Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Autumn Hunt

I was cleaning out boxes (what, you thought I'd be done unpacking after a month?) and stumbled across this gem from my second year of college. The assignment was to take a "low" or mundane subject matter, and elevate it to "high" by writing an epic poem about it. 

'Twas on a brisk, late Autumn day--
When leaves along the lane did play,
When empty stalks stood left alone--
We set out from our humble home.

Setting out on noble quest
At our dear grandfather's behest,
We sought a means of sustenance
As noble forbears were wont, once.

Like them, our tools were few and plain,
Yet we did hope great things to gain;
And so we entered edifice grand,
Fear betrayed only by a trembling hand.

This task would much of us require:
Courage, and toiling without tire.
We did not know if we were ready,
But my trembling hand I forced to steady.

We began to stalk our prey,
(The youngest of us looked most fey
With face hid 'neath a mask of black)
And as a group we forced them back.

They scattered--we each chased a victim;
They probably never knew what hit them.
First one, then two, until all ten
Had been grasped tight, and taken in.

On to their dismal fate they rode--
Though if they realized it, never showed--
And we, feeling villains all,
Began to regret Grandfather's phone call.

But committed now, and turning not
From this course with horrors fraught,
The bravest our one weapon did wield,
And to the blade a neck did yield.

No Gothic terror from period of Romance
Could frighten more than this macabre dance.
Now to old phrase new meaning was given:
"Running round without head, like a chicken."

We pushed on through the ugly task
Until one soul exclaimed at last:
"Through all days which to me remain,
I ne'er shall taste of chicken again!"

Words uttered in haste were quick forgot
When two weeks later mother brought
To the table fresh chicken pot pie,
Which not a soul chose to deny.

We only had to catch and kill ten chickens that day--my brothers would later have to do a couple hundred in 2-3 days. Nate says he still has nightmares from that one.

While it was a gruesome experience, those ten chickens were a huge blessing, because we had just used all the money we had to move to Pennsylvania, and we needed food to last until the next paycheck. I guess God just wanted to see if we really wanted to eat...

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Feeling Beautiful" revisited for my daughters

Me, age 11
When I was five years old, the left side of my face was bitten by a dog. All that's left of the scar today is a little dent beside my eye and a tiny dot on my cheek, but it was a very defining thing for me when I was younger. My brother would tell people I'd been bitten by a crocodile. I remember being stopped in the store one day by a mom and her teenage daughter, and them exclaiming that the daughter had a scar just like mine, but that it was almost gone now, and so I didn't have to worry, because someday I wouldn't even notice it. It gave me a little hope, but it also made me realize just how noticeable it really was.

At age nine, I carried a 4H Fair brochure to my mom, in which I had circled all the categories I thought it would be fun to enter.

"And the baking, and the crocheting . . . and the beauty pageant. I think I'd like to do that one, even though I know I'd never win because of this scar."

I was totally matter-of-fact. I knew that I'd never be beautiful, and I was okay with that--this was still at the age when I thought I should be a boy, anyway, and scars were worth more than beauty; scars earned you respect, and showed you were tough.

I've never forgotten the look of helplessness on my mom's face, and the way she tried to tell me no one would care about the scar. I shook my head, pitying her for being so delusional as to think someone disfigured could win a beauty pageant. I thought she was just trying to make me feel better, and I walked away.

As a mom now, I understand. I understand how she must have felt, wanting to take my scar away for me, while also wanting to teach me to love myself with it. Wanting to scream at a world that had already taught a home-schooled nine year old that she couldn't be beautiful unless she was flawless. Wanting to take her little tough girl into her arms and hold her and tell her she could win anything she wanted, whether it was a beauty pageant or a spitting contest.

These bodies we have are so wonderful. And yet we all, at some point, don't like what we see in the mirror. I've read a lot of posts about bodies and body image lately. Posts about things to say to your daughters, things not to say to your daughters, and things you should never let them hear you say about your own body--especially your crazy post-pregnant body, with its droopy extra skin, stretch marks, and extra pounds.

Frankly, as a mother of two little girls, reading all these things is terrifying.

I know, at some point, I will feel what my mother felt. I will look at my beautiful girls, and I will see them in all their radiance, full of life and potential and pure beauty--and they will be frowning over the curl of their hair, or the crookedness of their noses, or the squishiness of their stomachs. Or feeling self-conscious about a scar.

I don't know what I'll say. I don't know if they'll listen. But maybe I'll have them read this post. And then I'll have them read this one. I'll give them a big hug and tell them they can do it; that I know they're beautiful, and that someday they'll know that too.

And I'll pray that's enough.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Happy birthday, Cim!

Cim got pizza for her birthday dinner. Lots of it. Heaven.

We went out for dinner with some of Ryan's classmates. We were invited by a classmate who shares Cim's birthday. 

She brought Cim presents. Huge princess coloring pages, a box of 120 crayons, and a Lisa Frank sticker book. Cim, pulling the tissue paper off each one, cried, "Just what I ALWAYS wanted!"
(Cim gave her a card on which she'd drawn a face and a spider using a Sharpie. It was awesome.)

On the way home, Cim said, "Where's my cake? 
Having planned to do cupcakes at a birthday get-together with some friends later in the week, I said, "We'll have cake another day."

Cim, lip quavering, and in a smaller voice than usual, replied, "But it's my birthday... I have to have cake on my birthday... Isaac had cake at his birthday, and today is MY birthday. I have to have cake."

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home.

Three candles and one extra for luck. She was so excited.

Ice cream cake on the special sparkly heart plate from Miss Stacy. What could be more wonderful? (We took one look at her face and removed her white shirt.)

Cim wasn't the only one excited. Mari jumped off a bar-height kitchen chair trying to get to the cake, which was sitting on the counter a couple feet away. Luckily the trash can broke her fall. We put her in her chair and let her have fun.

Dear Cim,

I can't believe you're three. What a crazy three years it's been. You have, in turns, made me laugh until I cried, cry until I had to laugh, and frequently just left me shaking my head (and then later posting the moment on Facebook). 

You have such a sweet, sweet spirit. Everyone who meets you is overwhelmed by your intelligence, your charm, and your vocabulary. I'm daily reminded just how much you're learning, and just how quickly. Mostly I just hope I can keep up. 

Happy birthday, my big girl. I love you so much.