Thursday, March 28, 2013

Taking Up the Art of Basket Weaving

Every time someone would ask what I was doing on Saturday, the words on my lips felt like a very poorly constructed lie.  "I'm going to the library for a basket weaving class."

Basket weaving?  Really?  Surely I could think up a better excuse for abandoning my husband with a rowdy trio of mini me's for three hours.

But at 1 pm sharp, there I was, nervously sitting in the local library's back room with eleven other similarly crazy ladies (and one crazy man) who thought it might be an interesting craft to learn.  Thankfully, I'd convinced a friend to join me in my foray into weekend madness so we could both fret over and laugh silly together at our ineptitude.

Picking up my first stack of newly-soaked reeds, I felt like a green professor standing before her very first class of ten unruly reed-students, all of whom knew this was my first day on the job.  While I watched the real teacher standing before me readily bully her reeds into instant submission, I could only tentatively bend mine into a right angle, slowly, almost begging them to do as they were told and praying aloud for them to not break.

The reeds could feel through my hesitant fingers that I wasn't a real master, not one who was ready to do whatever it took to make them compliant.  So, without a word, they instantly lay right back down on the table, refusing to stand up straight, even when I wove a first fence row prison around their sides.
Over the next two hours, I learned to soak (and re-soak) those rigid reeds to make them more pliable for bending.  I learned a mouthful of new words like weavers and lashing.  Then, just when I grew cocky, thinking I might just have mastered those stubborn reeds, making them stand at attention, somehow, I screwed up my over-under technique and had to rip out all the rows and start over.

I joked about how poor baby Moses would have sunk to the bottom of the Nile river if he would have had to rely on us to make his basket.  My friend quipped right back, saying there wasn't enough pitch available to make hers watertight.

In the end, after struggling to command the reeds into a square shape, to tighten them into a "candy basket" so small, my son's twelve plastic Easter eggs barely fit--we triumphed.
Even knowing that no one would be as impressed with my basket as I was, I still left that class proud as a peacock, head held high as a conqueror.  But more than that, I left with a new respect for Moses' mother, Jochebed.

Creating such a basket wasn't easy.  Jochebed couldn't order her pre-stripped 1/2" reeds over the Internet from Indonesia.  She didn't have a printed-out pattern before her listing the required reed lengths alongside steps with corresponding images labelled A, B, C, and D.

Instead, she would have had to personally walk to the Nile river to cut and gather her reeds, likely making the trip many the same river she would use to float her son to Pharaoh's daughter.  Jochebed then would have needed to strip her own reeds before creating a basket with such precision that it wouldn't sink.

It would have been a time-intensive, tedious endeavor, and that's without a baby boy in the room, one whose very whimper could draw Pharaoh's guards and sign his death warrant.

I always knew Moses' survival to be miraculous.  Until last Saturday, though, I just didn't realize how miraculous it truly was.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What the Camera Sees

The bride to be smiles up at her future husband, the one she has loved already for four years.  He makes a joke to break their shyness at being posed so close together in front of their parents.  She, too, feels the intimate warmth of his hand around her waist, and a radiant flush stains her cheeks.

These are two people who only think they have weathered adversity just to reach this moment in white silk and red ribbon roses before the altar.  They have no idea of the road that lies ahead, of the inconceivable betrayals, losses, and hardships that will cleave their young hearts while carving deep canyons and gorges across their foreheads.

They have no idea the sacrifices husbands and wives must make for one another, that remaining constant to their wedding vows will not come naturally but will be a conscious choice. All they know is that they believe they have been God-ordained to become husband and wife, that they are deeply in love.  And love is enough.

Only it's not.  Love isn't enough. It never is, no matter the romance genre's propaganda. 

This hard truth they learn not long into their marriage.  With a round of the flu less than a month from the day they say "I do" and an unemployed husband completing his first year in law school, there is no honeymoon phase.

The new wife who has spent her girlhood barefoot on the family place in the country where neighbors are more than friends now lives in the foreign concrete jungle of the city where doors are bolted tight, windows are heavily shaded, and nameless neighbors are never home to befriend.  Her every evening is spent completely alone in the apartment as husband studies at the coffee shop through the wrought-iron gate next door.  Saturdays, she escapes back to the country, stuffing her cup full with every possible ounce of family love and happiness to last an entire week.

