Winter Viruses, we need to talk

Dear Winter Viruses,

 

On behalf of mothers everywhere, I would officially like to say, thank u, next.

 

It’s been real. . . Real obnoxious. Just when we thought we were over you, one trip to the Chick-fil-A play place; one sneeze from the cute kid behind us at Target, and boom. The whole family’s on lockdown. Like sad millennials in an airport after the Fyre festival.

 

RSV, Influenza B, Norovirus. You think you’re so cool with all your fancy titles. You make me sick.

 

We’ve filled so many prescriptions since November, the pharmacist asked if I had a punch card so I could earn a free sandwich.

 

My two-year-old can only say four words, and one of them is “Amoxicillin.”

 

We’ve added a new feature to Family Game Night: Bodily Fluid Bingo. What’s that on the couch? It B-Gross.

 

I’ve had to cancel more engagements than a bachelor winner.

 

It’s like you have no regard for mothers of weak sick-os. Sure, one kid could have his leg amputated and take it like a champ. Then there’s little Jimmy whose paper cut triggers a dramatic Annakin Skywalker lava-melting re-enactment. How did Jimmy hold up with Pink Eye? How do you think? It’s like a war scene over here. The least you could do is send coffee.

 

During one terrible flu, I begged the doctor over the phone to prescribe enough Tamiflu for our small army as I walked around the living room catching vomit in a bag. Like a very gross square dance. I had no training for this. None whatsoever. We vaccinated against this. I want my money back.

 

You and your germy cronies are no longer welcome here. You never were. Like a creepy high school boyfriend who won’t take a hint. Be gone. Quickly. Like the “napkin” slot on the class party sign-up sheet.

 

How else can I say this?

 

The laundry situation is dire. We blame you. Our humidifiers are asking for overtime pay. My house is so humid, even my hair hates you. The family has begun wearing Tommy Bahama shirts and putting tiny umbrellas in their Pedialyte.

 

Our cold remedy arsenal is depleted. Kleenex. Lotion. NoseFrida. Vick’s vapor rub. We used to spread just a dab on the chest. By day 37 of this cough, we started coating the feet. We’ve stopped shy of a Vick’s body wrap suit, but at this point I can’t rule anything out.

 

WINTER COLDS AND FLUS, If you could please, FOR THE LOVE OF MOMS, go away and—What’s that? You’re gone in March?

 

Wonderful!

 

See you at Thanksgiving.

 

photo credit: Eren {Sea + Prairie} 

What to Expect – When You Didn’t Expect to be Expecting

Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, according to CNN. But I’ll bet you fifty bucks that many respondents in the “planned” half are big fat liars. Actually, I’ll see my fifty and raise myself another fifty. (Hm. That’s not how betting works, is it? Whatever, just go with me here.) ONE HUNDRED BONES says that many poll respondents lied to the stranger who phoned them at 4:48pm on a weekday, asking if the precious darling coloring at the kitchen table was initially an “oops.” How many moms want to fess up to that!? “Yes, stranger whose name I don’t know. The child overhearing this polling call, the one who I am currently making dinner for, the one I would give my life for? Total accident at the time of conception. Have a great day.” Nah, man. Half of poll respondents were honest enough to admit that their pregnancies were not planned.

My kids are ages 7, 6, 4, 2. We spawned four kids in 5.8 years. Every pregnancy after the first inevitably brought the same awkward question from close friends, acquaintances and strangers alike: “Did you plan this?” One time I was in the bathroom at church where half a dozen women buzzed in and out. An acquaintance looked at my protruding middle and the line of little ducklings following me. Her curiosity betrayed her sense of etiquette when she loudly exclaimed, “Wow! Did you plan this?!” Oops. A few other women glanced at me. I smiled, and instead answered a question she did not ask, “I’ve always wanted four kids!” Having them in rapid succession, however, that is proving itself to be a special blessing disguised as a few blurry years of mess and mayhem.

