Heart Decisions

image

There are times when you have to make up your mind. You have to make a decision. The kind that nobody else can determine for you. A hard decision. A really, really hard decision. What I have now deemed a “heart decision.” You can think and think and think, trying to make it more of a “head decision.” Your brain will literally ache from the constant pack of thoughts running laps around the track in your mind. They really never stop, those persistent little marathon runner thoughts. Their diligence does come in pretty handy when you need to make a head decision, i.e. the smartest, most well-thought out choice. Unemotional decisions. If there even is such a thing.

When feelings and emotions are intensely involved, however, it gets a bit messy. Heart decisions throb. They hurt. Especially if there are little people involved, like your kids. It can be a tricky business interpreting the feeling explosion. It’s like murky water. And it doesn’t matter much if you have goggles when you’re in emotional-decision making kind of water. Goggles don’t really help you, except maybe to give you a false sense of security. You realize pretty quickly, after you jump in, that you have to reach out and feel your way around. If you want to know where you’re going. And you can get all flipped around. Right side up and back down again and, unknowingly, you may end up exactly where you started. That’s how you know it’s a heart decision.

People say, “Just go with your gut.” Its kind of a weird expression, seeing as your guts tend to play hostess to the crap that your body is trying to get rid of. I think people say it because of those instinctual feelings you get. Deep down. They’re hard to describe, like feathers floating, little charged jolts, utter emptiness or overwhelming, hard-to-breathe heaviness. Those instincts tell you when something is wrong or also when something feels so perfectly right. I notice, in these times, that my heart is pounding so hard. Pleading for me to make the right decision. And then my heart echoes….Echoes. It feels like it’s in my guts, deep down. But really I think what’s happening is that my heart pumps so strongly that its powerful echoes bounce around inside. Referred feelings. My heart desperately wants to be heard. And wants to stop my thoughts, in their tracks. I should feel, not think. The best way for my heart to swaddle all of my attention is for it to do what it does best. Flood my whole body with emotion. Beating, pounding, like a toddler non-stop. Until I listen.

I thought, at first, that we should make a head decision when it came to separating our twin boys for first grade. I really had myself convinced. Afterall, what trumps a brain? Spades. Always the spades. The upside down hearts. And my dizzy, turned around, upside down heart said don’t do it. But then, my brain said do it. I felt that intense parent pressure. I needed that adult decision-making “Magic 8 ball” or I needed a quick glimpse into the future. Pure indecisiveness. Somehow, I feel like this will not go away as our children grow. I know that we will have to make decisions that are the smartest sometimes. It’s inevitable.

But today, we, as a family, made up our hearts. My boys are going to be in the same first grade class. For a whole slew of reasons. But mainly because my heart interjected and I listened. And suddenly, I don’t feel any more of the pounding echoes. I feel relief. Like an invisible giant beast hopped down off of my chest. I still don’t want summer to end. I never have, but I don’t have nearly the apprehension, uncertainty or even the fear about my boys starting first grade. I think (pray and hope) that means we made the right decision. The hardest kind. A heart decision.

Paper Airplanes

image

I unloaded, then reloaded the dishwasher. Made some pancakes. Picked through some suspect blueberries in hopes of finding some worthy to eat. Made a smoothie. And some coffee. I realized I should have made the coffee first since it helps increase my morning time efficiency. My youngest boy began to have back to back..to back meltdowns. And it was only 9 am. I’m not a meteorologist or a pessimist but I would predict that this day may be filled with stormy, glass half-empty moments. If I had a restart button on my kids, I would have bitten the bullet and just pushed his.

I started to pick up messes. Everywhere. And untangle an instrument caught in the hockey net. I reorganized the Jenga blocks. Mainly because I thought the house can’t look this bad this early in the day. It just can’t. In attempts to boost my confidence, I went to check the washing machine to see if I had any mildewed laundry in there. Nope. Score. I fluffed the clothes in the dryer. Maybe I will fold them today. I love that feature. The “touch up” button is my go-to move for the neglected, crinkled up clothes that have been hanging out in the dryer. For way too long. The sad missing clothes. It’s better being forgotten in the dryer than the washer, right?

