All About Mommy

Remember when your kids were little and somewhere around Mother’s Day they’d fill out a little questionnaire about you and the teacher would write it up and you’d save it because it was just so darn adorable? Well, we haven’t done that in a long time so when I saw these 14 questions floating around on Facebook, I decided to ask all of my children individually. None of them heard the others’ answers.

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T, age 11  •  E, age 9  •  L, age 7   •  LJ, age 5

 

1. What is something I always say to you?

T – I love you!
E – I love you!
L – I love you!
LJ – That you love me

 

2. What makes me happy?

T – When I make a meal
E – Daddy and us and my class, even though sometimes they make you mad
L – Hugs and kisses
LJ – Sharing love and sharing toys with other people (even people you didn’t know for a long time) and cleaning the house and brooming the house

 

3. What makes me sad?

T – When the house is dirty
E – Maggie being gone
L – That’s really hard
LJ – When we are sick

 

4. How do I make you laugh?

T – With jokes
E – Tickle me
L – Tickle
LJ – Doing funny things like telling jokes

 

5. What was I like when I was your age?

T – (big eyes) Umm…creative
E – Funny
L – Hmmm…happy?
LJ – Your mother was my Gramama. You didn’t have as many freckles

 

6. How old am I?

T – 36
E – 36
L – 33
LJ – 25

7. How tall am I?

T – 5’3″
E – How far can you stand in the pool? 5 feet?
L – 12 feet
LJ – 12 inches

 

8. What is my favorite thing to do?

T – Play games with us
E – Read
L – Help people
LJ – Stay with us

 

9. What do I do when you’re not around?

T – Watch shows that we’re not allowed to see
E – Read and sleep
L – Watch TV
LJ – Love on daddy and eat snacks while daddy plays his iPad

 

10. What am I really good at?

T – Subbing. No! I want to change my answer! Can I change my answer? Farting.
E – Teaching
L – Taking pictures
LJ – Driving

 

11. What is something I’m not good at?

T – Wanting to get in the lake
E – (nervous laughter) That’s too hard.
L – Doing laundry
LJ – I don’t know what to say

 

12. What do I do for a job?

T – Sub
E – Substitute
L – I don’t know
LJ – School subbing

 

13. What is my favorite food?

T – Spaghetti
E – Not fish. Not seafood. Um…chicken
L – Pizza
LJ – Rice, grits, and mashed potatoes

 

14. What do you enjoy doing with me?

T – Play games
E – Cuddle
L – Play
LJ – Have a meeting with snacks and go to store

everything and nothing

There are days when everything and nothing is just wrong
in an Alexander kind of way.
And the little things feel like big things
and the big things feel like giant things.
And all those things seem to weigh too much
and be too bulky
and too awkward
And it leaves you struggling along,
just trying to do your thing.

And you just can’t.

The depths of the day settle in
and pull you under.
And a blanket of quiet ache drapes over you,
and there’s nothing to do but wait for the clock to keep ticking
until you’ve reached a new day.
Every morning brings new mercies, right?

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p.s. Adulting is hard.
p.p.s. The puppy is great and wonderful and perfect for us, but I really miss my dog.
p.p.p.s. I’m fine. I really am. Just some days seem heavier than others.

a life well lived and well loved

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soul searching.

Humans.
We’re more like animals than we like to believe.
Feelings we can’t quite explain,
Urges that unsettle our soul.

Thousands of years of separate us from our nomadic ancestors,
And while there have been so many changes,
There have also been so few.

****

Maybe I knew.
Looking back, maybe I did.
She seemed fine.
And yet, maybe not.

She went out and did what she needed to do.
And then she came in
and stood by the door,
just looking out.

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A sound just barely perceptible,
It didn’t catch me in the moment.
A sound so natural
That is slipped past me
As so many things do in this whirlwind life of mine.

But I let her out again.
She looked, sniffed, and came back in.

How many times did she do that?
How did I not notice a pattern?
Or am I imagining it all?

****

I took her collar off.
I don’t even remember why.
She always wore her collar.
It bugs me that I can’t remember what made me take it off.
If she still had it on, would we have found her?

****

He’s the one who let her out.
He feels awful about it,
But I know – and he does, too – that it wasn’t his fault.

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It could have as easily been me.
Or the children.
And, in all honesty and quite selfishly, I’m glad that it was him.
It would have broken my heart if I’d been the one who let her go without a glance.
And the children (especially one dear child of mine) may well have held that guilt for years to come.

But it’s not his fault.
He turned and she slipped away.
I don’t know that it was planned,
But something within her soul said go,
And she went.

From dust we have come and dust we will return.

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Rest well, my Maggie Girl.

my maggie moo

My heart says that she went off,
found a quiet spot,
and died.

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But my head still turns
at every rustle in the bushes,
every distant bark,
every knock or click or bump.

