dear younger me.3

I remember you in high school, wearing your short skirts and checking him out in Mr. Schrotenboer’s tenth grade algebra class.  He was adorable, you knew it, he didn’t, which made him even more adorable.  Your first date he will wear white girbaud jeans and a shy grin and you will melt.  You will stand at the door after he drops you off, wearing a stupid grin and whispering to yourself that you are gonna marry that boy someday.  You know almost nothing of romance or sex or how marriage even works but you are so sure he is the one.  Can I let you in on a little secret?  He is the one.  You will grow up and you will marry that boy and you will live happily ever after.  Except when you don’t.  Because there will be seasons when you wonder if it was a terrible mistake and you should have dated around more, held out for something better.  Lies.  He is something better, only you won’t always feel that way.

The shine is still on the penny in high school.  You’re playing at life without really having to live.  You imagine that you’ll both look the same, feel the same, act the same forever.  That this exciting thing that makes your skin vibrate will always do so and that the sight of him will always make you breathless.  Some days it will.  But there will come seasons when you only glance at him when he walks in the door, crying toddler hanging from your leg while you nurse the baby and stir the supper.  You will glance and nothing more.  There will come a season when you are so consumed by kids or anxiety or depression or work or or or that you will glance and nothing more.  You will look at pictures of the two of you in high school and you will long for those days of first kisses and stolen touch even as you lie in bed and ask him take his time but please don’t kiss you because you have an abscess on your gum and you don’t want him to burst your puss sack.  And had you said that to him in those first years of marriage he might have run for the hills, but twenty two years in he has seen you at your worst and has adored you there too.  He has watched you give birth four times and has born the brunt of your moodiness.  Nothing can faze this man.

Younger me, enjoy every cherry blossom-filled second of early dating because it is the sweetest, but know this: the rest is sweeter.  There will come a day when you honestly can’t remember a time you weren’t a pair.  You will roll over in the morning and look at your love and even though the years haven’t all been kind to either of you, you would make the same choice again.  And you do.  Every day of your marriage will be a re-choosing.  You will wake up, stumble into your bathroom, see the toothpaste on his sink and his whiskers on the counter and you will choose him again.  When he gives you the dreamiest earrings you’ve ever seen on Mother’s Day and his eyes are soft and liquid, you will choose him.  When he hold teeny babies in his strong arms and his eyes swim, you will choose him.  And when he hurts you deeply and you can hardly breathe for it, you will choose him.  Someday you will stand before Reverend John Guest, his English accent reverberating through the church, and you will promise to keep choosing this man for the rest of your life.  And even during those years when your children’s needs consume you both, you will know that choosing him is the best way to love them.  That they need to walk in on you making out in the kitchen sometimes.  That their security is wrapped up in finding you snuggling in bed on a Saturday morning and that they learn vital lessons about making it work when they hear you disagree and still respect and love one another.

Girl, you are making decisions now that will reverberate though the rest of your life.  This is a terrifying part of growing up: this adulting when you’re really just a baby, but he is one decision that is rock solid.  Together you will be rocked by six kids and two dogs and a keloid scar named Steve.   You will tear the house apart weekly, looking for a white blanket named black.  You will meet up in your closet and he will hold you while you cry bitter tears about one thing or another.  And you will hold those strong shoulders when he mourns his mom or the first time his son asks him about sex.  Your home will be sacred ground and a battlefield and a safe haven, all wrapped up and you will throw open your doors and welcome people in because what you’ve been given is grace upon grace, all heaped up and running over and you have only to look at the two of you to know it.   Young Megan, you know nothing now of sex and romance and marriage, but you will learn.

this is me being real.

test.

*written some weeks ago, but still making me weepy today.

Today we sat across from a table full of people in the conference room of our beloved elementary school, screen full of numbers and goals.  They were so kind, so tentative, explaining the testing process to us and how Maggie fared in each category.  She’s behind.  Universally behind and the numbers didn’t expose anything we didn’t know going into that room.  But they were so sweet about it, almost apologetic.  She tries so hard and is the sweetest girl, they said.  She makes everyone around her happy; she makes us all happy, they said.  And so they finished highlighting what we already knew: she is behind.  Just that.  She is.  Most of her categories showing her to be at a 3.5 year level.  They laid out the findings like wares at a market, wondering if we’d buy, wondering how we’d react seeing it in black and white.  They were so kind.

