Stuffed Animals

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I think I got onto him several times today for not doing what I asked of him. Small things. Cleaning the bathroom, a chore he owed me. Or “Can you get the dog some food?” or “give your brother back the iPad” type of offenses. Not pure outward defiance. But he subtly disregarded me. Looks can be deceiving sometimes. On the outside, he still looks like a young boy but inside he is changing. Wiggling. Growing. Testing. Constantly testing. Me.
Then, there are the times when he walks over to me in the kitchen and pushes his lanky body right up in front of me. I drape my long arms around him and rest my chin on his head. And I hold him. Feel his hair. Briefly. He doesn’t need to say any words. There are also the unabashed moments when he just plops right down onto my lap around the dinner table. Typically after school. Maybe all this growing up stuff can be confusing or scary. Mom holds can help settle the uncertainty. And he knows this mama will always make room for him on the bench or find the time for extra hugs, snuggles or comfort.
He’s always preferred to fall asleep with the light on. His vivid nighttime imagination comes to life with the flip of a switch. He has quite the sleep resume: talking, walking, bed robbing and night terrors. This boy prefers less darkness. More daytime. Rightfully so. It’s safer to settle your mind when you can see the sounds and know what’s around you.
Tonight, like many nights, I saw his light on and walked in to find him asleep with his hoodie up and his arms cradling three stuffed animals: Camo, Rocket the Raccoon and Buoy, his stuffed guinea pig. His legs are getting longer. His brain keeps on getting stronger but his little boy heart still reaches back to grab onto his youth. Heart teasing moments like these pull and pull and pull on my mama’s restless heart. Please let up. It’s hard for me not to sneak right up next to him and put my hand over his heart and listen again to his deep sleep breathing. He’s so peaceful and beautiful. Nearly eleven years old. Others may venture the world to see the most breathtaking art but oh, how grateful I am to witness this boy. From the shortest distance. Up close. Sleeping. Breathing. Playing. Laughing. Arguing. Helping. Growing. Always growing.
Thank you, God, for this gift. Sacred moments. Times three.
Lord, help me with my twisting, turning, growing, constantly adapting mama’s heart.

Untangling

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I fought the wind unsuccessfully. It’s Kansas, after all. The wind tends to win most days. I escaped to the refuge of my mini van. A moment of quiet accompanied me as I sat untangling all the strings and colorful ribbons of my son’s kite. He patiently waited outside watching his brothers and the dog.
 
I remember asking for help untangling things as a child. And teen. And adult. I blamed my inability to loosen the knots on my constantly bitten nails. “Do you have any nails? Can you help me with this?” I asked those near me.
 
Wait a second. When did I become the untangler?
 
I suppose at the precise moment when I became “the mother.” I became the one my flailing children needed. I quickly learned to untangle footed pajamas and wet wipes in the night. I routinely untangled the tubing to my breast pump. As my children grew, I’ve bent over a million times or so to untangle their knotted shoestrings. “Come sit down. Watch a show,” I would often say as I untangled the back of my toddler boys’ heads of matted blonde hair. Their rabbit fine blonde hair has championed the greatest or worst bed head title for years.
 
It’s an art form: untangling. I never imagined I would be any good at it. I guess it takes practice. And patience. A willingness to pull, tug and gently make a difference. Sometimes, you’re thrown into situations and you’re the only one seemingly capable enough. You’re suddenly “the most grown up” in the room. With all the giant greenish brown eyes looking up to you, you have to do something. You adapt. You must be willing to learn on the job. In the midst of the tangles. The many different tangles of parenting.
 
Some knots are trickier than others. Some knots require more time, more experience, and a bigger investment. Some produce more tears of frustration and confusion. Untangling words and heated arguments between brothers, while remaining every boy’s loving mother, puts even the baddest ugliest quadruple knot to shame. A mama has to learn to tap into her emotional savings account: the wisdom and advice and encouragement of others. Thank, God for their listening ears, their stories, and their graceful ability to resuscitate my mothering soul.
 
Am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Will tomorrow be better? Less competitive? Holy moly. This is hard. Can I have my grabby toothless babies back for a few moments? Just for a moment of bliss. A moment of mundane. And a moment of hard to remind me that it’s not all rainbows in the past either. My mothering moments seem all tangled up in my thoughts and the steady beating of my heart. Ten years and three boys full of moments. Raw moments. Heavenly moments. Silly moments. Growing moments. Perhaps if they’re all tangled together, I won’t lose them as easily.
 
The other day I walked down to my in-law’s dock to grab the leftover towels and shoes. I looked down and noticed a struggling sky-blue dragonfly trapped in a sticky spiderweb. Lake spiders don’t mess around with their giant intricately designed webs. “Oh, you poor, dragonfly. I will help you,” I said.  I think he understood or he thought I was the spider. I gently pulled the googley-eyed dragonfly out of the sticky web. I held him in the palm of my hand. Then, I used my giant fingers to delicately untangle the web from the dragonfly’s wings. He couldn’t fly. The sticky web clung to his feet and his four wings, but he only squirmed a bit while I performed a webectomy. Then, just like that, he flew off. “Oh, goodbye,” I said. It was a magical moment. I thought I should hop into the kayak and get to work, untangling all of the webs off of the backs of the trapped dragonflies before the sun set. But I needed to get my own dragonfly boys home to bed.
 
