Gratitude in a Week of Gross

So, back in February, I went on a women's spiritual retreat through my church that focused on embracing gratitude as a spiritual practice. This usually comes pretty easily to me, but this week. Well, it's been a week. And I mean, A WEEK. Here's the quick synopsis:

Monday: ER visit

Tuesday: Little League Playoff Game

Wednesday: Birthday Celebration/Near-Death Experience

Thursday: Two Strong Cocktails at 5:00

Friday: Work, work, work

Let's go back.

On Monday morning, I was in the bathroom when I heard a weird pounding coming from the next room. I ran in to find my nine-year-old hitting my two-year-old between the shoulder blades, desperately trying to keep him from choking. (Someone get that kid a medal immediately!!!) Whatever the little guy had swallowed came up and then he swallowed it again, this time successfully. I'm in a panic, looking around to try to figure out what he had just eaten, when I find a laser finger pointer toy totally dismantled and button batteries on the floor. There's no way to know what went down the hatch — a two-year-old is an unreliable witness, after all — so away we go to the ER. (Fun fact: an ingested button battery can burn a hole through your esophagus in two hours! Wheeeeee!)

It turns out that it was only (sigh) the LED light he'd eaten and not the battery. Three hours later and my kids and I are on our way and I get to dig through diapers for the next week looking for this:

Gross. My takeaways:

  • I'm thankful it wasn't a battery.

  • I'm thankful to have kids who love each other and look out for one another. They used their imaginations to turn a hospital bed into a pirate ship for the first two hours we were at the hospital so that their little brother wasn't scared.

  • I'm thankful to have kids who are healthy. Digging through dirty diapers seems like a small inconvenience for the privilege of getting to hug them every day.

Tuesday took us to the Little League playoff game, where the stakes were high: the winner goes on to the local Little League World Series. As I told my oldest (a.k.a. a hero from earlier in the week), "I just want you to go out there and feel good about how you play. It doesn't matter to me if you win or lose this game. Be a good teammate. That's what makes me proud." And then I tried to live into that.

Let me just say that I'm not a particularly good sports parent. I'm a total rookie. I'm late half the time. I'm distracted, trying to figure out what to do with my other three kids. I forget things like sunblock and chairs and bug spray. I don't always make it, having to split time between kids. This whole sports thing is a challenge for me.

So, there I was on the sidelines a bundle of nervous energy. I have a hummingbird quality anyway. I'm almost always buzzing, so this situation had me moving from point to point on the sidelines. In his last at-bat, bottom of the last inning, with the score tied, he struck out. This was the only thing he didn't want to do. I was a very perky, positive wreck. And then they won. Holy emotional roller coaster!

My takeaways:

  • I'm thankful to have my son play on a baseball team where the coaches play fair and stay positive.

  • I'm thankful for the other parents who aren't crazy (and who aren't afraid to check each other in the rare moment when someone says something out of line). I'm thankful that they share their sunblock and bug spray and look out for my kiddos when I can't get there in time.

  • I'm thankful for the opportunity for my kids to experience imperfection. They'll learn more from the strike outs than the home runs. Same goes for me.

Wednesday was my oldest daughter's birthday and, being second-born, she's often lost in the shuffle at our house. I had planned to spend the day with her, just the two of us, which we've never done before (or if we have, it's been a very, very long time). After leaving the brand-new babysitter the weirdest instructions ever ("If he poops, just put the diaper in the upstairs bathroom and I'll go through it when I get home."), we set off for the city. It was a fantastic day, and she declared that turning seven was the best thing that had ever happened to her.

We started back home and, as we merged onto the highway heading home, I noticed that the car next to us was driving erratically. Like, REALLY erratically. I had to swerve into the shoulder twice to keep him from hitting us. At that point, I said to her, "You know what? I don't know what's going on with this guy, but we're going to slow down and give him plenty of room. He's making me nervous." I watched as he went ahead of us. About twenty seconds later, he started to fishtail, lost control of the car, cut across three lanes of traffic, flipped twice in the air, and landed upside-down in the lane to our right. We were directly behind him.

When I tell you that it was a miracle that no one was injured, I mean it was an absolute miracle. We were on the Dan Ryan, one of the busiest highways in the nation, at rush hour when Lady Google estimated that our (no traffic) 25-minute drive back to our suburban home would be well over an hour. I pulled over to call 911 and the four or five cars around me also stopped to help. No one — including the driver, who must have been high as a kite, as I saw him walking around the car, inspecting the damage — was badly injured. His was the only car involved. A miracle. An honest-to-God miracle.

My takeaways:

  • I'm thankful (SO THANKFUL) for the angels watching over us, who give us that little voice that says, "Watch out for that guy."

  • I'm thankful that I listened.

  • I'm thankful to be alive today.

  • I'm thankful for the five other people who jumped out of their cars without thinking twice to try to help someone they'd never met. That restored my faith in humanity, especially after a hard week politically.

  • I'm thankful for the church choir practice that night, which forced me to start breathing again. And for my husband, who hugged me and handled bedtime so I could go.

Then Thursday was an absolute circus. The kids, having had an equally weird week, were exhausted. And it showed. One of them was head-to-toe covered in mud. One of them had a total meltdown at the gymnastics center. One of them was irate at being picked up from a friend's house. And one of them got so frustrated by not being able to master the "buffalo" (tap dance move) that said child exploded in a fury and fell asleep on the floor at 6:30. By dinner time, I was reaching for the vodka. (The screaming, y'all. It's the screaming that gets to you.)

My takeaways:

  • I'm thankful for the chaos and the mess and the grace. And the vodka.

  • I'm thankful for the neighborhood friends whose doors are almost open for my kids to come and play (and that they don't judge the mismatched outfits or tousled hair of an unruly five-year-old).

  • I'm thankful for kids who are loaded with personality and moxie.

  • I'm thankful for the rain and the mud that goes with it. And the ability to laugh along with everyone who sees a kid, like Ramona Quimby, so stuck in the mud that her boots won't come out.

  • I'm extra thankful for the friend who gave me her wipes to help clean up the mud monster. Thankful for my village.

  • I'm also thankful for the stranger who saw that I was flustered and stopped what she was doing to help me. May I also remember to be that person when I can.

And now it's Friday. I'm up against work deadlines and am trying to figure out how to do too many things in too short a time period. My house looks like a total disaster. I'm embarrassingly far behind on my emails and still looking for the missing LED, but here's what I know:

  • I'm thankful for a roof over my head, messy as it may be.

  • I'm thankful for work that challenges me and coworkers whom I enjoy.

  • I'm thankful for the music that's filling up my heart as I write.

  • I'm thankful for PBS Kids, which is the only reason I have a second of peace.

  • I'm thankful for the chance to teach my kids about different experiences and different places and the beauty that they hold.

  • I'm thankful for the memory of being in a beautiful place with a beautiful little girl so delighted at being seven.

Yes, today I'm thankful. So thankful.

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Allison Harvey