At the end of the test-result section of an IEP comes the what-are-we-going-to-do-about-it phase.  But first, there is a box to be filled in with parent’s concerns and reactions.  This must surely be when these dear teachers and test-givers brace themselves for backlash, questioning, tears even maybe.  This is probably not their favorite part.  And we, as the people who loved her best, didn’t disappoint with the tears.  Lip trembling and emotion written across my face, I looked at that screen and said this, “You must brace yourselves at this point in the IEP for parents to be sad or angry or argumentative.  We are none of those.  Because what you need to know is that four years ago, when we thought we were adopting a little girl with cleft lip and palate, our agency sent us her medical file with the directive to read it, meet with at pediatrician who can consult on it and interpret what it will mean before we committed ourselves to her.  And that file?  It contained a comprehensive report by an American doctor who reported that Maggie’s head size was not compatible with brain growth.  Who believed she would be in a semi-vegetative state and would never walk, talk, potty train or be experience any kind of measurable cognitive growth.  She recommended that Maggie not be placed for adoption, but would perhaps be better placed in an institution.  And then she sealed it with her signature.  And our dear friend, a pediatrician, sat on our deck that warm summer day, tears in her compassionate eyes and Maggies file in shaking hands and concurred.  She was broken to deliver this news to us, that was clear.  And we were broken to hear it, spent six agonizing days wrestling with the Holy Spirit about wether he had called us to adopt A child or THIS child.  And then we signed. And when they put her in our arms, limp and lifeless, no expression on that blank face, our worst fears were confirmed.  I spent the first three days we had her sitting in a chair in our hotel room, dribbling formula into her little bird mouth with a spoon because she was too weak to even suck, her teeny body lifeless in my arms. So those numbers up there on the screen?  They are a miracle. And as far as we are concerned, her life began when they handed her to us three and a half years ago, so frankly, your findings are spot on.  You say she is operating at the level of a three and a half year old? That is because, for all intents and purposes, she is a three and a half year old, this 28 pound five year old girl of ours.  Which means she is exactly where she is supposed to be.  We are thrilled.  We will always be thrilled with the numbers because we signed our names on a paper four years ago, locking her in as our girl, knowing that medical science saw her abilities as zero, her potential as zero, her life as zero.  Those numbers up there? Miracle.”

For those of you warrior parents who have spent this fall at those brutal IEP meetings hearing findings that made you ache, take heart in this truth: your child is exactly who they are supposed to be.  Just totally, fully who they are supposed to be.  And wether they are cognitively or socially or emotionally nearly half their bio age or leaps ahead, matters little.  What matters is that they are home and in your arms and that it is forever.  Which doesn’t make the day to day any easier, holy smokes it doesn’t, but let it soak into your heart that perhaps our goal here isn’t to raise Rhodes Scholars, but to welcome in sons and daughters.  That family is more precious than degrees and belonging will matter more than any letters they accumulate behind their names someday.  So you sit at your IEP meetings, looking at those numbers and you want to throw out some of your own.  Numbers like how many days you waited to bring this child home, wringing hands and heart as the time dragged on.  Or how many dollars were raised by a community as committed to bringing your child home as you did, even when giving cost them dearly.  Or how many beats per minute your heart beat as you sat in that room waiting for a first glimpse, your heart like a drum in your chest.  Or how many people dragged themselves out to the airport at all hours to welcome you home, you and your precious new one.  Or how many nights it’s been since you’ve had your bed to yourself, unoccupied by a child who is sure they will wake up tomorrow totally alone and it will all have been a dream. Those are the numbers that matter. And you are killing it.  You are.  So here’s to you, IEP parents.  And those without them.  You are doing the hard, beautiful work that you have been called to do.  And you. are. crushing. it.  Carry on, brave mamas and babas.  Carry on.

break 2.

