Monthly Archives: May 2015

Prodigal Vegetable

I’m not one to worry.  Oh wait, I’m a mom.  Maybe I do worry. Sometimes.  A little.  There are six young daredevils who are, most of the time, in my sole care.  If one complains of a headache I immediately consider the possibility he needs brain surgery again. Another is a toddler who defies gravity and usually loses.  I’m actually the queen of worriers.  I’m a worry warrior.  (Say that out loud a few times!)

I worry about my kids, my house, my husband, my stuff.  I worry my teeth are getting more crooked.  I worry I’m a bad mom.  I worry about my country.  I worry about mice getting into the chocolate chips.  I worry my vacuum is gonna die (I pray for it regularly.)  I worry about scarring the neighborhood with my children’s ghetto lawn ornaments (generally an assortment of nerf guns, various pieces of discarded clothing, and creative handmade squirrel traps.)  I’ve been practicing worry for years, and I’m getting good.

But I know better than to let it control me.  Of course I do.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have let two of my children go on a Spring expedition into the wilderness a few evenings ago.  Perhaps I knew it involved fording a small river because they asked me to pack extra clothes.  But perhaps they shouldn’t be tied to mama’s apron strings so tight they can’t occasionally get their feet wet.  Right?

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Probably every culture has some indigenous foods that anyone hungry enough for the adventure can get.  Come Spring around here, it’s fiddlehead season.  Fiddleheads are tightly curled Ostrich Fern fronds.  They grow along shady riverbanks locally.  For a few weeks every year, people – like my dad- go out and harvest them.  This year, Grampy invited my two oldest boys along to help. It was sort of a coming-of-age ritual that was expected to involve water in boots and playing host to a blackfly family reunion. But the result is usually a decent haul of fresh, free vegetables that are quite palatable (as far as vegetables go. Chocolate is, unfortunately, not indigenous, but the upside is that I find no reason to relegate chocolate to a single season for eating.)

So off they went and I stayed home.  Not worrying.  I made supper.  I fed the four kids still tied to my apron strings.  Still not worrying.  My husband came home.  I bathed each child, dodging water gun squirts from the toddler as I mopped up puddles and made sure they weren’t drowning (because that’s my job after all, to keep them safe.)  I added diapers and pajamas to wriggling little bodies as it started to get dark.  Finally, I sent my dad a text.  Not because I was worrying of course.  Just curious.  He didn’t answer.  I put the boys to bed and sat to feed the baby on the sofa that strategically faced the window.

Ok.  I was worried.

About the time I finally admitted it, a taxi drove up.  My dad climbed out.  I craned my neck to see.  One… Two boys climbed out.  Relief flooded me.  Apparently no one had been washed down the river getting their vegetables.  That would have been tragic on so many levels.  I didn’t know why Grampy’s truck hadn’t returned, but that seemed a small casualty by comparison.

They tumbled in, slightly muddy around the edges, and my oldest announced triumphantly, “That was awesome!” The other grinned in agreement. “And turns out I like popcorn!”

The story came out in breathless pieces.  Since they’d had to ford the river, my dad had decided to lock his wallet and cell phone in the car rather than get them soaked in his pocket.  He’d put the key in his pocket.  The pocket had a hole.  The key found it.  Not until they’d returned with their haul of fern heads did they realize they weren’t getting home that way.  So plan B.  Off they walked to find civilization.  A lady at the third house they found welcomed them in to use the phone.  (And fed the intrepid explorers some popcorn.)  Unfortunately they all have come to rely on preset contacts on our phones, so none of them – neither my dad nor either of my kids – correctly knew another phone number.  (We don’t even have a home phone hooked up at the moment and some phone numbers have changed recently.  Don’t judge.)  So they couldn’t call anyone they knew to come to the rescue.  Hence, the taxi ride.

My husband and dad went off to get an extra key and return to the river for the truck.  I checked the boys for ticks and commandeered their trekking clothes in exchange for pajamas.  They trundled off to bed.

I promised to teach them all the important family phone numbers the next morning.  Maybe they don’t need my apron strings anymore, but they do need an open phone line to mom.  The ties that really bind.  May they never forget it.

photo by Grampy
photo by Grampy

I went to bed suddenly much less worried about the vacuum, the yard décor, or the chocolate chips.  Funny how you can lose someone for a few hours, and when you find them again, suddenly nothing else seems so important.  So rejoice with me. They were lost, but now they’re found.  And my freezer is filling with vegetables.  Kill the fatted fiddlehead, let’s celebrate!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Pride

“Mom, I put deodorant on today.”  My eight year old announced when he came through the door on Friday afternoon.

“Oh, good, honey… What kind?” I asked, wondering if he’d grabbed my stick or my husband’s off the shelf that morning.

