Tangled Expectations

I recently became the owner of a upgraded iPhone (apparently the Zack Morris brick model is outdated) and have spent a few moments trying out the ringtone options. As one played an upbeat tune, it reminded me of one of the songs from the movie Tangled, the recent Disney take on Rapunzel. Sadly and unsurprisingly, I immediately began singing the lyrics.

7:00am the usual morning line-up. Start on the chores and sweep till the floor’s all clean

Polish and wax, do laundry and start to shine up

Sweep the den and by then it’s like…7:15

 Goodness…she is describing my morning line-up! Well, between 5:30 and 6:30 I’ve also gotten two boys out of bed, fed and changed them and sometimes unloaded the dishwasher but she’s on target! Well, now that my mind was started I couldn’t just stop mid-song. The similarity had to be explored.

And so I’ll read a book, or maybe two or three…

Reading a book for myself? Not a chance. However, I do read to Firstborn although he still doesn’t pay much attention. Yes, I know other 3 year olds can sign the words to 18 books in French, but that’s a discussion for another time.  For now my three books are mostly about shapes, colors and animals. Moving on.

I’ll add a few new paintings to my gallery

I have amazing technique with a Magic Eraser, disinfecting wipes, and towels. I mostly clean up the various forms of drool and booger artwork on the walls and glass. Thank you, Mr. Miagi for the technique lessons. Wax on, wax off…paint the fence.

I’ll play guitar and knit, then cook and basically wonder when will my life begin

Woah, woah, woah. While my air guitar rocks, you lost me at knit. I can only get the cooking done in the time it takes this sequestered princess to do all three. Instead I’ll just silently applaud the knitting projects I see pictures of on facebook. Some of my friends are ridiculously talented. In my world, it’s time to set up the PBJ assembly line.

Then after lunch its puzzles and darts and baking

Accurate! Well, darts are mostly made out of anything Firstborn can find and launch while I’m taking the occasional cookie batch out of the oven. He’s so ‘resourceful’. Does reassembling furniture cushions or the kitchen count as a puzzle?

Paper mache, a little ballet and chess… pottery and ventriloquy, candle making

Then I’ll stretch, maybe sketch, take a climb, sew a dress

Then I’ll reread the books if I’ve got time to spare

I’ll paint the walls some more- I’m sure there’s room somewhere

And then I’ll brush and brush and brush my hair and wonder when will my life begin

tangled2

 Okay, now the girl is livin’ la vida Pintrest. She’s well-rounded, skilled, productive, and waiting for the opportunity to escape what I, and most honest people occasionally covet; an entire day free of all responsibilities and interruptions to do whatever I please with a friend! Unfortunately, Rapunzel is also dealing with the problems of what happens after the adventure of meeting the handsome hero and then adding a few little ones to the mix. There’s no one to clean the castle and the girl doesn’t get out much. Most the days can feel routine and there is no escaping life’s issues. Our lovely and capable princess is a kidnapping victim, deals with an emotionally damaged relationship (and possibly Stockholm’s syndrome), runs away with the kind of guy her mother warned her against, faces major emotional angst when it comes to life choices, hangs out with the tough criminal crowd at a pub, and is on the run from the local law enforcement. Oh, and she mumbles. Yikes.

It sounds a bit like real life, doesn’t it? Sometimes I wonder when the chaos will stop and my ‘real’ life will begin. At that moment there is usually a crash or cry to answer that question. I’ve really been pondering my schedule and how I handle the responsibilities of running my home and raising my sons. I’m also responsible for MY life along the way- multitasking at its finest. There is time for the fine arts, culinary skills, cleaning, etc.- but not all at once. Lately I’ve been so caught up in ‘finding the balance’, ‘treasuring the moments’, ‘enjoying my sweet babies’, and ‘taking the time for what’s important’ that I am liable to burst into tears during a diaper pit-stop. (“ I can’t watch Toy Story 3! Firstborn will go to college in 17 years!” –Flash flood alert! Please, please pray for my poor husband!) I claim “just had a baby” privilege.

flynn

It can be really hard to balance out responsible planning for the future and living one day at a time. Doing what is important for today is often essentially linked to the several years down the line. If I ignore the dishes and laundry to teach and play with the kids all day, we end up thawing a frozen pizza and rediscovering the bottom of the unmentionables drawer. That’s all well and good for a few days (unless it’s during a deployment) but it can’t be an everyday thing.

