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Sh*ts, Fits, and Bathroom Exits…

The title should say it all, (sorry to those who don’t swear, but since becoming a parent, swearing is part of my vocabulary). Friday was a day that we will not soon forget.

We were heading back home after a quick couple of days visiting my grandparents. We had an amazing time that we crammed into those two days; fishing, shell searching, museum and butterfly exhibits, setting crab traps, flying drones, and playing with bubbles. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

We took our time waking up on Friday, thinking we would have a great drive back because the boys did awesome on the way down! We only stopped when we had to eat and go to the bathroom, so it was obviously going to go that way on the way back!

Mistake #1: Assuming Kids will behave as well as they did that “other time”.

Micah decided we would take a different route home, so that we could have a more scenic view than the 4 lanes of traffic he drove through on the way down. It would mean traveling near the hub of Atlanta, GA to get to the mountains in TN.

Mistake #2: If it’s not broke, DON’T fix it.

I also decided to be the person to find the hotel room for the night. We knew our destination, and I figured I could find a good deal.

Mistake #3: Don’t let the cheap/frugal person find the place to stay for the night….

So we load up in “The Beast”(Micah’s truck), and set off as the sun is coming up. Miles had been a little extra cranky the night before, and woke up quite a bear, but we figured he was just hangry and sad to be leaving. We filled his hands and lap with snack foods and promised we would be coming back again.

Hours later, as time for lunch drew near, the boys had been bickering back and forth so this tired mama ran interference as Dad drove and focused on the road. We stopped and ate, used the bathroom, got a little fresh air in our lungs and then climbed back into the beast. It was going to be a good day, we were determined.

20 minutes later, we’re sitting in 4 lanes of traffic, completely at a standstill with no way to get out, and Calvin starts to wine. He says he has to poop. Parents, you know that feeling of complete irritation after telling your kids, “Last chance for awhile, lets go while we can”? Micah and I were irritated. Don’t forget we were in 4 lanes of traffic, on the outskirts of Atlanta, in the farthest lane from the closest exit. As Micah and I read Calvin the riot act for not going while we were eating lunch, Micah inched his way over and sped around the ramp to get to the nearest gas station. We pull in, not paying attention to foul odors, or the Christmas lights that bordered the windows and the doors. Mission” Get our 5 year old to the nearest toilet” was on. Micah grabbed a very upset and embarrassed Calvin (who never has issues) to run him into the toilet. I get out and went to open Miles’ door to get him, and his treasure of shells falls onto the pavement. Miles freaks, as some of his shells shattered, and I try to pick them up and keep my cool. I get him out of the truck, and he insists there’s more shells. I tell him there’s not, but he was focused. He begins to pick up the dried up gum and cigarette butts to put in his basket of shells. I throw them down, carry him in to wash his hands, only to find Micah and Calvin standing frustrated that the only toilet in the men’s restroom is being used by someone that must have had taco bell for lunch. Micah had asked Calvin to go in the women’s restroom, and Calvin came out telling him he couldn’t. So, I get in, grab Calvin’s hand and lead him in, as Micah holds our three year old who is losing it over dried up gum and cigarette butts.

Calvin and I walk in. Toilet 1: filled to the brim, THE BRIM with toilet paper and feces. We both hold our breath, turn quickly, and go to toilet 2. Toilet 2 was worse. The four of us ran to the truck, jumped in, and so began a chase for the nearest bathroom. Curbs were jumped, yelling kids were buckled in the back, and Micah and I were not talking, simply focused on getting Calvin to the bathroom. We knew he would hold it, after all he hasn’t had an accident in over a year.

Nope. After all that jumping, dodging, and literally running into the bathroom, he couldn’t keep it in. Underwear was tossed, Calvin cleaned up, and Miles, on to yelling about something else.

“It’s ok, the worst is over” we both thought. Back in the truck, and more bumper to bumper traffic awaited us for another hour.

I continued to run interference, stuffing kids faces with popcorn, oranges, games, books, and crayons. They were needy. So needy. Never this bad. Micah drove. We made it to where Micah wanted to go: the Smokies. Why was the map showing that the next 45 miles would take over 2 hours? Because for the next two hours we would be going 20 mph through the mountains. Micah an I were tired at this point, but the boys excitement made it worth it. We got excited for each tunnel, each view of a mountain or waterfall. Calvin said at one point, “Mama, can we climb these together someday?”. My heart melted, “Of course buddy! Hiking is one of my favorite things to do!”.

We got out of the mountains and were minutes away from hotels in Knoxville TN. I had found a great deal with an indoor pool and it was going to be awesome!! Free breakfast and place for mom and dad to stretch and regroup! I had a headache and was ready to get out of the truck.

We passed all of the main hotels, and drove through some subdivisions and business districts before finding it. It didn’t look like the pictures I saw. “Oh well” I thought, no big deal! They used stock photos, it’ll be fine. I checked in, we pulled our suitcases out at 7:40pm, and walked to the hotel door. Our room was on the inside of the building, facing the indoor pool. Door opens, and instant odor is smelled. A desk chair is blocking the way to the bathroom, and stuck between the bed and the desk. So it smelled A little cigarette, a little animal, but the beds were comfy, we had tv with basic channels, and damn it the boys wanted to swim! That was our goal for the night. I sat Miles on to use the toilet before we went to the pool, he was screaming because it wasn’t “HIS” toilet seat, so he refused to do anything. I had debated on searching for another hotel, as we all felt a little grossed out, but was told that every hotel was booked for some technical competition at the college. Sure enough, no hotels had a room.

