My somewhat fairytale life

I am Alice. I put down my book, smooth my apron flat and look to see the rabbit running by. My feet do my thinking for me, moving quicker than reason. My mind doesn’t catch up and then I’m falling. I grasp for the sides, but it is too late. Everything is now a blurring whirl of nonsense.

I am Pooh Bear. I gorge myself until shame stops me, but then I can’t leave. The exit is too small. I’m stuck. My arms and legs wag uselessly. I’m held fast around the middle and there is nothing I can do but wait for time to release me little by little.

I am Goldilocks. The bears have so much and I have so little. I stamp my foot at the injustice, pigtails bouncing up and down, and then take what I think is mine. Just a little bite of porridge. A tiny sit down. A wee baby nap.

This last year, I spent quite a few weekends away from my husband and children. I happily helped my best friend sell his leather products at fairs and at a giant apple orchard in the mountains.

It left me feeling swept away and rebuilt at the same time.

I’m in a storybook and the pages are being blown around in the breeze. Lessons switching before I fully learn them. Villains disappearing before I can fully see them. Treasures always just over the next hill.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mother for over 10 years, surrounded by my two favorite little humans on the planet earth. I look at pictures of them and I can’t believe all we have done together. So many dinners at the table, picnics in the park, messy crafts and impromptu plays.

I have spent the last few years mourning a life without my sweet, little babies.

I yearn to have my belly and heart swell just once more, the tiny and intimate movements of a life growing inside my own.

I ache to feel another baby at my breast, to watch them break free and smile up at me with milk dripping down their chin.

I hold my baby carrier and imagine just one more little body strapped to mine, the warmth and weight an extension of me.

But the story is shifting.

The pain is lessening.

I used to think happiness would find me when I finally accepted things as they are.

Now I think it is more a matter of just letting the story unfold without trying to guess the outcome.

I’m a planner. I make lists and I’m always looking forward to the next thing. I love having a vacation, a party, or even a weekend trip to plan. I will sit and stare out the window and imagine packing my suitcase, the feeling of seeing something new, and even the weakness my body will feel after a hard day of playing.

I’m always rushing the story.

I’m an impatient time traveler who plans the next jump before even seeing where I am.

I read books quickly because I want to know the ending, but when it comes I feel let down and sad. I’m never satisfied.

Over the past few weeks, I have forced myself to slow down and be aware of what is around me. The feeling of the wood chair beneath me. The softness of the yellow paint on my kitchen walls. The sounds my children make when they are playing together.

I always thought it was impossible to be in a moment, a load of shit really.

But maybe there is something to all this.

I did do some planning in these quiet moments, but in a way that was grander and less specific than I normally do.

Instead of to-do lists, I filled my mind and journal with intentions for the year ahead.

Peaceful.

Joyful.

Creative.

Yes, I have goals big and small. Yes, I will still make to-do lists. Yes, I will still rush the story.

But it feels good to have a moment to look at the book as a whole and not be rushing to find out how it ends.

candle

I’m here, in my pajamas, just living and stuff

His voice wakes me from a dream of floating in the ocean and I drift down the hall to him.

“What’s wrong?”

“Bad dream. Will you lay with me?”

I open my eyes all the way and see him. He is squeezing his panda bear tight with tears just threatening to fall from his daddy’s blue eyes.

Yesterday he turned 11, but right now he is my baby.

I crawl in and he squirms into my arms and fits perfectly. The warm smell of him fills me up and takes us both back to my ocean dream where we float and sway gently. Together.

The last month has been a big ball of life wrapped up in colorful paper, candy canes, pajamas, soft blankets, warm fires and twinkling lights.

Each moment is a story all its own.

I’m laughing with friends, being vulnerable and happy and full. I’m aware of how much they love me and I promise myself to never forget this feeling.

I’m crying alone in my room, covers over my head to muffle the sound. My body shaking and my breath completely gone, I wonder if I’ll ever feel true happiness.

I’m trying on clothes and everything is too tight, and the regret of losing myself to food floods me until I can barely stand to look at myself. I wrap a black cloak around me and try to disappear.