I think I’ll have to take a lesson from Rapunzel. She was waiting for life to begin, but it was already happening. Her life, while full, was not about all the activities, skills or production. She was sure of herself, confident in her untapped potential and ready to challenge the negative influences in her life. It took the right circumstances, but she left the tower of her surroundings- her safe, protective comfort zone. When her dream was realized, she found a new dream.

I think Rapunzel’s dream was a great one– to break out of the imprisoning surroundings and seek out that which lights the darkness. Although the chaos of motherhood sometimes tempts me toward Rider’s dream (to be on an island that I own, tan, rested and alone, surrounded by enormous piles of money) in the long run the ruffian was right.  That dream stinks.

With days full of the mildly important or entertaining, it can be easy to forget that life is happening. Your life has begun- what are you going to do with it? Are you in a trapped in a tower of boredom? Too many activities? Busyness that doesn’t amount to much?  Are you trapped in a tower that you or someone else made? Do you want out? Everyone wants a break from their circumstances sometimes. It’s okay- healthy even. If you really look at your life and realize you aren’t living it the way you’d like to, seize that opportunity! Take life by the hair! Start to untangle your mess! After all, a thief breaking in and changing our life for the better only happens in fairy tales. Keep a frying pan handy and live your dream.

frying pans

I’m right behind you…as soon as I fix my hair.

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Spring Un-Training

Football spring training is full of two-a-day drilling in running, throwing, tackling, kicking, and working up a sweat with an unmistakable smell. It includes lots of yelling, grunting, some spitting, and generally taking and giving a beating. These activities are not usually included in a normal adult male’s day– unless he is a professional athlete or coach. There is a time and a place for displays of physical ability- on the field, court, track, etc.  My strong-willed Firstborn seems to be innately skilled in these things. Sadly, he is too young to distinguish between ‘on the field’ and ‘off the field’. We’re not even close to inside vs. outside voices yet.

kidfootball sack

Today I had a sad realization; I am in a season of Spring Un-Training. While one day a coach may tell Firstborn to get out on the field and hit his mark at top-speed as hard as possible, I will spend YEARS trying to teach him NOT to do just that. This realization hit me as I picked up Firstborn from the nursery on Sunday. It was evident that his behavior had been less than stellar.  I was just thankful; at least he hadn’t been kicked out like the week before. As I signed him in he had already  run to the toy slide, launched himself down head/hands-first and was being seized by the workers. By the time I departed he had pushed a kid for grabbing at his toy. Scolding #2.  When I picked Firstborn up, the young workers had given up on trying to make him sit in ‘time-out’. He was standing alone in a Pack ‘n Play, no sign of a sock, and shoe, or his adorable moose sweater. The young teenage girl handed me his sweater and through clenched teeth said, “Here. It’s covered in drool and snot.” (Just you wait, Sweetie.)  The other said sympathetically, “We know this is his standard behavior, so we decided not to call you this time. We just separated him.” Yep. Despite my best and constant efforts, I’m THAT kid’s mom.

baby muscles

It’s hard to give myself grace when I am facing the church nursery ‘Walk of Shame’ towing a half-dressed screaming banshee  I tell myself that thousands of moms, including my own, have been here. I try to remember that when the extended family is together, Firstborn fits in perfectly with his cousins. (I’m drowning in my husband’s impressive Viking gene pool.)  Still, I constantly I fight the urge to scream a defense of all my discipline plans out to any on-looking mother; I’m constantly reminding myself that he hasn’t been alive very long and I haven’t been a mom very long. He has my energy level, his father’s physical prowess and our combined determination/stubbornness. We’re doomed.  This will be a life-long work in progress. As a mother, it is my job to teach and train– to raise boys into MEN. I’m on a bit of a learning curve as I am female and do not think jumping off of tall heights, peeing off of jungle-gyms, or farting loudly count as ‘fun’. While allowing them to be boys, I must teach self-control, patience, teamwork, respect, and how to function in society.

I can envision junior high. (His building aptitude and love of all things kitchen-related will have to be fostered at home as Shop and Home Economics are no longer offered  in most schools.)  The running, throwing, and kicking that plagues me may finally be desired by coaches for various athletic programs. Some adorable girls in uniform might cheer him on, yelling, “Be Aggressive! B-E Aggressive!” Well, that’s not the tune they’re singing in the <2 class right now. When sports news announces a new rookie sensation’s multi-million dollar salary for skillfully doing what Firstborn gets in trouble for,  I’m sure Firstborn will find his old report cards and think being “a pleasure to have in class” is a comforting substitute. (Eye roll.)

