11:06 PM mothering
Years to come when I remember this summer, the summer of 2016, I will think of dust. The fine dry dust that comes from an earth, crackled and blistered, too parched to cry for rain, yes. Also the dust of things dead, the dust that leaves you wiping away discouragement at the corners of your eyes, the dust that settles onto shoulders, sagging from what feels like the weight of the world carried on them. But the memories from the summer of 2016 will also spark thankfulness for life because the series of events I'm about to tell you about left us shaken, greatly, but we realize, too, the 1,000 other ways the story could have played out, ways we are so grateful it didn't...
I'm going to start the story on July 15th, although it could start much earlier, way back in the spring when it didn't rain, or even last winter when we didn't get a good snow fall to keep the water table steady. But it was on July 15th when we finally needed to intervene. Our well had gone all but dry, and our yard was completely brown, except for the many weeds popping up that seem to grow in any condition. In order to do laundry and take showers, we had to haul water in.
My sister-in-law was living in New York, working several market stands selling peaches, over the summer. Friday was her typical day off, and she often would come over in the afternoon to watch the kids so I could mow our yard. It had been several weeks since it was last mowed. The grass really hadn't grown at all, but the weeds had.
After almost two hours of going back and forth, row by 36 inch row, I was finally nearing the end. The sun was hot, and my skin was so dust covered I could write my name on my leg simply by dragging my fingertip across the canvas of thigh. The glint from sun reflecting off a windshield caught my eye. As I glanced up I saw Herm driving our Ford Ranger pickup truck, a large container for hauling water on the bed, in toward the garage. I made another round, in and then out, on the mower, when I noticed the truck heading back out the drive. It was going sort of fast and didn't really look like anyone was driving it - but the sun was bright and dust stung my eyes, so I didn't really think too much about it. I simply hadn't seen right.
As I turned our zero-turn mower, ready to make another round, I saw the truck again. It had just flipped across the road and over the ditch, the water container spilling off the bed, before running into a tree in our neighbor's field and coming to an abrupt halt.
In the matter of seconds so many scenarios played through my mind: "Had Herm been distracted and lost control of the truck?" "Did the steering lock up?" I suddenly remembered that it didn't look like there was a driver. "Was there a small person driving it? Did Carson somehow manage to take off with the truck?" Panic rose in my throat, as I threw the parking brake into activation and leaped off the mower, running barefoot across the yard, over the road, and through the field, the whole way praying for the truck door to open and Herm to hop out. But the door wasn't opening! "Oh Jesus, no!" I screamed, running faster. The windows were all busted out of the cab, and the horn was stuck in a constant blare, the frame twisted in an angry sort of way, the roof, crumpled like a piece of discarded paper, on the back corner, near the passengers side door.
I reached the truck, peering in the drivers window, completely unprepared for what I found; it was empty. My weekend wouldn't be filled with funeral plans. My husband and my son were both alive! But where were they? Shaking, I called Herm. When he answered his phone, I was so worked up, I wasn't making much sense. "The truck! Where are you? You're alive. Babe, I need you." Somehow, in spite of the fragmented sentences and quaver in my voice, Herm managed to understand what I was saying. Within minutes he was beside me, as we both looked in awe and wonder at the truck we use to drive.
Herm knocked on our neighbors front door, a little unsure of how to explain what had happened. They came out of their house, laughing and telling us we should just let it there for a few days, you know, to get the other neighbors talking... "Looks like Herm's been drinking again." they joked. It was funny, but in a very unfunny sort of way.
The water container was undamaged, so as the afternoon wore on, Herm loaded it on a flatbed trailer and used his work truck to go get water. We were hosting a party on our deck the next night, and really needed the water so our toilets would flush.
That night as we sat with friends, eating tacos from a vendor at a local winery, we talked about all that could have went wrong; If the truck had jumped out of park only minutes before hand I could have been hit by it, as I was out mowing right where it cut through the yard. If Carson would have been outside, he could have been run over. If a car had been coming down the road they could have collided. If that tree wouldn't have been in our neighbors field, truck truck could have hit their two Lexus vehicles parked in the drive, it could have ran into their house, it could have ended up in among their solar panels or vineyard. If. If. If. But none of those things happened. In the end, it was only a truck we lost, and not a life, and trucks are completely replaceable.
