Jesus and Mama Tears

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There is something extraordinarily healing and powerful that takes root inside of me knowing that Jesus wept.

The other night I had my head bowed in shame as I sat at the kitchen table. I had just overreacted to one of my boys climbing on the outside of the steps, resulting in a broken thrift store umbrella holder. After I cleaned up the mess, I sat there alone and began crying so hard that my tears dropped down onto the kitchen floor. I think it could have been classified as “weeping.” I mentally backed myself into a corner and beat myself up about all the ways I fail as a human being. As a mother. As a wife.

Because isn’t that we do? Beat ourselves up when we don’t have the strength to go grab a Kleenex or some toilet paper to soften the blow of our tears. And when the tears of guilt flow, they sure know how to awaken the dried up wells of inadequacy, loss and despair.

In my heightened emotional state, I texted my husband and a friend letting them know what an asshole I had been. They each kindly offered to help me out of the pit of doom. I thought it may be helpful if I created a hotline for parents, “1-800-ILOSTMYSHIT.” The operator could have a file folder ready to remind you of all the other times when you handled chaos better, a bit more gracefully. The kind person, probably a volunteer, on the line could perhaps console you and tell you about a time that they also overreacted to routine kid chaos.

The thing is that I usually can cry it out, apologize to my boys and hope and pray for their forgiveness and God’s strength to do better next time. Then, we move on. To the dog park or to a game of checkers. Or whatever. My boys, thankfully, have this crazy awesome ability to forgive me and love me through my guilt and shortcomings as a mother.

In hindsight, like a few days later, who really cares about a thrift store umbrella holder? Obviously not the person who donated it to the thrift store. I don’t want my boys to be wreckless and purposely break stuff, but if anyone should understand breaking stuff accidentally, it should be me. I realize that I had some built-up, constant mud and mess-cleaning up anger that I should have released at ripple glass therapy.

Sadly, and not so sadly, sometimes, those we love the most intensely get to see the yucky, jagged and broken sides of us. Inside of our homes. Our cars. Unfiltered, not touched-up, the raw ugly-cry moments. The moments when we feel exhausted, sad, hopeless, helpless and burdened by our own imperfections. The difficult and painful moments of growth, roots shifting or branches getting pruned.

As I did my Lenten sharpie marker art this morning, I realized just how grateful I am to cling to the belief that Jesus gets me the most. So, I am reminded to grab on tightly to the hope offered in the extra soft, aloe-infused Kleenex He hands me. Time and time again. Today, I’m humbled and gratefully aware that his grace daily protects, strengthens, and carries us.

Amen.

Spring Break Snowflakes

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I held our new shivering puppy, Patch, tightly as I watched and listened to my boys race up and down the slippery slides at the school playground. They all giggled nonstop as the cold wet slides launched their bodies onto the turf below. Time and time again.

“This is FUN, Mama!” they shouted.

I looked down in amazement and wonder at the beauty of the snowflakes that landed on Patch’s black fur. How can each one be so different? So beautiful. So perfect. The tiny, intricate, unique patterns and designs of the snowflakes that became gently trapped into the hairs on his back. He nuzzled his nose under my arm.

Each of my boys ran over to pet him or attempt to temporarily shield him from the snow. Their pink cheeks, grown-up front teeth and their bright eyes quickly peered into mine from beneath their stocking caps. They each tried to tell me something different. I can’t remember what. They looked so happy, so perfect. And then they each ran off.

I sat there, temporarily stuck in the moment, mesmerized and overwhelmed by their existence and the beauty held in their precious freckled faces. I will never tire of looking into their big brown innocent and smiling eyes, framed by their gigantic snowflake-trapping eyelashes.

“Do you feel the snowflakes trapped in your eyelashes?” I asked one of my boys.

He responded by blinking. The snowflakes melted or disappeared. Gone.

I will always thank God in these outside, overwhelmingly peaceful and joyfilled moments. I will count them. My boys. My blessings. Over and over and over again. I will marvel and wonder and nearly implode with thankfulness for the gifts of their lives. I can’t help but feel a varying combination of being utterly humbled, confused, worried, imperfect and beyond grateful for the privilege, the honor, and the responsibility of being their “mama.”