I’m holding my girl’s hand as the opening credits and sounds of “Star Wars” fills the air and I let the tears fall.

I watch my family open the gifts I made and I feel all at once proud and not enough.

I watch my children giggle and play together, both lost in a world of their own creation. The sound of them echoes through every space of our house long after they go to bed.

Each moment is a story all its own.

Yet I feel unworthy of telling stories anymore and scared the words just won’t come. I worry I am a broken record of contradictions and recycled emotions.

I was planning to quit writing this blog.

Quit writing all together.

I was going to give up my dream because fear is big and my blankets warm.

Yet, I can’t seem to do it.

I’m here.

Yesterday I received two powerful emails from readers telling me how much I have touched them in one way or another and I’m reminded of this space here.

My own little space to expose my heart, practice bravery and simply chronicle my struggle to find purpose and peace.

So I’m going to keep going. I’m going to write one word and then another.

I’m going to show up and be here.

Will you join me?

The minivan kiss

My coffee is already cold, but I want a sip anyway. I’ve earned it after running around for the last few hours getting everything ready for the day.

I feel carefully for my Chewbacca coffee mug with my right hand, fully aware at how many times it has ended up on the van carpet or in my lap. No. Not today. This shirt is far too white and I need the caffeine.

I look down.

Thump.

“Did we just hit that car?” my girl says from the back.

“Shit,” I reply.

“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

The van in front of me, the one whose bumper I’m snug against now, turns on the right blinker.

“Shit,” I say again.

“What’s going to happen?” my boy asks.

“I don’t know,” I say.

Then I roll off a few more “shits” and he goes quiet.

Everyone is watching me. I’m sure they are screaming at me as I hang my head in shame.

“You idiot!”

It was just a mistake.

“Get off your phone!”

I wasn’t on it. It was just a mistake.

“You don’t deserve to drive!”

It was just a mistake.

The light turns green and I follow the brown van into the parking lot of a mortgage company. I am shaking now. I’m going to be late. The driver is going to yell at me. My insurance is going to go up.

Shit.

“Sit still,” I tell the kids. “I’ll be right back.”

The driver is another mom, clearly dressed for morning carpool with pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. There is a little girl in the backseat and a small Chihuahua. She waves to me and the dog licks the window.

We meet at her bumper and stare together for a moment.

“I see nothing, let’s check your car,” she says with a smile.

“I’m so sorry,” I say.

We walk to the front of my van and the license plate is a little wonky, but it is fine. This could have been so much worse. I start to apologize again and she cuts me off.

“I say we just forget all about it.”

She smiles.

“I really am sorry. Is your daughter OK? Was she scared?”

“She is fine. Everything is fine,” she says. “Really. Don’t worry about it. It was just a little accident. It is OK.”

She fixes me with a motherly look of forgiveness and I tear up.

I hug her.

She hugs back.

“Thank you,” I say.

“You have a great day,” she says and walks away.

“You too,” I say after she is already out of earshot.

She gives me a final smile and wave before driving off. The little girl in the backseat is waving to my kids and the dog is still licking the window.

I hop back in the car and take a deep breath to stop my hands from shaking.

“Everything is going to be OK,” I tell the kids.

“They were nice,” my girl says.

Yes they were.

The little black kitten of jealousy

kitten

My phone dings and I look to see a dozen pictures of the sweetest little black kitten.

This darling new addition to my friend’s family, which they are calling Faun, causes me to start ahhhing loudly.

The kids come running.

“What is it?” they ask.

I flip the phone around and show them.

My girl immediately starts crying.

Not just little tears either.

Big, fat ugly tears which quickly turn to sobs.

Oh no.

As much as I’m aware of her wish for a kitten, this possibility didn’t occur to me.

I feel mean, as if I’d done something to hurt her on purpose.

The jealousy and anger pulse from her. She tries to calm herself, but the feelings are beyond containment. I let her cry and rage until the intensity ceases a bit.

“You are jealous because you want a kitten,” I say.

She nods and cries a bit more.

“I feel like a bad friend,” she says through her tears. “Have you ever felt jealous?”

