When it’s time.

It was the day that the clouds ran across the sky like a river, and somehow my kids knew. 

You can’t hide things like that from children. Not even the quiet nuances enfolded into whispered conversations where words like “ventilator” and “not long,”  are tossed back and forth, crushing the people on both ends of the line. Both the ones that have to say it, and the ones who hear it for the first time.

The same people who look at the sky after they hang up the phone, and wonder why today is the day, when the sun is shining through the way it is, because it wasn’t supposed to be today.

Somehow, kids know that you are totally different when you hang up the phone. 

You’re just thankful that they can’t see your weary face up in the front seat from where they sit in the back, and you are just as thankful that they would rather look out the window at the passing scenery then at your sagging, heartbroken eyes. 

But then they ask you how God made everything that we see rolling past our car windows, and you know that somehow, they instinctively and unknowingly realized that today is the day that we needed to talk about such things. To say them out loud to each other and to ourselves.

Today we need segment our thoughts, talk about it how we each see it so that we can piece it all together to really understand. We needed to feel the pain that comes from wondering why the dried sunflowers rustling against the hot wind out in the fields had to die.

I had to tell them that everything fades, even us, because it’s what’s supposed to happen.

But God? He spoke and simply breathed everything into being with one word because He could because that’s just what He does. We are the creation, and we could only breathe life in to our newly dust-formed lungs, and sputter out that first aching breath when He told us that it was time to rise.

I told them how we are all only a few stunted breaths away from dying, but we were surely only ever a word spoken away from existing. How the breathing is what happens to us on a molecular level, but we really didn’t start living until the word was spoken, and the soul appeared. And the soul, clever, wonderful thing that it is, is what rises by the command of the word when the body fades away back to the dust.

And now, your face is in my mind as always, as thoughts turn over one right after the other, as the clouds in the sky run together like a celestial white river against a stark blue backdrop and pool somewhere just over the horizon.

Then I wonder where you go when you close your eyes forever.

I’ve always marveled at sepia toned photographs of loved ones who have passed hanging in wallpapered hallways. I run my fingers over them, smudge their glass corners, straighten them against the flowered wall. Ponder long and hard the smiling faces and the eyes that have closed forever, and I wonder where they went.

And if they knew.

I wonder if my photos, one day, will look old and worn like these do, or if mine will have the luxury of having an Instagram filter veneer, but does that really even matter?

We are the flowers, and the flowers fade. And then, they’re gone. But that’s what flowers are supposed to do. But what’s left of us is actually all of us, and all we need, and we breathe again on the other side of eternity, where the clouds pool just beyond the horizon. And our eyes open again for the first time for the last time, and we see with such clarity the way it’s supposed to be. Even better than all of those times that heartbreak caused us to wonder why and broke and scattered us into a million pieces as we tried to gather ourselves back up to keep going. It’s the things that cannot be shaken that remain, and when that is all that remains, we will have eyes to see, when we have finally been fully gathered.

Only now, you’re gathered one last time, for the rest of time. 

And now in my mind I hear the footsteps of a dozen grand children, the voices of four daughters who loved you. A wife who made your meals just the way you wanted them, who always held you together when you probably didn’t even realize it with the flick of her cane and a quick knowing glance from behind her glasses.

I hear all of the conversations in joyful spurts around the Thanksgiving table with the white lace table cloth, and the perfect dressing and gravy. I remember all of the goodbyes on Christmas nights from tired children with red cheeks, their innocent ‘thank you’s’ for their presents, completely high off of Christmas lights and the fudge that was always hidden in the secret cookie tin. 

And the sincere pledges shouted into the cold air before the car doors closed that we would all call when we had arrived home safely.

It’s burned into my mind forever, the both of you, standing in the drive way. Two of you as one, waving off the people who make up the negative space around you. And it’s just as much the negative space around someone that creates a life and lets people know that we were here to begin with, we really were. We were more than just the photographs and the eyes that are now closed. We are more than the pine box, the final breath. 

How lucky I was to have almost thirty Christmases like that. How sad I am that it will never, ever be the same again. That none of us will. How amazing it was that even when I was thirty, my grandpa would slip me a twenty on the way out the door, his gentle cologne wafting into my nose, and admonish me with a smile and a nod to take care of my mother.

I always said that I would.

And I promise that I always will. 

 

 

 

 

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We get a say

It had been a long day. 

Like, the baby was up at all hours of the night, we need to go to the doctor for my sons sudden and mysterious rash, we meant to get to the park a lot earlier than we are, why are there more Lego’s and markers out on the table??, kind of day.

Motherhood is crazy making. 

