It has been a series of bumps—quite literally—this week over here at Bird In Your Hand. I usually publish writing that focuses only on the best parts of life: the love I have for my family, our quirky projects and adventures, the ways in which we’ve tried to find and celebrate beauty, or appreciation for lifetime friendships. My themes are fairly straightforward, all centering around the central hope that we are filled with gratitude for the abundance that we have right in our hands, this very moment.

A handful of people in the past year have asked me if I am always as cheerful and optimistic as I seem to be. Well, no, not every second. We all have our grouchy-until-my-Yorkshire-tea mornings, the highly anticipated dinner menu that fails, the batch of challah in which I forgot the salt, the watercolor lantern project that went awry, and little snarks and irritations that sometimes get the best of all of us. Yet generally, I am as cheerful and optimistic as I seem to be—I think those are the forces I rely on most to keep motoring along even when it is difficult. For the most part, I try very quickly to turn the things that irritate me into something to praise or learn from. I try to focus on what is good and honorable in life, to stay away from getting caught up in drama, or kvetching, or negativity in general. Love always saves the day, I believe this. My writing, which is highly personal, is often the means I use to get myself back on track.

I suppose that is partly the purpose of this blog entry tonight: to get myself back on track.

I am not sure where things started to go amiss this week, but I am fairly certain it was the moment of helping Katie with her urine sample at the kiddos’ doctor’s appointments on Monday. Eric, totally unclothed except for a diaper, was held aloft from the gross floor with one arm, while I used my other arm to hoist Katie onto the toilet and then to hold the cup for her. This ended with a sample, yes, but also with urine all over my hand and arm. That’s just kiddo-stuff, and I have a mother’s strong stomach and love for all things kiddo-produced, so the urine didn’t bother me. Moreso it was the feeling of impossibility that accompanied that moment, one of those rare times when I feel like a duck on water who isn’t paddling hard enough or fast enough to keep up well with everything that has to be done.

But really, the week started to go south before even that. The kiddos and I have been recovering from a respiratory illness (which my mom and dad also had, and which Bill now has) for the past week. Mine went down into my chest, the symptoms of which I often prefer to a stuffy head-cold. Although the congestion has been steadily clearing up, I have not been sleeping well and I have had moments during the day of needing to just sit and catch my breath. We were all just starting to turn the corner on the illness and sleeping when Katie and Eric both experienced normal reactions to their vaccinations from Monday’s appointment.

Both had low-grade fevers, with Eric’s just a bit higher. Sure enough, he woke up twice Monday night/Tuesday morning—one for a long stretch that included vomiting from being hot and crying and then needing to be dosed with ibuprofen. That was a fairly sleepless night.

So the week was already off to a rocky start.

Fortunately, my mom agreed to come over on Tuesday to watch the kiddos in the afternoon so I could get to the market.


That’s when I managed to back into her car as I was pulling out of the garage.

The only word I had for myself last night was, “stupid.” Why didn’t I check better? A totally preventable accident, coming at the WORST and busiest time of the year… And, if I am being honest, my instinct would be to start judging fairly harshly if I read about someone else pulling this maneuver. Living with a really dumb error that is totally my fault is like trying to swallow sand: really painful. Never even a speeding ticket, and I do this??? The perfectionistic part of me is really struggling with this, to the point where I felt really bummed out this morning. My mom was completely forgiving right away, but I am harder on myself than anyone else could ever possibly be. I loathe carelessness in myself. The more mature part of me is trying to keep my perfectionism in check; thankfully, my 30s so far are a time in which I have been able to give more tolerance  to myself. Or maybe that has come with motherhood. I can feel myself wanting to beat myself up, and I can hold it off a little better and start offering a bit of compassion to myself instead.

My insurance company has been professional and helpful. We took our cars in this morning for an assessment. The guy said that it was clear I was going less than 5 MPH… Yet, I managed to cause $1200 of damage, almost all of which (except $200) my insurance will pay. Moreso, it is the knowledge that I have caused time to be wasted, and hassle galore, that really eats at me.

So, I am trying to turn this week around, trying to turn my attitude around. I spent most of last night saying to myself, “If only I had walked to the store like I planned!” or “Why didn’t I open the garage door before getting into the car?” or a million other what-ifs. The thing about accidents is that we can spend our lives second-guessing our choices, and we get nowhere, other than to feel defeated.

Today, well tonight especially, I am trying to chalk up this week as a lesson learned. I am thankful no one was hurt. I am humbled and terrified at the thought that I might have been that careless at a much worse time, like if there had been anyone’s child passing along my driveway. I am aware that I need to attend better to my sleep hygiene and that I was becoming too fast and loose, playing with the stubs of candles at both ends of the night. I do not like making mistakes, but I am thankful that I make them so that I stay grounded. I am thankful that, if this is truly the worst of my problems, than I have it pretty darn good. I am thankful that my family still loves me, even when I pull off something as moronic as this.

Above all, I am thankful for tenacity, the sheer will we have inside of us to keep going even when we feel embarrassed, sad, or disappointed in ourselves. Embracing tenacity is the ultimate way to say that you are grateful for this life. When the chips are down, we dig in our heels—because we know that every second we are here is a gift. Setbacks are opportunities to see what we’re made of, or how well we adapt. I have also tried to look at this week as a chance to teach my children how to manage stress; I’ve been doing, eh, well, kind of okay with those lessons.

So, friends who have asked if I have bad days: oh yes. The past few have been among the most arduous in recent memory. Not too fun. I still think, though, that it is what we do with the trying times that matters the most. Complaining has a place, but not much of one. Accepting responsibility is huge. Stopping the negativity in its tracks and refusing to spread it outward is important, too. Tenacity.

Thus, what has been good these past few days?  Well, I did manage to catch Katie’s urine sample one handed while balancing a baby, so in retrospect, maybe I have a bit of that Mama-Superpower after all. The kiddos are both healthy and growing well. The pediatrician says Katie’s body type is clearly tall and thin and proportioned well. Gosh, I hope she always enjoys that. “Tall” and “thin” have never been two words anyone could use to describe me! I see a little bit of vicarious living in my future. 😉 I am thankful the kiddos bonded over having their vaccinations—there were chatting about it in the car, well, Eric’s version of chatting, all the way home. Katie sang her brother a lullaby when they got home and closed his shutters on her own so the light wouldn’t disturb his sleep. Pretty sweet. We also finished The Sign of the Beaver, our latest read. We’ve also had many sweet and happy little moments—I just have to remember to bring those to the forefront of my mind, and not let the moments of stress overtake them. I don’t want to lose the happy memories of these few days with my children to memories of the things that went wrong. I owe my children more than that; I owe myself that, too.