By their first anniversary, she has taken a second, then a third job to start paying down the twenty grand in interest-bearing loans husband took out during his first year.  Her husband, too, takes a day job as soon as school permits, adding that to his already full plate.

Even still, these difficulties are child's play compared to the trials they will be called upon to endure over the next few years.  When all others fall away and there are no words left to say, they will have to choose--to weep, mourn, and cling to each other and the firm foundation of God.  Or to escape where life has brought them and be carried alone out into the universe.  
These are the same two people twelve and a half years later, posing against a background of pink and white cherry blossoms as their own three children bounce, dance, sing, and argue out of the camera's frame.

Once children in their late twenties, husband and wife are now nearing forty's mile marker.  His hair is thinner, hers mixed with sparkling strands of silver.  Time etches their laughter and worry lines deeper with each passing year.

No longer is their any shyness between the couple when the camera woman asks them to turn to face each other, her hand on his chest.  As before, he whispers a joke only she can hear.  This time, though, he is only seeking to make her smile, not break any discomfort. They both laugh aloud at this shared intimacy.  Their open faces reveal two people who now know each other better than anyone else...and who still love one another.

Their smiles reflect not the easy laughter of youth and an untried relationship but rather the deeper, more abiding joy only developed over time as each has chosen time and again to stand in the fire--side by side, hand in hand. It is a smile of trust, honor, and respect, as if the one's very spirit is connected by an invisible, glistening strand to the other's.

There before the blossoms is a picture of a love that has been built on the firm foundation of Christ alone.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
(Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach.")

Friday, March 22, 2013

To Those Parents of Mentally Disabled Children

The twins and I had spent the last hour pounding the pavement in a local subdivision as we do every Thursday morning, tucking the Word of God beneath the weather stripping of each house's front door.  At four years old, Amelia and Emerson do quite well to keep pace with three other grown-ups who have the advantage of femurs, fibulas, and tibias double the length of theirs.

They pass the time chattering happily about any topic that strikes their fancy, reminding me to pray aloud, picking aromatic bouquets of clover blossoms from front lawns, and searching for forgotten copper pennies dropped on dark, asphalt streets.  Yet, by the hour's end, their skip has lost most of its airy bounce, their incessant chatter is interrupted by longer pauses of silence, and their requests sound more like whines and complaints.

Still, Thursday is the one day a week we are off the farm and near the local mega mart, which means a weekly trip for supplies is in order, tired feet or not.  Thankfully, the store welcomes mothers like me with a line of super-sized shopping carts our front, each equipped with a molded bench seat that holds up to 160 pounds.

The twins climb wearily on board, shove the "baby" straps and buckles aside, and lean back, their dangling feet still not quite long enough to reach the floor of the cart.  As always, I tilt forward as if walking in a stiff wind.  Much force must be applied to this too-heavy object not yet in motion.

Once inside, though, the cart easily rolls across the frictionless glossy white tiles.  Still, I feel like I'm commandeering an unwieldy18-wheeler or a zoo train down aisles intended for a Volkswagen beetle.  I constantly warn the passengers to keep their hands and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
As if my sheer size doesn't draw enough attention, Amelia sings her way down the pickle and peanut butter row and continues her tune up the row with the breakfast cereal. To the cart, I add two packs of the 48 double roll toilet paper on sale, the largest feed sack of catfood the store keeps in stock, and a week's worth of groceries.

Finally, I push an overly-full shopping cart out into the sun, no easy feat at this point.  The parking lot, though, has a slight downhill slope from the mega mart's double-wide doors to my minivan.  We coast so easily with kinetic energy that I have to jerk hard to stop.

And that's when I notice him, the same man I see each week working to collect shopping carts in the parking lot.  Rain or shine, freezing cold or breathless heat--he's out there.

As usual, he's hunched forward a bit as he walks, is muttering slightly to himself about something.  From the way he carries himself and his coke-bottle glasses to his not quite symmetrical face and disheveled hair, it is obvious he is one who has struggled in this life with a mental disability.

