For the last hundred years or so we've celebrated Independence Day by going to the Picnic in the Park in Concord (2012, 2011, 2010, 2008...). Sometimes we invite friends, and this year we invited pretty much everyone we know! But then it rained. So we had them over for a picnic at our house instead.
It was easier than a picnic out in that we didn't have to pack up all the food, but harder because it was tough finding room for the blankets and food and people on the porch, and without room to run around the smaller children stepped on some of the food. Being able to be outside enjoying the cool breeze while rain streamed down made the close confines totally worth it though, and the chance to make beer part of the picnic was an added bonus (though that's not beer that Zion's drinking in the photo above; it's mint tea). Even better, our guests staggered their arrivals so there was always room for everyone to eat! It was the place to be.
Of course, we couldn't abandon Concord entirely; we knew that lots of the planned events were still going on in alternate, indoor locations, so after filling up on lunch the gentlemen headed over to take in some bluegrass music from Southern Rail (leaving the ladies home to talk about female concerns). Last time the Picnic in the Park was rained out the music portion was held in a gym, which was perfect; this time it was in the Emerson Umbrella, which, while a totally hip place, has an auditorium with seats that made people want to sit quietly and listen seriously. So it may be that our bunch of children disrupted a few people's enjoyment of the show, but I think the band would have appreciated their energy more than not. I danced a little myself, I'm not too proud to admit.
Then we came home and ate and drank some more. Sadly all our guests left too soon to enjoy the very impressive fireworks display put on by our neighbors across the street—a display which, to continue a theme, the boys and I watched from our porch. The first part, at least. The second, bigger, part came after they were in bed, and happily it didn't wake any of them up. The perfect end to a delightful day.
Happy Fourth of July!
I first made jam in 2007, I think, and since then I've branched out some in the recipes I made... but not too much. I don't get that many chances to put up each kind of fruit, and I don't want to mess up and not have any strawberry jam for a year. So I've stuck to tradition, and also to Sure-Jell pectin (and its Certa liquid pectin partner). A few years ago I heard about Pomona's Universal Pectin, but I discounted it: a box was more expensive than a box of Sure-Jell and I figured that it was hippy stuff that couldn't work as well as a more scientifically formulated product from a real American company like Kraft Foods.
I know, right: what was I thinking?!
After my mom made freezer jam with some last year—and even more, gave me the rest of the package that she didn't use—I figured it was finally time to give the hippy alternative a try. After all, I had a ton of strawberries to work with! Plus as I get old I start to be able to learn a little bit, and I figure after seven years I should be able to tell when jam is cooked enough to set.
So the first superior thing I noticed about the Pomona's is the flexibility of the recipe. With Sure-Jell you need to measure the exact amount of fruit and the exact amount of sugar, and boil for exactly 1 minute—all of which (except maybe the sugar) is impossible in actual real life. So they're setting you up for stress right from the beginning. With the Pomona's pectin the instruction booklet starts out by encouraging the user to experiment and come up with new recipes; for the printed ones they tell you to use somewhere between 3/4 and 2 cups of sugar per 4 cups of mashed fruit. Or substitute another sweetener, something else that won't fly with Sure-Jell. Or use no sugar at all and cook it longer. And hey, why not double or triple the recipe? (another Sure-Jell no-no). The fact that Marissa (of Food in Jars) uses Sure-Jell means that it really must be more flexible than the included recipes suggest, but the fact that the printed material sets out to hold you to the One True Way doesn't make for a relaxed jamming experience; how different the easy-going ways of Pomona's.
And then there's that sugar itself. The Sure-Jell recipe for strawberry jam calls for 5 cups of mashed strawberries and a startling 7 cups of white sugar. It makes a tasty jam, and one that sets up well and is a beautiful strawberry red in the jar, and I made it happily for years; but 7 cups of sugar is a lot. It fills a large mixing bowl when you measure it out. It's hard to maintain my alternative credibility when I'm feeding that much sugar to my family. To step down gradually from my previous sugary excesses (and to stretch the strawberries into as much jam as I could get) I used the maximum amount of sugar called for in the Pomona's recipe, but that still amounted to only 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups of strawberries. Much better.