I desperately needed to take a shower and wash my hair. Like two days ago. If only pools and the lake could have a sudsy feature. My self-esteem was counting on that shampoo to revive my hair and my attitude. I began to grab a few more things off of the floor, but then I stopped. I looked down and paused. I couldn’t force myself to throw away those paper airplanes. They took soooo long to make last week. The F-15 and the boomerang(that didn’t ever come back.) I had watched the YouTube videos (over and over) in attempts of making some really fast, really awesome, new paper airplanes. It took about an hour to make all the ones my boys each chose. Origami has never been a strength of mine. Big hands, little patience. Those paper airplanes reminded me of all the things that parents do. All day long. The things that don’t get checked off of a “To Do” list because they never got put on there to begin with.

So, at the end of today, when my house still looks like a tornado swept through or maybe a pack of robbers looking for some gold in all of the wrong places, I will look at those paper airplanes. On top of the piano. And try to be less hard on myself for the utter lack of “getting anything done.” I know one day that I will crave the attention of three little boys tugging on me to make them the fastest paper airplane.

I will try my best to cherish today. And the crazy everyday “todays” of having three young kids constantly destroying the house and replacing my to-do list with what’s the most important in their little eyes. Time spent together. Playing. Making creative messes. Time spent giggling. And time spent bummed out and crying on the kitchen floor. Time spent cleaning up spilled drinks. And time spent pushing the “touch up” button on the dryer and washing the forgotten mildewed clothes again too. Laundry will always win. And that’s just gonna have to be okay. I will take paper airplanes over folding and putting clothes away. Any day of the week.

Less Heavy

image

We all have our bags. We carry them or sometimes even drag them around. Most of the time, they’re practically invisible to everyone else. Little ones and overfilled, hard-to-zip ones. The worn out ones. Also the perfect sized ones to fit in your overhead compartment. The hundreds of different kinds of laughter and happy memories bulging-at-the- seams kind-of-bags. Some bags filled with dreams unfulfilled, hopes unmet, and obstacles not yet overcome. Insecurities, hard times, guilt, disappointment and failure, they have a bag too. They’re heavy. Really heavy. Resentment and jealousy, yep, they have a bag. The unplanned, unwelcomed parts of life that barged in and happened anyways have a bag. And don’t forget the parts of us that like to hide in our shadows during the day. There’s a bag for those hidden sides to us. Camouflaged bags.

One of my bags happens to be on the outside of my body. It makes it a little easier for me to acknowledge because it’s always there, visible, like a tattoo. I am pretty sure that mine is filled with the same insecurities, hopes, uncertainties, and failures that some of yours may contain. I think, at times, I could rival the great Houdini when it comes to hiding mine, much like you can hide yours. It seems odd that we should have to hide them. Especially when we realize that we all carry them. On the inside. On the outside. Some of us have mastered the art of smiling, even as the weight of our bags pull us down. Some of us are better at checking our bags or asking others for help loading, unloading or carrying on our bags.

I keep a very small bag, perhaps the size of an old coin purse. It’s always half-empty. I rarely open it, but when I do, pitiful thoughts escape like, “Nobody understands. Nobody really gets it. Nobody feels this way. Nobody has this. Or this. Why do I? Why am I so different?” I let those pity pennies, nickels and dimes escape. Then, I close this tiny pity purse up. I really don’t want any of your pity, either, probably just like you don’t want any of mine. Just like the loose change it holds, there’s never quite enough to buy anything worthwhile. A lot of useless pennies, mainly.

I think when we talk about our bags. Claim them, unzip them. And open them up so others know they exist, they become a little less heavy. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to pretend that they’re not there emotionally and physically weighing us down. Or maybe it’s hard to cram a bag into an invisible space hoping it will disappear. When it just won’t fit.

