Grace Retained

Grace Retained

About two months ago, the dentist fitted Brown Sugar with an “appliance” to fix her underbite. She struggled with it in the beginning. The first night, she lost it somewhere in her room while she was asleep, and she came downstairs in tears, fearing Mama’s wrath. (No worries, we found it under the pillows and toys.) She had to get used to wearing it practically 24/7 and storing it in her case during meals. We all enjoyed hearing the way it affected her speech, and we’d ask her to repeat certain words—it just added to her appeal, if not ours. But Brown Sugar was a champ—diligent, mature, faithful, and good-humored. She quickly adjusted to life with it (including our teasing). She brushed her teeth and the appliance after each time she ate. She dutifully wrapped it in a napkin when she wasn’t wearing it (because she couldn’t always keep up with the case). She soon got used to the pressure on her tooth, the dental checkups, and measuring her progress. We anticipated the day when the dentist would say she could put it away for good. Well, that wonderful day arrived at last. Brown Sugar’s hard work and patience made her precious, gap-toothed smile even more precious. The problem now? She’s struggling to get used to life without it! “My teeth feel weird,” she commented after a few minutes of freedom. Later she pointed to her teeth and worried, “They’re hitting each other. Are they moving back?” We’ve had to reassure her that all is well, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. Once again, she’ll have to get used to life without the appliance....
Declaration of Dependence

Declaration of Dependence

This morning, TD announced, “I’m going to dress myself!” Armed with a few key reminders (“Tag in back,” etc.), he did just that, lickety split. Now, this shouldn’t be a big deal. By this age, the other little people were sewing their own clothes, not just putting them on—okay, not really, but close. They all had at least one younger sibling to share their spotlight; they were little helpers and leaders—“knee babies” as Grandma called them, who had to move out of the way. But TD is everybody’s baby, and he works the roomful of eight mamas and papas willing and able to cater to his every whim. My constant prayer is that we don’t let our precious fruit spoil on the vine, but I’m starting to notice some overripe spots, right behind the ears he doesn’t wash himself. The blessing and the curse? He’s the last. The last I breastfed. The last to get a first tooth. The last first steps we witnessed. The last to learn to read. We all cling—and yes, I more than most—because we won’t get these “firsts” again. We delay their arrival and departure as much as possible, even to our own detriment. Sure, it makes more work, but it also keeps him…well, a baby. So, call us Dr. and Mrs. Frankenstein. Meet our cute little monster. But as I watched TD struggle to put his right foot through the right leg of his shorts, I took heart: he’s still my baby; he still needs me. And that won’t ever change, if my own Mama is any example. Even with a husband and my...
All to Pieces

All to Pieces

Everything was all set for dinner: quiche—spinach, eggs, baked chicken, cheese, half-and-half, heavy cream. Well, everything but the crusts, whole crusts, that is. When I unwrapped the frozen pastries, I realized someone must have dropped them at some point, for two of the crusts were in oodles of pieces. Ugh. Hubby was all ready to grab his keys and head to the grocery store, but after a minute I determined this looked like a job for…our puzzle man! Think Tank had answered this call before, though things didn’t look quite this dire. He studied them for a few minutes and set to work, and by the time I finished preheating the oven, cutting up the chicken, and mixing together all my ingredients, Think Tank had put together all those broken pieces. What he couldn’t fit together, he pressed into place, since they’d defrosted a little. Actually, now I didn’t have to bother piercing them with a fork since the cracks would allow the steam to escape. Problem solved. I baked them a little, sealing any cracks. Then I poured in my quiche mixture, sprinkled on a little cheese, and cooked them another 45 minutes. The result? Yummy goodness. I sliced them, no problem. They served their purpose. And you’d never know how ugly the frozen crusts were when we first removed the plastic. Broken crusts. Usable for a specific purpose. It just took an expert to mold and shape, a little patience, creativity, and some heat to make them fit for consumption. Just like my life, your life. Broken, but not crushed by the twists and turns, disappointments, and hardships...
Blood Thirsty

