Smothered

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I am smothered with children.  I slide down the stairs with one who has koala wrapped herself to my chest the other has hooked his arm around my knee and slides beside me. This is my compromise. I call it our train. My three year old cried for a ride. Every once in a while he feels like he has been replaced in mommy’s arms and takes a stand for a ride down the stairs. My one year old cries because now she knows in my arms wasn’t always her place. Sometimes she will even be put down.

It’s Friday of Memorial Day weekend and husband is off for a golf weekend. Before the hate mail starts he has never taken a weekend away from us before. For my birthday he offered me the same, to take a weekend away and enjoy some of my favorite things, to revisit a sense of self without people hanging on me. It has been 16 months since my youngest was born. Though my husband often spends time on Saturday mornings with the kids I have been a nonstop source of food and comfort for 16 months.  Yes, you might guess that I am tired, periodically cranky and sometimes unkept.  Someday maybe I will take that trip, but today I find some satisfaction in my growth.  I don’t begrudge him his adventure because my choices keep me here.

Some days it’s ridiculously hard to see the positive of being needed all day. Some days one year old cries more than giggles, nurses more than she needs to eat, demands all of my attention. Somedays three year old gets divided attention, tests me more than listens, gets my impatient correction rather than skill building inspiration. Some nights she gets up three times and he sneaks in my bed at 5AM.  Some days I struggle to accept the life in which I am living. I get stuck in frustration that comes with my expectations. Like the notion that toddlers will get in the car or stay in the cart. I know better. Don’t expect that. Of course they want to explore. They are curious, learning creatures. In theory that’s beautiful. In 90 degree Virginia when one has to poop and the other has to nap- you guessed it: frustrating!

But, today I reframe because life is about perspective. I lean into the happy times not the hard tasks of being here. I focus on living the life that I’m in, not wishing away discomfort.

Life is a journey of letting go. Few things teach that more kindly than parenthood.  Gone is my yoga body. It’s been replaced by the tummy my toddlers punched out. The tummy they fight over when at 6AM they huddle in my bed deciding whether they want to embrace the day or seek comfort from it.  I’ll take this pudgy tummy that brings life and comforts it.

These silly legs I never did like used to run on trails for miles and miles. Now they have the power to raise both children, travel for blocks, up and over hills. I love that they can go without rest when my kids are about.

The heart that once was strong now often aches for fear and hope about their fate.

War wounds from a life well lived. Though the threats to me are less steep than those a soldier might face, we both know the value of life. We hold onto it and know that beauty often comes from the bandaged; bent but not broken.

I was offered freedom from people hanging on me. But, people do hang on me. I’m not wishing for that solitary adventure just yet. I am leaning into this one: this life changing, body battering motherhood.

Time has passed and husband is home. A summer storm comes roaring through and when it passes we walk through the forest with sun shining through it. It catches on leaves and glistens on branches. The toddlers chase each other up a hill. Two sets of perfect arms and legs just starting their adventure. I, of course, am behind with husband smiling. There is joy in this moment; on the journey we are living. I am ok with joy making its mark.

Zombie Apocalypse

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If you know my husband you know that it’s a form of endearment if he wants you around for the Zombie Apocalypse. He’ll say things like, ” That new neighbor looks like a piece of work. He’s got a pick up truck with fishing and gun stickers on it. Not really sure what I think about my neighbor having a gun, but I bet he’ll be helpful during the Zombie Apocalypse…I better go meet him.” I’m not sure if he really thinks the Zombie Apocalypse will come to pass, but he sure does talk about it a lot. For example according to him, I will be really valuable during the zombie apocalypse because of my stealthiness. When he appreciates this quality in me he calls me a ninja; when he doesn’t, he asks if I’m an assassin. “I’ll never tell.” I say.

We got snowed in for the blizzard of 2016 and I have yet to be accused of being an assassin, which I think is evidence of things going well. Given my need for exercise, nature, and quiet we agreed I’d trek through the paths to the store while he manned the fort.

