The Great Carriers

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“Mom, can you carry my……”

Stick. Backpack. Shoes. Water bottle. Glove. Coat. Trash. Sweatshirt. Books. Ball. Gum. Ripstick. Scooter. Skates. Hockey stick. Socks. Deer antler. Bug. Feather. Half-eaten food.

(Newly designed cardboard) robot?

Please don’t drop it. Or lose it. Or break it, ok? Just carry it all around downtown Kansas City for me. Please?

When they’re babies, we, parents, hold our kids. We carry them. They ask or demand, “Hold you, Mama?” Or “Hold-you-me?” On our hips. On our chests. On our backs. In car seats. In expensive back-saving Ergo baby carriers. But then, something changes, all of the sudden, they want to use their legs to walk. Run. Jump. Fall. They don’t need us to carry them anymore. Most of the time. But, they definitely need us to be the great carriers.

The holders of important stuff. The grown-up, living, moving trapper keepers of their kid adventures. All sorts of day-to-day things. There’s nothing too great or seemingly too unimportant for a parent to carry. Our hands are bigger. Stronger. And less preoccupied by the next activity. We are highly intelligent when it comes to knowing where trash cans are. Oh. “Right there.” We aren’t planning on using our arms to climb across monkey bars or break our wreckless falls attempting to parkour or climb a random pole.

“Mom, can you carry this? Pleeeeeease?”

Ok. Fine. Yes.

And so we do. We carry their stuff.

We also carry loads that our kids don’t see. We carry the enormous weight of being a parent. We carry our hopes, our concerns, and our worries for our children. We carry or perhaps, drag our fears. We carry our struggles, our insecurities. We carry the uncertainties of other children who don’t live in our homes. We carry the past, our own childhoods. We carry our constantly evolving parenting selves the best ways that we can.

Sometimes, we carry far too much for one worn-out body to hold. That’s when we need help. When we’re holding too much to manage on our own. We need those who walk alongside of us. We need those who see us and graciously reach out to help us clean up our messes. They recognize our hunched over backs and tired eyes. They say, “I’ve been in a hurry” or “I’ve carried too much before, too. Let me help you.”

Isn’t that what we’re all here to do: Love each other and help each other get through. Life can be heavy and lonely and overwhelming. We can make it less heavy, less lonely and maybe underwhelming if we take a second or minute or hour to stop and recognize each other’s eyes and the weights we all carry.

“Let me help you.”

And we do.

 

Freckle Constellations

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I may not recognize the constellations in tonight’s sky but I’ve seen the Little Dipper on your cheeks. As you tell me things like, “I really want a rhino to lick my face,” I trace an imaginary line back and forth between each freckle on your nose. I can’t help but soak in the beauty of your eyelashes, your freckles, your oversized grown-up teeth, a sweet new addition to your innocent six-and-a-half year old face. You may not remember these moments forever but I will hold onto them tight enough for the both of us.

I snapped a picture when you weren’t looking. While our brightly colored toenails dried. I’m so grateful and proud to be your mom. I will attempt the monkey bars, see saw, and superman swing with you on any beautiful spring day of the week. I love you a million, bazillion, beyond Pluto and back. I will dot to dot all the stars tonight and think of how grateful I am for your sun-kissed face. Your curious brain. Your welcoming, friendly, kind and inclusive heart. Your inquisitive and complimentary soul. Your strong monkey arms and your “supa fast” legs. Oh, and today, your perfectly mismatched pink, blue and purple toenails. I love every little beautiful thing that makes you special and unique and 100% pure therapeutic grade-Colby. I loved all of today. Every single drop.

Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for dropping pine cone bases for me so I wouldn’t touch the mulch. Thank you for waiting on me. Thank you for stopping and noticing so many gifts of new people, flowers, trees and the great outdoors. Thank you for loving the simple, wild and free things in life. Thank you for going to school in the morning and unknowingly becoming one of my wisest teachers in the afternoon.

Clean Bathroom Rug

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I laid my head down on the rug of my bathroom floor. Only because I had just washed it. It had not gotten all smushed down from repeated post-shower use. Yet. It was still fluffy and clean. And that worked out well because I was exhausted. Sad. Confused. Emotional. Beyond repair. Boggled thoughts. Unable to articulate what exact thought or event had triggered my current “distant” and sensitive state.

“What’s wrong with me?” I thought.

I emotionally scanned myself. It’s always difficult to determine what may be the exact reason for a sudden onset of the blues. Parenting exhaustion. Disease fatigue. A wave of grief. The grumps. A negative outlook. A sour face to go along with a curdled disposition.

My husband knows me well. It’s as if he immediately saw my thoughts escape somewhere else, away from the rowdy dinner table. I couldn’t tell another boy to sit down and eat. So I sat there apathetically. I knew that a glass of milk would soon surely spill but I was prepared to not react. My husband asked what was wrong.

“It’s complicated,” is what I thought.

So, I said nothing. One of my boys waved his hand across my eyes because I stared out the window. Apparently, I had not blinked or changed my facial expression in long enough for him to notice.

