For My Beautiful Anabel
My ever-so-old Jude
It's birthday time around here.  They're 13 and 11 respectively.  I can't believe it.
I eat this fantab muesli most mornings.  It's from Rick Gallop's The G.I. Diet Clinic.  My kids adore it every bit as much as I do.

2 c. large-flake oats
3/4 c. oat bran (I use Red River cereal)
3/4 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. shelled unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tbsp. wheat germ
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (I use 1 1/2 tsp.)

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine everything and shake well to combine.  This cereal is a delicious and healthy start to the day.  Be sure to prepare it the night before so that it's ready to enjoy in the morning.  Combine 1/3 cup of the Muesli with 1/3 cup of skim milk or water and cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, combine the mixture with a container of non-fat, sugar-free fruit yogurt and enjoy!
I think often (obsessively might more accurately describe the true state of things) of what my life will look like next year.  The last of my children will enter those anything-but-hallowed halls of full time school and my heart feels like it may break.  Just to enter into the melodrama a little more fully for a moment, I feel like my whole raison d'etre for the past thirteen years is coming to a close.  A close that, from this vantage point, appears to be awfully abrupt and final.  I know.  I know.  My school-aged kids still need a loving and involved mother, but the reality is that I'll have six full hours a day to fill with activities other than those that have engaged me so happily for the past thirteen years. 

I have, to my initial surprise, loved being a stay-at-home mother.  Though I expected to continue working outside the home during these pre-school years of parenthood, a couple of unexpected and upsetting daycare situations ended that pipe dream.  Lucky for me.  I've discovered that I love trimming little child-sized fingernails.  Scrubbing their soapy, shampoo-y heads while they languish in the bath with their GI Joes and their ponies feels like therapy.  I've found that making healthy, home-made baby food really does it for me.  I've realized that taking kids for walks to the park equals fun.  I love chatting with tiny people, meandering our way through conversation, peppered with the cutest mispronunciations I've ever heard.  I love reading to these perfectly round and warm small Ones, as we snuggle up in bed together, their hot, perfect breath warming my very insides.  I've felt very happy, very fulfilled over the course of these last thirteen years.  My work has felt very meaningful.

As I imagine the upcoming year, and the countless others stretching out surreally beyond  it, it scares me to think that it may be full of things like a perfectly clean home with empty rooms overtaking everything for much of the time.  No one will pee the bed any longer, needing me to swoop in to the rescue, comforting and cleaning as I go.  Who will leave chaotic, comforting paths of K'Nex and Lego as they go along their merry way?  I foresee the beginning of the end of the thousands of pieces of child art that have decorated my life for so long.  Who will I teach to read?  Who will forget to flush the toilet?  Or leave a hundred toothpaste-spattered sinks in their wake?  It will be so clean in here that the sheer emptiness of it will underline my sucky-baby grief.  For to acknowledge that I am indeed a Suck is probably only fair.  And yet, when you're a Suck, caught inside the skin of a Suck, what does one do?

I know I'll get over it in time.  I have dear women in my life who have walked this path and lived to tell about it.  They say the hurting dulls after a while, that you stop wondering all the day long what your Littles are doing at that very second.  Whether or not someone is treating them unkindly just then.  Whether or not they're trading the apples and nectarines in their lunches for a junky Dunkaroo or a Pop Tart.  Whether or not they're using their classtime well.  Or if they're talking the whole way through the way that both their Mother and their Father did.  These are the questions that I suspect will haunt me.
I feel confident that the two are directly related.  I once heard a guy speak on this type of personality and he described the fictitious prayer of a person like me:  Dear God,  Look!  A bird! 

It's not that I want to be rude; emphatically, I do not.  I hate that I interrupt all the time and often lament this little habit of mine while reflecting upon some social occasion or another.  I know that people who do this aren't considering others and come across as self absorbed.  I get that.  However, I get revved up and before I know it my mouth and it's contents are once again dominating the conversation.  One story spills out after another and pretty soon, all the land is speckled with my anecdotes.  I even interrupt myself, for goodness' sake (thus explaining the 'parenthetical' part of the title).  When I write, I have to intentionally focus and stop myself from pursuing all the great many rabbit-trails that momentarily spark my interest in the form of parenthetical additions.  I'm constantly deleting parentheses.  It's a sickness, I think.

