Sunday, May 10, 2015

An Angel on Poop Day

Mother's Day has been nice today. Jacob made me his special scrambled eggs and Maren picked me a bouquet of garden flowers. I got cards and Almond Joys and a new spatula. I got to Skype with Braeden from Latvia, and later with Chelsea, Carly, and Matt. It's a beautiful day in Yakima and I took a nap in a hammock. I saw the invitations to a baby shower my friend Sara is giving me for Will. I've felt very loved as a mother. I'm so thankful. Mother's Day has always been a "hold your breath and see what happens" kind of day for me. Today was really nice.

I thought I'd post an address I gave in March for a group of women celebrating the belief that we are "Beloved Daughters of God." That was the theme I was given, and my friend, Kira, asked me to speak because she'd been there the evening that I gave my talk on Love last year. She even suggested I could use the other talk and tweak it to fit the theme if I liked. I love Kira, so I said yes. And this is what I came up with. Here is my Mother's Day offering to you, with so much love. I hope you enjoy it.

I took this picture in my yard.
These flowers smell so much nicer than the events in the story I'm about to share.

As I considered what to share with you tonight, I remembered a story I’d written a long time ago. And then I tried to forget it. I knew we’d be eating dinner and while this story is perfect for the theme, it’s also pretty graphic and gross. It’s a story of motherhood. It’s, in fact, a true account of one of the worst days I’ve ever had as a young mother. And it kept coming back to me. Because it’s not just a story for young mothers, but for anyone who has felt alone, inadequate, if you’ve ever felt like you give and give, but what do you get? It’s for anyone who tries, and has to keep trying. It’s for anyone who has been—figuratively or literally—pooped on. So I’m going to share it with you. And I’m sorry.

An Angel On Poop Day.

On Friday, the 12th of October, 2001, I was 4 months pregnant, and except for bouts of morning sickness I was feeling healthy and happy, busy with my three children. Jacob was 3, Braeden, 6, and Chelsea, almost 9.

It was what I had termed in our house to be a Poop Day, meaning Jacob went a few days with just one or two bowel movements, and then had a day where he went “number two” every time. Potty training became a bit messier on these days, as he seemed to wait until it actually made an appearance, no matter how often I asked, before running to the potty. But, I was dealing with it; just a little more work and a lot more laundry.

That day, Braeden came home from school with a tummy-ache and a bit of the runs, and was on the toilet quite often as well. My husband, Brandon, was coaching an away football game and was gone that day and the next, so I was on my own, but that was nothing new. Brandon coached football, basketball and track, and after ten years, I’d learned to handle a lot of things in his absence.

My good friend Christy, whose husband coached with Brandon, called and invited me to come have a look at the house they were buying, at around 5:00 that afternoon, and I thought this would be a great excuse to throw a diaper on Jacob, get out of the house, have a short visit, and just take a break from Poop Day.

I gave Braeden a dose of Pepto, assured him there would be a bathroom there, packed up the kids, and headed out, down the quick drive on Main Street through our little town and up the hill. As we drove, I gave tongue-in-cheek directions that no one was to stink up the van. The kids giggled.

I arrived at Christy’s house without incident and she showed me around the 100 year old house with enthusiasm, sharing plans and color schemes as the kids played hide-and-seek in all the empty rooms and closets. Christy and her husband hadn’t had kids yet, and she’d glommed onto mine like sticky cotton candy. They adored her.

It was about time to go, when my nose picked up a hint of something. I looked at Jacob as he ran past and took a whiff. No, it wasn’t him. I continued down the hallway and there was Braeden, just outside the bathroom, a look of defeat on his face. He was close to tears and let me know he had tried to run to the bathroom, but it was too late.

I told him it was okay, I’d help him. But the house was completely empty except for a few squares of toilet paper on the roll. I told him that it was time to go, and we’d take care of it all at home. He trusted me.

His discomfort, and the smell, moved me to rush to get the other kids. I called urgently up the stairs. And I called. And called.

No Chelsea. No Jacob.

Braeden stood unmoving in the hallway. I heard little footsteps above me. Impatient to get Braeden home, I went to the bottom of the stairs and called again. “Jacob!” Nothing.

Then, with a pitter-patter, Jacob appeared at the top of the stairs. He said, “Chels is lost. She is stuck.”

What? I told Jacob it was time to go and to say goodbye to Christy. He simply said, “No,” ran down past me and into some other room. I sighed heavily, consoling myself that at least he was downstairs.

I went up to find my daughter. Chelsea was usually my most obedient child, and I was sure she’d heard everything I’d just told her little brother. So I called as I climbed, explaining that we needed to leave, now. I was losing my temper, picturing Braeden paralyzed in the hallway.

I heard a muffled giggle, which irritated me further.

As I made the landing I heard her voice. “Mom, I’m stuck,” and then another embarrassed giggle.
I knew right where she was. The attic bedroom had a short little closet built into the eaves for storage, and it had a sticky door. As I strode to the closet, it popped open, and I heard her relief.
“Whew, I got it.”

Then, she saw the look on my face and nearly shrunk back inside. I assured her that I understood she was stuck, but we had to go, now, for Braeden’s sake.

