Sunday, September 30, 2012

Riches and raisins

I've almost found the table,
I've nearly found the floor.
There's just a mound of toys and shoes
Between me and the door.

The baby isn't napping,
The brothers bicker and whine.
The witching hour is on us now,
But supper won't be on time.

I hope that was a raisin
Baby just found on the rug.
Perhaps it stands to reason
That he has a stomach bug.

Desitin beneath my nails -
Call it my french manicure.
A bean leaf from the garden
Also adds to my allure.

I'd order in a pizza
But the budget's come and left.
We sigh and say we'll live on love
But sometimes feel bereft.

The house isn't always happy,
It isn't always fun.
I'm tired, I grump, I pass the buck -
And my family bears the brunt.

I'm elbow deep in dishes now;
My young blessings are in bed.
"May this cup pass from me" I pray -
But he puts it in the sink instead.

Still I'm fairly certain
It's worth the struggle and heck.
Small souls - more real than currency -
Love doesn't pay by check.

Rich indeed by measurement
Forgot by the common earth,
My little jewels in camouflage
Are great and timeless worth.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rise and Fall of the Third Bread Loaf

I put the bread in the oven to rise.
It was supposed to save me time.
Often it works well - slightly warm with the oven light on, safe from poorly aimed nerf gun bullets, in position to start baking without any jostling.
The ONLY thing that can go wrong is that I forget to turn the oven on to bake about 40 minutes later.
You get one guess what went wrong.

Well, about an hour and twenty minutes - and a meal, basic cleanup, and a gentle shake of the baby to get all the rice out of his shirt folds - later, I remembered the rising bread.  A harried look in the oven told me the yeast had indeed done its job.  The wonderful combination of home-ground flour, real maple syrup, butter and salt within those four bread pans had melded into a huge dome of yeasty goodness in the oven.  And then it had fallen, oozing over the sides.  Dejected and abandoned.  Ignored in its prime.  I started muttering unpleasantly under my breath.
Well, I wrenched the oven temperature up, growling about the my horrid lack of multitasking ability.  Dutifully, the carbon dioxide was released and the gluten structure was changed into a solid.  But I couldn't reverse the yeast's immutable time schedule.  That ship had already sailed.
It was supposed to be our bread for the week.  Our french toast bread.  Our grilled cheese sandwich bread.  Our fresh from the oven with a healthy clump of butter bread.  Our cheaper than store bought bread.  Our homemade good bread.
It least it smelled good.  No, it smelled great.  I think heaven will have whiffs of fresh baked bread wafting through its bright streets.  And there, you will be able to eat it and not worry if it goes straight to your thighs.  Here, it was little more than tantalizing aromatherapy, but it looked miserably inappropriate to release such a delightful scent.  Heaven was not the place that came to my mind when I looked at it.

The pain - au bon pain.

I pulled the kids out of the bath.  I ran downstairs and pulled the deflated bread balloons from the oven. I ran back upstairs and got everyone in pajamas.  (Hint - this is how mommas can stay slim.)  They cheerfully tromped downstairs, not responsible for a anything bigger than a matchbox car.  Mom, who felt at the moment like she was responsible for the great calamity of household maintenance gone awry, glowered as she gathered up wet towels to mop the bathroom floor.  This staple of supreme homemaking - fresh wheat bread - was proof of mom's supreme inabilities.  Mom grumbled to herself in the third person and stepped on grains of rice on the dining room floor, arms full of wet towels and sandbox-humbled clothes.

"I waaant some!"  The three year old begged.  He grabbed a warm loaf and ran into the living room with the six year old at his heels.  "Ouch! Hot!"  He dropped it on the rug and ran back in.  "Can I have butter on it?"
"Can I have my own whole bread?"  The five year old protectively patted a loaf he'd singled out.
"My! My! Maamamamammamamamaa!" The littlest brother demanded, stretching around the bigger boys to touch the precious treasure.

This waste of yeast and time, this glut of extra dishes to wash, this afternoon project that highlighted my ineptitude, was to them - still bread.
"Ok, ok," I pulled out a bread knife.  It was depressing to cut my absurdly failed monument to health and happiness.  They crowded around for a bedtime snack as I squashed it down with my hand and hacked in.  Feeble crumbs tumbled from the loose slices as I sawed away.  It wasn't pretty and I wasn't about to let it to pretend to be.


I saw butter smear across the little one's clean cheek, posting crumbs by his earlobe.  The five year old stuffed in a slice and reached for another.  "Mmm." came the muffled satisfaction behind the mouthful.  The three year old's slice disappeared as a chubby hand swiped it off his plate.  A scuffle ensued, more butter imprinting the linoleum.  "Mo-om!  He stole mine!" The indignant older child protested as his young antagonist squealed, spewing greasy crumbs. The six year old draped his lanky little self over the the rocking chair to observe the rioting below him, chewing languidly.  I buttered another and handed it off.  They quieted, and munched contentedly.  After a few more buttery minutes, I wiped them down and shooed them off to bed.
They say one man's trash is another man's treasure.  I saw a mess of failed motherhood.  My children, however, went happily to bed with warm full tummies, sucking butter-smooth thumbs, breathing deeply the lingering aroma of warm wheat.

