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We’ve survived our own version of March Madness. The gnarly stomach flu.

Luke gave it to Steve and me, and I have never in my life had to clean up someone else’s barf while I, myself, am barfing. This was an entirely new level of motherhood. On top of it all, Luke had his first ear infection, so Luke, Steve, and I were all incredibly pathetic, stretched out on the floor in collective agony. And Lane—somehow miraculously spared—danced around all three of us, laughing and bonking us on the heads, like it was a game of dead-man’s duck duck goose.

Just to give you an idea of how truly mad it was, Steve lost 8 pounds in 36 hours. As you might imagine, we are only now recovering.

In some weird way, I will say it was fun to have Steve home from work those days and all of us just camping out together in the living room. Even though we were so ill, it was strangely fun to be ill together. We ate Top Ramen and watched basketball from a little nest we made out of blankets and pillows.

The week before we were struck with the stomach plague, we went to Arizona with Steve’s family for a reunion with his grandfather and his aunts and their families. I felt finally at the stage with the babies where I could enjoy some activities with them instead of just constantly caring for them. We took them in the resort’s pool and ran their heads under the manmade waterfalls, which they loved. Steve took each of them down the slide and they both grinned when they hit the water at the end (Luke clutching a lemon wedge in his hand that he would not let go of the entire time he played in the pool). They toddled around in the grass with their older cousin, Fynn, and kicked the ball and laughed. They played hard and napped hard and ate like linebackers. A good showing for all. Perhaps the first time ever that I came home from a “vacation” with kids feeling truly refreshed. Dare I say, a very imperceptible corner has been turned, and a bit of ease is making its way back into our lives? Hope arrives.

I spoke at a MOPS group this week and a woman at my table has quadruplets. In addition to that little world-rocker, her husband is deploying this fall. Another woman at the table has two kids and her husband is currently in work-ups for their fourth consecutive deployment. I asked her how they have stayed married, and she got teared up and said she doesn’t really know, and then said it was only due to their values. She also admitted that she was hanging on by a thin thread, and the woman next to her squeezed her hand. Another woman at the table, with three kids (twins and a singleton), talked about how so many of the women she knows right now are “suffocating” and “trying to claw out” because life is requiring so much of them. She talked about how easy it is to “lose” yourself, how much easier it is to lose yourself, than to fight for the space to participate in your very own life.

I left the group feeling moved by their honesty and their willingness to try to walk with each other through difficult days. I also felt the weight of women grieving together.

Grieving deployments. Grieving miscarriages. Grieving shelved dreams. Grieving chaos. Grieving lost identity. Grieving the struggle. Grieving the constancy of caring. Grieving change.

Last night, I watched the double OT Xavier vs. Kansas State game. What a heartbreak for Xavier. In sports, you learn how to lose. You never get comfortable with it really, but you learn how to channel the energy of the loss into the next practice or the next game or the next season. You learn how to let that feeling of frustration fuel you to become better. You learn how to stay within yourself the next time around and how to trust your teammates and their strengths.

Oh, that life could be just as clear as sports. In life, the stakes are so much higher, with the wins and losses not as neatly divided into two separate categories. I know I have been feeling loss lately, as I’ve shared in some of my recent posts. The loss of freedom. The loss of space. The loss of hope, on some days. The loss of sleep. The loss of clear thinking. The loss of a shower, for crying out loud!

I like how the ladies at my MOPS table approached each other’s losses. They never said a single word of surface consolation to each other. They never gave each other quick-fixes that invalidated feelings or experiences. They listened to each other and acknowledged how hard life feels some days. And then they gently reassured each other that they were willing to be a companion on the journey and that they were willing share each other’s burdens. Some losses. And some wins, too.

Amazingly beautiful.

Well, at my house this month, we’ve lost some weight, we’ve lost some bodily fluids, we’ve lost some money to co-pays and antibiotics, we’ve lost some sleep to a barfing fifteen-month-old and to his sister who sometimes just joins in on the wailing for no apparent reason, we’ve lost some of March to sheer madness, and . . . yet . . . we’ve won some too. We’ve won a bit of found time together (albeit under terribly unromantic circumstances), we’ve won some laughter at a resort in AZ, we’ve won a love for lemon wedges and instant noodle soup, we’ve won some perspective (well, we could have had quadruplets!), and we’ve won a subtle hint of hope for what’s to come with our little family.

We may have March Madness and April Madness and May Madness and . . . you get the idea. But we’re doing it. And we’re doing it together. The Big Dance.

(Amazingly darling photo of Luke and Lane courtesy of Katie Gardner, www.katiegardnerphoto.com)

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