How To Capture A Bat Without Waking the Baby (and other Thanksgiving Tips)

It was the night before Thanksgiving; the military town population had sharply decreased while everyone trekked home. My husband was overseas, making us a family with an empty chair at the head of the table. I looked forward to an early turn-in time and hurried to tidy the living room. I was on my hands and knees to pick up the best and worst toy ever- Legos. Suddenly something in the wall started thumping like the Telltale Heart. I turned toward the chimney to try to locate the source of the thumping, flapping noise.  Wings?  A split second later a large, black, flying object swooped down into the fireplace and through the small scalloped opening at the top of the fireplace screen.

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I was incredibly thankful that I was on my knees in the middle of the living room, because I hit the ground in a hurry. The black object flew right at hair height and proceeded to start spastic, panicked circling. I stared up at it and tried to identify any features that would indicate that it was a bird. None. This was a bat.  

This experience was one where I gleaned wisdom and bravery, which I will now share with you, Readers. My mother says, “These are the kinds of things that only happen to you.” I’ve been a military wife long enough to know that is NOT true. In fact, the best advice on how to quickly kill and capture the bat came from other military wives who had experienced the same thing. Here is a little instruction for the next time you think you have Thanksgiving (or any other holiday) totally under control.

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1.Acknowledge that this is the kind of thing that only happens on a holiday weekend at night.  Realize that there will be no professional and possibly no man around to help you.  Run through the list of males that live nearby and realize all are out of town or live at least 30 minutes away.

2.     Freak out. Go ahead, it’s good for you. It gets the adrenaline pumping and you may get great advice out of the situation. It’s better to get things under control right away rather than have a crazy flare up.  Keep your head in the head of battle.

3.     Seek help.  In my case, I quickly had a bat capturing expert advising me to ditch the proverbial broom tactic.

4.     Start worst case scenario prevention. Can the bat access the children or animals? Put them in a safe place. Does it have rabies? Maybe. Act accordingly.

5.     Cover your rear by covering your head. No matter how composed or hard-core a girl may be, when there is something in her hair, all bets are off.  Get your protective gear and capturing gear, locate the bat, and conquer the beast.

6.     Quote Scripture. I don’t mean the “deliver me from evil” passage. I mean something like God’s command to take dominion over the animals and all things that crawl on the earth. There are lots of great movies when someone racks the cool points by quoting scripture before exacting justice or killing an enemy.  Case in point: Private Jackson quoting Psalm 25 in Saving Private Ryan.

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Here’s how it played out. I wish I could say I channeled some awesome heroine or hummed some theme song, but the truth was I just wanted the bat out of the house so that my sons would be safe and could get some sleep so Thanksgiving wouldn’t be spent in the ER. The bat was now flying all over the house and I was able to regain some composure. The boys were both in bed behind shut doors.  I had a house full of useful objects for capturing this intruder. I dashed to retrieve my weapons: a small trash can, a cookie sheet, an anorak with a hood to protect my hair (see #5), and an oven mitt in case to protect my hands in case of rabies. There were documented cases in this area earlier this year.

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Unfortunately, the bat had stopped moving and I couldn’t find the creature. I ran around the house frantically flipping on lights so that I could identify the small creature. A thorough search of all open areas yielded nothing.

 I made an SOS call to my bat-capturing expert and had her walk through capture techniques with me.  I returned upstairs to turn off the bathroom light and suddenly the bat took flight, scaring me to death. I was so thrilled to see it…and yet immediately wanted to never see it again. I hung up the phone- these are moments we do alone.  I shut the door, retrieved my weapons, and went in.

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Now, I am sure many of you are picturing me with a hippo floatie around my waist, rain boots, a football helmet, and goggles. Go for it—it’s much funnier.

Once again, I couldn’t find the bat. The upstairs bathroom is small; this bat and I were within 4 feet of each other. I hit the shower curtains, looked behind the door… and then a black speck was poking out from under the rug. It was proof that God answers prayer. I didn’t have to hit the thing!

Again, if you want to picture me flailing a cookie sheet around at the thing, go for it. It’s funnier.

