5 AM Birds

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Don’t get me wrong, I do love the birds, but just not at five in the morning. What are they doing jabbering away so much this early? It’s still dark outside. They’re persistent little pip squeaks. Maybe they’re begging for the sun to come out so they can eat their breakfast with the light on. They’re only bothering me because they highlight the fact that I can’t sleep. My guts hurt. And I can’t do much, but think and think because everyone’s asleep in my house.

I can’t stop worrying about how I need to get so many things done. Just in case I have to go to the hospital. Then, I start crying in the bed. Lying on my side to help with the cramping. Shhh. My quiet left-sided tears travel over the bridge of my nose and join up to make a puddle in my right eye. I don’t want to go to the hospital. There’s never a good time.

My four year old just woke up saying,

“Mama…..Maaaaaaaamaaaaa……..mama?”

So, I tip-toed into his room to snuggle him back to bed. I can’t do this when I’m in the hospital.

Yesterday, my bigger boys and sweet niece begged me to play “Monster” outside, a game where I chase them around the yard. I did it even though I was hurting and my mom told me to stop playing. Because I knew I would be bummed if I said no and then ended up in the hospital, stuck in a drab room, unable to chase them around in the grass. I also jumped into the freezing cold pool. That’s what this disease does to me. It makes me overthink things sometimes. It makes me not want to miss out on or regret an opportunity gently tapping or banging on my door. I hate it sometimes. But I guess it makes me different. In a good way.

I watched a video of our Florida trip tonight. My husband put it together using photos and video clips of our boys. It’s beautiful. My boys. The ocean. Breathtakingly gorgeous. Truly. I couldn’t believe how much my sweet beach loving boys have grown in a few short years. Time constantly moves on, whether we acknowledge or accept it or not.

I will make it through this phase of my disease acting up. I know it. God always carries me though. I’m not strong enough on my own to make it through the pain, all of the unknowns, and let-downs, that’s for sure. He also gives me people that love me in crazy, feel-good-despite-the-yuck ways and he steadily holds my head to focus in their direction to help me see them.

I’m impatient, I just want to feel better. Now. Right now. And I want to make sure and remind my future healthy self to remember this unprompted five am wake up call.

“Dear Future Amelia,

Be grateful of your sleeping, your eating, your dish loading (meh) and your playing. Be grateful for each day, especially those awesome moments, because they’re all a gift, even if it was a crappy day in the grand scheme of days. You got one more. Embrace the love and the life that surrounds you, even if it’s those hyper morning birds. They can’t help it if they don’t like eating in the dark…

love,

Presently Flared up Amelia”

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

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.

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.