Today’s post title might have you thinking I’m craving a big ol’ leg of lamb or rack of lamb– perhaps for an Easter feast. I’m not actually a lamb-eater, however, and the title has more to with the weather than food cravings.
What’s that they say? “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”? Well, I am READY for that lamb! The Northeast has had a very snowy, very cold winter and it’s time to move on, I say! (Of course, I say that as I sit on my couch surrounded by children who are hanging out during yet another two hour delay due to trecherous roads… but I digress.)
Anyway, in the meantime, while I dream of sunnier, balmier days, we gotta eat, right?
So here’s the plan:
B–Cereal, Grapes, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Ham, Egg, Cheese, & Fried Potato breakfast skillets, Fruit
D–Burger King. True story: a BK opened in our town over six months ago. Since then, our children have thought it would be the most amazing thing to get to go there sometime. So this was it. More truth: they wound up enjoying the paper crowns far more than the food, but they still enjoyed the experience.
D–Pizza! (I’ve been out of yeast for two weeks. I refuse to buy those pricey packets, so I’m waiting on a friend with a Costco membership to nab me some. In the meantime, I’ve been making a yeast-less crust that I’m working on tweaking to make the family happy. I’m getting there! I’ll share if I ever perfect it. )
I’m not one to rush off with a forgotten item. I’m not one to do a procrastinator’s project for him or her. I do not flinch if someone must wear a less desirable garment because he or she failed to take care of the preferred one.
I am the mom who, when one of my children forgot– for the second night in a row– to bring home a spelling list, sent in a note stating bluntly that I offered no excuses for the behavior and to please feel free to have the child complete the work during any free time, such as recess or the Valentine’s exchange.
The teacher caught up with me in the hallway and expressed gratitude for my note. That forgetful child of mine? Hustled to work hard and get that assignment done when fun stuff was on the line. And I’m okay with that.
* * * * * * * * * *
And so on Sunday, I found myself standing there with my girls, A. up at the altar, remembering that it was “Prayer Friend Sunday.” This is the Sunday when our First Communicants bring a special card they’ve filled out to Mass and get to choose a person (from those willing) to pray for them as they prepare for their First Communion day in May.
This year, like last, I am the parent of a First Communicant.
This year, list last, I gave my child the card and offered reminders to fill it out and put it somewhere it wouldn’t be forgotten.
Last year, this was no problem.
This year, I knew she had forgotten.
At first, I got a nervous and upset feeling in my stomach– I really, really don’t like forgetting things. It’s kind of like being late, for me. It’s not common and I feel queasy and icky when it happens.
Then, I felt kind of annoyed. I mean– I had done my part, hadn’t I? It’s not like I expect these little people to do and remember everything on their own! Surely, she could have just listened when I told her to put it with her coat so she wouldn’t forget!
I leaned over and murmured, “Did you remember your Prayer Friend card?”
And I saw the panic in her eyes.
* * * * * * * *
Now, some might say that the panic was merited, that it’s an example of those “natural consequences” about which I spoke earlier.
But, as I walked up the aisle with my little First Communicant– the only one at the entire 7:30AM Mass– I felt her bird-slim shoulder tremble a bit under my hand. Father Larry smiled warmly at her and asked the congregation who would be willing to pray for my C.
About one hundred and seventy-five hands shot in the air.
The trembling grew. The panic increased. And I realized something–
C. is so small. She is a little fish in a big pond when she’s there. Added to that, her vision challenges make that sea of raised hands difficult to even process.
She didn’t need to feel added pressure over a piece of paper she forgot simply because she was too busy making a homemade card that read, “I love Jesus because He loved me first” (and featured an illustration of her high-fiving Jesus) to give the older man who sits in front of her.
And, so, I quietly told Father that we had mistakenly left the card at home. It was an error very easily remedied when he simply handed her the sample one he was holding.
I felt her narrow hands grow slippery in mind and watched her narrow eyes dart around the room as she attempted to chooose someone, anyone, and be done with this whole charade.
* * * * * * * *
In the end, she chose the older man who sits in front of her. The one for whom she’d made the hand-drawn card.
In the end, they ate donuts together after Mass and had a good chat.
I’d say that’s better than any Prayer Friend card.
They’re inconvenient, these New England winters. The snow… it just FALLS. Sometimes in heaps and piles. Added to that, days and days can go by with cloudy skies and low temps and the piles of white stuff go nowhere. Well, nowhere but UP when, inevitably, another winter storm rolls in.
Winter is just such a demanding season, isn’t it? While summer calls to me, “Yank your hair in a ponytail, slide on the flip-flops and roll! We can go ANYWHERE together!”, winter murmurs in quieter tones, “Don’t forget a hat. And eight gloves for the hands of you and your little ones. Step slowly– it’s icy. Plan your trip carefully– only the main roads will likely be treated.” So much needs to be done before a simple trip to church or the store can be accomplished.