Part of the problem with Spring Un-Training is that we’re squelching natural talent!  What people in North Carolina see as disruptive and aggressive behavior, we Texans consider disruptive and aggressive athletic prowess.  When they see ‘charging and pushing’, we see great tackling form. ‘Unacceptable throwing’ is pitching. ‘Disappearing and hiding?’ We call it stealth mode.  He spends HOURS each day running in a circle around the living room ottoman. (Future track star or running back?) He loves to play with kitchen utensils (chef?) and roll on the floor playing tickle-fights (wrestler?). He is extremely strong, energetic, and fearless. These aren’t inherently bad things…until he’s with other kids in a confined area. Unfortunately, then he is also the ‘aggressor’, the ‘bully’, the ‘pusher’-  the kid no mother wants to have with theirs in the nursery. All of a sudden I feel the need to outline my extensive disciplining efforts to everyone present. Heaven forbid anyone think I am the mother who allows or encourages hitting, biting, spitting, cussing, disrespecting adults, skipping class, peeing in the pool,  tax evasion, spitting off of tall buildings, and everything else wrong with society.

lil-giantsmomma

It is especially hard with others asking-as nicely as possible- if I’ve tried spankings, time-outs, or strongly telling Firstborn “No”. (Saying “no!”? I NEVER thought of that! Pin it on Pintrest!) The fact is, where some kids only need a stern look, some need duct tape, a whooping, and a drill sergeant. In the world of kid-comparisons, it is hard to be the mother of the child who isn’t the ‘best behaved’. Unless you’ve had a strong-willed child, you just can’t understand. This is not limited to boys, by the way. It does seem that boys receive more grace for wild behavior, which is a relief to me.  Kids are kids- they all find mischief. They all make messes. They all disappoint and they all bring unspeakable joy. If we’re honest, parents will admit that raising a child allows us to take part in many childhood joys again. It’s a blast and extremely hard.

We’re raising little humans who are learning about their own bodies, emotions and realities, trying to reconcile things like love and selfishness. (Any adults have that one totally reconciled?) Rolled up in one little kid is the desire to play, to please parents, to eat, to figure out the world around them… and in Firstborn’s situation, to figure out who that little invader is who cries all the time and is always on Mommy’s lap.

Mothering means figuring out the best way to teach and discipline a child when the ‘best way’ changes constantly and no kid is the same. It’s a HARD and constant process. Thankfully, Firstborn is making great progress! Behind every game-winning score are hours and even YEARS of practice. Very few people cheer during the constant drilling and fumbles. I’ve decided to celebrate the little daily victories; I am my son’s best cheerleader after all! Today he handed over several  pieces of contraband without a fight. There was minimal whining and not one tantrum! He is learning to throw gently and is much more careful around the baby. If only I had referees standing by to throw his hands up and say, “It’s GOOD!”

referee_300

It really is good. Games are won inch by inch, yard by yard. Superb players require not only arm-cannons and agility but self-control and discipline. They keep their eye on the ball. I’m also learning that I have to keep my concentration on my all-stars and off of the hecklers in the bleachers. I am doing my best to teach Firstborn appropriate behavior and self-control, but I don’t want to crush his personality in the process. MVPs have more than great statistics; they have heart and give 110%. If that’s what I expect from my boys, that’s what I’ll have to give as their Biggest Fan. We’ve got our work cut out for us. See you on the field.

spartans

We’ve got spirit, yes we do. We’ve got spirit! How ‘bout you?

Forts, Chicken, and Glaring Grandmas

Did you have a secret hide-out place when you were little? I loved to turn a card table, couch cushions and blankets into a secret retreat.  Our swing-set club house was a place to escape—at least until dinnertime.

calvin and hobbes tree house

It is essential that every child has a fortress to escape to; it’s also essential for mothers as well. Mine isn’t particularly hidden or secret. In fact, it’s a Mecca of young motherhood where kids are welcomed and half the food is fried. It’s Chick Fil A. In this town- known for its horrible drivers, unfriendly people and suicide rate double the rest of the army- it is the one place that is welcoming. Employees offer to refill drinks so that I don’t have to leave children unattended. The play area is clean. Someone always holds the door for me as I push the stroller through. Regardless of what you think of the policies and politics, Chick Fil A is a fortress for the weary mommy warrior.

