Probability and the Kindness of Strangers

This is an important week for me. My little guy is headed to Duke for surgery, which entails all sorts of logistics. This was complicated when my phone and wallet were taken from a park I frequently visit and not returned. I was gone for less than 2 hours between when it fell out of my stroller and when I returned, only to be told a “Good Samaritan” asked around and took it home. I was hopeful!

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But she didn’t answer the calls or texts. She didn’t turn it into the police or phone store. She didn’t Facebook me from the IDs. No, she just did who-knows-what, leaving me for a weekend to marinate in my own stress of not having ID that acts as insurance card, a driver’s license, the contact information for our therapists and doctors, etc. We held out hope while taking every possible safety precaution and then we waited.

Folks, this is a military town. The law of the land is Murphy’s Law; if it can go wrong, it will.

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I have 24 ours to replace a phone, research vital contact info, and try to replace all the IDs possible…which means phone calls to government-run facilities.

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Today was a day of action. Cards were re-ordered. Phone calls were made. Applications were sent off. I met my man off-post so he could drive me on-post to get a new ID…with children. Chances that my kid would fall asleep?

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It’s Risky Business.

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My Man commented, “Oh, the kids are here. I guess I knew they would be, but for some reason it didn’t register.”

Yes, Dear. I bring the kids and double stroller to these things. It’s called “daytime motherhood”.

Probability that I would bring both kids? 100%

We waited until 4:05 to check in for our 4:20 appointment when we were greeted rather abruptly.

Probability of getting a KIND and helpful clerk? 25-50% at best.

I had everything I needed…except a signed sworn statement from the Military Police declaring the theft of my ID. I didn’t even get a “sorry”. Nay, she rolled her eyes when handing me directions to the MP station!

So off I rolled my double stroller to the car to make the drive over. At the very least, I could have it ready for an early-morning appointment before the 1.5 hour drive. Off we went. Seatbelts clicked, strollers collapsed and opened, I did a gymnast routine to keep the door open and roll a double-stroller in without letting the door hit me on the way out…but we got it all done by 4:25. Could I make it back to the other building in time to catch the 4:30 appointment time slot without leaving the kids in the car?

 

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No. Oh, no. 4:35.

I snapped the children into the stroller in a rapid frenzy, smiled at the 4 men who watched me lift the huge stroller and two children over the curb as they walked by (REALLY?!) and RAN into the support center…in the RAIN.

Probability everything would be closed? 100%.

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I caught my breath and tried to make an appointment on the automated machine…but the slots were full. As a receptionist for the building gave me a laugh of pity, I wondered aloud if I could knock and see if the employees were still in the office. Maybe, just MAYBE someone could help me.

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I rolled my traveling circus through a chair obstacle course and knocked. One woman peeked through the door and ignored me. Then another answered. Her facial expression conveyed that I was about to be shut down.

Oh, I played the “my kid is having surgery and I need help” card. When the kids are involved, I’m all in.

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It worked. This cute girl walked me back to her office that was decorated with Pre-K artwork. She was a mom.

There were some problems getting everything into the system and a supervisor had to give us the okay, but by quitting time I had a new ID. PRAISE THE LORD for fellow mothers who help a sister out.

As we left the building, three- yes, THREE men held the doors open for the boys and I as we paraded through two sets of double doors. I thanked them profusely. We strolled through the lightening drizzle as the warning for “Retreat” echoed on the humidity some affectionately call “air”.

I arrived home to find a care package from a dear friend. It was to get me through this week in the hospital; delicious baked goods, magazines, a heart-felt card, and quarters for a vending machine Coke. Amazing.

Hopefully by noon tomorrow our bags will be packed, our ducks will be in a row, and things will be a little more in order.

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With strangers, you never know…but when people come through, they really come through.

Thank you. With my support system around, my chances are always good.

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Total Eclipse of the Heart: Motherhood Edition

I sometimes get 80s classics stuck in my head…and then make up my own lyrics. Don’t judge me.

Then I had to search for the video on Youtube and I’m now in that weirded out zone. Twerking is weird enough, but whew boy.

Without further ado, Motherhood A La Bonnie Tyler:

 

Every now and then I get a little bit lonely when the Army sends you round
Every now and then I get a little bit tired of wiping all the tears and the rears

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Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that my wrinkle-free days have gone by
I get a little bit terrified- what on earth is that in your eye?

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Every now and then I fall apart…Every now and then I fall apart

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Every now and then I get a little bit restless when the house has gone wild

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Every now and then I get a little bit helpless when there’s always a child in my arms

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Every now and then I get a little bit angry and I know I’ve got to get out and cry
Every now and then I get a little bit terrified; I have 8 different stains on my thighs
Every now and then I fall apart…Every now and then I fall apart!