Have I ever. I tell her about growing up and being incredibly jealous all the time. My friends got more presents at Christmas, had prettier hair, more boyfriends and took elaborate vacations my family would never be able to afford. I didn’t even fly in an airplane until I was in college.

I know a little about jealousy.

“Did you grow out of it?” she asks.

No. I have to admit that I have moments as an adult where I feel the pang and sting still. More moments that I care to acknowledge.

I want a kitten too. I want a new laptop. I want a real summer vacation. I want to be smarter, more successful and drive a nicer car.  I want to be skinny.

Longing for things you don’t have is as human as it gets.

“What do you do about it?” she asks and hugs me tight.

I can feel the desperation in her voice and I know I have to get this moment right.

I pull back a little and look in her eyes.

There are different kinds of emotions, each balancing the other out, I explain. Like in the movie, “Inside Out,” where Joy can’t exist without Sadness.

She nods.

“When I think about jealousy, I picture purple,” she says. “Like grape jelly. So I picture her being purple with a pale green dress on.”

“Sounds good,” I reply. “Who balances jealousy?”

I ask this question and realize I don’t have an answer. My emotional growth is about the same as her in this department. Well, maybe a bit better. I don’t cry all the time. Not all the time.

“I don’t know,” she says.

We both sit there for a few minutes thinking about it. Jealousy makes you want things other people have. What is a word for being happy with what you got?

“Contentment,” I finally say. “I picture her as wearing all pink and having a sweet voice. She says things like, ‘my room is so beautiful’ and ‘I love my family so much!”

“Yes,” she says. “Contentment tells me ‘I’m lucky to have a mom that rubs my back and talks to me’ and ‘I have awesome red hair.’”

Exactly.

We list off more and more things which make us feel content.

It feels good and the ugliness of the longing for what others have starts to fade for us both.

We cuddle up closer. She points to the picture on her wall of us nursing when she was a baby. She tells me she looks at it every night as she is falling asleep.

“I just pretend you are laying next to me,” she says. “Then I fall right asleep because I know you love me.”

My heart does complicated leaps of joy and sadness.

I tell her jealousy won’t go away and will be with her the rest of her life.

“Just be sure to let contentment have a voice too,” I say.

We agree to keep this conversation going.

“Maybe when I’m in college I can Face Time you,” she says. “Might even have holograms by then and I’ll project you laying right next to me.”

“Absolutely,” I say.

Just a little setback, nothing to see here

It seems appropriate to me the only room they have available for the ultrasound of my heart is in pediatrics.

I feel so much like a little girl.

I follow the woman with my paperwork down the hall and into the elevator. She has kind eyes and blond hair. Her shirt is colorful and I want to hold her hand.

I change into my gown, open in the front, and lay on the table. My aunt is with me and we are talking, keeping the mood light and airy.

The gel, heated for the little ones, feels warm on my skin. There are colorful projections of planets and a smiling moon moving across the ceiling.

As I lay there, occasionally hearing my heart on the monitor, all I could think about are the ultrasounds I had with my babies.

I talk to the nurse about my children and my births. She tells me her son’s birth story. We laugh and make a connection while I ignore the nagging fear and reason I am here.

Something is wrong.

My heart started a few weeks ago fluttering madly in my chest. I ignored it at first, but the feeling persisted and got worse. It started to make it hard to breathe.

I tried to tell myself it was just stress, but fear grabbed a hold and wouldn’t let go.

I drink more coffee than water.

I’ve put on a bunch of weight.

I barely move my body.

I eat too much sugar.

I drink too much alcohol.

Ticking off the ways in which I have neglected myself fed my fear.

It grew and grew until it was a mothering-fucking monster.

What if there is something really wrong with me and I don’t go to the doctor? I might die of a heart attack at 38 years old, my children finding me on the floor. The scars of my death will forever be etched into who they are.

What if it is chemical? Maybe my depression and anxiety are worsening and the time for natural remedies and therapy have past. I have seen how hard it is to get the right treatment and I fear I’m not strong enough.

So I called the doctor and the testing began.

Blood work.

EKG.

