I was thinking, “Well, we’re out of beer. What else can I cook my roast in? Water has no flavor. Isn’t there a delicious coffee pot roast recipe my mom used to make? BINGO. What could be more delicious than a coffee marinated roast?” That’s what I was thinking. Almost word for word. It didn’t take me long to find my old coffee grounds. Which if I ever venture to do this again I’ll just use instant coffee to avoid the grit. But it was delicious, flavorful. Everything I dreamed it would be.
Our kids are young enough that they all go to bed with lights out by 7:30. Usually we don’t have much of a fight with it either. Until I decided that I would cook their dinner in coffee. Hey- it was 9:30am when I put that roast in there and my sadness at the empty cup of coffee in my hand was partially responsible for my decision.
Around 9:30 – a solid two hours after lights out – over the howling wind outside and the blare of the Iron Man 2 movie, we hear sound bites of London Bridges Falling Down being belted from a bedroom upstairs. It was Brian’s turn to investigate. He found Micah up there standing in his bed, singing as loud as he could while flapping his blanket through the air.
We were on time. And getting to church on time is not a given for our family. But lately Esther and the boys have been doing better at getting themselves dressed. Gabe was the first one last Sunday. I was proud of him. He came out wearing his red fleece pants (not my choice for church but he picked them) and had matched his Lightening McQueen shirt to them too. After everyone else was dressed we actually made it on time. We were pretty excited about it too…until we released them to the childcare and once we saw them walk away we realized Gabe actually looked more the slob than a pinnacle of autonomy. I had not fixed his month-over-due-haircut-bedhead hair or wiped the now dried pancake syrup off his face. A little embarrassed, we looked at each other, shrugged and said, “We’re on time.”
Hours later after lunch, I take Gabe to the bathroom and realize he’s not wearing any underwear. “Dude, where’s your pants? Did you put any on this morning?” Nope. I quickly found out he never put any on. He “changed his underwear” but didn’t put any others on. Since he and Micah are still potty training, I knew I had been caught and had just become that Mom. I rarely care what people think. In fact, what others may think of me is not even on my radar until they say something. But I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed that I didn’t quality check his whole-hearted effort. He is still only three.
Note to self: Have a wet paper towel in hand while double checking each kid as they go through the door.
If you have ever watched the feeding of fish then you have a good idea of what breakfast time looks like at our house. Shall I set the stage? Two babies in their high chairs screaming out in fury each time a dish is brought out and they realize it is not theirs. A crying kitten (Felix) who thinks he is starving even though he eats twice a day. Three toddlers dancing around my feet, tugging, pulling and pushing their way over each other in a world-class competition for who gets a drink of milk first.
Given the coffee is brewing and not yet in my hand (a.k.a. bloodstream), I have to navigate this carefully. So I assign jobs. “Esther, feed Felix.” “Micah, get three spoons and set the table.” “Gabe, throw this away. …and this…this too. Thanks buddy.”
Becoming helpers seems to occupy their hands and minds long enough to disperse the crazy and prepare the food. But there’s still the background music of screaming babies. They simply have to wait and they aren’t going to like it. But I give them puffs and they are temporarily pacified. Until the next dish arrives. They’re no fools. Puffs are a past time not a meal.
But really. There is no coffee in my hand and breakfast is strikingly similar to feeding time at the zoo. Sometimes, if it is worse because the kids boycotted their dinner from the night before (Such as fish. Gasp!! What was I thinking?!) I have to I put kleenexes in my ears. Don’t judge! If I stay sane the kids get fed and in the morning I really don’t care how we get there. The real question is, did we get out the door on time?
Esther, my oldest, has began sneaking out of her room after bedtime and laying down on the floor at the top of the stairs. She knows if we find her she gets put back to bed so she’s stealth about it. I don’t think she’s trying to be difficult, I think she’s trying to get as close as she can to us. She loves her mommy and daddy and if she’s awake that is where she wants to be.
The demands of parenting always amaze me. With five kids between the ages of 9 months and 4 years there is always someone who wants and even needs more attention than I can give in the moment. I made the mistake of trying to put up a baby gate yesterday and the lack of attention this event caused sparked an all out 3 toddler rebellion. Helplessness…fighting…whining. You name it they threw it at me all because I was wielding a drill instead of a children’s book.
Finding my daugther at the top of the stairs stirred my heart in two ways. It made me want to go cuddle her and rock her to sleep, to cherish these moments with her when she is young like this. But, all the while I knew it would only encourage this behavior and turn it into a pattern. So, back to bed she went as I decided to make sure I carved some time out today for an extra dose of mommy-daughter snuggles. But there was something else that stirred in me too: the realization that we were being watched when all the while we thought we weren’t.
Thing is, it is easy to think that once they are in bed it’s our time. We can say what we want to say, watch what we want to watch, do what we want to do… but the reality is much different. Because in a family there is always someone watching. Someone listening. Someone learning. Someone who will be laying in the dark at the top of the stairs absorbing every word and action of mom and dad. It’s a privilege to be a parent, and it amazes me that God actually trusts Brian and I with these little hearts that are impressionable and vulnerable.
One thing I have changed is my music. I began listening to Swing music. That’s right…Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Armstrong. It’s talented, upbeat, meant for adults and most importantly it’s clean.
Of course it has cost me my up-to-date cool factor. Which was painfully on display at a not-for-moms function where I referred to my sister Missy and someone jokingly replied, “Missy Elliot?” To which I responded, “No, Missy Crouse. Missy Elliot sounds familiar though. Have I met her?” Then someone took pity. Recognized that aside from toddler music I don’t hear much of anything else and explained to me that she was an R&B artist. Immediately my self defense mechanism kicked in and I began to search for my drink which giving the others a chance to flee the social train wreck. Once left alone to my musings I realized knew who she was. I used to listen to her in high school. But I’m a mom now and things in my life have changed. My life is not my own.
Aside from the occasionally awkward moment, I am at peace because I am who I want to be. My life is more full than it ever has been before. So I want my home to be a place that protects the innocence of my children and promotes their development whether they are around or not. Why? Because a facade isn’t enough. The change in me has got to go deeper. It’s got to be real through and through or they will never believe it. They will rebel against the hypocrisy. And I know I’ve heard that song before.