Broken Oven, Glory to You

Also published at:  http://www.scarymommy.com/being-busy-not-badge-honor/

Four weeks ago, in the midst of a baking/cooking frenzy, my oven took its final breath and puttered out. With zucchini bread batter mixed and poured, I stared at it, wild eyed with that blood vessel menacingly popping out of my right temple. With flour highlights in my hair and batter splatters on my shirt and yoga pants, I had a few words with my oven.

The next day, the repair guys were out, and let us know that it was the central circuit board that needed repair. As luck always has it, they no longer made the parts to repair it; however, they said they could certainly send it to the manufacturer for a “small” gob of money to have it repaired. Or, we could spend the large gobs of money to replace the entire oven. Yep, I’d love to send it in to the manufacturer, I replied, as if there was much of a decision to be made. So they removed it, and on their way out the door, explained it would take two weeks and I would be without an oven, oh, and without my stove as well. Huh? What the what??? The nice repair guy grinned sheepishly, “well, there have got to be a lot of great take out options around here, right?” He zipped up his jacket, grabbed the signed paperwork and scrambled to his van, keeping one eye on that crazed vein in my right temple that was slowly starting to declare itself.

No stove or oven for two weeks???? Oh boy. I checked the freezer. Emergency corn dogs and dinosaur nuggets and microwaveable-bagged veggies to save the day. I wish I had some inspirational MacGyver-meets-Martha-Stewart story of how I used chicken wire to make a stove top with flint and kindle or how I made adorable tea party finger foods or how I did the sensible thing and went out and bought a temporary, portable stove-top, but God no. That never happened. The repair guy was right. There has been a lot of take out, and a lot of microwaved, processed foods these last few weeks. And you know what? I liked it. No, no. I didn’t like it, I loved it. I love my microwave. I am one with my microwave. There. I said it.

Since having children, I have felt this great responsibility to feed them healthy, well-balanced meals. Foods that make me feel good about what I am putting in their little, rapidly growing and developing little bodies. They have been hearty-vegetable-eaters, fruit-devouring-monsters, home-cooked-meal-lovers. They have a sweet tooth for home-made healthy baked goods. All this feels so good to be able to provide this for my family, some weeks I am better than others, but in these last two weeks . . . turned three weeks without a stove, I have come to a realization that I was too busy to notice before.

In trying to keep up with my career-family balance, I have constantly felt over-stretched, over-tired, and overwhelmed. I remember leaving a late shift at work, and one of my beloved nurses telling me, as she realized that with my husband out of town, I still had to go home and pack lunches for my kids and had to get up early the next morning to take them to school, “You have to let it go.   Just let it go.” And I looked at her with that same bewildered“HOW DID MY OVEN JUST BREAK” look, but too tired to ask further, just nodded, smiled and kept on walking out the door.

But now. Now I get it. See, the breaking of my beloved, necessary stove and oven has shown me something I’m not quite sure I could have seen myself. That in taking this break from the often insurmountable task of meal preparation and everything that goes into it for my family, I have allowed something to go and it has allowed me to breathe. Those extra hours a day that have fallen into my lap are glorious. They are hours I can spend on something productive or spend on nothing at all but my couch, a cup of coffee and HGTV. They are hours I can call a friend and ask, “How are you?” Those extra hours have lifted a weight, a responsibility, a stress, that gifts me energy and leaves me less tired, less cranky, less irritable. I had no idea that something as simple or as tough as preparing meals was doing this to me. Because, if I think about it, I tell myself, “Come on, how hard is it to make meals?” I don’t have to explain it to you if you are this person in your family. It is hard.

So, now I am thinking what else do I feel this way about? Every task, every responsibility we pile onto our shoulders is just one more “simple” thing, and we say to ourselves, come on, how hard could this be to add this one tiny thing? Well, one thing adds time, time adds energy, energy adds stress, stress leads to irritability . . . ahh, it is all making sense!!! What a simple concept. Where have I been???