And I need you now tonight

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And I need you more than ever

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And I know it will be alright
I’ve been holding it forever…

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And we’ll try to parent right even when days get long
Together we can make it to the end of the line

There are victories to celebrate all of the time

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I’m always wiping poop and fear Legos in the dark
Our house is like a powder keg giving off sparks

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I really need you tonight
Did I eat dinner tonight?

Can’t wait to get a shower tonight!
Every day I fall a little deeper in love although I’m mostly falling apart
Please tell me that was only a fart…

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Once upon a time there were no boys my life.
Now I get up while it’s still dark.

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Yes, my hands are full but not nearly  as full as my heart

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(Turn around bright eyes…)

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Golden Girls, Forcable Healing and a Whiff of Essential Oils

When things get really rough, I pile the children into the stroller and we walk. I tell the boys about what we see, I pray, and before she died, I would call my grandmother. She was a farmer’s wife, mother of four sons and feeder of dozens of ranch hands. She was a master at smelling out the ‘bovine excrement’ in life and was quick to help me gain perspective.Walking and talking with Grandma kept me sane on appointment days when I had to deal with a harsher reality than I had pictured.

Today I used all three of our strollers.

At each walk I talked to a neighbor over the age of 60 about one doosie of a day.
First, my beloved neighbor Miss Rita. She is matter of fact and was a special education teacher for decades. She kindly demanded to hold my baby and noticed that I was out of sorts.  She immediately asked about what was going on.

I had just returned from a symposium. Despite a week of sessions, I could only attend today’s “Parenting Special Needs Children”. I drove around for literally an hour trying to find the correct Family Readiness Center. There are 3 within a 15 mile radius. It was an Army wife’s version of land-navigation, complete with a 30 pound weight (carseat). When I arrived I heard good information that was…interesting. The highlights were that her plan helped her son had ‘fully recovered’ from his severe autism. I need to eliminate all chemicals from the house and severely restrict our diets. There was NO mention of HOW to do this, where to find food that replaces current eating, and how we can make a reasonable transition, of course. (Telling me what to do and not how to do it is NOT helpful.)
We returned to the diet changes that were recommended; no gluten, soy, etc. When one mother mentioned a sensory issue that involved her child only eating white foods, the analogy to opiates and needing a cocaine fix was made. That isn’t fun for a mother of a 5 year old to hear, no matter how you slice it.  No. We only have an hour. It was more discouraging than helpful.

Miss Rita very matter of factly told me to dismiss it and made a face that showed an obvious disdain for what I had been told.

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She promptly told me to spend some time loving on my firstborn while she and another grandmotherly friend adored Secondborn and did his exercises for me. God bless her.
After an hour of playing, Firstborn wanted a walk around the neighborhood. We soon saw Mrs. Elizabeth, a darling widow who is as sweet as Southern tea doing yard work. She is a doll and has a grandson with special needs. We made small-talk and discussed milestones and then the seminar story spilled out.

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The leader was a disciple of the Church of Essential Oils. Now, we use essential oils. They are wonderful. They help.  I was told that after one application her son spoke in a full sentence and asked for his first outing. Another friend of hers had a 4 year old say his first word after one application. Okay, then. Apparently moms who are still struggling with speech-delayed children aren’t doing it right.They are NOT magic potions.  I watch mothers drive themselves to exhaustion changing diet and doing various regimens to control the issues their children have. They are helpful and make a difference, but food is NOT God. Oils don’t cure what God chooses not to. After 2 hours and NO medical information about my child’s concerns, I was given a full prescription list of things to do for my children…after I buy it and join her subscription letter.  It gave all the people who are using the essential oils correctly to the benefit of others and the glory of God a bad name.

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When I mentioned Secondborn is having surgery to get a feeding tube the immediate response was “He needs frankincense. I always have to ask God where to put it…(pause) on the nose bridge and on the neck.”  (Seriously, this happened. I couldn’t leave. I tried. Really.)
Miss Elizabeth called some sweet-smelling bovine excrement on that one. She told me a story of her daughter and some success, told me of how essential oils work for her but shouldn’t negate things like SURGERIES, and lovingly sent us on our walk with a hug and some encouragement that I am doing well. She reminded me that there was motherhood before Pintrest and that even the Proverbs 31 woman had servant girls. After a dose of loving scripture-based advice for mothering, she told me to keep my eyes on Christ and to send the rest right back.

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With a wave to my son she sent us on our way feeling more grounded.

