Saturday, July 27, 2013

letting my 8 year old go. . . (for ten minutes)

He wants to buy worms, this little son of mine, and I don't have time.

I know, worms are a need, he's going fishing.  I calculate the bread in the oven still and Eli needing a bath and the distance out of my way to stop to buy worms and suddenly I have a great idea.

Three, no four, no five? blocks down the street, on our side, in the oddest place, is a little gas station that may or may not sell gas anymore, but they definitely sell bait. 

I think for a moment.  Jacob rides his bike all over the place, he's just never gone there.  I think about how easy it would be for him and me and know he's completely capable of buying a container of nightcrawlers on his own. 

I hatch out this little plan with him.  He is one hundred percent on board with running his own errand and with many assurances that he'll be fine, he trucks off on his own with my BlackBerry in his pocket. 

Call 911 if you need to! I trail after him and sound like a crazy person.  He is 8 going on 28 and savvy and smart and an all around great kid.  He will be just fine and I am turning into the clinging mother I vowed I wouldn't be.

My bread bakes and I kneel next to the tub, bathing Eli, strangely bereft of that constantly behind feeling that I carry. 

He's old enough and fine.

He's gonna be so proud paying for those worms and putting them in his HyVee sack.

I'm so scared he'll . . . like. . . veer out into the street in front of a car.

Truth, woman, tell yourself truth. 

#1 Jacob has never veered anywhere.  He was born on purpose.  He purposefully, dutifully, stubbornly marches through life according to plan.  He doesn't veer. 

#2 Refer to #1.

With the time I saved not stopping to pick up bait, I worried.

It is hard for me to imagine a more stressful state of being than raising babies and toddlers.  You pray for them to go to sleep, and in my case, pray for them to wake up too.  This leaves me in a strange tension of inadequacy and exhaustion. 

In my head, all of my mothering problems will go away once everyone is potty trained, sleeping through the night, not biting fellow tots, reading, mastering beginning addition and independently able to cater a snack to oneself. 

In another wiser corner of my head, I tell myself that this is an illusion, a mirage that only mothers of toddlers believe.

My friends with kids older than mine assure me that motherhood is still quite wearing even though they aren't buying Pampers anymore.

And now I'm experiencing it all on my very own.  I have coached this child on manners, his dad has drilled financial sense into him, we have quizzed and requizzed him on bike safety and let him out on his own numerous times. He even has a phone with him!  I have raised him to the point that he is totally capable of what he is doing and now I'm worrying and scared when I should be triumphant and happy.

Like I tell Deeann I'm gonna be at my kids high school graduations.  No sniffling here! I say bravely.  I am gonna be rejoicing and planning a vaca with my man!  Triumphant and happy, that's me.

Or not. 

What if?

Is he okay?

It's been all of five minutes.

Ok, that's it, I'm getting Eli out of the tub and driving down to see if he's okay. 

**noise in the driveway

"Mom, I'm back, it went fine, Mom, the worms are $3.20, but Mom I'm so embarrassed, I went all the way there and I forgot my wallet. I remembered everything else!  I have it now, I'll be right back."


"There was one thing a little bad."

My heart stops.

"The guy in there was smokin', Mom, and it stinks, so bad."


"I'll be right back!"

Be careful. . . . I trail off like the worrywart mom I never meant to be.

I savor these days with him, and love the conversations we can have now that he's a bit older; tonight he flopped across our bed and chatted endlessly about remote control cars and I know I glazed over but I love that he wants to tell me about it. 

I love the little man he's becoming and I ache for how much he has yet to learn and how hard life will be for him until he's willing to yield and be humble and teachable.  I am scared sometimes that we'll influence him in the wrong direction or that he'll see in us something that will scar him and wound him.

Cambria took down the letters to her name that hung above her bed leaving three: B R I .  She signs her letters Bree and calls me Mother just for something new.  Yesterday she was sporting a rubber band as an ankle bracelet.  She is always on a wild new tangent. (She is so my child.)  She does veer.  (She is not allowed to ride her bike down the street for bait.)  She may "do hair or work in a nursery" when she grows up and she changes her clothes about 52 times a day.  She can be insecure and too much of a people pleaser and a bit lazy.

You can't feed 'em a bottle and rock 'em to sleep.

It's much much more complicated.

I know, too, that I don't think these thoughts about Eli.  His needs are much simpler.  I just need a visceral strength and tons of coffee to deal with him. 

By the way, loved the study Harvard just conducted on coffee-drinking cutting suicide risk in half. Drink some coffee.  Life will look more beautiful.

But these other little growing up children of mine, beautiful and frustrating and moldable and independent-yet-needy -

I need grace and wisdom and I need to let go and rein in all at the same time. 

But when have I not needed grace and wisdom?


