I Fought the Lawn

It has come to my attention that there are literally dozens of survivor themed shows on television. I don’t mean reality television; I mean the Man vs. ‘Elements we have conquered for over thousands of years and should have the good sense not to subject ourselves to on camera’ shows. To my knowledge (which is admittedly limited as we have not had cable for over a year)  there is not a realistic mom/wife-survivor show. I don’t need to watch one either. Why? Well, to quote Pirates of the Caribbean, “You’re in one.”

pirates

In this week’s survival episode I’ve crossed off all sorts of jobs that usually aren’t my cup of tea… painting door frames, furniture assembly, disposal repair… now there was one big task left to do before Hubby comes home.

 The mission: Mow the lawn.

Factors:

1) It has to be me. (Please sing ”It had to be you…” Thank you.)  This week I’ve been playing the role of a geographically single mother. Sadly, my awesome husband has had to leave a training and drive 12 hours one way to commemorate the remarkable life of his grandfather. This is a big deal- he has about a million things to do this week and missed the death and funeral of his other grandfather during a deployment, so this was an important “divide and conquer” move.

2) Timing. With 6 appointments this week (21 hours total) and 4 hours on the phone to Tricare and factoring in nap times, daylight, and constant rain for 4 days, I’ve had exactly 2 hours available to mow. Sadly, I used these two to do laundry and shower so that the neighbors didn’t need to make concerned citizen calls to CPS or a Haz-mat team.

3) The mower ran out of gas at the last run. This means loading up the kids, putting the gas container into plastic bags,  filling the container, rolling down windows and chanting, “I’m not a bad mom for poisoning my kids’ air” for the 1 mile drive home.

4) Oh yeah, kids.

It’s also KILLING me that I haven’t been able to tend to the yard. It’ ingrained. Since I was very young, my father made it a point to have a well-cared for lawn despite his frequent traveling. He would go out and do yard work in a shirt that read: “I fought the lawn and the lawn won.”

    i fought the lawn

Once I heard the song “I Fought the Law and the Law Won”, it made sense. I also can’t mow without that song stuck in my head. I’ll send you the therapy bill, Daddy.

I’ve had a few false-starts. The last time I was going to mow, this happened.

IMG_4288

Then this happened.

IMG_4289

At 3:00pm I saw my very small window of opportunity. The baby was sleeping, the toddler was happily playing where I could see him through the window, the sun was shining but it was only 85 degrees and the day’s appointment was done… go time.

I threw on my ‘gross shoes’, bolted for the garage and grabbed the gas can.  It wasn’t empty! There was just enough fill the mower completely! PLENTY to get the law mowed! HAPPY DANCE!

happy dance

Well, this beautiful moment had to be seized! If I only had 15 minutes available to start off, the front yard was the priority. I jogged the mower down two strips and across to the main yard when suddenly a pint-sized streaker came bolting through my yard. This blonde child wearing only a diaper came giggling out and did a touchdown celebration across the porch. Where on EARTH was this child’s mother? Oh. Mowing the yard.

In my defense, the clean outfit had been sitting next to the table for when he finished his messy meal. Just then I heard a car coming up the street. HORROR OF HORRORS! It’s the same uncomfortable feeling as when someone sees you standing next to a leashed dog that is taking; the longest poop of its life. What if he bolted into the street and was hit? Wearing only a diaper?!  I’d be arrested on multiple counts of recklessness and stupidity!   I stopped the mower, ran after my toddler, threw him under my arm and jogged inside before the oncoming car could see anything. Once donned with shorts and a Spiderman shirt, we both returned outside.

Occupied with a ball to roll, Firstborn played while I mowed two more strips of lawn…until the red ball became stuck in a bush. Stop #2. Two more lines…Stop #3. Then a sudden interest in the grass clippings that fly out of the mower constituted stop #4.  With only 8 breaks, the front yard was mowed. Then- miraculously- Firstborn followed me to the backyard and played happily while I jog-mowed the back yard in hopes that I would beat the baby’s naptime limit.

About halfway through Firstborn climbed the backyard Firstborn up into a lawn chair and watched me work for the duration of my mowing. He didn’t just watch- he lounged. I laughed and muttered, “Just wait a few years, Buddy.” One day my sons will turn from helpless to helpers- or at least be a blend of mess makers and mess cleaners.  At the moment when I explain how I do chores they look like this.

minions

Folks, I fought the lawn and I WON. Woman beat nature. Mom reigns victorious over the elements (except the element of surprise.) With only 9 interruptions, in under an hour, and without any injuries or public shaming lasting over 2 minutes.