****

For the past few weeks, I’ve been letting her ride in the car with us
like I used to when she was a puppy.
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I remember this one time – oh, it brings tears of joy to my eyes even now -
I left the pups in the car when I went in to pay for gas
(Back when you had to – gasp – go inside to pay)
And she put her two front paws on the horn and honked
and honked
and honked
and honked
and honked
until I finally came back out to find
a big dog grin, tongue out and her little nubbin tail wagging as hard as it could.
And her silly sister sitting beside her with that dopey smile on her face.

****

I remember when she bit Marshall.
He playfully tried to pop my behind.
She never bit another soul.

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I remember how it took her approximately 8 hours
to outsmart the dog-proof trashcan.

I remember how she’d crawl under the crib
while the babies were sleeping.
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I remember how I bought costumes for the dogs one Halloween
and she ate hers.
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I remember how she’d squirm on the ground,
scratch her back and smiling.
And how she’d flop on the floor with at big sigh
and that one back leg tucked under.
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I remember the time I was lounging in the hammock
and BOOM she jumped right up into my lap.

I remember how she hated the snow.
All 2″ of it.
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I remember the beauty of her when she ran,
all muscle and speed.
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And I remember how many times Marshall chased her and lost.
(Especially that one time when he full-body lunged at her and missed.
She and I were both amused.
He was not.)

I remember how she used to chase a light ’round and ’round and ’round
and if you ran the light up the side of the fence,
she’s go right up it, too.

I remember how her breath was always awful
and how she smelled like Doritos when she was wet.
(I never understood that).

I remember how fiercely she loved me and I her.
How, when she was around, I felt safe.
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I remember how many tears she caught in those long, long days
of med school, residency, and early motherhood.
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****

Fourteen years is a long time to have a shadow.
And now that the sun has set on her lifetime,
the darkness has stolen it away.

One day I may love another dog.
One day.
But it’ll never be the same.

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I miss you, Maggie moo…

 

encountering eucharist

For over a year we’ve been attending an Episcopal Church.
It’s a far cry from our Baptist background, but it fits in a way that I never expected.
I can’t call one way good and the other bad, nor can I call one way right and one way wrong.
That’s both the mystery and beauty of religion, if we allow it be.

At first, I fumbled to hold this book and that book
and figure out what the S-songs were in the blue book.
Some people knelt in prayer,
some people leaned forward,
some didn’t move at all.
Some did the sign of the cross upon their foreheads,
some on their lips,
some over head and heart,
And some did a little of this and a little of that,
while some didn’t cross at all.
We weren’t sure who to follow or how to cross or when or where to genuflect.
But in this place where everyone was a little bit different,
Different didn’t seem so bad.

And yet, for months I struggled,
trying to follow everyone else’s lead.
Kneeling and standing,
Creeds and collects,
Prayers and Peace.
Which page?
Which prayer?
It was, quite frankly, exhausting to keep up.

But as we travelled around the liturgical calendar,
I found a soothing rhythm in the words and the sounds.
Each season with it’s own tone, one that I’d never quite noticed before.
And the words…they settled down into my heart-gut and ruminated there for months.
Until one day I realized I wasn’t just reading any more. 

silence.

We work together in silence.
not an angry silence.
or a resigned silence.
but in a calm, easy, comfortable silence.

Once upon a time, I would have worried
about what he was thinking, what he wasn’t saying.

But our nows are very different from our thens
and quietness has become a language that I’ve learned.
His language, actually.

Years of his lack of words
have taught me to listen to the in-betweens.

Years of his placidity
have taught me to take my thoughts
and slow.them..down…

Years of his quietude
have taught me that sometimes
there’s nothing inside the silence but silence.
And that’s okay.

 

a mama’s heart

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Standing by the crib with my hand upon her back,
I feel the rush of life push in and out,
in and out,
and in and out again.

My heart wooshes and aches and pushes the limits of my chest.
The warmth of the moment – so secretly shared – flushes warmth to every inch of me.
My skin is electric and alert.

I hear each sound and try to hold it in my head,
but I know that – no matter what I do –  it will slip away.
So instead I close my eyes and listen with my heart.

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She doesn’t need me right now.
The fever is down and she’s sleeping.
She doesn’t need me, I remind myself.
But you, my love, need her…whispers my soul.

And as I crawl into bed beside her,
I feel the rush of life push in and out,
in and out,
and in and out again.

A mama’s heart never forgets.
My heart wooshes and aches and pushes the limits of my chest.
And that same warmth settles in my soul.

Oh my baby, my sweet girl.
I look at her and millions of moments gather in my heart,
and fill it up all the way into my throat.
Memories both happy and sad roll down my cheeks and onto her hair.
She stirs just enough that I fear that I’ve over-tempted fate, and I hold my breath.
One twist and one turn and she settles herself into the crook of my arm
like a puzzle piece falling into place.

