January 27, 2014

It's my chili and I'll cry if I want to

There are a few nights during the week that I will almost never put anything on the menu.  I make a sandwich or heat up leftovers, but I purposefully do not cook.  When Todd is scheduled to work late and isn't home until after 9:30, I simply cannot attempt a family meal because I have this little critter (also known as Jacob) that follows me around the kitchen, climbs up my legs, sometimes screams at me, and absolutely refuses to let me do any cooking.  Every once in a while I can distract him with a whisk or a measuring cup, but those distractions never last long.  Let's be honest - a whisk is not that fascinating even if you've never seen one before.

I'm not exactly sure what Jacob's issue is with the kitchen.  His whole personality shifts if he discovers me giving my attentions to the stove.  He protests every single time I attempt a meal - which is why I only cook if the daddy is there to man the baby situation.  This is a phase of motherhood I shamlessly admit to looking forward to ending.

Last week was one in which Todd had to work several late nights in one week.  And by Thursday, I was needing a legit dinner.  I decided to brave my baby and my kitchen and tackle a fast chili and cornbread meal.  The cold front that came in nearly demanded for such a hot meal and I figured that the fast version of chili I had invented would be simple enough to make.  I've called my chili, "Poor man's chili" which consists of a large can of ready made ranch style beans that I mix with hamburger meat.  Add in my own spices and some garlic and voila - chili.

"I can do this", I declared.  I can tackle dinner and my baby and we can all eat and have a lovely time around the table just the three of us, I thought.  After giving myself a pep talk, I got started on my chili dinner mission.

I danced and sang around the kitchen making Jacob think I was playing a game with him rather than cooking.  While this worked for a few minutes, eventually he caught on to my trickery.  By the time I had the cornbread mixed and into the oven, my cooking time had expired and he demanded to be held so he could see what on earth was more important than him.

Before I could get my hamburger meat going, I put my cornbread items away and clumsily tripped over the stupid whisk I had set out to distract my baby with and spilled all of the remaining cornmeal all over the floor.  Jacob deemed this as a party and nearly leapt out of my arms so he could go play with/eat/sit in whatever was on the floor.  I assume to an eleven month old, cornmeal on the floor looks like a par-tay.

To his dismay, I set him in the living room so I could quickly sweep up the mess.  This begot much screaming and tears as he angrily crawled back in to the kitchen in all of his baby fury.  And I can't say I blamed him.  Not only was he not invited to the cornmeal-on-the-floor-party, but I was ruining said party by cleaning up the mess.

This was where I should have maybe given up on dinner entirely.  Cornbread could have sufficed.  But I forged through anyway.  I wasn't going to cry over a little spilled cornmeal.

I finally managed to get my meat cooking, twenty-something pound baby on hip, while trying to communicate that what I was doing was HOT and he shouldn't try to touch.  Of course this is just another party-like game to my son and my mind began to wonder how old he would be when he first burns himself because apparently the word HOT, even when said in a stern voice, seems to translate to CANDY or PUPPIES.

Because the chili is simple, it was done in no time, as was the cornbread.  I was feeling quite accomplished by this point.

I did it!  I survived cooking and managed Jacob and we can eat real food tonight!  Go me!  

I put chili into bowls for both Tommy and myself and set them on the table.  I went back to the counter to prepare some food for Jacob's high chair tray and cut cornbread and poured drinks.  I was feeling even more accomplished as it was nearing mealtime with my boys.  As I stood at the counter cutting beans into two (Jacob still has no teeth still and every bite he eats must be nearly microscopic or he chokes - and have you ever tried cutting beans in half?!) I suddenly hear a thud-like noise.

And then my baby boy starts screaming.

I look and all I see is his tiny little self and my dining room chair covered in steaming hot beans.  Somehow he pulled the placemat that my bowl of chili was on and it all came toppling down.  He was covered in chili completely on one side and I panicked.  I immediately picked him up, concerned he was burned from the temperature of the chili, and put him in the kitchen sink and let the water run all over him.  His tears and screaming turned into massive hysteria at this point.

I then take my watered down chili baby to his room and rip off his clothes to look at his skin.  To my relief, the parts he spilled chili on were light pink and didn't seem like he would suffer from any burns.  I covered him with Neosporin just to be safe and than attempted to calm him down as he was in a sobbing frenzy from all the chili and ice cold water and ripping off clothes trauma.

Tommy is still sitting at the table and asks me if Jacob was okay.

And I unleashed.

I ugly screamed.

I asked him if he saw what Jacob did and if he tried to stop him.  Because didn't he see what was happening?  I freaked out and took out my fears and anger and frustration on my four year old while I attempted to calm the other one down.  It was the lowest low point of the night.

A few minutes later, Jacob's tears had subsided and he was back to himself.  He seemed completely unscathed by the entire incident and forgot that he was just moments ago covered in hot beans.  I sat him in his chair, got his food and then began to clean up the chili mess on my chair.

Tommy sat there crying, face buried in his tiny hands as I went through seven hundred paper towels to clean up the mess.  I joined him in his tears and cried about the chili and my screaming and motherhood and the relief I felt knowing that my baby was okay.

Why is this so effing hard?  Why can't I just make dinner and sit down and eat with my children?  I lost it with Tommy!  I feel like a monster!  I'm never making chili again!  This is all Todd's fault because he isn't here!

You know, all of the "logical" things that can through my head, did.

Finally, I sat down with a renewed bowl of chili, now with barely an appetite.  I touched Tommy on the arm and began the conversation I knew I needed to have.