I'm sure he's borne others' cruelty as well, sure he's been called "simple," "stupid," and likely much worse by others who want to make themselves feel superior at another's expense.  

Maybe to compensate for how I know others have treated him, I've always gone out of my way to be kind, nodding my head with a smile or speaking a simple word of greeting each time we pass.  Although I'm sure he never remembers me in a sea of other mothers with equally noisy children, he smiles back or sometimes mutters an almost inaudible greeting in reply.

Today, though, he doesn't pass me by and head for the full buggy return.  Instead, he stops at my van and asks if I'd like help.  Before I can even recover from my surprise, the twenty-four pound bag of catfood is on his shoulder.  Effortless.

He picks up my huge towers of toilet paper, my bags of bananas, and milk as I unload the bagels, cereal, and other random supplies. It is seconds before we are done.  I utter a simple "thank you" as he takes my buggy, and then he is gone without a reply.

As I turn over the engine, he is parking my shopping cart back at the store's entrance where it will be waiting for me (and other overwhelmed mothers) the next time I return.  I am close to tears as I explain to the twins why he was helping me.

"What a blessing!"

Never has anyone offered to help me load my groceries.  I've struggled across parking lots before with much larger loads--some that I had to hold onto with both hands or they'd fall off the cart--all while strong, able men passed me by with little more than a glance.

I wish I knew this man's parents so I could tell them what a blessing their son was to me today.  I wish I could tell them that no matter his disabilities, his limited matter how many things he can  never do in life, he was helpful to a woman he perceived to be in need.

I wish I could tell them how their son's inner kindness was the biggest blessing of my entire day.

It doesn't matter how smart you are, how strong you are, how rich you are.  A meek, kind spirit can sometimes make the biggest impact of all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Look at a "Vintage" Easter

 I came to love the old vintage post cards during those long summer days spent up north at my grandparents' Michigan farm house, the one sitting so high up on a hill that running down the steep slope from front door to lower basement often felt more like falling than running, as if at any moment, my legs may be unable to keep up so that I would stumble and keep right on rolling until I hit bottom by the apple tree where the corn grew tall.

Many an afternoon, my Grandma and I sat inside the house with its exposed beams and rustic cathedral ceiling built long before that was the trend.  I would sit by the chimney made from rounded river stones hand set in gray mortar and watch as she pulled out binders filled with plastic sleeves containing post cards for all seasons, each addressed with a perfect cursive penmanship long lost in our era.

My father was the intended audience, not the child me, but still, I watched in eager wonder as she and my father carefully withdrew some of the more rare cards from the pages, delicately held them as if they might disintegrate at any moment.

Of course, the ones I always loved most were the rare, expensive ones with "perfect corners," not something one would give a girl who still had to be told to pick up her room. However, Grandma did give me one depicting a heart made completely of purple violets.  In its center was a head shot of a Victorian woman, brown hair up swept in ladylike beauty. She was beautiful.

Throughout my childhood and long after I married, that postcard stayed in the top drawer with all the other important papers. Even now, I have never lost my fascination with those post cards, a trademark of love and remembrance from days gone by.

Two years ago, I found people had started scanning in these postcards from the 1920s and '30s and either posting them online or selling them on a CD.  Though they didn't have the same feel or the beautiful sentiments written on the back, their images still reminded me of summers with my Grandma.

So, I printed dozens of the old cards on card stock, cut and matted each one before adding thin ribbon to make them ornaments on my Valentines Day tree.  My children fell in love with the simple, hand-drawn images as much as I had when younger.

I intended to do the same for our Easter tree, but as any parent  knows well, the unnecessary tends to remain undone.  This Spring, a full two years later, I finally collected scanned-in images of enough Easter postcards. 
As I cut and pasted the cards on screen to print, I was amazed at the differences I noted between Easter then and now.  Not quite a century separated us, but the chasm was wide and deep.    
Whereas our Easter is ruled by bunnies, I was hard pressed to find many images of rabbits, and when I did, most were of actual (pretty ugly) rabbits, not the Easter Bunny or any other cute, cartoon-like creature.

