There’s a Palomino rocking horse on my front porch. He’s been stripped of his saddle, and some of his coat is a bit on the crusty side. He’s airing out after a toddler decided to straddle him in a very poopy diaper that proceeded to leak all over the once noble steed.
I was downstairs folding laundry when I heard the screeching, “MOMMY!”
I chose to ignore it because I’ve been hearing screeching and crying and whining and “She hit me!” and “No!” all weeklong.
That was a big mistake. The yelling, it turns out, was to alert me that Mary Elizabeth had a leaky and very poopy diaper. Not only had she christened the rocking horse with it, but she’d also climbed on my husband and my bed leaving a trail of stinkiness.
When I say I’m in the business of hazardous waste removal, I’m not kidding.
The poop made me cry.
Can a toddler’s toxic waste break a mama’s back?
I felt depleted and overwhelmed and terrified of what kind of craziness is going to ensue in just a few months when we add another Poopenator to our mix.
We’re all out of whack here. Mary Elizabeth is waking up again in the night and also popping out of bed just as the morning sky begins to flush pink. She doesn’t know how to greet the day quietly. She’s a soulful child – even when dawn is just beginning to reveal herself. So she wakes up the rest of us, including two big sisters who normally sleep in about an hour later.
The family bed is shrinking into an uncomfortably small size. Most nights three little girls find their way to us. A King-size bed may be fit for a king, but it’s not fit for a 6’3″ husband, six-month-pregnant wife, long-legged 6-year-old, preschooler, and toddler. Thankfully, Layla (the Great Dane-Lab mix) has her own bed on the floor. Honestly, the other night I considered crawling onto her big over-sized, chocolate-brown pillow and spooning her.
So everyone is skimping on shut-eye. And everyone is feeling the business of the year. What started out as fun – recitals! soccer games! theatre! parties! – is starting to feel like pain and suffering. Even my most energetic child, my go-go-go! Madeline is in need of a breather. She’s been angry lately and prone to outbursts over silly things (sounds a lot like her mama lately, actually). On Tuesday I realized why. It was more than just being tired from a fun wedding weekend and several late nights in a row. It was because she was suffering from burnout. She had a rehearsal scheduled for that day for a homeschooling drama performance, but a virulent stomach bug was making its way through some of her cast members. Since she is the youngest cast member with a small role, I opted to keep her home. I’m not typically a germophobe, but just the thought of a puke fest when we’re already all run down made me shudder.
I gently broke the news to Madeline. Typically, when anything gets canceled or postponed, she’s heartbroken. The child lives for outings, happenings, and social interaction. But not today. “Yes!” she exclaimed. “I prayed I wouldn’t have to go to rehearsals, and my prayers were answered!”
Think we need some downtime around here?
Yesterday (the day of the poop incident) I’d hoped to have a relatively quiet morning before a few friends came over for a simple Marian celebration. I am a foolish woman. There will be poop and tantrums and messes and weird outbursts over a bookmark (3-year-old Rae still doesn’t know why she started screaming, “Bookmark! Bookmark!” earlier that same day). Craving quiet time and peace, I tried to snuggle up with my girls and read aloud to them because this is usually a remedy for burnout. Enjoying my children and spending time with them rather than simply schlepping them to and fro is often what refreshes me. Yet, despite my best intentions, Rae and Mary E. immediately started to fight over a play drum. More screeching. Then Mary Elizabeth started crying for mama milk. Madeline tried to move the drum (she’s already learning to implement the diversion tactic with irrational toddlers) and accidentally thumped me -HARD! – on the temple with it. So much for peaceful story time.
The girls and I did enjoy making blueberry crumb cake (a favorite recipe of ours; it’s delicious and easy to make) and blue lemonade (HT: Catholic Icing) in honor of Our Lady. There weren’t too many spills or sibling squabbles during the baking and lemonade-stirring process.
After the cathartic poop cry, I pulled myself together and asked the girls to help me display vases around Mary in our backyard. I felt a lot like empty vases cluttered around Mary’s feet – sparse, empty, unworthy to be in the presence of a Queen.
I needed someone, something to fill me with colorful blooms.
The families arrived. The children brought flowers from their home gardens. We had some blossoms left over from my bridesmaid bouquet. Nothing was as organized as I’d envisioned. It rarely is. Yet, the afternoon and its beautiful simplicity – children ambling forward to offer an assuming Mary statue a small offering – was just what I needed. It was just what my children needed, too. There were no tears or tantrums or screaming, but there were plenty of smiles.
I played a CD with Marian songs like “Immaculate Mary,” and a procession of children walked over to Mary and gifted her with their flowers.
I wanted to cry again. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones. Maybe it was the reminder that there are so many – family members, my children, my husband, God, His Mother – waiting to fill me up and to color my world with happiness and little joys.
Maybe it was my grateful heart.
A grateful heart is easy when life goes smoothly, but I want a grateful heart even when poop is in my midst and the vases are all empty or maybe just full of wilted flowers.
Just as my friends were leaving, my husband pulled in the driveway returning from work earlier than expected. “Did you get my text?” he asked me a few minutes after he’d been home.
I told him I hadn’t. I found my phone and looked and saw it: “Why don’t you relax after dinner, go to a coffee shop or something, and I’ll handle bedtime?”
“I’d hoped you’d get it this afternoon, so you’d have something to look forward to,” he said.
Earlier that day, when I felt spent, I thought about how I’d been trying to start every morning off with a prayer asking God for the graces to get through the day (and also asking for a break). I found myself growing angry because my prayers seemed fruitless. Little disasters kept popping up; none of my kids seemed to be listening to anything I said. And I just wasn’t handling all the chaos very well. If I’m going to trust God so much or take the time to have a little chat with Him each morning, then, why oh why, couldn’t He help me out?
We are still out of whack. Reclaiming our ordinary rhythm will take time. (It’s taken us several weeks to get so discombobulated.) Getting Mary Elizabeth back on track in the sleep department may take a miracle. But I’m not alone as I think. I am getting help. God’s graces are everywhere: In the unflagging optimism of my preschooler who said, after I told her the rocking horses’ saddle was a health hazard and had to be disposed of, that she would ride bareback like people rode Secretariat or like Felicity (the American Girl), in the flowers at Mary’s feet, in the thoughtful texts of my husband, in the scent of a gardenia he plucked from a bush that’s just beginning to bloom in our yard, in the love of my parents (who were there on the phone line to listen to me cry over poop), in the hope for a more restful night, easier tomorrow as well as in the hope for a stubborn heart that clings to gratitude even if sleep is elusive and the screeching and pooping and tearful tirades continue.
Then there’s this surprise my husband discovered when he was watering our hanging plants after dinner last night. Our baby birds have hatched!
“Oh, it’s wonderful!” Madeline said.
It is. Very.
And so is this messy, noisy, exhausting, and poopy life of mine. Wonderful. Very.
All this (poop included; let’s see how many times Kate can use the word “poop” in a post!) reminds me of an excellent (what’s new?) Conversion Diary post about life not having to be easy in order to be joyful.
Here’s just a snippet of Jennifer Fulwiler’s wisdom from the post:
“…the more intimately we know Christ, the more joy we’ll have…but Christ is the very embodiment of self-sacrifice, of pouring out oneself for the sake of others. In other words, going to fancy meetings in skyscrapers and driving a nice car and hosting luxurious parties are probably not going to bring you a whole lot of joy. But living a life ordered toward the service of others will. So, even though I have a long way to go in the selflessness department, I make a whole lot more sacrifices for others now than I did before my conversion. And I’m not joyful in spite of that fact, but because of it.”