We headed quickly downstairs and I was thinking we could just go, but when Christy and I looked for Jacob, he was no longer inside the house.

My three year old was running around outside the house. Literally, running all the way around the house at top speed so he wouldn’t have to say goodbye to Christy, who was his second-favorite person in the whole world. I say second-favorite to make myself feel better.

I gave Christy one look and she took off after him while I got Braeden down the front steps. She finally jumped out in front of him and caught him up. She handed me my shrieking, squirming, solid little boy. At the same time I still ushered Braeden toward the car. He was now walking like a cowboy. Chelsea bounded into the car, and Jacob had become a screeching tangle of kicks and dead weight in my arms.

I locked him in the car seat, barely,  and Christy took over trying to make him smile while I went  to the other side of the van to help Braeden, who had stopped progressing, unsure of how or where to sit.

I helped Braeden in, and that is when the smell hit me. I started to gag, as pregnant women might, but I fought to get it under control as I walked back around the van, where Christy had Jacob giggling. She said goodbye and closed his door. I got in and thanked her for her help. She gave me a sympathetic smile and asked if I’d be okay. I assured her I’d just get the boys in a bath and everything would be fine. I’m tough.

I was so naive.

We opened all the car windows, because the smell was tremendous, and as soon as I backed down the drive, Jacob started shrieking again. Even with all the windows down, he screamed so loudly my ears buzzed. Then the heaving started. The smell was winning the fight against my “delicate condition.” The windows would have to stay down. I turned the fan on my face, full blast, and turned up the radio. Maybe people wouldn’t think I was driving a van for the criminally insane if they heard Keith Urban blasting above the screams as we drove down Main Street.

Chelsea found all of this funny, ducking down in her seat. Her laughter helped, actually.
We made it home and I marched Jacob, still kicking and screeching dead weight, into his room and shut. The. Door.

One down.

I asked Chelsea to unload the dishwasher while I got Braeden into a bath. He didn’t need a spectator. I started the bathwater and suds, and turned my full attention to my mortified, patient, grossed-out son. I got him undressed, and just as he stepped out of his underwear----I got some on my hand.
This is when my pregnant body decided to remind me just how pregnant I was, and I ran to the kitchen sink and threw up for almost ten minutes. I had to call to Chelsea, who had abandoned the dishwasher to try to help her brother, who wanted nothing to do with his sister helping him with dirty underwear and such, to TURN OFF THE BATHWATER, PLEASE! She yelped, and the water was turned off just as it was about to spill over.

I knew I had to get the nausea under control. I smelled the clean dish soap, washed my face, took deep breaths, and, noting Jacob was still screaming in his room, somehow, between holding my nose and breathing out in the hallway, I got Braeden into the tub.

Exhausted and feeling utterly alone, this is when I started to cry.

And this is when the doorbell rang.

Now, our front door was situated right in the middle of this chaos. There was no hallway to the bathroom and bedrooms, just doors right off the front and dining rooms. And furthermore, our front door was fully paned in glass. I could not hide.

I gulped a sob. “WHO THE *bleep*  IS THAT?” I asked in angry defeat. I heard Chelsea gasp.
“Mommy said a bad word,” she whispered.

I don’t try to imagine what the house smelled like at this point. I gingerly walked to the front door, blowing my nose in a wad of toilet paper. I hadn’t turned the porch light on. I hit the switch, and when I looked through the panes, I saw Christy.

I saw the pizza box in her arms, the DVD tucked on top. And she was welcome, although I’m sure she had second thoughts once I opened the door.

“Have you been throwing up?” That was her greeting.

I just started to cry again, wiping mascara from under my eyes, and I smiled. I haltingly explained, and apologized for the smell. She took my shoulder and looked right into my eyes. 
“You go clean yourself up. I’ve got this.”

I didn’t even argue. I went right downstairs to my room as she had Chelsea turn on the oven for pizza. She opened Jacob’s room with a loud, happy greeting. I felt nothing but gratitude as I washed, brushed, and changed. I sent up a prayer.

Thank you for her.

We ate pizza, put the kids to bed early, and watched the movie she’d brought. I thanked her and hugged her and invited her to come live with us.

I asked her what had made her decide to come.
She shrugged. “I felt like pizza, and couldn’t justify buying a whole one for myself.”

But I know better. She’d come to help. Just in time. My angel on poop day.

Men are that they might have joy. Part of joy is believing that God loves us. I found an anonymous quote.
“You don’t have to wait to hear ‘Well done’ (or to hear “I love you” or to get the flowers or the thank you, or the hug). If you do it right, you can know every day that God is smiling and saying, “That’s my girl.”

President James E. Faust (1920–2007), Second Counselor in the First Presidency: “A conviction that you are a daughter of God gives you a feeling of comfort in your self-worth. It means that you can find strength in the balm of Christ. It will help you meet the heartaches and challenges with faith and serenity.”

And if not serenity, then at least conviction, and a mind set to learn. To develop compassion so we recognize when others are struggling, and we can offer a hand. Or a pizza.
We’ve been through several very difficult trials, and lots of smaller ones, some are ongoing and will remain with me throughout my life. But as I was thinking about this talk, I considered that during every single trial, I have been somehow reminded that I am a beloved spirit daughter of God. And I am not left alone.

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