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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Climb

"I can almost see it, this dream I'm dreaming.  But, there's a voice inside my head that says, 'You'll never reach it.'"

We all have our own crosses to bear, our own mountains to climb.  A friend of mine recently asked me when I was going to be posting a new blog, and I told her that I had tried to express some changes I've been experiencing but had started to write several times and just couldn't get it quite right.  Usually I just sit down and start typing, and am generally satisfied by the time I'm finished.  For some reason, I couldn't quite pinpoint exactly what I was feeling.  Leave it to one of my children to show me how.

I've noticed that my attitude is different.  Now, that's not a blanket statement.  I'm still a cynical, straight-forward, pain in the ass.  But, I have noticed that, lately,  my reactions to situations seem to have more of a "soft" edge.  I still react to things that have bothered me in the past, but with renewed perspective.  For example, houses with children in them are going to be dirty.  If you don't believe me just take a look at any of your old home videos.  You'll notice that your children can only do camera-worthy things when your house is trashed.  The kid will be standing there singing a rendition of  "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" that rivals Sinatra, but you may not be able to distinguish which child it is because you haven't dusted in about three months.  You can go ahead and clean beforehand and fully charge your camera battery in preparation for what you are just sure will end up being your little genius' audition for Julliard, but the kid will inevitably end up in some sort of staring trance and may even drool a little.  You can't plan these things.  They just happen, and at one time I may have obsessed a little more about a messy house.  But now, all I can think of every time I see a stray toy is that it's a sign of LIFE in my house.  Don't get me wrong, I still go all ape-shit when someone leaves a trail of dirty laundry down the hallway, but the fuse is a little longer now.

Easton is in the hospital again.  This time we're in our local hospital for his respiratory issues.  My reaction to the announcement of this current hospital stay actually made me laugh out loud.   When the doctor told me that we'd have to head over to the hospital, my first thought was, "Do I have the good kind of chap-stick at home?"  This is hilarious to me because of all the things I could have been thinking in that moment, I was worried about what kind of lip balm I'd be using!  Anyone who has had an extended stay in any hospital knows that the air is very dry and it's almost imperative that you have a good tube of chap-stick.  But, really?  That's my reaction to, "Your child needs to be hospitalized,"?  Let me tell you, it absolutely IS the reaction you have when the word "crisis" has been changed forever. I now know what serious is, and this isn't serious.  It is slightly annoying, mildly exhausting, and occasionally troubling, but it isn't an "intubation, coma, near-death experience." 

Hospitals are the worst places on earth in terms of getting anything approaching a good night's sleep.  I'm extremely tired, and I'm sure I wouldn't like to keep this pace very long but every time I look over in that crib, a bright-eyed, ornery little boy grins back at me.  I would take 100 more visits like this one, if it meant I'd never have to see my child motionless again. So we pay a few more hospital bills, and we lose a little more sleep.  It's nice to be able to complain about such things.  The paths may be a little steeper and a little more treacherous than before, but the scenery along the way has been infinitely more beautiful.  I want to thank my children for changing my mountain.

"It ain't about how fast I get there, ain't about what's waiting on the other side...it's the climb."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tooth or Dare

Every mom knows that there are a few simple truths that we must accept as fact.  For example:

FACT:  If you have a particularly embarrassing story that you had hoped would NEVER be repeated while you were still alive, your 4-year-old is going to make re-telling it to the wal-mart cashier her top priority.

FACT:  If two or more children are sitting within spitting distance of one another at least one of them is going to inhabit the other one's "space." (and probably do a little spitting too, for that matter.)

FACT:  If you forget to pack an extra set of clothes one damn day out of the entire freaking year, THIS will absolutely be the day that your child pees, poops, or pukes all over themselves.

FACT:  If you lift up any one of the couch cushions in your house at any given time, you are likely to find at least three cheerios (even if you've never purchased any...cheerios can appear by spontaneous generation), an earring you thought YOU lost two years ago, and something that you "hope" is a raisin.  

FACT:  If you decide to be a "good mom" and encourage your children to brush their teeth, that's fine but just know that you are to blame for the new toothpaste wallpaper in your bathroom.