In reality, I very quickly turned the blue trash can upside down, covered it, and reached for a thin towel that was on the rack nearby. At this point I had to decide on death or capture. For a brief moment my inner self said, “Kill it! Kill it! killthebeast

Trying to crush it was the only answer if I were to kill it, requiring me to cover it with a thin cookie sheet and then cover it with my body weight, hoping it didn’t fly out. Then I’d have to hit it, knock it out, and risk being bitten or handling it. Again, RABIES. It was safer and faster to capture. They also eat bugs, namely mosquitoes. I’m a killer of bugs, spiders, roaches… but not furry little bats. I didn’t want to uncover the bat that was now ready for escape just to say I killed it.

I looked down at the bat and yes, really said, “I’ve got you covered.”

 Then the bat and I did a little two-step. I put the towel down, shimmied the can over it an inch, waited for the bat to scoot over, and repeated. It tried to push out and got a wing out and started making a high pitched squeak,  leading to a little moment of HOLY CRAP BAT…MAN! Still, I covered it and started over. One quick move to turn the can right-side-up with the towel secure… cover with a cookie sheet… take a selfie to prove that this really happened…

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And rush downstairs to the front porch.

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With that, I took a picture of my conquest and released it into the wild. So there you have it. Rather than an early evening with pumpkin pie chilling in the fridge and a good book in bed, I sat up for another two hours unable to quell the adrenaline rush. The dishes did get done, however.

I then relished in the fact that I am pretty darn capable. This was a far cry from the squirrel attack of Pearl Harbor day, 2009.megora

Mothering two boys has made me much more brave, out of necessity. Moms are superheroes. This Thanksgiving, I was BatMom.

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UPDATE:

It is now approaching Thanksgiving 2014. William and I spent the majority of November living in the pediatric oncology wing. During the first week in November we moved to a new room, which had something waiting for us in the window.
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Holiday memories are important. Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all!

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A regular Monday

I’m coming to terms with the fact that my life is not average. That’s a good thing. It’s also a hard thing. Life with two boys is eventful… but today we didn’t have to go to a hospital, doctor’s office, therapy play area, or even to the grocery store.

It was a regular day…a Monday where I could see how ‘the other half’ live. You know, those not-crazy people who only think “How is this my life?!” a FEW times a day rather than nearly every minute their children are awake.

Here are a few highlights:

Great things: We took Pop to the airport. Upon returning home we began a snack session. Just as things were calm enough to finally realize I had a 32 oz Big Gulp amount of liquid in a pea-sized bladder I made a break for it. Just a quick tinkle- nothing Tom Hanks worthy. Then again, we should know that we are ALWAYS being timed when we go potty.

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A miracle happened: NO ONE FOLLOWED ME! 84 seconds of solitary confinement! It was beautiful.

I heard the toy bin overturn as I sat down. I came out to this:

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Note the innocent stare of Firstborn as if to say he saw the whole thing. The demon ghost who did such a terrible thing ran that-a-way.

We cleaned up and headed outside for some basketball and catch. 30 minutes later the boys were happily enjoying the outdoors when I decided to reassemble a jogging stroller given to us by my sister in law. She’s awesome. Her husband is awesome. Her kids are awesome. Hand-me-downs and secondhand strollers that can be turned without monumental force are awesome. I set to it.

Caveat: I am lucky I can assemble Legos towers. My idea of Hell is being trapped in an Ikea storeroom and being told to assemble every display by morning. Without a tool or man in sight, I set to work. Firstborn watched in amazement, hopping into the stroller occasionally. The wheels would fall off…literally. Soon the stroller than had been in 8 pieces was complete! There was great rejoicing.IMG_5714

Firstborn deemed it roadworthy with a few good pushes. I told him, ” This stroller is now fully operational. I suggest we use it.” Star Wars quotes will not be lost on him forever. Truly.

We continued to play until lunchtime, when I learned that my child does not transition from one activity to the next easily. He came in from Catch well, or so I thought. As I spread peanut butter onto bread, Firstborn ran up behind me and said, “Ma!” I turned around to be immediately blinded by a sudden dog attack. Apparently our game of catch was not over.

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Now, he really was trying to play catch. His father also likes to throw things at me before checking to make sure I am ready.

PSA: When playing catch or throwing an object you wish another person to catch, first 1) Establish communication with the recipient. 2) Make eye contact. 3) Voice your desire to throw an object at the person. 4) Wait for confirmation, observing that the recipient does not have her hands full with soapy children, laundry baskets, toys, or dinner. 5) Then and ONLY then, gently toss the object.

Unfortunately, no woman has suffered such dalmatian-induced devastation since Cruella DeVille. This sucker came at my eye at top speed. An HOUR later, my eye still had swelling.

