Mom Smarts: the Playground Pooper

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I like to think of myself as somewhat of a professional. I’m actually in my seventh year of mom school, like a resident or fellow. Except that I didn’t ever go to school for mothering. I read a crud ton of books and listened to a lot of moms’ solicited and unsolicited advice, but most stuff, I’ve learned the hard way. The real life way. Through observing others or trial and error, cause and effect, the “what the….?” and the holy shit” moments. That’s seven plus years worth of mom smarts. Which ultimately amounts to nothing. I know nothing.

Today, my four year old son walked over to me on the playground and told me, “I have to go the bathroom.” Then said, “It started coming out.” Game changer. Oh. I looked down and his pants weren’t visibly wet. “You went poop?” That’s the one. I looked in his pants to find out that he was telling the truth. He not only had “started,” he had finished. Ignored the urge in the name of fun and crapped his pants. So, on a school playground, you don’t have a lot of options. Meanwhile, the five other boys I had brought continued happily playing. They needed to release some energy. This fact eliminated the option of me having everybody walk home, a long walk home for the one boy with crap in his pants, who most likely, would want me to give him a piggy back ride. Thankfully, a veteran boy mom friend of mine said “just go over there and empty it out.” There was an area outside of the playground. Good plan. I took the Capri sun box with me as a makeshift trash can. As I walked with my boy, who could have cared less that he had a load in his pants, he gave me a play by play commentary on where the poop had travelled. “It’s down my leg, Mom.” Oh, dear god. And now to suppress gag reflex, mom mode activated.

We made it behind the air conditioner vent where I began the heinous process of de-pooping his leg, his pants, etc. Goodbye, older brother’s Spider-Man underwear. Shhhhhh, I’m not saving you, and don’t give me any guilt, into the Capri sun box you go. I looked down. I had no options for wiping his butt except to use some large leaves from a plant that I hope was a non-poisonous alternative to toilet paper. My son cooperated as I wiped his butt cheeks the best I could. With plant leaves that were “cold” according to him. I will pause to let you know that as parenting book savvy as I may claim to be, I never ever read any parenting book that addressed how to dispose of any sort of pee, poop, vomit, etc. when not near a toilet. Please tell me every parent has several or too many to count of these disgusting stories.

Quite frankly, one of the most horrifying poop scenarios happened long ago, when my twin boys were under a year old. The sweet little guys were able to sit up and play in the water for what seemed like eternity. I didn’t mind. It was like a water filled pack n’ play. A mom vacation. I spent hours upon hours in that bathroom. I love-hated it. Until the day that one boy pooped in the tub. I can’t remember who. As a sleep deprived twin parent, your critical thinking skills fall into a coma of sorts. Oh. My. Wake up! What do you do when you see a new mysteriously shaped brown bath toy floating in the tub?

That’s. Not. A. Bath. Toy.

You freak out. Then your boys look at you. The babies start crying. Oh no! Affect regulation. It’s ok. It’s ok. No, it’s really not. You’re silently cursing every parenting book and parent who has ever talked to you. WHY would they never prepare you for this unwelcome bath time visitor? All of the lame stories but never “Turd Alert….what to do.” I adapted and quickly picked up and plopped their two slippery bodies out onto the bath mat. No towel. You want to just grab the kids, exit strategy. Leave the sudsy water and poop bobbing under the bubbles and brushing up next to toys. All the nine hundred toys. That’s enough trauma for one day. Get the boys, close the door. Surely, you could never go in there again. Or tell your husband when he gets home. He’s a much better fisher”man” than you. But you can’t because you’re going to have to bathe your poopy children. Again.

If you’ve never had the debate of whether you should drain the tub with the poop in it or go “poop fishing” with your hand, you’ve never truly lived. It’s a disgusting sort of adrenaline rush. In fact, every new parent should get one of those small fish store nets at their first baby shower. Maybe they should even learn about this scenario before conceiving a child. If not, the fish net should be a mandatory baby registry item that comes complete with instructions to be placed in the bathroom cabinet for “the code brown bath when you will need it.” The instructions should read “Baby/Toddler Poop Net.” That’s all.

If you didn’t know, now you do. If your child never shat in the tub, congratulations. As a parent, you can’t let emergent unexpected pee or poop ruin your day. Or you’re going to have a lot of shitty days.

Good Friday

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I feel weird about showing up on Easter Sunday without having ever grieved the unfairness, the pain, the beautiful life and the awful death that Jesus endured. Without recounting his voluntary, beautiful, raw, bitter, and torturous last days and moments, I have a difficult time fully celebrating the joy and promise and hope of Easter, the resurrection.