In the scurry of our weekend, a weekend where events are sort of scrambled in my mind because so much happened, Carson's dog Mia, was driven over and died almost instantly. Again we were left with a bunch of what if's, and in complete shock we held each other, reminding ourselves that while we loved her (mostly) she was a dog, and not a child.
It was such a discouragingly dry, dusty summer -- one that left me aware of the very fragile nature of life, one that left me so grateful for more time with my people, my family. Each day is a precious gift. Material things are just that. Important, sure. But not really, not in light of eternity. I have my people, and for that, I am so grateful. And left still longing for rain for my dry and weary soul.
There have been quite a few changes in Carson's life over the past three months. He's taken it, for the most part, in stride, and as he learns and processes these changes it's all I can do not to burst out laughing in front of him.
For instance: Shortly after Brooklyn was born he asked if he could feed her. She is breastfed exclusively, and I had only given her a bottle of pumped milk once, while we were traveling. I had told him that I need to feed her but that he would be able to hold her afterward. He kept persisting, saying he wanted to be the one to feed her. Finally I asked how he intended to that. "Mom," he said in an exasperated tone that hinted at my ignorance for not already knowing, as he pointed to a nipple, "with my little milks!"
Me:"What would you like for lunch? A sandwich?"
Carson: "I would like a moomie. A queen moomie."
Me: "No, you can't watch the McQueen movie."
Carson: *sighs* "No mom, a queen moomie. In a cup."
My child actually requested veggies, in the form of a green smoothie, in a cup, and somehow I completely missed the gist of the whole conversation.
It's somewhere between 6 and 7 AM. I'm in the bathroom, going about my business (TMI, much?) and getting ready for the day. Carson, never groggy-eyed in the morning, comes hopping out of his room. As he passes the the bathroom he yells, "Hey mom, are you pooping?" "Yes."
I hear some shuffling in the kitchen, and a few minutes later he proudly brings me an M+M that he got out of the jar on the very top of our refrigerator. "Good job, mom! You did it." He high fives me, because we are in the thick of potty training, and we both know pooping in the potty is the hardest and it deserves a reward.
We were taking a family day, something that doesn't happen as often as we wish it would. The kids are both buckled into our Tahoe, the snacks and whatever we might need for the outing are packed, and we are off. As Herm and I chat, we start to flirt with each other a bit, sort of like we always did before we had kids. No sooner had he slipped his hand across the console and onto my thigh, when a little voice from the back seat called out, "Dad, stop it! BOTH hands on the steering wheel!"
The kids and I are out running errands when we passed a police car. That same little voice calls out from the back seat, "Mom, you better slow down. He's going to get you."
My two year old has suddenly become my conscience.
Before I buy something, I always, always read through a few reviews first. I find it so helpful to know what other users thought of the product. Is it true to size? High quality? Were most of the buyers happy with the product overall? I find it so helpful, in fact, that I'm going to share a few reviews with you too.
I read through this book in a weekend, but I intend to go through it again, slowing, following the steps and prompts. It was powerful, and I feel I would get so much more out of it with intention and purpose.
Note: Both books were given to me by BookLookBlogger.com in exchange for an honest review.
And there you have it... If you've stuck with me this long, why don't you tell me a few things you've been recently loving?
This morning I packed my children and a basket of soiled laundry into our Tahoe, and made the 20 minute drive over to my parents place.
We're in a state of drought right now. Our grass is brown and everything seems to be covered in a dusty film. It's been weeks since we had a good soaking rain to replenish the earth; our well is beginning to feel it. We've been trying to conserve water, a task you don't realize would be so difficult until you're made aware of the lack. Things like fresh laundry and daily showers and watering the garden suddenly feel like a luxury when faced with the possibility of needing to haul water in.
The ground is parched, cracked and aching for rain, and in a way, my soul is too.