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Wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. This was also a lesson in appropriate pain-inflicted exclamations. My choice was one of history rather than G-rated cussing sound-alikes.

“Holy Roman Empire, Batman! ”  Whatever. By now we know that I’m not normal. Then we had a break for discipline and a lesson on projectiles being outside.

The day continued on by scaling Mount St. Laundry, baking casserole, doling out discipline, cleaning up the kitchen, a nap time for the kids (FINALLY!), handling mail and business calls, and then greeting a neighbor who brought banana bread over. Bless her and her banana bread. Good friends say, “Hi. I like you. Now stuff your face and shut your mouth.”

We carried on to bathtime wherein Firstborn sank a whole floatilla of plasticware and Secondborn learned that sprayers make his feet ticklish. The giggles continued into bedtime, which was punctuated by the horrors of teething. Worse, Secondborn must ponder why a mother would introduce him to the idea that a dinosaur would wear a hat a ride a bicycle.  Imagination is key, Kiddo.  Exercise and fashion sense know no extinction.

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Then I finally got a shower. One where I washed my hair. Yes, it’s true. I even dried it…for about 10 minutes. Then the hair dryer broke after I finished only one side of my hair completely. Ladies, gasp in horror. Somehow I gave my poor hairdryer CPR but a new one is on the purchase list.

“Normal Monday?” I’ve concluded that there is no such thing. Facebook people who have perfect, non-mess making kids don’t exist. Either that or they are liars. I smell pants burning every time I see a link to Pintrest. I finished sorting mail and then blogged yesterday’s post, crashing and burning into a slumber far to late in the night for today’s 5:30 wake-up call.

How was your Monday? If it was normal, don’t tell me.

Check Yes or No

Tonight I opened the mail and was greeted with a barrage of envelopes from health care providers. I opened four letters that showed charges for my children’s therapies and I got to see how much was covered by our insurance. By the last letter I was feeling particularly thankful that the therapies my second child has to help him learn to sit, crawl, and eat properly would not cost us several hundreds each month.  Then I opened the fifth letter.

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The letterhead read Army Community Services: Exceptional Family Member Services.

Before I left for a trip home to be with family to rest, I had an interview with a representative with respite care. I had waited months, made several cumbersome trips to get paperwork filled out and I was feeling hopeful. I was assured that my present circumstances would warrant an hour of two of help a week.  This came as a huge relief.  I was hopeful that I was finally going to receive help. That hope was powerful; it was one encouraging thing to return to. Tomorrow I was going to check and see if the board had heard my case.

They have. The letter was a “we regret to inform you that you do not qualify for respite care” letter—a Dear John letter. I’m not quite sure how they figured it as I am apparently an automatic qualifier, but a solid “No” was looking up at me. denied

How in the world? Surely this was like Clue: The Movie. No meaning yes?

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(If you haven’t seen this movie, go view it immediately. Thank you.)

 Staring at that black and white letter, I felt indifferent. Shortly afterward I felt the temptation to dive full-force into feelings of anger, resentment, anger and frustration. Sarcastic comments about being Army Strong and the Army Family Covenant popped into my head.  “You’re denying my claim?”

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Still, four letters that showed how I was free from a financial debt peered up at me.

Tonight I am pondering how it feels to hear a resounding  “No” when you expected a “yes”. The expectation makes it harder to hear. I’ll admit that I have heard some “No”s that were much more painful. I prayed that the results were faulty when it was suspected that Secondborn has Trisomy 21. When Secondborn was coming three weeks early and my husband was not here, I prayed the labor would stop. It didn’t.  There have been many days that Secondborn fought to do basic things and wasn’t successful. Many days I tried to rustle up strength to press on and just couldn’t. Every day felt like fighting against a NO.

So how to deal with the “No”s?  For me, I have to focus on the “Yes”.  Respite care is wonderful, but it is an extra service that quite frankly is not mission essential. While the Army says No, many friends and family members have said, “Yes. Absolutely.”  I’ve had dinners  brought, pizzas ordered, and cards sent. People have come over and watched the children, even when they were not easy to handle.  Messages of encouragement have poured in and many friends have given hours of their time to listen and accompany me on rough days.  Church members visited, watched kids and brought cheesecake. Friends have mowed the yard and washed windows. They said, “Yes”.