And then, most likely, later in the day, I may be tired or short-fused, perhaps even close to near-exploding at their fighting or complaining. But I promise myself that I will take a deep breath. I will gently tap myself on the shoulder and whisper in my head,

“Hey, you tired mama. Remember sitting at the picnic table earlier watching your boys like the most proud mom in the universe? With the spring snow flurries drifting down. And a new puppy on your lap as the confused birds sang, the highway traffic buzzed, and the irresistible sounds of those three rosy cheeked, giggling boys bounced around….”

I will tell myself to remember the powerful moments and my prayer of thanks. And I will shape up. I may even need to take an extra deep breath or two to activate my secret stash of patience.

Spring break snowflakes.

Remember their beauty, the quiet power they possess. They disappear too quickly.

I will slow down and remind myself to notice, to pause and to embrace the ever changing, beautiful and raw moments of motherhood.

“The Birds”

*This is a guest post written by my eight year old son, Asher. I sat across the table from him this morning as he gripped his pencil tightly and excitedly wrote and wrote these words down. I felt my eyes well up and my mama heart nearly explode with joy and pride as he passionately filled his page. Please leave any comments you have and I will happily share with him.

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The birds have colors that are mixed together like yellow and orange. Mixed it makes beautiful. The colors make you feel relaxed. Have you wished to fly? I have wished if I could fly. Soaring through the air, the wind up in the sky is soft. And the birds make a great song. It calms you down. It makes you come outside. It is high.

We have a big window and tons of birds come to the window to get some seeds and sugar water. My favorite bird is the hummingbird. It is one of the coolest birds to me. It has beautiful colors like red, orange, yellow together. One time, my mom had one fly so close to her.

The hummingbird could hover. I think that it is cooler that it could fly upside down. But keep bees away from hummingbirds because if a bee stung a hummingbird, it would die. So keep bees away from hummingbirds. One time, a dog saw a hummingbird on the sidewalk. The dog wouldn’t let his owner go so the owner picked up the hummingbird and took the hummingbird home. They found out the hummingbird was alive but he wanted the hummingbird to stay. He feeded the hummingbird sugar water. He trained the hummingbird. I was so amazed. I could watch it again.

When we saw hummingbirds, we would call them super heroes like Flash and Green Lantern and Batman and Robin. We called them those names because they had red and yellow for Flash and green for Green Lantern. Black for Batman.

DSC09510My second favorite is the cardinal. It has light red and black. It is funny that some male cardinals have mohawks. I think it makes them look cool. Some of them have black spots on them. My favorite colors are red and blue. Red and black are cool mixed together.

The blue jay is light blue with some white and some black. It has a cool beak. It has black close to its eyeballs. It looks like it has pretty scales on its wings. It has cool designs. The white with the blue looks beautiful.

I have seen a ton of birds in my life. Some are blue, red, green, yellow, pink, purple and a ton of colors that are beautiful. One of the hummingbirds has light colors. How hummingbirds got their name is because when you listen closely, you hear a humming sound.

Some woodpeckers sometimes peck on our house. Do you know why? Because they get worms out of trees. Have you went on a trail? You see tons of birds and you hear tons of sounds. But when it becomes winter, all of the birds have to go because they can’t survive in winter. Its too cold. But in a couple months, they’re back and maybe you see the same ones!

 

My Write-In Vote

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I’ve been writing in my head all week long. I thought I would actually put the words down about this once to hopefully get some of it out of my system. I have people that I love dearly that have voted on both sides of this election. Personally, I could not vote for Trump or Clinton. I understand why some people may say that to write-in a woman who you know is not running for president seems like a cop-out, but I am the only one who lives with my conscience and constant thoughts, feelings and emotions twenty four hours a day.

I chose to write-in a woman that I trusted and that has enormous loads of integrity. I typed in the name of a woman I believed in, knowing she would not win the presidency. I voted for local state representatives and senate. Then, I left the polls after a kind man made my day by asking if it was my first time to vote. Nope. I left without the looming feeling of having made the wrong decision with the minimal knowledge I have.