There’s something about the woods I love. Unlike the roads already covered in ash, the tree lined paths glisten with snow in the days after the storm. Today, the grey clouds gave way to blue sunny skies. The patted down paths twisting and turning through neighborhoods and shopping plazas feel more personal than the roadways somehow. I bump into a mommy friend with her daughter. They are thoroughly cold and worn out from sledding which makes me smile.

Then I arrive at the grocery store and looked around,

no milk

again

no veggie 1

and again.

no veggie 2

 

With just an image or two, the quickly setting sun, and a suggestion of an inevitable outcome repeated a few thousand times utopia quickly turns to dystopia.

I ran into two mommies at the checkout that I knew, but, I noted,  the beauty of interconnectedness is lost in fear. The impromptu rescue party of husband and kiddos seemed equal suspicious, given my explicit directions to hold down the fort.

I couldn’t help but feel heavier on the way home: four grocery bags, a toddler, a husband and a baby. We made our way through unlit paths and focused on not tripping on now crunchy snow. The sled was broken, toddler’s gloves were sokin’, the kids were cold.I worried about dropping the baby in the carrier as the toddler and grocery bags alternated falling from the sled into the snow.

We try to laugh in our house. I don’t really think I need to worry about zombies chasing me through the snow. But when I got home I did allow myself a hearty minute to focus on the power of suggestion and the subtle pervasiveness of hate and fear.

Several years ago my husband and I started on a journey to lighten the load of what weighs us down. Sometimes that’s been things, and sometimes it’s been people. Either way it has been hard to seek hope rather than fortify against fear.  But in light of living in the shadow of the Zombie Apocalypse-I’m so glad we have.

 

 

 

Words to Live by

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Grandma told me when I get to the end of my rope, hold on. So, at first, I held. Then I had children. Now I write because children understand what’s important in life.

I make my way in the world by the words I fall back on. I make a world for my children in the words that I write because the world will be made by our children.

  • We don’t tear down
  • Mommy loves you ALWAYS
  • Sharing means caring
  • Everyone is learning
  • Everyone makes mistakes
  • Everyone has accidents
  • Someone who is crying is having a hard day
  • On cold days we have hot chocolate, on hot days we have popsicles, on hard days we have a chocolate milky talk with mommy

Still Waters

Nathan Harney March 23, 2010 - June 18, 2014 *Photo taken by NTSAD Official Photographer

Nathan Harney
March 23, 2010 – June 18, 2014

It’s funny how empty significance can feel.  The world goes on, while we know our life has changed. On our worst days, it’s easy to believe we’re insignificant. On our most significant, sometimes it feels as if we alone realize how very much we each impact the world.

I have seemed quiet, like still water in a deep river. But still waters are just an illusion.   Life flows through rivers in currents unseen. If I listen to the stillness, I find its current churning and see along its path the lives that have been touched through its passing. It’s in the smallest signs of impact that we see the greatest hope. The holiest of things in life are the ones that repeatedly make us take pause, remind us of the value of significance, and eventually feel hope. A sunny day in a town known for its cloudy ones, an act of kindness in a place known for its hostility, a child surviving an impossible disease after so many have died from it, these things remind us that outcomes aren’t always predetermined. There is hope in the knowledge that the essence of life is an often unprecedented change. In those moments of significance when I seem the most still, I find myself floating on that hope for change, the one I have no reason to believe should come. That hope that pushes out the fears of insignificance and lulls the worries of not impacting another. It is the current unseen.

I find life is deeper than we think, more connected than we realize, and just as we think that that we’re stuck in a place we didn’t imagine, we find an unseen current has been pushing us on to a place we don’t yet understand. Though our experiences are different, the essence of the ones that matter are so very much the same.