When we learn the beauty of untangling life’s knots in one area, perhaps we give ourselves the confidence to attempt to untangle knots outside of our typical comfort zone. I’m grateful to untangle yo-yo strings, matted hair, my husband’s cables, the dog’s clumped up ear hair, and dragonfly wings. How strange and magnificent are the lessons we learn when things get knotted up.

Baby Grass Resuscitation

I feel a bit absurd raking snowy leaves in November. I can think of other more productive things to do with my time. Raking and vacuuming must be best friends. It’s quite breathtaking though, all of the bright colors that I see when I pull the rake back and forth.
I’m resuscitating the new grass my husband planted. I imagine baby gasps when I shove a clump of reddish orange leaves off the fragile green life underneath. This is where my mind goes when I do yard work and house work. Fall grass shenanigans. By the way, Mother Nature may need some sort of autumn intervention. Really. Snowing when the leaves haven’t all fallen? But this is the Midwest. You can expect anything. Or you should. Our weather is truly phenomenal for elevator small talk.
I was counting but now I’ve lost track of how many balls and toys and yard surprises(dog poop) that I’ve discovered hiding under the leaves. I pause and stare at the fully clothed tree above me and wonder what the point of all this raking truly is. The newly planted grass. Oh yeah. I’m saving it’s life. “Hurry. I’m a late first responder.” That motivates me. It makes me feel like I’m back in the emergency department. Temporarily. A little bit. But I never had to resuscitate anybody. I usually sat outside in the inside waiting room with scared siblings and cousins.
Old work stories and thoughts hop in and out of my brain. I grow rather nostalgic. I try to remember it all. The good. And. The bad. The giggles. The cries. But some twelve hour shifts could feel so long. I have forgotten so many beautiful faces. I can always see and hear the feelings though when they decide to resurface.
I shove the leaves up against the back fence. I hear my boys laughing in the front yard, throwing dirt-filled snowballs at each other. It’s one of my absolute favorite sounds, the noises that accompany the three of them playing outside. I’d rather be heaving leafy snow balls with them then resuscitating grass. And thinking so much. Being a grown-up really has a few disadvantages. Less play, more worries and duties. All of those bills to keep track of. And pay. Neon notices. Dishes. Leaking ceilings. It all sounds so boring. I did forget R-rated movies and alcohol. Whoop. Whoop.
I’ll venture to the front yard, after all, since
we’re out of lawn bags. I’m thinking that it’s really not the best leaf collecting form to put sopping beautiful leaves in a brown paper bag. Shouldn’t they get brown and crunchy first?
Nonetheless, I succeeded. The new grass has a strong heartbeat again. Or perhaps I’ve removed its colorful blanket and now it will shiver all night. I don’t know. I suppose I did my job. Maybe.
I’m definitely not a grass life Specialist.

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Two Banana Moons

0EF060B7-D0C3-4830-B717-43EBC7D58DD3If I ever get so old that I can’t remember much, I hope I never forget the sound of your deep sleep breathing as I stare at the two banana moons on your ceiling. Oh, how I cherish our good night chats when you ask me all the tricky questions that I don’t quite know how to answer. You see, my mom brain stops working at this time of night when I lay beside you, but my mama’s heart tries its hardest to remember every little thing.
I hear the rain outside your window. Drip. Drip. Dripping down the gutter. Your forehead rests underneath my chin. You’ve always been the greatest snuggly cuddle bug. On that first early August morning when you were born, you claimed a perfect resting place right there on the left side of my chest. You’ve always been ever-so-slow to wake up. The nurses were worried about you in the hospital. You had a rough start. I wasn’t worried, I don’t think. You just needed some time to rest. You like your sleep, much like your mama. Each morning, when you’re not quite awake, you ask or demand for a ride down the stairs. My creaky knees shout “he’s too big!” but my strong mama’s heart says, “a million times, yes.”
You and your big brothers make me so proud. Every single day. Your tender, adventurous spirits teach me how to love without limits and laugh with pure open mouth joy. The weight of taking good care of you guides me to set boundaries to protect you, life’s most precious gifts. It’s an enormous responsibility for your Dad and I. Fortunately, it’s a job that comes with quite a few perks.
You train me to be strong and confident and humble and weak. Your enormous eyes and beautiful freckles capture and remind me of such endless beauty and never ceasing wonder. That of a creator whose love cannot be denied. I’m a better person because of you. I’m able to experience the world through three different sets of eyes. Six gigantic ones, thick lashed and bleached out on the tips. All of your beautiful brown eyes looking out at the world and up at me. One day, I suppose, I will be looking up at you.
 I’m grateful. I’m humbled. I’m mesmerized. I’m usually overwhelmed. Thank you for being my boys. I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest mom on the planet. Especially the planet inside your rooms. The one with the blue or green ceiling stars and two banana moons.
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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