I told my husband that the next time someone asked me if a pregnancy was planned, I would reply, “Yes! One day we looked around at all the chaos and tears and said, “You know what we really need here? Another baby.” Then I’d ask them, “How about you? Did you plan all of your children or were some of them surprises? Were you a surprise? How about your parents? Were they surprises?” I wondered if maybe you needed to be on the receiving end of the question for the awkwardness to fully land. Bless my sweet husband for encouraging me to hold my tongue in my pregnant rage, and instead to smile and respond with something kind.

Pregnancies that happen outside of our own “perfect” planning are tightly kept secrets shared only in the tear-filled whispers of sisters and close girlfriends – if we are fortunate enough to have them. If you’ve ever enjoyed the privilege of a friendship close enough to share these intimate life events and the swirls of complicated emotions around them, you know how sacred the ground. And you also know that human gestation has evidently been designed to be just long enough to move a mother’s emotions from shock, fear, and panic – to  joy, hope, and even elation for the precious baby inside her.

After two pink lines informed me I was pregnant with one of my precious blessings, shock and despair set in. I could not speak for one full hour as my brain grappled with what the next year would hold: gaining 40 pounds, repetitive untimely vomiting, needing a new wardrobe that I couldn’t afford, insecurity about my appearance, countless doctor’s appointments, shots, stretch marks, back pain, sleepless nights, culminating with my plump, puffy body being torn, ripped, cut. All this, followed by: sleepless nights with a crying newborn, painful recovery, insecurity about my appearance, losing 40 pounds, mom guilt for not having enough energy to parent my other children. Who knew that two barely decipherable pink lines wielded the power to open a flood gate of mourning the next two years of the life you planned for yourself? This is not the sweet stuff they show you on the EPT commercials.

And, yet…

Waiting on the other side of those fears – is joy immeasurable. We love each individual baby in exactly equal, all-consuming ways, planned or not. When they rejoice, we rejoice. When they hurt, we hurt. When they laugh, we laugh. When they rebel, we are grieved. We care desperately, intimately, wholly. We think about them all day. We cherish these loveable little messy humans beyond words; a shadow of the way our own Father cherishes us. It takes effort now to even remember which of our kids were planned.

We like to think we deserve the right to decide every baby “when” and “how” and “how many.” But ask any experienced parent how much control parents actually have over the timing and events surrounding how their children came to be. If they’re honest, many will give you an experienced smile and humble head-shake. Not much.

Human planning, in many contexts, can be important, helpful and good. But let’s not forget that if the poll is accurate, then chances are high that either your mom or your dad was an “oops;” either you or your husband was an “oops.” Look around you. Half of your coworkers; half of the moms at play group, half of all Hollywood celebrities were ‘accidental’ by their parents’ standards. Could it be that while our lives may not have been planned in the human realm, that each and every one of us was unequivocally created on purpose? Half of all births may be “unplanned,” but one hundred percent of them are on purpose.

The most epically unplanned pregnancy of all time happened to an unwed teenage virgin about 2000 years ago. It’s no wonder Gabriel told Mary she was “highly favored.” Upon learning of this impossible pregnancy, she initially responded, “How?!” but then, with a heart remarkably submissive to God’s plan above her own, she said, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you say.”

Ok, Mary handedly wins Best Response To An Unplanned Pregnancy Award. Girlfriend was “highly favored” for a reason. And it’s not like she was living in a 2017 Western culture, where out-of-wedlock babies were standard. No way, man. An out-of-wedlock pregnancy in her day was sure to end in cultural suicide: a broken engagement, a permanent single mother with no financial or spousal support. Mary knew this. And she trusted God completely anyway. She did not wail and weep and protest at what may have felt like the imminent demise of her future. Instead, she verbally declared herself the Lord’s servant, trusting Him with whatever circumstances may arise.

Seriously? The faith of this teenager puts us all to shame. I’d like to nominate Mary of Nazareth for Prom Queen, PTA President and Mayor.

Where does this leave those surprised, terrified and shaken by the news of an unexpected looming birth? Certainly faith like Mary’s is something we can all hope, pray and strive for.

