Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there was a girl. She loved to cook. She loved to eat. Se loved to dine.

When the girl got married, she lovingly cooked dinner for her husband, nearly every night. She delighted in making grocery lists and menus. She tried new dishes and experimented with different ingredients every week.

And dare I say, she was a fabulous cook? Her meals were delicious, rich, and enjoyable. And each stir, chop, baste and broil -- done with love and care. Not only did she love the food she worked with, she loved serving it and watching others enjoy it.

She enjoyed eating too! Soon, she became schooled in wines and how to pair them with food, and she delighted in pouring a glass to sip and savor while eating a lovely meal with her husband or whomever she had cooked for.

The secret that the girl kept to herself (most of the time), was that cooking was never work for her; never did it feel like a chore. When life got her down, or minor stressors of the day wore her out, she cooked. When she was sad, or feeling lonely, she cooked. When she was bored, or needed a creative outlet, she cooked.

In about 9 years, this "foodie" girl would be a mother to 4 young children. She'd always longed to be a mommy, to have babies with the love of her life; and she was living her dream.

But a love for cooking and babies do not coexist. They simply cannot. She did not know this. She still tries to make menus, between scoldings and naps. But most of the time no menu is made; and new recipes are no longer a luxury. She abides by what is tried and true. Even so, no meal is made and eaten laudably. The little diners voice their concerns and discontent without hesitation. They are not intrigued by delicate herbs, and they don't seem to appreciate the sear of the meat. Don't they know, color is flavor? Or is color instead poison, and she was the one who had been misinformed?

Once upon a time, wine was an intentional addition to a meal. Now, a glass is poured while the cooking ensues, as the baby pulls her legs and cries to be held. She doesn't take the time to swirl and smell, instead she sips...sips...sips some more, and cuddles the baby after the pan is deglazed and the butter is no longer spatting. Cooking has become a mixture of stress and fear. Fear of kids getting burned, stress that the meal will burn while she races to save the baby from consuming the cat's food, more fear as the little ones make loud noises upstairs and she worries for their safety as the food sizzles and she must choose between overdone root vegetables and her children.

She still loves to cook. If you ask her, she will say so. But cooking is not what it used to be, and neither is eating. She serves all, makes a quick plate, then there is a call for drinks, and she gets the drinks too. They don't care whether their milk pairs well with their pasta. She finally sits, maybe nurses her baby while gingerly balancing a bite over her child (fear -- is it okay to eat hot food over a baby's head?) and into her hungry mouth.

Her husband, the love of her life, is always pleased with the meal, but often adds extra salt. And she wonders if it was because she had to fish cat food from the baby's cheek when she would have otherwise been testing the dish for flavor. But all is well, because she always gets a kiss, and a thank you, and a compliment. He knows it's harder now, than it used to be. He remembers, too, the romantic meals with ambiance and eye contact. But he's grateful that she still cooks, and she still tries to get creative when she otherwise might be calling for take-out, because she knows something...

One day the kids will be grown, and cooking will be easy and maybe fun again, and romantic meals may not be so hard to come by. And the babies will be gone. And there will be no more complaints from picky palates; but there will also no longer be silly giggles, and baby snuggles, and washing little hands, and a sense of accomplishment when they all liked dinner and ate it. And life will be quiet again. And cooking will be fun again. But the kids will be gone.

And the Once Upon a Time Girl will be older, and the story of the past will be the story of how once dinner was complicated, and cooking was a struggle, and babies were under foot, and life was crazy and equally wonderful. And she will miss it. So all the mess, and stress, and fear, and ungratefulness, and under-seasoned entree, and balancing of baby and bite, it's all worth it.

Because this is her life, this is her dream come true.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Three Girls and The Boy

We call him "The Boy." Even the girls do it now.

After three beautiful baby girls, I never thought we'd have a boy. If you read back in my blog entries, you will find a post on my "gender disappointment" upon finding out we were having our third daughter, Ivey. Our crazy, wild, amazing Ivey-girl. We love her.

Still, it took some finesse, convincing my husband we could have one more. Just ONE. Four kids would be it, I promised. Still, Ivey was well past her 3rd birthday when we conceived. A four year gap wasn't what I'd had in mind, but having the girls smooshed into existence within a three-year time frame was busy. Very busy. And tiring.

And as much as I wanted him, a son, a boy for my husband, a brother for my daughters... AS MUCH AS I LONGED FOR IT... I knew there would always be something else, who knew what, that I would also want, that I would beg for, that I would be sure would make me truly happy. It's a horrible, but all too familiar cycle that we humans insist on putting ourselves through.

I didn't want to admit I could really think that way, but I knew it was true. And before we had or attempted to have our little fourth being, I knew I had to be okay with a girl. Not just okay, but ready, willing, wanting another girl. I would not go into this pregnancy like the last one. I would not allow myself to grieve a girl.

And so I prayed. Prayer is often not for the One we pray to, as much as it's a way for our own hearts to settle; a way for us to love Him and so love ourselves. A way for us to show willingness to be changed.

So I prayed that I would have a baby. Not a boy, or a girl, just a baby. God knew my heart. I could not deceive Him, even if I'd tried. And my wants changed.