I am a lover of the light, a lover of the quick. Give me sunburned cheeks and legs scraped by brambles over wind-chapped lips and ankles turned on slippery walkways.
But as I take in the world around me– this New England winter that, while colder than usual, is not really that atypically snowy– and, if I let it, I feel my mind slow down. I am able to choose the errands that really matter. We’re never without something to fill our bellies, but if some silvery roots get a little longer than I’d like on the top of my head? So be it. Our Sunday suppers with my parents have been fewer and farther between, but, when we DO manage to get together? It feels all the more special and we can just enjoy one another’s company without feeling the need to come up with grand plans of any kind.
It’s inconvenient to be asked to plan so much, to prepare so much, and, frankly, to rest with my own thoughts so much. Jobs I think should be wildly simple require careful orchestration when the world is covered in a couple feet of white.
This inconvenience, this demand… it stretches me. It challenges me. At the end of the day, it helps me grow.
It was about four years ago that I first even heard the concept of chocolate pancakes and my mind was blown. Chocolate chip? Yeah, sure. Everyone knows about those. But… chocolate? That was a new idea for me!
Nonetheless, I never made them. I sort of filed away that information and then kept right on making other sorts of pancakes (, like Gingerbread, for example.)
This past Saturday, my husband had to work and my son was at my parents’ house, which left just me and my ladies to have a late breakfast. As I arranged berries and poured pink grapefruit juice into pretty faceted glasses, I thought it’d be a good time to play around with my own version of a chocolate pancake. And so these were born.
I’ve become a broken record with my “goodness, it’s so BUSY!” mantra, but it really does feel that way. I’m not complaining– it’s all “good busy,” which is a true blessing. It’s races and gymnastics and church school and teaching and concerts and dances and special-events kind of busy. These are all lovely and WANTED things in our lives! Still, a little planning goes a long way. And you know what I’ve (re)discovered? Sometime the best plan is to involve a whole lot of “old standbys.”
Here’s how we’re putting that into practice–
B– Eggs w/ Cheese, Toast, Apples
D– Large 1/2 Cheese, 1/2 Black Olive pizza, Medium Broccoli pizza
B– Double Chocolate Pancakes, Berries, Pink Grapefruit Juice (<– this was a “just the girls” breakfast!)
L– leftover pizza (<– when A’s not here for pizza night, there are LOTS of leftovers )
Technically, I walked into the first grade classroom to provide reading and writing support for two specific students. Knowing that it was the day of all the Valentine’s Day parties, however, I didn’t really expect to be doing a lot of academic work. I was correct.
The room was FULL of extra help, to be honest, as nearly a half-dozen mommies, plus a few younger siblings, swarmed the classroom to offer assistance with various crafts and activities. The room was abuzz with excitement and it made me smile.
As I counted out blue, brown, black, and purple crayons– four of each– and placed them in cups, I listened to one mom compliment another on the elaborate Valentine’s bouquets she had made for the teachers. I’m not going to lie to you– they WERE impressive. Artfully arranged candy bars were alternated with sparkly doo-dads and luxurious winter skin- and lip-care items, all tucked snugly and adorably in an exquisitely wrapped coffee can.
The crafty mom’s cheeks pinked a bit as she smiled and fluffed blown-out blonde hair over her heart-bedecked red scarf.
“That’s what I LOVE about Pinterest!” she gushed. “It’s the great equalizer.” She beamed a bright smile and turned to fuss over her daughter’s pink and red streamer-ribboned pigtails for a bit.
The mother who’d paid the compliment grinned back, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She hesitantly handed the teacher a hand-cut card that was sort of trapezoid-shaped and had three monkey stickers on it, plus a random foam truck. The crayon letters across it read, “Im banus fr U.”
The teacher accepted it with a soft smile. There was little doubt she loved it and was touched. The child who wrote that message worked long and hard to try to hear the letter sounds present in the words he wanted to write and his deliberate effort was obvious.
I have no doubt that mama was proud of her son’s work. I just hope it goes even beyond that…
That coffee-can bouquet was gorgeous and generous and a lovely gift. It was, no doubt about it, Pinterest-worthy.
But the card? Was perfect.
Sticky-fingered, gap-toothed grinned, tongue-stuck-out-with-effort kind of perfect.
I’ve spent a long time being angry at my mother-in-law now.
It’s not without reason.
I mean, let’s be perfectly clear– when we lost our fourth baby, she told us we were better off.
I feel confident saying that that was a terrible choice of words. It didn’t help matters that she never really apologized. And, furthermore, seeing how much it hurt my husband and drove him away from her, I felt rather justified in my bitter feelings toward her.
It’s been almost three years now.
Over these years, I’ve tried so hard to open my heart to forgive her. I’ve tried to rationalize her words and actions and make sense of them somehow. I’ve tried to “explain” them to myself in a way that would somehow make it acceptable and okay. And I was utterly unsuccessful.
But this, I think, is the problem. Too often, we think that, in order to forgive, we need to accept and come to terms with the other person’s actions. I honestly think this stems from our conditioned response to say, “It’s okay” immediately following the words, “I’m sorry.”