However, what I did keep coming across were image after image of plush baby chicks, fragrant blossoms, and Christian images.  Images of churches, Christ, and the cross were available in great supply.  And even when some Christian symbol was absent, many times, the card's simple verse mentioned the true meaning of Easter.  One even sported a watercolor of Jesus on the dusty road to Emmaus.

Back in the '20s and '30s, most people would have raised their own chickens, making this a symbol of rebirth most people would have understood.   And Christ?  He was still the center of Easter.
Last month, I added those paper ornaments to branches laden with pastel-colored eggs and bright, sparkly butterflies. Though our world has changed, has transformed Easter into "Spring Break," our household chooses to retain a "vintage" understanding of the season. 

Christ's sacrifice on the cross, His resurrection from the dead--back then, the people knew that this was the reason for Easter.  Even if they chose to not serve Him, they knew.

Now? Our present-day society may try to bury the true reason for the season under a mountain of plastic eggs, plush rabbits, new dresses, and chocolate, but still, in our heart of hearts, we awaken on Easter morning knowing this is Easter.  And Easter is about Christ.

May we who love Him never forget.  Let us always remember His sacrifice and triumph over sin and death, above all else.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Hymn of Gratitude for Springtime

Red-breasted robins crisscross the asphalt lane that winds past our farm.  They've been here in the South for months now, gorging round, downy bellies on ladybugs, holly berries, and squiggly worms in preparation for the impending flight back north.  "To Grandma Della's in Michigan" as the children always say.

I stand as I do for ten minutes each afternoon--pink ropers hesitating at the divide between gravel and black tar, waiting for the school bus that carries my kindergartner's hug.  My eyes watch the vanishing point for the classic orange and black, but my ears listen to the birds' airy chatter.  Their song is ever-constant today when the sun presses warmth through my cotton shirt until the heat caresses my bare skin beneath.

On days when the clouds form an almost reachable ceiling or when a chilled March gale wraps me further into myself, there is no fluttering, no sound.  All are invisible, silent, hiding in the forest's web of woody catacombs above.

Today, though, I  squint behind Jackie O. shades, gaze upwards at these miraculous creatures weaving invisible webs of joy like a wedding canopy.  My feet are glued firmly to the earth, but I, too, feel this urge to soar, to give thanks and sing in celebration of Spring's advent.

Far out of camera range, my father in law stands by my daughter, both of them oblivious to the orchestra taking place a few feet above them.  Their eyes focus, instead, on Spring's first rising from below.  Up from the cold ground, white globes of clover proudly tower above wide, meandering patches of of three leaves, sometimes a lucky four.

This tough farmer with his t-shirts ever-stained by sweat and tractor grease; with his skin permanently tanned, and leathery from years working the hay fields....this is my children's Opa, a much-beloved grandfather who worked a lifetime at an oil refinery and raised both cattle and hay with his only son, my husband.

There is nothing even remotely feminine about this man.  Yet, as I watch, our Opa stoops repeatedly to pick the clover "weeds" he once would have instantly sprayed into oblivion.  With well-calloused fingers, he knots their rigid stems and weaves them into a bracelet for his only grand daughter, a necklace for her twin brother.  Such an uncharacteristic expression of love.   

I can't help but smile at how perfect this moment is, how much of the Father's love is evident above and below.  And in that remembrance, I hum a tune to words long forgotten.

For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies, 

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild,

For each perfect gift of thine
to our race so freely given,
graces human and divine,
flowers of earth and buds of heaven,

Christ our God, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Photo: My mother's camelia flowers. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

When the World Says You're Unimportant

We strive to teach our children that they are important, that they have value no matter what others tell them.  We grab little faces between open palms and speak seriousness into young, impressionable eyes, compelling them to believe they each have something valuable to offer in their uniqueness.  They are loved.  They are appreciated.  They are needed.

Somewhere along the way, though, that message changes.

Maybe it's when we enter college or the workforce and realize we are only one of millions, all who have the same skills that we have, a speck of sand on a speck of sand.  The message we then embrace is one reverberating the individual's lack of importance, lack of uniqueness.