Ultrasound.

heartYesterday they attached a monitor to me that I have to wear for 24-hours. It will monitor my heart and give them a clearer understanding of what is going on.

I’m not going to lie.

I’m scared.

I keep telling myself to stay calm and wait for answers. So many people have gone through this and it ends up being nothing. Or it ends up being something and you fight it and get better. Or you don’t get better, but you keep fighting anyway.

I’m in no way unique or special. My very best friend has been dealt the medical roulette of health issues, adding Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia to the list just yesterday. My young sister-in-law faces a hysterectomy and a future without the kids she wants. Another friend is fighting breast cancer, unable to walk from the treatments.

I know all this, yet I am still terrified.

I am the only mother to my children and this all feels heavy and scary.

I want someone to hold me. I want to cry.

School starts tomorrow and it feels like a new year, a new beginning. I always make promises to myself this time of year. I will use the time the kids are in school to exercise, finally tackle my messy house and maybe even keep up on my writing without staying up all night.

All these promises I make, as readily and as fervently as any New Year’s Resolution. They are just as carelessly discarded when they get hard or no longer suit me. Distraction and obligation keep me busy.

Yet, here I sit with this heart monitor and immense fear. Both are screaming to me that I need to make the time for me now.

I need to stop worrying what others think of me, or if I am doing enough.

It is time for me to be strong.

I am not a little girl.

No secret handshake for me

The laughter drew me to them from my bedroom, where I was folding laundry with my morning coffee. I walk down the stairs and find them sitting on the living room floor with a paper between them. They are taking turns drawing on it and bursting into hysterics, their entire bodies literally shaking from the power of their giggles.

“What’s going on?” I say.

They don’t hear me at first.

“Hey guys,” I try again, attempting to sound casual and not at all like I’m about to start making them clean up. “Whatcha doin?”

They both look up at me like I’m an alien trying to invade their tiny planet.

“Nothing,” they say together and resume whatever nonsense this is, erupting into new fits of laughter as I walk away.

My children have a club. I’m guessing they call it “CoopLa” as I see it scrawled all over the place, but I’m not privy to the information. It looks like a pretty fun club. Their mission seems to be along the lines of:

*Cut up as many things as possible and use all the tape and aluminum foil in the house.

*Be really loud and make sure to laugh and scream out random words frequently, like Moo and Noodles.

*Move around the furniture often and in a dramatic fashion.

*Name every stuffed animal you can find and cover every surface in the house with fluffy cuteness.

They are enthusiastic about everything they do. They fight sometimes, but generally find resolution without intervention. They are tight, like peas and carrots.

There are days when I try hard to join in their fun, but I will never be in the club. I’m the bouncer and owner, but I’ll never quite belong.

They are exclusively exclusive.

Which is as it should be, I tell myself.

Childhood belongs to children.

Right? It’s how I’m supposed to feel. This is their time, not mine. I didn’t give birth to them so I could have friends and comfort.

But fuck. I miss it.

When they were very little, I was everything to them. Comfort. Food. Friendship. Playmate.

I was the sun, the moon and the stars.

But now I am not the only thing in the world filling those needs. They have each other, friends, grandparents, teachers and themselves. They have discovered inner strength and often find contentment in being alone.

All this is what is supposed to happen. This is the parenting process.

It’s beautiful and natural.

But I fucking hate it.

I feel myself being pushed away and pulled back on a daily basis. Give me space, but you better be there for me when I need you. Ask me what I’m doing, but don’t expect me to answer you. I need to know you care, but I don’t want you with me. Give me what I want, but don’t really because I’ll change my mind in five minutes.

The teenage years are still far away, but I feel them coming. This is the sweet spot of parenting right now and I know it. They are somewhat independent, but not disillusioned yet. They want stuff, but it is not their primary focus. They still ask questions and actually listen to the answers.

This is supposed to be the easy part.

It’s not.

There isn’t one.

I walk into my boy’s room and find him listening to the iPod with earbuds in. He is singing and tapping his toes while flipping through an animal magazine.

“Mom, there is this new song on the radio I think you will like,” he says pulling out just one earbud. “You have to hear this.”

