Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Cupcake Mistake (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


After the early morning flurry of getting the older two out the door and onto the bus, I reached into the refrigerator and gingerly slid out the cool, glass baking dish covered with a layer of plastic wrap and tinfoil.  It was Sophia’s birthday and I was dropping off cupcakes for her class. 

The night before, I baked two rounds of cupcakes involving multiple trips to the store.  In the end I had a hot kitchen, twenty-four mini cupcakes (for school) and six large (for home) all topped with blue icing and white sparkling sprinkles.  I planned to drive them to school hoping to save her the possible embarrassment of dropping them on the bus or on her way down the hall of the new school where she was only just beginning to settle-in.   

The twins were two years old.  Picture that, if you will, two two-year-old boys swirling at my feet.  We had just moved into a new, old farm house and were living in a sea of chaos.  It was a miracle I made it to the van with the twins and cupcakes unscathed.  After buckling everyone in, I drove cautiously on a mission to deliver birthday happiness and cheer.  I wanted my daughter to feel special, no matter how much effort it took. 

Parking in the bus circle, I left the twins buckled in the van and approached the locked door, cupcakes in hand.  After being buzzed in, I chatted with the secretary and watched as she tagged the glass dish with a post-it note and called down to my daughter’s classroom.  Mission complete. I sighed with relief and drove home.    

In the afternoon I waited happily for the bus.  My daughter got off and crossed the street wearing a paper Happy Birthday crown.  

“Did you get the cupcakes,” I asked, all smiles. 

“Why did you only send six?” she asked squinting up at me quizzically. 

“What?” I said.

“Why did you only send six cupcakes?” she repeated.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“There were only six,” she said.

Standing in the driveway, it dawned on me.  I grabbed the wrong dish.  There were two glass dishes in the refrigerator, both covered with tinfoil, one held the twenty-four mini cupcakes and the other held the six large.  I grabbed the smaller of the two dishes and in the flurry of morning and my considerable effort to get her first birthday at a new school right, I messed up. 

“Are you serious?” I asked.  “What did you do? When did you realize?”

She had gone to the office to pick up the dish and, walking back to the classroom, realized my mistake.  Entering the room, she told the teacher, “There’s only six cupcakes.”  Her teacher took things in stride and divided the six among 22 students, cutting each cake into quarters. 

“Are you serious?” I asked again.  “I’m sorry, Sophia. Why didn’t they call me?”

I was mortified – my daughter, the new girl at school, embarrassed by her wacky Mom. 

But she was happy. 

“There was an extra piece because of the way she divided them,” she said, “so I got two pieces, more than anyone else.”

My daughter was fine, but it took me awhile to get over my mistake.  We joked about it immediately - how ridiculous to send in six cupcakes for a class of twenty-two students.  I sent an email to the teacher apologizing and making it clear I wasn’t the kind of mom who thought six cupcakes would cover the situation.

Those cupcakes, baked and eaten some two years ago, come up again from time to time.  In our family, they’re the epitome of an accidental, public gaffe.  In such situations, there’s nothing you can do but grin and bear it and hope maybe someone, somewhere, ends up happy despite your error.   

I thought of the cupcakes again this morning as I drove a van full of kids to a friend’s house.  Sophia sat in the front seat beside me and I held her hand, rubbed her back and worried I’d fail her in any number of public or private ways.  I so want to get it right where my kids are concerned, sometimes I try so hard a mistake is inevitable. 

But, the cupcake mistake helps me remember mistakes can be gifts.  Every time the kids and I relive my foolishness, we create a common language for the kind of things that happen in life no matter how hard you try and we practice the kind of humor and humility necessary to keep going.  In other words, we make space for our humanity together.  Oh, and also, we laugh a lot.


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Only 15 spaces left!  I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  



While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   




Sunday, June 19, 2016

Yesterday, On West 1st Street (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Saturday morning our kids were all away at sleep-overs.  John got up early and brought two cups of coffee back to bed.  When I stirred from my nest of sheets and sun, he asked, “Are you ready to hear about what I saw this morning?”

I guess I must have been ready because he told me how he let the dog out the back door, then went to the living room and looked out the big front window.  Across the street, the field has gone from green to gold and on the porch, two cats - one black, the other calico - sat facing the field.

“Really?” I asked, interrupting.  

We have one cat, Blackie, who wanders outside, the other, Perfect, is skittish and  rarely ventures from her self-imposed seclusion in the second story of our house.  When she does manage to make it outside, she ends up hiding in the garage, pressed out flat on the shelf formed by the open garage door.  Most of her adventures end with me on a ladder, coaxing her down, then carrying her back inside. 

“Yes,” he said, “I think it was Perfect.”

Seeing the cats, he went to the porch door and opened it.  Then he saw one cat, trotting off calmly down the road and Blackie sat alone on the porch.  We puzzled for awhile over the cats.  He was certain it was Perfect he saw on the porch and the cat trotting away looked an awful lot like her too, but “trotting off calmly down the road” isn’t in her repertoire.  

The more questions I asked, the more his story started to fall apart.  Blackie spent the night outside, that much we knew for sure, but I thought I saw Perfect in the morning.  How did she get outside with the doors and windows locked tight all night?  Maybe a third cat was involved? 

“This story is starting to sound less and less believable,” I said. 

“It’s true,” he said, laughing. 

“Next you’re going to say, ‘Then, along came a tiger, wearing pants, riding a unicycle.’” I said.  “And then I saw an elephant playing a banjo,’” I mimicked.  “This is starting to sound like a Dr. Suess book.”