I told him I was sorry for screaming.  I told him that I should never yell - no one should ever talk to him like that.  I told him it wasn't his fault.  It was an accident and it's mommy's job to watch Jacob and I wasn't watching.  I promised him that Jacob was okay.  I told him I felt scared because I thought Jacob was hurt and sometimes when we feel scared, we can get angry because being scared can make us feel confused inside and we don't know how to act or respond.  I asked him to forgive me.

And he did.  In his four year old innocent, loving ways, he accepted my hug and my kiss.  He ate his chili.  He said he was really glad it wasn't his fault and that Jacob didn't get hurt.  The night with the boys ended with baths to wash away the beans and the tears. 

In the last year, motherhood has kicked my butt.  It has been hard and exhausting and frustrating and I keep wondering when I will ever feel like having two kids is something I can even handle.  The chili incident reminded me of where I feel like I'm failing and falling short.  Yet I'm thankful for the tender moment I shared with my son. The way he loves and forgives is sweeter than any homemade cornbread. 

As for the chili - it might be awhile before I make another pot again.  I'm pretty sure there is still bean juice crusted to the legs of my dining room chair and all of the screaming and beans everywhere and crying as I cleaned.....

Yes, I've had enough chili for awhile.

January 23, 2014


January has come with wave after wave of some kind of sickness around here.  Ear infections, tummy bugs, random rashes, and allergies.  We have all turned a curve and are on the mend, but after going through countless tissue boxes, a few trips to the doctor, and one anti-biotic, I'm done with all of this under-the-weather business for a while.

Our neck of the woods isn't spend covered under blankets of snow like the rest of the country seems to be.  Though the city did shut down due to some ice and a dusting of snow on the ground.  Be though as it may, winter is and always has been my least favorite season.  Bare trees, dead grass, gray lifeless skies, and high utility bills I begrudgingly turn on my heater.

Most every January, I can usually feel winter settle into my heart.  I become quiet and introspective and there is this sorrow that follows me around.  This gnawing thing that begs my attention and tears and feelings.  Something about the deadness of winter highlights the places in my story and my life that need to be grieved and felt and talked through.  The the process of talking through it leaves me feeling undone and that's my most unfavorite feeling of all.

I want to have it all together.  And I want you to think I have it all together.  Why it's so important to have it all together, I'm not really sure.

On top of my usual January funk, it's been hard to write here.  I've been hurting, I've been angry and I've been struggling.  And sometimes, I have an awful way of allowing my words to drip with contempt so I can passively lash out at others, even if I know they aren't coming here to read.   I'm not proud of that fact, but it's true.  It has felt kinder to be quiet and to take some of those words to a more private space.

This winter as I have not been consistently kind to myself, I've discovered that taking care of yourself and being kind to you is easier said than done.  It's far easier to care for and find kindness for others.  I don't believe it is our natural inclination to be kind to ourselves.  It's almost as if we are more at home when we beat ourselves up.  Perhaps it's a more natural, fleshly inclination to point out our own faults, to look at the places we have failed or dropped the ball rather than giving ourselves a break and some grace because we are frail and human and so needy.

The thing about winter, just like any season, is that it never lasts forever.  It always, always gives way to spring, to life, to fresh and new.  As I sit with the places that have frozen and chip away at my icy anger and hurt, I'm remembering that is season is like any other.  One to be lived in, one that only lasts for a time.  Today, I am holding on to the promise of spring.

January 3, 2014

On the same page

We rang in the new year quietly this year.  No friends, no fancy outfits, no adult beverages.  Just the two of us snuggled up in blankets on our couch waiting for midnight to come.  Jacob has been sick and Todd had to work late on New Year's Eve so we reluctantly stayed in. 

Before midnight though, we remembered the year behind us.  Interestingly enough, the best and worst moments of the year for the both of us were the same. 

The highlight of the year was how Todd arrived at the hospital just a half hour before Jacob was born - that God brought him home in time for the birth of our son.  Even in the moment, we marveled at the miracle of His timing.  How He was in to the details and He wasn't late.  Watching God come through like that - to give us that memory even though we prepared not to have it - was the biggest gift. 

The hardest moment that 2013 brought was leaving North Dakota and closing the door on what we thought was going to be this life-changing thing for us.  And I suppose our lives were still changed even in not moving, but the disappointment from that has shaken us.  Honestly, I think we are both still recovering from what we lost.  It's funny though because it was our decision to stay here in Texas, yet it still feels like a loss, as if something died.  I second guess our decision all of the time, but Todd remains strong in his certainty.  Even still, our hearts broke this year - in different ways for the both of us. 

We reflected how we just coasted through the year.  How Jacob has changed the dynamic of our family and life together, what has felt hard and what's been overwhelmingly rewarding.  But after North Dakota, we went into this default mode of just getting by again.  I realize how much we do this with disappointment.  We go back to the familiar and do that because it's all we know.  

We talked about our hopes and goals for the next year too.  Again, we named the same things.

In many ways, we felt like the two of us got by and survived the year together, but it felt reassuring to know that we were on the same page.  And that we have been all along. 

The new year though has come with life annoyances.  Like a sick, snotty baby with an ear infection.  My car is having issues and no telling yet if it's minor or major.  I caught myself telling someone this morning that "I would be better" if I knew my car wasn't going to require a huge and expensive repair.  I was immediately convicted of how I still search for joy in easy and pleasant circumstances.  I still distance myself from God when life doesn't go the way I want.  And I'm very aware how I can't change this quality in myself. 

Today, I'm grateful for the man I do life with.  The parts we coast through, the parts we struggle through, the parts that are fuller than full.  I wouldn't change 2013 for the world.  I'm hoping this year brings less coasting through and surviving, and more living and loving.
And that we stay on the same page....