God Made Dirt

A real medical doctor once looked at my mother, infants in tow, and said,” Every child should eat a pound of dirt by age two. Maybe more. Let them be kids, Mom.”

With that in mind, I share with you an afternoon in the life of a not-quite-two year old boy.

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Wait until Mom is settling baby brother. Dive into planter that I have NEVER noticed before.

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Spread the dirt around. Hit at least 2 surfaces while dropping dirt.

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Wipe hands on clothes. Twice. Repeat previous steps.

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Throw dirt. Draw in dirt. Wipe dirt. Laugh gleefully until Mom removes the planter.

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Go in search of more dirt. Discover a new hiding place.

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Radio for back-up.

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Circle new hiding place at top speed.

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Decide the bushes could use some watering. Hit the sprinkler.

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Come inside.

Wash hands. Wipe soap on shirt before rinsing. Repeat.

Circle the ottoman at top speed 11 times.

Realize Mom is holding Baby Brother. Decide Mom is base and decide to make her lap a HOV area.

Generally revel in the joy of being a boy.

Mmmm….God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt. It goes perfectly with my PBJ. Only a few ounces of dirt left, Doctor.

 

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Relax? Shove it, Frankie.

 

On behalf of busy people on overload everywhere, let me be the one to say it.

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SHOVE IT, Frankie.

I am so thankful that my dearly beloved and my close friends know that saying, “Relax” would have the same effect as saying, “When are you going to start potty training?” or “What is your plan for staying healthy post-baby?”

(The answers are 1. When Firstborn can say things like “Poop”, “Potty” or “Ew.” At the appropriate time. This will probably happen AFTER he turns two. Unless you are the one changing his diaper, go sit in time-out with Frankie. 2. I no longer live anywhere close to Texas. This means I am not close to Whataburger, authentic Tex-Mex, or Mom’s cooking. That and trying to not steal animal crackers from my child’s snack cup before realizing what I’m doing…which didn’t happen today…why do you ask?)

The fact is, it is a very valid question and has been asked by just about everyone who is concerned with my well-being. In fact, I appreciate it. I just haven’t had a good answer. Yesterday, however, I was asked that very question by Secondborn’s main care worker during our first home visit. Now, the agreement for these visits is that I must limit distractions and visitors.

1:34: Firstborn is introduced and gives our new guests a good leg tackle in greeting. He is promptly excused for a nap.

1:36:  Knock at the door as we began paperwork. The garage repairmen, who we had waited on for a week, could only come at 1:00. Only 40 minutes late for a 30 minute repair. Not bad, really.

1:41: We began to assess Secondborn when the roofers who had not finished the job the previous day called. They were promptly ignored. They returned the favor when I called back.

2:00 : Halfway into the infant massage and strength assessment, the garage repairmen left and then knocked on the door to say the payment had been denied. I gave them the two numbers for the property management company, waved goodbye, and returned to the very patient ladies.

2:15-2:35 Three more missed calls from friends and family.

2:38: The worker asks, “What are you doing to take time for yourself?”

 My answer: I shrugged, half smiled and said, “This is my life. This is actually an easy day because we are at home. I find the good and work in time for the people and things that are important and hope for a moment of peace in the next few years.”

“Well, be sure you find time to just relax.”

 I’ve come to realize that for mothers, there is no ‘peace and quiet’. This is because if things are quiet…someone is probably up to no good. Either that or something is about to crash very loudly. No, we have to find peace in the noise. Life is noisy, whether there are kids or not. We find blessings in the battles and frustration in the life we lead. When someone sees us boiling over and tells us to “relax”, what I hear is “You are handling yourself wrong and I am totally judging you for it.”

As I sat talking to a stranger about the years of therapies and appointments my son has ahead of him, it was hard to balance one day at a time with the years ahead. Everything I do now will directly impact his necessary skills, even more so than a typical child. That brings a LOT of pressure that can be hard to shake, particularly with a very demanding toddler wanting constant attention. My mind is a whirl of 3 am feedings, messages from daycare, diaper-bag refills, rewriting wills, wondering which therapies will be paid for, keeping up with appointment schedules, remembering to fill up with gas (40 cents more a gallon than last week?! WHAT!?) and hoping my toddler will someday take interest in potty training or speaking in sentences. All of a sudden I can go from calmly making my 1,095th PBJ with both hungry boys crying to having a full-fledged meltdown in less than a minute.