I've snapped at Carson, my tone less than loving at times, and if the neighbors would overhear my language when
The burdens of the week -of diapers and potty training, of many nights of interrupted sleep and mornings waking up more tired than I was when I went to bed, of shootings and protests and racism- have left me weary.
I ache for rain, to be able to show grace to my children in the same way grace was given to me, to realize the drought is just a season. It won't last forever.
I worked on the laundry, two very large loads, while chatting with my mom and filling three 5 gallon thermos' with fresh drinking water to take along home. After we ate lunch together, I took Carson out to their pond for a swim. The little man was dirty, we had skipped baths last night to conserve resources, the berry stains and dust in his hair were proof; this might be his bath of the week.
My mind wandered as I watched the ripples splash across the water, first tiny, then growing larger and larger, until they reached the shore. I cannot shake the feeling that my silence might send the message that I don't care, that I don't see their hurt, or care about their pain.
I do. But I am silent because I'm scared.
I think back to the events that played out a month ago, of a joke that was told, how I was the only one not laughing. How inside me a war was raging, but I stayed silent. If my black sister or black brother would have been there, would have my silence told them that I will fight for them? That I will stand up to injustice and stand beside them?
I know the answer, and I feel shame.
This drought has forced me to pull in resources to remedy our lack so that life can continue to grow, so that we have clean water to drink, a way to do laundry and wash dishes.
In the same way, the systemic racism the has been a hot topic in media, effecting so many lives across our nation, has caused me to search for answers and search my heart. I've begun to pull in resources, to pour over blog posts and articles, to taking time to read what people of color are saying. To listen and learn and grow.
I'm praying for heavy rain to bring an end to this drought, replenishing the soil and our well, and for heavenly rain to flood my soul with grace and love and compassion and understanding toward my family, the white children I birthed and the people of every tribe and nation, my sisters and brothers of color.
And I pray that this work I am doing now, listening and learning and trying to understand, will have a ripple effect, passing down to my children and their children, growing in influence with each new generation. I pray that they will know that Black Lives Matter.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. " -MLK
Some people wish they would learn to keep their mouth shut, to not blurt out exactly what they're thinking about the topic at hand; I, however, most often wish I'd work up the nerve to say exactly what is on my mind. In real life I'm maybe a bit over polite, pretending what someone did or said did not bother me, when the truth is on the inside I'm fuming mad or slightly irritated or silently amused. Too many things get caught in my filter, and today my friend, I'm letting them out. Be warned: This might turn into a series of posts, because gosh, I've stuffed things for so long.
I said share! And if I told you to share, that means you've got to give it to me.
It was Wednesday, June 29th, 2016, at approximately 10:18 AM, Eastern Standard Time. How did I remember these unimportant details so vividly, you ask? The answer is simple; every Wednesday at Salvation Army is practically like Black Friday at Target -- the place is swarmed with customers wanting to get the best deals before someone else snatches them up. Common courtesy is thrown aside as people rifle through the racks of clothing and household goods, searching for the items that are half price. You see, on Wednesday all but one color tag is discounted. And I know it's approximately 10:18 because doors open at 10:00 and we weren't on time.
That voice you heard telling my son he needs to share, that's coming from a small child of 3 or 4 years. He's got gorgeous hazel eyes, skin that's glowing from the summer sun, and a tussled mop of brown curls. The only thing this handsome lad doesn't have going for him is his whiny and obnoxious attitude, which is less than handsome.
This all started a few months early when our dogs got a hold of several of Carson's sandbox toys. When we stumbled upon Lightening McQueen he was so mangled and messed up we had to send his bumper in for DNA testing to identify that it was really him. Needless to say, Carson was devastated. As I dried his tears, I silently thanked the Lord that it was only the 19 cent thrift-store McQueen car that was destroyed and not those vintage Tonka truck and skidloader toys I'm sort of fond of, and promised Carson that the next time we got to Salvation Army I'd let him pick out a few new toys to replace the ruined one.
Carson doesn't forget a thing. As soon as we pulled in the parking lot he eagerly told me he was going to pick out a new car!