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More importantly, God has said “Yes”. My husband returned from fighting overseas just in time to be at my side when his sons were born. I picked him up from the airport while in labor with Secondborn and made it just in time.  Secondborn was born without heart defects or other major complications. My family members were able to help. In my moments of darkest despair when I cried out to God, “Are you even real? I thought you were trustworthy. Are you going to stay here like you promised?”  Yes. A lot of time there is silence before the answer. There can be days, months, and even years of waiting. I usually fill those times not with calm, patient silence but more of a “What the crap are you doing, Almighty God?”.  I’m a work in progress.

I will most likely call the ladies who helped me earlier just to see what happened. I will certainly have days where I will desperately hope for some extra help. Still, I will cling to the “yes”. I have a life worth living and joyously celebrating, despite the circumstances. I was recently told (in an obvious case of word-vomit before the girl could stop herself) that she was glad she didn’t have my life because she would hate to have a husband gone and a kid with special needs. It made me ponder- deeply ponder- is my life one I would choose?  Yes. That is one certain Yes despite all the moments and days that feel like a ‘no’.  Pain and suffering is part of it. What you do with it shows character.

Tonight I feel strangely at peace. I finished the mail sorting, dishes, and picking up the tiny legos. I look over at wonderful banana bread that a friend brought and see cards from friends on the refrigerator. Pictures of the soldier I adore and the sweet boys I am blessed to have surround me. My friends are still here and willing to give love and support- and even more so.

So now I have the choice to give in to frustration, entitlement, and hopelessness. Yes or no.

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I choose hope. Even hopelessness has hope at its core; the idea of better, a rescue…a ‘Yes’.   I suppose if I am to teach my sons wisdom and life lessons, I must first learn them myself.  When God says, “Yes”, it doesn’t matter who else says, “No”.

The Scary Wal-Mart

The darkness seemed to envelope me as I stood outside the Haunted House. The poignant silence was punctuated only by sudden shrill shrieks of excited terror…which sounds like prepubescent girls during both happiness and total fear.  I didn’t want to go in, but peer pressure got the best of me. I was 13, after all. Despite my protests, we had to go inside in pairs and without me, a girl would be stranded. Being in the dark, surrounded by people waiting to jump out and scare me is not my idea of fun. Arm in arm, we crept in. Half of the fear is the anticipation—knowing that something horrible is coming and just waiting for the other shoe to drop.In this particular haunted house the scarers were allowed to run up to the victims, provided that they not physically touch them. After making only two turns, a college aged skeleton jumped out to do his minimum wage duty.   I saw an opening toward the hall into the next section, so I opted to bob and weave around the ghoul.  Despite the darkness and having my arm intertwined with a girl a full foot shorter than me, I pictured a graceful move worthy of a Superbowl. Unfortunately, my execution rivaled a marionette in a hurricane.  I tripped, fell backward into a wooden coffin, and smacked my head.

A few minutes later the Grim Reaper was offering to carry me through the haunted house very concerned about my head injury, but I wanted to maintain a little dignity. I could just picture Death emerging carrying me lifeless in his arms coming out of a B- rated Halloween attraction. In hindsight, that would have been amazing. I claim 13 years old on that one. Instead I walked out, my arm on his dark robes and emerging to being fully laughed at by everyone present. Not fun.

To this day I have not entered a haunted house and I maintain this important rule: If it is dark and the place you have to go is known to be scary, don’t go in. DO NOT.

This mantra has been fairly easy to uphold until last night. I had just finished a 13 hour drive across the nation with this for 12 hours:

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Once arriving home and unloading, I had to get food, groceries, and household items, lest we starve. I put in a to-go order and headed to the Wal-Mart across the street.  This was the fastest way to get everything accomplished and get home to get the boys to bed, or I would have taken longer to go to other establishments. I’m not the biggest fan of Wal-Mart, particularly Scary Wal-Mart. As I sat in the car outside, I felt like I was outside a haunted house again.

This particular Wal-Mart is no longer open 24 hours, due to the amount of crime that takes place during the ‘up to no good’ hours.  I pulled in and realized that it was Saturday night- and not just any Saturday night. It was Pay Day Saturday in a military town. The place was packed. Under the glowing “Wal*Mart” sign should have read, “Abandon hope, ye who enter”.

 I found a parking place and dashed in, thankful that my father had offered to stay with the children while I braved the wild to forage. I put on my best “I’m focused. Leave me alone” face over my “LONGEST road trip ever” face.

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 Things were going swimmingly. My speed was somewhere between mad-dash and Supermarket Sweep.

