Butt Balm…


It’s been a couple of crazy weeks. First of all, last week was Vacation Bible School at our new church here in San Francisco. I volunteered on counsel of my husband. The prospect of being social to such a degree with strangers for five mornings in a row was a bit anxiety-producing. But my husband is usually right about these things.

And I say that knowing that he reads my blog. You hear me, James, you were right?!

Isn’t that big of me?

To be sure, it involved waking my late-sleepers up every single morning and catching the bus across town. It involved three kids, two large bags, and one collapsible stroller. It involved a seventy-five cent fare for my five year-old and a hand free for me to hold Daddy’s clipper card (bus fare) which I borrowed for the week and am not giving back.

To be sure, baby came home on Wednesday looking a little pale. And then he got a fever and then he threw up. And the last two days I was riding the bus to drop them off by themselves and get back to baby napping at home so Dad could get back to work.

The naps were late and the kids were wound up so tight that no one got to bed before ten pm. But it was worth it and a lot of fun. I enjoyed meeting a lot of awesome people and loving on their amazing kids.

But baby boy went from fever to mucus to the runs. And on Sunday night I got up to screaming and poopy diapers eight times between ten pm and six am. We started Monday with a long warm bath.

And then…

Yes, and then, we packed the car for VBS at our old church in Roseville because I am a glutton for punishment, also known as someone who voluntarily goes through labor more than once, also known as someone who voluntarily signs her kids up for two vacation bible schools in a row.

We stopped at the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield because I thought it would be a good idea to give everyone their own sample packets of sugar for the last hour and a half in the car. I changed the baby’s diaper twice more and cared for the quickly advancing bit of diaper rash.

When we arrived at my Mom’s I removed the baby’s diaper and let him roam around on the lawn naked. I may or may not have been pooped on and/or held him up to poop in the bushes during this time. It may or may not have happened. It’s baby number three. You do things with baby number three that wouldn’t enter your mind as a remote possibility with baby number one.

It was a packed week. I will give you an excerpt from Tuesday.

We were having a playdate with a friend’s kids in the morning. We took advantage of the central valley heat and walked to Walmart over the railroad tracks, picked wild blackberries on the way and bought ice cream sandwiches for the walk home (Hello, suburbia!). Our friends left and I checked my phone to find the cousins already waiting for us at Great-grandma’s lake.

We stuffed everybody in the car, sick baby caught a nap in the car seat, and everyone swam, which means all the adults were counting heads constantly to make sure everyone was above water. We left in time for dinner before VBS at church, which is in the evening. But my son had jumped into the lake with his only shirt and refused to wear it wet into the church or Chipotle. So I stop by church and have someone run to get their VBS shirts, so now we can go to Chipotle for dinner across the street.

I was ecstatic that my baby ate his first real meal in forty-eight hours, some burrito bowl, mostly rice. At five forty-five I stuff everyone into the car after dinner for the six o’clock check in, too quickly evidently. For, as we pull out of the parking lot I hear a sound I know to precede an event that is all too familiar to me now, the staccato like coughing that is precursor to vomit.

Too late!

“Mommy, baby just threw up all over his seat!”

I toss a damp towel from the lake into baby’s lap in a lame attempt to contain the rice soup and keep my eyes on the road. Then I hear,

“Mommy, he’s eating the rice out of his throw up!”

I only write truth here, so I will tell you this; I wanted him to eat something, anything! And I wanted my elder kids to stay vomit free since I was about to drop them off at church.

“Let him eat it! Keep your hands in your laps!”

I circled the parking lot three times before locating my mother and handing the big kids off to her. And then the baby and I went home, bathed, sanitized, and started some laundry.

I put the car seat on the front porch and came out with three paper towels and a spray bottle of 409. I have been called optimistic, and, I’m afraid, in this case that would be painfully correct. For the first time in six years and three different baby car seats I had to remove the liner and send it through the washing machine.

By the time I was done cleaning up and had baby asleep the big kids got home, wired and already an hour past bedtime. I got them bathed, scrubbed the face paint off of them, and sent them to bed. I followed shortly after.

That was day one.

Why would I do that to myself? Well, it starts with pregnancy. We did that to ourselves. And labor, somehow I volunteered for that three times; no one can be held guilty for the first time, really, but two and three, that’s on you. And there are sleepless nights and baby sign language and wheels on the bus and somewhere in all there you purse your lips and realize that the kids are three and one and they’re not going to remember a single damn thing that you have done for them up to this point in their lives.

So, why do it? Well, this is why I do it. Because when I was a kid, I don’t remember the pool being stressful or making sure my brothers weren’t drowning. It was fun. I was just swimming.

And my kids aren’t going to remember baby’s horrible diaper rash and their mother’s shattered timetable. They’re going to remember swimming in the lake with cousins, eating flats of strawberries, face painting, and arts-and-crafts. They’re going to remember fun cross-town rides on the bus and a sample pouch of jelly beans all to themselves in the car.

So this week I’m thankful that I get to be the buffer between life and my kids for a little while. I’m glad to absorb the stress so they can just play. How much energy and work have I put into that Mommy bubble of safety that’s been following them around since before they were born?

It’s one of my favorite parts of the Mommy job to make sure my kids have an actual childhood, something that they can remember fondly and feel like they thoroughly did when they get to adulthood. I mean, how much better would the world be if everyone had experienced such an amazing childhood they didn’t waste their adulthood trying to live a second one?

And isn’t that what God has done for us, spent all his energies and one most precious son to cover us, give us a safe place to rest? Rest in me, he tells us, right here, and you don’t have to be anxious for anything. To be sure, life still happens, you might get burned by a bad case of diaper rash, but I’ll take care of it. There is a butt balm in Gilead! Bad joke. I apologize. But not really, that was good.

Motherhood is chock full of images. And you gotta take them when they come because you know you’re never going to get those twenty quiet minutes for devotionals every day. And I’ll take this one, and try to rest in God the way I want my kids to rest with me. Because, let’s be honest, Momma could use a buffer.

4 responses »

  1. “Like” times 100. I have lived this life and loved it.

    Here’s the weird thing: I’m probably the most introspective, introverted person on the planet. I’ve analyzed my love of being a mom over and over and over again, but what you said about the stress you’re happy (well, okay with) to go through in order to give your kids beautiful childhood memories is an aspect that I TOTALLY lived but that never occurred to me. Excellent way of putting it.

    And the butt balm in Gilead? That’s what I think of every time I hear that hymn. Thankfully we attend worship services in a place where we never have to hear it any more.Long ago our mirth in the pews when that one came up was rarely appreciated. Hmmm…inapproprirate church behavior…that gives me an idea for a post…


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