In my post the other day about gardening and being outdoors I mentioned that things hadn’t gone entirely as I’d hoped. By the time Monday rolled around things had gone from “not as planned” to “the wheels are off the bus.” I shared some of the more specific details of my overwhelm with a colleague on Monday and she said, “please blog about this when it’s over.” I hadn’t really considered that until she suggested it, but I know how important it is to share the hard stuff and not just the magic.
On Monday morning I had two sick kids at home with me, the fourth Monday in a row that I’ve had at least one child at home all day while I’m trying to get work done. That knowledge and the associated professional guilt was undoing me. I texted my boss just before 9:00 a.m. to let her know what was going on and that I was going to work a half day, on and off as best I could. She asked me to try to make a meeting with our CEO, COO, Managing Director of Operations, Chief of Staff, and a couple of my own team members that she was going to have to miss due to a flight. I told her I’d be on the video conference; no problem.
The boys argued with one another all morning. While I’d planned to turn on a show for them during the meeting I decided that staying home sick was becoming too much of a reward (because unlimited TV!) and their behavior towards each other was not OK, so I banished them to the backyard for the duration of the meeting. For the most part the boys did fine, but on a couple of occasions I signaled to the conference room that I’d be right back and went to attend to someone. At some point Jude came in to use the bathroom and it took me some time to realize that he never came back out. I signaled again and went to check on him and found a toilet full of toilet paper and a kid with poop in a lot of places it didn’t belong. “I need to wash my hands,” he told me. He’s becoming rather independent these days and didn’t have any interest in calling to me for help. I wiped him up and put him back outside, composed myself, and went back to my meeting.
At some point late in the meeting I got an email from my sister asking me what I was doing for our mom for Mother’s Day. I replied:
I haven’t done anything yet 😦 I need to figure something out. I’m feeling completely overwhelmed today because Jude has scarlet fever, Jonah has pinworms, I’m in a meeting with the CEO and COO right now (and had to leave the meeting to clean up poop a few minutes ago), and I’m pretty sure that I broke my toe this morning and may need to head to urgent care.
Life is punching me in the face right now. I’m sure it will pass, but I’m overwhelmed. Yesterday we stripped all of the beds, Lysol and vacuumed all of the floors and mattresses, did laundry till midnight, and the beds still aren’t made (kids slept in sleeping bags because nothing was dry in time for bed).
What are you doing for mom?
She replied with a one liner that she’d take care of it for both of us; bless her.
I did break my toe, as a matter of fact, by bashing it on the doorframe of the bathroom after getting out of the shower that morning. As a family we’ve made four trips to urgent care in as many days, Jonah is now on antibiotics because we think that we were wrong about the pinworms, and Kristin left town this morning for two days and nights (although she made three of the four urgent care trips and deserves tons of credit for dealing with the chaos before she left).
The sleeping bag night was a hit with the kids, which probably shouldn’t have surprised me. We sold it to them as camping, and Vivi was disappointed to have to get back in her bed the following night. The same colleague who asked me to blog about this sent me something on Monday that was a good reminder that sometimes the moments when the wheels are completely off of the bus and we’re sure we’re failing are the most memorable and magical times for our kids.
Today, with Kristin gone early in the morning, I’ve tried to re-capture some moments of wonder and beauty. Jude collapsed in a fit of sobs first thing this morning when he realized Mama K was gone, and Vivi did the same this evening when Kristin called to check in and Vivi told her that it was almost bed time and where was she? When K reminded her that she would be gone till Friday, V began to wail.
I wanted to make sure that they felt loved and secure tonight. We ate dinner together outside, and Jude and Vivi ran around in capes and masks, and when it started to rain we brought it all inside.
When I realized that there was still some sun in the west I reminded Jonah that we should look for a rainbow out front. We didn’t find anything for awhile, but I was determined. The neighbors must think that I’m totally bananas because every time this happens I’m out in the driveway barefoot staring at the sky. I love finding rainbows for the kids. Eventually we found it, so faint, but there. Vivi said that she didn’t see it so Jonah lifted her up for a better look, which melted my heart.
At bedtime tonight I tucked them all into our bed, something we always do when one of us is away for the night. Jude laying on my left arm, Vivienne laying squarely on top of me, and Jonah’s foot tucked underneath my thigh: the unique contact that they each need in order to fall asleep. I sang them the same songs I’ve sung to them forever, ones I learned from my mom’s family, and Vivi pointed out the one that Gigi has also sung to her.
When they were all asleep I snuck back to the kitchen to clean up, and a marvelous storm was rolling in. I stood at the screen watching the sky flash with lightning before the rain really began, listening to the wind chimes that my parents sent us from Charleston last spring, and watching the wind tip and sway the row of cedars that line the backyard. Finally a train whistle joined the symphony, the trains that always make me think of our apartment in New York (“the red house”) just up the hill from the railroad tracks that run along the Hudson River. I had dishes to wash and laundry to start and food to put away, but I stayed at the window until the rain started to come down. I said a silent thank you for that gift, and returned to the dishes.
One thought on “The beauty and the chaos”
You are so right! Sometimes those times when the wheels are off the rails provide some of the most memorable and heart-warming moments of your lives. In adversity, there can be beauty, warmth, and growth! Thank you for sharing those moments!