I worried about Perfect all morning.  I scanned the rooms upstairs and quietly circled the garage calling her name and listening for an answering mew.  John cut out a cabinet in the kitchen and I worried the deafening sound of the circular saw would terrify her.  I trimmed shrubs around the house, hoping to find her cowering in their cool shade.  When we went out to lunch, we left the screen-less window open and the mud room door, hoping she would ease her way back home.  After lunch I found her back inside on the upstairs landing, jumpy and out of sorts.  She’d clearly had an adventure. 

Later we decided to wash the dog.  After trying to coax her upstairs and tugging her on a leash, John gave in and carried her to the upstairs bathroom.  Coco loves to go upstairs, but refuses to because the black cat guards it with growls and hisses and razor sharp claws - the upstairs is Perfect’s Oasis and Blackie likes to keep it that way. 

John set Coco her down in the bathroom and I shut the door, then we trimmed her fur with the electric clippers, focusing largely on her tail and hindquarters.  I hugged her body, holding her still while John trimmed her heavy wool coat.  She didn’t like it and skirted away when she could, but we cooed and praised her and she was torn between her dislike of the clippers and enjoyment of the attention. 

Satisfied with her haircut, we turned on the hand-held shower and John lifted her into the tub.  She shrank as the water soaked her coat.  She raised a tentative paw and looked longingly over the side of the tub, but stayed put under a steady stream of warm water and praise.  “Good girl, good girl, Coco,” we chirped.  I drizzled shampoo down her back and John scrubbed, clucking and singing over her like a mama bird over her chick.  Then the rinsing began and we exulted in the streams of dirt pouring down the long white tub toward the drain.

Crouched there beside my husband on the bathroom floor I remembered the first baths with our babies, the blue plastic tubs set on the dining room table and filled just so with warm but not hot water.  John is the bath man at our house, taking the honors of those first tentative sponge baths then graduating to cups of water scooped and poured over waving legs and arms.  He cooed and clucked over our babies singing love in half-flat tones and they, much like Coco, endured the alarm of water on skin, pulled along by the attention that poured down from their father’s eyes, his words and hands.            

When the dirt was more or less done running down, we turned the water off and I threw a towel over Coco’s head.  John wrapped her and lifted her to the floor where she shimmied and shook with that silly all-over-wet feeling dogs get and we were happy and pleased. 

These are a few of the things that happened yesterday on West 1st Street.  The cat got lost and found, the dog got washed and trimmed.  At the end of the day I shut the chickens in the coop and walked slowly back into the house, looking out over all the green glory of this place of goodness we’ve been given.  Then I stepped my bare foot in chicken poop in the mud room and the cool, wet shock of surprise on my foot, the down-to-earth reality of that moment, summed up the day quite well.

*   *   *   *

Only 16 spaces left!  I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   


   

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Painting, Playing #SmallWonder Link-Up


Sophia asked for art supplies for her tenth birthday and a friend dropped off a huge bag filled to overflowing a few days later.  “I should’ve asked for art supplies for my birthday!” I said, admittedly jealous.  She opened them that night and sprawled them all around the living room floor.  But in the days and weeks after, they sat in her room untouched.    

“When are you going to paint?” I asked the one night after dinner. 

“When I think of something really good to paint,” she said.

“Then you’re never going to do it,” I said.  She huffed and shot me a deflated look. 

“I don’t mean you can’t make something great,” I said, “It’s just, if you wait until you have something great to make, you’ll never do it.” 

She shrugged.

The next time we went to the library I stumbled across a book, Painting Lab for Kids.  Each project focused on a specific skill set.  The ideas were bright, fun, and encouraged experimentation.  I grabbed it for me among the usual stack of Geronimo Stilton and Super Heroes for the boys as well as Sophia’s stack of Nature Encyclopedias.  I looked through my painting book quickly one night before bed and saw Sophia paging through it later the next day.    

Then one random night in the middle of the week I pulled out the book, some hand-me-down canvases, and dug in.  The project I chose involved layering thick swaths of paint in different colors, swirling, then scraping them to make designs.  I tried it once, it was interesting.  I tried again. 

Dipping and scraping, I used an old driver’s license to smear paint, while the kids swirled in and out of the kitchen.    

“What are you making?” they asked.  

“I’m just playing,” I said.  And I was. 

I took a toothpick and carved elaborate flowers in the wet colors.  Then I painted over it, hoping it would somehow show through.  It didn’t and I moved on.  I found a glass jar and began stamping circles, twisting the jar upside-down in two shades of blue.  I liked it, so I kept going.

“What are you doing?” my daughter said.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I’m just playing.  Why don’t you pick one of the pages and try it too?” 

Miracle of miracles, she did. 

The technique she chose didn’t work terribly well and she grew frustrated, but I kept minding my own business.  “You can always paint over it if you don’t like it,” I said, over and over again. 

Finally, she loosened up.  In the end she found a color scheme she liked, swirling greens, yellows and oranges on the canvas.  She grew pleased with her painting when she stopped forcing it and started playing.  No longer so focused on the outcome, she began to enjoy the process.
 
We were just playing. 


It’s been a week or two since then and I'm feeling the urge to paint again.  I’m eyeing those canvases, wondering if I have the chutzpa to start all over again, painting over the old with something new.  

*   *   *   *

Only 16 spaces left!  I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.