Not a big deal? Well, it is for this girl. We girls who have to go-it-alone while our husbands are away for months at a time find a groove, but the transition is hard. Therefore, I will celebrate when I can do the ‘Dad jobs’ in addition to the ‘Mom jobs’ and extra jobs. As one inspiring friend said to me, during this season we won’t just survive- we will THRIVE.

So here is to God’s empowerment.  Here is to the sun shining for an entire afternoon. Here is no 2 year olds listening and obeying when they are told to avoid the street. Here is to babies napping after long physical therapy appointments. Here is to a well-earned shower.  Here is to all the people who encouraged and helped me!

Claiming victory over a lawn that hasn’t been mowed in 2 weeks means more than just striking something off the to-do list. It is a significant sign that I am capable of handling these obstacles. I won’t be overtaken by my surroundings. I won’t just survive. I will make sure Team Erkkila thrives.

minion family

What were your victories today?

Advertisements

How to get 2 kids ready for church without help

Anyone who says, “Easy like Sunday morning” has never tried to get a family with children to church on time. Either that or they have purged their memories of the trauma so thoroughly that they can look at a woman covered in 3 bodily fluids with a peanut-butter-handprint on her rump and say, “Treasure this! You’ll miss these precious years!”  No, Sundays are the most stressful day of the week for many, particularly mothers of young children.

If you live near towns full of military families, you may have seen the endangered breed of military wife and mother called the Woman Warrior pulling up to church. Her husband is absent, and without the man driving she has had no time to apply lipstick or style her hair. Instead, she may have applied some Lightning McQueen Chapstick at a red light. Those aren’t bits of glitter in there– they are dust from Cheerios. (They’ve never looked better!) She then unloads kids and puts multiple bags over her arms like bangle bracelets, grabbing children, sippy cups, and pacifiers as they fall.  Pulling on arms and sticky hands, leading a parade of crying children with tears streaming down their faces, she locks her jaw resiliently in response to the cries, “I WANT DAD!” She too, wants to flip the good behavior button to OFF and cry, “I want Daddy to be here too”. These wearied women often slide in during a worship song after putting each child into the appropriate place and are some of the honest few who are truly thankful to sit in the house of God. Heaven help the girl who comes in during the offering collection; the last thing she needs is one more person shoving a plate at her and asking for more.  Then she is able to sit for nearly an hour, perhaps enjoying a time of worship, teaching, but most certainly praying- most likely that the pager to return to the nursery not go off before the service ends.  Afterward she reloads with the gear and additional coloring pages, and exuding phrases like, “Where’s your Bible?”, “He had two socks when we came in, right?” and “We do not act out Baptisms in puddles!”

These women are often asked, “How do you do it?”  Well, today I have the answer. Here’s how we did it in my house today.

How To Get A Two Year Old and New-Year-Old Ready For Church By Yourself:

The day began with the sun streaming into the boy’s room, signaling that it was time to wake each other up. Harmonious yelling and chattering over the monitor woke me up. As I reached for my glasses, the boys’ good-morning song reached the 3rd verse, which sounds like “There’s an axe-murderer in the room!” (This is why Baptists don’t sing the third verse.) This can also be confused with the “There’s a spider in the shower with me” scream.

psycho shower

 Ever the good mother, I entered the room singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made!”  and gathered both kids. I continued this worshipful mood by not turning on the television, but a CD of Kid Worship songs, hoping this would set a positive tone. I had no idea how right I would be.

 I told the 2 year old that it is time to go potty. Miraculously, he followed and sat down promptly. However, he did this with his clothes and diaper still on. After some praise, I helped him disrobe and asked him to sit again. His look said, “Um, I have no clothes on. Pee could go into an area you want, as opposed to everywhere else. I don’t think so, Babe.” He then decided it was the appropriate time to reenact the dance sequence from Flashdance. He is a maniac on the floor… well, bath mat really.

Flashdance-1983-postnoon-news-435x292

Apparently the bathmat is the most comfortable thing in the house and must be sprawled upon. I could have a whole album of pictures of him cheeks- up. I’ll call it the al-BUM…because I’m 12.

 With the cunning use of wrestling moves, I got a diaper back onto Firstborn, prepared his breakfast and began to change and feed the baby. Halfway through that enterprise I came to give Firstborn a cereal refill when I saw a cereal box boasting a high fiber content next to his bowl. SURELY I didn’t….Thankfully, no. I didn’t. Just then the hymn came on in the background. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” You’re welcome, nursery volunteers.