Because I promised, I’ll share Nathan’s story. I’ll remind you that in it, I see hope. He is a source of hope and his impact on the river, is yet to be seen. I invite you to  hear Nathan’s story and share it :

Website: http://www.nathanharney.com

*photograph taken by the NTSAD photographer Sarah Mattingly

Scents and Sensibility

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It is God awful hot in Virginia. Our flowers are melting and toddlers are sticky. You know what else “hot” means in toddler land: everything is hard and generally stinky. It’s the stinky that’s making me nervous. Days ago we were driving, since then all I smell is bad cheese.

I imagine it was the banana I gave Toddler. Yes, gave him. You see I wanted to see the mountains, and Good Lord he whined a long, hard, high-pitched “please”. Then cried, and I really just needed a moment. So I handed him banana. He held on a little too long; I realized too late. The banana was all over, and though I did my darnedest with a wet cloth, I know this is something I’ll have to face.

I mentioned the smell twice to Husband- hoping he’d clean it out. Truly he was too busy so hasn’t done a thing. Adult that I am, I’ll avoid it.   I learned my lesson about bananas. Toddlers should not eat them unsupervised in the back seat. I think to myself I’ve totally got this. I just take farther and farther walks. I tell myself, “Maybe it’s better…” But really I think it’s worse.

Even Husband has commented that something smells ripe. Well, his words might have been more colorful if I tell that story right. Let’s just say there’s a musty, heavy odor clouding up that car, and things aren’t going to be Kosher until someone cleans it out.

I’m standing in the kitchen. I’m far away from the source, but I’m smelling something awful and thinking Holy God… I start to smell the dishes. I even check the fridge. I check the trash and dish washer, a pile of bibs and rags by the sink. Clearly I’m regretting my decisions. Why banana? And who the flip can’t clean a seat?  I guess that’s the thing about issues-they are never very neat. Now here I am sniffing around like crazy. Then I start to think. Did it get on something I was carrying? Is it wafting off my hair? Is it a mold that sickening my baby? Are we scaring off our friends? Or is everyone just talking about what it is that stinks?

Now I’m poised for action. I’m taking on the world. I do my usual dishes and taking out of trash. I scrub every crevice and open every door. Trust me, there is no other place for a smell to surprise me anymore. Luckily it started raining, cooling off the air. Stinky isn’t traveling, but there’s still a source somewhere.

So here I go with Toddler. We’re cleaning out the car. Yes, I took him with me. This cleaning, it can’t wait. So we vacuum up some fishies. We scrub under his seat. We don’t make it perfect, but we do a lot to make it neat.

Every day he watches me, and every day I make mistakes. I think the thing about living is it’s really all about grace. Well, also a little about garbage and a thing or two about being clean. But generally I think if you’re trying you’re probably pretty safe.

Sometimes when I worry about Toddler I forget what matters most. Isn’t the best example dealing with our stuff? I have two extra little hands and one eager, open heart. I have to take him with me and honestly that’s the best part. The journey isn’t where we land, it’s how we took our stride. It’s my job to teach him to stop and check inside.

Funny thing that teaching, I find it’s a two way street. Because the reason I know about forgiveness is watching that little guy. How could I ever hold something against his eager little face? Of course I love his giggles and his gorgeous little curls. But he’s had some stinky diapers and thrown up down my shirt. He’s ruined some new outfits by falling in the dirt. I think his whines for booboo kisses are a favorite of mine. It’s not in what he’s saying; it’s in recognizing his worth. Everyone deserves compassion, everyone on Earth. So I maybe my new mission is really about myself. I have to feel for me the things I want him to have for himself.

Mothers Day Wishes

 

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On this day filled with bouquets of flowers and and crowded brunches let me offer all the Mommas my most favorite gifts. I wish you  memories of sleepy cuddles, egg shell filled waffles, sticky fingers and dirty little toes. I wish you time and memories as well as appreciation and hope. I wish you the feeling of being loved and the honor to love in return.