And then, also, it works. Not having an exact recipe made me pay more attention to the jam in the pot, and I was pretty conservative in cooking down the fruit before adding the sugar and pectin. But the overall cooking time wasn't much longer than what I'm used to, and the jam set up very nicely: a little bit of a softer (more "jammy", as they say) set than I'm used to, but certainly a product that will stay in an open jar held upside down. That it's tasty goes without saying.
So my only disappointment is that I waited so long to make the switch, and I'm sure looking forward to more jamming this summer!
I missed writing about it yesterday because OMG summer is a lot of flipping work, but Elijah turned four months old. Some exciting things have happened with him in just the past two weeks. The first is that he now fits into the Ergo.
This means I can get him on and off my front much more easily than I could with a wrap carrier. The result is that he's carried more and I hate it less. It also means he can get down more frequently to do his favorite thing in the whole wide world: exercise!
Elijah NEEDS to be on his stomach for several hours every day. I don't know if he's determined to start crawling six months earlier than his brothers did, or if he just likes kick kick kicking. But it seems that he craves exercise. The same energy Harvey used to employ to MAKE SOUNDS MORE SOUNDS I WILL FIGURE OUT TALKING BY ALWAYS MAKING SOUNDS, Elijah seems to devote to building his physical strength and balance. I don't know what it bodes for the future, I just know it's an amazing blessing to have children who are DIFFERENT.
In the looks department, however, Elijah seems to be taking after Harvey. He's a tanker just like his oldest brother, and people routinely guess he's that 8 months old instead of 4 (indeed he's fitting into 9 month clothing now). Their face shape seems to be similar too. I thought my first two looked alike, but seeing the first and third together is uncanny.
The middle child for his part has adjusted well to the coming of a younger brother. It was a tough first two months for him, but he seems to be coming into his own as a three year old, taking longer time away from Mama to play by himself, and asking to do more things with his father. There are still difficult moments, of course, like this morning when he screamed for an hour because his apples were moist (fruit contains moisture, fyi). But I feel a peace about his self-confidence and place in the family. I no longer feel like having a baby brother broke Zion.
All in all I've felt that these four months have been easier than the other post-pardom periods. Elijah is by far the easiest baby we've had, easy to sooth, easy to put to sleep, easy to coax into a heart-melting smile. I don't have as many photos of him as of the other two, I don't have as much free time to dote over his development, but I love him just as much as I've loved the others. Which is to say 100%.
On the 5th our friends the Guileys texted us to invite us to a fireworks display in Acton, postponed from the 4th due to the weather. It would start at 9:30. I was intrigued, Leah aghast. But since she had another offer, for a ladies craft night, the boys and I were free to be grossly irresponsible and take them up on the offer.
After some difficulty finding where we were supposed to park, and a lovely walk through the woods from the approved parking location to the fireworks venue, we found a fine spot to set up our encampment. The event was at Nara Park in Acton, which turns out to be a pretty fancy spot, with a large man-made natural amphitheater (does that make sense?) and an impressive stage for the concert which was to precede the fireworks. The back of the amphitheater featured a long steep hill, which the boys enjoyed tremendously while we waited for our friends to arrive.
As people trickled in I was surprised by the crowd; apparently this Acton celebration is really a thing!
Catching the concert spirit, we did some energetic dancing to the music of a Beatles cover band... a little too energetic for me! The boys wanted to keep up the craziness but I told them to save some energy for when their friend Taya arrived, because I knew she'd want to run. And she did!
After another half-hour or so of dashing around the hill (while I sat quietly and enjoyed some adult conversation) the kids calmed down enough to want to explore a little further afield. I was glad to go along with them.
Nara Park is also a local swimming hole, and the pond had a very Cape Cod-esque bridge across the marshy, non-beach side. There was also a little gravelly cove, and you know what that means!
These three kids sure enjoy each other's company!
As dark fell we reined in the kids, and took some time to pay a little more attention to the music—and to the great display of light-up hulahoops and other flashy toys decorating the widespread crowd.