I want my boys to know that Easter is not just about the happy frilly pastel colored Sunday service complete with egg hunting and Easter baskets. I want them to be aware of the reason, the pain, the loss, and the brokenness surrounding Jesus’s death. I want them to know why His resurrection changed the world. His hope. He lives.

After a crazy, busy week and solo Thursday night parenting, I knew I needed to improvise and stay home from Maundy Thursday service with our three young boys. I wanted to include and teach them about what Jesus’s death meant. I wanted them to have a visual, hands-on, concrete understanding. Teaching them the “why’s” the best I could meant more to me than going to Maundy Thursday service. I created an activity to help them understand.

I decided that popcorn kernels, toothpicks, macaroni noodles and marbles would represent the hurt, the brokenness, sickness, our shortcomings, “sins” or mess-ups, etc.

Our vacuum would represent Jesus.

At dinner, we prayed, then talked about Jesus’s life, the ways he cared for and showed love to others, why he died, how he died, and what that meant. I told them about the experiment we would do to show the power of Jesus’s love for us. One of the boys said, “isn’t that going to break the vacuum?” I hoped not. I didn’t do a practice run either. I let them each choose one of the three items: popcorn kernels representing the things that “get stuck in our teeth” or heart or mind and distract us from loving others and God, toothpicks represented physical and emotional hurt we cause others and the pain we experience from diseases, illness, death, etc. and macaroni noodles, well, they were all I could find as a third item. Three boys. I didn’t know how many marbles the vacuum could successfully suck up, if any. I gave a marble to each of my boys and myself. The marble represented the biggest, heaviest thing we struggle with. I should have taken all of the marbles for me.

We threw all of the items into a box representing the world and all of us in it. Each time they dropped an item in, we would share what it could represent. “Pushing somebody..” “Calling someone a name…” I wish I could remember all the things my older boys said. It was truly amazing.

Then, came the time to turn the vacuum on representing Jesus. One of my boys held it and began sucking up all of the popcorn kernels, macaroni noodles, up went the marbles and lastly, those rascally toothpicks which needed a little rearranging and then they disappeared too. The box was empty. Jesus also known as our hand-me down vacuum, had done his job. He cleaned up a mess that really wasn’t his to begin with. It was his box but not his mess.

My boys went back to playing with their cardboard box forts. I vacuumed the rug, to make sure it still worked.

It’s hard and painful to think about Jesus’s last days. The knowledge and power that he had, the stress, the exhaustion, the extreme emotional and physical pain he endured. The horrible mistreatment and details surrounding his torturous death. I think of all those who loved him there and the pain they must have felt and the pain he witnessed in their eyes and faces. I think about his mother, and nearly lose it, being a mother to these three beautiful boys. I know she had to be held up and carried by those who loved her. It’s all just excruciatingly heartbreaking and awful.

As a society, we tend to avoid the hurt of this world, when possible. Yet, that’s not what Jesus did. He submerged himself into the communities of isolated, the diseased, the broken, the mistreated, the wrongfully accused, the orphaned, the widowed, the outcasts, the poor, the selfish, the rich, and the grieving. He engaged with and loved people in a way that they had never been loved before. And he did it because he knew they needed and welcomed and sought out his love. They craved something they had never known. And he had an endless supply to give to those willing to receive it. And he still does.

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“So now I am giving you a new commandment, love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”-John 13:34

Piles

I like to make piles.

Piles of bills. Piles of laundry. Piles of super hero toys. Piles of books. Really, you can make piles of everything. It makes me feel like I’m taking inventory, being responsible. Developing a plan. Dare I even say it? It makes me feel (pseudo)-organized. My piles aren’t in control of me. That’s right, I’m the queen of my piles. After all, I did create the piles.

On the days that I decide to attack the piles, I get myself ready. I put on my armor to help promote victory. I clear an area. I turn on my “Sad Shit” spotify mix. That’s right. Eva Cassidy, Damien Rice, Ryan Adams, Patty Griffen and many others serenade me while I de-pile. I have always found that good music makes life more bearable. Whether you’re cleaning the toilet or sitting in a hospital room by yourself, music can make hard things not seem so hard. Or more hopeful. Even fun. Music can make you truly feel your emotions so you can move on. Or stand still for a second. Heck, I didn’t even mind reaching into the garbage disposal to retrieve a couple of marbles today. Because there was my music playing in the background.

