Thriller

When I announced my pregnancy with Secondborn, the family went slightly hysterical. On bad days I replay the tape of the announcement and get an immediate cheer-up from the reaction. After the shock wore off, sheer thrill took over. In true fashion, Secondborn arrived in a way that was frightening and thrilling.

At 3 weeks early, my labor started while Hubby was out of town. By 1pm two dear friends helped me overcome my denial. I was in fact in labor and holding my knees shut would NOT work. At 4:00pm it was confirmed that I would be having a baby that evening, but I was allowed to “go home and walk” (Army standard practice). Instead I sped to the airport, picked up my Beloved, and handed off Firstborn to a friend who was amazing under pressure. I picked up my Beloved at 5:15pm. I was back in a hospital bed at 8:00pm. Secondborn cried at 2:12am. Having to text my husband that I was in labor and heading to the hospital while he sat in an airport during a lay-over was nerve-wracking. Picking him up and knowing he would see the birth of our second son was a thrill. Hehe! (Reread that in Michael Jackson’s voice. Thank you.)

I apologize for the blogging hiatus; when a baby is born 3 weeks early and technically premature, there are a lot of surprises. When we FINALLY got to bring our baby home, the radio happened to be on the 80s station and Thriller came on. As I looked back to check on the man-cub I saw something amazing. His arms were raised with hands in the thriller pose. He also had the hiccups, which moved his head TO THE BEAT. It wasn’t the Thriller sideways head-bob, but the head bounce timing was spot on. It was at that moment I decided this was one of the coolest kids ever created. What newborn inherently knows the moves to Thriller? Oh, that’d me mine.

Motherhood is a lot like “The Thriller”. Getting up every 2 hours to feed and then weigh dirty diapers brings out the funk of 40,000 years. Terror is a major tenant of raising small children- there are many sights that almost stop the heart. I’ve done a bit of screaming and now wish I could have stopped the sound before I made it. (What mother hasn’t struggled with lost-temper yelling?) I admit that there have been times where I’ve just closed my eyes and wished it was all m imagination. The boys lurk around and seem insatiable day and night- right now my nights do seem to last eternally.  I just try to remember that this is a time I will look back on and with a smile and some well-timed shoulder raises.

Devoted motherhood has a way of overtaking you. It’s not unlike watching perfectly dignified people standing around until Thriller starts playing. Even the most stoic can’t stop from doing a head-bob to the music. Now that I am finally home after almost a week in the hospital, I am fully engrossed in mothering 2 little ones. I am thankful that the strung-out zombie look is popular, because I am rocking the Mombie look. Make no mistake; my dance moves are better than ever.

Every parent has been there- we’ve transformed into something different and can’t look at life the same way. The coolest and most sophisticated among us are reduced to wiping behinds and measuring time in increments of VeggieTales or Elmo. It’s just a stage, but it so familiar that other mothers of various ages can’t help but run up, surround the new mother, and offer all manner of help (wanted and not) to the new member of the ranks. Grocery shopping with a car seat is a universal invitation- soon I am totally surrounded without escape. All hope of reaching the bananas is lost.  If only my internal monologue could be recited in the voice of Vincent Price.

I’ve missed you, my friends. I haven’t died and I’m not living under a rock. I am just a new mom- again- with a son who needs a lot of special appointments right now. My newest thrill is taking over a lot of my life, and there are times it is terrifying. The mix of terror, classic moves, and total exhilaration; it’s a pretty good description of motherhood in this house and I wouldn’t trade it…’cause it’s a thriller.

PS- In the spirit of new mothers receiving WAY too much advice and instruction, particularly with the first baby, I thought this was fitting. Sometimes it’s not about knowing all the right moves. It’s about having a great time dancing with your friends and fellow Mombies at your side.

There’s a Horse in the Shower

As my hard-working hubby started up the stairs I called from the kitchen, “Dinner will be ready in about 15 minutes. Oh, and be careful! There’s a horse in the shower.”

“A horse?”

“At least. For all I know there’s half a farm in there. I believe the shaving cream and mouthwash are in there too. Just watch your step. Have a good shower!”