I put the earbud in and sit close to him and my heart feels all kinds of confusing shit.

My girl and I go school shopping, just the two of us. She picks out clothes she likes and goes into the dressing room all by herself. Hanging the sign on the door, like she has seen me do a thousand times, and then coming out and modeling the clothes.

I stand there, outside the door, and I don’t even know what to feel.

I make eye contact with a mother of a teenage girl and she looks exhausted. She smiles at me encouragingly, but it looks forced. It is forced.

This shit is hard.

Not the kind of hard babyhood is. Not the sleep deprived, please don’t choke on something small and die. No. More like, my heart breaks every day to see you figure out how fucked up things can be and please don’t let you have the same depression I have.

That kind of hard.

Sometimes I just wander the house, not knowing what to do with myself. I am drawn to them, but also pulled away by a million things always needing to get done. I rush around cleaning, making plans, paying bills, writing and working. I see them slip by me and I reach out, but then they are gone.

I walk into my daughter’s room to deliver laundry and there they are. My boy is reading to his sister. They are snuggled and happy. My girl looks up and gives me the smile she always does and I want to join them. But I don’t. I smile back and walk out of the room.

kids

Top 5 ways to make your minivan stand out

Since it has been about 1,000 degrees here in good old Northern California, the kids and I decided ice cream was the only thing we could do to survive.

We got our cones and hopped back in the van. Before I turned on the AC and jetted on our way, there were several tasty drips needing my full attention.

Suddenly the side door of the van was opened and there stood a very frazzled looking mom with two fussing toddlers. It took her about five awkward seconds, shoving one such toddler actually into the van, before she realized she had the wrong van.

We all laughed.

The mom lugged her precious little ones down two grey vans over and continued on her way.

It is bad enough we all have the same black yoga pants and some version of the same black bathing suit; do we have to have an official vehicle as well?

Apparently, grey minivan it is.

Side note: Whoever is deciding the mom trends, can we do something cool next time? Please. You are killing me here.

vanSo I decided to write to you, my fellow moms, in an act of pity. I see you winding through the Costco parking lot clicking your alarm button as you desperately try to find the right grey van before your gaggle of tired children and your year’s supply of turnips spoil.

Never fear, Super Mom is here! (At least that is what my kids call me when I tell them to.)

Here are my top 5 creative, simple and budget friendly ways to stand out from the mom pack.

1. Stickers and balloons

For some reason stores think your children are dying for stickers and balloons. Both are useless and forgotten in five seconds. That is unless the balloon floats away and then we will mourn the loss of “balloony” for about a year. Maybe longer, depending on the age and stubbornness (I mean sensitivity) of your child. If the balloon survives, hang its limp dead form from the coat hanger/handle things in the back. They can then smack against the window as you drive providing a beautiful rhythmic sound to soothe your children to sleep.

As for the stickers, don’t throw any away. Ever! These can be used to create a very unique look to your van. You could let your child decorate just the inside windows. Make sure the stickers are varying sizes and shapes. It creates a beautiful pattern of shadows on the tinted windows that will be admired by all. But don’t stop there! Let them plaster those suckers all over the outside as well. The rain will start, maybe not if you live in California, and as they peel away it will make your van an eye sore/eye catcher for sure.

2. Don’t forget the stick family

You may have noticed most grey vans include the stick family in the back left window and you may be tempted to not have one. You might think that alone will make you stand out. It won’t. You can’t. It’s required. So you have to do it. It’s a mom thing.

You do however have options. Exaggerating the number of pets/people is one way to go. Cats all along the back, maybe several rows of cats, could work. There is also Star Wars, zombies and Disney! I personally recommend these: “We’re a hoot” and the family is all owls. “Just chillin’” and the family is all penguins. “Bear with us” and the family is all bears. Adorable.

Of course, you can go the “I’m so cool that I totally make fun of stick family figures” route. There are many such options for you. Such as “How stick figure families are made” (with a nice little humping graphic), “My stick family was abducted,” “Nobody cares about your stick family,” “Run you stick bastards” (dinosaur and monster truck version) and “The Ass Family” (Jack, Smart, Lazy, Kiss and Dumb).

