Buckle up.

We’re all searching aren’t we?
Miles, he’s searching for Waldo.
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.
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?
This pandemic has made a lot of people (self included) wonder; is this a time to pivot? We search. We question.
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”.
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.
It. Is. Scary.
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.
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.
We are all searching. Maybe, it’s for life’s next chapter, or maybe it’s Waldo….
But whatever the search, remember this; You. Are. Not. Alone.
So buckle up. Arms in (or out, because let’s be honest, rides are more fun that way) and enjoy the ride.
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.
You got this.

The Hill and the Choice

Today, Calvin, Miles and I went for a walk. I walked our oldest pup Eddie (13), while both boys rode their bikes. Miles chose the way to go today, which isn’t our “typical” route. This stressed Calvin out. His type A personality, tried to coerce Miles into going the route we usually take. After some pouting, a little stomping of the feet, he submitted, and we went in the direction Miles chose.

The thing about our typical route, is that there are minimal hills. No real work involved, you just ride/walk, and thats it.  You see and hear when cars (or tractors in our case) are coming by. But today, as with almost everyday with my Miles, he wanted a challenge. The path Miles chose today had hills. 4 total.

As they coasted down the first hill, Miles laughed, balancing on his balance bike, feet lifted. Calvin coasted cautiously, often checking to see how far behind I was, or if the car he heard in the distance, was behind him.  He would jump in the gravel after 5-10 feet and stop, only to look back, see everything was ok, and get back to coasting.

Once we reached the bottom of the hill, we had to climb the next one. Miles, with no words, started pushing his bike up hill, one step at a time. No words, just focus. 

Calvin, frustrated, said, “ Mom, I can’t. I can’t get up this hill. It’s too hard”.

“Calvin, you have a choice in how you get up the hill”, I said. “You can choose to walk your bike, or  you can choose to get on your bike and push those pedals as hard as you can. This isn’t where we turn around and give up.  Either way, we are still going up the hill, and you still need to move. So… you choose.” Eddie and I kept walking, as he sat back and contemplated.

Reluctantly, and again, with some hesitancy, Calvin got off his bike, pushing (with heavy breath and grunts loud enough for neighbors to hear (insert the momma eye roll)). We got to the middle of the hill, and he stopped, took a deep breath, and jumped on his bike. With a few more grunts and groans, he got up the hill, and smiled. The next hill, didn’t seem so bad, so he stayed the course, on his bike, and pushed just fine.

I had to pause in the moment and reflect. How often, as ADULTS, are we exactly the same way? We like things our way, where we can see whats coming, hear whats happening, and just have a straight shot. If uncertainty, change, or challenge comes our way, how often do we have a temper tantrum?

If I’m honest, I’ve had more internal temper tantrums in the past 8 months than I’ve had (in what feels like in) years. Changes, hills, grief, a pandemic, remote teaching, homeschooling, isolation from others…

UGHH. ENOUGH ALREADY $%*#!. Sound familiar?

But then as I sit and reflect on the moments with Calvin and Miles I realize.

We have the choice.

We have the choice in how we respond to those changes in routine, changes in our job, changes in our relationships, changes from within. 

Change, hills, challenges…whatever you are facing now, or will face in the future, WILL happen.

What will you choose to do about it? How will you choose to push through? What ways will you change your thinking in order to get through the difficult?

My hope for myself and both of my sons, is that they will see adversity. They will continue to pursue their ultimate goal, with heads held high through the uncertainty. That they (and I) will embrace the hard, with arms open, and a choice to see past the challenge, with the finish line in sight. They will put their feet on the ground, and move.

What was great about watching Calvin in that 30 minute walk, was the transformation that took place after that first hill. He made his choice to walk, then to jump on, and when he made it, he looked back and smiled. The next hill, he stayed the course on his bike. By the time we had turned around and gone back up the hills he had coasted down before, he didn’t say a word, and didn’t hesitate to stay on his bike. We all  got back to the house unscathed and laughing (and maybe sweating a bit) under the warm glow of the sun.

Sometimes we have to “embrace the suck”. Because what waits on the other side, is worth so much more than the momentary troubles. It may not get easier, but you get stronger.

Make a choice in how you will respond, and then..

Get moving.

Be well my friends ❤️

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!