воскресенье, 13 апреля 2014 г.

Dinner for My Boyfriend

As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.
~Buddy Hackett
Bringing a boyfriend home to meet my mom could be cause for concern. Even after I was grown and living on my own, I still worried how someone I brought home would react to Mom’s eccentric ideas. She was unlike other mothers, and not everyone understood or appreciated her unconventional ways.
Reared by parents who emigrated from Transylvania, she was greatly influenced by the customs they brought from their homeland. Growing up dirt poor during the depression, in the Yuma desert, Mom learned the value of hard work and frugal living. Her old fashioned ways were many and she was determined to hang onto them whether we liked it or not.
A fan of organic gardening, long before it was popular, Mom grew fruits and vegetables in a large plot behind our house on our five-acre farm. No insecticide or pesticide ever touched her plants. She didn’t believe in being wasteful, either. Wormy and bird-pecked fruits and vegetables, that others might not find so appetizing, made it into the kitchen. She insisted that they could be salvaged, no matter how much had to be cut off to make them fit to consume.
Mom also raised animals for us to eat. While the men in the family butchered the larger animals, Mom had no trouble dealing with the chickens. All she needed was a stump and a hatchet. One chop and it was all over. Then the real work began.
The chickens were dunked in a pot of scalding water. Then we’d pluck the steaming hot feathers. The worst part for me was singeing the pinfeathers over crumpled newspaper. The smell was horrible and it seemed to take forever to get rid of the odor on my clothes.
Every part of the chicken that could be eaten was used. Gizzards, liver, and heart were either fried or cooked in soups. Chicken feet were considered a delicacy to our mom, no doubt a tradition brought over by her parents from the old country. She was the only one in our family who ate them, and after many years of adamantly refusing to take even a taste, she knew better than to try to give me one. Looking back, I’m sure she enjoyed my explosive reaction to her teasing, since it was obvious that she wanted to keep them all for herself. I can still envision her holding a chicken foot over her plate and gnawing on it.
A great cook, Mom made everything from scratch. She baked cakes and pies that always drew raves. Mom was also known for serving a variety of meats that some friends and family had never eaten before—and never planned to. Besides traditional meats most people were accustomed to eating, guinea, peacock, rabbit and goat meat were regularly on the menu at our house while squab, burro, and beef tongue and brains were served on occasion. No animal was completely safe on our farm.
Mom didn’t feel it necessary to tell her guests what she was serving unless they asked. She couldn’t wait to see the horrified expression on someone’s face when she offered them food they had never imagined eating. Returning guests with a squeamish stomach or sensitive conscience would not eat any meat Mom prepared, until it had been positively identified. When some unsuspecting newcomer came for dinner, they were sometimes unhappily surprised when they were told what they had already eaten.
So, when I took my new boyfriend to dinner at Mom’s house for the first time, I worried about what she would be serving. I could only hope that she had prepared something he would recognize and was willing to eat. When we got to the house, I was relieved to find out we were having chicken soup. Who doesn’t like chicken soup?
With the pot of hot soup already on the dining room table, we sat down to eat and Mom began serving the soup. True to her upbringing, Mom made certain her guest was served first and she poured a large ladle of soup into his bowl. Then . . . oh, no! Before I knew what was happening or could stop her, she added a special treat to his bowl. A chicken foot! Though my boyfriend was completely shocked and disgusted by the chicken foot in his soup, he did not say a word about it. But he didn’t eat much soup, either!
I sometimes wonder if the chicken foot in my boyfriend’s bowl was really just a test to find out what my boyfriend was made of, to determine if he would be able to adjust to our unique family traditions.
That boyfriend eventually became my husband, with no help from my mom. Over the years I’ve made countless pots of homemade chicken soup, just like my mom did, except I used chickens purchased from the grocery store, chickens with the feet already removed. But my husband was so traumatized by the chicken foot that, for twenty-eight years he refused to eat chicken soup, unless he knew for certain it came out of a can.
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Confessions of a Lunch Maker

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.