I think I’ve been where all of you have been. We have been feeling that we are working mothers and fathers taking care of our family, of our home, of our communities. Sometimes, we lose sight of the value of our own limits and really, our own self. Boundaries blur until there are no boundaries, and we keep on keeping on. We estimate our capabilities, and like the old saying, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, our undertakings underestimate what is needed from us to accomplish every minutiae of every day—and soon we are stretched too thin doing everything, but unable to do anything with the best version of ourselves.

So, let’s give ourselves a break. What we do is enough. What we don’t do is acceptable. Give what you have to the things that matter the most, and when there is not enough of you to go around, be okay with it. There is no glory in “I am so busy!” There is value to doing things with time, with your full attention and ability, choosing wisely what is important to you and having the energy to enjoy rest, relaxation, and time for calm. Let’s chisel away at this society of “busy”, and let the glory be with broken ovens and microwaves once in awhile.

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No Matter What Love

We are raising our kids in a difficult time, aren’t we? I have no comparison. I haven’t raised kids in any other era; however, as each headline pops up, the latest terrorist bombing on Quetta Hospital in Pakistan 8 days ago killing 70 and injuring 130; the shooting and killing of a black man in Milwaukee, WI, and the riots and police protests that have ensued, following the innumerable hate crimes against humanity that have already played out. With each attack, my heart aches for those suffering, and my eyes dart towards my three fortunate kids, playing soundly in the living room. I look at each one of them, and I am thankful they are here and that they are healthy. With each injustice I hear about or read about, my responsibility mounts, and I wonder how I will discuss these tragedies, these inequalities with my three children. These three children that play with their hearts filled with love and their lives filled with boundless energy and childhood adventures.

In two weeks, my two eldest will start kindergarten. I’ve been thinking a lot about what tools I want to equip them with as they begin this new endeavor. We’ve been doing a lot of role-playing. Sometimes, I will play the role of being the bully, one of them will play the friend being bullied, and the other will play the role of either the bully or the bullied. We take turns with these roles. Then we talk about what was said, how it made us feel, and what we could have said or how we can all help each other in these difficult encounters. We talk about why we think a bully would say the things that were said, and how we can help the bully so maybe next time he or she will be nicer. We’ve talked about how sometimes people bully others because they are different. Maybe because they don’t understand someone else that is different. For example, we’ve talked about how sometimes, the food we eat, is different than a lot of foods other people eat. We chat about how if someone makes a negative comment about what we are eating, we can respond, “That’s okay, it’s probably just something you haven’t tried, but this is something that I grew up eating and I really like it.” Except, interpreted and translated through their minds, it comes out something like, “It’s okay, this food is something I was born with.” We’re working out the details, but what’s important to me, is that they start to process this information and react to things in ways that convey tolerance, acceptance, and kindness. We are starting with food (because my son is obsessed with food) but I’m hoping to branch out from here.

I recently read an article that the discussion about race should start with your children now. There is not a time you should be waiting for; by not talking about it, we are allowing them to form their own prejudices and allowing that to be okay. I read on about how kids are noticing these differences and making their own assumptions and categorizations. I had never thought about this, and this was alarming to me. But as I thought about it, I thought back to conversations between my son and daughter. How they would talk about kids in their pre-school classes, and one of the things my son would ask my daughter at 4 years-old when trying to figure out who in her class she was talking about, was, “Well, was she wearing pants or a dress or tights today? Did she have a bow in her hair? What color was it? Is she white or brown?” I never thought much of it. It was a descriptor to him like any other descriptor. But if he was noticing this, then yes. Maybe it was time to start talking more openly about race and inequalities.