It is my fourth day alone with 2 little ones, far away from my two favorite states: Texas and Sanity. I needed to fall back and regroup. I called a fellow military wife and young mother and sounded a retreat.  20 minutes later I wheeled a double-stroller into a crowded restaurant. It was challenging, but I managed to get a table and tie down Firstborn in a high chair.  Then I waited for the arrival of my dear friend Katie.

Our boys are only 4 weeks apart in age and have been mistaken for twins, but it takes about 2 seconds to realize Katie’s son is an ‘agreeable child’.  Mothering my strong-willed boy is a bit like breaking a wild mustang every day…and he’s not even two. Despite my best efforts, he bullies and throws fits while his counterpart smiles and signs for more milk. It’s the perfect storm to make any mother feel incompetent. Thankfully, Katie smiles sweetly without judgment and reminds me gently that tasers are not allowed.

After the boys were settled, Katie went to order while I held down the fort. Our two blonde boys immediately started shrieking, crocodile tears pouring out of their blue eyes. I grabbed sippy cups, wiped faces, spoke lovingly…to no avail. As Firstborn started kicking his cowboy boots against the plastic wheelchair I realized that every other child was sitting nicely, eating their food. Nearby spectators looked on with sideways glances. Fellow young mothers remained neutral- their kids were simply having a good day. To my left a group of clean, stylish single girls looked over their iPhones with thought bubbles over their dyed hair that said, “My kids will never…” To my right a white-haired grandmother was laughing. I smiled and said, “Young motherhood. What are you going to do?” She just shook her head with a ‘glad it’s not me’ smile. This is NOT a sympathetic smile and should not be mistaken for compassion.

Katie returned and her lovely son began eating. While he did have fussy moments and refused to eat anything but fries (typical for his age), mine turned into a ticking time bomb. When the chicken and fries were gone, so was Firstborn’s patience. 3-2-1…total temper tantrum. Now the spectators moved from stolen glances to stares. After pulling Firstborn out of the chair and physically restraining him until he became still (time out) for the second time, I braved getting a refill of Diet Coke. I have been scolded for caffeine intake before… no one has found the body. (Hint: it’s with Jimmy Hoffa.) I was second in line but unfortunately, the woman in front of me was ordering for her whole office. After 4 minutes of hearing Firstborn revving his screaming engine and watching Katie gently but sternly give him the what-for, I gave up. Returning to the table, I told myself that it was simply saving me a future potty break.

As I sat down and looked around at the onlookers with a clenched jaw, Katie quietly and wisely advised me that I was doing fine but needed to just ignore everyone around me. Busted. SO busted. It is hard not to notice the judgmental stares. I took a deep breath and returned my attention to Firstborn, who was again pitching a fit. As I returned him to my lap and used my arms as a straight jacket, I caught the eye of another white-haired lady. She was NOT smiling. In fact, she’d been glaring at us for several minutes. It’s VERY hard to ignore that kind of hateful stare, especially when it is only 10 feet away. I felt like quite the show- we had moved from making a scene to Broadway musical.

As we finally called the lunch on account of tears, I buckled Firstborn into the double stroller and tried to weave around the tables. As I passed Grandma Glare-A-Lot, I had to squeeze my double-wide between her chair and a support beam. Rather than move or say anything, she looked down her nose to observe, as if I was about to take a hammer to her Ferrari’s door. If she had ever been a mother, shame on her. If not, it’s probably for the best.

Now, one of my sons had slept the entire time. Katie’s son was very well behaved, particularly after a few big tantrums this week due to missing his dad. As for my sweet terror of a child… I’m doing my best. I’ve been as consistent as possible for having a 4 week old. I’ve been gentle and loving, done time-outs, spanked, and prayed without ceasing. The next person who offers a suggestion can just come over and fix my child’s behavior themselves. I’ll pay you. Upon that success, we’ll send you overseas to win over the hearts and minds of our enemies. It’ll probably take you a week at the most. (Eye roll) As I drove to my retreat, I had resolve. Driving home, I sobbed. With a newborn and another son under age two, I’m burning the candle at both ends. Burning like this hasn’t been seen since Sherman marched to Atlanta. Want to talk scorched earth? Two words: Stretch marks.