~Erma Bombeck
According to my mother, my generation has it easy. She’s referring to bread machines, microwave ovens, smartphones, Internet banking… the list is endless. But I can stop her cold with two words: school lunches.
When I was a kid, she made me a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. On white bread. And tossed it in a brown paper bag with an apple. That was it. Simple, simple times.
My daughter uses brown paper bags to make hand puppets. Lunch bags come with insulation, pockets, zippers, water bottles, mini ice packs and a matching thermos. Peanut butter is banned in most schools, and white bread is looked upon as a nutritional wasteland. That leaves the apple. And that’s precisely what my children do: leave the apple. But I keep sending the apple. No mother worth her minivan sends her child to school without fresh fruit for the teacher to see. (Tip: An apple can go back and forth for a couple of weeks before it bruises, rots and needs replacement. A banana, on the other hand, has no longevity.)
Of course, every September I hope it will be different. I approach a fresh year of lunchmaking with a fist-full of “kid-proven” recipes torn from newspapers and magazines. I vow to buy breads with flax seeds and ancient grains, certain that if I use a cookie cutter to shape them like a star or a horse, the kids won’t notice the lack of fluffy white dough. But within days, the sandwiches begin returning.
It’s important to me that all the food groups are represented, but I confess, as the school year progresses, each group is open to interpretation. For example, by Christmas I consider chocolate-covered raisins a fruit. By April, so are those rubbery “fruit” chews. By spring, I’m so worn out I consider cheddar popcorn both a vegetable and a dairy product.
I have one disguised vegetable trick that has yet to fail me, but it takes great commitment. The kids know it as “chocolate bread.” It’s actually a low-fat zucchini loaf made with applesauce. Cocoa and a half-cup of mini chocolate chips are its cover. The most important step is grating the zucchini so fine that it isn’t visible to the naked eye when baked. I grate late at night when my children are sleeping.
I shared this recipe with a friend. Her children loved it, but the late-night grating wore her down. She became careless and grated while they were still up. I think it was a cry for help. She was caught, and her kids never touched “chocolate bread” again. She tried to act disappointed, but I think she was secretly glad to have her life back.
I soldier on. So, Mom, have a little sympathy. I may bank in my bathrobe, but at night as you sleep, I’m bleary-eyed in the kitchen, silently grating zucchini.
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Life After Life

God has not taken them from us. He has hidden them in his heart, that they may be closer to ours.
~Author Unknown
“Granny?” Johanna’s breathless voice greeted me from the phone. My heart skipped a beat. Had she lost the baby?
She continued. “I wasn’t going to tell anybody about this. They’d think I was crazy. But now, I just have to tell you the good news.”
Ah. So the baby must be all right. I knew that Johanna was enduring a peculiar pregnancy. The doctor had warned her not to get pregnant because she had a clotting disorder that would endanger both her and the baby. But, as sometimes happens, she got pregnant anyway.
Now, she was in the seventh month of pregnancy, and the fetus was not growing. The doctors called it “intrauterine growth retardation.” They had a name for it, but they didn’t have a solution. Every two weeks, they did tests: sonogram, blood pressure, urinalysis. They could detect a heartbeat, but the fetus was only about three inches long. It hadn’t grown for several months.
When she told her doctor that their church was faithfully praying, he simply raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Lot of good that’s doing!”
“What’s the news?” I asked, hardly daring to breathe.
“The night Granddad died, he visited me.”
My dead husband visited her? I understood now why people might think she was crazy.
“That night, I was in bed, sleeping beside Tom. I woke up, smelling cigarette smoke. It was the same way Granddad used to smell.”
I recalled that Don did have a distinctive smell when he was still a smoker. I could tell without looking whenever he was in the room with me.
“Wow! Then what happened?”
“I opened my eyes, and he was standing there, across the room from me. He walked over to the bed, smiled, and sat on the bed. I could feel the bed go down. It wasn’t some ethereal ghost or anything, it was Granddad.”
“I don’t think you’re crazy, Johanna. I think you really saw him—or something like him. What time was it?”