It is day seven hundred and ninety two of Christmas break.  I have put six hundred miles, at least, on my car driving Smalls to and fro.  When I’m not driving I stand next to the dryer in the back hall and swap out towels and suits for snow clothes, everything smelling of ambition and chlorine.  I have made more lunches for more kids than I can count.  I made soup last night in a sixteen gallon pot.  This is no joke.  Everyone over 8 has had at least 2 sleep overs, so we’ve ticked that box and we are done.  We’ve only taken two mystery trips because there are only small pockets of time between driving. but we have crafted until our fingers are numb to make up for it.  There are Perler beads in every corner of our living spaces and in cleaning out the art cupboard last week I found twenty pots of paint I won’t let anyone use and several small children, who I have sent on their way with twenty dollars and our address so they can write when they get work. No one got geranium red finger nail polish on the counter in the kitchen.  No one also drew a smiley face on the bedroom wall and fed the dogs a cookie.

My Shipt shopper asked if I was having a party this morning when he delivered nearly four hundred dollars worth of  resupplies, stepping over dogs and boots.  At this point I would gladly let almost anyone take over.  You want to start a snap streak with Kim Jong Un?  Go for it, but only if the next sleep over can be at his house.  I leave everyone under 15 for a few minutes each morning to get teenager to practice, which they have every day of break because they hate parents.  During this time I turn the radio off and listen to myself breathe.  Smell the soup, blow the soup, smell the soup, blow the soup.  My favorite jeans ripped up the crotch this morning when I bent to pull kleenexes out of Baxter’s mouth because no one throws their used Kleenexes away if they can help it.  I intended to be buried in those jeans and since break is prolly going to kill me, you can see why this is problematic.  I ordered a new pair and then texted dan to let him know he can now bury me in my bathrobe and long johns because it’s nine degrees outside.  But he has to include a bra because I don’t want to meet Jesus without one.

By the time dan gets home tonight I will have brought kids to and from three sleepovers to practice twice, home from Cannonsburg and to the barn and back.  There will be nothing for dinner because I only have the energy to make nothing.  It’ll be fantastic and everyone will love it.  They will instagram about how good it tasted and how amazing their mama is.  Kim Jong Un will see and invite them for a visit and I will say yes because  they will learn how to work and have respect for authority.  They can come home when we have a new president who doesn’t brag about how big his button is.  In the meantime I will be sleeping and ignoring the dryer which will be empty and will smell good.

Next week everyone will be back at school and I will be rattling around in this house with just the pups and I will hate it.  Ok, mostly I will like it, but by Wednesday I will be missing my people and these sweet days of long johns and cousin chatter and messes made by happy Smalls.  I will ache to hear Abe’s voice speaking “Netflix” (net-palicks) into the remote and having it tell him no comprende.  I will try to make time to lay on the couch each afternoon for a bit and will miss little people asking if I can snuggle them.  I will make what I want for lunch and eat it alone.  Ok, this I will love but still.  These days, they are so long but fleeting.  We have three more days in which to suck the marrow out of Christmas break.  Bring it.

this is me being real.

break.

Last year we had a very short, one week Christmas break and we all groaned and complained and so they gave us two weeks.  Which we are calling Small Summer.  Even though it’s freezing and snowy and the pool is frozen solid.  Two weeks looms large at the start, but it’s swallowing us right up with it’s long days of hot cocoa and friends over and mystery trips.  Their favorite so far was treasure hunting, which it actually just antiquing with a fancy label.  I give them each a fiver and something to hunt for (a star! miniatures! something that glows!) and set them free with the warning that if they touch ANYTHING they will be wearing mittens for a week.  The teenagers love this.  The smell, the dust, the used everything. They love this so much they opted to stay in the car and snap about how dumb everything is.