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I asked another great friend who has been in my place before how to ‘relax’ on this issue. She recalled it well, saying she couldn’t fold laundry with her son in the same room because she felt pressured to work with him at all times. Eventually, she limited her ‘working time’ with the boys to 9-5.  This information was mind-altering.

My friends didn’t tell me to relax. They didn’t ask if I was okay. They KNOW I’m NOT okay! Instead, my dear friends have asked some excellent questions. Please, the next time you feel the need to tell someone to relax, ask one of these questions instead.

  1. What is on today’s agenda that I can help with? (Sometimes people don’t know how you can help.)
  2. When can I bring a meal over?
  3. Would it be helpful if I _______? (Watch the boys? Grab some groceries? Came over for a bit?)
  4. Would you like to come over sometime? All of you are welcome. (INVITE these reluctant people out. Even if they decline, KEEP doing it. Let them know they are remembered and not alone.)
  5. How do you most feel comforted/ What helps you decrease stress?*Oh, GOOD one! I had to really think about this. My answer helped my friend know my heart and made me identify my coping techniques.

Another friend that is dependable and always encouraging recently laughed with me about the foolishness of telling someone to relax. I’ll close with her wisdom on the subject. “Amy says, “Don’t tell me to relax. Don’t do it.”

All By Myself…Mom Version

Little known parenting/pet owner fact: We rewrite lyrics of songs to make them about the kid or pet in question. I fall victim to this regularly, in addition to finding myself humming tunes from my son’s favorite shows.    Yesterday, for some unknown reason, a Celine Dion song popped into my head and ended up with a little re-write.  Without further ado, the Mom Version of “All By Myself”.

 

“All By Myself”

My kids are young
Needed by everyone
Some days are tons of fun
Today’s not one

Stayin’ at home  I think of all the friends I’ve known
When I dial the telephone  Nobody’s home

All by myself
Just wanna pee

All by myself
One time more

Hard to be sure
Why kids feel so insecure
When we close the bathroom door

Tantrums galore
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All by myself
Just wanna be
All by myself
A minute more

All by myself
Don’t wanna give
All of myself
Anymore

They make me old

I’ll miss this time I am told

In a few years we will see

When I’m alone to pee

All by myself
Just wanna  be

All by myself
5 minutes more
All by myself
Just can’t give
all of myself, by myself
Anymore
When will your dad

Finally walk through that door?

Oh joy, galore

We are all young

But bathroom’s limit is just 1…

It is hard, rewarding, fun

You’re worth it, son

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Preparing to Experience Emergencies

They say the best way to avoid disaster is to plan ahead to prevent it. They also say experience is the best teacher. These pieces of advice are both true. Case in point…

8:06pm. One child was fed and in his swing. The other was in his crib, shrieking at the injustice of being subjected to the torture of a good night’s rest. (How dare I incarcerate an American citizen without cause? Fine. Son, you have the right to remain SILENT.)

The glorious moment had arrived…the time I could slip into the bathroom without interruption and enjoy the glory of a hot shower. (Angelic Hallelujah!) On the way up the stairs, my beloved said to me: “Dear, we are out of toilet paper in the upstairs bathroom. You may want to grab a roll.”

–          Exhibit 1 of disaster avoidance. There is NOTHING quite like the blunder of the toilet-paperless tinkle. Only 6 years into marriage and my man knows to warn me (or avoid a trip upstairs and keep his wife from yelling throughout the house after bedtime!)

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With that disaster averted I replaced the roll and still quite elated, enjoyed the lovely sound of a shower starting. Aah. Now, I have had horrendous eye allergy issues for a few weeks, so I have opted for glasses and eye drops throughout the day. Hence, when I took off my glasses for the shower, my world became a blur.

-Exhibit 2 of disaster avoidance: Always look first. Now, I tried. Unfortunately, it helps to have eyesight when one looks. -4.5 and blurry mixed with mom-fatigue did me in.

After a few minutes of enjoying hot water and feeling the day start to wash away I reached for the shampoo. I missed. It was not a problem of depth perception. My mind returned to 1 pm to the loud thumps that came from the bathroom during a diaper change. I now knew what they are. All the shower items had been moved from the shower and relocated to the separate garden tub.

With a heavy sigh I opened the door to cold air and proceeded to do the ‘shower run’.  You know the run. You’ve done it. It’s the awkward balance between haste and not slipping on a wet floor and breaking your hip so that others have to save your wet, shiny hiney. I reached over the tub, trying not to touch the tiles that were -40 degrees, and grasped for the shampoo and body wash. Conditioner would have to wait until next week’s shower.