“About 2 o’clock in the morning.”
I did a quick calculation. Don had died in Honolulu at 4 p.m, which was 10 p.m. on the East Coast. Adjusting for the time zones, he’d made it to Atlanta much faster than any jet plane could make the trip.
“That’s wonderful,” I said, thoughts racing through my mind. I’d often thought about life after death, heaven, all that. When I became a grieving widow two weeks previously, I wondered if what I’d been taught was true, or if it was a cultural fairy tale like Santa Claus. Did churches, society in general, conspire to create a myth about heaven to make us feel better? You know, patting us on the shoulder and telling us our loved one had “gone to a better place?”
If Johanna truly had seen Don a few hours after his death, then most assuredly, there was life after this life. “What happened next?”
“He smiled, leaned over, put his hand on my belly and began to talk to the fetus. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he went on a long time; it seemed like a half hour or so.
“Then, he stood up, smiled, and gave me the best hug I’ve ever had. I could feel his warm body pressed lovingly against me. Then he walked out the door.
“I got up and wrote down everything I could remember about it, figuring nobody would ever read it, but I wanted to record every detail for my own benefit.
“That morning, while I was fixing pancakes for the family, I began to feel life for the first time. The fetus was moving around.”
“Awesome,” I breathed.
“Today I had my two-week checkup with the usual tests—and they did them all twice. They couldn’t believe the results the first time around! The fetus is growing, growing faster than they could imagine.”
Johanna’s giggly excitement was matched by my own. Was it possible? Was there hope for this tiny smidgeon of a person?
Because of the clotting disorder, doctors discussed taking the baby by caesarian at eight months, but when the time came, everything seemed to be going well. The fetus was growing. Johanna seemed to be healthy. They decided to watch and wait.
I flew to Atlanta to care for the other children during the coming birth, and I got to read Johanna’s journal from that strange, glorious night. It was just as she had told me, along with lots of reminiscences of her dear grandfather.
The baby, named Elena after me, was born on her due date and weighed over eight pounds! A week later at her checkup, the doctor said, “I’ve heard of other cases where the fetus did not grow. Intrauterine growth retardation. But I’ve never heard of a case where the fetus suddenly started growing and then was born healthy.”
He added, “There’s no medical explanation. This had to be a miracle.”
Little Elena is now six years old, an energetic, healthy, normal girl with a lively imagination. As for me, I no longer doubt there’s life after death. It’s no fairy tale.
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Destructo-Cat

You may own a cat, but cannot govern one.
~Kate Sanborn
Bogie has a knack for cuteness. He likes to sprawl across the carpet, turn his head completely upside down and put his paws up in the air. The resulting pose is adorable, and it never fails to make me smile. To look at him, you’d never guess that he was once a juvenile delinquent who almost set my apartment on fire.
I adopted Bogie as a companion for his littermate, Rumi. The first photo I saw of the little terror should have clued me in to the chaos to come. Bogie’s siblings were photographed sitting sweetly on the couch. Bogie, on the other hand, was tangled in a Christmas tree in his picture. He had originally been named “Rogue” because of his affinity for escaping from his room and leading the other kittens to freedom. Bogie was long, lean and elegant; he sported white boots and had large, bat-like ears. He was apprehensive around strangers and fiercely loyal and affectionate to those he loved.
True to his original name, he was a roguish explorer, and his astonishing intelligence, inquisitive nature and mischievousness were challenging to handle. Bogie chewed through wires and ruined them. He snacked on glue, which prompted panicked calls to both the vet and the ASPCA’s poison control hotline. After Bogie figured out how to open zippers, he filched a pack of birth control pills from my bag and left the crumpled foil sheet on the carpet. Some of the tablets were missing. Fortunately, he hadn’t ingested any, but I didn’t know that until I wasted a frantic half hour crawling around on the floor to locate every single pill. Bogie stole jewelry and hid it. I had to supervise mealtimes because he was so aggressive about eating that he scared Rumi. In sum, Bogie was a brat, and he forced me to continually upgrade the kitten-proofing around the house. No matter how much I played with him, how many toys he had or how many snuggles he received, he still behaved abominably. The vet gave him a clean bill of health, so he wasn’t acting out due to illness. Frankly, he just seemed to enjoy causing trouble. I started calling him Destructo-Cat.