Max and Sofia. I want you to know that I love you no matter what. I have loved you since the day you were born. There are times when I may be disappointed or mad about your actions, but even at those times, I love you. I would love you if you were tall or short, had long hair or short hair, had white skin or brown skin, had brown eyes or green eyes. I would love you if you wanted to play soccer or football or no sports at all. I would love you if you wanted to dance or do gymnastics or sing or none of the above. I would love you if you loved to read or do math or crafts or science projects. It just wouldn’t matter. I would love you. No matter what. It is mom’s no-matter-what-love promise to you. I think a parent’s love is the best kind of love, because all you have to do is be born, and mom and dad will love you no matter what. It is really that simple.

I think it is at the core of being human that makes someone want to love others and be loved by others. Love is the most powerful of things and is at the core of it all. Let’s extend the love between a mom and her child to the love between other people. Every person is someone’s child. Mommy is A-ma and A-gong’s daughter. Daddy is Grandma and Grandpa’s son. And A-ma and A-gong love mommy not because my hair is black, not because I have brown eyes, not because I like to run and read and write, but they loved me even before they knew all that about me. When I had no hair, and all I did was eat, cry, and sleep. And that has never changed. Grandma and Grandpa love daddy not because his hair is blonde, not because he wears glasses, not because he likes to run and root for the Cubs in baseball, but because they have always loved him.

The best kind of love is this love. The no-matter-what love. Why is mommy telling you so much about this? Because, this is what I want you to look for in every single person you meet at school. I want you to see that every friend in your class is worthy of being loved by someone no-matter-what, just like you. It may be their mom and dad. Or maybe they don’t have a mom, or don’t have a dad. Then maybe their no-matter-what-love comes from their grandma or grandpa. Or maybe from their aunt or uncle. Or their brother or sister. Or maybe they have two moms or two dads and that’s where their no-matter-what-love comes from. Or maybe they have a mom and no dad or a dad and no mom. Every story of your friends’ families will be different. I want you to notice all these differences. And I want you to know that no matter if their skin color is white or brown, hair is black or blonde, eyes are brown or green, no matter if they are tall or short, like math or recess, science or music, they are just like you where it matters. You can be mad or disappointed or happy about their actions, but they are people that deserve no-matter-what love.

Sometimes, you might see other kids that don’t see this about others in your class, or maybe they don’t see this about you. They may bully others or make fun of others because of what they eat, because of what they wear, because of their skin color, because they believe in God or they don’t believe in God. It happens to kids and to grown-ups too! I think that is because they forget that we are all the same in the middle. That we all deserve to have someone love us no-matter-what.

It makes me panic that I cannot be at school with you every day, telling everyone that I love you, and that everything that makes you different is what I love about you, but this is a part of growing up, and this is what everyone else in your class is going through. You are going to learn about everyone’s differences, and I want you to notice them, I want you to think about how they are different from you and how they are like you and know that everyone is worthy of love. If you get nothing else from this year of school, focus on this. Focus on opening your eyes to all the differences and know that everyone is worthy of no-matter-what love.

 

Dinner Prep

11:19 pm. I am stirring butter and marshmallows in a pan making my kids rice krispie treats. Since my kids had these little morsels of sugary bliss at their grandma’s house last weekend, they have been asking and asking about rice krispie treats. So, I thought, might as well give it a gander. My first attempt at this delicious treat. Um, why was this my first attempt at making this delicious treat??? Prior to this, I had been cutting onions and carrots and setting up the Crockpot to dump beef stew contents into in the morning. 11:19 pm may be an odd time to start making dinner and treats for the next day, but you find time when you find time, and it turned out to be a glorious hour of uninterrupted, quiet, peaceful, no 2-year-olds-to-trip-over therapeutic cooking session.

Now. Don’t start thinking I am some modern-day Betty Crocker type. HA. Many days look more like Jimmy John’s drive-through windows or frozen chicken strips and frozen green beans. By the way, it truly does freak me out how fast Jimmy John’s can make a sub. Ironically, it equally irritates me when I am at the JJ drive-through and I am not getting freaked out because they are taking an absurdly “normal” amount of sub-making time.

I digress.