Some people have elephants in the room; we have horses in the shower. They distract from the mildew I finally bleached out yesterday. On bathroom-cleaning days I keep Firstborn near me so that I can keep an eye on him. His reach has improved to “Stretch Armstrong” ability (Google it, young ones) and he loves to relocate items for me. If I turn my back to put away shoes or fold a towel, my sink is instantly full of toiletries. The shower often contains all manner of toys I had intended him to play with quietly- sitting perfectly still as he read a book in a foreign language or skillfully colored a “Thanks for all you do, Mom” card. Maybe when he reaches age 2…or 32.

After 30 minutes of  bathroom deep-cleaning I stopped to survey my accomplishments. I had sparkling counters, sinks, and mirrors. The towels were freshly laundered and folded neatly. I could see it, although I had to use my incredible Mom-vision. I doubt anyone else would have spotted the progress through the toy minefield scattered on the floor, the barrage of toiletries littering every flat surface, the trashcan full of non-trash debris, and the sniffly boy looking up at me with an expression that said, “Napping is out of the question, Babe.”

We know that ‘good moms’ talk to their children throughout the day to increase  vocabulary, so I set to it. “Sweetheart, Mommy would love to have a safe and clean home for just 3 minutes. Can you be help Mommy put things away and keep things clean?” In true son fashion, he immediately pooped. I took that as a resounding although comedic “nope”.

The fact is that I now don’t sweep until after meal times and I only mop after 8 pm because there is no point; I’ll just have to redo it.  My sweet regrouping moment is when I finally get a hot shower…unless there’s a horse in there waiting for me to step on it. The booby-trapped floor from Home Alone used to be funny and inspirational; now I define ‘home security’ as a dog and a floor scattered with Legos.

A big part of life is learning to watch our step, both figuratively and literally. We’ve all ‘stepped in it’ one time or another. It usually happens when we least expect it—like when we think we’ve finally achieved a moment of relaxation or solitude. You never know what ‘gifts’ have been left by others that will interrupt our precious moments of peace. The question is, how does one react?

When I finish cleaning a mess just to discover a new one, my thoughts aren’t always so gracious. I’ve been tempted to use duct tape ‘creatively’ to ensure that my efforts aren’t undone, but Firstborn would probably use his Houdini escape skills and stick the tape to the walls. Then I’d have to clean up sticky residue as a punishment for my bad mothering. It’s always frustrating to work hard at something and then see it all get undone in a moment. A year of family peace-talk progress can vanish in the first 7 minutes of Thanksgiving. A week’s work can be lost into the computer world with one wrong click. 3 loads of laundry have to be rewashed when a sippy cup full of milk is tossed into the basket and breaks. The work may vary, but we’d all rather not have it undone.

Two days ago, my only pair of well-fitting black shoes disappeared. I spent 20 minutes searching the house before changing my entire outfit so we would be on time for an appointment. After more unfruitful searching upon returning home, I finally gave up. The following day as I checked my e-mail, I felt a tap on my leg. Firstborn held my missing shoes out for me and said, “Go”.  I declared him a sneaky little thief, thanked him, and took the shoes.  Immediately a helping of Mom-guilt and a familiar verse sprang to mind. It’s actually the verse that gave this blog its name. John 10: 10 reads:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

It can’t be denied that kids take things, usually without asking. (Moms of teenage girls, check your closets.) Sometimes I’m tempted to measure what’s been taken from me by motherhood. Oh, to have visible abdominal muscles again! If I could only have a few hours of sacrificed sleep return to me. I’d even settle for knowing where my keys and shoes are on a regular basis.  The problem comes from keeping that attitude rather than dismissing those selfish thoughts. Surely every mother is entitled to some alone time and an occasional meal that isn’t shared, but my sons are not thieves who delight in stealing, killing, and destroying all that I try to give or build up in them. He’s just a child in need of teaching.

We all have relationships that can be difficult or have people around us that are draining. Some of us have challenging relatives, co-workers and neighbors. Others work in environments where people literally are trying to kill them. Some are desperately trying to rescue others and trying to save lives. In the past several years (and even days) natural disasters have struck nationwide that have left Americans desolate from the destruction. News members love to capture tearful expressions looking out at piles of rubble– the result of having everything taken from them. It’s crushing to watch. We wait for news of hope; scenes of volunteers and helpers pouring in and victims declaring their resolve.