I became grateful. I saw my girls, and the joy they brought, and the love they shared, and the differences they each brought to our world, and I knew I'd be happy with another. Another PERSON. People are mysterious, and amazing, and unique, and that God has allowed us to make them just blows my mind.

But this time, we had that boy. And you know what? He isn't the end-all. I'm not "complete" with him  because he's a boy. I love him so much that it hurts -- because he's my baby.

And part of me is a little angry at the stranger in the grocery store for making that insightful, albeit thoughtless,

comment: "Three girls and one boy! You finally got your boy!"

Although I know it's just a sideways congratulations, I always take a peek at my 7-year-old, just to make sure she's okay. I never, ever want my girls to think we had to just deal with them till we got a boy, or that we kept trying till we got what we really wanted all along. I want them each to understand how loved they are, all of them, Declan too. Not for being boys or girls, but for being our children.

And believe it or not, when I now see a newborn baby girl, I miss it. I miss my baby girls. They will always hold a special spot in my imperfect heart because it was those girls that made me this mom. My little loves. My gifts. And now my little bonus gift is here, and life is not complete or perfect, it just goes on. And parenting continues, and newborns steal our sleep, and frustrating days still come and threaten sanity.

But we are a family. And I like it here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Being Mother Gothel

My 5 year old, Emmy, loves Rapunzel. The movie Tangled is her absolute favorite. She's been obsessing about her October birthday with a lot of chatter surrounding her costume for Halloween and which new Rapunzel dress she wants to buy from the Disney store. She knows her stuff.

That's why I knew she had thought very carefully about this proposal she made me last night: "Mommy! For Halloween, you should be Mother Gothel! You would be a great Mother Gothel!"

With trepidation I invited her to tell me more about her great idea...

"Because, when you're mad, you look like her and you're just like her!"

Remember, she's very excited about this. Not at all trying to insult me, just trying to find the perfect Halloween costume. Bless her little heart.

But I'm a little horrified. Just a little. And sad that my daughter thought I could easily impersonate the evil villain-mother in her favorite Disney movie.

I tried to be really excited about her wonderful plan, but inside I was a a little upset. Obviously.

I went through a process of anger, then defensiveness, then acceptance. Of course I'm Mother Gothel. She's the only present mother in that whole film. Its mother Gothel who's in the thick of it! She may only keep Rapunzel around for her youth-inducing locks, but Rapunzel is not hurting for anything that I can tell. She has art supplies, baking ingredients, pretty dresses, and who is buying all the hair brushes and de-tangling hair products?? Mother Gothel, that's who.

So lets look at this realistically. Aside from having very selfish motives, are Mother's reactions really all that terrible?

I would probably get mad too if my daughter ran away with a guy she just met.

I would probably have an annoyed expression if my daughter asked me the same question over and over again, expecting that I would have changed my mind after saying "no" a zillion times.

I would also be reduced to a shriveled, writhing heap if my daughter chopped off all her beautiful long hair.

Just kidding on that last one. But it wouldn't be the best day ever.

So really, what mom hasn't at one point or another felt a little like Mother Gothel? Having those reactions doesn't make us the villain, it makes us the mom. I know we'd like to think we will always be calm and in control and would never behave like a Disney villain, but chances are, if you're a parent, you will find your limits tested. You will find that some days you're identifying with the villain, and sometimes with the loving, beautiful queen with a generous soul and a kind heart.

This week I may remind my sweet Emmy of Mother Gothel; but next week I'm betting I swing around to Fairy Godmother status.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Make Something Monday

It's summer (yay?), and like any mostly organized mother of 4, I've called upon the Pinterest gods for help. And The Lord God. Pinterest gives me practical suggestions, and Jesus gives me peace for my soul. Also a win. Anyway, here's the gem of a "schedule" I found to help guide me while the kids are home all day expecting me to entertain and amuse them:


Have you seen those schedules that plan out every minute of every day, starting at 8:00am and ending at bedtime? Yeah, I didn't "pin" anything like that. It's summer, not prison. 

So I started this weekly guide on Monday. It was "Make Something Monday" and I had already told my eldest about my plan to do this daily rhyming schedule thing, so it was a go. Because this kid forgets nothing. I've had past hopes that she would, but alas, no such luck.

For Make Something Monday I decided to set myself up for failure and teach my 4, 5, and almost 7-year-old girls how to do the basic knit stitch. As you can imagine, this did not go as planned. I started each girl out with a ball of pretty scrap yarn and a set of bamboo needles. It ended with me telling them just to squish the yarn in their hands and feel how soft it was. Then my 5 year old decided to pretend to knit, and she enjoyed that for about a minute. And in the end I had dowloaded a pattern for a small chameleon lizard because someone decided her green yarn reminded her of Pascal from Tangled and I should knit her one.

Then, just because I didn't want Make Something Monday to be a complete fail, I made this:


I ate that missing piece of course. It was the only way. I have to test these things. Also, please cover your chocolate cake when you put it in the refrigerator. As you can see here, I didn't do that. Probably because my infant was crying, or I was eager to eat cake, or for some other reason I'm not sure of. Later on I did cover it, because it had started to dry out (obviously).

Stay tuned for "Take a Trip Tuesday," it's sure to be epic!