A good friend of mine recently told me that she wished she could be a fly on the wall" of our home for a day. I assured her that it was generally messy. She replied that she loved reality shows, so she thought she'd still like to see what a day was like around our place. I thought I'd grant that wish, at least verbally. Kelli, my friend - this is for you. Enjoy! (The flower picture is to distract you from the gritty earthiness of the post.)
Jeff has been out of the pastorate for almost four years now, but he still fills the pulpit now and then for various local churches with ailing or vacationing pastors. Today, he was scheduled to preach at a little General Baptist church in the rolling hills of rural Illinois. The attendance runs between 10 and 20 people. Today, it was 11. Since my parents were with us, we more than doubled attendance.
I may be out of my pastor's wife groove, but I still remember the basics. The main thing is to get everything ready the night before. I did so.
- Ironing? Check. Shirts and dresses all ironed and hung on the back of the laundryroom door.
- Shoes and tidy little stacks of small boys clothing, ready to be donned? Check.
- Diaper bag - filled with interesting toys, dipes, wipes and a bottle of juice to keep baby quiet? Check.
- Toddler cups of water chilling in the fridge, ready to grab? Check.
- Extra clothing for the youngest five stowed in the van (for the rare but semi-anticipated accident?) Yes.
- Medicine box (kept in the van) with band-aids, benedryl and everything else a family might need? Yep.
- Purse? Yes - and it was stocked with three types of tylenol, too: Infant/junior/adult.
- Bag with paper/pens/crayons? Check. (I'm no stoic. I let my little ones color in church. Busy hands let my little boys listen better, I think.)
- Dessert made to take to my mama's house after church? Double, double check on that.
- Pack N Play so baby can take a nap? Check - also remembered waterproof pad, sheet, blanket.
Morning went well...considering that I could not focus my eyes until my second cup of coffee. Seriously. Could. Not. Focus. We have one shower amongst the eleven of us - and it is stained blue because the girls spent the previous day tie-dying. We have to keep the shower train running smoothly. If we do it right, everyone gets 10 to 15 minutes before we break down the door.
There were a just a few glitches as we prepared to leave, such as the 5 and 6 year old boys deciding to ditch mom's sandal choices and to replace them with their new tie-dyed socks and dress shoes and Mariam's loss of her sandals (that hoarding thing again, no doubt.) I hunted for a pair of church socks for the girl and finally found a pink non-athletic pair that were way too small. I stretched them tight and tugged them on her feet, only to find that her "princess" (church) shoes were also too small. She encouraged me - "C'mon, Mama. You can do it. You've got to do it." I squeezed a little more - she didn't fuss. I figured she'd have them off and lost in the van before we made it to church, anyway.
I searched and found a two piece dress (a must for a nursing mom.) The last time I wore a regular dress I had to half undress to nurse the baby in the bathroom and then when he was finished I tried to zip myself back together and the zipper got stuck. And there I was - ladies needing to get in - but me, holding my baby and trying to unstick my own zipper. So, yeah....I've learned. Function before fashion, nourishment before narcissism.
I've stopped laying out clothes for the big kids - but am rethinking that after today. Emily went through 4 clothing changes and several shoe deliberations at the last minute. (I asked her reasoning: Too dark, too layered, too hot, too clunky, too sparkly, too dressy, just right.) Julia's slip was too long, so I did what any enterprising mother would do and told Emily to cut the lace off of the bottom of the garment for her sister. Nick couldn't find the right t-shirt to go under his cotton button up, and was desperately simultaneously shaving, brushing his teeth, and trying to get his hair to lay just right while the rest of us were headed out of the door.
For the record, the nine year old did just fine. Nothing to report, there. (Just giving praise where praise is due.)
I grabbed the water bottles and a last cup of coffee and we loaded up the 15 passenger van. The kids are really great at either buckling up themselves or helping a sibling. Sometimes, we can even "get 'er done" without someone screaming.
We pulled out of our driveway, and Jeff cranked on the air conditioning. It was supposed to be 94 degrees. It was warm already and a storm appeared to be blowing in.