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I grabbed the cheese and was turning toward eggs when a somewhat plump man around 35 stood in my way, a little bit stunned. I tried to navigate around him, trying to ignore his awkward stare. Then a voice came over my shoulder…

“Texas A&M, huh?”

No. NO. NOT having it. Every adult I had encountered that day had either ignored me or been horribly rude, thanks to my driving through hostile territory in a Texas A&M sweatshirt. One woman in particular had ganged up on me outside of Tuscaloosa.  Surrounded by a large family all washed in Roll Tide attire, she began to pick at me. “Hey, Aggie fan!” There are no Aggie fans, Ma’am. Unless you are a fair-weather Heisman winner following fan, most people do not haphazardly root for A&M.  I offered her congratulations of the titles and said how nice the Bama fans had been at Kyle Field. She brushed it off. “Yeah. Your defense sucks.”  So does your attitude, Ma’am. She continued on while I took steps toward the playscape with my 2 year old. Her tone, posture, and the way her teenage boys stood and came close let me know this was a woman who loves conflict and would relish the opportunity to call the police. BLESS HER HEART. I was too excited to ask something like, “When did you graduate from Alabama? Did YOU play football?” or to start rattling off the stats when she went in after Johnny. I‘ve taken it on the chin for being an Aggie many times since 2003, but this was a new low. I was already wrestling a 2 year old back into a car for another 7 hours. I was not about to pick a worthless fight over an opinion with this:

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When this man made a comment on my sweatshirt when I was clearly on a mission, I had hit my limit. He was undefended and from the look of him, I could take him in a fight if I smacked him over the head with the Coke bottle. I was ready to be a Fightin’ Texas Aggie.

“Texas A&M, huh?”  was still weakly hanging in the air. I wheeled around on my tennis shoes and my eyebrows shot up into the “I’ve just seen a snake in the dryer” position. I made my mommy “I’m going to have to kill you” face at this stranger and my hand flew up into the ninja blade next to my face. My mother’s voice came flying out of my mouth. “You know what?!”

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Then he looked at me like this.

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He took three quick steps backward behind the fine cheeses display and raised his hands into the natural  surrender position. “No, it’s okay! I went to Sam Houston State!” he sputtered.

 Sheesh. An ally. I backed down from “I’m going to kill you” to “a light maiming will do” and explained that I had been driving for 2 days and had been heckled by very rude people all day for being an Aggie.  We made a little small talk about his degree and his playing band on Kyle Field, the Kyle Field renovation, and then I was off.

I quickly gathered the last of the needed items, picked up our dinner and returned home. That was about the time I should have felt guilty for being rude and abrupt. After all, Aggies are supposed to be friendly and gracious.  I usually feel very guilty after situations like these. Not this time.

No one yelled, pushed, or pulled out a weapon (all of which has happened in this Wal-Mart), but I am a bit horrified to realize that I am the scary person at the scary Wal-Mart tonight. That poor man was clearly taken aback, as well he should have been.

One thing is for sure; no matter what happens, on a Saturday night Wal-Mart is one scary place to be.

Heading back to Egypt

Have you ever heard the ice-breaker question, “Which literary or biblical character do you most relate to?”  My answer is never the same.  Now, I love good literature. I am fascinated by dynamic characters and drama of biblical proportions. Perhaps that is why tonight I find myself drawn to one of the most well-known characters of the Old Testament—Moses.

  Now, I won’t go into hyperbole.

Pushing the boys through the grocery store, basic errands, and appointments into bed is like herding a population of grumbling Israelites through the desert.

Breaking through medical care and military bureaucracy doesn’t really look like this.

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The diseases the germs brought home by the boys aren’t really the 10 plagues of Egypt.Loving family members have had to tell me to slow down and delegate. I often feel comfortable in two different cultures. The people under my authority don’t always listen when I bring down the law the first time.

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Tonight the part of Moses’ story that I am feeling drawn to tonight is the point that actually doesn’t get much pulpit time or a lot of ink. Let’s set the stage:

In Exodus 3, Moses has the famous encounter with God and the burning bush as he tends his flocks. He has run away from a colorful past as Egyptian royalty and has made an entirely different life for himself. He is now married to a woman who is neither Egyptian nor Hebrew, is a shepherd, and has no contact with either his adopted or biological family. In this amazing encounter, God lays out radical instructions return to Egypt and be the face of a liberation effort that mirrors Christ.  After this life-altering call in Exodus 3, Moses returns to his home and breaks the news that a major life change is about to happen.