I understand some of the bigger issues and reasons why people I love voted for Trump, despite the ugly sides he flaunted throughout the election. But, I couldn’t vote for him. For numerous personal reasons. I have a hard time looking at him without getting disgusted. I have a disability, really several. I am sure Trump would make fun of someone like me, someone with a disease that makes them different. Someone with an ileostomy. I am also a woman. In my life, I have had men whistle, touch me without permission or stare at me like I am a piece of meat or an object for their consumption. It’s sickening and demoralizing. It’s one of the worst feelings. The fact that a man running for president would not only think, but say and act on such vile thoughts about women disgusts me and infuriates me to a blood-boiling, heart racing level. I also love deeply my many friends who are gay, Muslim, Mexican, immigrants, etc. I love the strangers I have met that could be classified into one of these groups. I hurt for them knowing the pain Trump has caused, and may continue to cause. It’s absolutely mind-baffling in this day and age that Trump would promote fear, hate and a messed-up, racist, and exclusive America.

I understand why people, especially women, voted for Clinton. But I also couldn’t vote for her. She has extremely, ridiculously large amounts of experience. If the two president elects were doctors, I would go to her a million times over Trump. Or if they were painters, plumbers, or any other profession where you seek out a person with book smarts, street smarts and an overall understanding of the profession, she would be my choice. I have a hard time getting over the original Clinton presidency. I have a difficult time with the fact that Hillary Clinton stayed with Bill Clinton. Why would a strong woman not leave a man that disgraced and dishonored her and had public affairs with other women? In my mind, if a woman can fake a marriage, what else is she capable of faking? I can’t get over that, despite her experience. I know some may think that’s judgemental and none of my business. But it becomes a bit of my business when I have to choose who I can trust or who I can vote for for president.*

Also, I realize that each candidate is only human, far from perfect. I am thankful we have people who are willing to put themselves out there, and take all the risks and negativity that accompany running for public office. I’m not Pollyanna. I realize that the media and politics, in general, tend to be corrupt and full of cover-ups, misinformation, lies and tons of money.

I’m pretty certain that both of the president elects are millionaires or billionaires. I cannot relate to them. They most likely would scoff at the Costco dinner I might throw together for them if they came over, especially if I burned it. How awful would it be if one of them sat in our wobbly broken chair and if the dog jumped on their lap during dinner. Or what if one of the boys hit them with a ball or dart? Would secret service lose it? I typically am not inspired by many millionaires or billionaires, unless I have no clue that they are wealthy. Instead, I look up to teachers, doctors, nurses, single moms, social workers, construction workers, nuns, monks, mechanics, police officers, fire fighters, EMT workers and so many other professions that bust their tired asses to serve, protect and care for fellow humans. I did not go into the field of Child Life to make crazy amounts of money. I jumped into the hospital setting to help others going through crappy times. If helping others meant cleaning toys or vomit or blowing bubbles or playing Uno or hugging a parent or comforting a crying baby or encouraging a coworker, I would do it. These things made me feel valued, like a million bucks. Never my paycheck.

This brings me to my most important point. My kids learn how to love from those they’re immediately surrounded by. Not rock stars or politicians. My husband and I. Our families. Their teachers, even the grocery store cashier, people at church, neighbors, and friends. My boys naturally love innocently, unconditionally and beautifully. They love people of every skin color, heterosexuals and gay people, Hindu people and atheist people and they sure as hell love their mama who has disabilities.

I do not worry or fear for my children learning hate, exclusion, racism or intolerance from Trump. I fear they will learn hate or intolerance from classmates, teachers or others who directly influence their day to day lives. It’s our job as parents, teachers, people in the grocery store or traffic jams to teach love, patience, kindness, and acceptance of others, no matter what they look like. I am much more qualified that Trump or Clinton to teach my children how to treat others. I believe you are too.

So let’s love each other in the valleys and trenches and up in the treehouses and on the playgrounds. Don’t forget the offices, classrooms, hospitals, court rooms, mountains, desserts, beaches, classrooms and most importantly, our homes. Every day. Nonstop. All the time. No matter who the president is.

And here’s a funny video, just because.

Homemade King Cake

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Due to a bit of a scheduling glitch, or a general lack of a sense of meaningful or important dates, I’m getting scoped the day after Mardi Gras. Which means I’m on clear liquids today, Fat Tuesday. Dangit. It’s really not too big of a deal. I’ve learned to go without food on many occasions but it’s kind of a bummer. I told my husband yesterday that I was going to make a homemade king cake. He asked me if I wanted him to go ahead and pick one up at the grocery store too. Just in case. He was being a funny and thoughtful punk because he knows me. Pretty well. I laughed and was determined to make a better cake than the grocery store could.