Then of course there was a the main event. Harvey was delighted by his first real fireworks display, and Zion was happy enough to watch them from behind my back. I offered to hold him on my lap but he declined; he clearly preferred to have my body between him and all that airborne fire.
If we could have been magically transported home after the fireworks ended all would have been perfect, but unfortunately we and a couple thousand other people all had to get to our cars, and get said cars out of the parking lots, with our worn-out kids. There were some other distant rockets going off as we headed down the hill; Harvey and Taya wanted to see them but Zion had had enough: "I tired of fireworks." When we got to the lovely walk through the woods it was charmingly illuminated with strings of work lights, but it was also extremely crowded. We stood still for several minutes while people figured out how we were all going to fit on the narrow path.
Then of course once we reached the car I didn't even bother to start the engine for half-an-hour or so; the people who had pulled out right away got in line and didn't move an inch that whole time. The fireworks ended at 9:45; it was 10:55 when we finally made our way out of the office park where everyone was parked onto the main road.
Not that I mean to complain: the boys were both long asleep by then, the evening (midnight?) air was lovely and cool, and there was music on the radio. All in all, it was a great time, and now our Independence is properly celebrated.
I have a guest post today on Composting Faith. It's about the spiritual benefits of dehydrating mustard greens. Or whatever, my usual schtick. But there's a picture of my tired face holding up a Jar of greens at the end, so that should be worth something. Go check it out if you don't already RSS them.
Today was Harvey's 5-year doctor check up. I'd been prepping him for a few days in advance, reminding him that he'd have to take off his clothes and that the doctor would look in his eyes. Last year's visit featured so much screaming and shaking I was debating whether there were actually negative health effects of seeing a doctor. But Harvey is a year older now, and when I told him this morning we were going to the doctor he remarked, "I think I'll be brave this time."
Then he added, "If I'm brave I can probably watch a show when I get home. Good idea?"
Whatever helps Harvey be brave is a good idea in my book. And indeed, today's visit was a wonder to behold. Harvey conversed easily with both the nurse and the doctor, enough to pass his vision and hearing tests (a thing I hadn't thought to prep him for) and enough to tell the doctor that he doesn't really eat broccoli. There was a moment when he tried to hide from the shots (an understandable response) but once he was on my lap he didn't flail or scream, and there were no tears when the needles went in. He more than earned his medel of bravery. As I type this he is downstairs watching Bob the Builder.
Harvey must have felt pretty pleased with himself coming out of the doctor's office, because as he put on his bike helmet to go home he asked, "Can I bike home by myself?"
"You mean without me following?" I asked.
He nodded his head.
I didn't know quite how to feel in that moment. My heart leapt once in my chest, up and down, in a simultaneous expression of anxiety and pride. Then I asked myself what Dan would say.
"Let's cross the big street together," I said. "Then you can bike the rest of the way by yourself."
We all crossed South Road together. From there it was just a quarter of a mile to our house, with only two crosses, a driveway of an office park and the entrance to a rather quiet street. Harvey crossed the office park first when he was about fifteen feet away from me. I saw him look very cautiously into the parking lot before he went out. He picked up speed after he made it to the other side, and I thought of calling for him to wait, but I had just lauded him so much for being brave I didn't want to "buy it back" with my own anxiety. Harvey sped along towards home. I watched him come to the road crossing now, too far away now for me to jump in and save him. He stopped his bike completely and looked both ways. He started to go and then stopped again. I wondered if he was going to stop completely and wait for me to come. He looked back to see where I was. Maybe he wanted me to be closer and maybe he was glad he'd gotten so far ahead. At any rate he turned back to the street, looking both ways a second time. I held my breath and prayed to Jesus to keep him safe. Harvey sped across the crossing, and zoomed around the corner, and disappeared out of my sight.
I called Dan and told him Harvey was headed home before me. Dan said he'd be on the lookout.
A minute later I rounded the corner myself, delayed by a tantruming Zion. I scanned the sidewalk up ahead and saw Harvey almost at our street, a tiny dot in the distance, frantically pedaling out his freedom.