My point is that, like most, I fiercely love my family. And even when I am not there, even when I am working evenings or days or at meetings or interviews or with friends or out with my husband, I want them to know that my heart is always with them. Last week my daughter had dance camp. Every night, no matter if it was 10 pm or 3 am, I would pack her lunch for the next day. I could only be there one of the five days to pick her up and drop her off. She asked me yesterday, “Mommy, on the days you weren’t there, who packed my lunch?” “I did.” I told her. Her heart erupted into a smile that peaked through her almond brown-eyed, button-nosed face. It wasn’t so much that she was blown away that the amazing chef behind her ham and cheese sandwiches was me, I think it was more that every day, no matter if I was physically present or not, I was thinking about her, I was the loving hands behind her (sometimes soggy) lunch. I’m going to hold onto that smile. I’m going to hold on to that smile so freakin’ tight as I launch into another epic stretch of shifts.

I don’t know which is tougher. Days I am home or days I am not. Because, man, both can be seriously tough. I do know that the days I am gone, my heart aches. To damper that ache, I make dinner at 11 pm at night. I love knowing that tomorrow night when I am at work and not there, they will eat yummy beef stew with carrots and onions and potatoes that I prepared. I imagine their faces lighting up when they see they get an after dinner dessert of rice krispies with sprinkles. Yes, sprinkles. What the heck. They are not usually sugared up kids. And let’s be honest. I won’t be the one herding them to bed tomorrow night. (Sorry Husband, Love of my Life) I’ll only be the hero that put their all-time favorite sprinkles on an already sickly sugary treat. Winning.

 

 

 

Today. Love is Greater than Hate

My heart is breaking today. It has been breaking with every news alert that flashed across my cell phone throughout the night. Every alert of another human life fallen made me feel anguish, desperation, bewildered, devastation. From the recent mass shooting in Florida to the bombings in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia to the recent lives lost in Minnesota, and Louisiana, to the shooting and killing of police officers last evening in Texas . . . What has happened to our sense of humanity?

We mourn for the families of those who have lost lives. We weep for the joys and love these shootings have haphazardly and suddenly ripped from their families’ daily existence. We hope for peace during these tragic, senseless acts that leave their communities feeling hollow. We hope for unity in this fragmented nation and world of ours.

I find myself asking, is this rock bottom? Please let this be rock bottom. How much more can we escalate with hatred? With anger? With our inequalities? With our attacks against one another? How many more lives? Devastation is reverberating through our nation, and reactions span the spectrum from disbelief to anger to outrage to deep anguish.

As I plugged along the overnight shift, with news alerts flashing across my phone stacking on the heartbreak and terror occurring across the nation, I am reminded of my last patient of the morning. She was a kind woman who had gotten her hand slammed in her back door and came in with a bloodied finger. As I washed her finger off and started to stitch it back together, the background news she was watching was reporting about the events of the night, of the officers that had lost their lives. About the presumed shooter that was now dead. There was anger and hatred in the man’s voice that I could hear giving a speech. He was saying how police officers have been made targets, ultimately faulting our president. I listened while hunched over the bright light shining overhead, carefully pulling together wound edges with each stitch. The woman said, “I just worry about my grandbaby. She is 10 months old. She is my world.  Do you want to see her picture?” Of course I wanted to see her picture.

In the midst of all this hatred, we turn to our loved ones. We worry about their future. We feel heartbreak for those that can no longer worry about their loved ones’ futures. In the midst of all this, I remember the love. During this hateful, angry broadcast, I will remember this woman’s love for her granddaughter and the picture she eagerly presented of her granddaughter in that adorable ruffle-butt swimsuit, proudly standing while holding onto an oak cabinet.

None of us can predict where we go from here. We hope that we will start to unite. Start to heal together. Start to propagate love. And this starts with you and me. This starts with us and extends to those around us, especially to our children.

There are a few things I am absolutely intolerant about with my children.

