Uncategorized

Red Footie Pajamas

I distinctly remember my first time visiting the childrens’ unit at Cedar Springs Hospital. I was new to the city as an EMT, and while I had run my fair share of adult psychiatric calls, this was my first child.  Actually, in my naivety, I didn’t even know there was such thing as a psych unit for kids up to that point.

There I was, walking into the building for a boy under the age of 6 with an arm injury… thinking he must have been the son of someone who happened to be visiting.  I’m certain there was an audible squeak of my boots stopping abruptly against the hard floor as I turned the corner to find the entire wing of the building occupied by children of various ages. A staff member began rattling off the details of how he fallen out of bed, and my mind was searching for the inexplicable reason that he had been sleeping in a tasteless wooden bed in a duplicated room with hard sterile floors instead of tucked into the shelter of his parents’ hugs and kisses in his own familiar bedroom.  I was silently trying to piece together this mystery when another staff member ushered my patient into the hallway; a dark-haired little guy, hardly taller than my hips, padding silently in red footie pajamas.

That night I learned one of those hard life-truths that you don’t learn little by little; one of those truths that smack you in the face like the concrete-sting of a belly flop into icy water.  Though I lost that bit of innocence on that call I still had many questions bouncing around between my mind and the soul that stared out at me from those young brown eyes.

It wasn’t long before running psych calls for youngsters wasn’t unusual for me.  I ran the frantic 9 year old who pleaded with his grandma to give him one more chance after tearing apart the whole house.  I ran the 15 year old cutter who had run away from home, and the 13 year old boy who successfully took his own life.  I saw a new world of confusion and pain and I struggled to understand it.  There were those who were vocal about their opinions; it was easy to assume that a lack of parenting or responsibility had created this brokenness, or that these were just bratty children needing firmer discipline.  While I was never one to say it out loud, I suppose in some ways I thought the same thing.  I wondered if the guardians were just tired of dealing with the hard work of parenting, and wanted to pass the adversity off to someone else.  I wondered if these kids felt so invisible that their gashes and outlandish displays of defiance were the only means left to spark some flames of attention from the people they craved it from.  While I refrained from joining in the open toxic banter of judgement, I still pondered these questions because some things you just can’t understand until you’ve tasted them more personally.

Fast forward several years to my own boy standing at the dawning of teen-hood.  Two parents who loved him unconditionally, a stable home in which all his needs were met, a routine of discipline and appropriate freedom, and yet his soul was changing, darkness clouding his once crystal blue eyes. Despite all the good things in his life my young boy had experienced tragedy that he was never meant to have to bear.  His normal had been ripped and shaken by such affliction over a short amount of time his soul halted in shock from the uprooting of all he knew to be true and safe.  So began this terrible and frightening battle of his entire being trying to reconcile things that his young soul was not created to understand.  He learned to build impenetrable walls to guard his bleeding wounds from further pain.  He forced himself to not feel so that he would never again know the devastation of a hurting heart.

Somewhere between watching his destruction from an utterly helpless distance, and screaming helpless tears into starlight night after night I came to understand the full story of that boy in the red footie pajamas.

It’s not for anyone to judge why these kids are the way they are, because the truth in all of them is that at some point they experienced a hurt that was more than they knew what to do with.  There are insecurities and scars and genetic dispositions, and I guarantee you not one of these kids suddenly woke up one day with a desire to be angry or dangerous or out of control or truthfully, an outcast. There is a world of hurting young people who need not our judgement and our assumptions, but our understanding and our unbiased desire to reach out to them and help fill those gaps and holes that created their unbalance to begin with.  What would the world look like if all the adults stepped up to give the attention and meet the needs that these kids so desperately need met?

It is with greatest sincerity that I say thank you to the adults that have stepped in, or even been forced in, to stand in the gap for my son.  I get it, I do.  I know that your 25th patient contact of the day is exhausting.  I know that you came in not feeling well to begin with, or with your own trouble going on, and yet you still showed up to give of yourself to help my boy, and so many others, with his healing.  I know that in the big scheme of things, the little issues these kids are making monstrous seems so outrageously ridiculous that’s it’s tempting to give a shoulder-shake of reality.  I know that after a long day, 2am was not the time you felt most compassionate when you had to get up and deal with a new admission, or a meltdown,  or a half-hearted suicide attempt for attention, or an all-out brawl.  I know that there are a lot of days you wonder why you chose this, or you think about moving on.  I know that it may seem thankless and pointless some days, and that you may question whether you are even making a difference.  The truth is you are some of the bravest, most selfless, most compassionate people to walk this earth.  This world does need you, and you are making differences, even if they are tiny baby ant steps.  In our universe, those ant steps are huge.