This is a great chance to let the personality of your family shine through and brighten up your dull, grey van of boredom. Also, it’s required. So get it done and don’t argue with me or I’ll pull this van over.

3. Dangling mirror things

If you think the front of the van doesn’t matter, your wrong. So very wrong. Why are you always doing things wrong? What is wrong with you? The front totally matters because sometimes you walk down the row at Costco where you just see the front of cars and you will be completely lost and you’ll say to yourself, “I should have listened to the blogger chick, the front does matter.”

It’s OK. I forgive you and I have a plan. You know how your kids are always making you things out of paper, tin foil and garbage? Find one of those and hang it from your review mirror. Bam! Good mom award for not throwing out the treasure and you will be sure to recognize your child’s perfect piece of modern art. You are such a good mom. Your hair is pretty too.

4. Dents

This one is a little tricky. I’m not advocating taking the biggest hammer you can find and smacking the van in various locations to give it a more textured look. No. I’m not. Don’t do that. If you do, make sure it’s after one of your kids just did something truly terrible and your really mad. I can imagine that might feel good and they would be super scared to try that shit again. But you probably, most definitely, should not purposely dent up your van.

However, if your van does get some dents, use those to your advantage! Your dents will be an original expression of your driving and will be highly respected/feared on the road.

Caution: If you think denting up your van bad enough you have to replace it with a cooler car is a possibility, it is not. You will just have a very badly dented van. So, you know, keep that in mind when you start swinging.

5. Music

Once you find your dented, sticker-laden van of motherhood bliss, it is time to stand out more with what you choose to blare from the speakers. This is a personal choice, of course, but I have some wonderful suggestions to make you really stand out.

First, always, and I mean ALWAYS, have the bass turned up. Your kids will love it. Your neighbors will love it. The cute guy in the convertible next to you will love it. Even if you’re playing the soundtrack to the Wiggles (and for heaven’s sake, don’t do that), the bass will overpower the actual music and people will still think your cool.

Second, “Turn Down For What?” Play that. Loud. Even if your kids are napping, they will eventually learn to sleep through it. It’s awesome and you will look much younger and hipper.

Third, don’t forget that car dancing is a perfect excuse to get in some cardio between all those mom errands. The more arm movements, the higher the heart rate. Really go for it. Trust me, your kids will find you adorable and not at all embarrassing.

***

That’s it! It really is so simple. If you follow these 5 easy steps not only will you never get into the wrong van again, but I promise you will live a long, happy life.

Disclaimer: These tips have not been proven to help anyone live a happier or longer lasting life, nor have they been tested on animals (unless you consider my children animals and if you do, shame on you, my kids are perfect.)

The middle chapters are usually like this, aren’t they?

I tear open the candy bar wrapper and take a little bite. Just one bite I tell myself. Just enough to shove down the tears.

The most perfectly fit couple is getting into the car next to me. They have on workout gear and a bag of new golf balls. They are smiling and he opens the door for her. I think they kiss, but I look away before seeing it.

Shame and jealousy overwhelms me. My face burns as I sink down from the judgment I feel through the glass.

I wait until they drive away and then I eat the whole thing.

I don’t even taste it.

The tears come again.

Fuck.

I hear voices and dry my eyes. A woman is ushering a few kids into the van parked next to me. The exact same van as mine. Grey. Plain. Completely practical. The official vehicle of women like us. She makes eye contact with me and I know she sees the tears and the chocolate pooled in the corners of my mouth. She looks away.

I do too.

I keep having these epiphanies, but they fade. Like a dog being fooled by the same trick of throwing the ball, I keep running ahead just in case it was really thrown this time.

Next time I’ll get it.

This part of my life is boring. The monotony and responsibility of being an adult is such a huge letdown from the optimism and hope of youth.

If I am to believe Facebook, I’m alone in this feeling. Yet I know better. I know the truth.

All those memes about changing perspective and living in the moment aren’t just for my benefit. All those pictures of our kids that we post, the one’s where they are smiling and happy, aren’t just to make others think we are so great.