  1. Acting unkindly towards others
  2. Disrespect
  3. Acting without compassion

I have zero tolerance for these things. There is absolutely no circumstance in which hateful, disrespectful, heartless behavior is valid and acceptable. My kids know that any such behavior will be met with their mother’s wrath. They know better.

And here we are. As a nation of Americans. Propagating hate. Propagating disrespect. Trying to find the right steps forward in the aftermath of heartless crimes.

The one thing I take solace in right now, is that there is love and it will shine through. I will continue to teach my kids that color is just a color. That sexual orientation is no different than being right-handed or left-handed–it is a part of who we are. That females and males alike are competent and strong. That religion of any spectrum is faith that helps each individual guide them through life. That love is greater than hate.

That love is greater than hate.

That love is greater than hate.

That love is greater than hate.

 

A Work Day That Ends in Sushi

Previously published on:  http://www.coffeeandcrumbs.net/blog/2016/4/8/a-work-day-that-ends-in-sushi

My husband and I waited seven years to get married; in those months after we became engaged, before I even picked my dress or wedding colors, I had already started planning for the family that occupied our daydreams. We’d have three kids; I was sure of it. We would have two boys and one girl. Of course, our baby girl would be the youngest so she would have two older, protective brothers. They would come on cue two years apart.

Instead, I picked my strapless A-line dress, we settled on red roses and ivory linens with gold trim, we got married, and we had six miscarriages.

I would get pregnant, and just as we would allow ourselves that hopeful glimpse of the first trimester final stretch, I would miscarry. It was crushing. Yet it became a cycle that I became all too familiar with. My emotions became a pattern of predictability: excitement, anxiety, devastation.

By my third miscarriage, the emotional strain of losing each baby I had lovingly carried  brought me to the point of buckle-at-the-knees desperation . . . followed by a sinking relief. I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to wake up another morning asking, is my baby’s heart still beating? I would let my anxiety wash away, replaced by a heaviness in my heart, and almost a strange sense of peace. It was a dark place to be, but a familiar dark place. A place that I could control.

In the midst of uncertainty, I even developed a miscarriage routine. Routine was something I could do. And something I could do well, on my terms. It was a way to say, “I got this.” Even if I didn’t.

 I would realize I was miscarrying, and continue through my day. Continue to care for other people, to smile and joke, when inside, I was hurting so much. I was thinking, “I know you are hurting, patient-in-my-emergency-department, and please be assured I will do my best to take care of you, but you see, what I can’t tell you is that my baby is dying and I am hurting too.”

My baby is dying right now as I stitch up this cut on your finger. My baby is dying while I try to figure out why you are having abdominal pain. My baby is dying while I tell your loved ones you are having a heart attack. My baby is dying and I can’t take care of her the way I can take care of you.  My baby is dying and no one knows it but me.

After work, I would call my husband, then stop to get the sushi I had craved since learning I was pregnant. I would go home and focus on the pain of my cramps, because that was exponentially easier than acknowledging my broken heart. When everything passed, I would mentally brush my hands off and ready myself for the next time. That was my routine. My miscarriage routine.

I was riddled with guilt over everything about it.

During this two-year period, I felt like a failure. I felt like a weak woman. I felt I was doing something wrong. I felt it was my fault. I felt guilty. I felt inadequate. I felt out of control. I felt ashamed. I had never felt so vulnerable and nothing had ever felt so personal.

A year into the process, I went to an infertility specialist and received the million-dollar work-up. Nothing was wrong. How could nothing be wrong? But test after test confirmed that, “Congratulations! Nothing is wrong!” Translation: there is nothing we can fix. I was started on this medication and that medication, because “It’s worth trying.” I was hopeful, but hopeless. I was exhausted from this constant testing of my emotional strength.

And then it was our seventh pregnancy, and this time–twins!!!! Twins!!! My excitement was quickly followed by a flood of anxiety. My husband and I kept our news to ourselves. We held our breaths.   We had been through this. We tiptoed around our fears, whispering to one another, stifling the excitement we held in our glances towards one another, and we waited. And waited. And my belly grew. And I had no cramps. And I had no bleeding. And I saw their heartbeats. Time and time again.