 Back to the fray. I dashed into the bathroom and was able to ascend my throne just as I heard, “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me!”  Wow. God has a sense of humor and part of it is potty humor. I want you to know I did all things as unto Christ this morning. After 25 seconds of solitude in, Firstborn busted into the bathroom, where he discovered his favorite toy- my contact case. He picked it up and my contact flew out, triggering a round of echo-game “Oh no!”s.  I spent 10 minutes locating the contact and trying to get the contact to fit comfortably in me eye. I finally gave up and got out a new pair. The reserve is dangerously low.

Next step- deodorant.  Now, I spent last week out of state to see my beloved and forgot my deodorant when I returned home. Naturally, I bought some Friday, for the good of all involved. As I slathered it on today I realized that the scent is not my usual and is somewhat strong. Unfortunately, one of my dearest friends is very sensitive to smells. I could just picture her sniffing me and sliding down the pew. She is so sweet that she would probably say, “I love you, but the smell coming from your pits is going to give me a rash.” Good friends help you work on your faults, you know.

I dashed out to pour myself a bowl of cereal when the house became very, very quiet. It was just what I’d want…which meant something was wrong. I went to the stairs and called Firstborn. “Where are you?!” “Uh-dare!” he answered.  Now, we have a baby monitor with a camera set up in his room to keep an eye on him. It’s not to see him sleeping peacefully; it’s to know when he tries to climb over something and break his neck.  The camera is on a bookshelf that also holds books and toys. I flipped the on switch and saw something like this:

 edna screen

TERRIFYING. It’s like a scary movie. Content that he was playing, I gobbled a few bites of cereal and realized that we have only 13 minutes left to get to church and still be on time.

I dashed back into my room, threw on a dress and did the one-shoe- flamingo-hop toward the bathroom.When I arrived I brushed my teeth and reached for my make-up only to discover the Shellac I call under-eye concealer was missing. Then I found my makeup.

 IMG_4228

By now Firstborn had joined me and informed me he needed my immediate help. He often gets his toy balls stuck under furniture and needs help retrieving them, which was the case today.

 IMG_4232

After that rescue operation was mounted, I told him it was time to get dressed. He immediately took off like a shot and ran to my bed, where I chased him down with his clothes and shoes. For some reason,he felt today was a day to make getting dressed an exercise in calf-roping.

 calf roping 2

 His screams could only be translated as, “Jesus didn’t wear pants to church! Why must I?”

By now we should have been in the car. I did a mad-dash for my keys, phone, diaper bags, and put the baby into his carrier. After running out with the first load I grabbed Firstborn and then did another lap in search of his shoes. Just out the door, I remembered my Bible. You can’t forget that. After locking the door I bolted to the car to see that my car wasn’t the only thing about to start. The service was too.

 Thankfully, we live less than 5 minutes away in our new home and Firstborn was downright excited to go to church. For the first time in weeks he didn’t protest to walking when he saw me carrying the baby. He went right in- a major battle won. I dropped off Secondborn, nearly left with the diaper bag still on my arm and then managed to get into service by the second song. I slipped into a side pew alone.  We made it all the way through service and halfway through Sunday School before the buzzer went off in my bag. Firstborn didn’t make it through today. He is in his “I’ll hit you if you get in my bubble” stage and doesn’t play well with others. After an encouraging talk with a few people, we came home resolved to put new plans in action. I drove home, made a few sandwiches, went for a stroller walk and put the boys down for a nap . Now I sit here, telling you how it’s done. Now I get to wash a peanut butter smear off my clothes and have a little lunch before we do it all over again.

 One thing is certain, my friends. If you want to strengthen your prayer life, take the kids to church on Sunday. The name “Prayer Warrior” is not a coincidence. May your day of rest actually have 10 minutes of rest.

Amen.

Tricare and Sequestration vs. Braveheart, The Godfather and Me

You know, most wars start with a disagreement. Sometimes it is a misunderstanding; sometimes it comes from an exertion of power that not everyone is okay with. Some go to war out of self-defense or in support of others who can’t fight for themselves. When the hand that feeds you also has a strangle hold on your neck, it’s time to bite.

As the hiatus in posts and a few Facebook posts have alluded to, things have been a bit wild this month.  The home we were supposed to rent fell through at the last minute, so we were left with a single day to search and find a home before visiting family across the country.  28 hours, 3 stops at the bank, 4 diaper pit stops and a dead armadillo later, we returned to a house filled with boxes and prepared to move the next day. Why? “Because you’re young and can handle it.”

Wrong. It’s because we are crazy and had no choice.

Unfortunately, leaving the state for 2 weeks meant a few missed appointments for Secondborn. The only change to make one up for Occupational Therapy was Friday morning. As my amazing hubby rented a truck and moved half of our belongings onto the truck and transported them alone, I drove both kids to post and dropped a very confused Firstborn at daycare with time to spare. With my extra 10 minutes before the appointment (Pause for angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus) I decided to set up the 9 month appointment for Secondborn. Here’s where it gets fun.