And so break rolls along.  Lucy has worn her hat day and night for three days. Abe got a shirt with Mac n cheese on it for Christmas and hasn’t taken it off since. The tree came down the day after Christmas because by then I. am. over. it. and the kids used a can of gas and small matches to burn it in the yard yesterday.  Today no one has eyebrows and all evidence of Christmas is gone.  See ya.  Lucy had ten dollars burning a hole in her pocket and Peter discovered last night that I’d mistakenly bought crunchy peanut butter, which is the worst thing ever.  So I loaded kids up and took them for a late night Meijer run where I saw all my Shipt shoppers and wondered aloud about a branch of Shipt that involved people in green shirts coming to your house, picking up your kids and taking them shopping.  I would pay almost anything for that service.  Especially when someone has ten dollars to spend.  In aisles where nothing they want costs ten dollars. I nearly lost my soul.

The dogs continue to steal packages and run away.  Every Vos Small is outside as I type trying to earn ten bucks by finding the curtain hardware that was delivered yesterday.  It’s brass and beautiful and they must have loved it because they hid it well.  Also, they clearly have more bite strength than I give them credit for.  I have fed more kids this break than a soup kitchen and I’ve loved nearly every second of it.  If you are a social worker or work for CPS, Kindly stop reading.  Abe…he’s not nearly as disregulated as he normally is during the holidays.  But he has itchy balls.  And so his hands are constantly down his pants.  He is not our first child to engage in self-exploration.  Last time we followed the doctors directive to ignore it and let it run it’s course, which it did after years of embarrassing mishaps (oh gosh, he/she is doing it on stage! Not in church! I know it’s your company picnic, but Dr. Meier said not to shame him/her!).  Last time we followed the rules.  We will not make this mistake again.  So last night as I was shelving peanut butter and wiping sweat out of my bra, dan saw Abe, you know.  And so he responded with love and logic…”Abe, if you keep touching your penis it will come off and stick to your hand.  Then when break is over and you go to the cafeteria, you will ask the lunch ladies for a cheeseburger and they will see your penis hand and say, ‘Gross! No food for you!!'” I found this a very healthy way to handle the situation and have noticed he has kept his hands out of his pants since.  Also, he no longer likes cheeseburgers.  For those of you concerned that we actually said these words to our adopted son who has food issues, not to worry; he laughed as hard as we did.

Welcome back CPS and social workers.  For all you mamas who are planning fun activities every day-you are killing it.  For you mamas who are drooling on the couch, sure you can’t last another hour-you will.  You will rise and you will make all the cocoa for all the kids and it will be fantastic.  This is your hour.  Christmas break is our bone and we are sucking the marrow out of it.  Well done.

this is me being real.

Christmas.

We are watching my favorite Christmas movie, Arthur Christmas, after a mystery trip to carol at nana and papas and a drive to see the lights.  The snow is falling outside and everyone is in soft, warm jammies and dreaming of what they’ll find tomorrow.  I carried presents out of their hiding places this afternoon, silently chastising myself for not doing advent readings with the kids this year.  No advent readings, no candles, no straw to feather baby Jesus’ manger bed.  I bowed under the pressure of December.  The sign up genius’, the dishes to pass, the luncheons and gift wrapping and UPS shipment notifications.  These consumed my time and the rest fell to the wayside, enveloping me with guilt and shame.  And so I resolve to do it differently next year.  To let the baby reign and everything else fall away.  Or at least to have it more balanced.  Because if you strip away the trimmings and wrapping, there is only this: a baby.

Wether you are at the top of your game or just riding the pine, the baby came for you.  Wether you are loudly proclaiming Jesus or whispering quiet adoration or saying nothing at all, the baby came for you.  Wether you are having the best year of your life or you lay down last night wishing you wouldn’t wake up at all, the baby came for you.  Wether you have all your ducks in a row or exactly none of them, the baby came for you.  Wether you grew up in the church or have never darkened it’s doorstep, the baby came for you.  Wether you think you are someone to be proud of or someone who no one could ever be proud of, the baby came for you.