When Bogie grew large enough to jump up to the kitchen counters, we entered an exasperating new era of destruction around the apartment. I frequently caught him tiptoeing gingerly around the drainboard, nosing into the fascinating items on the counter or walking around on the top of the stove. He liked to sit in a ceramic serving dish, where he rather resembled an overgrown Christmas ham. I started finding refrigerator magnets in odd places.
I tried to discourage this behavior, of course. The way Bogie got onto the counters made me very nervous: he used the knobs of the stove as steppingstones to boost himself up. Every time he leapt to the counter or the stove, I immediately picked him up and put him back down on the floor. After a while he knew he was not supposed to be on the counters, and a simple glance in his direction or a stern word from me were enough to make him scurry out of the kitchen. However, my kitchen did not have a door, so I had no way to physically bar Bogie from the area. I frequently came home to find paper towels, cups and other items strewn about, which made it crystal clear that Bogie was entertaining himself in my absence.
On the morning Bogie decided to turn on the stove, I woke up uncharacteristically early. I like to think that my guardian angels were looking out for me. All I know is that when I opened my eyes just after sunrise, it was with a sense of urgency. I knew had to get up immediately because something was seriously wrong. As I sat up in bed, I began to cough. The horrible stench of rotten eggs permeated the air. It smelled exactly like the gas from the stove, in fact. The stove! I bolted toward the kitchen. The odor of gas was overwhelming, and a small blue flame was merrily flickering on the front burner.
I knew without a doubt that Bogie was responsible. The oven had been safely turned off the night before. Nobody had visited the apartment while I slept. And since Rumi was still too little to jump to the counter, Bogie was the only one who could have reached the knob for the burner. For the next few days, Bogie slunk quietly around the house, refrained from his usual mischief and pointedly avoided the kitchen, which confirmed his guilt.
I was beyond grateful that nobody had been asphyxiated and that the apartment hadn’t burned down. I was also genuinely relieved that I was not going to have to describe the incident to my landlord or the fire department. It would have been embarrassing, to say the very least. How do you explain that it wasn’t your fault that the kitchen caught on fire, because your cat turned on the stove while you were sleeping? Let’s face it, nobody is ever going to believe that your sweet-looking kitten is a pyromaniac in training.
Once the apartment was aired out, I had to tackle the question of securing the stove from future cooking attempts by Destructo-Cat. I found knob guards intended for babies, but they would have been way too easy for Bogie to defeat. They were designed to stop little hands, not to withstand the ten-pound impact of a leaping kitten. I finally settled on a bizarre stove modification. I pulled the knobs off and taped pot lids over the bare handles. Whenever I used the oven, I fished the knobs out of the junk drawer and restored them. When I finished cooking, I replaced the “Bogie-proofing.” Friends who visited my apartment just raised their eyebrows and shook their heads when they saw my handiwork. Bogie never did turn the stove on again, though, so it served its purpose.
Strangely, the incident with the stove was a turning point for Destructo-Cat. It seemed to scare him enough to curb some of his more exasperating conduct. Perhaps he felt that playing with fire was a suitable grand finale to his life of crime. In addition, Bogie was diagnosed with a puzzling allergic condition called eosinophilic granuloma complex. As the EGC was treated and Bogie started feeling better, he gradually settled down and became less destructive.
Bogie is still being treated for EGC, but he is happy and healthy. He’s far more inclined to greet me at the door with a head-butt than he is to leave me a trail of debris. However, he is still a roguish, nervy Destructo-Cat at heart, and every now and then he needs to get it out of his system. It explains the shredded toilet paper, chewed up boxes and ransacked bookshelves I find every so often. At this point, I take it as a normal part of life. If I didn’t find a mess every so often, I’d worry that Bogie was unwell. And I’d worry even more about what he might be plotting.