We are all trying to shift focus. Stay in the light. Find the good.

It’s not a lie.

Not really.

It’s just not the whole truth. It’s a version of the truth we all tell ourselves.

FullSizeRenderIt’s the middle of the story and not much is happening.

It’s the boring part of the book you skim, the endless paragraphs of bullshit self-reflection.

It’s the part when the main character wallows in self-pity until you want to punch her in the face and tell her to wake up.

Yeah. That’s where I am.

My story isn’t over.

I think about Abdi, this Somali refugee I heard about on This American Life. He won the U.S. visa lottery, but still had to go through some ridiculous shit to make his American dream come true. He had some real reasons to cry and shove sugar into his veins. Yet his is a story of endurance and patience.

I think about my mom. A few weeks ago, I hugged her goodbye and put her on a plane destined to meet the daughter she gave up for adoption before I was born. She has waited decades for this time, the pain never really going away, and now she got to hug her and look into her eyes and tell her all the things she’d whispered quietly to herself.

I think about waking up in a tent and having my two children climb into my sleeping bag with me to get warm. They giggle and jostle closer, elbows and knees and mangled hair and wet kisses. They love this broken-down woman they call mamma and don’t care she is extra squishy and cries quickly.

I think about this cashier at the grocery store by my home. She is always smiling. Always. Not the fake “can’t wait to get of her look” either. Real. Genuine. I ask her how she is and she always says, “Blessed, thank you.” She means it. It’s not bullshit. I’ve seen customers be rude and throw fits. She handles herself with grace and ease.

I think about this place I’m stuck in. This self-imposed crazy whirlpool spinning me around until I’m disorientated and I want to just sink down in defeat. Happy. Sad. Up. Down. Defeated. Motivated.

Here I am. Right here. I’m at the part of the story when the character has to decide to do something. The time has come for action.

My story isn’t over.

Let’s go take a hike in the heat

weedsThe sun just rose, but the heat is already too much. My body feels heavy and weak as I trudge up another hill.

My boy is dragging his feet along the ground kicking up clouds of dust. His sister is making exaggerated coughing noises.

This hike is taking forever.

We come to the part of the trail blocked by a fallen tree.

Halfway marker.

I almost cry in exhaustion. There is no way I can climb over. My hip hurts.

I take the long way around, leaving the monsters to climb it without me.

Alone, I try to appreciate the beauty of the trail. I love the green trees, but I mostly see dead wildflowers, brown grass and sharp weeds. It is a million degrees out, and the air smells of fire. A few quail scurry out and I jump. Why did I read about how bad rattlesnakes are this season? Please don’t let me see one.

My mind starts doing what it does best, making lists and pointing out mistakes. I need to do dishes, laundry, clean the guinea pig cage, run to the grocery store and vacuum. Kids need new shoes. I should stop eating sugar. I need to start packing for camping. I think my mom is mad at me.

“Do you need help?” I hear my boy say.

“I don’t want to tear my dress,” comes the reply.

Of course they are going to start fighting. I stop and peek through the trees at them, annoyed and angry. I lecture them in my head. Do not make me hike back to help you both. It is far too hot and I’m in no mood. I’m serious. Figure it out.

My boy is dressed in white skinny jeans, wand shoved down the back, wearing my brother’s old ratty brown sweatshirt. It almost fits him now. His fedora is slipping off his head as he attempts to lift his sister onto the tree. It is not working.

My girl, all legs, is flaying about in a fit of giggles. She is wearing a fancy overpriced dress her grandmother bought for her birthday, ruffled socks and her nicest shoes. Dressed for a morning hike in the woods. Her matted hair is covering her face.

Soon the laughter is replaced with frustrated sighs and grunts. I start walking back toward them, watching them through the trees, rehearsing all the threats and punishments I’m about to unleash on them. It is so hot I swear my sweat is turning to steam.

I watch as they start whispering, heads close. My boy bends down, folds his hands together in front of him and holds them out to his sister. She steps on and lets him push her upwards. Careful to not tear her dress on the sharp bark, she climbs over the top. He climbs up next to her.