But what if it’s NOT okay? What if those words would be utterly false?
Well, then, we shouldn’t say them. If my mother-in-law were to, miraculously, offer up an apology one of these days, it would be disingenuous for me to say, “It’s okay.” Frankly, it’s not. I don’t actually think it’s ever okay to give that response to the loss of a precious child.
But, slowly, slowly, I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to wait for my heart to feel “okay” about it. Forgiving is a conscious action– it is a decision to cease being angry and resentful toward another for an error or offense. It is not a realization that you’re “over it.” It doesn’t need to be a warm, affectionate, glowing feeling. Sometimes it’s just saying, “You know what? I’ve spent enough time feeling angry and bitter about this and it hasn’t changed anything. I’m ready to put those feelings aside, so I can move forward.”
It’s too exhausting to stay mad about it, to be honest. I’m hurt. I’ve been hurt for years now. I truly can’t believe that she said that to her son. I can’t wrap my brain around what would make a mother utter that sentiment about her lost grandbaby.
But the good news is that I don’t need to. It’s not my job to figure out her motivation. It’s also not my job to decide it’s okay.
It’s my job to take care of myself and part of that includes releasing these emotions that bring me down and hurt my heart.
I’m sitting here, snuggled under a zebra-striped furry fleecy blanket, riding out yet another snowstorm. We’ve only been to school one Monday since the New Year, I think… and that day was an accelerated early dismissal day! (<– Translation: we got out at noon.) Next Monday is President’s Day so, even if we dodge a storm, we’ll still be off. Craziness!
Anyway, just for fun, I thought maybe we could talk about quirky clothing issues we have. I’m convinced that we ALL have them, and I think it normalizes it a bit to just be honest. Sometimes these are sensory and sometimes visual but, either way, they’re very real!
Here are five of mine:
Coat issues: I live in a state with a definite winter. You’re not going to get by just layering fleece and scarves around here. You need a proper jacket and, even better, a coat. Long wool is both pretty and practical and I’ve had my full-length camel hair coat since I was about 20! I love it. But here’s the thing– if even a CENTIMETER of that wool touches the skin of my neck? I lose my mind. Like, seriously go crazy. I’m distracted and bothered and I can’t even sit still to drive. I have such issues with this that if I see someone else with wool touching their bare neck? I have sympathy itching. It’s ridiculous.
Sleep issues: I wear tall-length fleece pants to bed in the winter, so you might think I like to be enveloped in coziness. On the contrary, while my legs are fleece-clad, I need my arms to be bare or I can’t sleep. Yep– polar fleece on the bottom, tank on the top. I am nuts.
Sleep issues, part 2: In the summer? I can’t stand pants or shorts. I only sleep in strappy cotton nightgowns. I told you I have issues. Moving on…
Shirt-length: I need shirts that are long. This is not because I have a long body. In fact, while my legs are very long, my body and arms are on the short side. Despite that fact, I buy my tops in talls or I wear dresses as shirts. I will not tolerate even upper thigh exposed in leggings and, no matter what type of bottom I wear, I cringe if I feel air against exposed rib, waist, or belly skin. This isn’t a modesty issue or even a matter of self-consciousness– it is purely sensory and it is enough to make me feel fidgety all over. I also really like sleeves that are actually too long for me– there’s something cozy about sweater cuffs around the base of my palms.
Shoe weirdness: I go from flip-flops to boots and back again. That’s really all I like to wear. I will admit that I now own a couple of more “normal” pairs of shoes that I wear when I teach, but I still love flip-flops and boots most of all.
I’m sure I have more. I’m guessing they’ll occur to me over the course of the day. I read this list and I feel ridiculous. But, at the same time, I know so many people who have their own little clothing quirks. My five-year-old, for example, is not picky about clothes at all, but she just doesn’t like wearing jeans. None of us really like turtlenecks. My husband hates the feel of sweaters, no matter the type of yarn. My best friend can’t tolerate the feel of flip-flops or thong sandals between her toes. We’re all still normal, functioning members of society!
I survived “Birthday Party Season”! Okay, in reality, I only have two children with winter birthdays– one Christmas Eve and one January. Still, I always feel so very overwhelmed with all the planning and arranging for their special days. Between family and friend parties and the “immediate family” celebrating we do on the actual day, it just seems like a LOT.
February brings with it some relief. We have no birthdays in our immediate family until June and the interim months tend to have only one niece or nephew birthday going on, too. Phew!
The other day, I decided I wanted to add muffins to the brunch menu. I did this very spontaneously, as I am apt to do, and started throwing ingredients together, because I know no other way to bake.
Initially, I’d thought I might make some sort of peanut butter muffin and I even googled such. I was unimpressed with what I saw, however, and quickly abandoned that idea. My ideas landed on my little jar of almond butter, however, and an idea blossomed. It wound up being a very a tasty idea.