Maybe you just found out you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re terrified, shocked, anxious. Maybe you’re single, maybe you’re married. Maybe your husband doesn’t want another child. Maybe you can’t afford another mouth to feed. Here’s what I hope you hear, from one mama to another. If I could teleport my present self into my bathroom years ago, blankly staring at two pink lines, here is what I would say:

Self! I get it. I know that this wasn’t your timing. But you know what? I PROMISE you, as sure as the sun rises, in an amount of time that will feel like a BLINK, you are going to find yourself hooked by the tiniest heartbeat; besotted over an itty bitty pink newborn; enamored with the little voice calling you “mama.” Your life will never be the same. Yes it will be hard, of course! But every tear, struggle and pain will pale in comparison to the immeasurable gift in your tummy. The child inside you was planned in advance by a God who makes no mistakes. This tiny person’s appointed time begins now. Take heart! The God who said he is with you always; the God who raises people from the dead; He has the power and tender love to equip you to live out your calling in this. Strap on your boots and make some popcorn and watch how He will lovingly provide for every need along the way.

And my old self, through her mascara-stained tears, might have said, “Whatever, man. You don’t know my life.” But I do.

And so mama, in the throes of surprise pregnancy news, I say this to you:

If you need someone who has been there to give you a little pep-talk of encouragement, please feel free to email me.  Because girl, in the words of the ever-loved Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song, “You’re gonna make it after all.”

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: thejbird, Creative Commons

Are minivans basically flannel pajamas?

I’ve always hated minivans and their radically sloping hoods. Why are they so close to the ground? They look like clown cars. Or like if Wayne Szalinski took a Smart Car and blew it up with the machine in from “Honey I Blew Up the Baby.” (Don’t pretend you’re too good for that movie. We both know you watched it and “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” dozens of times as a child.)

Remember those awful 1990s minivans with wood paneled exteriors? Some great things came out of the 90s: slap bracelets, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, pogs. But wood-paneled minivans? Not so much. They go in the same 90s-fail category as Crystal Pepsi and Olestra. But I digress.

Anyway, here’s my problem: our fourth child is expanding my uterus daily, and we are up against a hard deadline. Before August we will either need to purchase a larger vehicle, or strap one child to the roof. In the interest of not getting arrested or committed, I have decided to go with the first option. David and I test drove some cars a few weekends ago, and the results were unbelievable…I kind of fell in love with a minivan. The Suburban was great, too. But…the minivan maneuvered like a little coupe compared to the ‘burb. It had two dvd screens in the rear and SIX CUPHOLDERS in the front seat. This made me so happy there were almost tears. (Extra cup holders are my love language, along with nachos and Pad Thai noodles.) And the doors just swooshed open with the click of the key fob! Picture it, people: stroller, diaper bag, newborn in my Ergo, plus three kids ages five and under barreling towards the car. But then, “click!” doors open. Three older kids let themselves in. If the cup holders didn’t create tears, the button-slide-doors definitely warranted them.

Sitting in the car was so comfortable, I felt like I was wearing flannel pjs. But therein lies the problem. The car also looks like flannel pjs…So…am I the worst if I don’t want to drive around town in flannel pjs? I wouldn’t ever wear them to the grocery or to school pick up…but isn’t driving a minivan essentially wearing flannel pjs…and a retainer and a green face mask while your hair is in curlers?! flannel pjs

“Hey guys, I’m just going to make a quick Costco run.”

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this dilemma should be the realization that I need to think less of outward appearances. Let’s be real, everyone I know who drives one is awesome and completely rocks the minivan. But do I have what it takes to get over myself? Is driving a minivan really like grocery shopping in flannel pajamas? Or am I just a self-absorbed whiner who can’t identify a first world problem if it ran her over in a wood-paneled minivan?

What do you think?! Can I pull of a minivan? Suburbans are awesome but they don’t have sliding doors! Help me, Obi-Momfriends. You’re my only hope. No, seriously. I’d love your thoughts.