I usually come to a great epiphany when I’m doing the work of an adult: being an adult can really suck sometimes. Why did I always want to grow up? I would much rather be playing in a creek or even running suicides in a basketball gym than sit at the kitchen table sorting piles of mail. Medical bills, house bills, gas bills, library bills (ARGHHHH) Toyota recall notices, Department of Justice crap, and more bills, and more bills. I don’t know why I thought they would magically pay themselves if I left them on top of the piano. Without piling them into their specific category: Shred pile, Recycle pile, Pay now pile, Pay last month pile, Hurry Up! Pay faster pile, Don’t worry “Not a Bill” pile….

After opening, sorting and piling, I let myself take a break to unload and reload the dishwasher. And make myself a cup of tea. All the while, with my Spotify mix playing and the sun shining. It would be so much worse if it was rainy without music and Thai tea. So, I just plug away, thankful that I don’t have a massive headache today like I did yesterday. Thankful that I have a somewhat good attitude even though I really want to set all the piles on fire. Thankful for the starving artists who play and sing and make even the boring, mundane, sad, hard and yuck more bearable. Thanks, Jeff Buckley. And Eric Clapton. And you too, Sting, and all of the rest of you on my Spotify mix. Sorry that it’s titled “Sad Shit.” It’s really not shit at all, its a bit of brilliance. And it goes along perfectly with the budding cherry trees. The sun. And my piles.

I’ve got some checks to write. And some stamps to find. Old school style. I also have $.40 to spend at REI. What a bonus. Forty cent credit. #Winning my piles.

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Monday Morning

imageI held on tightly to the cold scrawny hands of my seven year old boys. I habitually reached down for them when we had to cross the road. And I didn’t let go the entire walk to school. My boys must have understood that I needed to hold their hands today. And maybe they wanted to hold mine too. After a weekend away at work, holding other kids’ hands as they cried, I had a hard time letting my own boys go as we approached their school. I love them so extremely much all of the time, but in a painfully sensitive and grateful way on Monday mornings. I stood on top of the hill and watched their backpacks bop up and down as they ran and disappeared through the school doors.

I didn’t think I could walk home. Physically. I felt like Monday had already knocked me over. And held me down. I felt defeated and it wasn’t even 9 am. The “I just can’ts…”had already crept into my head. “I just can’t brush my hair. I just can’t clean the house…and so on.” I walked across the street and Connie, the school crossing guard, told me to hop in her car and she would give me a ride back up the hill. She has done this for me many times. Maybe she notices the lack of pep in my step. My ratty hair. My coughing. Or the bags under my eyes. I always plop down in her backseat because she usually has a laundry basket in her front seat. She’s always giving stuff away to others. She’s enormously kind-hearted and will go to great lengths to provide for and protect kids. She takes off her neon vest and a few layers of coats, scarves, etc. before she sits down in her car. And exhales. She drives me around the block, up the hill and into my driveway.

It’s a small gesture that feels like a million bucks. She and I have the quickest, most deep, honest and awesome talks in those short minutes. We usually sit in the driveway finishing up our conversation. She graciously shares marriage and mothering stories with me. The lessons she’s learned. The sacrifices she’s made. She relates to me, encourages me and helps me feel less like I’m drowning most hectic mornings. She tells me I’m a good mom. And I believe her.

One morning, she held her stop sign up as we crossed the street. My husband was out of the country. I was trying to be two-parent strong by myself. And I’m not a morning person. I walked across the street with my three boys and two nieces. One of my boys cried the whole walk down the hill. I talked with him but couldn’t get him consoled before he entered the school building before the second bell rang. I felt awful. Like pure therapeutic grade shit.

Prior to leaving for school, my son had playfully laid on the floor kicking the wall with his shoes, accidentally leaving several mud prints. I didn’t freak out. But we were running late. I told him when he got home from school, he would have to clean up the wall. My request turned him into dramatic melt-down mode because apparently he thought he would never get to play again. In his life. Because he would be cleaning the wall. F-O-R-E-V-E-R. I tried to diffuse the situation with no success. So he cried. And cried. And he must have envisioned himself cleaning those three mudprints and missing out on the rest of his childhood. The whole walk to school.

Connie saved my morning. She talked with me. And helped me with that sneaky guilt that had leapt onto my back as I headed home. She told me I did need to have him clean up the mud prints. She told me I had done the right thing, even though I felt like crap. She reminded me that kids recover quickly. Then, she shared one of her stories of raising her son with me.  She helped push that mama guilt down off of my back. It still hung out by my side as I walked up the hill. It was easier to ignore there.  So, I purposely left it outside my door when I got home.