So thank you for what you do day in and day out; for the sacrifices you make and the things you endure so that every story has a chance at a happy ending, and that every hurting young heart that crosses your threshold knows that someone fought for them, even the boy in the red footie pajamas.

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

Uncategorized

Home Calls

This is a bunch of pictures… and would you believe this isn’t nearly all of them, AND there were some occasions I forgot to even take a snapshot?? Truly though, in this case a picture is a thousand words to see the joy and excitement these babes of mine got to experience.

. . .

We had an incredibly wonderful opportunity to visit our homeland over this past few weeks. When the hubs had to go back out to Colorado for work again and the kids realized they were out of school for this one, they started begging for all of us to come along. I honestly did not have high hopes that my energy levels would keep up, or that my pain and muscle spasms would survive the 18 hour car ride, but as time grew near it was obvious how much their little hearts needed the joy and sunshine this trip would bring, and I stopped seeing obstacles and decided it was absolutely worth digging my deepest to make it happen.

We had a outstanding time. While the man of the house worked and stayed up in Denver, the kids and I shacked up in a hotel (yay frequent travel points?) in Colorado Springs, and we packed as much as we possibly could into every day. We started with a trip to the grocery (hallelujah for actually knowing what aisle to find things on for the first time in a year!) and settled into our home base where we could easily retreat to cook, eat, rest, play games, and cool off in the sparkling outdoor pool.

It was glorious to actually be able to feel the sun on our skin again, and to breathe the thin, dry, mountain air. The brief rain showers were worth dancing in because they were fresh and actually cooled things down. Lightening bugs are cool, but my goodness how we’ve missed the sun and the beautiful mountain peaks.

We packed our days full of visits with friends from sunup to sundown, even having some camp out with us in our crowded hotel room to stretch out the hours spent together. It did my heart such good to see my little people squealing with treasured friends, young and old. We visited as many as we were able, and still felt like we needed another week or two to see everyone we wanted to! We did the best that we could, and resolved it would have to happen again some time.

We visited our favorite parks, restaurants, stores, friends’ houses, and met up with neighbors, teachers, therapists, and dear friends. We were so exhausted each night, but never enough to keep us from rising with the sun to do it again. Our friend tanks were filled, our smile muscles given an excellent workout, and our bodies kissed with new sprinkles of freckles.

We got to see some of my family on both ends of the trip, and meet up with some sweet friends from California. We worked in some epic favorites like Leon Gessi’s pizza, BJ’s ice cream, Lava Land, Casa Bonita, and Denver Biscuit Conpany.

It was a ton of work, and loads of fun, and not without pain and exhaustion and some pinching and poking in the car… but it was epic and amazing and worth every sacrifice. The car ride home was a little bit quieter; contentedly tuckered out little people dreaming of their adventures… in between waking up and breathing too close to each other’s space, but all in all it was good. So good.

Leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

Uncategorized

Mixed Feelings

My little guy swiped the tears off of his face with the back of his arm and grinned as an excited squeal squeaked out. He had just suffered through painful Botox injections in his legs, but was quickly distracted by the huge bin of toys and games that was plopped in front of him to choose from.

I couldn’t help but crack a smile as well, and thought, there it is, reminding me again; grief and joy coexist.

I have felt bound by a very long season of grieving; one fresh struggle after another for a seemingly endless stretch of time. As I told a good friend the other day; it’s just a constant game of Russian roulette and we keep getting the bullet. I’m sure that’s not the case even though it feels that way sometimes. I have also seen that life does not pause to wait for the hard thing to be over; it scatters the joy right in with it. And thank goodness… am I right? I shudder to think what these dark days would feel like without the fresh breaths of laughter and excitement. Admittedly, I also struggle to fully appreciate the joys sometimes when I am grieving hard.

These past few weeks have been a more prominent example than most of this roller coaster of sorts. I sat across the table to sign for the closing of our beautiful new house crouched over from the fresh surgical scars of a few days prior, celebrated the excitement of boxes and furniture coming in the door while resenting the limitations that kept me from helping to carry and unpack. My flowers bloomed beautifully while my vegetable garden was laid to waste by the weather. Summer break and the delight in bikes and popsicles and lightening bugs and new friends, was coupled with a traumatic fall from a tree that landed my oldest girl unconscious and in an ambulance. On the same hand, the devastation and helplessness I felt over her injuries was bathed in the gratitude that it was not as disastrous as it easily could have been. I received insurance approval for a wonderful new device to help me walk more normally on the tails of hearing hard news from a close friend, and had a weekend of celebrating my newly sixteen year old boy and Father’s Day, coupled with anxiety and new testing for another unknown of my own. There is no time to stop and celebrate the victories or grieve the losses, there is simply a perpetual circulation of the highest highs and the lowest lows, and the best I have found is to drink deeply of the holy graces and allow yourself to feel the depths of the sorrows, and keep moving forward with them.