After a few more blocks I saw Crazy Mrs. Becky. God bless her…everyone needs a Mrs. Becky in their life and neighborhood. In the early evenings Mrs. Becky sits out on her porch with her dog and a tall glass, just enjoying retirement. She loves when we walk by because she had sons 19 months apart and laughs at the reminders we bring in our wake. She gets to the point, “Meet any crazy people lately?”

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I told her that after a neat, surface level seminar and being told to buy the SPEAKER’S essential oil pack I was cornered by her husband and encouraged to talk about the ‘real healing’. She attends and teaches at a church with points of faith that I find questionable. Dang it. She teaches “Biblically based healing that you don’t learn about in church. ” Red card. Yellow flag.
I was encouraged to come to the classes she teaches so I could learn about correct prayers, blessings, and speaking healing over the children. I stated back that you can’t pray away or cast out a chromosome. Yes, God CAN choose to heal, but he didn’t when people prayed over my womb. Clearly my child is equipped for a work that his Trisomy 21 will accomplish. Sheesh. The conversation turned down a path I found very unsettling. We had a little banter about Mark 9 and God using people with disabilities for his purpose. This stuff of faith, God’s healing and theology is HARD stuff, Y’all. This is when the faith gets real. It’s HARD.

When someone is fighting a war and people call into question why it is being fought, how it is being fought, and then tell the people fighting that they are monsters and wasting their lives, it isn’t pretty. (Oh wait…that sounds like the past 7 years as an Army wife as much as parenting a unique kiddo! I digress…)

I was fairly passive aggressive at this point. I don’t appreciate my faith and parenting styles being called into question by strangers.  Basically there was a bit of this going on:

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Mrs. Becky was loving life right about now. She told me of her legalist ex-husband and how much better life is now that she has her husband who is 15 years younger. She then told me to write stand-up comedy and thought a glass of wine would do me some good. Something about her makes me need cheesecake.

So now, hours later, I realize I have discussed my issues with the Golden Girls. I guess that makes me Sophia.

Picture it: 10 pm. Fresh chocolate chip cookies… a mom sits alone in a messy room recounting the day’s progress and the ‘expert’ voices she needs to drown out. She decides to make some pasta sauce from scratch and call it a night, knowing that Christ Jesus is in control. With a slather of essential oils after bath time, a prayer said, a good word spoken over my sons and a dose of reality given from mothers who refuse to go crazy, I sit here and say, “Thank you for being a friend.”

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After all, that is how we mothers of kids with special needs kids survive. The dreams that are shattered by reality get put back together to make a better story.  Friends drown out the junk and get convinced of great ideas that work. Comrades show up with casseroles and pizzas so we can get the kids fed and maintain a shred of dignity. Battle buddies remind us that gluten-free is possible but suddenly living Amish isn’t mentally beneficial. Sisters bring you cheesecake and tell you to shower for the good of all involved. Golden Girls lift you up and drown out the voices that don’t need to be heard. THAT is worth having a seminar about…as long as there is cheese cake.

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Who is my neighbor? 3 am lessons

it didn’t take long for me to realize this morning phone call wasn’t the usual good morning routine. The threads for a good story were spinning and were about to weave into a glorious, recognizable pattern.

“May I take a moment to express my frustration?” she asked.

Of course. This is a Safety Zone.

“I’m angry with a black Dodge”.

Interesting. Frustration at an inanimate object that is not owned by anyone I know. Go on.

“It was 3:00 am…”

Ah yes. The time when no one should be awake. It sets the stage for heightened senses, shorter fuses, and benign noises suddenly becoming harbingers of doom.

“We were both sound asleep when I suddenly hear a loud honking. I was disoriented, so I thought it was from the inside of the gate and someone was just honking for someone to get into the car.”

Sunday night at 3:00am…What could be more natural?

“The honking went on for 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES!” Finally John got up, took a picture so we could identify the car, and was about to go down when another car came behind it and LET HIM IN!”

Goodgoshman!

“My first thought once I realized what was happening was ‘What if Kaitlin were here? He would be waking her up, her kids up…’ and then I realized that my neighbor does actually have a two year old and a newborn! I finally got to sleep, but needless to say my dreams were crazy after that. Seriously, welcome to Austin.”

My sister is an educated, daring, bold, and spectacular person. However, she has alerted me to a flaw in the education process of Life 101.

The fact that this guy honked for 15 minutes without a confrontation is ridiculous. By then you should have called the police and your security officer for domestic disturbance. The fact that someone let this guy in when he is obviously NOT supposed to be there and is probably irrational or impaired is a MAJOR problem.

Furthermore, she asked a hypothetical question. It must be answered- it MUST!

What would have happened if I had been awakened at 3:00 am?

Picture it.