19 Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.

(We won’t even go into how his poor wife probably reacted to the news while making dinner. Life changes out of nowhere with little warning and minimal instruction? Oh wait…military wife. But I digress…)

It’s one of the hardest trips Moses had to make—and it wasn’t the one that took 40 years. It was the one going BACK to Egypt. He had run away from the life he knew and taken a breather. Moses had a lot to handle. Moses had been set an on extraordinary path. He then cracked under pressure, freaked out and ran from a murder conviction and a guaranteed family feud. He ran and regrouped. God himself had audibly spoken and would direct his path. Moses had to go back.

He packed up his family and set out back to where he had come from. God later tells him that those who wanted to kill him had died. God promised to send help. Moses regrouped with his first family. After all, you want family around you if you’re going to overthrow a government’s political rule and economic structure. Especially when the government is run by your family and when you ran away from home you were wanted for murder.

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This past year has been what I call a ‘desert year’. It’s been extremely difficult; full of trials and refreshing places of oasis. There were times I was on the Crazy Train, times I was the conductor and others where I felt tied to the track. Like Moses, I grew increasingly troubled, lashed out a bit, and ran. I came to Texas to places that were familiar, worn-in, and full of love. People know me by my old self. I could get back to where I had come from—the opposite of Moses. I rested, felt restored, and watched all the members of my little family flourish. It’s been wonderful. Now I look out on a packed up mini-van and know that tomorrow I too will pack up my family and head out. I will have to go back to where I came from, slightly changed and full of anticipation.

I’m afraid.

I am afraid that when I go back, things will go back. That all the progress my boys have made will fly out the window. That my stress level will return, that the efforts to simplify my schedule will fail, that my best-laid plans will crash and burn. I’m exhausted by the magnitude of it all.

As Moses returned to Egypt, I wonder what thoughts ran through his head. I wonder what he told his children Egypt was like—did he tell them about the lifestyle of growing up as Pharoah’s grandson? Of the life of a beaten slave? Did he fear for the safety of his family? Wonder how the reuniting with Aaron would go?  Did he cling to his staff for comfort, trusting that God’s power and authority would be revealed through it?

Moses wasn’t the guy who said, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!” right away. Wrong book. That’s Isaiah 6:8.  Moses asked God, “What if they don’t believe me?” Yep. I understand that. When I consider, “God is fully able”, I am painfully aware that I am not God.

Moses had to go back to be on display, analyzed, questioned, and pushed around a bit. He had to stand up for God’s children, not back down, and try to cope with a total life-change. That sounds familiar. On the journey back there was a marital dispute, a surgery on a son, a family reunion and a bit of plotting. I sincerely hope my travel is less eventful.

I’m constantly asked why I don’t just stay here, where I have help and family.  I am sure Moses asked himself that repeatedly.  Why not just stay where it is safe, secure, comfortable, and familiar? I want to. The red tape of insurance is the short answer, but the real one is that I followed’ God’s instructions to follow my husband to the East Coast and I have to stay there. There is a church family there I want to become closer to. There are friendships to build, lives to change, and tests to pass. When we are totally unable to handle things on our own, God gets the glory.

God never outlines the whole story to those he calls. I’m quite certain Moses had days when he would rather be back in Midian minding sheep rather than herding insubordinate Israelites.  The fact is, Moses didn’t free the Israelites. The wailing in Egypt over the death of the children was no more his fault than the victory of parting the Red Sea. Moses didn’t give the Law. Moses didn’t bring manna. Moses didn’t provide salvation from serpents by lifting up the golden staff (read ahead to John 3).  GOD did it. He could have done it without Moses, but Moses went and got to see what God can do. Soon the glory of God spread so far that Rahab would later report that the whole city was terrified of the Israelites because of what God had done. I can’t wait to get to that part of my story.

There will be days when, like the Israelites, I will wish I’d never left. In the long run, I’ll be glad I did. When Moses considered the task of returning home and facing what waited there, out came Exodus 4:13 . “But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”   But he went.  He saw the Living God and sat in his presence.  I desperately want that. That is why I have to go back… even if I have to leave the “Promised Land” (Texas)  to face Egypt.