Sometimes we just need help. Really all the time, if we were more honest. Like kids. But it’s hard when we’ve been warned to not let our bags out of our sight. Trained to not trust others. Some who genuinely want to help, relate, let you know, “Hey, I have that bag too.” They may know a better, more graceful way to carry it. The problem is that I think we’ve all had a person that has taken one of our bags and carelessly ripped it open. Searching for something that was not theirs.  Leaving all the contents out in the open for all to see. Bag thieves. It’s hard to learn to trust the next good intentioned person that comes along. It sometimes seems easier to just carry everything on our own, so we don’t get hurt. Again. Because we’re smart like that. Protecting ourselves. And even over-protecting ourselves too.

We all have our bags. I think we all need help carrying them around from time to time. No matter how strong we are. Or claim to be. No matter how spectacular we’ve become at hiding them. I’m more willing to let you carry my bags from time to time if you also let me help carry yours. There are love lessons on both sides. And it feels good to know what both sides feel like. The helper. And the helped. It’s pretty amazing working together to help lighten each other’s loads. It makes life less heavy.

Wave Fighters

image

My nearly four-year old boy walked up to the ocean for the first time this trip and said in his sweetest inquisitive tone,

“Who makes the waves go, Mama?”
“Do shocks(sharks) make the waves go?”

My heart swelled. It really was a great question. And a hard one to answer. For a psychology major. One of the many reasons I love kids is because they help me rethink routine things. They look at the world differently, in a better way. With innocent, new, curious eyes and they unknowingly teach me to appreciate, and not overlook, this enormous, amazing life happening all around us. The everyday miracles. Like waves.

I have always loved the ocean. It brings back happy childhood memories. We used to drive from Tennessee to Florida for family vacations. My parents, six siblings and I would hang out all day, every day on the Florida beaches. I love the gentle, sometimes strong, yet always constant breeze on my face, messing with my hair. The distinct salty smell in the air. And also the smell of sunblock, tanning lotion, seaweed, and seashells. I can’t forget the calming repetitive sound of the waves hitting the sand. And the sensation of burying my feet in the hot sand. Over and over. These past few days, I have fallen in love again with the ocean. The beach. Only this time it’s a little different. It’s through the long, bleached tipped eyelashes of my three sons.

My oldest six-year-old boys could hardly close their eyes after the first day of playing in the ocean. Their excitement and bedtime back and forth talking was so precious. And nonstop.

“I just love the beach, Mom.”…….”I love fighting the waves.”..”I’m a wave fighter!”…..”I love when one wave gets me and I try to get up and another one gets me down.”

My body and soul both temporarily relax while watching my boys play in the ocean. In the waves. Nothing else matters. It’s easy to be present in those moments. The ocean gently and readily takes over your senses. All of them. I love watching my boys’ endless, spastic energy battling the steady energy of the ocean. They truly are a perfect match for each other. Both never stopping. Constant. Pure. Beautiful. Joyful. Back and forth. My boys jumping through the waves. Under the waves. Over the waves. Then slapping their tiny feet against the wet sand as they run back to the shore. It’s truly heaven on earth.

Selfishly, it makes me wish we had an ocean in our back yard. In Kansas. When my boys got all wound up, wrestling all over the place, dodging furniture, I could say, “Go play outside, guys. In the ocean.” I might not even mind the infinite amounts of sand all over the place. I would probably have to buy a better vacuum though. This seems like a pretty small price to pay to have the world’s greatest playmate in the backyard. Always. Every day.

I sat under the umbrella today with my youngest boy whose eyes hurt from the combination of the sunblock and salt water. And the over tiredness. It probably didn’t help that he repeatedly rubbed them, accidentally depositing sand into them to help them feel better. I tried to towel him off. That didn’t work. “My eyes! My eyes!” He kept saying/crying. I poured bottled water into them, against his will. Nothing seemed to help. It was nonstop crying. He was extremely tired from a long, sun-filled day and a late night traveling. I walked him over to the beach shower and he stood reluctantly under the cold water. I learned in a few minutes that his coping skills had been washed away with the waves. Long gone. It was the storm before the calm. Nothing was going to make it better. He needed a nap. Desperately. We walked back from the shower and he quickly fell asleep on my chest under the beach umbrella, with my sunglasses on. His three-year old body flopped down, deep breathing sleep, completely worn out. Non-stop swimming and keeping up with two big brothers will do that to a boy. In a heartbeat.
As my youngest slept on top of me on that beach chair, one of my older boys walked out of the ocean. With his snorkel mask resting on top of his forehead, he asked:

“Are you gonna get in, Mom?”