Connie unknowingly reminds me of the beauty in small kindnesses. Sharing a story or two, some advice, encouragement and a ride up the hill. She also stops cars and kids from running into school traffic. And she helps build up, encourage and strengthen parents like me. A real crossing guard kind of personality.  She’s a true hero in my book.

You really can’t ask me for much on Monday mornings. I don’t like to talk politics(really ever but especially not on a Monday). I don’t like to brush my hair. I need coffee. And patience. Lots of both, please. I’m an overthinking, over feeling, exhausted, missing my boys sort of mess. My favorite answers to questions are “I don’t know” or “give me a minute” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.” But there’s one thing for sure, if you ask me if I need a ride back up the hill, I will gratefully answer, “yes.” Every Monday morning.

Dear Outdoor Gas Station Bathroom

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Dear Outdoor Gas Station Bathroom-

I don’t feel like many people write you letters. You probably stopped checking your mailbox years ago. Maybe you’ve got the junk mail blues. I know you haven’t paid your bills. So, I thought I would acknowledge your existence because you have saved me from crapping my pants on numerous occasions. Although, in hindsight, maybe it would have been better to just shit my pants.

That was a low blow. I’m sorry.

To be honest, you’re really a weak bladdered or irritable bowel diseased person’s nightmare. It’s not your fault. Despite the large obnoxious wooden key that a person must ironically request from the apathetic or pissed off cashier to gain access to you, you’re not all that. You’re pretty sad. And disappointing and disgusting on multiple levels. Why you require a gigantic key has always baffled my mind.

It’s not your fault.

Some bathrooms are born into privilege, you know, being constructed inside of an establishment. Not you. You’re not quite a Johnny on the Spot, you never get to adventure to festivals or construction sites. You’re stuck behind that creepy gas station. You’re cold, stinky, and “out back.” But not like Australia. Toilet paper readily flees from your hostile living conditions. Has poor scared soap ever set foot into your locked chambers? I don’t think so. Your toilet silently cries out at your shit-smeared walls. Because it won’t flush.

Who does this? What kind of monster would smear shit on the walls of a gated community of sorts bathroom. (See that? I was trying to build you up) It makes me wonder what bacteria clings to the ridiculous key or is it a self-defense club to be used on the walk of shame as its returned to the cashier who probably wears a diaper most shifts or drinks nothing and is sworn into employment, “I solemnly swear to never, ever clean or walk inside the outdoor gas station bathroom.” And….You’re hired.

I feel like if you could break free and escape, maybe even make it to some shady park, you would be much happier. More fulfilled by the routine drug deal or flasher or occasional sound of children’s laughter. You’re the last resort. And that can’t feel good.

I will probably keep on using you on road trips. In desperate times. Until you go extinct.

Hang in there.

Sincerely,

Amelia (the girl with quads of steel that holds her breath and ungracefully kicks your flusher and door before dramatically squeezing out to fresh air)

Kitchen Sink Prayers

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I looked out my kitchen window at the sky. The purples, pinks and oranges melted together as if they were exhausted but in a beautiful way. I loaded the dirty dishes as my boys ran around and around. In and out of the kitchen, careful of the open dishwasher. I tilted my head and noticed a crooked bunch of clouds shaped like a heart. Only there was a hole in the middle. I began to slow, sneaky tear cry.

I talked to God in my head and questioned who gets healed. Why not the dying child whose parents have a faith so thick it nearly suffocates all who witness it? Why not heal the women who so desperately want to fill their wombs with a child? Don’t worry about my gingivitis, but could you heal my diseased lungs? Or the starving children? Or the child that hides from an abuser day in and day out? Please heal the broken marriages. Heal the broken hearts. Heal the lonely. The alone. The abandoned. The orphaned. The neglected.

I looked out the window again at the fading sunset. The heart cloud had disappeared. My son walked in, looked at me, reached up and began pushing on my face with his hands. He was trying to physically make me smile by pressing on the sides of my mouth. I must have looked the way I felt inside. Hurt. Forgotten. Unimportant. Not worthy enough to be healed.

It’s a delicate and extremely sensitive matter. Opening up old wounds, not forgotten but semi-healed, from the inside out. Who gets to be healed, blessed, cured, saved and fed?

I wiped my eyes on a dirty dishtowel next to the stove and left a mascara print.