And so there we were, in the infant and toddler section of the store. As I sorted through little girly rompers and jumpsuits, Carson sat playing among the toys. He had a yellow school bus and a yellow dump truck in his possession, not really caring about the rest of the scattering of blue and green and pink plastic toys around him, as he tried to decide of the two which one was going home with him.
You need to share, give it to me! The little boy began to tug and pull on the dump truck in a desperate attempt to pry it from Carson's grip. There were many other toys around him, but he had eyes for only one.
Don't grab it, I firmly told the child. But he's not sharing! And when I say share, that means share! the once-handsome-but-suddenly-ugly child whined. He was trying to manipulate me and I knew it. There are plenty of other toys here for you to play with. Find something else.
Find something else. It was that statement that sent the child into a full thrown tantrum. He cried and screamed and whined on that dust-bunny covered corner of the store. In an instant the adults in his life, the ones who hadn't been supervising him very well, were suddenly present. Oh what's wrong? Why are crying? Cooed his older sister in a sing-song voice. Did somebody hurt you? He continued to cry as his mother said, rather loudly so I would hear too, It's that little boy, he's taken all of the toys for himself and won't let Johnny have one.
Now this is where the story changes a bit. Remember I told you about my filter that caught what I was truly thinking? In reality Carson and I picked up those toys and walked away, but in my mind it played out so very differently. And I want to tell you about the differently part.
Now back to the story...
... It's that little boy, he's taken all of the toys for himself and won't let Johnny have one. I don't know where Johnny got his handsome looks, but I do know where he got his ugly entitled attitude from. It was in his mother's genes too.
I couldn't take it. I wasn't going to let her get away with her rude behavior. It was time for an object lesson. My dad always said the best way to remember things is to see them play out, and it's true. To this day I still remember the many children's church stories and activities because he was always so good at acting them out. So I guess you could say what happened next I got from him.
Her cart was filled with half off clothes and treasures. I couldn't help but wish I had found a few of them first. While she was still loudly stating that her poor son didn't have anything to play with because my son - the one who only had two of the hundreds of toys in the store - had taken them all for himself, I reached in to her cart and began to help myself.
What do you think you are doing! She yelled when she finally noticed, reaching for her items that were now beginning to fill the bottom of my cart. You need to share! I told her, grabbing another t-shirt in the process. It was a few sizes too large and sort of grandma-ish, but I pretended I still wanted it. And when I say you need to share, that means you have to give it to me.
I continued to empty her cart in to mine, and when she tried to stop me again, I did it, I acted exactly like her son. I threw myself on to the floor and began crying and screaming and saying that I wanted those goose dinner plates with pink ribbons and flowers on them. When she told me to get up, that I was embarrassing myself, I screamed a little louder.
By now there was a crowd gathered around us, and when she finally said, Take the darn dinner plates and shut the ( H-E-double hockey sticks) up! I calmly removed myself from that dust-bunny covered floor at the corner of the store, told her I changed my mind and didn't want her dinner plates after all, and walked away.
I hope she remembers this little object lesson, because if she keeps babying her son whenever he doesn't get his way, he's going to grow up to be as embarrassing of an adult as that young mom with two small children in the corner of the kids section at Salvation Army on the 29th of June at 10:18 AM.
(If you're still wondering, we got the yellow dump truck.)
It seemed like an eternity, that long month of waiting. My due date wasn't until the 7th of May, but two weeks prior I started every day with eager anticipation, hoping for, longing for, delivery. My body felt huge and awkward, and at the close of the day I was left sore, aching. Carson was born 10 days early, giving us all a good surprise. I was a first time mom and had fully prepared myself to go over due with him, as every well-wisher had warned me I would.
But this time around I was ready. The tiny little newborn outfits were washed and folded, there were plenty of diapers and wipes and warm cotton blankets, and I had gathered all of the items -the rubbing alcohol, cotton pads, hot water bottle, etc- off of the list my midwife provided. Any day, baby. Any day.
Steadily the hand on our kitchen clock kept moving, marking the minutes and hours of waiting. The calendar showed that my due date was only two days away. Then that day, May 7th, arrived and still nothing.
Two days over due due.
