Monday, August 19, 2013

Nourishing the Soul

So we have another rainy day today. Another rainy day. The rain is no longer news here. Last year in Cincinnati was the rainiest year on record, or nearly so. I'm not exaggerating.

I don't know what the total is for the year so far in our corner of North Carolina, but it feels like we've moved from one rainy place to another. It's damn rainy.

So the kids are crazy. Running in the house, doing cannonballs on the couch, throwing paper airplanes, making a human train with a jump rope and racing around the kitchen, living room, hallway...It's that scene from Raising Arizona, when the swinging friends visit Hi and Ed's trailer, and their kids proceed to trash the place. One wrote "Fart" on the walls. Well Elliott wrote on the wall yesterday--in pencil, thank God--but I just couldn't help thinking, Is this for real? This kid knows better. What next?

We went to the Children's Museum today, and that helped. Still, we returned home for lunch, and the jumping, running, yelling, and whining ensued.

I often deal with it by raising my voice, banishing children to corners of the kitchen, and then returning stoveside to cook and think unmotherly thoughts while preparing the trolls' lunch.

So today Ezra and Elliott are sitting on the kitchen floor, sulking. I finally allow books and dry-erase fun. Out come the markers and alphabet cards. They become quiet. They dole out letters:

"Do you want the E? Can you do an R, Ezra? Do you want the R? Okay, you don't have to do the R. How about a J? Can you do a J?"

I think, "Yes, I could do a J right about now." But seriously, they're really that polite. And they're busy, and practicing writing, which is usually a tough sell.

And then Elliott starts humming. He's writing, it's going well, and he's humming. It's a church hymn.

I instantly recognize it as "Eat this Bread," the Taize hymn that's common at our church. We heard it on Sunday. And here he is, the kid who squirms through mass, humming. I begin singing it, and he looks up.

"Yeah, that's it," he says.

I don't really have words for that kind of grace, so simple and unexpected on just another rainy day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Area mom loses, then finds, then serves amazing cookies

I can't say that there hasn't been anything going on, but I can say that, after the kids fall asleep, I really enjoy some nonverbal time late at night.  When the kids aren't talking, arguing, asking questions, barking orders, crying, yelling, etc., I'd much rather knit.

And it's easier to put down knitting, tend to a crying child--as I did just now, HERE, mid-sentence--than it is to return to something that requires verbal thought like, say, a sentence. Where I live, right now, is where the  mind meets the mundane.

Sometimes, though, like last Thursday, the daily routine becomes punctuated by a moment of grace. Often these miracles involve toilets or moving vehicles. Last Thursday's mini-miracle did, in fact, involve a car, but it did not hinge on seat belts, or safety, for that matter. But it was my fault for putting the cookies from Ezra's preschool teacher on top of the car.

I am the last person in the world you need to tell about not putting things on top of a car. I never, ever do this, because every time I do--which is so rare--every time, I forget whatever it was, until, oh, hours later. ....It will always end like that. But I was trying to insert three kids, the coats they had shed, two bags, and three melty cookies into the Golf. It's a two-door.  Onto the roof they went.

So when we got home from preschool and Elliott asks, "Can we have our cookies now?" I can hear, in my mind, something like the sound of air leaving a tire. Shhhhhh......Damn it, I think. I know exactly where those cookies were....

My failure to bring them home safely was not just my failure of my own kids--they love cookies, for sure, and these were Unexpected Cookies, even. In my own mind, I had failed Ezra's preschool teacher, because she is the most incredible preschool teacher ever. She had thought of Elliott, Ezra, and Ruth, and had made sure they had leftover cookies from Ezra's Teddy Bear Picnic. I had thoughtlessly left them on top of the car on the way home.

"Do you want to go back to try to find them?" I ask.
"Yes!"
Sure. It's 3:45 on a Thursday. Why not?

And so we go. I'm sure we can trace the three miles back to preschool, and I'm sure we'll see traces of a white napkin and three bear-face cookies. It seems crazy, but I'm sure we'll find them.

We get only three blocks from the house. There they are, sitting in the road at the edge of our neighborhood. Face-up. Uncrushed. Two were stuck together, thanks to the chocolate chips and the frigid weather. One was a little crumbly, but all were right there, in the intersection, waiting for us. The napkin is still wrapped beneath them. I jumped out, checked traffic, picked them up, and hopped back in.

The cookies must've slid off the roof so gently as I made the right turn that they just landed right there, as if placed by an invisible hand. The kids were amazed, but not as much as I was. To them, it made sense. We went back and we picked them up. They didn't understand the odds involved, the physics, the crumble, the luck.

"Did you eat them?" my brother Jimmy asked later when I retold the story on the phone.
"Of course we did," I answered. "What do you mean, 'did we eat them?' How could we not?"