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I did my Mommy-Mambo back to the shower, anxious to bring my body temperature above that of a polar bear’s. I shook my head to myself and scolded my lack of momsense. Why on earth would I expect my belongings to be where I left them when a toddler lives in this home?  Then I felt a sense of regrouping. This was my only personal time during the day where I had the freedom to indulge in the glories of washing my armpits. (You’re welcome, neighbors.) The glories of tinkling unaccompanied, having clean hair and smooth legs, slathering on some lotion and anti-wrinkle cream (resistance is futile, I know)… and it was nearly called on account of boys. Be ready for anything, right?

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Experience is a good teacher. I will always check the shower before entering and make restocking the toilet paper reserve a weekly occurrence, even when unnecessary. The fact is, life takes vigilance.

This week I got to church and realized I had gone through all the newborn sized diapers during the first service. Secondborn was particularly moved by the Spirit- he filled 3 diapers in 2 hours. It wasn’t pretty. Furthermore, he waited until the prayers to ‘call an audible’. Superbowl Sunday or not, it was unsportsmanlike conduct that cracked up the pew. I had to find the emergency bag in the car, fish out two extra diapers, and then remember the following day to restock to avoid further disaster.  Even the most diligent mothers are caught without a 3rd extra outfit, a sippy cup, wipes, homework folders, permission slips, or thawed meat for dinner. It’s hard to run a house and keep everyone alive, let alone learning and prospering. No wonder when the moment comes to finally slow down the adrenaline and coffee IV, a mom can be caught unprepared. Add it to life learning experiences.

As I sit here today soothing a baby and looking out on my toy-littered living room, I realize how far my preparation skills have come. I realize how many items have been added to the ‘I know better’ list. The balance  between preparation and learning from experience is a hard one. My younger sister married an exceptional young man two weeks ago. Like all weddings, it was a lovely affair full of minor emergencies and disasters.  I thought about how I thought I had been prepared for marriage- and in many ways I did start out in good shape. Still, only experience can prepare you for the real thing. War movies and Family Readiness Group meetings can’t prepare you for the first week of a deployment. Weeks of terminal illness can’t alleviate the loss when a loved one dies. All the “I told you so”s and coffee in the world can’t replace the months of sleep loss that comes with children of all ages. No amount of economy news coverage can help when you are the hard working victim of a budget cut. The most vigilant toilet paper roll monitor will still fall victim to a husband’s efforts and relaxing showers often don’t exist with toddlers in the house.

Preparation really does alleviate all manner of disasters and a lot of grief. Preparing for what won’t and what undoubtedly will happen are often intertwined. Experience comes from both. What are you preparing for? How do your experiences mold how you prepare for things? Conflict? Relationships? Grocery shopping after payday? In life’s survival kit /diaper bag, pack a few things.

Wipes– Be ready to clean up messes, to forgive, and to help when things get sticky.

Diapers- Crap is inevitable. Whether you just trash it or take it home and wash it, hanging onto it to long stinks up everything,

Snacks– Nourishment and refueling are crucial. The Bread of Life- God’s words Nature Valley Bars and Cheerios will make the day go smoothly.

Books- Learning is fun. Engage an idea, educate yourself, and have an escape handy when time allows. A waiting room is the perfect place to teach numbers and to be whisked away to another place.

Cell- Don’t cut yourself off totally; communication is important. Rather than be totally connected all day, just have it handy for needs and specified moments. Even when life is busy, your friends need you. Use good judgment.

Wallet– Carry your identification and sense of self; don’t leave it behind at the house or workplace. Be who you are everywhere and don’t forget your means of currency!

You may need to carry other things with you, but preparation is key. Adjust and learn from experience. Otherwise, your shower will be a waste of water.

It’s a Marathon…

Wednesday night in our AWESOME mini-van, my man compassionately listened to me attempting to get a grip on reality. Hubby said, “In life’s race there are a lot of hurdles. You just have to jump them.” I replied, “Fine, but you can’t put all the hurdles right next to each other. You have to take a few steps in between or you totally bust your butt. Especially me. The hospital says I’m a fall risk, you know.”

In all the motivational speeches, pep talks, trite encouragement, and sage wisdom I have been told in the past 3 years particularly, it seems a favorite saying is, “It’s a marathon.” With that metaphor comes wisdom like, “hydrate”, “training is important”, “commit and find accountability”, and “wear the right shoes”. Yes, that advice is applicable to motherhood, military life, and being the mother of a specially-made child who needs extra help.  Then in my quiet moments I turn to get some restful moments in God’s Word and find people are still running.