Micah and I are wiped, bags under both of our eyes, but Calvin and Miles were jumping up and down to get to the pool. Calvin and Micah get in, Miles is pacing. We know he needs to go. Micah sees my patience gone, and offers to take him. Calvin and I wade in the water, Micah and Miles come out from the room; nothing. Micah gets back in, Miles offers to sit on the step, still noticeably irritated. He glares at me, and I’m ready for the next meltdown. Micah behind him, says, “He’s going poop Autumn”. In the shallows of the pool, a floater comes out. I scoop it up with my hand and throw it out. No one was around…Thank goodness. More comes out on the cement surrounding the pool. We clean it up quickly and rush to the hotel room. Micah and Calvin stay and continue to swim, because damn it, this is why we’re here! I am silent as I pull down Miles pants in the hotel bathroom to see that it’s diarrhea. He had eaten some dairy, which he shouldn’t have… so I start the water to give him a bath. No plug in the tub, and hairs were found. I sigh, as Miles stares up at me, I clean the tub, stuff the hole with a washcloth, and have him sit down.

There are VERY few things that gross me out. Blood, vomit, cuts, open sores, whatever….I’ve seen a lot of these things with my classroom and my students who typically have medical conditions that need medical attention.

But poop in water. This mama gags. Can’t do it. So as quickly as possible, without saying a word, I scrub Miles up, I clean out the tub. Trying not to vomit. Mom win: I did it.

Calvin and Micah come in, it’s 8:30. No dinner yet. Micah offers to go get it, because nothing is nearby. He leaves, the boys and I watch March Madness while he’s gone, listening to the college kids jumping and screaming in the pool. Footsteps above us, clear as day conversations happening in the rooms to the left and right of us. Micah comes back, I scarf down my food, lay down, and roll over, passing out as quickly as my eyes will shut.

2:50am, I open my eyes to find Micah sitting up out of bed, wide awake. Staring at me.

“What do you think about getting a head start?”

We had a 10 hour drive ahead, and honestly I just wanted to be home. I joked with Micah that he was never going to let me book a hotel again. He laughed, but didn’t say no.

Boys still asleep, Micah loaded the truck up, and we carried each sleeping boy out and put them in their car seats. Young college men and women were out in the hallways, talking and laughing at 3am.

We used to do that. Now we are middle aged, with toddlers, exhausted and praying we find a good cup of coffee.

They slept for another 4 hours, Micah drove, and I tried to keep conversation, but I didn’t have it in me.I passed out.

Later, Micah and I began laughing about the previous 24 hours. Our boys were insane. We saw more poop than we wanted, lost a total of three pairs of underwear to a three year old who refused to poop on a different toilet, sat in traffic jams for hours to get a mountain view, and slept in a hotel that could have been in a horror movie. We were crazy.

I asked Micah if he ever slept, and he said a little. After I had passed out, the boys fell asleep and Micah had heard more conversations from what felt like roommates in our hotel room. He also decided to share that he thought there was a group of guys making meth in the back of a van in our hotel parking lot when he went to grab dinner. I laughed hysterically as I explained about the technical competition that the hotel clerk informed me of (I had forgot to mention that to Micah).

That was the worst travel day we’ve ever had with the boys. Miles is in this “Terrible Threes” that really is difficult. He challenges us all with his attitude, and refuses to be wrong. Calvin is the older brother that has to tease and pick on him. Micah and I felt like we were nonstop telling them to knock it off. Amidst all of the above things that also happened.

Micah told me after he tucked the boys in the bed, they were talking about some of their favorite things from the trip. You know what made the top three?

Mountains and Tunnels.

Perspective can be such a funny thing. Micah and I were so focused on all the crap (literal and figurative) of the travel that day, while Calvin and Miles were elated to be in the mountains. To have the eyes of a child…..

All we wanted was to create memories….mission accomplished!

Sit in sadness, Stand with Love

Our last walk together.

So many things to say, and yet speechless. Words I can’t put together to express the weight.
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Weight of loss, and so much love.
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The silence in this house, without his presence, is deafening. His middle of the night footsteps on the floor, checking on the boys, coming to rest at the end of our bed. His howling. His excitement in the morning to go outside, tail moving wildly, his body trying desperately to keep up. All of this, gone.
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Otis and Vixie, our other 2 dogs, keep checking the front door, waiting to see him. They don’t know what life is like without Eddie, and to be honest, I’m feeling the same. 14 years.
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He was the first being I took care of. As a young, newly married, student teacher. I brought him home to our 1 bedroom 1 bath apartment. Micah, me, and Eddie.
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Looking back now, Eddie and I had a lot in common. Both needing love and attention, both learning how to cope with anxiety, both loving car rides and walks in sunshine. Both needing one another to get through some of our messy past. He was not just my first fur kid, he was my first therapist. He carried a lot for me, for a long time.
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I know that this grief will sit for awhile. My eyes will feel heavy, I will wake up in the middle of the night at a loss. And eventually, with time, I’ll be able to sleep. I’ll be able to reflect with gratitude. But today, I’m just sad. And it is ok.
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This year, death has taken 6 of our family members, 1 beloved student, and now my first pup. But it won’t take my love. It won’t take my appreciation for those beings. It won’t win.
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Today I choose to sit with sadness, but in the end, I’ll stand with love.