I readily remember being told that English instructors were a dime a dozen, easily replaced.  Anyone could do my job as well as I could, so I shouldn't think too highly of my degrees, knowledge, or abilities.  My best was nothing compared to what others had to offer.

When I was laid off from my first teaching job mere weeks before Christmas, I bought into that lie without even realizing it.  

For the six years I taught full time before having children, I always felt like a fraud.  Somehow, I just knew one day, everyone would wake up and realize I didn't know as much as they thought I knew, that I wasn't as a great a teacher as they had heard. I readily accepted that what I had to offer was of little value and was always surprised when others felt differently.

When I began working part time while staying home with my brood of three, those feelings of unimportance only increased.  I was now relegated to the status of adjunct, and as anyone in the academic world knows, adjuncts are literally a dime a dozen, the workhorses who are looked down upon by full-time professors serious about their craft.  Adjuncts are disposable, easily replaceable, especially in fields like composition and literature.

No matter that as an adjunct, I taught nine sections a semester split out among three different colleges, almost double the teaching load I was required to teach when I was a full-time employee.  My contracts each semester made it clear... I was not promised classes the following term; I was an "at-will" employee; any section with my  name on it could be cancelled even after the semester began or given to another full-time instructor.

I was expendable.  Unimportant.

The problem was, I listened to the siren song of the world for so long that I somehow forgot God's Word, which teaches I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that the abilities God gave me are important, do have value.

This past January, I was hit with an unexpected job loss for the Spring semester, taking nearly a 60% cut in salary due to low enrollment at one of my colleges and a complete sabbatical from another due to a renovation of their entire online program.

I was devastated.

It wasn't just the anticipated impact on my pocketbook, that weekly date night shifted to the living room sofa, that our one-night-eating-out a week routine became no nights eating out, or that trips to town were all but eliminated unless I rode along with someone else.

The bigger problem was how my lack of work confirmed my unimportance.  The world was going along just fine without me. 

While I told God I would still trust Him to protect and take care of us and while I truly believed that, still, I felt the sting of not being needed or valued. 

Literally one day after receiving the news that my workload and salary would be slashed, a woman I had shaken hands with only once before telephoned.  She spoke of hearing and loving the narration I had written for the Christmas musical the month before.  Then, she said God had told her to call me today.  She had been successfully homeschooling her son in all subjects but writing, which she struggled with, herself.  Would I be willing to tutor him each week?  She would pay.

I was instantly suspicious.  Had the pastor told her about our financial situation?  No one else knew.

No.  He had told her nothing, only given my name and number when she requested it.  As I listened, dumbfounded, she confessed her fear I would think she was stupid for not knowing how to write, so she had put off obeying God's leading her to call me until the late afternoon.

I sank to the sun room daybed and started to cry before explaining to her the events of the last few days.  In the next minute, she was praying for me over the phone line.

God had chosen to not answer my prayers to increase enrollment in those courses that were cancelled.  Instead, he was offering something different--an opportunity to work one on one with a child whose heart's desire was to become a preacher, a non-lucrative job offer I would have likely rejected had I been laden with my typical full teaching load. 

I was important to His Kingdom's work.  The abilities He has gifted me with are important.  I am still fearfully and wonderfully made.

Since then, I have started tutoring a few more children out of my home each week.  Each time I sit down with another mother, I am amazed to find she doesn't know a trick or technique that comes naturally to me, that I honestly thought everyone knew how to do.

I had bought so far into the lie of my own unimportance that I didn't see all I had to offer--not just to people but to God as well. 

Some might read this and conclude I now have an issue of pride, but that's not it at all.  I can rattle off a Santa-Claus-length "Naughty List" of my deficiencies faster than any Indy car can make a loop 'round the track.  I still shake my head when anyone is impressed with my small abilities.

In the world's economy, sure, you and I are not terribly important.  Yes, we can be replaced by others equally or more skilled than we are.

But God's economy is what's important, and He says each of us has a role to play in His Kingdom.  Each of us is important enough for Him to know the number of hairs on our head.  Each of us has been endowed with specific gifts and abilities given to us by the Creator of the universe, Himself.

Each of us is special.