   “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So   run that you may obtain it.”1 Corinthians 9:23-25

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1-3

While this can be encouraging, the fact remains that I am not a runner and I’m in a race where most of the training is on-the-job. In the spirit of marathon running, I thought I would cover a few of my recent chuckles in like theme. The truth is, this is one of my hardest seasons. Every day has difficulties and the end is nowhere in sight…unless you count bedtimes. So with a smile, let us review the conventional-and true- marathon wisdom for people struggling with life.

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First, there is the “stop and smell the roses” and “slow down” advice.  I once cheered on an inspiring friend in her first half marathon. The bulk of runners came through and totally ignored the cones- soon I was in the middle of the race and being pushed by people who didn’t want to be bothered with bottle-necking. This also happened as I arrived in the Seoul International Airport. I stopped to spot my Beloved and got knocked over by a 70 year old Korean woman. True story. She was throwin’ the ‘bows and I went down hard. My husband thought this was funny. It wasn’t. Stopping is important, but know there is a high likelihood of being overtaken and trampled. Plan accordingly.

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What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Cool- if you come out stronger. Some people don’t. Let’s not take it for granted that everyone will emerge from their circumstances rewarded, happier, and with an ‘awesome testimony’. Finish lines and small destinations to reach are encouraging. Sometimes the ‘finish line’ really seems like the real finish line. Of course, outrunning death is the source of all kinds of lyrical inspiration. Some people are literally fighting for their lives. Let’s remember that.

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I’m not a doctor, and neither is this guy. There are the critics who let you know you are doing a crappy job and think they are funny doing it. The thing is, sometimes there are more urgent things to handle during the course of life. Some things need to be handled privately. Then again, some people need poop-themed signs. It happens.

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We can clench the teeth, pull up by boot straps, get over it, etc. but the truth remains that some of us are carrying very real pain. In our post modern world of fast-forward, it is nice to think the emotional suffering or intense training happens in a short montage with upbeat music. Nope. Those who run with a rock in their shoe feel pain every single step of the way. It’s not helpful to ignore or push past the struggle of others.

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Saving the day is hard work. We can all find something super in the every day grind. Let’s get to it. (Where did he park the Batmobile?)

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Oh, come on. Now he will have to run one just because of the nay-sayers. Comparison is not cool. Neither is trying to one-up others, particularly Chuck Norris.

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Life is about learning to dance in the rain, is it? Okay. Sometimes it is important to bring a dad-gum umbrella. Watching expectations is important. To some the point is finishing a race, supporting a cause, getting into shape, etc. When others expect a song and dance, they get disappointed. If you want happily ever after, go to Disney. Some people are giving all they can just to stay in the race.

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You may be the lead dog but we have to pull together, Judgmental Husky.In a frustrating moment this week, I showed vulnerability to admit my exhaustion and frustration to someone I only know from a conversation in the hospital. The girl who listened sympathetically couldn’t help but interject a “just wait until they are in school. It is SO much worse!” Thanks. I can barely keep upright now- how will I handle everything else? See the Grim Reaper sign. The ‘be happy because someone has it worse’ encouragement isn’t helpful. It’s not a competition. A weekend without your spouse might be crippling for you, while spending months with mine in a war zone is my norm. Getting a healthy dinner on the table every day can be a struggle for me, while you might whip up a gourmet meal and love every moment of it. It’s not the same race.

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Then there is the joy of collective victory…(and the joy of being an Aggie. Whoop.) Life isn’t a competition. It just can’t be. Someone else is always going to win. Be happy for them. Especially when you are on the same team.

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Then there are the friends who get involved and really keep things in perspective. A few amazing women have really pulled my weight along with theirs this week.  When challenges come, the friends who remind you why we are doing the hard things in the first place. Then after a glorious moment of regrouping, girding the loins and picking up the pace again, it is time to keep running. There are no time outs in the marathon…unless you have a toddler. Then there are lots of time outs- but you know what I mean.

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Run the race, warriors. It is a lot longer than 26.2 miles. We have different hurdles, different paces, and see different signs along the way. If you know someone is running a hard race today, or simply getting lapped by life, be an encouraging person along the way. Finishing strong is much better when others are around to help celebrate the victories. Stretch and get your water. You CAN do this.