This last one is particularly disturbing to me.  I've tried and tried to figure out exactly how that much sticky nastiness can come out of that tiny little tube.  It's freaking EVERYWHERE!!!  It covers the sink, the wall, the toilet, the 4-year old.   I seriously don't understand this.  I don't think children should be allowed to have a mirror in their bathroom because no matter how many times you clean it as soon as you turn around, the toothpaste fairy spatters crap all over it again.  And of course it isn't a nice, minty smell that you may be able to stand for 5 seconds.  OH NO, it's that uber-sticky, glitter-clad, bubble gum nastiness that your children just HAD to have.  I have shown my children NUMEROUS times how to properly spit in the sink and rinse their toothbrushes out.  It isn't rocket science, and my kids are relatively intelligent beings.  So, I continue to ponder the reason for the incessant stickiness.  Do they not understand?  Do they have some sort learning issue I haven't yet discovered?  Or do they just hate me and like to see my face turn 6 shades of red on a daily basis?

Well, I think I may have recently discovered the answer.  Due to the growth of our family over the past couple of years, we have had to do a little room rearranging.  I used to have my own bathroom, and the kids shared a bathroom with their dad.  Now the adults share one bathroom, the kids the other.  A few nights ago, I was talking to my husband while he was brushing his teeth and I watched in horror as he finished up and walked out of the bathroom.  It WASN'T that my kids didn't understand.  It WASN'T that they had some sort of learning disability.  It WASN'T that they hated me so much...IT WAS GENETIC.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Garden

One of the most beautiful places I have ever been is "The Garden" at St. Louis Children's hospital.  Part of it's beauty has to do with the hundreds of different flowers and plants, and the soothing water running through the middle.  But the thing that makes The Garden so unique is it's ability to provide therapy for the patients and families at the hospital.  If those flowers could talk...but that's exactly why it's the best type of therapy.  It's a place that you can go to feel every emotion that comes with having a sick child, and  you don't have to speak to anyone.  You are free to really FEEL everything on a very raw level. 

When Easton was in the hospital, I never left the grounds.  And while that may sound sweet and sacrificial, in reality it wasn't very healthy.  At times I felt crazy.  I didn't sleep, or eat and I rarely went outside to walk around.  The Garden became my sanctuary.  When we got bad news, and I couldn't handle it anymore, I would go up there and feel what I felt was stifled by the walls of the hospital.  I went there to cry and to scream, but also to smile and laugh.  And sometimes I went out there just to breathe.  I remember one moment when everything seemed to be falling apart, I went out there by myself and as soon as I stepped on that little path around the water, I was able to release a flood of tears. I called my friend Jamie, who unfortunately knew the pain of watching your child suffer.  I don't even remember dialing the number.  I just remember her voice on the phone, and then my voice as I yelled and screamed and pleaded for her to tell me how to deal with all of it.  She just listened and said all the right things, and I will be eternally grateful for that.

I remember going up there another time and seeing all of these children being wheeled around in wagons.  They were pointing to the flowers and laughing.  I was so angry that Easton couldn't do something as simple as ride the elevator up 1 floor to come out and enjoy the flowers with me.  And, I don't just mean "angry."  There were times that I was seething.  Every emotion was supercharged and lined with pain.  I also felt fear...  overwhelming fear that sucks the breath right from your lungs.

I remember then the first time they allowed us to take Easton to The Garden with us.  Jeff and I were so excited to get him out of his room, but even more so to share with him the only place that had allowed for true BREATHING in the past month.  We took the camera, and you would have thought that it was his first birthday!  We took about 20 pictures of him outside enjoying the air around him.  At the time I don't even know if he knew that he was outside.  But we felt like it was such a huge step forward that we pretended that he knew exactly what we were talking about.  We pointed out flowers and we showed him the fish.  We held him in the swing, and we showed him big rotating ball in the water.  That was 4 months ago.

Today, September 2, 2011, we didn't have to pretend.  We had to return for a follow-up appointment and between office visits, we decided to take him out to The Garden.  We pointed to flowers and he reached for them.  We showed him the fish and he stood alone, holding onto the bridge and laughing at the water.  We sat him next to the big rotating ball and he reached out and touched it with an ornery grin on his face.  I laughed at him, and marveled at the progress that he's made in 4 months.  This had been my dream such a short time ago.  I had begged some silent power to let me see him enjoy this place that I'd grown to love so much.  As I stood there feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and hope, I noticed the wetness on my face.  I guess there will always be tears in The Garden.