It was both a question and an invitation. And I graciously interpreted it as kind-hearted command. Yep! I wiggled out from underneath my little boy. My mother-in-law sat next to my sleeping boy while I gladly ran in to fight the waves with my can’t-get-enough-of-the-ocean-loving older boys. I cherished every moment of playing with them out in the salty water. Really salty water. I felt like a kid again. A kid-mom of sorts. Body surfing. Accidentally gulping salt water, then spitting it out. Several times. Rubbing my eyes. Dodging seaweed. Then grabbing and throwing that seaweed onto my husband’s back. Feeling moving things under my feet. Then, quickly, ahhhh, moving my feet somewhere else. Giving dolphin rides to Asher. Holding sand dollars, found by their daddy, in our hands, and watching and feeling their prickly hairs moving. Then, pushing them gently back down to the bottom of the ocean. The sun shining. And the sky happily revealed an entirely surreal shade of blue. Ocean blue. The clouds created perfectly fluffy odd shapes for imagining motorcycles and monsters. It was the absolute best.

These are the best kinds of days. The days that capture forever memories. The memories that you tuck away in a special place so that you always remember. No matter what. You bring them out frequently to talk about them. All of your senses overwhelmed kind of memories. That helps them never fade away. It’s memory teamwork on the part of your senses. Sense of smell helps touch who grabs taste and sound. Sight usually remembers but also gets a little help from the iPhone pictures. Since we left our camera at home. Accidentally. Luckily, we grabbed many perfectly memorable moments with our phones. To top it off, all of my boys awakened several new Florida freckles that I will happily look at and remember and appreciate our unexpected vacation.

We grieved and celebrated and remembered a man who lived life beautifully, my boys’ great Grampa Ryan. He loved calling them “rascals.” And he was the biggest rascal of all. We will always remember him and his impact on those he loved. We gratefully dedicate our ocean memories to his ocean loving soul. I think he was looking down on us or even out there with us. Laughing. Loving. And truly living life to the fullest. One of my boys lost a pair of goggles in the waves. We decided that a dolphin or sea turtle may be wearing them around deep in the ocean. They wouldn’t fit a shark. Hopefully, they can hold onto them until the next time my giddy wave fighters return.

We love you and miss you, Grampa Ryan. And we will always, always remember you, you big Rascal.❤️

image

Old Friend

image

Like an excited kid, I checked my phone. I waited impatiently. I jumped up from sitting on the couch to walking to the front door then back to the kitchen. Back to the couch. My husband said he saw headlights. Maybe it was them. I got so excited, I walked to the front window to check. Nope, not them. Oh, gross. It was like a beetle fest on our front porch screen door. I turned out the floodlight. And the entry way light. Hello, dark night with the bright banana shaped moon shining. Happy moon. And just a couple of stars out. Maybe they weren’t coming, I thought.

I forget things. I suppose I get easily distracted. For good and for bad. I’m not the best hostess, but oh, how I love hosting friends. Especially the best kind of friends. Old friends. I washed the sheets and comforter. Set clean towels out. Dangit, I forgot to empty the bathroom trash. I wanted to get some handmade local soap for the shower. And put some treats out. And signs up. I wanted to get one of those cakes from Whole Foods. Would they be hungry?

A text popped up on my phone.

“We’re at your front door.”

It was 11:00 at night. My friends from far, far away, like a sixteen hour drive away. They’re here! I looked out the front door, standing in the dark, I couldn’t see them from inside. We hugged. I apologized for the weird “nobody’s home” feel because of the intense beetle situation. We all came inside. Sometimes you can’t begin to fathom how much you have missed a person until they are right there. In front of your face. In your kitchen. Talking. Laughing. Memories all the sudden flash flood your heart. Real life. Crazy college memories. All of those memories. It’s the best.