This baby.  He doesn’t see your ugly; he is blind to the wear and tear this hard world has put on you, that you’ve put on yourself.  He sees only the person you can become and he promises a roadmap to get there.  The baby is the only thing that matters.  Today and ever.  The only thing.  He came to bring life in a world that stinks of decay.  He came to bring peace in a world rife with terror and deception.  He came to save from a world hell bent on taking you down.  He is hope and light and truth and everything, everything, that is good and right.  The baby came for you wether you wanted him to have or not because the baby knew you and I needed saving more than anything else.  Knew we’d find ourselves desperate for a savior and so he came.  We’ve all spent the last month wrapping and baking and taking care of a million and five small details but there is only one thing that matters: what will you do with the baby?  This can go down two ways.  You can hold that soft downy head and in beautiful reverence slip a crown of gold or a crown of thorns on it.  And that headgear will change everything for you.  Crown him or crucify him.  What will you do with the baby?  Because on Tuesday we will wake up and all the trappings of Christmas will be gone but the baby will be there still, waiting to see what you will do.  Please, dear ones, choose rightly.  Maybe you spent yourselves nailing it with Elf on the Shelf this season, perhaps you busied yourself gifting free-trade chocolates and finding non-gmo snacks for Christmas parties or maybe you did it all right and focused on the baby.  No matter, tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it and I’m determined to kneel at that humble manger and crown that precious baby.  Join me?

Happiest Christmas loves!

this is me being real.

dear younger me. 2

Do you remember the day someone called you fat?  I hear her voice in my head still, shrill and mean.  She wasn’t out to hurt you, but she did.  Deeply.  We are 42 now and our body has some serious miles on it.  It’s not as strong and firm as it used to be.  But it’s carried 4 babies and bears lots of battle scars.  It has served us well, is serving us well still.  You will have this great period of about two years in your late thirties when you will try the naturopathic route to get off anti anxiety meds (this will, incidentally end badly, but you will retain the habits that are retainable).  You will eat cabbage and quinoa for months and you will be skinny and it’ll feel so good, even though you will smell so so bad.  But then life will interrupt and your old body will come back.  You will feel shame and disgust; will wear them like a yoke.  But something will shift eventually and you will come to some kind of peace in this skin of ours.  You will walk the dogs every morning, feeling yourself getting stronger and know that you might never be skinny Megan again, but you are happy Megan and that counts for something.  You will commit everyday to feed this body well most of the time and let the chips fall where they may.

That voice you hear telling you you’re fat?  It doesn’t own you.  Doesn’t define you.  You are so much more than a number on a scale or a size on a rack.  How you treat your body is precious, but what size you are isn’t.  I want you to learn this now, before you let that voice lie to you for years and years.  It will chide you as you step on the scale at your OB’s office, telling you that your burgeoning body isn’t beautiful, even as it swells with the miracle of life.  Lie.  It will mock you when you are on the beach with your babies; convincing you that you should stay just outside the frame so you don’t mess it up.  Lie.  It will speak to you of a husband who might not find you attractive anymore because you are no trophy, even as he tells you you’re the sexiest woman he knows.  Lie.  That damn voice will make you look around at every classroom party you go to, wondering how on bloody earth they do it and if their size makes them a better mother.  Lie.

Megan, there is one Voice you need to listen to and one only.  It will tell you that you are loved and a wonder.  It will speak of cloaking you in righteousness.  It will remind you that your citizenship is in heaven and that your work here is confined to bringing as many people with you as you can.  It will hang out with you on the couch in the small hours of the morning when all the babies are sleeping and it will confirm that you aren’t enough, but then in the lovingest way possible it will prove to you that The Voice is.  Enough.  And that you were never meant to be everything.  That wanting that is an idol you bow down to far too often.  Younger me, these are words I wish I could tell you when you are in middle school and wondering already how much size matters.  Megan, you have to believe me on this because I promise you it is truth.  Take care of your body, yes.  But the voices that tell you your size defines you?  They can go to hell.  Seriously.

this is me being real.

away.