Occasionally, I get a bit overwhelmed. Maybe we all do. By life, in general. Or every little and big thing from the laundry to a busy next week to aching kidneys. And all the changes. The big adjustments. And the little ones, too. The future. The unknowns.

I can overthink. Overfeel. I can beat myself up but that doesn’t ever help. There are so many days. Juggling life’s moments scattered with a lot of relationships can be tricky, especially if you’re not so graceful like me. Balls drop. I sometimes bend over to pick them up quickly. Quick! Nobody saw that! Other times, I can’t get to them before my little people hand them to me. Then nights like tonight, I just plop myself down on the ground. I take a break from all of the juggling because I’m tired. And sad. It feels like one of them nailed me smack dab on my face, right on that sensitive part of my nose. Ouch.

Shhh. Be very quiet.

There is a hidden great grandma introvert rocking away inside of me. There are times when my extroverted self needs a break. I need to retreat to a serene, distraction-free place. All by myself. It doesn’t matter the place. A bathroom floor or a secluded overly full closet will do. I just want to curl up like a baby or a tired long-legged child. I don’t want to answer any questions. I don’t want to be touched. I don’t want to worry about the present or the future. I need to release a swarm of tears. Alone. I don’t want anyone to worry about me because I will be okay. I really will.

I promise.

I will get up off of the clean rug. I will say goodnight to my big boys and cuddle my six and a half year old baby boy. I will wake up to a new day full of life, hope and endless possibilities. I know that the same three energetic boys who hugged me as tight as they possibly could when they said “goodnight” will wake me, tickle me, wrestle me and laugh me out of bed when the sun rises again.

Tonight, I told myself that it’s okay to be sad, grieving the past and overwhelmed at the future from time to time. Here you go self, sadness permission granted. I think I do a pretty damn good job of being genuinely happy and grateful most of the days. Some moments or days are just harder for whatever reason. However big or small.

I’m not giving up, just taking a moment to recover. I try my hardest to cherish most of the days, even the challenging ones. I typically push myself to find the good. The sparks of light or the gigantic sunset in front of my face. I try to recognize and embrace the fleeting moments.

But there are some moments that come at me like a fall off the monkey bars. They knock the breath out of me. They arrive quickly and unexpectedly. Wind escapes and it’s just so hard to breathe. I try not to panic, or overreact, so I can just get through them. Wait. Don’t try to breathe yet. Oh, dear Lord, see me, hear me and help me. All the time but especially during these hard overwhelming moments. And help others like me.

Slowly. Gently.

Breathe in, and breathe out.

There. I did it.

I step out of the bathroom and think,

“Goodnight, tonight. Welcome, tomorrow. It will be so nice to see you.”

 

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

-Psalm 147:3

 

Lucky #13

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I’m not going to go all Celine Dion song on you. I’m just going to say a few things about our “lucky number thirteen.” Wait. What! Thirteen years of marriage.

On the night of our wedding, you helped me get out of my beautiful dress and then you waited patiently for me and helped me as I handled the first of countless unpredictable effects of my chronic disease on our marriage. That’s what you have always done in the most loving and compassionate ways. You wait with me. You wait for me. You wait on me.

You willingly help me conquer some of my rational and irrational fears. Or you sometimes fight the tiny battles for me. You always do the weird gross things like reaching your hand down the garbage disposal when a super hero or spoon is stuck. Or some other strange object has journeyed to that fear-inducing land.

And you do other harder things too. You sit with me when I’m sad. You hold me. You hug me in the driveway. You gently help me find my laugh when I’ve misplaced it or purposely put it in a top secret hiding place. Why would I put it in the deep freezer? Weird.

You generously donated to the cause of procreating. And you let me love on, worry about and (over)protect our three most precious gifts in crazy unconditional ways. You create with them. Laugh with them and play with them in face-hurting-from-smiling kind of ways.

I don’t quite understand how you can love me as much as you do and show it in such heart stopping ways. You think I’m beautiful when I’m a giant slobbering mess. Yet, you sometimes forget to tell me when I get all cleaned up. You encourage and support me and think I can damn near do anything. You probably think I can fly. Or you would watch a YouTube video on “how to fly” then show me that I could. Probably with the help of some wings, that you purchase from Amazon prime.

You put up with all my scatterbrained tendencies. The oh, so-many creative projects going on at the same time. You play the piano while I load the dishes and make me cry. Your music frees up the restrained feelings in my soul. Your enthusiasm for explaining a song makes me crave music like chocolate.

Your contagious love for others, even complete strangers, makes me feel closer to Jesus.

You urge me to keep writing. You give me the gift of time, always sweetly yet sternly telling me how much my voice matters.

After thirteen years, you still may not understand certain ways about me like why I would need to make the hummingbirds their dinner before our own but you don’t put up a fight about it.