We all split a salted caramel beer. Sat down at the kitchen table. Started catching up. Uh, oh. Smoke starts to fill the room. Something’s burning. Natually, everybody grabs a place mat and starts waving up some of the smoke that’s filling the kitchen. It’s kind of like a nightclub, with the fog. It just smells like burnt food. The four of us can’t stop laughing while dispersing the cloud of burnt bread smoke before the alarm goes off and wakes the kids. I guess I forgot about that hamburger bun/future cinnamon toast from the morning. Black burned. And my good old friend is laughing. Unphased. I’m sure she half-expected me to burn something in honor of her arrival.

We talk, try to catch up and interrupt each other. Mainly overlyexcited me, I think. It’s hard to face-to-face catch up on the past few years. Sometimes I fire a lot of questions. All at once. It’s hard to know which one to answer. Kind of like a couple brightly colored dodge balls coming at you from all different directions. I tend to interrupt with a story and I forget what the point of that story was. Oh well. We all laugh. Then, oh yeah, I remember the point of that story. Finish it up. What were you saying before I cut in? Sorry. I’m so happy. Like a kid kind of happy. Just me. I can be me. No faking, no acting interested, no wishing I were somewhere else. Here. Present and wanting to freeze time.

The next morning we all have crazy colored homemade super hero waffles and coffee. And Nerf gun battles with the boys. What a happy start to a day. If only I didn’t have to go to work. And they didn’t have to get back on the road. Ahhhh. Don’t leave. Not yet. You just got here. Remember, just last night. If the Penske truck weren’t so full, my boys and I were ready to hop in the back. Why did you have to have so much stuff? Colorado bound. Until next time, hopefully soon. Genuine real deal deal friend with your arm hanging out the truck window. The best kind of friend. Catch-up-right-where-we-left-off friend. Time will never change us kind of friend. Rare friend. Precious friend. God put us in the same place at the same time. I already miss you, friend.

In My Closet

image

I’ll be in my closet, if anybody needs me. I whispered this inside of my head as I walked out of the kitchen. I did not dare mention it to the three wrestling boys in the family room. I just quietly snuck upstairs. I sat at dinner not talking and just being an overall big pouty mama. Everything was “boy” today. Or so it seemed. There was the normal wrestling, punching, dodge ball throwing, and hockey playing, but there were extra “all boy” triggers. Like earlier, when Colby tried to take a sip of his puke green smoothie with his boxing gloves on. It didn’t work out so well. That Hulk-colored muscle smoothie spilled all over him and all over the kitchen floor. Why does a little spill always look like a massive amount of mess on the floor? How did all of that come out of that small cup?

“You can’t try to drink with your boxing gloves on.”

Yep. I said that. The sad thing is that I’m pretty sure that I have said that before. There are just some nights where I tap out. I can’t endure the constantly moving all-boy craziness. And I just want to cry a little. Or eat a salad. Or paint my toenails. I don’t really want to take a bath, but it seems like I should want to take a bubble bath with a glass of whine. Errr, wine. Flash backs of the day fill my head, which most likely resemble every other day that I genuinely love spending with all boys. Today, I need a sub. A daughter sub. She would need to get a long well with me, for the moment. No sassiness. We would maybe do the dishes together and talk about girly stuff.

I just can’t step on or kick another hot wheel or relocate any more action figures. Or go into another bathroom that smells like straight-up urine. I really need those smoke detector water sprinklers in all of my bathrooms. Why didn’t some all boy mom give me those as a shower gift? Except maybe they could also shoot out some cleaning product. I could just flip the switch and those urine-infested floors, walls, and even the weird back of the toilet area would magically be cleaned. Why is it so hard to focus on the toilet and get the pee in there? I do it every time. 100% of my pee goes into the toilet. Always. I guess I am trying to brag a little. I get distracted all the time, just not in the middle of peeing.