It’s disheartening to retreat to a fortress only to be greeted by ‘friendly fire’. It’s true what they say- there’s nothing friendly about it. My thick skin started to crack but Katie had me covered. Likewise, at our last CFA visit, she had just delivered her first real spanking to her son and had a bit of a breakdown herself. Friendship at this stage involves a lot of therapy- we just take turns being the psychiatrist. Once we are armed with fries and our boys are restrained, the doc is in.

peanuts dr is in

Who has your back when you’re running on empty? Spouses, family members, friends- even pets? The problem is that we all run dry. For Heaven’s sake—even Chick Fil A runs out of chicken! So far I’ve only found one source that hasn’t run dry; one fortress that can’t be toppled. I’m not the only one who has run to this fortress. In fact, one young warrior running for his life from a band of 300 of the military’s elite wrote: The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge. 2 Samuel 22:3

I am not defeated- just feeling weary and momentarily wishing I could escape my situation, although it is the path I am meant to take. That’s nothing new to God. In fact, it’s Christlike. On the night before Jesus was hunted by Roman guards and ultimately crucified, he prayed with all his might for God to rescue Him. Even Christ needed a fortress as he fought the Enemy. The gospels tell us that God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus in his hour of need. Christ understands feeling weary. He understands wanting to escape the current situation. He understands being surrounded by needy, weak people who just couldn’t relate.  The older, more ‘experienced’ Jews didn’t like how Jesus did things and looked down on Him (that was certainly not how THEY would have redeemed Israel!) He asked his friends for help and retreated to God to strengthen Him. Then Christ emerged and returned to His purpose.

A high chair surrounded table at a chicken joint doesn’t look much like the Garden of Gethsemane, but something similar is occurring. With a few fellow moms in tow, I am being strengthened, fortified and reminded of my purpose to serve my God and Creator in the roles of wife and mother. Even Jesus fell to pieces!  I shouldn’t be ashamed of my occasionally tear-soaked grilled chicken. I may not enjoy the glares of others while I regroup, but in the grand scheme it doesn’t matter.  My rock and fortress is also my deliverer. I just hope that when I emerge from my Mom-fort I’ll have a heart full of resolve and a stomach full of chicken.

Training…

Remember the ‘Little Engine That Could?” During the difficult climb up the mountain, the engine strengthened his resolve by repeating the mantra, “I think I can! I think I can!”  The engine had the capacity to make it, but believing it was crucial to success.

At 6 am I was sweeping up Cheerio shrapnel and feeling the physical weariness that several days with three hours of sleep brings.  Just then my ‘shoulder friends’ showed up. I don’t have a devil that pops up on my shoulder—I have a perfectly dressed and coiffed perfectionist who appears to scold me. (When she isn’t on my back she lives in Pintrest. Be advised.) She immediately started in. The floors needed mopping again- 2 days is too long! Why didn’t I buy Operation for Firstborn? After all, he needs early practice if he’s going to be a brain surgeon! Why is he not already potty trained? He’s almost two after all! Secondborn is 4 weeks old and keeps his eyes open 1/4 of the day- why am I not doing baby signs to him constantly?  Why am I still in sweats? The house needs tidying- it’s inspection day and the deep cleaning from yesterday hardly shows!  I was up at 3am to console a baby and couldn’t simultaneously do a quiet time and color coded study of the Pentateuch?

kronk shoulder angels

To fend off my pearl-wearing vacuumer, I closed my eyes and thought, “I think I can! I think I can!”Just then I was joined by a tiny cheerleader on the opposite shoulder. Prompted by the perfect cheer from my spunky Spartan, I revised my mantra from “I think I can” to “I KNOW I can.”

There is a big difference between thinking and knowing.  Thinking allows for doubt.  Knowing leads to a passionate, ardent belief and a will that is hard to break. When exhaustion, a lack of sleep and unrealistic expectations  join forces against me, I am easier to break than a green crayon. It’s only Wednesday; I cannot have a crayon day. It’s a Sharpie day! Sharpies of various colors…with post its! Yes, it will be a good day indeed!

I don’t want to be a Little Engine That Could today; I want to be a Bullet Train that runs on time. When a train gathers momentum, it is hard to slow it down, let alone stop it. When a train is on track and up to speed, it can get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. There is no stopping to take detours or worry about anything other than what lies ahead- trains are on track.