I know I’m not alone in this. I realize each of you dear readers face your own highs and lows with the revolutions around the sun, and I hope it gives us so much more kindness and understanding for each other. I haven’t mastered this, no; it’s easy to let the sting of the hard bleed into the moments that should be celebrated, but I’m trying ever so hard to fully embrace both, are you?

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

Uncategorized

Oh! It’s here!

Soooo all the cyber moms are posting these great photos of their kids with cute first day of “x” grade signs beside great photos of their kids with cute last day of school signs, and precious little memories and goals from the beginning of the school year, and now the end of the school year. A few cute mamas dressed their little humans in adorable outfits on the first day of school, and managed to find every piece of the same outfit (still in pristine condition after four semesters of pencil lead, slime, sun-cracked rubber swing sitting, railing sliding and surprise chocolate milk) on the last day, and they adorably represent just how much the little ones have grown, and I’m like, ummmm… I remembered to make mine wear shoes to school on their last day today?? 🙌🏻

This school year crawled by and was over in a snap all at the same time. I watched my brave babies tearfully struggle the agony of being the new kids in a new place, saw them dig deep, face fears, forge friendships, and carve small places of triumph and comfort for themselves in the face of a strange new unknown. They stepped in so timid and unsure, and marched out with confident and maturing faces lifted toward the sky.

It has been a wild school year of ups and downs and all things new, and my heart-blood thrums with pride at watching them own it. They are my inspiration, my motivation, and my reasons to bravely walk into each new mystery with sure and expectant steps. We may have missed buses, overlooked library books, stuffed leftover pizza into crumpled lunch sacks as an afterthought, and played hooky a day or two just because our feet and our hearts needed to snuggle together under the cover of a thick sky and a crackling hearth, but… we made it! Another school year stronger and wiser and refined by all the scorching and applauding of an ever-turning globe, and I will stand tall and smiling for every single proud day as I cheer for these magnificent little world-shapers of mine. Well, ok, I will occasionally take a break from cheering and ask them what in the world they are thinking, but then we’ll get right back to it! I am continually learning from them as they take on the world.

Well done babes, well done!

Celebratory “ice cream!” (Blended frozen bananas & sprinkles😉)

Cannot wait to pull away from our moving boxes sometime this weekend to celebrate big!

Uncategorized

Someday. A letter to my children.

There has been a lot of praise this week for the Mothers. I love and cherish each and every “you’re the best mom in the world,” but I can’t help but wonder what my kids will remember of me long from now. It flatters and humbles and melts me in a puddle to hear them say they would pick me again out of all the moms, but I hope they know that I am equally aware of the holes I have left them.

Someday, my sweet babies, when I’m no longer here to look over your shoulder or come running from another room, I hope you remember that I absolutely loved being your mom. I hope you believe me when I say that you were my world. I hope you remember all the silly times and happy times and treasured memories we made, and that they bring a smile to your face every time you think on them. I hope you remember the sad and the hard times too, but I hope what you remember about those times is that we made it through. We didn’t always have the answers, and maybe we didn’t always choose the best choice, but we stuck together and we looked to Jesus, and we kept on pushing forward until things got a little easier. I hope you remember that in the sad times you still brought me much happiness.

I hope that you know how keenly aware I was of my mistakes. I hope you’ll forgive me for them; for being too protective, too selfish, too impatient, too narrow-minded, too angry… I hope you believe that I was doing the best that I could at the time. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing.

I pray that you not only forgive my mistakes, but that you learn from them and carry into your own families a deeper knowledge and a better way than I had. I hope you’ll carry some of me too; like getting up early to make a big Sunday breakfast and singing at the top of your lungs like you just don’t care.

Please forgive me for the empty spots I left and the hurts I caused. I know they are there. Forgive me for not being brave enough and humble enough and wise enough to always see them. I so desperately hope that there will be strong and meaningful people in each of your lives who can speak truth and strength to where I gave you weaknesses, and you will discover yourselves more whole.

Each one of you were the most precious, unimaginable gifts to me. I could never have dreamed of being given such blessings as you. You rocked my world and colored it and made it full of laughter and music and fun, and I could never have lived such a magnificent life without you.

Thank you for teaching me to look outside of myself; to relax, to trust, to slow down and enjoy, to take risks, to fight, to have courage and hope and ambition. I hope that the string that I gave you is enough to hold onto and run into the world; exploring and learning and conquering and becoming everything you dream you can possibly be.

I hope you will feel glad that I was your mom. I hope you can keep the good parts of me and ditch the bad, and keep making an infinite number more of the best of yourself.

You are my children; you made me a mama. Showed me how strong and how flexible and how silly and how important I could be, and it was incredible.

I love you each; from the bottom of the ocean, to the top of the sky.

Love,

Mom