I began to wonder if I was truly pregnant, or if, perhaps, my stomach had simply inflated. If I had grown a tumor, of sorts. My body, the same body that ached at the end of each day just two weeks ago, had found a new zest for life. When my midwife asked how I was feeling at my 41 week checkup, I admitted that in my life I had never felt disappointed to feel good... until now. Because if I were aching and tired and weary, wouldn't that be an indication that labor and delivery was just around the corner?
Eight. Nine. Ten.
And then it happened. On the 18th of May, eleven days after that silly thing we call a "due date", I awoke to a strange sensation. It felt like a Braxton Hick's contraction, only stronger. But not that strong. At 5:30 am, I fumbled out to the kitchen and told Herm he might want to consider driving a separate vehicle to work because I was pretty sure, but not certain, that he'd be called back home again, and really, there was no need for the whole crew to have an interrupted day.
Around 7:00 am I let my midwife know that today was most likely the day, and I sent a text to my mom saying that Carson was packing his bags for a day at Gwama's house.
The rest of the morning was spent preparing things for a home birth. (Which, silly me, thought would also include cleaning the house.) As I finished inflating the birthing pool and sealed the plug, I noticed a strange vehicle pulling in the drive. Inwardly I groaned. I don't have time for this! Those Jehovah's Witness missionaries surely could have picked another day. I began scheming ways to let them know today was not a good day for tracts, but goodness, I sure would like their prayers.
Turns out they weren't missionaries at all, but friends of mine, delivering a beautiful bouquet of flowers. When we pulled into your driveway I said, I hope she's not having contractions! One of them casually mentions. I laugh. Actually, I am!
Minutes later another vehicle pulls in. My mom walks in the door, here to pick up Carson, with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in hand.
These details might seem trivial to you, but to me they are anything but trivial. I dreaded labor this time around. Not because I had a bad experience the first time, I didn't. But my cousin died in childbirth a year ago, and as my due date came closer and closer, there were moments of panic at the thought of my own labor and deliver. At the thought of an event I had no control over. At the thought of completely trusting. As I began to feel the twinges of something happening that morning I distinctly remember thinking how a bouquet of fresh flowers would liven up my house and bring me cheer. Hours later I had not one, but two beautiful bouquets in my house.
Around noon Herm called to check in on me. I told him he might want to come home soon. He was working over an hour away and I really didn't want to be without him when active labor began.
Herm wasn't in a rush, in fact he even stopped for an iced coffee at the Starbuck's drive-thru on his way home. By the time he arrived home, sometime around 1:30 pm the contractions were beginning to be intense; I could no longer work through them. We decided to go for a walk to see if that would help things along at all. When a contraction would hit I would lean into Herm as he rubbed my back or applied pressure. We did thing off and on until 3:30 when my midwife arrived. I was 7 cm dialated the time.
We kept on walking for a while, but before long I was ready to get in the birthing pool. I labored in there the rest of the time, Herm supporting me through contractions while our midwife coached when needed. In between contractions Herm pulled out his BB gun and shot at a few cowbirds and starlings that seem to think they own our feeder. (This is just one of the many benefits to a home birth. Haha!) My midwife and I still laugh at the thought of that...
Sometime around 5 pm my contractions were very intense, and I remember feeling so weak and light headed, like I couldn't keep on much longer. Herm kept whispering words of encouragement, my midwife coaching me to just breath. Eventually my midwife broke my water for me, and after that everything happened fast. I began pushing around 5:30 and at 5:46 when I felt like I had nothing left to give, my baby's head emerged. In that moment I knew I was there, nearing the finished line, and with renewed strength I gave it my all.
At 5:49 pm, on the 18th of May, my beautiful, precious little girl was laid against my chest, all 8 pounds and 4 ounces of her, and in that moment I knew it was worth it, the waiting, the labor, the deliver, the exhaustion and pain. I felt that if I could conquer this I could conquer anything.
Two hours later my parents brought Carson back home, and there we were, a family of four. My world, made whole.
It is with such gratefulness and pride that I introduce to you, our daughter, Brooklyn Avonlea.
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