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Yuck! Dog Germs!

The nose of the boxer has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting go.
~Winston Churchill
My mother loves to tell the story of my dog Skippy, who protected me in my playpen when I was a toddler. She claims I would often share my treats with Skippy, licking my ice cream cone, and then allowing Skippy a lick. I have no memory of these events; however, I have no reason to doubt my mother’s word.
Allow me to clarify my personal feelings about dogs during the first fifty years of my life, at least in my own memory. “Yuck! Dog germs!”
I have never truly liked dogs in general, although there were a few I was faintly fond of. We had a St. Bernard named Tonka that was a beautiful, kindhearted creature. Unlike my siblings, I did not care to have Tonka kiss or play with me. I suppose my attitude towards most of the family dogs was one of detached amusement.
My mother had a Pekingese for a few years when I was a teen. It was the only dog we ever owned who lived in the house. I tolerated Tippy, as long as it stayed out of my room. I apologize for the pronoun, “it,” but I don’t recall if Tippy was a male or a female.
My favorite line in regard to dogs was from the Peanuts character, Lucy. I remember Snoopy licking her face, and Lucy responded with, “Yuck! Dog germs!” My thoughts, exactly. I thought of dogs as bad-smelling, germ-carrying, hair-shedding, lawn-defecating nuisances. My husband was no dog lover either, so I had support from him when my older daughter would occasionally plead for a dog.
My daughter grew up, moved to another state, bought her own house, and promptly adopted a sixty-pound Boxer named Tyson, who was in danger of being sent to the pound. She called me with this news as if I were going to share in her rapture. “What does a Boxer look like?” I asked. “Where will you keep him? How are you going to pay for his food and veterinarian bills?” None of my questions deterred her enthusiasm.
She proceeded to e-mail me pictures of Tyson, announced that he was an “inside” dog, and assured me that she would be able to give him proper care. I responded with typical motherly comments like, “You must not want me to visit anymore!” and “Does he bite?”
These were followed by such thinly veiled threats as, “I don’t want dog hair all over my good clothes!” and “Your house is going to smell like dog!”
I briefly considered boycotting my daughter’s home, for a fleeting moment thought of forcing her to choose between this dog and her mother, and had I been extremely wealthy, I might have threatened her with writing her out of my will. This last idea was quickly discarded as being totally ludicrous, as I had neither a will nor wealth.
The holidays were approaching, and my husband and I packed for our first visit with my daughter and the new addition to her family. I distinctly remember packing clothes that were not my favorites, in case the dog shed or drooled on them. I left at home anything silky that might easily snag and anything light in color. I believe most of my wardrobe during that visit consisted of jeans and sweatshirts.
My first impression did little to change my opinion of dogs. Tyson is a typical Boxer, excitable by nature, and his desire to jump and lick me in the face reinforced my “Lucy” instincts immediately. “Yuck! Dog germs!” My daughter attempted to calm him down and had me sit in a rocking chair from which I could pet him without worrying about being knocked off my feet by his exuberance.
I would like to say that I was immediately won over by his sweet brown eyes and his wriggling short stump of a Boxer tail. I would like to say it, but it would not be true. It has taken several years to win over this “Lucy.” I am now, however, the woman in Wal-Mart with the box of Milk-Bones, the lady in Target with the large doggie stocking, and the tourist in the doggie bakery with a bag of gingerbread men dog treats.
I was not won over by the sweet brown eyes or the wriggling stump of tail; I was won over by the love and comfort this devoted canine companion brings to my beloved daughter. He is her shadow. He is her friend. He is her protector. He is my granddog. Dog germs? Who cares?
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The Magic of Colleen

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
~Roger Caras
In 1981, I went to work in a nursing home as a Nurse’s Aide. My duties included waking the residents in the morning, bathing and dressing them, and getting them to the dining room in time for breakfast.