Staying on track is hard to fathom during the stage of early motherhood. A track may be laid out for the day, but soon I am just putting out fires. (With both boys making messes 23 hours of the day, a spare firehose might come in handy!)

Yesterday during an appointment, I was thrilled that Firstborn was only merely whiny and wanting to crawl into my lap when Secondborn was chugging a bottle. There was a mountain of crayons sitting inches from white walls and I was blocked from them by a double stroller—it could have been a disaster worthy of calling FEMA. As I struggled to roll the stroller into the bathroom for two diaper changes and an attitude adjustment, the specialist (a fellow young mother with two girls under age 5) smiled and spoke words of encouragement. It was as if she had come to a train platform to smile and wave as I made my first stop of the day.

As I look out into a day full of unknowns, I am positive that it will have challenging moments. Encouragement is essential. With that, I leave you with an inspiring history lesson from my museum days:

During WW2 a little train station in North Platte, Nebraska gained an inspiring reputation. As soldiers would ride trains to head overseas, they would be greeted at this station at the “North Platte Canteen” by a slew of women bearing homemade foods. Even with rationing and tight budgets, there was hot coffee, cakes, and all manner of smiles and encouragement for young soldiers who were facing the unknown head-on.  The Canteen became a beacon of hope and encouragement for a generation of young men somewhere between “I think I can” and “I know I can”. It’s a very inspiring true story; check out this quick video- it’s a stop well worth it.

Well, the VeggieTales video is almost over, so it’s time to get back to the track, Jack. I just thought about how to end this blog, and the picture of the original Superman movie racing a train popped into my mind. With Firstborn often dressed as a superhero running around me, it fits.

supermantrain

I am sure to run off the rails at least once today, but I know we’ll get through it intact. I’m the mom. I know I can. I know I can. So can you.

MamaCare

“Remember how I raised you to be polite, courteous, and classy no matter what? Forget it all. Give them the what for!”- Momma upon hearing about the following encounter

I’m thinking of applying for a permanent parking spot at the hospital. Secondborn’s early arrival and a few other issues have joined forces against my sanity. Furthermore, any mother of multiple boys should have a designated spot near the ER entrance. Let me set the scene: Of Secondborn’s first 2 weeks of life, he has been either admitted into the hospital or had to return for an appointment 12 of the 14 days.  I am no longer a Stay At Home Mom. I am a Stay At the Hospital Mom. Several people have asked why we have so many appointments—the concern is for his liver and thyroid function tied to his early arrival and a genetic issue. His complications are currently minor. Aside from some Big Birdesque coloring, he is healthy and improving. His pediatricians and specialists are phenomenal and very, very thorough. Other than the frequency of the visits, I have no complaints about Secondborn’s care.

The Thanksgiving holiday was like a finish line; a break from appointments at last! Sadly, after all-day hospital trips Monday and Tuesday,  Wednesday required a drive to UNC’s Children’s Hospital two hours away. Before this special trip we needed labs for the specialist to analyze, which meant a long day of frustrating appointments and four blood draws. Before arriving at the hospital I’d battled criticism about using a double stroller in daycare, being on my feet, and bringing the baby out in the cold weather. (Help a sister out! I have raging hormones- badger me at your own risk.)

After a positive appointment, the blood draw took 45 minutes and 4 sticks before success, forcing Hubby to pick up Firstborn unexpectedly from hourly care to avoid the dollar per minute late fine. His car didn’t have Firstborn’s carseat, so he sat stranded with groceries in the car until I could meet them. Bluebell ice cream was melting and a nap had been missed- this was an emergency.  When we finally arrived home and grabbed spoons to save the remaining Bluebell (excellent coping mechanism) I was exhausted and ready to pass out from the lack of food, water, and sanity. Frustrated tears burned my cheeks as I confessed to my Beloved, “I am so tired of fighting and feeling angry all the time.” Without a word, he got up, made me a Chai Tea, and just sat next to me. I love that man.  I regrouped, had another sleepless night, and got up the next day for what would be the ‘big appointment’—and give me the Thanksgiving holiday afterward to recover.