Just Like Me: A Buddy Walk Story

Today was an amazing day—one that I excitedly anticipated for 7 months. In my most frustrating moments fighting health care, I looked forward to Buddy Walk. At night when I cried alone and battled the fears that crushed my heart, I knew I wouldn’t be alone at Buddy Walk. After a year of trying to survive motherhood, a turning point would be a birthday weekend and Buddy Walk. When I say, “My son has Down Syndrome” I would hear, “Me too! Aren’t they awesome?”  instead of a forced neutral expression or a genuine, “I’m so sorry.”

 2013 has been a marathon, and the last glorious mile would be Buddy Walk. Today was the day. It was just another walk for a cause on the city schedule, but it was so much more that that.Over halfway through the walk, we met a delightful seven year old. As he spotted Secondborn in my sister’s arms, he ran up and held his hand.

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He covered Secondborn in kisses and hugs, giggling and exclaiming, “He’s just like me!”

Just like me.

There is great comfort in commonality. Living overseas, it is so comfortable to hear your native language. Oh, the joy in finding another displaced Texan who understands Whataburger and that chips and salsa go with every meal. Battle buddies, foster kids, sorority sisters, sports team fans, shared struggles—we just want to find something in common so that we can connect and belong. Even the mothers who desperately want a moment alone will call other moms to commiserate. We all want to know we aren’t the only ones.

I was in a sea of people today that were just like me. I saw moms who pushed strollers and pushed their kids to succeed. Our families surrounded us, just as they stood by us during the really dark days. Friends and strangers stood by with encouraging signs and cheered for us by name, showing us that there are always people alongside us. We all wore white Buddy Walk shirts and looked the same. We looked like moms of individuals with an extra chromosome. Short, tall, thin, plump, young, old, rich, poor, married, single—moms who have walked this walk, just like me.

I saw other mothers who had endured a year of explaining what the appointments are for, how therapy helps, and being asked if we could change what we are powerless to alter. These moms were passionately celebrating and loving life today- just like me.

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My mother and mother in law saw other grandparents who learned to love in a new way and discovered new levels of pride in their children- just like me.

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My sister and brother in law smiled and joyfully declared that this day felt amazing- just like me.

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Friends who do not have children with Down Syndrome came and celebrated the life of my Secondborn today.  Despite vast differences, they declared that they loved my little guy with extra chromosomes, just like me.

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They believe he can do amazing things. They want to see him succeed. They believe in inclusion and programs to help him find a job and to live independently as possible. They think he has a great smile and sweet dance moves. Their perspectives have changed because he is here. Just like me.

The little boy today clearly understood that he was different. He is loved, cute as can be, supported and uplifted, but he is different. One little chromosome makes him, his life, his perspective, different. He looked up at my precious baby son today and saw the same blue shirt. The same bright blue, almond shaped eyes and a captivating smile.

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His mother quickly caught up and apologized with a smile, explaining that her seven year old was a very affectionate hugger. Just like me.  With an enthusiastic and genuine smile she said, “It’s a battle every day, but it is worth it!” She believed it and knew the joy outweighs the suffering and questions. Just like me.

Today thousands of people walked the same path together. We all celebrated and remembered that we are not alone, isolated, or statistics. I wasn’t a friend of a friend’s hairdressers’ cousins’ roommate, fourth removed from the dog’s side who has a kid with Down Syndrome. I was someone just like you.

Thank you to all of you who walked with us this year, literally and in spirit. Thank you for believing in my son, who- deep down- is just like you.

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He needs your love, support, and open mind to seize his full potential and change lives. Just like me.

Weathermen and Birthcoach Fails

Have you ever noticed that most comedies involving families usually involve one of the major crisis events of life? The events we can all relate to set a perfect back-drop to the most memorable moments. Traveling fiascos, weddings and especially BIRTHS…oh, the birth stories. Many a movie and episode has played up the humor involved with a woman in total distress and those around her usually contributing to that distress. There is a very good reason men are often told to boil water or go find ice in such circumstances.

Today’s story is NOT my birth story. I repeat, NOT a birth story. Instead, it is a false alarm story in which I meet one of the world’s worst birth coaches of all time; the 6:00 newscasters.

On October 30, 2012 the world was in a bit of a panic. The weight of the imminent was upon us; Halloween candy was being ripped from shelves for trick or treaters and church events, events were being finalized, early voting and election forecasts were in full swing, and in our case, my husband had just returned from overseas. There were two more little pressing issues… one was my Secondborn, whose head was pressing on my ankles. The other was Hurricane Sandy.