A tear came to my eye. It wasn't because Zion was hitting me. I have never been so proud of Harvey in all my life.
Then a large gray van pulled up beside me. "Are you missing a toddler on a bike?" the woman in the passenger seat asked. They had passed Harvey, freaked out, and turned around looking for a responsible adult.
My first thought was: toddler? Really? He's five years old and 89% percentile for height!
"He's mine," I explained, still beaming from my pride. "He's biking home by himself. He's practicing being brave." That probably should have been enough information, but to cover my DSS bases I added: "We live just around the corner and my husband is waiting at the door for him. Thank you so much for checking."
"Oh good," the woman sighed with relief, "I was worried." Then her face brightened. "Hey, go little guy!"
It took me another five minutes to get home. By the time I got there I was anxious to see how Harvey made out. I peaked around the car and saw the sign I was looking for, his bike discarded in the front drive.
And suddenly I had a flashback to my youth, riding in my parent's car, rounding the corner of Butler Ave and seeing Dan's green bike on the front lawn. I remember the jump of my heart when I saw that bike, the excitement that we were both home at the same time, the anticipation that I'd soon be seeing my favorite person in the world.
And now I have two favorite bikers, the original and his miniature. As Harvey grows out of his mama-given genes he is faster every day, more independent, and of course brave.
We've been pretty busy around here, with exciting things and with the regular things that still need to be done in between the excitement. Here are some moments from the last two weeks.
Zion and a friend played wonderfully for two or three hours today, with no fighting, no adult intervention, and plenty of wonderful imaginative games. We had camp going on so there were other kids around, but except for a few minutes here are there the two of them were content to ignore the rest of the goings-on and concentrate on their shared storytelling. It was wonderful! It was only this evening that we saw the aftermath: one ficus tree badly damaged and two books—including one library book—with pages torn out and ripped up.
It makes me sad when my kids break up a lego creation that I made—sometimes even one that they made!—so you can imagine my reaction to damage to a 10-year-old potted plant or a good book. There's a little part of me that recognizes that I probably assign too much value to things myself, and that I could stand to dis-attach a little more than I do; and in the discussion that ensued that bit tried not to emphasize too much the importance of the objects themselves. But on the other hand things do have value, and while we try and cultivate a "spirit of abundance" (have we ever blogged about that before? I'm too sleepy to look) real concerns about sustainability demand we teach our kids to be careful with their stuff, because we don't just want to throw something away and get a new one. Even more importantly, there's the damage we do to relationships when we damage or destroy something that belongs to someone else, and I want to make sure that both Zion and Harvey understand that dynamic.
So Zion didn't get a story tonight, and we're going to have a week without library books (two hard hard punishments in our house). Harvey felt terrible about the whole thing, even though his only fault was in not doing anything when he saw the two smaller boys "boshing" the plant, and he graciously offered to help pay for replacing the library book. Zion didn't and won't, both because he doesn't have any money and because he's a proud boy who hates to admit fault, but I'm pretty sure he got the severity of the situation. He said he was sorry, anyways, and that he won't do it again. And he already has tomorrow's story picked out and waiting by his bed.
We're diapering in cloth and growing our own food. We're sewing patches onto our clothes until we all look like hobos. We're biking all the places we can bike and walking everywhere we can carry our groceries back. Or at least we're trying to do these things. At least in intention, from the environmental, anti-capitalist angle, we are totally a family working towards sustainability.
And yet, there are many things in our lives that are not sustainable.
My level of energy, for example. That's not sustainable. My bouts of sewing and cleaning where I stay up past ten every night and wake up at five in the morning for early morning exercise. "This is working!" I tell myself, "This is working!" for weeks on end. Until my mouth fills with cold sores and I start mainlining garlic to drain the fluid out of my ears.
Or my level of eating, that's not sustainable. The thousand extra calories I stress eat at 3pm in the afternoon because the emotional needs of three children are just SO GREAT. Or for no reason at all, just because we have a costco-sized bag of chocolate chips and I'm tired. I cannot run 5 miles every day to burn it off, no matter what time I wake up in the morning. There are knees to consider. The knees need to sustain me for the next 60 years, and I cannot pound them away on my whim, no matter how much I'd like to punish the rest of me.