Image: One really tired mother whose most important act last Saturday was to lead her children in making an Angry Bird pizza by themselves (the orange beak melted, but it is there).

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When Jesus Shows Up for Playtime

A path of faux wood stretches across the entire hallway between the play room and my kitchen, a regular Great Wall of China blocking the Huns from invading.  The only problem is this wall has been erected smack in the midst of our home's main thoroughfare, creating a traffic jam the likes of which construction crews are hated for.

Just today, the hall has been strewn with a dozen plastic dinosaurs, loose leaf paper, a stack of old magazines for cutting, zebra-faced scissors, purple glue sticks, and a zillion tiny scraps of confetti left behind by twins mastering the art of the collage.

No matter what it is, no matter how many raised surfaces I have for them to work on, the twins always choose the floor.  And most of the time? The floor immediately outside the kitchen.  

While I'd like to blame this problem on magnets or other mysterious polarizing forces, I'm savvy enough to realize the twins simply congregate where I'm working.  With three meals put on the gathering table each day, any mom knows that's going to be near the room with the fridge, oven, and microwave.

No matter that there's an entire six foot area rug they could play on in the living room or that there is an upstairs foyer wide open for uninterrupted play.  They unconsciously want to be where I am. 

But as usual, this desire to be close to mommy leads to chaos and discontent.  An argument erupts with Emerson not wanting anyone to step over his creation and with his siblings insisting he hasn't left them any choice but to chance the masterpiece's destruction.

It's inevitable that someone's foot will accidentally tip over someone else's tower, accidentally kick plastic X into plastic Y resulting in teary Z.

Most of the time, I can ignore the drama unfolding a few steps from the sink where I'm washing lunch dishes or scrubbing the stove top.  It sounds harsh to say, but motherhood desensitizes you to all but the truly serious cries for help.

Today, though, Emerson was more adamant than normal that no one else could play with him.  It was important.  I shrugged, chalked it up to getting up earlier than normal or general grumpiness from seasonal allergies we all were feeling ever since the "worms" started falling from the oaks and coating the carport in a powdery yellow.  

He kept insisting it was important, though.  And it was.  
"Come see, mommy," he called.  "The Angry Birds are going to Bethlehem.  I built it.  They're following the star?  See where I built Bethlehem?"

Sure enough, there was a path leading a line of multicolored birds and rotund, lime green pigs straight to the golden star of Bethlehem.  

Who knew molded birds of furrowed brow knew where to find the Savior?

This focus on Christ on the same day that saw the twins awaking to argue before breakfast over how palm trees should be arranged around Jesus' tomb--it's a positive sign of their hearts.  Even with the surrounding drama, it is encouraging to this mother who sees more failure than progress, who is living so close in the midst of raising children that it's hard to get perspective and see how far we've come.

Like many parents, I seriously wrestle with training up my children in the Lord.  It is a burden and sometimes one I I feel I'm failing to carry well.  It sounds crazy to say this since they're only four and six years old, but I often feel like I'm already running out of time to properly teach them to love the Lord with all their hearts, like every single moment is terribly important to cram in as much about the Lord as I possibly can.  

I take very seriously Deuteronomy 6:7 where Moses says, "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

On days such as this when talk of Jesus and Scripture shows up not just at lunchtime prayer but before breakfast, before reading lessons, while walking across the field, while preparing supper...

When Jesus shows up as natural part of playtime, I look at the verse and think, "Yes. This. This is what God meant when He said "when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

The more we intentionally speak the Word, the more our hearts unconsciously dwell on it and, thus, the more we speak it.  It's a cycle.

The teaching, then, is less forced, less intentional; yet, the name of Jesus and the Word of God flows from the lips as easily as one's own name.  Conversations begin to naturally lead from the day to day to the spiritual and back again without a thought--laugh-worthy words about a rat graveyard in one breath and deep words about the meaning of faith in the next.

My prayer is that God will give me lips to answer the hard questions my children ask, eyes of encouragement to see where we've been and where we're headed, and ears to listen with discernment to both my children and the Father.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Life in a Glass House: When Daddy Is In Trouble

Dinner was an uneventful mixture of mom, dad, and youngest son inhaling a nutritious meal, two finicky noses raising high at said meal, and all three children competing for air time to tell the "best" and "worst" things from their day.