Reaching out, he takes his sister’s hand and they interlace fingers.

They stand for a moment, brother and sister, hand in hand, looking at the trail ahead.

I stop.

I’m always braced for conflict, but never the tender moments.

I take in every detail. My girl is almost as tall as her brother now. She tilts her head toward him, nuzzling his shoulder. Their fingers stay connected, strong and tight. They both look ahead in silence. My boy adjusts his hat with his other hand and then turns to smile at this sister. They let their hands drop and he pushes her away with both hands.

“Don’t make me fall,” she screams at him.

He laughs and jumps down landing hard. She follows. I hurry to catch up with them.

“That’s my wand!” my girl yells with hands on her hips. “I found it first!”

“You dropped it and it is not a wand,” my boy says launching at his sister. “It’s my sword!”

He pokes it at her and takes off running. She looks around for a new stick, finds one and is off. I can hear them both laughing. I follow.

You can always reach for me

My husband wakes me up.

“Lola is calling for you,” he says.

Instantly, I’m annoyed. I mutter under my breath about wanting more sleep and stumble out of bed. The clock says 12:35 a.m.

“Mommy,” she cries out again.

I stumble down the hall, and the second I smell it, I know what has happened. Instantly, my entire body and mind are awake.

“Oh poor baby,” I say.

There is a big pile of throw up on the bedspread and she is crying.

“I was trying to figure out how to clean it myself,“ she says. “I’ve ruined Mother’s Day. I’m sorry mom.”

No. This is motherhood my love. This is exactly what it is.

I grab a clean blanket from the hall, strip her and put her in it. I clean everything up, put her in some clean pajamas, remake the bed, grab the sick bowl and make myself a place next to her on the floor. I settle in for the routine that I know so well.

Every time she throws up, I rub her back, wash her face and comfort her.

Drink this water.

You will be OK.

I’m right here.

I love you.

When she falls asleep, I rest on the floor and worry.

This is motherhood.

I still get my avocado toast and coffee in bed, but today I’m next to my sick girl who likes to keep her hand on my chest because it comforts her.

I feel her little body tremble with excitement as I open the gifts she crafted herself; a tissue paper flower, a little dog and a large cat created out of paper, a card with a heart wearing a sombrero and guitar (because she knows I like things that are funny) and a beeswax rose.

“You like it?” she asks.

Of course I do.

My boy delivers his gift and it is so perfectly him that I can’t help but swoon.

 gift

This is motherhood.

We decide to cuddle in bed and watch our favorite episodes of “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge.” Both kids inch in as close as they can to me. I can feel their breath and warmth as we talk about puppetry, mechanism and our favorite designers. We vow to someday make our own puppet and giggle as we discuss the silly details and features our creature will have.

My mom comes over with hugs and kisses for us all. I make her coffee and she gives me a piece of paper with my “Letter A” on it. She snuggles in with us for an episode or two. I give her the bench we crafted for her and she loves it.

After she leaves, my girl’s fever spikes up and I hold her as she cries and whimpers.

“I hate being sick,” she says.

“I know love,” I tell her.

lolaI make her peppermint tea. I braid her hair so it won’t get in her face. She rubs my chest as she falls asleep in my arms, a little furnace fighting off the virus in her body.

This, of course, was not the plan for my day. I was supposed to go swimming, play cards, drink mimosas and be outdoors. It was to be chore-free, stress-free and full of sweet things to eat.

But that wasn’t what happened.

There was a time, quite recent in fact, that this setback would have sent me spiraling down into a place of sadness and loneliness. I’d have let myself be swallowed up.

Surprisingly, I’m good.

My heart is filled with so much love for my children that it feels like it just might burst. These not-so-little beings that I get to spend so much time with are my life.

They are my Mother’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not happy my girl is sick, far from it. But I’m making a choice to savor the moments of care and comfort I can give her, instead of focusing in on what I missed.

Today, my arms showed her my love.

Today, my voice was her sense of peace.

I am her safe place.

I am her feel better soon.

I am her mommy.

Happy Mother’s Day.