Saturday, July 30, 2016

Being Awesome on a Quarter Tank of Gas

It’s hard to be awesome all the time. I should know. I’m a mom. And I live in the middle of a chaotic kind of awesome every day. First, let’s clarify. I’m not talking about being a perfect mom. Perfection is laced with stress, guilt and expectation. Being awesome is different and more appealing because it can be defined so many different ways. There is the sarcastic kind of awesome, as in, watching a full gallon of chocolate milk slip from your toddlers hands and cover the freshly mopped floor. That’s just awesome. The sweet relief kind of awesome when you tuck your kids in to bed and enjoy a pint of your favorite ice cream all by yourself. And especially those moments when you catch your breath because you just realized how amazing your children are and how lucky you are to be their mother. 
The thing is, motherhood can be exhausting. The expectations are overwhelming to do everything and be everything to everyone all at the same time. It’s challenging to be awesome when you’re running on empty. Or almost empty, as was the case when I took my five kids on a summer outing to the mountains. It had been a long week for everyone and by the time Friday rolled around, everyone was ready for a break. The beautiful fall colors and cool mountain air were the perfect escape.
Making our way to American Fork canyon was a breeze. Majestic trees lined the road like sentries as it wove through the forest like a ribbon playing peek-a-boo with the river.
Twenty minutes into the drive, my son asked, “Do you know where you’re going?”
“Yep. We follow this road all the way to the Springs,” I said, hugging a narrow turn like a pro. “Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing, I’m a mom and I’m pretty much awesome all the time!” Parker rolled his eyes at the familiar phrase I repeated over and over, hoping to brainwash my children. I didn’t look behind me but I’m sure Parker wasn’t the only one rolling his eyes. I smiled and glanced at my dashboard just as the red light near the fuel gauge lit up. Adrenaline shot through my veins like a tsunami.
I was in the middle of the mountains on a narrow road, riding the edge of a cliff like a dare-devil and I was about to run out of gas. Oh my sweet children. Forgive me now. Reluctantly, I pressed my foot on the gas pedal to climb another hill. What kind of mother does this? A pretty much awesome one, said my snarkiest inner voice.
Running on what I knew was fumes, we finally pulled into the parking lot at the Springs. I pulled the key out of the ignition and released a deep breath. This is it. We find help here or we don’t. I should have brought more granola bars.
I followed my children on the dirt path to a pavilion occupied by an elderly couple and a young, female park ranger. Angels sang faintly in the background as an aura of light descended around the ranger’s head. This is awesome! I thought. Surely she will know what to do.
I introduced my family and answered a few questions. Where are you from? Have you been here before? Are these children all yours? With the pleasantries behind us, I began to explain my predicament with a complete lack of volume control. I lectured myself silently even as I rattled on. Dial it down! Press the mute!  
Pity and concern oozed from the ranger’s face. “Gosh. What’re you going to do?” The angels sputtered and choked on the final chorus. “I’ll be leaving in an hour,” she offered. “I could follow you out if you want to wait that long.”  
 A long hour later, my children huddled around me, staring at each other in ominous silence as we contemplated our dire situation.
“Maybe we should say a prayer,” Camille said.
“I already did,” said Parker, “twice.”
 “We’re going to be just fine,” I said and forced the most comforting mommy smile I could pull out of the pit in my stomach.
When the ranger pulled out of the parking lot, we were in close pursuit. Each hill we climbed toward the summit seemed to suck gas like a toddler with a popsicle. I pleaded to heaven for forgiveness, making deals like a race track bookie. If I get out of this canyon, I will always check my gas tank before a trip. I will never yell at my innocent, patient, sweet little angels again. I will stop sneaking the kids’ candy from their hiding spots in their bedrooms. I promise, whatever it takes.
Not daring to touch the gas and barely touching the brakes we finally birthed out of the mouth of the canyon like a bat out of hell. At this point, the van was practically floating on faith. From the backseat Bryce chanted, “I love Jesus, I love Jesus.”
The children erupted in cheers as we pulled in to the gas station. The ranger, who parked at the pump in front of us, walked back, smiling at the raucous celebratory noise.
“I don’t know how but you made it,” she said.

“I’m a mom and I’m pretty much awesome all the time. Moms are cool like that,” I bragged.

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