I know that I’m being downright moody. How ironic. And no fun to be around. Even hypersensitive perhaps. It happens pretty rarely. I occasionally let myself mope about in the mother of all boys reality. I really do think I make a decent boy mom, almost all of the time. Afterall, I’ve always been a tomboy. Groups of women generally freak me out. Unless, it’s a basketball team or something similar. But tonight, I think I would gladly play with some Barbies here in my closet. Maybe even with some sorority girls. I would take a pass on my normal beer and sip on a fruity martini in a fancy glass. Where is my closet bartender? Once I clean up this closet and turn it into “Fancytown,” these rare pity party occasions are going to be off the hook. Or is it chain? I know that I’m gender stereotyping but it actually feels pretty helpful. I’m starting to annoy myself a little. I would like some chocolate, too, though, while I am at it.

I don’t think those three little life-balls are going to put themselves to bed. I think their dad sensed that I needed some time alone. In my closet. He’s got them, he may have even talked to them gently and said something like, “Your mom needs you to really love on her.  Could you guys not argue, not wrestle, not spill drinks, not hit her in the head with a toy, not punch her, not pee on the walls…..just for the next thirty minutes?” That imaginary dad pep talk is enough to help me get off of my closet floor. And sneak back downstairs to those quick-to-forgive, quick-to-love, quick-to-hug, quick-to-let me know how much they love me boys. Oh, man. All boys.

Can I call you “Banana?”

image

I would say that you were the cutest, happiest, most lovable kid that I’ve ever met, if I didn’t have three little boys at home. There you were out of your room. Your enthusiastic self, bopping around the halls, with your “never met a stranger” kind of zeal for hospital life. You attracted everyone within earshot to come talk to you. To be near you. You were going home, and you told everybody. You called me “Child Life.” You couldn’t remember my name. You asked me a lot of times. Amelia is always a hard name to remember, I said. You asked if you could just call me “Banana.” I said, “Sure, if I can call you “Pineapple.” It was only fair. You said that I could.

Then, it was time for you to do the hard thing. You wanted a little more time to play. To delay perhaps. You have had to do far too many hard things in your short life. You knew the routine. You offered to help when you could. Your kind and patient nurse let you do the jobs that your tiny hands could help do. I think she thought you were pretty awesome, too. You needed a tiny bit of power, a smidgen of control and a few choices. Like we all do. You wanted just a wee bit more time. Time to process, time to cope, time to talk to all of us. I asked if you could squeeze my hands really hard to help with the hurt. You held on tight. And squeezed my long fingers in your little hands. I pretended that you were so strong that you were breaking my hands. ” Owwwwch!” It didn’t quite hurt my hands, but it squeezed all of our hearts to see you hurting. To hear you beg and plead. Then, you needed to take a couple of breaks. I asked if we could count to ten. You said, “I want to count down from eleven.” That sounded perfect. Then your sweet, quick voice said, “11…6….5…..4…3…2.1.” You were ready to start again. As ready as you could be. It was so hard. You were ready to go home. And be done. So, you needed one more break. Your dad looked at you from the end of the bed. You said,”I am brave, Daddy. I love you.” We all could have cried. Yes. You were the bravest, yet littlest one, with the biggest heart, in a room full of grown ups. We all told you how brave you were. You needed to hear it from a crowd. And we all meant it.

You may never know the ripple effect your existence, your spunk and your contagious joy had on all of us. We see a lot of sadness, a lot of unfairness, and a lot of pain. It can be hard to forget. That deep, dark, big tough-to-understand stuff can fog up our hospital-working brains. So much sometimes that it’s hard to remember the “yous.” The fighters, the resilient, the brave, the gigglers, and the proud. The kids that overcome.

Did you know that you, Pineapple, are the reason we all love to work with kids? How did you get to be so strong in your little tiny body? You’re the absolute best. It was an honor and privilege to spend thirty minutes with you. And your beautiful parents. You’re the best kind of teacher. We can all learn some of the most difficult life lessons from you. How to deal with the yuck of this life in the most beautiful and inspiring way. How to heal from the inside out. How to unselfishly talk to others, love others and make people around you feel so special in the midst of your hard times. And how to truly appreciate others, even if they’re doing those things that hurt to help you. If I ever am lucky enough to see you again, I doubt that you’ll remember my name. Afterall, everyone wants to be near your energy. Your smile. You meet a lot of people. My name is hard to remember. And so is yours.

You can just call me “Banana” and I will call you “Pineapple.”