I’m a strong believer that rarely will we be able to avoid the difficult, painful or even, sad times in life. I have learned its best to lament a bit, to feel the weight of it all, and then figure out how these times can strengthen us in some obvious or hidden way as opposed to weakening us. I’m no expert. Sometimes I’m just downright pissed and moody and I want to go to a “used body” shop and trade mine in for something better. Not flashier, but less problematic. One that will require less specialists’ care. Maybe I could even just swap out a few parts. Since this is not really an option, I’ve had to figure out how to be grateful for the body that I have. It’s all about choices. Even though I sometimes feel like I have none. I will always possess the choice of my attitude. Be it pissy, grateful, optimistic, realistic, pessimistic, narcissistic, or any combination of these and so many more.

When I walked my boys home from school yesterday, the cold, bullying Kansas winds blew right down to the bone seemingly freezing our faces off. My boys’ cheeks looked pink and chapped from the five minutes they stood outside of school waiting for me. And they were a little mad at me for not picking them up in the warm car. They complained and complained and near-cried as we trudged along up the hill.

I requested for them to stop for a brief talk, well, more like a mom lecture. I got down on my knees. I talked to them about how they have a winter coat. How they have a short walk, not a long walk. How they have a warm house to go home to with a bed. And food. Then, I talked to them about the people, especially kids, who don’t have any of these things. I told them that they will always have a choice in their attitude. They will always have an opportunity to complain or be grateful for what they have. I realize that they are just seven years old. But, I think they got it. They stopped complaining and picked up their paces to keep up with mine.

As I told my husband this morning that I can’t eat Mardi Gras food, I realized that I knew all too well that I have a few choices today. There was a lecture that was recently opened, still at the top of my inbox. I realized that I have access to doctors who can help me. I have the privilege of knowing countless inspiring, loving, and amazing people. I have pretty decent health. I should be grateful. I have the helpful and constant distraction of a loving family and thoughtful friends.

For today, I have clean, clear liquids.

I’ve also got a king cake to make. For the first time ever. And bonus, I won’t even have to eat it if it’s disgusting. Happy Mardi Gras!

Defeated Moments

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When I played basketball, I was annoyingly scrappy. A hustler. I wore floor burns with pride. I occasionally stole the ball from an opponent resulting in a break away lay-up. This meant that I had an opportunity to score two points practically without defense. I choked sometimes. A lot of times, actually. As in, I bricked the lay-up so hard off of the backboard that either the pissed-off opponent would get the rebound or sometimes one of my teammates would save the day following close behind for the put-back. Thank, goodness. I always enjoyed the steals, rebounds, assists, tips, blocked shots etc. a lot more than scoring.

I think about basketball a lot as a parent. It’s practically second nature to me. I often talk to myself like I used to on the basketball court. “Don’t lose your cool. Don’t show too many emotions. Don’t turnover the ball or lose the moment with your child,” I think. But parenting is a crud-ton harder than even playing collegiate basketball. It’s really harder than anything I’ve ever done. Even managing multiple chronic diseases can seem like a breeze when compared to the unpredictable, life stealing moments that mothering my sons can produce.

Don’t get me wrong. The last thing I want to sound like is a whining, complaining, ungrateful mother. I love the hell out of my kids. When they’re not wearing me out and oftentimes at the same time, they’re totally filling me up. I’m that crazy shaken up can of pop. I’m literally overflowing. They make me laugh and smile a million different smiles and they ignite this overwhelming and unexplainable sense of love, joy, hope and beauty that I otherwise may not have ever seen in this world. If not for their eyes, their hearts, and their ever growing inquisitive minds, I may be lacking something that I never knew existed.

For example. The other day, my husband trimmed the bushes. He found an empty bird nest. I saw it lying on the grass. It was beautiful but it made me a little sad. I wanted to take a picture. I knew I would be able to write about it later. I wanted to show a friend The empty nest. She unexpectedly had dropped by. We walked outside and it was gone. Disappeared. Later, I asked my boys if they had seen it. One of them replied, “Yeah. we put it back in the bushes.” I could have on-the-spot cried. For so many heart-exploding reasons. Of course, I thought and probably overthought their kindness. It was a simple gesture born out of an enormous love for tiny creatures and their importance. Their hard work. Not just an empty nest. They wanted birds to come back. They wanted to help. They did this thing without me ever prompting them. All by themselves, they did something so meaningful.

I love my boys.

Yet, I digress.