As I said, uneventful.  (It's a good thing.)

While Picky Eater #1 swirled her spoon around the sausage and Picky Eater #2 used his fork to only eat the sausage in the bowl, husband stood up to start loading the dishwasher I had emptied earlier in the day.

He stooped his six foot frame to place one salad plate in the bottom, fork in the cutlery basket.  I pushed back my chair to help, placed my dishes in the sink, and reached for the wet rag to start wiping down the "grown up" end of the table.

I heard the unforgettable sound of shattering china before my brain realized my eyes had seen husband grab the counter to catch himself.  And in that instant of shock, the children froze, spoons and forks mid-complaint.

Daddy was in trouble.

In a Tom and Jerry cartoon, one frame would show the disaster, then the next frame would show a series of blurry streaks as everyone left the building with impossible speed.

In real life, though, there's no possible way to zoom across broken glass or even walk casually away and pretend the catastrophe didn't happen.  That's when the self preservation instinct kicks in.

Instant, pin-drop silence.  It's the "oh-my-gosh-somebody's-going-to-get-it-and-if-I-don't-pretend-I'm-invisible-I'm-going-to-get-it-too" kind of nothingness wherein a half-hour's roar is muted with a split second click of an invisible button. The ears seem to ring from the void left by sound's sudden absence.

The children may have known the correct thing to do, but they didn't understand the emotional significance of daddy breaking a piece of blue and white Noritake china that mommy had bought at Dillard's years before she was married.  They didn't instantly think, "Why now!? When we don't have extra money to replace this plate?"  All they knew was that broken = bad.

As the room remained paused in shock, I realized what husband had done. Without thinking of the potential cause-and-effect consequences, he had chosen to stretch his long legs over the open dishwasher to get to the sink rather than close the dishwasher, walk to the sink, then open it again.

And in that light bulb moment, I did what everyone was waiting for.  I didn't yell, scream, or pitch a fit, but as my blood pressure rose, I broke the eerie silence with the tone my kids refer to as the "mean mommy voice," the deep, serious tones that spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e in a soprano.

"What were you thinking!?!  Just because you can step over a dishwasher doesn't mean you should!!" 

I angrily picked up the broken glass and slammed the jagged shards in the open garbage can.  Husband brought in the vacuum cleaner.  The children watched in silence.

When the crime's evidence was gone, Wyatt asked for paper, left the room.  Knowing how Wyatt loves to write letters asking for forgiveness when he does something wrong, I thought that request a bit strange, but I kept cleaning the stove while husband went back to cleaning alongside me.

Minutes later, he returned, reached out his hand to give husband a piece of paper, then hesitated, glanced at me, as if confused since I was there.  The little hand withdrew, extended my way. 

"Here, mommy.  This is from daddy."

Before me was an apology note, obviously written in my oldest son's hand but signed "Hubby," the affectionate name husband uses with me and that Wyatt had only just learned two weeks before from my Valentines Day card. 

I laughed out loud, told Wyatt he couldn't apologize for his father, explained that daddy had already said he was sorry, mommy had already forgiven him, and that was that. 

"We forgive and forget, you remember.  It's what Jesus expects us to do. It's what families do."

That was two weeks ago.  The incident hasn't come up since, but I know it will just because I know my children.  They like to bring up the things we adults would like to forget.

"Remember that fight you and daddy had when....." Wyatt will say.

Then, I'll replay the same speech I give at such occasions:  "Yes, I remember.  It wasn't a fight.  A fight involves hitting.  It was an argument.  And it's ok for mommies and daddies to argue.  You and your sister argue.  You and Emerson don't agree on everything, do you?  Families disagree.  They argue.  BUT they always say they're sorry.  They always forgive each other."

Being a parent means living in a glass house.  Children watch every cross gesture, hear every work spoken in frustration, sadness, or anger. 

I know they'll remember the inevitable harsh words spoken in anger.  My only hope is that they will also remember what they always see and hear next--the apologies, the forgiveness, and the commitment to continue loving each other as husband and wife.