The infertility specialist said we didn’t need him anymore. I sat still in his clean, slightly-dated office, in the same blue upholstered chair with its thin wooden arm rests, the same chair I had sat in for two years, staring at the same framed picture of him and some big fish he had caught with his nephew, and I weighed the heaviness of his words. Then I broke down in wave after wave of tears. We didn’t need our infertility specialist anymore.

We passed three months. And four months. And five, and six, and seven, and eight!!!!! And two healthy beautiful babies were born.  They are beautiful to this day. I stare at them sometimes, and marvel at how they came to be.

Sometimes when I am tucking in my five-year-old daughter at night, I tell her, “Do you know that you are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined?” What I mean to say is, everything about her existence is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

When we decided to have a third, I was ready for the journey. I was nervous of going through the process again, but having had our twins, I knew it was more than worth it. The day we decided we wanted to try again, I put up my defenses against my own emotions.

Five weeks later, just like that, we found out we were pregnant. I braced myself. I was fearful this would become another pregnancy that would fall victim to my routine. I went in for ultrasounds every week. Week after week, there was a heartbeat—I couldn’t believe my ears. And then our beautiful baby girl came into our lives seemingly seamlessly. It was too good to be true, but it is true.

These three beautiful babies of ours.

I realize now after eight pregnancies and three babies and innumerable dreams for our family, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There never was. There was nothing I failed at.

 These days, when I see the chief complaint of “possible miscarriage” show up in my emergency department, I want to see that patient. Not because I can provide better care than my colleagues, but because I want to share my story. Mother to mother. I want to give them hope and I want them to know they are not alone. I am unashamed of the tears that fall from my face when I share in their grief and acknowledge my own. I want them to know it is okay to grieve and natural to feel defeated, and then it is okay to hope again when you are ready.

Sushi has once again become my favorite food. When I eat it now, it doesn’t taste the way it once did. I don’t feel like I am swallowing heartache, loss, and failure. These days, when I stop for sushi at the end of a long day, I bring it home to share with my three children and husband. We talk about what was good about our days, what could have been better about our days, what we look forward to tomorrow. It has become our family favorite meal.  No words can express what these days that end with sushi mean to me now.

I am thankful for everything I have been through. It has given me what I have, it has given me who I am, and it has given me what I have to share. And most of all, it has given me and my husband our beautiful, healthy children.

Sweet Claire is Two!

Oh, Sweet Clarabelle! Today you are two! My heart can barely take it! I never imagined having a girl like you, and everything I could never imagine makes me so proud of the little girl that you are. You are Sass. You are independent. You are daring. You are brave. You will do it your way. You walk with confidence and the cutest diaper waddle strut. You are on a mission, and nothing will stop you. You will climb up the biggest ladder to go down the biggest slide, and if Dad tries to hover over you, you will be sure to speak your mind, and tell him, you got this. It makes your dad sweat, but it makes us so proud that this is who you are.

Even better than this fierce independence, is this crazy innate compassion you have for people. Since you learned to walk, you have learned to walk up and comfort your family when they are sad, not feeling well, or just plain tired. You will run and grab blankets for your grandparents and siblings when you think they don’t feel well or when they are sleeping. You try desperately to cover them in the blanket you found, and pat them ever so gently. I think about this weekend, and how your brother awoke from his nap a groggy, still sleepy guy, snuggled in my lap. You grabbed a blanket, put it over him, and patted him on his hair. You subsequently stopped mid-play, three times, to check on him. “Ok Dax?” you would say, as you offered him a stuffed animal, a toy, his water bottle in your effort to cheer him up. Whenever your dad sneezes, whether it be right next to you or from a room down the hall, you always turn his way and say, “Ok Daddy?” When you see your big sister crying, you squat down and put your face in hers, and babble soothing words and kiss her on the cheek. When you bounced a little too hard on my legs, and I let out a grunt, you stopped to ask, “Ok Mommy?” When you saw two dogs fighting at the park, you murmured, “It’s ok.” Oh, sweet, Claire, where does this huge heart and sense of compassion come from? It is truly amazing, and there is nothing I love to watch more than you watch over our family, with those little grunts of effort as you try to lift a huge blanket up onto the couch to cover your grandma when she is napping.