The same tasks that you’re sick of you will surely do over and over. Every day starts off with the best of intentions and is instead ended with a symphony of, “well, maybe tomorrow”s

We finally made it to the park. Two hours after we started trying. But the baby was cluster feeding so the plans to enjoy the late autumn sunshine and walk there were a bust because by the time we walked out the door the sun was already setting because daylight savings time is ridiculous and it’s already blustery out from that system that’s moving in. But, at least we got to play a little.

I was already worried from thinking about winter and being cooped up all day with crazy kids and grayer weather. Wondering what we were going to do with ourselves.

But, we made it to the park. Not before I almost lost it on the way out the door because as I was going around gathering hats and jackets I saw that the house had exploded again. Or maybe the blinders were off and I saw it for the mess that it really was for the first time all day (or, let’s be honest, in several days). I almost lost it because I’m tired and I’m tired of it all and I’m frustrated because I’m starting to sound like one of those, ” if you keep leaving it out, I’m just gonna throw it away” moms.

Like that actually solves anything or fixes the problem. Like that bridges the gap between my children and myself and let’s them know that I love them and that I’m understanding with them and that it really is all okay. Because that same little stuff that I tell them not to worry themselves over, like when toys break, or milk gets spilled or their art project doesn’t turn out perfect is the same kind of little stuff that visibly eats away at mommy. 

And I know it’s not ok, but sometimes I just want to feel like it’s ok to give up and throw in the towel because it’s too hard. I want someone to hit “reset” for me.

We made it to the park and the wind was whipping my hair, signs of that cold front moving in. And I watched my son try to cart-wheel and I saw my daughter go down the biggest slide there was twice in a row and I distinctly remember her being too afraid to do that in the past.

Suddenly, they’re changing. Motherhood is so maddening because you sometimes want to give up or wish it all to be easier but you so desperately want to hang on to every bit of it.

And the cold front moves into my heart, sometimes out of nowhere and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to keep it at bay. And I worry if I’m the only mother who feels like she had to wage war to enjoy all of this because my natural inclination is to not. At all.

My natural inclination is to want things to be exactly how I want them to be, at all times, in all circumstances. No uphill climb. Not forgoing a shower for three days in a row. No spending my Saturday morning to myself scrubbing the shower because that’s the only time that I can do it without them being underfoot. Joy when I’m up to my elbows in spit up and chores.

We made our way over to the baseball field behind the park and started playing a game with the ball and the bases. And they loved it. And for a few minutes, with the phone left in my pocket and my expectations of motherhood to constantly be this transcendent experience forgotten about, we just enjoyed ourselves.

Expectations are like an anchor that we can suddenly find ourselves tied to. Instead of anchoring us level and secure, it will pull us under if we aren’t careful.

Instead of riding the waves, instead of harnessing the wind when the days are good and when they don’t go so great, we sink. When the days are rough, we should either let ourselves go with it and be tossed, or we harness the momentum against itself and turn things into something better. We go further than we thought that we would get. 

We don’t have to sink.

I don’t have to sink. I forget that I. Don’t. Have. To sink. And I actually have a say in it.

I can be on top of it. Not by getting it all done, but by remembering what matters. Remembering that grace is ever flowing, ever free. Tomorrow is a new day. My children are what matters. And there is no place that I would rather be.

Firm and secure. And true. 

I just have to hold on.

 

 

Say It Ain’t So

There are a lot of things that I think people need not feel bad about.

(Some of these people are moms.)

Liking Twinkies, for instance. Or taking their smart phone with them into the bathroom. Or feeling too lazy to get up from the sofa to get the Chapstick out of their purse.

OK, so all of those things are, incidentally, things that I am personally guilty of. But really, I can’t be the only one that enjoys a good Twinkie now and then. And I know that I’m not the only person who isn’t interested in getting up from the couch when The Walking Dead is on, chapped and burning lips be darned!!

The thought occurred to me that while there are plenty of frivolous things that I don’t really feel all that bad about, along with lots of other folks I’m sure, there are also some kind of big things that maybe I *am* a wee bit ashamed of. And a lot of them involve parenting my children. I have seen other blogs do the “motherhood confessional” posts. Where anonymous moms write in their darkest parenting secrets and then they are shared for all of the public to see. I think that is awesome. No shame in that.

But sometimes, it helps to see someone who you know, or feel like you know, share things that they might not normally share. Putting a face with a personal insecurity takes the edge off. Suddenly, you know someone else who has also let their children have cereal for dinner and you end up not feeling so bad. Because we have all been there. 

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Sometimes, when one of my children (either one) cry in the middle of the night, I lay awake in my bed…waiting it out. This is nearly insufferable at times, and it isn’t like I’m going to actually be able to fall back asleep while I’m listening to them fuss. I just have to wait it out first and hope that they can sort it out on their own. Sometimes, even after I am convinced that they aren’t going to go back to sleep without my assistance, I wait a bit longer. Because I like my sleep. And I don’t always like moving.