Then there is the issue of birth control, because seriously? Having infinite children is not sustainable. But what do you do (really, I'm asking you, you what do you do?) when you're breastfeeding forever, and you don't want a surgical permanence, and you're afraid of migraines from hormones, and you think spermicide might be a neurotoxin. Not the FAM method, that's how religious people get pregnant. I've been thinking about a copper IUD, and then I read a 50-page Mothering forum about how they can cause panic, depression and anxiety. But then I think: yeah, so could another pregnancy.
Unsustainability. I know it intimately.
Yet in life, as in capitalism, as in our rampant destruction of the environment, unsustainable practices have their own momentum. We continue with them day after day after day because life has to go on, because we can't think of a better solution that takes exactly the same number of minutes as the current solution, because there are only so many minutes in the day and changing our habits takes thought and energy and work.
And I think "someday this will change," and I use the passive voice when I make that declaration.
Each phase ends, yes, and I should have compassion on myself, and one day we won't be needing so many diapers. But by then we'll be needing a LOT MORE snacks, and there will always be new and different needs. It's not sustainable for me to say, "I'm just gonna ride this out," blaming my lack of personal and corporate responsibility on my children and their sleep schedules and the availability of bulk baking products from costco.
Last Sunday we dedicated Elijah during our morning service. It was a low-key event, this being an adult baptism kind of church, but nonetheless I managed to get all three children into matching shirts. Zion threw a raging tantrum in the morning, I forget about what, so by the time we were dressing to leave I was finished giving him options. There was none of my normal "collared shirt or t-shirt because you have self-determination," it was all "put this on and get in the car or you're not getting a bagel."
I'll bring you an apple, I offered. He whipped on that botton-down lickity split.
Oh wait, now I do remember the nature of the tantrum. He was lying on the floor yelling "Mama, Woah!" and pretending like he couldn't stand up. Whether he has a right to my attention at any given moment, he does not have the right to demand it in a rude manipulative manner. So I told him he could ask for my attention in many ways, say "Mama I want a hug" or walk over to me. But I would not reward phony helplessness, I said. I said this many times, in many different ways. In many variations of volume. He also varied his volume, Zion. At the most heated point in the argument he shouted, "I CAN'T GET UP!" and I shouted back at him, "Bullshit!"
And then I thought to myself, "Well that does no good. He doesn't even know what bullshit means!" I have to get all teachy on him and say, "Zion, when I say the word 'bullshit' it means that I don't believe you and also that I'm getting really mad."
Eventually we made it to the car. Harvey was also unhappy about something. On the ride to church I said to Dan, "It's a good thing we dedicate our children to God, because right now they're not doing much for us."
In between serving bagels at kids church, running across campus to get up on stage, and running back to the classrooms to teach again, Dan and I had to answer some penetrating questions.
Do I promise to raise my children in the knowledge of God, the Father Son and Holy Spirit? Yes. Do I bless my children's relationship with God, whatever that might look like? Well, okay, I guess I have to. Do I ask for God's help in my parenting? Every single f-ing second. Okay so that's not actually true, but I wish I did - things might go better.
The truth about parenting and faith is that they're both moving targets. What works in my parenting changes from moment to moment. This is true of my relationship with God as well. I don't have any great insights into either, how to do parenting or faith exceptionally well. Just keep showing up, I guess. Keep putting the kids in the car and driving to church. No matter what it takes to get there. Even if you totally forget to bring their shoes. Show up together and eat a free bagel and see if God wants to lead you anywhere.
And welcome to Elijah, my little gift from God, and dedicated back, and given back to me again. Thanks for doing this crazy thing with us.
It's been a very busy summer and I find that I don't have as much time for recording our experiences as I'd like. Rather than make myself frantic trying to 'keep up' with duplicating our lives on this blog, I've decided to post some pictures I want to remember. These are things which might have become blog posts on their own if I hadn't spent so much time playing or cleaning or sleeping. Imagine the blog post yourself. Something something, self deprecating joke, something something deep ending. You get the idea.