A worker who brings relief to a disaster is always welcome. I often feel like I am a one-woman FEMA team cleaning up my disaster area after my little tornado destroys my work. All the time we spend trying to build up good character in my child can vanish at any moment.  At the time Jesus said John 10:10, he was speaking in a metaphor about thieves stealing sheep; a common practice in those days. Jesus declared himself to be a remedy for all that the devil steals from us- he is a giver of life and life more abundant! If anyone understands single-handedly cleaning up disasters and remaining for damage control, it is Jesus. The sinful nature and the evil in this world continue to steal, kill, and destroy.  As I look at my son’s sweet face and the many blessings of this home, albeit messy, I realize that my mess is evidence of a life more abundant. Jesus said that to gain, we must willingly lose. I may not enjoy losing sleep, patience, half of my sandwiches, or my shoes to the call of motherhood but the return on the investment is immeasurable. Often a willing heart makes the difference between thievery and gracious giving. The thing about ‘life more abundant’ is that you never know when a mess will turn out to be a reminder of blessings. Today I am in need of a major attitude adjustment. Rather than feel weary or frustrated, I will choose to see the abundance in my mess. After all, not every girl gets to have a horse in her shower.

Octavian- but for short we’ll call you Gus

Last night after all the neighborhood ghouls and goblins were safely trading their candy loot, I was eagerly getting ready for bed. I grabbed a t-shirt that I haven’t worn for a few weeks (which is like dog-years in pregnancy time) and put it on as I entered the bathroom to join my dear, beloved, compassionate Hubby for some teeth-brushing. This allowed him to have an excellent view of something truly horrifying. I pulled the shirt down and it didn’t cover my belly. Then…it rolled up with everything but a sliding suction-pop sound effect. Oh, the horror!

Immediately, Hubby broke into laughter, toothbrush bouncing in his cheek. As I tried to pull the shirt down again he said, “You look like Gus-Gus!”

My beloved had compared me to a mouse from Cinderella, notable for his too-small-shirt riding up over his belly. I said nothing. I didn’t need to. I gave him the look.

“What?!” he said, smiling as he continued into the landmine. “His little shirt rolls up over his belly! It’s classic!”

Eyebrow up, slow head turn… continue THE LOOK.

He shrugged.“People love Gus-Gus.”

There was really nothing I could say to rebut his statement, so I launched into the I-sound-smarter-than-you-defense with information I used when I taught Roman History. “I’ll ask you NOT to call me Gus-Gus. His name is Octavian. Naturally, Gus is short for Octavian as he took the name Caesar Augustus after Julius’ death…”

Yes, a Roman Emperor of great historical and Shakespearean fame and Biblical significance (Now in those days Caesar Augustus declared a census should be taken…) had been reduced to a portly mouse. That’s a bit how every mother feels from time to time.

At this point Hubby had walked away. Darn! Excellent evasive maneuver. With his back safely turned, I allowed my shirt to roll back up and then found a bigger one. I’ve never heard a pregnant woman pray, “Lord, make me humble.”I continued the nighttime routine which now includes lots of lotion. As I rubbed it on my belly I heard my beloved’s voice; “Look at your hands moving quickly in a circle! You really do look like a little mouse!”

Great. I’m a mousey wife. I’m apparently not even a cute, girly mouse! I’m an overweight male mouse who provides comic relief in Disney’s version of Cinderella. Well, at least I’m self-aware. Lots of women wonder what their husbands think of them and their appearance. I don’t have to ask.

The great thing about Gus-Gus is that despite his heft and distractability, he was always ready to rumble. He wasn’t necessarily looking for a fight, but when the intimidating cat Lucifer appears on the scene he rolls up his sleeves.

He is also a loyal friend and hard worker; he follows directions and diligently climbs enormous flights of stairs with a key twice his size to help free Cinderella from her tower prison.

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I may be a bit bigger around than some of the other Mommas around me but babies bring out the belly in me. As I often say, “It’s not me. It’s my kid.” I may need bigger shirts, but I am also ready to follow the leader, work hard, and be ready to launch a rescue in a moment’s notice. For now I’ll take a cue and a quote from an animated little mouse: “Gus-Gus. Yeah!”