A black Nissan in need of washing threatens the gates– a potential Trojan Horse about to erupt with an assault to the sleep we hold dear.  Abattle cry of “Beep!” that sounds like a cazoo shatters the night. Oh, it’s on.

One by one the residents open their doors, stumbling out in slight stupors. From the semblance of safety the car provides First-Class-Boob realizes that people are descending from the balconies, all staring at him.

The state of delusion and panic increases as his stare locks with bloodshot glares. They are angry. Confused. Irrational. Slightly hungry for a sandwich or those Chuy’s leftovers…

A man wearing only boxers and boots emerges. Then a woman in sponge rollers. A miserable woman with bronchitis. A grown man in footie pajamas. Perhaps a mother holding a screaming baby over a soaked shoulder bores a hole into him as the baby’s shriek pierces the night.

This breaks the silence. Each person begins to speak…in movie quotes. A silver-haired gentleman growls, “Boy, you’re in a heap of trouble.” The boot wearer goes back into the door yelling, “Too close for missiles. I’m switching to guns.” The chef about to have final exams sneared,” “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

The exhausted mother wails, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore !” Soon the voices blur together in glorious confusion that all things sound like in a 3:00am adrenaline rush:

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”  “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?”  “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”  The Cajun yells, “STELLA!” while the comedian inquires, “Who’s on first?”

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Suddenly another vehicle pulls up behind the black Dodge and presses the key code and yells, “I have nowhere else to go!”. The gate swings open, leaving only yards between the recently awakened and Captain Inconsiderate.

Now the Mannerless Wonder is realizing an escape isn’t possible. A mob is upon him. Just as he expects them to start attacking the car…

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They assemble into greatness.

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It’s all very thrilling.

 

It all ends with Mr. Rude-pants jerking awake over a steering wheel at sunrise,  allowing him time to ponder his dream and then go forth as a productive and more considerate citizen.

Then everyone can do the same after a long, uninterrupted night of sleep.

Yes, that’s how it would go if someone honked for 15 minutes, awakening me from sleep in the dead of night.

 

If they aren’t as scared of you as you are of them, you’re doing it wrong.

May you sleep well, Dear Ones.

Fighting the Lawn

Today we finally had a lovely day. The weather was perfect. As a loved cousin declared, “Sunshine is natural crack”. I decided we needed a fix.

The yard was in need of some TLC (not that it goes chasing waterfalls) and I was the girl to do it. I put the baby in the stroller, grabbed some yard toys for the Mancub, pulled out my pitiful but faithful green push-mower, and headed to the front yard.

Roaring to life, the mower cut the first line of weeds down to size.

I smiled and looked over at my little ones. They are blooming and growing like weeds.

As I completed the first row of mowing, I had to stop short. The far end of the yard was full of branches that needed to be cleared before mowing that area.

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Then the mower needed more gas. Then I nearly mowed over a dead bird.  Then a ball rolled under the car tire beyond the reach of a little arm.  I had some obstacles.

My mind immediately uprooted a precious gem I unearthed when I was still pregnant with my little Conqueror but knew that we would have special obstacles.

It was story that told of two people who had yards to care for. One day both went out and worked. One person mowed, edged, and watered beautiful flowers. In only a few hours, the work was done and the yard was remarkably beautiful.

The other yard was also remarkable, but for the opposite reason. It was filled with weeds, thorns, poison-ivy, and branches. It took hours to clear those things out of the yard. As it grew dark, the yard looked like hardly any work had been done, although the piles of what was cleared attested to it.

Some yards start with more weeds.

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It takes a lot more work to get to the point others begin with.  I treasure that reminder.

I took a deep breath of pollen and beheaded another row of clover. For some reason I felt a bit burdened in that moment. There is always work to do and things to clear before getting started on the intended task.

 

Then I noticed my two year old smiling and running up to me. He cautiously approached the mower. I stopped to see what he needed when he cautiously reached up to the mower. I placed my hands over his little ones, keeping the engine going. Very, very slowly we took a step. Although his head is as tall as my hip, he had to reach his arms up high to reach the mower’s handle. His little black Vans, still three feet away from the machine,  shuffled behind the humming machine as he leaned in. Bent over, my head was next to his, yelling, “You’re doing it! You’re mowing! Great job!” over the roar.

It wasn’t me against the yard anymore.

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I dearly wish I had a picture of that moment, but I doubt the teen walking his dog across the street took one for Instagram. #Trainthemup #4thgenerationfarmer #Anewchore #Goodmotheringrightthere

 

My heart is full. My yard looks nice. It’s nothing spectacular, but there are no visible weeds right this second…or bird remains for that matter.

When my yard blooms though, it’s really something.

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