And I cry out to God, for my marriage, for my children, for my family,

build something beautiful
don't leave until You do
(JJ Heller)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

(the gift of going home)

Friday found us making the long drive to Mom and Dad's.
The gift of going home is not lost on me.
It is a gift and a treasure.
Our kids playing with their cousins, endless lil Gator rides, kittens, trampoline, Grandpa and Grandma at their beck and call.
Dinner beginning at eight, under the stars and a table long enough for all 25 of us.  White lights and paper lanterns strung high in the trees; music and great food against the backdrop of laughter and cornfields and my heart squeezes.
I'm thinking of all the work it takes as a parent to get to this point, where your kids wanna come home and see you.
I'm thinking of all the relationship work it is to sit around the same table and not hold onto scars and bitterness, but rather forgive and choose love.
I'm thinking of all the many people I know who would give anything to have an evening like ours in their lives- a place, a time where you can be accepted for who you are, loved unconditionally, to laugh and belong.
I'm thinking of the line from Jacob's new favorite song,
all I can do is thank You for this life I never deserved
We put kids to bed in the farmhouse, some upstairs and some down and some out in the outbuilding-turned-guesthouse and we linger and talk and savor the everyone is together moment. 
Life is hard and cold and our family is not immune to grief, problems, stress, worry.  God was gracious to my dad and he is looking great after being involved in a hit and run accident earlier in July; my brother is on crutches after breaking his ankle in a softball injury.  My sister-in-law has just home from the funeral of her cousin, one of the nineteen firefighters killed in Arizona, and the brief window of life is something we're all aware of as we gather. 
Life is hard.
How much stronger we are to share life together.  How much sweeter. The good times and bad, you know, the bitter and sweet, it's cliche, but it's so true. . . it's so much better shared.
I get all introspective as I sit on a couch that someone moved outside, in our little heavenly mix of Martha Stewart meets Redneck, listening to the happiness and music and just drinking it all in, rest for my weary soul.
What if I couldn't go home?
What if the soul-care wasn't there?
What if Mom and Dad had thrown in the towel?
What if Dad had bowed to the gods of money and success?
What if Mom hadn't poured her life out?
What if we weren't loved?
What if we hadn't been encouraged forced to get along?
As a parent, I think of all that we want our children to succeed at;  and moments like these make me resolve to help them succeed at things that matter; character and relationships and loving well.
I wanna make my kids want to come home, not to stay, not to be stifled, not to cling, but to be able to regroup and recharge and relax and renew. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

granola (Monday through Friday)

Well I collect granola recipes.
I like to try all different kinds cuz this family just devours it. 
Here are just a few favorites (enough to make five different versions).
Elizabeth's Granola
my sister makes this and it is sooo good.  more like dessert.  I use white sugar instead of brown because she did once and that's what hooked me on it.  we've been eating it with raspberries and vanilla yogurt. the vanilla + slight almond flavor makes it taste like sugar cookies.
5 cups quick oats
1 stick butter
1/2 cup oil
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond flavor
1 cup brown or white sugar
1/2 cup coconut
Mix together, spread in greased pan and bake at 350 for 10-25 minutes.  Let cool and break into pieces.
Christine's Honey Nut Granola
my sister in law first introduced me to the concept of baking granola at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time.  previously granola, to me, meant two hours of checking the oven every ten minutes and stirring endlessly.  now that I know otherwise, I look for recipes like this:
Melt together:

1 cup date sugar (or turbinado)
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup oil or butter
3 t. vanilla
Pour over:
2 t. cinnamon
5 cups regular oats
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup coconut
Mix, bake at 350 for 15 minutes, let set until cool.  Then break up.
Honey Nut Granola //remix//
so this is my version of the above recipe.  it's 100% unhealthier than my west coast sister's.  it's easy to adapt though and so I use it as a base.  Add raisins, dried blueberries, cashews, pecans and cranberries, whatever sounds good.  :)
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 t. vanilla
Pour over:
5- 6 cups regular or quick oats
add nuts, add ins as desired.
Mix and bake on greased jelly roll pan at 350 for 15 minutes.  Cool and break into pieces.
Cherry Almond Granola
Deeann brought this to me, packaged with blue checked ribbon when I was a new first time mom in the hospital with a squalling little Jacob. It's a great great gift for new moms.  And old moms.  (Am I an old mom!?)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup thawed unsweetened apple juice concentrate
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 cups old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 cups dried cherries or cranberries
1 cup slivered almonds
Mix the first seven ingredients in a sauce pan and melt.  Pour over remaining ingredients. Spread in thin layers on two jelly roll pans and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Peanut Butter Granola
I love a good pb granola.  It's an awesome ice cream topper, delish w/ mini chocolate chips plus a great am protein boost. This is just a compilation recipe of all my favorite granola recipes + peanut butter.  It's yummy and turns out every time.  I just guess at the amount of pb.  If you want to use more or less, feel free to adjust.
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup peanut butter
2 t. vanilla
Pour over:
5 cups regular oats
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup coconut
Mix, stir, spread on jelly roll sheets and bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes, checking and stirring if needed. Let cool and break into pieces.
Rachel's Baked Oatmeal
I've been making baked oatmeal since I was ten years old, but they were healthy, boring, life staple versions that had about zero wow and pizazz.  Now my friend Rachel's, on the other hand, practically stands up and sings. :)  You can make it the night before and set it in the fridge, too which adds to ease plus the sugar topping creates a crunchy glazed texture.  I made it last week with a cup of blueberries and we didn't have a crumb left. 
It's not granola.  I know.  But it is an oven version of oatmeal.
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Mix, pour in greased 9" casserole pan (I use a 9" stoneware dish). Sprinkle with
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1/2 t. cinnamon
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.
Deeeeelish!  You can add whatever sort of fruit you like.  Serve with milk.