This is a quality all the more obvious to me now that I have a little girl in my life who struggles, too, with this same quirk.  Though to assign it the almost benevolent tag of "quirk" is both misleading and delusional.  It's no quirk.  It's more a thundering weakness.  A clanging fault.  It's loud and it's obvious. 

My Dad is a quiet man who all my life, has adhered to the belief that if you don't have anything nice to say, then really, you shouldn't say anything at all.  And his conversation is measured, thoughtful and invariably kind.  I resemble him not even a little.  He's always been befuddled by me.  He would kindly liken me to a verbal hurricane.  He, a quiet man, was raised by his two quiet parents.  I imagine that their home was orderly and clean and quiet.  My house, full of sunshiny extroverted children running, not walking, resembles his not at all.  My husband, like me, talks all the day long and then often, late into the night.  All of this extroverted sameness is well and good, but for when you want to stretch and grow and become a better version of your extroverted self.  There's no one around to challenge you in the areas where you are weak.  When you talk all day, your sin is on display for anyone who cares to, to have a good long look. 

I'd love to grow in this.
Oh that it were right side up.  Sadly though, accomplishing that is beyond my skill, prodigious though it may be.  I blame  my Mother for letting me out of the house looking like this.  Ah, this disheveled, this enormous hair.   This pre-goth gothiness.  This cherubic all-knowingness.  I'm like a kewpie doll who stuck her finger in a light socket.  For your viewing pleasure...
From Flor Larios' Etsy Site
I hesitate to tackle this.  The topic overwhelms me.  My family and I attended the Good Friday service at our church and were overwhelmed by Christ and His actions on our behalf.  I felt humbled and blessed and deeply in love as I watched each of my Loved  Ones weep as we made our way through the Stations of the Cross.  These  Loved Ones are  not bawlers and each of them cried.  Only Jude felt up to braving the "Jesus' Suffering" station with me and as we left early, me holding his tiny-yet-enormous shoulders, heaving as they were, I felt strong within myself, thinking that if ever there were something in the year to weep about, this is most emphatically, most blackly It.  I feel stunned into uncharacteristic stillness when I think of what Christ did for me.  I think of my selfishness, my various and sundry superiority complexes, my vanity, my pride, my gluttony, my "Martha" complex  and all the rest of the sin that so often characterizes who I am while still living on this Earth.  I think of all of it and the great divide between it and me and the Perfection of a Living God and I want to cry of shame, of joy, of thankfulness and of a renewed awareness of my smallness.

This year, for the first time, I looked upon a replica of the blood-stained grave cloths and realized, for the first time, that they probably were blood stained.  I realized that I'd been believing a sort of cartoon version of the Easter Story, a dumbed-down version meant to be more palatable for the refined sensibilities of the Hoity Toity.  While never exactly embracing the bunnies and the chicks and the chocolate, I've been glossing over the viciously hurled insults as He hung there, leaking out life.  I've been forgetting the anguish of His mother as she watched it all unfold.  I imagine that she wished to be dead herself, seeing His lifeless body hang there, so absent of her Son.  I rarely consider what it must have been like for the sky to turn black  in the very middle of the day as He died.    I've been taking what He did on my behalf that day on the Cross lightly and I wish to do so no longer.  I see my children understanding in their childlike, faith-filled way and I wish to emulate them.  They cry as they remember their Lord's sufferings and the profound appropriateness of this centers me.

I've always loved and felt relieved by this quote: 

Be comforted. It is no doing of yours. You are not great... Be comforted, small one, in your smallness. He lays no merit on you. Receive and be glad. Have no fear, lest your shoulders be bearing this world. Look! It is beneath your head and carries you."
  • C. S. Lewis, in Perelandra