After two hours in traffic I finally arrived and parked, ready to see what the ‘experts’ would do with the barrage of test results. These needed to be faxed, and I had the number at the ready.  We entered registration right on time and were promptly told that we were not in the system, had no appointment, and would need to re-register. As it turns out, they left the last letter off of my name and I did have an appointment. Huzzah!  The paperwork packet I was given was in Spanish but I opted use the restroom rather than bother the unfriendly clerk. I’d just fill it out in Spanish if necessary. (It wasn’t, but I was feeling particularly bristled and ready to knock down roadblocks with force.) As we finally rolled into our room to wait on the doctor, we were both hungry. I sat with a bottle in one hand and a Nature Valley bar in the other, trying to ignore my stomach’s disappointment that we couldn’t stop for lunch. (By this time I had also eaten an emergency Kit Kat bar. The doctor owes quite a lot to this fact.)

The assistant was thorough in her note-taking, so I was hopeful when the doctor entered shortly after. Enter Doctor Death. A white-haired man hustled into the room, quickly sat down, and started in on a flow-chart of all the genetic problems or potential surgery needs, with flippant reassurances that “it’s probably not that. He just needs consistent feedings.” (Like the ones I can’t give because of all-day daily appointments?)

He told me about his phone conversation with my specialist and said, “He was so happy! I was surprised he was so happy for being in the Army.” My eyebrow raised, my jaw set, and my voice hit a resolved tone.  Strike 1- Not shaking my hand or even looking at my son, your patient, in the first 3 minutes of the appointment. Strike 2- Trashing the military that provides for me and that our home serves in our respective fashions (proudly, I might add.)  I politely explained that my specialist was not a soldier, but had provided superb care. I went on to praise the Army hospital’s medical team and their care of my newborn. The doctor and assistant looked shocked. I’d forgotten that I had entered the Technicolor world of civilian life and health care with all its stereotypes of military life.  Still, being right doesn’t allow for being rude. His bad behavior won’t excuse mine.

Meanwhile, a card with the information necessary to fax yesterday’s labs to UNC was burning my hand. As I mentioned it the doc rolled his eyes, turned to the assistant and asked if she cared to call in for the labs. She offered to make the call and walked out with my precious hard copy of the military records. (I chased her down for it afterward.) What labs was he looking at and basing decisions on if not the ones that were important enough to cause a 3 hour appointment and a day-care pick-up fiasco the day before?

As the medical tornado was about to whip out the door, he decided to actually examine Secondborn before leaving. The appointment lasted 8 minutes. I was left alone in a room with my naked newborn trying to comprehend what had just happened. The appointment’s only conclusion was that nothing could be determined for another two weeks. I had to come back then and see if pills or a surgery would be needed. (This was said with the compassion of ordering a burger at a drive-thru.) The whole appointment could have been done over the phone- especially the day before Thanksgiving.

As I drove home in crawling holiday traffic, I considered my last two weeks. I’d been unable to eat, drink water, sleep, or bond with my new baby. I’d been instructed to go to multiple appointments daily that mostly yielded no conclusive results. All hope of a schedule had been dashed and everyone- especially Firstborn- was paying dearly. The only reason we had Thanksgiving dinner is because my amazing Bible Study ladies each made and delivered a dish- God bless them for it. I was truly thankful for that meal.

I decided I’d had enough. I drove home resolving to change to a new health care plan: Mama Care. I am my sons’ real primary care giver. I’ve decided to put my foot firmly down with all the force of a combat boot and the pointedness of a stiletto. The experts are trying to do their job; it’s time I do mine to the best of my ability. Mothers must advocate and make the wheel squeak loudly on their children’s behalf. Parents make incredible sacrifices to acquire needed care and resources, especially when health and education is at stake. This is not merely a “Mama Grizzly” defense or a Tiger Mom’s push toward success; it is a methodical and consistent struggle for forward movement and necessary gains, like yardage on a football field.  It’s time to fight for what my sons need- rest, routine, family/play time, and a mom who isn’t on the verge of a physical breakdown from struggling to meet unnecessary demands.  When the Army pediatrician called, I flat out refused to make daily hospital visits from now on, and would not return to UNC unless it was absolutely necessary. Thankfully, the amazing  pediatrician agreed and with the help of a case manager, readjusted my appointment schedule to ease the burden.

fight-mom

I changed my perspective about what care is best for my sons. As the years go by, I doubt my sons will say they are thankful that Mommy took them to appointments regularly. I hope they are thankful for our family and all we did together. My time with my little ones is precious; I will cut out the unnecessary so they can thrive. I must do more than kiss boo-boos and hold tiny hands during dozens of blood draws; I must fight to make sure they get all the kinds of care they need. That’s Mamacare- it’s the best health care there is.