will agree because you are being reasonable, and then — BONUS — you get to punish her if she ever does die or goes missing.

4. Admit when you’re being a freaking freaker who freaks. Like when you wake up gasping and sweating at 1:15am and wondering where the hell your kid — who told you she would be at “unknown” with “unknown” — is.

fullsizerender

5. Do not correct her grammar, even when she uses your instead of you’re. It’s petty and not worth it, and she’s a grown-up and can use the wrong form if she wants. Besides, 20 years from now, your and you’re will be interchangeable. Language is evolutionary, after all; it’s supposed to shift, and this is how it happens. IT’S OK.

6. Be open to learning new things; even if the new things are things you maybe should have known all along.

fullsizerender-1

 

And 7. When your kid ultimately responds with the inevitable, disdainful OMG, retaliate with that grammar thing.

fullsizerender-2

Sure, it’s totally immature, but it FEELS SO GOOD, and, as Debby Boone always says, it can’t be wrong when it feels so right. (That kid, though; she lights up my life.)

Sincerely yours,

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. I COULD HAVE BEEN TRACKING HER ALL ALONG. Why is there no one guiding me through this mom thing?? I am clearly ill equipped to be making this up on my own. :/

15589515_1518550478162678_5696395975698330621_n

For America With Love: A Burrito Baby Photo Shoot

Nov 14 2016

 

I’m not pregnant.img_2364

Not even a little. No babies in my belly these days.

Nor do I have a belly tumor, so fear not, dear ones.

What I do have are three things:

  1. A love of burritos (where “burrito” = all the food)
  2. A special talent for pushing my belly wall to the max
  3. The knowledge that all of us — even me — are worthy of Deep, Abiding Love, exactly as we already are. Beloved. Valued. And Beautiful. ← This is a true a truth as I know.

That why I’m making the announcement today that I am having a burrito, friends. And, as we women do for all the momentous events in our lives, I had a very special maternity photo shoot to commemorate the occasion — a photo shoot we’re calling:

Not a Baby
(Just a Burrito)

I’m giving these pics to you, America and the world, because I’m pretty sure burrito babies can help make our world a better place, and Dear God in Heaven, we need the world to be a better place right about now. 

img_2359The truth is, a few months ago, things were hard at our house. They’ve been hard before — we don’t live an uncomplicated life, after all, what with the five children and myriad special needs and we parents who are stunningly imperfect — and they’ll undoubtedly be hard again. But this time, my kid was falling wildly apart, psychiatrically speaking, which is, so far, my Very Least Favorite kind of falling-apart when it comes to our children. Mental illness is a deep, deep darkness — I would know — and it’s hard sometimes to remember to wave in the dark to the others who are waiting for dawn, as well, so we can recall we never wait alone.

It’s been a tough season, and it’s not over, but we’re on an upswing lately, and we’ve triumphed the way triumph happens in real life; by taking the next right step amidst many missteps, by breaking all the way down and cobbling ourselves partly back together, by circling back to our humans, by practicing radical self care in tiny ways, by trying to get good sleep, by reading escapist novels and a few trashy ones, and by being kind and cruel and then kind again to ourselves and our people. And, of course, by eating all the french fries, which, though completely unsustainable in the long run, is one of the best damn short-term strategies I know.image-1img_2378Listen, though: Let’s acknowledge that we do not come out of tragedy or loss or grief or even a shift of expectations unchanged. We do not come out of eating all the burritos unchanged, either. Right now, I’m wearing the past season of life in my skin.

In my skin.

In my body.

I grieved. I worked hard for my kid. I ate All the Things.

And also, I am lovely.

AND ALSO, we are lovely.

Not “but we are lovely” or “nevertheless we are lovely” or “somedayif we’re very lucky and never, ever touch a burrito again we’ll be lovely.” No. Not those things at all. We come out of tragedy and grief transformed — sometimes utterly — AND ALSO we are lovely. Little and big bellies and all; we are stunning. And we are, every single one of us, worthy of deep love and celebration. From others. From ourselves.

When we know that’s true, we can learn to laugh and love a lot, and enjoy the hell out of our lovely, stunning selves.

Including during the burrito seasons.

img_2363img_2373img_2374img_2365img_2364img_2370img_2371img_2372img_2367img_2362img_2366

In conclusion, I don’t know how long the burrito belly will last. It waxes and wanes like the moon. But I’m sure going to celebrate it while it’s here.

With abiding love,

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Thanks to the crew, aka the Lovelies who attended the Grace and the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat and got roped into helping with a Burrito Baby photo shoot. Y’all are good sports.

img_2346
Photo Direction:
Kim McDonough

 

img_2352

 

Photography:
Emily Chlumak

 

img_2353

 

Make-up:
Crystal Kuttner Wolf

 

img_2348
Bra and Burrito Holders:
Carrie Zelnar Hutchinson
Angelina Littrell