I slip my hand into hers, her perfect chubby little hand.
And I squeeze a little harder.
And I stay a little longer.
And I feel all the old moments welcome the new.
And they settle deep into my heart.
Where forever, I pray, they’ll stay.

one fraction at a time.

A hundredth of a second. That teeny, tiny moment before she says the words that you know are coming, the words you see in her eyes. A hundredth of a second and a hundred years all at once.

I think I want to go to “real” school.

I think I want you to go to “real” school, too.

And so it was.

And ever-so-quickly we made the calls, signed the papers, provided the proof that yes, we are indeed alive and living and in this place at this moment…something that on paper sounds simple, but is it really?

We both knew, in a hundredth of a second, that she was right, that our heart-guts were searching for answers and then oof just like that, our truths collided and we both knew this was the right thing to do.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Seven hundredths of a degree. That’s how far we moved. Seven hundredth of a degree to the north and just under three tenths of a degree east. A hop and a skip and a leap and a bound all at once.

I think we should move.

Me, too.

Words uttered months ago, maybe even years ago, in the darkness of a quiet room long after the chaos of life died down. 

The slow and arduous process began, and we found what we were looking for – or thought we did – until it was ripped from under us and we walked away with drooping shoulders and moist eyes.

And then doors opened, and fate – or something like it – stepped in. One bit of truth after another sang to me, to us. My heart-gut heard, and I said yes.

And we moved.

A world apart, but only the smallest part of the world.
And yet somehow still a whole, wide world apart.

Life changed, continues to change.
As it should.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Two hundredths of an inch. A movement so small, just barely there. That shift in your heart and in your head. The changing of who you are, bit by tiny bit. Ever-changing, we are. Millions of moments of milliseconds that make up a lifetime.

I’ve always been me.
I will always be me.

I know this to be true.

And yet I wonder.

We change, all of us.
And as we change, are we still us?
Is there a point, some magical point, when we have changed so much
that
me is no longer me, but someone else entirely?

Who I am and what I was.
Ever-changing and never-changing.

Defining and then redefining.
Fundamental changes expected, yet not.
The rush and go of life, the tumbles up and down…

Knocking away the rough edges gradually, almost imperceptibly.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

This is the story of our lives
Of all of me and all of you.
A package full of fractions waiting to be made whole.

 

my yesterday, your tomorrow

crying babyI see you there, new mama, with that worn-out, weary look and I want to whisper to you: I’ve been there. And the moment you are in is terrible and beautiful and wonderful and exhausting. But it gets better. It gets better and better. Those little babies grow into toddlers that will try your patience in ways you never knew were possible, but you will love them even more fiercely than you do now. And those toddlers grow into preschoolers with their maddening I-do-its and unexplainable tantrums. And you will be weary of the whining, but you will love them even more fiercely than you did when they were babies or toddlers. And then those preschoolers slowly and suddenly blossom into kids. Real kids who can have a conversation with you and come up with jokes that actually make sense. Sometimes they’re even funny. You’ll have weird conversations when their uninhibited mind rushes and gushes with ideas that you know probably won’t work, but you let them dream anyway…because you never know, right? And they get bigger and bigger and your love for them grows as they grow and you think your love for them is as big as it can get and yet it keeps stretching the limits of your heart so much that sometimes it crushes your lungs and you just.can’t.breathe.

I see you there, new mama, and I want to tell you these things. And as much as you try to listen and understand, you won’t be able to. But you’ll hear the words and file them away and maybe one day you’ll find yourself dragging your screaming preschooler through the bookstore, trying your best to balance discipline and total embarrassment and you’ll remember. It gets better. And this will pass. And some will tell you that you’ll miss it one day, and you know what? You may or you may not. And that’s okay. (I, for one, don’t miss those early days where everyone was tired and screaming…myself included). But either way, I can tell you that you both make it through and you both love each other more today than you did yesterday.

And, new mama, I want to tell you that I don’t know it all. Not even close. And I, too, am learning from those who have travelled these roads before us. Those mamas who have pulled and pushed and dragged and cuddled and loved and lived these years where you and I currently have our feet firmly planted. And they made it. Their beautiful, beautiful babies are now beautiful, beautiful adults and they’re telling us their story so that we can hear it from farther down the road and they’re shouting and cheering and praying us on, just as you will do for others.

Depending on the day, the moment, you may not be able to hear me over the crying, the screaming, the tears. Or maybe you can’t hear me because you are cradling that glorious piece of your heart in your arms and the you feel your blood course through your veins and hers and every ounce of both of you beats as one and there is nothing in the world but the two of you. Maybe you can’t hear me, but the words are there, waiting for you to catch them. Hundreds of thousands of mothers have prayed the same prayers and uttered the same thanksgivings. Listen, and you will hear. When you need it most, it’ll be here; a host of hopes and dreams and plans and promises and wisdom. It’s here, waiting on you. You’ve got this, mama. I promise you do.