I love to try and guess what kind of girl you will be. Will you be a tutu-twirling, dancing, singing, pink princess like your sister? Or will you gravitate towards sports and getting dirty outside? I think what you have proven to us thus far, is that you cannot be categorized as any one type of girl. You love your bracelets and necklaces and headbands (or, your sister’s bracelets, necklaces and headbands.) You love being chased, tickled and swung upside down. You laugh with pure joy when you slide down the slide and fall in the mud, yelling “OW!” as you pick yourself up and giggle and climb back up to the top. You try to climb on your brother’s bike to take it for a spin, leaving your tricycle as if it is too baby for you. You are your own girl, and no one is going to define that for you but you. And all we can do is follow along—nothing could make us prouder.

You have already grasped the concept of sarcasm. I suppose there is no way you couldn’t, being part of our family. Your favorite thing to do is offer us your favorite foods, “here go, Mama”, and when I reach for your sticky, wet handful of raisins, you pull away and smile that devious smile promptly stick the handful in your mouth, erupting in fits of giggles at your trickery.

I have to bite my lip when I witness how you handle adversity. When you get in trouble, and you are sent to time out, you protest, you cry, then you settle down. And when it is time to come out of time out, you have the biggest grin on your face, trying to disarm your disciplinarian. Or sometimes, you waltz right into time out, defiantly, as if this was the plan all along, and come out, head held high, smiling as if there is nothing that you are not in charge of about this situation. Sometimes, when we are warning you that your time to listen will be over in “1, 2, . . . “ you chime in with us at “threeeee” before you decide to listen, as if we are prepping together for the next big step to finish the squash on your plate.

How can one girl be so fierce, and yet so full of fun-loving energy and compassion? We don’t know how you do it, sweet girl. But I can see it in your father’s eyes. You have your parents by the heart strings. Your brother and sister adore you, want to take care of you, and love you. We cannot imagine our lives without you.

Happy birthday, Sweet Clarabelle. Keep braving forward, and we will keep chasing after you, proudly trying to keep up with your every, independent step.

We love you always.

When The Village Is Not Available

As Previously Published:  http://www.scarymommy.com/parenting-without-village-worst-days/

Last night was parenting misery at its finest. My husband was out of town, our part-time nanny and our back-up part-time nanny have both recently had changes in their schedules and are no longer available, my in-laws wouldn’t have been able to make it to our house in time, my close friend emergency contact was at an event and unavailable. So there I was. My village unavailable. Three kids. Hit with the worst migraine I can recall having in the last four years. The last time I had a migraine this awful, our previous full-time nanny had changed her dinner plans, come over for the last hour of the kids’ day, to just tuck them in because I was too debilitated to make it another hour. I awoke from that haze of a migraine to see the dishes in the sink washed, the house picked up, the kids in bed, and blissfully clean quietness. If I wasn’t already in love with our nanny before, I certainly fell hard for her at that minute, right then and there.