It is humbling to admit my inadequacy as a homemaker.  It is further humbling to be taught by kids with a vocabulary of a few dozen words that I'm looking at life from the wrong angle.  Several feet closer to the ground, the bread looked a lot more appealing, apparently.  And my reputation as good mommy was still preserved.  As if they even measure me by what I do.
Sometimes, my world is far more pleasant without the bifocals of age and reason.  Sometimes I'm so glad they see beyond my mistakes to the wholesome presliced goodness that my heart longed to give them.
Sometimes, love is in the mess of crumbs and butter.
I'll contemplate it while I mop the floor.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Other Brother

"Who's your friend?" I ask as they rush past, cheeks flushed with wind and the exhilaration of fighting bad guys.
"He's visiting his grandma down the street." Blurts the oldest, the self-appointed spokesman, as he rummages through the gun box for un-chewed-by-the-baby ammunition.
"He has a transformer!" the next child chimes in with the most pertinent news.  "It can't transform very much, but it's nice.  I bet it costed forty dollars!"  He adds in awe.
"Wow.  Nice"  I can't help smile at their enthusiasm.  "What's his name?"
"Don't know."  They throw the words behind them as they select their plastic weapons and hurry out the door.  "We keep forgetting to ask."

Later that night, we pray before bed.  "Thanks for all the boys on the street." I say, truly grateful for local playmates that I didn't personally have to birth.
"Yeah, thanks for boys!" Shiloh interrupts to agree.  He lists several names.  "And thank You for the Other Brother with the transformer.  He is nice, God."
I smile in the dark.
The new friend, undefined by where he comes from, how he dresses, or what he plans to be when he grows up, is simply welcomed in, handed a gun, and made an official part of the troops for an hour before bath time.
How like God, who welcomes us to be part of the family, no matter who we are.  Because it doesn't matter.  Just come.

Thank You, Lord, for the other brother.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

House of Treasures

We got the call this afternoon.
He, guitar in hand, quietly walked outside and strummed to his thoughts on the deck as the afternoon sun faded.
I, surrounded by life and peanut butter, tried to comprehend death.
I wonder what life is for her now, on the other side of this fallible one.

We saw her, the boys and I did, less than a week ago.  We do not see her often, but she murmured the boys' names.  Her great grandchildren.  Her legacy.
They shyly handed her construction paper cards, folded askew and stained with vivid Crayola colors.
"That flower is you."  My oldest explained, stabbing at a roundish circle on a spindly stem.  Drawing is not his strongest subject in school.
"The little flower is me."
She smiled wanly.
Another son fidgeted, uncomfortable on several levels.  "I gotta pee."  He implored me.
We retreated to the relative haven of the public bathroom.  He sat down, feet dangling, and sighed in relief.
"I don't like it when the old ladies touch me."  The wheelchairs had swarmed my bright little troop the moment they entered the doors.  Many wrinkled faces broke into grins at the sight of the pudgy baby face and fresh young skin.  Apparently they were irresistible to several of the residents.
I stared at the old chipped sink, imagining the hordes of germs on it, and pondered.
"Those ladies are old and tired and some of them are sick.  You are full of life.  Maybe when they see you and touch you, they feel a little more life.  You are being good to share that with them."
His young mind struggled with being so close to this foreign concept, the pervading oldness.
"But when they get too old, then what?  What happens to their alive part inside?"
"Well..."  I could see his little feet swinging, no hurry to leave, needing time to process the heaviness put before him.
"Well, Jesus said He was going to heaven to make a new place for our alive parts.  He said He would trade all our bad and dying parts for His good and living parts.  So your alive part can get a good new body when it's time."
I've explained all this before, but finally the question niggled in his own mind, and finally desired an answer.
A cover slammed, I heard the flush.
"Is the alive part of me the talking part?"  He straightened his pants as I guided him to the sink.  He reached on tiptoe for the soap.  He needed a boost to get the last few inches. This made-for-adults world where he's trying to fit wasn't comfortable for either of us.
"Yes, the part of you that thinks and talks from inside you is the real part of you."
"I don't want a new body!"  He fumbled with the faucet with soap-slick hands.  I tried to help without getting the slickness all over me.
"You don't need a new body yet.  But the new one will never get booboos or get tired or sick.  The new one will never have to get potty trained.  I think it will be a good trade."
He jumped to snag a paper towel.  Missed.  I grew impatient and grabbed a handful.  "Here," I shoved them into his drippy hands.  "Finish up.  The ladies out there miss you."
He sighed, but followed me out.

We visited more with their great grandmother.  She seemed tired, worn out, but never complained to us.  The children danced around the piano carelessly.  But life was exhausting her.  The boys made sure she had her cards.  We said goodbye.

Today I told them she was gone.  I don't know much about death, not yet.  It certainly isn't easy to explain to preschoolers.
"Oh." Said the oldest.  "So her body's not hurting her anymore."
The other boy said, "She stopped needing to talk?"
"Yes." I answered simply, grabbing another by the shoulder before he bolted out the door.  "She doesn't need that body anymore."
"Ok." They seem satisfied.  "Can we have a cookie?"  They are so busy with living, pain and death are incomprehensible.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
Proverbs 24:3-4

I look at them around the supper table an hour later, squabbling over who has the longest caterpillar of corn kernels cut from the fresh cob.  Her legacy, I think again.  The treasures of my house.  They wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for her.  I am eternally grateful.

God knows how to build a good house.