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.

Costco Nap

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As I carried my big boy around Costco and pushed the empty cart, I mentally prepared myself for somebody to make a comment about him being too big for me to carry around. Because sadly, it’s happened many times before.  I awkwardly reached for a pineapple and some mangoes and then I felt his weight change. He got heavier. I knew he had fallen asleep but I couldn’t see his face. I started to notice people kindly waiting for me to push my shopping cart past or smiling as they saw my fast-asleep long-legged four year old boy.

On a Monday, like today, I might respond to someone’s unsolicited comment by saying, “he’s been missing me at work all weekend and this is how I know it…he asked for me to hold him.” I know that I don’t need to provide an explanation to anybody, much less a complete stranger, of why I carry my child who is no longer a baby, who has working legs. I carry him most Tuesday through Fridays, too. I carry him because he politely asks me (most times) in the sweetest voice, “Mama, could you hold me?” He used to demand, “hold you, me.” I carry him because today, I’m strong enough to carry him. I carry him because I love him and he loves me. Because I love to hold him and he loves for me to hold him. I carry him because I held several babies and toddlers at work this weekend and it made me miss my own kids that aren’t babies or toddlers anymore. Those are a few of the reasons why I do it.

And if you truly wanted an ear full, I would tell you that I believe that too many parents want their kids to grow up. Too fast. They want them to do too much before they’re ready or big enough, physically or emotionally. I would tell you that growing up has it’s limited perks and that once you leave childhood, early or later, it’s hard to go back. And it’s hard to make up for lost time as a parent. Practically impossible. I would tell you that I will never regret holding my kids longer or carrying them asleep on my shoulder, as I awkwardly shop for groceries. Honestly, there’s a pretty selfish reason too. I don’t think they will ask me to carry them much longer. It feels pretty good to be important, needed and loved on by these incredibly beautiful children. And I don’t worry that my teenage sons will ask to be held so they can take a nap on my shoulder on a future Costco run. I do worry that they may be lifting more and more food into my cart. That they will help unload.

When I pushed my cart to the checkout line, a woman behind me saw me hold my big sleeping child wrapped around my hips the best that I could manage him while unloading my groceries. She thoughtfully asked me how she could help me. I nearly cried when she said, “I remember those days.” Because it’s Monday and I saw the look in her eyes. And she didn’t tell me he was to big to carry around. She got it. She understood. And that meant the world to me, especially on a Monday.

Green Eyes

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Someday you will not be near me. Someday you will cry and I will not be there to hear you, to see your face turn splotchy or watch as your tears slide down your cheeks. I will not be there to witness your gigantic bright brown eyes as they turn to the beautiful mossy green when they fill with the hurt, frustration, sadness or painful tears that change them. I won’t be close enough to witness your enormous eyelashes cling together from sopping up a tear here or there as you blink, plead through labored breaths and say, “I don’t want to be “it.” Or “Why do I always have to be thiwd(third)?”

This pains me to think about because as much as I hate to see you cry, I always want to be there for you. Always, as in forever. Like I have always been with you. And you have always been with me. Through everything. I want to hold you, carry you, hug you and look you in the eye and help you understand life’s frustrations, both the big hard-to-comprehend ones and the tiny, yet completely unfair ones.

I never realized that sadness could be so beautiful until I looked into your eyes that day. You came running over, then stood in front of me with your body slouched over, crying with your head pressed up against that giant tree. You looked so small. Again. The sun must have hit your face perfectly. And that’s when I saw your big tears transform the color of your eyes. They did the beautiful color changing trick, in a dramatic way, a way that I had never seen before. I think I will hold that picture of you in my heart forever. Your dark brown eyes turned green. See-through-green, like the moss growing above the tree trunk that cradled your head, only a million times more beautiful. I knew your brown eyes always had green in them, like mine, but with your head rested up against that tree, I stood trying to comfort you mesmerized.

You hate when your brothers run after only you and tag you in the game of “hide and seek.” You hate to be “it.” You’re a little scared to count by yourself. It seems unfair. Because they’re older, taller and quicker than you right now. Because you are third. Please don’t hurry, slow down. Don’t grow up so fast, my sweet youngest boy.

Yesterday, in the car, you asked me,

“Why did I gwow up third?”

I answered, “You were in my belly third.”

Then you added in your precious, figuring out-the-world voice, “Because it was so warm in there and I wanted to stay in there.”

It was too precious to correct you. You are my third child. My third son. You possess so many breathtakingly beautiful characteristics that impact the world for good. I hope one day when you cry without me there that you will always remember how important you are and that you will always, always carry my love with you in those beautiful brown eyes. And in the green eyes too. But most importantly, stored up inside that tiny mighty heart of yours.

Letting Go

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From an early age in life, we crave a bit of control. Control over a toy or our parents. Or a sibling. Control over what food we want to eat. Or not eat. Control over what ridiculous clothes we want to wear. “What? A swimsuit doesn’t look good with tights under it?” As we grow older, we strive to control bigger things. Situations. Our work environment. Our home environment. Our spouses. And oftentimes, our children.