My first day on the job, I met Anna. She was a petite, beautiful woman with a sweet disposition and silver-gray hair. As I brushed her hair, she would sit with eyes closed, enjoying the attention I gave her.
There was only one thing that bothered me about Anna. No matter how much I coaxed her, she wouldn’t say a word. Upon inquiring about her lack of speech, I was told that Anna hadn’t spoken since she’d come to the nursing home. No one seemed to know why—Anna had always been a very social person with lots of friends.
The only time that Anna left her room was for meals. As soon as she had finished eating, one of the staff would push her wheelchair back to her room. She sat all day, gazing out the window, which faced a farm and pasture.
One day I walked into Anna’s room. The sight that met my eyes stopped me dead! Anna was standing, clutching the windowsill. A chortle of laughter escaped her lips. I craned my neck to see what she was looking at. She was watching a Border Collie round up the cows and head them back toward the barn. Silently, I backed out of the room and went directly to the administrator’s office. Ruth was a wonderful woman with an open-door policy. She wanted the best for the residents.
After I explained to Ruth what I’d seen and heard she told me that Anna had spent her entire life on a farm. Ruth explained that she had been thinking for weeks about starting an animal therapy program here at the nursing home. The theory that animals could help people heal was fairly new at this time but she felt that there might be a lot to be gained by allowing animals to visit the residents. Of course it would take some time to implement such a program; the animals would all have to be carefully screened.
It took six months before the program was initiated. The animals were to visit three times a week for two hours. Their owners would accompany them and the residents who wished to be a part of the program would gather in the Recreation Room.
The first day, only three animals visited—a Husky, a Poodle and a Persian cat. Ruth wanted to introduce the animals slowly so the residents could get used to their visits.
From the first day, the staff knew the program would be a success. The residents loved the pets. There were only two exceptions—Mr. Mannen, who was a crotchety old soul, and Anna. Neither of them paid any attention to the creatures that moved freely around the room.
Within a few weeks, the residents looked forward to Pet Day with much enthusiasm—all except Anna and Mr. Mannen. Hours before the pets were to arrive, the Recreation Room would be filled to capacity. I continued to ensure that there was always a place for Anna and Mr. Mannen.
At this time, Ruth decided to allow three more animals to visit. A total of sixty residents were taking part in the program and three animals were not sufficient to meet the demand. The newcomers were all canines; a Husky, a blond Labrador Retriever and a Border Collie named Colleen.
Colleen was a gentle, loving animal and a hit with all the residents. The first time she visited, Anna was in bed with the flu. However, Colleen proceeded to work her magic on crotchety Mr. Mannen. She continued to return to his chair time after time, laying her head on his knee. Instead of brushing her away, as I expected, he sat and stared at her.
As Colleen was saying farewell to all of the residents, she ventured to Mr. Mannen one last time and laid her head on his knee. To my astonishment, he patted her head and spoke to her in a soft, gentle voice. This was a step forward, as Mr. Mannen never had spoken a kind word to anyone.
The following week, Anna was feeling much better and her doctor gave his permission for her to take part in the program. A half-hour before the pets were to arrive, I pushed Anna to the Recreation Room. She sat, staring into space, ignoring everyone around her. That is until Colleen walked into the room. As soon as Anna spied this lovely black and white creature, she laughed with delight and clapped her hands. Colleen immediately trotted to Anna’s side, wagged her tail excitedly and danced on her hind legs. As Anna bent to touch her, Colleen began to lick her, her pink tongue lapping in and out rapidly. Anna hugged her close, tears coursing down her cheeks. As fast as they fell, Colleen lapped them up.
“Oh my dear Laddy, I’ve missed you so much,” Anna cried. By this time there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Even old Mr. Mannen’s eyes sparkled mysteriously. Everyone was surprised to hear Anna speak so plainly after two years of silence.
The next time Anna’s sister, Mildred, came to visit, we told her that Anna was talking. She could hardly believe it. Ruth explained what had happened. Mildred told Ruth that when Anna had come to the home she had left behind a Border Collie named Laddy. The farm had been sold and a neighbor had adopted Laddy. He had been a direct descendent of a Border Collie that had been given to Anna by her father when she was a child. In fact, until she had come to the nursing home, Anna had never been without at least one, and more often two, Border Collies in her life.