You can love the heck out of your kids and still have these moments of raw, ugly, and unexplainable defeat. I’m trying to tell myself. Like I used to do on the basketball court. It’s okay. You messed up. You’re not perfect. Neither are they. Mothering is not always going to be filled with these beautiful and proud moments. You’re going to need time-outs. You’re going to need to get back on defense. You’re going to feel like you’re outnumbered and failing at this zone defense. You’re going to lose some days. Some moments. Some arguments. But you will learn. You will grow. You will be stretched and pulled and strained in ways that you never could imagine. But, you can never give up. You must always recover. Get back. Keep your head up. Stack it up with your teammates. Those who know the caliber of mother you are. Who you strive to be. They know your potential. They’ve seen your best days and they have heard about your worst days too.

Accidents happen. Ugly moments happen. You can have both the gut-wrenching, mountain viewing beautiful moments and the dried up, hot-as-hell, dying of thirst valley moments. It’s okay. Your heart, your passion and your motivation to do better, grow stronger and learn from even the toughest moments will drive you to love in the most incredible ways.

Keep up the good yet hard work, teammates. Parenting friends. We are in this thing together. If I could stack it up with all of you in the center circle and smack all of your butts, I would.

Go! Fight! Win!
“I didn’t leave her there for long. When a player makes a mistake, you always want to put them back in quickly—you don’t just berate them and sit them down with no chance for redemption.” -Pat Summitt

Rainbow Moments

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“The good thing about painting is you can “cweate” whatever you want when you’re painting.”

There are so many different types of days, hours, and moments you can have as a parent. Sometimes bouncing around like a pin ball from the fun, exciting and new moments to the mundane, frustrating, and long moments. The fighting. The whining. The lost toys. The broken toys. These are the days that feel more like they lasted a week, with the disastrous looking house to support the feeling. And then you trip over the dumbest toy, yeah, that one, as you head up to bed. The toy that you never liked anyway. Who even plays with it? No one. That one.

Other times, we have these rare, soul-refilling beautiful moments. Rainbow moments. The pause time, hand over your chest, heart pounding, nearly exploding moments where you could just die of pure unprecedented happiness. The moments when you’re sitting there watching your children play, paint, dance, build, laugh, or just get along with each other and you feel like you’re watching the most genuine, perfect, and beautiful actors play in this movie happening right before your eyes. You think, “what did I do? These are my kids? This is my life?” Your eyes fill up, you could cry because you’re so overwhelmed and hyper aware of the rare beauty right there in front of your face. These fragile yet powerful little lives. Close enough for you to touch, so delicate yet so impressionable that you know you will remember these moments forever. And you have to imagine that these are the exact rainbow moments that you will crave someday when you’re older.

When I walked my kids home from school, I told them it was such a gorgeous day that we all had to play outside. I desperately needed to change the guinea pigs’ cage. I put the guinea pigs in a playhouse in the yard and the boys crowded in there with them until that got boring. They asked to build a fort with blankets in their tree house. “Yes, as long as you bring the blankets back inside,” I said. Then, my youngest began to cry and cry over wanting to play with a Spider-Man Lego guy of his brother’s. I lost all sense of patience and smart parenting skills. I kept telling him the same thing that didn’t seem to phase his frustrated tears. His brother came in to ask for a snack and made things better, thankfully.

We played outside as the sun began to set, which is the time of day that I have a love-hate relationship with. One of my boys begged me to get out the paints. I begrudgingly complied. I set up the canvas and the boys began painting. And then it happened. I exhaled and relaxed and watched them. One of my boys said, “The good thing about painting is you can cweate whatever you want when you’re painting.” So true. And despite my hesitancy in getting out the paints, the joy in his paint strokes in his rainbow painting made it all worthwhile. My husband brought Ben Rector music out and everybody started dancing. I sat watching for a few moments. I smiled at their enthusiasm and joy as they all tried new dance moves. Their energy. Their giggles. Their smiles. I had to join them. Afterall, they most likely inherited their goofy dance moves from me.

The crazy thing happened when time seems to pause and stand still, a rainbow moment, after the chaos, the rain, then came the beauty. The promise. The love overflowing. They’re my rainbow boys, constantly paving the way for these moments birthed out of their love and joy for life and the simple things, like dancing on the back porch. Thank God for these beautiful moments. Thank God for the honor, the responsibility and the privilege of being their mother.