I have found that sometimes God chooses the most inopportune times to show us that we are not in as much control as we may think. I have a chronic illness that has wrecked my plans on too many occasions to count. It’s a pretty helpless feeling when the world outside of your bathroom or hospital room continues on. Without you. I have had to learn to let go. Of what was supposed to be, but now will not be. I try and just remind myself to focus on the next breath. The next minute. The next step. Not tomorrow or next week. Definitely not next year. Just the moment right in front of me. This can be difficult with three little ones outside of the door. Waiting on me.

It’s a lesson that I quickly forget when I recover. It’s one of the hardest parts of having something always, something that never goes away. It’s an illusion to try and control something like a chronic illness. I think it is a practice that has helped me let go of certain struggles as a parent. I have three boys that help remind me on a daily basis that my plans may differ greatly from God’s plans for me and my family. I think God intends for this to take some of the weight off of us. Just wait. Stop worrying. He’s got this. He’s got you.

1 Corinthians 2:9

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Maybe he hopes we will let go and let him help take some of the pressure off. The pressure we put on ourselves to do a million things a day and raise loving, compassionate, generous, caring, honest, and kind-hearted children.

The other night I was in pain and I couldn’t help put my children to bed. I hate when I can’t be the mom I want to be because of my disease. Doing it all. One of my seven year old boys came in to my room and said, “Mom, can I get you some water?” Of course. And maybe some toilet paper for my tears. My heart nearly exploded because of his unprompted kindness. And compassion. And patience with me. Then one of my other sons asked, “Mom, can I hold your hand?” Suddenly, I didn’t feel like such a burden. Suddenly, I could let go to realize the power in my sons’ tender hearts and love-filled actions trumped any of my shortcomings as a mother.

God worked through my two sons to lighten my load.

We can never predict the good that God will bring out of situations where we lack control. Situations where we feel overwhelmed. Situations where we feel unprepared for what’s before us. God looks out for us and constantly surrounds us with his grace and love. Sometimes the greatest lessons will come out of the mouths of the most innocent and dependent ones in our house. God works in mysterious ways. We have to let go of the control sometimes to humbly learn that there are much bigger plans in store for us. Plans we can’t begin to fathom. Because we love God. And he loves us more.

Grass Stains

 

 

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As I pulled the wagon up the hill, holding my four year old, and carrying the portable soccer goals, one of my sons lagged behind, barely walking as he held his soccer ball in his hands. Everybody had low blood sugar. It was nearing dinnertime. I looked back and I noticed that my son was visibly upset, with his head looking downward, while his shoulders stooped. I stopped the wagon and saw his tears. I asked him why he was crying.

“He’s gooder than me.” The words sputtered out. “He’s gooder than me at soccer.”

There was something so painfully innocent, yet heartbreaking hearing the words escape through the gap of his missing front tooth. A beautiful seven year old boy with disheveled, sweaty blonde hair and one pant leg pulled up. I had just finished watching and playing soccer with my three boys. Throughout the games, I stopped and talked about the rules of soccer after several (overly) competitive bouts had landed one or two boys tangled up on the grass. It looked more like rugby or football. “You can’t elbow or tackle each other. You can use your shoulders. Soccer is a contact sport, which means you’re going to bump into each other, fall down and most likely get some bruises.” Their boney knees were covered in grass stains. I shuffled the teams around. My youngest boy happily played goalie, unaware or perhaps painfully aware, of the battle going on in front of him between his older two brothers.

Our walks home from the park tend to be the perfect time for talking about important issues like nature, bullying, death, or today, sibling rivalry. I talked to my boys about growing up with sisters. I talked about my older sister, specifically, and how great she was at basketball. Much better than me. She could score on any defender from any where on the court. I spent countless hours after practice in high school rebounding her free throws and three pointers. I talked to my boys about why I think I became such a good defender besides the fact that I was skinny as all get-out and I had to out-hustle all of the bigger girls. It was also because I grew up guarding my older sister. I think I should credit the majority of my skills to the fact that I usually had to guard “Miss Basketball(she literally was)” in driveway pick-up games and practices. And I had my own fair share of frustrating, tear-filled moments of my sister being “gooder than me.”

We talked about how different we all are from one another. We talked about how our weaknesses can help us get stronger if we don’t give up. That it’s okay to get upset, maybe sad or disappointed, but then we have to keep working hard to figure out how to be better. Or maybe different. I talked to my boys about how young they are, how they have so many things that they haven’t even tried yet. It’s these kind of moments, when I’m talking to my twin boys, that help me realize how important it is to not define ourselves by comparing our strengths, weaknesses, or capabilities to somebody else. Not even to our very own twin brother.

I know as a mother to three boys that I will be dealing with this battle for years to come. My husband and I work really hard not to label or predetermine the places or heights that our children will soar. But it’s a tricky business navigating the places we’ve never been or experienced through the eyes of a parent and vicariously through the lives of our children. We do the best we can with the knowledge and experiences we have, both good and bad, which sometimes feel inadequate. At the end of the day, the most important and truthful thing we usually have said all day is how very much we love them. That will be something that they will never ever have to doubt. No matter what. No matter how good they are at soccer, no matter how good they are at playing the drums, drawing, reading, riding a bike, or any other thing they try. They will always know they are loved beyond measure.

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.

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.