Well. Now the love of my life has moved to North Dakota (my former nanny—not to be confused with my husband), and there I was. Sharp, stabbing pain coursing through my left eye to the back of my neck, the nausea warning me as to what was to come, the dimmest light making me feel as if I was staring into the core of the freaking sun, barely able to keep my eyes open. I profusely thanked my type A self for pre-prepping dinner for the kids. I plated their food and poured them their drinks, then curled my throbbing, pounding, close-to-vomiting self up on the couch. I called out orders from the couch to my newly promoted baby-sitting five-year-olds. “Is your baby sister done with her food? Is she eating? Can you get her some fruit? Can you make sure she doesn’t stand up in her high chair? Can you make sure she doesn’t stick her fork up her nose?  Can you get her milk?” I had been so proud of my aspiring Martha Stewart self for making the most adorable fruit skewers with peaches, blackberries, grapes, and strawberries. Now I was cursing myself for making those damn fruit skewers, imagining my 21-month-old stabbing her unsupervised eye with a skewer. Thank goodness for my doting son that plucked each piece of fruit off the skewer for her and put them on her high chair tabletop.

It was five o’clock and I was on the verge of breaking down wondering how I was going to shuffle my kids to take a bath, brush their teeth, get in pajamas, and make it to the end of the night. I could barely move. The voices of my boisterous five-year-olds had never sounded so LOUD; they were like splitting daggers hitting me in my left eye. If I moved, I might throw up. If I spoke, this intolerable pain was going to become worse. I could feel her adorable, piercing brown eyes staring quizzically in my direction, wondering why her mama was curled up in the dark on the couch and not eating with her. She just kept saying, “Mama. Mama. Mama.” To which I answered sparingly. My five-year-old baby-sitters finally told me my 21-month-old was done eating. I took a deep breath (mostly to pep talk my stomach contents to stay within the confines of my stomach), mustered up the last drop of energy and cleaned her off. She kept saying, “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked at her nose. Sure enough, she had stuck a corn kernel up her nose. Had she ever done that before? No. Did I have any energy to react? No. I took some tweezers and pulled it out. “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked up further. Ah yes. Another corn kernel jammed up the crevices deep into her left nostril. I thanked myself for choosing to go through the years of schooling and the years of training that made me a master of foreign object removal from toddler noses. If this was the pinnacle of my MD degree, it had made it all worth it. I removed it. Checked one more time. No more corn kernels. I reminded myself that next time I asked my five-year-olds to babysit, to add to the list of sub-standard expectations, “Can you  make sure she doesn’t stick food up her nose?”  I gave her a meek talking to, using half my energy to speak to her and half my energy to keep my nausea at bay. It was 6 o’clock, and she usually goes to bed at 7. But hey, what’s an hour. So she went to bed at 6:15 because I had no more left in me to make it another hour. I was lucky to be able to put her into pajamas, a night-time diaper, and to remove one of her pigtails.

I called down to my five-year-olds to come upstairs, get their pajamas on, and we would reconvene in my bedroom. I announced it was a bath and tooth-brushing national holiday and no one was getting proper hygiene that night. They lounged in bed with me, and watched indulgent amounts of cartoons—My teacher says TV is really bad for your brain. Duly noted, my dear daughter. Thank you for the public service announcement—while I curled up under the covers, and made a cameo appearance only to expel my stomach contents in the bathroom. In never before recorded history, I asked them to please tuck themselves into bed. They rolled with the punches. My son hugged me, kissed me, “tucked me in”, and turned off all the lights, and hushed his sister, “Be quiet. Mommy is sleeping. Stop talking to her.” And without much more fanfare, I heard their doors click closed and silence. I felt so, so thankful that the day was over, even more thankful for the best kids I could ask for, and laid in the dark willing this fierce pain in my head to subside.

The pain did subside, and today, I am back to myself. I remember a colleague saying that a sick child was no excuse for not coming to work. That everyone should have a back-up to their back-up to their back-up. Well, some people are not so blessed with a village to take care of their kids. And while I am that fortunate, sometimes, the stars just do not align. I am so lucky that for me, these moments are fairly rare. I don’t know how you do it, parents out there without a village. But I am in absolute awe of how you make your family work, whatever your family looks like. Keep it up, all you parent warriors. It isn’t easy, but man, if your children are fed, their teeth are brushed most of the time, they take a bath some of the time, then hey, from where I stand, you are killing it.