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Now, hurricanes are a lot like childbirth. You know it’s coming. Big or small, it is still a hurricane.  It’s going to impact everyone. No matter how prepared you are, it still somehow sends everyone into a scramble.  “Pressure” is not an accurate description.

We knew it was coming, but Secondborn surprised us.  Due on Thanksgiving, I was prepared for a holiday baby. I suspected he would arrive during Veteran’s Day weekend if he came early, because my paternal family members invariably have birthdays on or within 5 days of a federal holiday.

I did NOT suspect Halloween would be the holiday. After a full day of going from ‘uncomfortable’ to ‘Mother of PEARL this hurts!’, I realized I had to go in. I loaded up the bags and stroller, enough snacks to survive the apocalypse, drove the Firstborn and I to the hospital and instructed Hubby to meet me there. We arrived to see another expectant mother reach her car and put the reverse lights on…and sit…and check her phone…and apply lipstick…

I honked. It was a friendly “I’m in labor and you’re not. MOVE or I will ruin the leather in your car. Thanks!” honk.  Once Hubby arrived and took over the bags and stroller I waddled in to check in. They had no record of me. Seriously.

While they called to search for a possibility of a doctor, I got gowned up and settled in a bed. I waited for the nurses to leave and then texted the awesome woman who had been my OB throughout. She responded and promised to get to me faster than FEMA.

As I waited and tried to get comfortable with a baby elephant on my bladder, I looked over the white and blue patterned pull-curtain encircling my hospital bed to see the familiar flashing lights of a television. As my very insides warred against themselves in a contraction, the news began coverage of Hurricane Sandy, which was blowing up the northeastern coast.  Despite the warning, you can always find someone who is truly shocked by the weather. Naturally, they had to show interviews of New Yorkers who could totally handle Sandy:

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It doesn’t always go to plan, does it, Zuko, Baby?

I was helpless to change the channel. There was only one other woman in the room next to me, on the other side of the curtain. We were in the same situation, and the weight of the world was suddenly on my bladder. Clutching my basketball belly and wincing above gritted teeth, the worst birth commentary ever began.

“Well, we all knew this was coming. Were warned but nothing really can fully prepare you for these things until it happens.”

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 I looked up at the top half of the screen in disbelief. Ron Burgundy was NOT going to coach me through a contraction.

“Clearly the people here took precautions. They have food ready, prepared their house as best as possible for the potential floods that will come through, but now there is nothing to do but just get through it.”

NO. Not happening. My house was not ready! I hadn’t even voted! There were no frozen meals ready. My camera battery wasn’t charged. We had no arrangements for Firstborn. I was one of those ‘not ready’ storm people!

“You can see the pressure moving through the area- just incredible- and we have to advise that everyone get to a safe place as quickly as possible. “

Done. Now where was someone who could catch the baby?!  I could hear the faint sounds of my son in his stroller being pushed around the waiting area by my husband. Good night, Nurse. NOT happening.

By now the contraction was really peaking. My weatherman-coach was ready.

“The thing to do now is just to bear down, push through it and wait for it to pass. There will be moments of calm throughout the storm but it will certainly get worse before it gets better. Then we can assess the damage.”

I stared in disbelief. A birth coach via perfectly/terribly timed television program? No. This was my second child. I don’t need a weatherman to tell me which way the wind blows.  It reminded me of the movie version of 1984 when the citizens are directed to do morning exercises by a woman on a screen. Big Brother Weatherman was not going to be watching this birth.

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I silently prayed that the weather would end and then heard, “Back to you for coverage of the debates and upcoming election predictions!”

NO! Bring back the weather!

At that moment, my beautiful deliverer walked in, flanked by two sweet but rather clueless nurses who were still trying to figure out who I was assigned to and who to call. Once it was decided that I wouldn’t be having a baby yet, I very eagerly dressed and wanted to get home. I decided not to turn on the television the rest of the night. Instead I would just sit and wait.

Yes, this is all true. Be careful of a storm. They really do bring on labor and they really do make weathermen into birth coaches. Never underestimate what a touch of bad weather can do. More than one girl has gone through bad weather and found herself in Munchkin Land.

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On the way home I turned up the radio to the 80s station. What should greet me? The Scorpions.

·         “Here I am! Rock you like a Hurricane…”

   He did arrive early, kicking off a holiday weekend. My little hurricane has been rocking my world ever since.

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