Sorry for all of the sweaters I have shrunk over the years. Sorry for all of the smoke alarm dinners I’ve burned. Thanks for always making me laugh. Thanks for all of the kitchen hugs. Thanks for the ways that you father our boys. Thanks for petting Gizmo. Thanks for loving on those around you in inspiring and contagious ways. Thanks for thirteen years of pure awesome chaos.

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You’re my favorite.

I believe if everybody had this kind of love, the world would be different. Better. A million times better.

Words Will Hurt Me

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“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We used to say this during arguments as kids. Blah, blah, blah. It’s a total lie and/or I’ve grown a much thinner, more sensitive skin as I age because words will hurt. Especially when they tumble out of the mouths of those I love the most and bend over backwards for all day. Every day.

My six year has not felt well or slept well this week. He has a stinky fever and cough virus. I know this. I’ve dosed his Motrin and kept a running med time log on a post-it note. Nurse Fancy, I know. I’ve laid next to him in the middle of many nights to help prop up his head to alleviate his 2 am coughing fits. I’ve seen him shiver and watched him eat only a bite of his food and be “done.” Yet, still, in the midst of him whining or unintentionally ordering me around or not allowing his brothers to look in his general direction or touch him, I begin to get tired and then I drop my patience. Big surprise, it’s hard to find it on my dirty floor. There’s a fine line between kid-sick grouchiness and rudeness and downright meanness.

Today, I talked to my son after one of his spells where the virus took over, transforming him into a not nice boy. He hurt me with his words. Badly. I told him that he didn’t get to say mean things to me. I told him that he used his words like a weapon. They hurt my tired and sensitive heart. I then showed him a burn on my arm(the other night I flung the chicken into the hot, oil coated pan a bit too hard) I talked to him about how ouchies on your skin can heal and often go away but ouchies from someone’s words can take a longer time to heal. Heart wounds. Later on, he asked, “will you ever forget what I said?” And he also asked me if “your heart actually breaks when someone says something mean.”

I’m not happy that he’s been sick and tired. Or that I get to be one of the targets for his overly exhausted behaviors, but I will gladly accept the opportunity for teaching my typically kind-hearted boy about the misuse and the power of his words.

I knew that grease burn would come in handy.

I forgave him. As I always will a million times. I will probably soon forget his frustrated words like I hope, on my grouchy days, he forgets mine too. However, I hope I will not ever forget the restorative magic of him pointing to the moon tonight and quickly saying, “I love you to the moon and back!” There’s something undeniably peaceful and beautiful and gratifying about making it to the gorgeous time of day when the sun is slipping down and the moon has risen high.

Whew. If only I could give jump up and give the moon a hug..because I did it! Another gloriously long day in the books.

A twisting, turning,
super high and then
crying-under-my-sunglasses low
kind of day. All in a mother’s day.

Peter Pan

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I tend to get a little sentimental and/or sad on my children’s first and last days. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the birth of my third son. But tonight, I’m secretly grieving the last day of having a five year old. He came running into the kitchen with his older brother’s costume on. Ahhhh. Peter Pan. Well, it was supposed to be Robin Hood but he changed it to Peter Pan. It was a bit too much on my aching mama heart. He proudly placed the blue heron feather in his hat that we found at the creek. I took a picture of him standing in the kitchen. His shadow even hopped into the shot. All I could think of was Peter Pan and why, oh why does this sweet one-dimpled smiling boy standing in front of me need to grow up?

Because “All children, except one grow up.” Thanks, J.M. Barrie.

Every birthday, starting school year, or developmental milestone, we, as parents, are reminded that our child will not be the exception. Growing up is extraordinarily beautiful. It’s a joyful ever-changing gift. A privilege. Yet, I still console myself. Because it’s also tricky. Unknown. Ever changing. New. Challenging. A bit heart grasping, tugging, pulling, and twisting. How many ways will my beautiful boy change and grow over the next year? Will he stop saying, “You blunked!” when he wins a staring contest. Will my right hip finally get a break because he won’t need me to carry him when his “legs are too tired to walk.” Will his smile forever change with the loss of his baby teeth? Will he lose a bit more of his innocence as he encounters unkind children or adults at school? Most likely yes. And yes. I know this.

As he proudly holds up another finger on his second hand to tell his age, six, we will keep on loving him and encouraging him and praying for him. We will continue to do our best to protect him and teach him and learn from him. We will hope and pray that we provide an environment where he will grow to his potential. In the midst of the long, short, chaotic or melancholy days, we will never cease to be fascinated, humbled and completely overwhelmed by him and by his growth.

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Happy two handed birthday to the most persistent little(big) mama’s right hip hitchhiker, the always eager to sit-on-the-kitchen counter helper, the first to volunteer for any-boring-old errand runner, the greatest question asker and late night conversationalist, the sweetest middle-of-the-night snuggler, the most perfectly timed one-dimple smile-turned-giggler, and the most accommodating little brother. And even though he sometimes claims he doesn’t like to “always be third,” he’s a better third than we could have ever imagined.

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We all love you so dang much, Colbs. Thanks for giving me the best job in the world, being your mama.

 

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Patty Griffin helps me work through my kids birthdays. All the feels.

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.