“The best smell in the world – beef jerky!” He announced proudly.  He watched my mouth open and close as no sound escaped, and continued brightly, “I chewed it and then rubbed it under my arms.  It’s irresistible!!”

I let my breath out through my teeth.  “Ahh… well, we’ll get you some real deodorant this week.  Then you won’t have to be so… irresistible.

It wasn’t till I walked away and digested his words that I wondered what he’d done with the jerky after using it for his creative purposes…

My list of parenting failures is extensive.  Not only did my oldest smell like garlicky rotten meat, but my toddler rubbed yogurt all over his shirt. My four year old in the wheelchair thinks it’s cute to answer every stranger’s genial hello with a growl.  My six year old is addicted to sugar.  My seven year old finished his dreaded handwriting assignment, then balled it up and tried to eat it in protest. The three month old can’t seem to unplug the painful blocked milk duct through nursing.  And I won’t even tell you I hid in the bathroom to surf Facebook and I realized mice had visited the pasta after I threw it in the boiling water and I forgot to pray and I threw a tantrum about my super small house.  I failed.  And that was just today.  I’m convinced all the pretty and perky moms around me must roll their perfectly made up eyes and gently steer their clean obedient children with white shoes in the opposite direction from this disheveled mom and her motley crew whining in mismatched puddle boots.

I feel like a victim.

Of course, there are some days when I have my ducks lined up in a cute row behind me.  Some days I remember to neither wear white nor black so the dirt smudges, pizza, kid snot and baby drool don’t show quite so well.  Some days a child will read a whole chapter book from his school list without it being assigned, or do a chore without prodding.  Some days they share something other than just germs.  Some days they just want to play with ice cubes rather than something expensive that requires mommy to use any glue or patience.  Some days I not only make a meal plan but follow it.  Some days they eat it too.  Some days I remember I have a husband.  Some days I brave Wal Mart with six kids and a wheelchair and win.  Some days nobody cries.  Not even me.

And I feel like a supermom.

But for my own sake and yours, don’t treat me like either. Both are pretty little lies. From the pit.

If you ever notice me acting like either option, please pull me out of the bathroom where I’m hiding. And take away the empty bag of chocolate.  Hand me a stiff drink of coffee and a Bible and remind me of the servant in Luke 17.  He worked all day in the fields.  When he came in, naturally, he was tired and hungry.  But it was still his duty to make sure his master was fed and attended to before he could rest himself.  This feels uncannily familiar.  I’d like to think this is unfair.  Wouldn’t he be justified to feel like a victim having to do so much every day? And shouldn’t he be rewarded if he did manage to work a long day and continue on through the evening?

No.  He is doing simply what is expected.  Neither more nor less.  The master knows his capabilities.  He furnishes his tools.  He assures the servant of a good meal and sufficient rest when the work is done.  He doesn’t feel sorry for him.  He doesn’t give him a medal for simply doing his daily work.  I don’t know why I’m saying he.   This is personal.

The comment I hear most often is from someone shaking their head murmuring, “You sure are busy!”  As if that’s the most piteous thing in the world.  Granted, I don’t have a lot of downtime.  I can’t tell you the last time I watched a movie or went aimlessly shopping or even found time to blog or shower without some little person popping shamelessly in asking for something.  I’m not a victim because of that.  I have been given great gifts and the responsibility that comes along with them. Throwing pity parties and allowing others to bring cake and allow me to wallow in it is gross.  Is it really so negative to have a full life?  That’s a lie.  From the pit.

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no looking through rose colored glasses here

But to feel like I am somehow capable of raising another six souls to be both smart and wise, both gentle and strong, both quick and careful, both pure and prepared, both confident enough to cook their own goose and yet willing to eat humble pie when justly served- who do I think I am?!?  This work is hard.  No matter how much I love these grubby little creatures that share my DNA, this job is beyond me. Maybe, just maybe, if I had a PhD in nutrition, kinesiology, medicine, teaching, engineering, homemaking, and child psychology – and my kids fit into preconceived boxes – maybe if I could function on an hour of sleep a day, maybe if I had a thousand years, and a maid, and chauffeur, individual tutors, the latest medical interventions, wings, eyes in the back of my head, a mansion, lightning reflexes, sage wisdom, understanding in rocket science, patience, and the ability to see the future- maybe then, I could do this motherhood thing pretty well. But I’m not God. I royally mess this gig up.  Daily.  To think I’m up to this is – say it with me – a lie.  From the pit.

No. I am what I am by the grace of God.  That deserves neither pity nor pride.  I am pushed to the limits, though I often find in the pushing that I go further than I would have taken myself.  That’s not a bad thing.

Beef jerky deodorant, on the other hand…

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