Harvey and Zion got ukuleles for Harvey's birthday. I got these red and blue models from The Land of Nod and they are awesome, notably because they tune via a detached key which means the boys can't detune them every second.
Speaking of the Land of Nod, here's a joke from the other day. I got a coupon in the mail from said establishment and I exclaimed, "Hey! 15% off the Land of Nod!" Dan looked at me wide-eyed and asked incredulously, "The whole land?"
Harvey got a golden shirt from my grandmother, and he calls it his armor. Grandma is always trying to find presents to give the boys, despite not having access to cash or being able to get around very well. She lives in a nursing home nearby and we have been visiting her once a week since her health went into decline. It can be intense balancing the physical and emotional needs of my grandmother vs those of my children when we visit. On the plus side the nursing home cafe has very cheap hot dogs.
This is what it looks like when I sit on the toilet with the door open. I have three kids now and my living room is intense.
The kids painted a canvas for my mother's 60th birthday, under my art direction. The trick to painting with kids, if it's something you want to turn out a certain way, is to start drinking 30 minutes before you set out the materials. I didn't do that, so the project was very stressful for me, especially the hand print part. This was the final product:
The hurricaine took down a tree in our back yard and it fell on our rapsberry pushes. Luckily nothing else was damaged. Harvey helped get the wreckage cleared.
Harvey also climbed on all the branches and a stick we set up as a makeshift climbing structure. He's getting very brave.
Zion put his belly on a skateboard and pretended he was swimming in the street. That boy has some problem solving abilities.
Harvey frequently asks to hold Elijah. I think they have a similar look about them.
Even though it's 90 degrees, Harvey still dons his king costume frequently. The other day he was entertaining the baby and said, "Elijah likes being with the king!"
Elijah is the baby of the world.
And now I think we're up to date.
It's a good thing our hens give us plenty of eggs, because they sure eat their fill of our fruits and vegetables. This year they enjoyed lots of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries—and about all of the tiny crop of blueberries (we have six plants, but only one flowered this year). And then today they got into the garden and ate three-fourths of the first almost-ripe tomato. I wanted to eat that tomato! I mean, share it with my family, of course. Luckily there are a great many more that we can expect to come ripe at some point in the near future; I only hope I can manage to improve the fencing in time!
It's been over two years since the last time I shaved any of the hair on my body. At the time I thought going natural was a BIG DECISION. Now I think that's stupid. What a loser society we live in if the choice to sport leg hair or not feels like a defining factor of identity.
I didn't have any hippy rhetoric floating around my head when I said, "Forget it, I'm done shaving." I just had two very young and needy kids and I didn't feel like taking any longer in the shower. This was after I had dreaded my hair, so my shower times had already plummeted. I saw not shaving as the low-hanging-fruit of life hacking my way to sanity. Mornings are sometimes tough, but I'm a person who feels better about myself if I have a quick shower before I get dressed. It's a nice thing to put a baby in a playpen, hop in the shower, and be out and dressed before he notices you're gone.
If my husband had said, "Ew! leg hair!" I would have relented, but he assures me he's not that type of guy. Also I keep him on a short string by making sex a rarity. It's the same technique I use with my kids regarding screen time. They don't get it very often, so they f-ing LOVE cooking documentaries.
But back to not shaving...
Two years with body hair, I can say that this has been mostly a positive experience. Not a groundbreaking one. Just, like, a slight life improvement. It saves me time and nobody has stopped being my friend because of it. It turns out it's not life shattering when some women choose to have leg hair.
Although I will say one thing.
I carry our cultural beauty standards around in my head as much as other people do. When I look down at my own legs I sometimes have a moment of "Ew, is someone gonna clean that up?" The underarm hair was much quicker for me to accept, because I see beautiful women in other societies doing that. And because armpits are not that pretty with shaving bumps either. But legs do give me a moment of pause. The first few times I went to the gym in shorts I was rather self-conscious. But I got over that quickly because I no one is really looking at you at the gym. I do notice that I choose to wear long skirts when I go to a gathering of people I don't know. Church is a long-skirt place for me, as are small groups and parties. It's partly that I don't want someone to be taken aback by my leg hair, and partly because that's what I wear to look fancy. I also wear shorts at the beach to hide my pubic hair, but dressing for the beach is a whole 'nother issue for women, am I right?