I can’t believe in a god who picks and chooses. I can’t wrap my head around a god that does not heal the woman who could not make it close enough to touch his clothes. I can’t believe in a god that does not love all. That doesn’t feel the hurt, the pain, the breath-stealing moments of all. The emptiness. The loneliness. The desire to do more but to be so physically or emotionally restrained. Tied to a chair. In the middle of nowhere. With no one.

I go to God. Plead with God. With a faith that’s been around the block a time or two. A faith that questions, cries out, begs, grows then nearly gets extinguished by the pain, unfairness, and people who say the wrong thing. A selfish faith that sees the world through my near-sided eyes. What do I know? Less and less.

I know the beauty of a sunset. The beauty of my son’s toothless laugh with his squenched up nose. I’ve felt the love of many, the endless unconditional love. I’ve laughed a million laughs. I’ve held countless hands. I’ve felt the kicks, elbows and hiccups of the babies I’ve held and snuggled in the middle of the night. I’ve chased giggling toddlers. I’ve answered late night phone calls. I’ve hugged mothers. I’ve heard the cries of many. And through it all, I’ve held on tightly to this faith that I can’t begin to comprehend. It’s far too complicated so I just do the littlest and the most that I can. And love through it all. And I pray that God is okay with my confused, wounded kitchen sink prayers.

Rescue Guineas

imageI was watching a tear jerker of a video* today that a friend posted. A middle-aged man desperately needed to lose weight. He was morbidly obese and his nutritionist told him to go adopt a dog from the shelter. It would encourage him to be outside and he would meet people. The man purposely adopted an overweight middle-aged dog, so they could relate to each other. They immediately bonded. Both of their lives changed for good. They lost weight and both had more positive outlooks on life. I cried when he talked about lying down next to his dying dog. At the end, he questioned whether he rescued the dog or the dog rescued him. They rescued each other. My four year old son wanted to watch the video twice.

I just went upstairs to feed our rescued guinea pigs some limp celery. Turns out it’s not good enough for human consumption. I also grabbed them some hay. They eat like every eight minutes or something like that. Maybe it’s pooping. Or maybe that’s geese. I stared at them and it may have been the wine thinking, but I got to talking. Did I drive to Wichita to rescue these overly conversational, constantly popping guinea pigs? Or have these guinea pigs rescued me?

Despite my second glass of wine which promotes even more truthful transparent thinking, it’s pretty clear. I rescued the guinea pigs. For my seven year old boys. Not a lot has changed in the past four months for me. Yeah. Yeah. What a selfish jerk, right? I talk with them, change their cage but they just constantly “eep. eep. eeeep” for carrots which I was told I should go easy on giving them. I think they may be addicts. They have too much sugar, according to the humane society highly-knowledgeable volunteer. I really don’t want diabetic guineas. Seems complicated.  I would have to give them to one of my nursing friends. (uh. hem. Lori) I buy them cilantro because a woman at work told me they just love cilantro. Love it. My husband gets a little bummed that I don’t have big Mexican food making plans for the cilantro most days.

“Did you buy the cilantro for the guinea pigs?”

Yep. Again. And the carrots too. But the kids can have some of those if they want. With ranch, of course. Homemade. You know, put the Hidden valley packet in the sour cream. It’s pretty complicated business.

I guess I won’t be able to submit my rescue story to this #mutualrescue organization. I couldn’t do it in a truthful way. I do think our guinea pigs have a much better life. I do think my boys learned about a whole other world that exists in an animal shelter. There were numerous other guinea pigs that we couldn’t adopt from the humane society. We wanted a pair. The others were all fighting each other, biting each other and having to be separated. Maybe they were tired of people staring at them as they waited to adopt a dog or a cat. Perhaps they took it out on each other. Not our guinea pig brothers. They’re alright. Minus their carrot addiction, which I do take full responsiblity for.

But they haven’t rescued me. Or us. Not yet. We’re still holding onto the hope though.

Although in a weak moment to calm my boys’ fears of a robber entering the house while we’re all asleep, I said, “there’s no way that the guinea pigs wouldn’t let us know.” Caged little motion detectors. They alerted the tooth fairy a few weeks ago. I heard her fall into the drum set. Then, the guinea pigs went nutso. Maybe they just don’t like fairies that don’t bring carrots. The tooth fairy should know this, right?

So, it’s not a mutual rescue. But they live 5-7 years. They were a year and a half when we adopted them. There’s still time.

 

*if you do have a #mutualrescue story or you need to cry, here’s the video I referenced.