Over the next few months, Anna and Colleen bonded in a special way. Anna began to talk to the other residents and walk with a cane. Every staff member of the nursing home knew that if Colleen hadn’t come into Anna’s life, the healing process would never have taken place.
Two years later, at the age of eighty-seven, Anna passed away peacefully in her sleep. As I stood at the cemetery and listened to the eulogy, I looked across the lawn. What I saw brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. There on the outskirts of the mourners lay Colleen, her nose on her paws, sad eyes gazing at the coffin. I was sure that Anna knew Colleen was there and I whispered a prayer of thanks for the magic that the wonderful Border Collie had brought into Anna’s final years—the magic of Colleen.
Colleen taught me much about the human response to animal companions. I have never looked at a dog in the same light since Colleen brought the miracle of love to Anna.
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Time-Out for Mommy

Coloring outside the lines is a fine art.
~Kim Nance
It all started out quite innocently. My two older girls were home sick from school, and my youngest was toddling around, still refusing to be potty-trained. I had run out of ideas for keeping everyone happy, so I decided to set my daughters up in the playroom to watch a movie. (Exhaustion makes you believe that you can trust a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and a two-year-old to just sit and watch a movie while Mommy takes a break.)
Feeling like my girls were sufficiently mesmerized by the television screen, I slipped out of the room for what I rationalized would be a quick minute. Now, I want to tell you I headed to do noble mommy things — like scrubbing toilets or making my own baby food or folding my thousandth load of laundry — but I didn’t. Nope. I checked my e-mail.
Keeping an ear open for any tears or sudden crashes, I happily clicked away on my laptop. And with nothing but the sound of cartoon characters coming from the other room, I decided it would be okay to read one short blog post — which may have led to another one and then possibly another one after that.
When sweet giggles drifted out of the playroom, I smiled and thought to myself, “Oh, how nice. Listen to the love. They are having fun.” Perhaps if I had not been so caught up in reading my favorite blogs, my mommy alarm would have gone off — the alarm that notices there is too much quiet and that everyone is getting along too well. The alarm that sends you to see what everyone is really up to.
But instead of hearing that inner alarm, I soon heard my oldest daughter’s tiny voice cheerfully declaring, “Mommy, Lauren is coloring us!” Sure enough, there she stood — her face and sweatshirt scrawled with pink marker, the joy in her voice revealing she had been a willing canvas for my two-year-old.
I bolted to the other room to assess what else bore the mark of my little Picasso. There I found my middle child colored on, toys colored on, and even a sippy cup colored on. I went from distracted mama to angry and disbelieving mama in a matter of seconds. Prying the marker from my toddler’s hand, I swooped her up and marched her to her crib.
With my marker bandit safely behind bars and my older daughters in their rooms for a time-out, I stomped back toward the kitchen. Angry thoughts swirled in my mind. “Couldn’t someone have gotten me before she colored everything but the TV? Come on now! I’m not promoting tattling, but there are things I need to know about. They know we only color on paper and the dry-erase board!”
As I internally huffed and puffed about my now pink ladies, a humbling question bubbled up inside of me. “So, who is going to put YOU in time-out?”
And then I realized that I shared the blame. Should my older girls have known better than to let my littlest color on them and everything in sight? Yes. But should I have also known better than to leave them unattended for so long? (Sigh.) For sure.
With a corrected heart, I thanked God no one ended up hurt during my time of distraction. Sure, a sweatshirt that once could be worn in public would have to become a sleep shirt, but other than that, everyone was fine. Pink, but fine.
In the end, we all learned a few life lessons that would keep us from having quite as many time-outs. My girls learned that sisters are not for coloring on. And me? Well, I learned there are times I am just going to have to ignore the siren call of the Internet — at least until all my adventurous girls are sound asleep.
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