The switch on our air conditioner appeared to NOT BE WORKING. Of course. Daddy in a suit coat and tie, a thirty minute drive ahead of us, and no air.
I made myself think of people in remote countries who have to walk for hours to get to church. I even squeaked out a "thank you for this hardship, Jesus. It helps me appreciate this opportunity to worship you." Obviously the morning was still young and I was optimistic....but it's so true. Why do I assume that getting to church has to be easy for me when it's not for so many people? The perspective helped, even though my head was about to explode from the pressure created by the storm front.
I ran through my mental list outloud to Jeff as we drove. I checked off and told him everything that I had packed and done and had on hand. I realized that I did not have my Bible. I spent a few minutes trying to convince him that Jesus was okay with that, and that surely Jesus would accept my three levels of tylenol and my Orange Delight jello salad as a sign of my devotion. I even tried to pull in some correlation to the deliquency of Cain's sacrifice, seeing as his problem probably was that he didn't offer up Orange Delight jello salad.
My husband just smirked, stuck his hand in the console drawer, and pulled out an extra Bible for me. We are a good team.
After much bumping and jostling over gravel roads, we arrived at the little white country church. Jeff parked, we disembarked. ("Disembarked" is the nice way to say it. "Piled out" is more accurate.) I helped the little boys out. They stood and surveyed, eyes wide and mouths hanging open. They saw that the church sat smack dab in the middle of a cemetery. (Lots of old churches in the United States have a cemetery.) Ben, age 5, said with awe in his voice: "Woah. Lots of people have died here." Sammy, his sidekick, said, "Yeah....maybe THOUSANDS." (I thought the same thing.)
We approached the church doors, and I realized that somewhere along the ride Ben and Sam had changed shirts. This was problematic, because now Ben was wearing a horrid set of mismatched plaid. Sam was all in blue, but it did not match. I hurried them back to the van to change. I think they were worried they were going to get in trouble, because Sam hastily held up his hand as I pulled his shirt over his head. "For the WECOWD," said he with the missing front teeth, "Emiwee told us to switch our shirts awound." (????) Alas, it was
I held the baby throughout the service. He drooled and occasionally smelled funny. I could tell he was getting ready to leave me a pretty big diaper...would it be during the service? Maybe during a really quiet moment when people were searching thru their hymnbooks for the next song? Maybe when Daddy paused for dramatic effect? Look. I'm a practiced mom. I'm a realist. I know that no diaper is leak proof, not really. It's a helpless feeling, trying to gauge *when* that diaper will happen and how bad the effects will be. And the only bathroom....all the way up front, in front of everyone....with a couple of preschoolers trailing behind, exclaiming...loudly....Trust me. When a mother prays for peace, it means something altogether different.
Sometimes a prayer for peace means a plea for inaction.
Whether God granted my prayer or not, I can't say....but the diaper never happened. The day went well. We completely filled the last two pews in the tiny church. The children were sufficiently well-behaved. No one threw spitwads, vomited, or lost bladder control. (Now, you may laugh....but if you are a pastor's wife and mother to a large crew, these are some fairly common and sometimes realized fears.) No one (else) lost their shoes, nor anything else that I can tell, not even a tooth. We managed to hold it together until we buckled ourselves back up in the van and pulled out to head to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Sunday dinner.
And that is what a half a day looks like at our house.
The rest of the day was a little nuts too:
- The neighbor had to regretfully inform us that their dog accidentally killed our kitten.
- One of our cars is not working.
- Tomorrow morning, Jake will have his wisdom teeth removed.
- and this one...you will NOT believe! I was sitting here tonight, typing this post, and I saw something kitten-sized run from our laundry-room, thru the hallway, into the room where I am sitting, and crawl under our chair. My brain said "kitten," until it did a double take and said, "but we no longer have a kitten." I went and woke Jeff and he came out and we armed ourselves with brooms and pulled aside the armchair to find a small opossum!!! WHAT?!? I even took video with one hand while I pushed it out the door with the other. How did that get in our house? Are there more??? Can I sleep tonight? Life is never dull.