We’re flying the coop to a place where we can finish sentences and eat off our own plates and sleep in.  We’re flying as far as we dare fly with so many kids going in so many directions and two pups thrown in and lots of medication.  Leaving these fools to the capable hands of a registered nurse who highlights as the greatest sitter.  They are thrilled; we are thrilled. And, while we wish it could be Naples or London or a million other places more exotic, Chicago is the best we can muster and so we do it every fall and we do it up big.  Nice hotel, upgrade to a suite, spa treatments, the works.  We might as well be in Naples.  Except it’s really cold and snowy and we drove here.  Other than that, same. It’s like a staycation only next level.  We did actually consider just going to to the JW downtown, but we knew they’d find us.  Uber themselves down and crawl into our bed, complaining of a sore tummy and ordering room service without our permission.  And most days we are happily found, but we need a couple days of lost.  Because this fall, especially, has been a killer and we feel like we are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun with Abe’s health up in the air and surgery looming and knowing it will take it’s toll.  Already has.

Six kids and two pups equals an insane amount of everything.  This week alone: two eye exams, one ortho, one pediatrician, one haircut, three practices, one riding lesson, two meetings at school and 13 basketball posters for lockers.  It’s Wednesday. This afternoon in the 17 minutes between an appointment and the kids getting off the bus, I fell asleep like a narcoleptic.  Could barely rouse myself when the door opened and the kids whirled in.  Thankfully I’d made their snack this morning between emptying the dishwasher and reading the lunch choices.  This craziness is nothing new to most of you; you live in this side show too, dreaming of running away on the worst days, even while knowing you never actually would.  Except to escape to Chicago with your love to spend three days with not family being selfish and lazy.  I’ve already ordered souvenirs for the girls from AG, so I don’t even have to set foot in that paragon of commercialism.  They are packed in my bag, which is waiting by the back door.  It’s Wednesday.  The boy’s lego’s should be arriving tomorrow and will be packed as well.  Yes! We missed you so much!  I can cross Watertower off my list and devote that extra time to Nordstrom and sleeping.  Sisters, enjoy your weekend and promise me you’ll do something just for you?  I talk a big game, but the truth is being away from my people is like cutting off my arms.  But my man needs me and I need him, so later tater.  So much love.

this is me being real.

letter. one.

Dear Younger Me,

This is the first in a series of letters to you aimed at getting to the heart of things you need to know to be better than me.  Which is a confusing way of saying, listen up; I have important stuff to say.  Because I’ve learned a lot on this road and you are just starting out and if you listen maybe, just maybe, you can avoid some of the pits I’ve fallen into. What follows won’t just be my sage advice, though that will be sprinkled in, but consider this a greatest hits of wisdom from all the very best sources.  You’ll listen on a cassette tape in your navy blue Volkswagen Cabriolet, top down and permed hair blowing in the wind.  You are so cool.  But you are stupid.

So turn it up, because the wind is loud and that is only one distraction in a sea of many and you are going to want to hear this.  But take breaks too, to just be a girl who doesn’t have a care in the world, because those are sweet days and they are giving birth to more and more responsibilities and never again will you feel so carefree as you do now.  I taste the memories of those days still and they are sweet on my tongue.  Your first kiss, the way your bedroom smelled in the fall after a summer away, that dance you and dan went to when you wore that Ann Taylor dress with pearls sewn all over it and he looked so handsome in his suit, double dates you’ll have, dozens and dozens of them, with Allie & Joel and John & Katie and Tim , smoking with the top down and thinking you are. so. cool. Megan, hold on to those days of fun and freedom because they are your now.  But listen up too, because  these words concern your someday.  You have no idea what is coming down the road and, like all travelers in a foreign land, you will need a guide.  So, here I am.  Let’s go.

this is me being real.

weekend.

I spoke with a woman last week who asked for prayer because a recent mammogram had turned up some asymmetry.  I wrote back, “Oh my word, I had that exact thing this summer.  Asymmetrical and fibrous and I tried to be so brave, but dan caught me in bed crying and google searching designer head scarves.  But they call you to the cancer center and you’re sure they’re going to tell you it’s cancer and you’re dying and I’m pretty positive they won’t, but I’ll be storming heaven just the same.  Because no matter how many people tell you they’ve had the exact same thing, it’s terrifying. Love you so much and let me know what they say, ok?”  Because if this has happened to you, you think, this is how it goes down, here in this place with the smells and that god-awful art.  Until you walk out the doors and you’re ok and you feel a bit foolish for having jumped to the worst when the best is what happens most of the time.