Blood Thirsty

So I had a tick on me today. We’d just parked and Hubby was helping me from the car. In the process, my dress moved just enough to reveal a little brown…thing…on my upper thigh. “What’s that?” he asked. When I looked at it, I assumed it was a mole; they’ve seemed to pop up any- and everywhere in my old age. He took a closer look. “Nope, that’s not a mole.” At that point, I freaked out. Folks who know me know when I say, “I freaked out,” I mean I. FREAKED. OUT. Right there in the Potbelly’s parking lot for all the world to see. And I continued to shiver and shake for the next…well, I’ve still got the heebie jeebies, so I’ll update you on that timeline. Sweet Songbird reminded me that I should focus on “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) That didn’t include thinking about that six-legged creature digging into my skin, sucking my blood, passing along all manner of disease. Nothing lovely or praiseworthy in that. But there is something lovely about my girl pointing to scripture, even in—especially in—that moment of abject, completely grossed out, I’m-going-to-lose-it terror. She knows I don’t do ticks, spiders, bees, or basically anything that grows or crawls in the space between the house and the car. That includes plants, remember? There is something praiseworthy in Hubby who scooted across the lot to ask a stranger for a lighter so he could heat tweezers and who didn’t laugh...
Bathed in Love

Bathed in Love

Hubby finally forced me into the tub tonight. Now, don’t go running with visions of Pig Pen in your head. I just prefer showers. Tonight, he insisted I take a hot bath to soothe my aches and pains and just relax for longer than a drive-through shower. As is often the case, he was right. By helping me in, he was helping me out. Now, my troubles didn’t go down the drain or evaporate with the bubbles, but that hot soak gave me proper perspective—and not just of my unpolished toes. I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer, editor, and teacher. It’s my job to assist. And I think I’m good at it. I can pray for you, compliment you, correct your grammar, comb your hair, and babysit your little people. I will cook you a meal, grace you with a smile, bless you with a kind word, or tell you a thing or two. I can lead, guide, steer, and discipline. I will snuggle, cuddle, pat, hug, and kiss you, change your television channel, read to you, teach you piano, or help you solve a math equation. Though I may not call you very often, I will text, e-mail, “like” your posts, and love you dearly from afar. I’ll travel hundreds of miles to see about you or help you cross the street. But what I try my hardest not to do is ask you for help. Well, today, I’m sad to say I needed plenty of that four-letter word, and I literally got more than I asked for. I tried to rebuff all this goodwill, to mark...
Getting My Duckies All in a Row

Getting My Duckies All in a Row

Did you know that Peg in “Peg + Cat” doesn’t have a nose? Or that a giant magnet can unleash the stuck zipper of an invisibility suit? Well, thanks to TD I know these facts, and so much more. For instance… There are several dead ladybugs in Think Tank’s window, and that he likes to open it and play his keyboard for passersby. It only takes a single stick of chewing gum to bribe Songbird into taking the little people on a walk. Brown Sugar understands when to strategically play the Reverse, Skip, and Wild Cards in Uno—and she ain’t afraid to use ’em against her mama. Maven knows what allegro and andante mean, but she doesn’t get that “never the tempos shall meet.” It breaks Lone Ranger’s heart to “grow out of” and “pass along” her things, especially her purple bicycle. Yes, the little people and I covered a lot of ground today—and not necessarily what I set out to learn or teach. I resisted these lessons at first. When TD asked me to sit on the couch and hold him so we could watch television together, I explained, “TD, I have things I need to do.” “You have things you want to do, not things you need to do,” he responded. Sassiness aside, it was true. I wanted to check stuff off my list—history lessons, a review of perpendicular angles, a vocabulary test, dinner planning, another chapter on my book—but those weren’t needs. What I needed to do was listen, cuddle, comfort, laugh, and learn. As far as I’m concerned, there is always so much to be done, and...