To make an appointment, one must call the appointment line. Except for the Pediatric Clinic. You can’t reach a live person or make an appointment by phone for that ONE clinic. Instead, one must physically come in and make it. That means hauling two kids into seats, bringing a double stroller, etc…. so you can see this seemed perfect. The waiting room was less crowded than usual and I was able to speak to the girl behind the desk quickly. After the few basic questions she said, “Oh, he’s been reassigned to Presley in Family Medicine. It’s right across the hall.” She pointed through glass doors. I looked and the common sense portion of my brain exploded a little.

Now, I knew the PEDS clinic wasn’t taking anyone new, but silly me- I thought the letter that said he would continue to be assigned to PEDS meant he’d be assigned to PEDS.  Instead, all the pediatricians are being reassigned to various clinics and military families must be reassigned elsewhere or off-post. I turned to this sweet second lieutenant and realized she couldn’t do anything to help me. I smiled and pushed the stroller across the hall and waited behind a longer line. When I approached the desk, I asked for an appointment for my newly reassigned son.

“I’m sorry, we don’t make appointments in person. You have to call the appointment line.”Okay. Across the hall you have to physically come in but here you have to call. Makes perfect sense.

i-feel-like-im-taking-crazy-pills

Sadly, I didn’t have time to call from outside the clinic doors. I had to push Secondborn to the elevators to be on time. After the appointment I strolled over to the Referral Office to track down the information of the endocrinologist  that I never received the usual Tricare letter for. There was no line. Only one woman was working, but she was pleasant and effective. I looked around and declared that it was nice and quiet. She looked at me like I’d been living under a rock.  Close…I’d left this fun behind in pursuit of Whataburger, Aggies and the comforts of Texas.

 “It’s Friday. It’s Sequestration day.” Yeah… could we just pretend the last 20 seconds didn’t just happen? In that moment I totally blanked out. On Fridays, contracted workers and civilians are just not present. Furthermore, it was a training holiday, so only a few soldiers were present.  After making that realization,  I was just thankful to have been seen at all.

After the appointment I rushed back to my house to continue helping my beloved move our lives into a van (thanks to an amazing friend who wrangled my boys). We worked like Spartans all weekend, and help showed up in masses. It was a great show of support and we are grateful. However, it took a few days to unearth the sanity to call the appointment line.

Finally, I made the call and got a live person who said, “ I can’t make an appointment for you that far out yet. Ma’am, did you know that the new provider is at the Clark Clinic?”  Why no, I didn’t. I would have gone to the hospital and missed the appointment entirely. Thank you, PFC. You really saved my day… although I’m not sure which one yet. I’ll call back in a few days.

So now, I fight. Time to go to the mattresses.

Mattresses-e1329148447584

Sometimes the best thing to do for kids with special needs is to recognize their special needs and get what they dad-gum need! In the matters of health care, treating them the same is not always helpful. My baby’s thyroid, liver functions, growth, and mental acuity are all needing to be monitored on a different scale. Thus, Secondborn’s check-ups are more intensive than a typical baby’s due to his above average chromosomes. Each trip also includes 45-60 minutes of blood draws for tests as well. Often, we need the doctor to call and confer with specialists at UNC.  This is an all-day thing.  I can’t take the 2 year old.

As I’m often told, “Things are going to be much more challenging.”

challenge-accepted

Yesterday I called the patient advocate/case manager that is helping me with Secondborn’s care. She informed me that the new caregiver we are assigned to is a nurse practitioner and is separate from the clinic where the rest of the family receives care.  No one has any idea if she has done pediatric work at all, let alone with special needs. God love the NPs and PAs, but I really need to see someone with expertise in CHILDREN, let alone Downs Syndrome. I’m sure she has very white teeth, a lovely singing voice and never cheats at poker, but I need to NOT be the person with the most information or experience with Trisomy 21 in the room. My son and I only have about 9 months under our belts; we are still rookies.   Thus, I called to request that Secondborn be assigned to my Family Medicine Clinic to the pediatric doctor who has been reassigned there. There is no telling when that will go into effect.

So here I sit, venting, gathering resolve, and girding the proverbial loins. There is a way, and I will find it, like every other mom who is trying her best to give her kid the opportunities and care possible. It’s hard to navigate health care. It’s hard to figure out parenting. When the two mix, it’s even harder. Please remember that the next time you see a group of mothers that look like this in a waiting room:

BraveheartStirling

Fellow fighters, battle on. We’re in this together.  However, if you see me in a kilt in a waiting room in the near future, please help me find some jeans and get me a Diet Coke. I’ll thank you later.