Sister, if you’re in a dark place, facing things that feel like they might consume you, I have this to say and it’s totally stolen from a dear one who struggles too: anxiety is a beast and sometimes he devours us and sometimes we take him for a walk.  And if the worst has happened, then you need your village.  And if it’s all in your head, well, that doesn’t make it any less real for you and you need your village too. You can’t do this life alone. We are herd people.  So just give a whistle and we will surround you until the beast is gone and you feel safe again. And if you’ve bought the lie that you’ll never be ok again, girl, you know that’s the devil’s Kool Ade.  Don’t drink that crap.

Now, let’s think about something lighter, shall we?  Like the fact that my kid ate homemade horse treats last weekend unknowingly and accused me of being the world’s worst cookie baker for making something that tastes like grass. Or how when I get a phone call, my watch, phone and Judith (laptop) all ring and light up and I don’t know how to stop it so I cover my ears and pray the person hangs up before I have a seizure. There is so much good in this life.  So much funny and sweet and lovely.  Let’s focus on those things this day, huh?

this is me being real.

 

bake.

I was out with the pups just now, walking around the pool to get them to the grassy spots.  It’s my favorite view of our home, from the backyard. Every morning I look at it and think, pinch me that I get to live here with these people and these pups.  Even though the kids are, as I type, in my kitchen making something called “Not Your Mama’s Cookies”.  This will involve every bowl and measuring utensil we own and, even though there are only five ingredients, will call into active duty no fewer than three rolls of paper towel to clean up.  The shrapnel of this culinary experiment will fill both dishwashers and will require the floor to be mopped.  Twice.  On hands and knees because of sticky.  I hate having kids in the kitchen.  Did I say that out loud?  Yes, and it was cathartic.  I hate having kids in the kitchen.  I wish I were the mama who welcomed her kids in to her kitchen to experiment and who then stands on the periphery, smile on beatific face, as her kids learn that one half cup needs to be one half cup because measurements count.  Instead, I’m the mama who stands on the periphery, hands wringing the life out of each other and mentally thinking which norwex is going to be best utilized to get that molasses off the oven door.  I, with all my type A-ness, can barely stand it, this raping and pillaging of my pristine kitchen, my haven.  It’s terrible.  I’m terrible.

There is so much to be learned in the kitchen classroom: how mise en place saves you later, how using a knife to level off your baking ingredients helps keep things honest, why there is a difference between baking powder and baking soda, how to cheat and make your own buttermilk with regular milk and a squeeze of lemon juice.  I want my kids to learn these things, only I want them to learn them somewhere else.  Can we collectively build a teaching kitchen with a janitorial staff where we can release our kids to their creative genius without nailing our kitchens to the cross?  A sort of culinary dog park for kids.  Baking and cooking unleashed.  I’d throw money at that project all day.  Because if I have to mop Pam overspray off my floor one my time, I’m going to ban them all from my kitchen til kingdom comes.  Because lately every sentence starts with, “We will clean it up and we already have all the ingredients…” Because if I’m made to watch one more (ONE MORE!) Tasty tutorial with pleading eyes I will surely die of it. Holy Mother, help us in our hour of need.

I’m learning, slowly and with every muscle clenched, to be the mom who doesn’t say things like, “This kitchen is closed.  I’m sorry, but it is.” Who needs to do deep breathing exercises when she sees the army of small destructors coming at her with a newly printed recipe, sideways smiles on their cunning faces.  I’m learning to let them in, invite them in, mantra on loop-this is not precious.  This kitchen is not precious.  These ingredients are not precious.  But these people are.  Holy cow, are they precious.  And they need to learn or they will grow up to be helpless prats in the kitchen and none of us wants that.  So I teach them how to brown butter without burning and how to make the perfect meringue because who doesn’t love meringue?  I teach them to steam veggies and the proper way to use a chef’s knife, fingers curled under so you don’t lose them.  They learn how to make homemade Mac and cheese because at least then they won’t starve when they are grown up. And just the thought of them being grown ups makes me long to be with them.  Even if it’s in the kitchen.

this is me being real