Can you see it? Can you see the disgusting abomination of follicles?
They say that blogging is navel gazing, and these 500 words about the hair on my body really drive that point home. Still, I hope it's helpful for some aspiring hippy who's wondering, "Dare I do it? Will my life be plunged down a slippery slope of dishevelment?" The answer is probably yes, but it won't be a big deal. You'll see. Two years will go by and you'll barely even stop to write about it.
This morning I was prepping a big meal in the kitchen, listening to the sermon I missed in church on Sunday. Elijah is working through a baby virus, so I stayed home with him to rest while Dan took the older boys on a play date. While Elijah slept fitfully I figured I'd use the time to prep tomorrow's 9-person dinner. At least cut up the vegetables, I said to myself, so I can pop them in the oven tomorrow when I'm dealing with three kids at once.
I often miss the sermon on Sunday because I'm working in kids' church, and then dealing with my children's nutritional and social/emotional needs afterward. Once they all get lunch and juice and playing on the playground we sometimes get a chance to do a little worship together. It makes for a lovely morning but not exactly a growing-in-God type of regimin.
So when I get a quiet moment during food prep I try to catch up on whatever the church is teaching. Not for my own sake, of course, but because I lead a small group and I have to be up on the message for the benefit of others.
I live on a very high ivory tower and that is the subject of my blog post today.
So I turn on the sermon while dicing potatoes and I hear our pastor ask this odd question: If you had a t-shirt emblazoned with a phrase that represented your identity, what would it say?
I have a friend who exercises in a tank that reads, "I want it all!" She exercises pretty hard.
My neighbor's daughter has a shirt that says, "Princess." She comes into our house and demands cookies.
So what would an accurate t-shirt say for me? I reflected for a moment, scrolling through all the phrases that reflect my hippy parent self-presentation. "Local milk supplier" for example, or "Powered by stevia and not cane sugar!"
And then it hit me, the phrase that I'd never put on a t-shirt. The phrase that describes my personality 100%.
LEVEL UP, BITCH.
What are you doing, pouring glycerine soap into cute little sheep molds? Make your own soap! LEVEL UP, BITCH! What are you doing, attachment parenting one single child? Homeschool three! LEVEL UP, BITCH!
What are you doing, trying to rest with your sick kid because you haven't slept in three days? Cook a day ahead and write a blog post! LEVEL UP, BITCH!
In my own mind, I can never stop working. In my own mind I am never trying hard enough.
I am not alone in this, I find. This is an American mothering thing.
I came across this article the other day while I was nursing sick Elijah for like ten million hours. It made me laugh because it put into words the way I think about domestic tasks. "Bento Boxes That Will Establish Your Dominance Over Other Moms."
'But this is taking me too long!' Waaah waaah waaah. What are you, a little bitch? Set an alarm for 3:30 am and get it done!
Dan says I'm attached to the praise of others. "You're so AMAZING" and "How do you DO it?" I say, haha that's generous. Caring what others say would mean having a genuine relationship with them. Instead I have a genetic inability to process compliments. What matters to me is my own definition of winning, a warped view of Christianity in which Jesus loved Martha better and demonstrated it by ordering more sandwhiches.
I have thought: "I am the fucking Michael Jorden of giving myself to others."
Dan says this is a spiritual issue and I need to repent. I guess I'll have to, because I am the fucking Michael Jorden of obeying my husband.
Anyway, let's wrap this up so I can go back to cooking.
What should you do if, like me, your self-concept is a little unhelpful?
Go back to God for a different t-shirt. Ask him what he thinks it should say. If I honesty ask God how he sees me I hear, "Oh honey, you are sooooo tired. You're afraid that you're a loser and you'll always be a loser. This not eating sugar thing isn't going to help."
Maybe instead he'll give me a pink t-shirt that says "Princess!" I wonder if my neighbor has any cookies...