I let my children have more than one lollipop during a visit to the bank. I start off with good intentions and let them each pick just one. I might even stash an extra pop or two in my purse, knowing that I’m gonna need them at some point down the road and have every intention of actually using them in the future. But, more often than not, when we are running errands after visiting the bank, and the kids get noisy and rambunctious in the cart at the grocery store, the pops get opened up for 10 more minutes of silence and compliance. 3 out of 4 dentists be darned. They don’t have to take my children shopping.

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Sometimes, when my two-year old wants to read the same book five times in a row, I just have to say “no.” And even worse, I sometimes get frustrated when she asks questions about what’s going on on the pages. “Can’t you just wait for me to READ it all to you??”  I ask. Pass the crappy mom award this way.

There are days that I don’t change out of my pajama’s until almost dinnertime. Then I wonder what the point of doing so is anyway?

In fact, there are also days that I don’t feel like the television gets turned off. Because I need the noise. And, because it’s winter and it’s ridiculously cold outside. Pick whatever reason you want.

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One-on-one play is somewhat painful for me on occasions. I love watching my children play and getting to see them enjoy themselves and each other while lost in their imaginations. There are times, though, that I just want to be a casual observer and nothing more. Because I don’t know how to transform or, for that matter, BE a Transformer. Because I don’t know what to do with the giant plush Minnie and Mickey Mouse dolls that my daughter loves so much besides make it dance. Because mommy just wants to lay over *there* and close her eyes.

I try to avoid going out into the snow if possible. I remember playing outside in the aftermath of a blizzard when I was younger and not being phased by the freezing temperatures or the snow in my boots. Now, it’s a totally different story. I will take my babies out and I am always glad that I did…once it’s all over with. But if we can avoid that by, say, making the calendar year three months shorter and avoiding winter all together, then I’m down for it. I always enjoy the consolatory cup of hot chocolate when we get back inside.

My kids eat boxed Mac and Cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and spaghettio’s more often than I would like. Because, sometimes, you just do what you have to do.

This is how she passes the time at Gam's sometimes.

This is how she passes the time at Gam’s sometimes.

I didn’t read any parenting, child-birth or pregnancy books when I was pregnant. Either time. My line of thinking about the whole experience was thus: you birth it, you feed it, you change it, you put it in the bed and it sleeps. Rinse and repeat. Note that I called the baby “it” in my head. I was excited to be pregnant both times, but I didn’t always see what all of the fuss was about. In hindsight I wish that I HAD done more preparation, but at the same time, I know that you can never be prepared enough to become a parent. It’s just that it does help to know that your breasts are going to swell like coconuts when you start nursing and the multiple methods for getting a baby to go to sleep. Those are both good things to know BEFORE baby comes. 

I cannot wait for my husband to get home. Every day. Literally. I. CAN. NOT. WAIT. for him to walk through that door. My kids may think that THEY are excited to see their father, but if they only knew. Suddenly, things seem a little less unnerving with another adult around, acting as a buffer.

I constantly feel like a parenting failure. I love parenting my children. They are my greatest motivators. This is the best job that I have ever had and ever will have. Ultimately, I wish that we did more crafts, played in the sunshine more, read more books and ate fresh fruits and veggies more often. 

Here’s the good stuff, though:

The babies get checked on every night before my husband and I trod off to bed. If they cry, I wake up. Even if I don’t go in to check on them, I hear them. And if they need me, I go. I clean up puke, change sheets, fetch milk, pray with them and sometimes stay with them and snuggle tight so that they can fall back asleep peacefully. 

We brush their teeth twice a day. I log miles on the van to take them to the dentist. 

We normally end up reading the same book a dozen times in a week

Hey, at least I’m conscious and upright and the kids are alive. 

I make my children use their imagination every day. 

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We do play together. We talk to each other. We laugh with each other. We chase each other. We rough house with each other. We have lots of fun together. I have a rule: I like to illicit one belly laugh from each child a day. That takes work. 

We go out in the snow and make snow angels. 

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My children love bananas and strawberries and blueberries, and even cucumbers and baby carrots. They drink water throughout the day and sweets are mostly for special occasions. Try as they might to convince me to let them have cookies for breakfast, mommy tries to be conscious of what they’re ingesting. Especially of the little one who likes to eat sand out of the sandbox.

They’re here, and they’re perfect. I drank tons of water while pregnant, took my prenatal vitamins every day and ate a lot of grapes because apparently, when I’m pregnant, I like a lot of grapes. It’s all good. 

There is really nothing wrong with welcoming your husband and best friend home in an eager fashion everyday. And from there on out, playtime normally continues. Like tonight, when we all played Candy Land together. His coming home is like the cherry on top of a good, satisfying day. 

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Tomorrow is a day that the Lord has made. And His mercies are new, every morning. 

Feel free to leave confessions of your very own in the comment section. No judging here, friend.