And I know Eddie is beside me.

Life lessons continue

Grief is something I’ve become all too familiar with this year. I’m tired. I’m sad. A lot.
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My dad, my grams, my cousin, my aunt, and one of my students… each one left an imprint on me. Each one taught me something in their life, and in their death. Each one left this earth, this year.
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This week Micah and I had to face the reality that death and grief is not done with us.
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We are going to have to make decisions in the next month with two of our beloved dogs Eddie (13 yrs) and Otis (11 yrs) who are both declining quickly.
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The past few days I’ve been crying, trying to brainstorm how to make them better, how maybe we have more time.
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But we don’t. Their bodies and their minds are slowing. Their days are spent sleeping. They are preparing to leave us.
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Thankful my god reminded me today, we have a choice.
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Today, I choose joy.
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Joy that as of today, they are still with me.
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Joy that they both have been great companions, they’ve lived good and long lives.
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Joy that they’ll be joining my dad in heaven (because yes, I believe animals go there too) without pain and without suffering.
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For today, I am going to focus on joy.
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Because I have a choice.
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And my friend, so do you.
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Whatever life is throwing at you, you have a choice in how to respond.
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There are times for all the feelings….
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But today, in this moment, what will you choose?
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I pray it’s peace, love, selflessness, kindness, forgiveness,
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and joy.

Buckle up.

We’re all searching aren’t we?
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Miles, he’s searching for Waldo.
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Me? I’m searching too, but what it is I’m searching for, isn’t as easy as a man with a striped red and white shirt and glasses.
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At any point in life we are trying to figure out: what’s next, what do I need to change? What can I do to make __ better/different?
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This pandemic has made a lot of people (self included) wonder; is this a time to pivot? We search. We question.
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I wish there was a magic place to find all the answers. I wish there was someone who would just say “This is what’s next”.
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But instead, I feel like I’m being told to buckle up, keep my arms in at all times, and enjoy the ride… without being able to see whats in the distance.
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It. Is. Scary.
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But if there is one thing I continue to learn, it is that we are never alone. Even (and especially) in the midst of uncertainty.
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He sits with us in the quiet, in the still. He gives us community in friends and family. We aren’t meant to go it alone, ever. It is up to us on who we do life with. He hopes he can be part of the equation, but he also gives us choice in our community.
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We are all searching. Maybe, it’s for life’s next chapter, or maybe it’s Waldo….
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But whatever the search, remember this; You. Are. Not. Alone.
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So buckle up. Arms in (or out, because let’s be honest, rides are more fun that way) and enjoy the ride.
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Don’t shut your eyes. Keep them open. And if it gets scary, hold the hand of the one sitting with you, and give a squeeze.
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You got this.

Dirt.

I have buried deep in the dirt for awhile.
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Floods have been rampant (years of pain, denial, anger, abuse)… I’ve been buried really F***ing deep, not quite ready yet to see what’s happened and why.
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I’m learning all the things that make me, my life, and my purpose beautiful, no matter how messy my past.
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I’m putting in the work to unlearn all the lies that have been said to me, pushed on me, and imprinted for far too long on my heart.
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It. Is. Hard. Work
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But I’m realizing like a seed that needs time, water, and sun, or a flower that’s stem strengthens with every storm or wind…
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I am growing, I am withstanding all that’s blown my way, and I will continue to. My roots are deep, my faith shielding the adversity that’s trying to knock me down..
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And I will be better for it.
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A better follower of Christ.
A better wife.
A better mother.
A better friend.
A better servant.
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My prayer for you today is that you don’t give up on yourself. Beauty awaits… be patient. Put in the work. Gods plans for you will be bigger and better than you could ever imagine. No matter how ugly the past.
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It’s a beautiful thing.
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❤️
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Seasons of life

Big is 6, little is 4. Time is fleeting, watching a morning ritual slowly fade.
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One boy, then the next, waking up from their deep sleep, to come crawl in my lap.
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We talk about what dreams we had, what’s for breakfast, what should be accomplished in the summers day.
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Then they hop down, 1 quickly, while the other (typically little) stays to snuggle a little longer.
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Eventually there will be a day where this stops. No more hops in the lap, their legs will stretch and surpass mine.
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It makes me sad sometimes.
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Then, I remember, as with everything so far in parenting…
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There will be new traditions, new ways to find joy and gratitude in the different seasons and phases of the boys growing up.
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But for now, I’ll sit in the beauty of two little boys with their summer feet, snuggled up in my lap. Dreaming of what adventures we’ll take on today.