The Sixty-Sixth Letter: Tiny Wonders

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Dear Daughters,

I found a set of fairy wings on the kitchen floor a few days ago, and when I picked them up–because a corner of one of the wings had been a few inches under the stove–they dragged a bunch of other stuff out, too.

A huge dust bunny, of course. That’s a given in our house. (No shame.) Also some shriveled Cheerios, and we haven’t bought Cheerios in some time. And then the top half of an acorn. Just the little cap.

See, last fall, a friend of mine had dried and shellacked dozens of acorns to serve as autumnal decoration at our shared poetry reading, and afterward she asked you if you wanted them to play with. You, of course, did. Some of them were spraypainted gold.

You love small things.

You have little treasure boxes and assorted bags where you keep your special items. You’ve kept those little acorns for many months now, though occasionally I find one crunching under my feet in the shaggy rug in the living room.

Acorns are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Anything small can make the cut, as far as what you ask to keep to play with. Clips or rubberbands. Coins of assorted countries’ currency. Little tiny snips of paper you cut out around words you’ve written with hearts. Rocks. Beads. If we let you, you try to sneak the plastic ring from the top of milk jugs.

And that’s not to mention all the small plastic cartoon figurines from myriad television shows that we’ve inherited from friends. So many small things. Everywhere. Underfoot. Under furniture. Hidden amongst the plastic dinnerware of your play kitchen. Piled in the bathtub of your dollhouse.

You love small things.

Of course, now that dandelions are showing up in the yard, you’re pretty obsessed with them, too. You pick them and want to put them in vases and make me smell them, you count them, you get excited when we walk by neighbors’ yards that are covered densely dotted with yellow. You think those people are really lucky to have such a pretty yard.

We’ve also got little purple and white flowers blooming on weeds throughout our yard. Because that’s the kind of yard we have. It’s mostly groundcover, not grass. These tiny flowers suit you perfectly.

A few weeks ago, the preschooler’s show-and-tell assignment was to bring something that could fit in your pocket. Your pockets are pretty small. You selected a plastic Coca-Cola bottle cap with the tiniest of snail shells tucked inside of it. I had to put them into a plastic bag so they wouldn’t get lost in your backpack.

You’d found the snail shell in the sand under the deck, sand that I repeatedly ask you not to play with but you can’t resist scooping up and “watering” out of your drink cup. You asked if you could bring the shell inside, and I agreed, once I was pretty sure there was nothing living in it.

And so it went to school with you for show and tell.

This tiny wonder of a snail shell.

I love your love of the tiny.

I love your wonder.

It frustrates me too, of course. I’m not going to lie.

It’s one thing to be asked to stop and smell the roses but dandelions? I don’t always want to smell them, especially after you’ve been twisting and yanking on the onion grass in our yard and all I can smell is that garlicky yuck I know you’re smearing on your pants as you come jogging over to me.

I don’t want to slow down to watch the bugs crawling on the deck, the ants dismantling an old goldfish cracker, the “spider” which is probably some other random insect but the toddler calls everything “spider.”

I don’t always feel like pausing to listen to a noise that is so quiet and distant it really doesn’t matter to me. But it matters to you. And you want to have a conversation about what it might be.

Yes, I can be a stereotypical grown-up who loses my patience with these interruptions. I’ll admit it.

But some days: some days I do pause, take notice, listen.

Some days I squat beside you, invite you up onto my wooden swing, garlicky hands and all.

Sometimes I encourage you to try to feed the robin in our yard who I know will always be just out of reach.

Sometimes I come over and inspect that hole by the picnic table and chat with you about chipmunks and snakes and why you may not poke your stick down there.

Some days I count out your “monies” with you, whether they are US currency or not.

Some days I agree to go hunting for the Katerina Kitty Kat figurine, or O the Owl, or the particular Daniel Tiger you’re looking for. (For some reason you prefer the one with the white T-shirt, rather than the red T-shirt or the red sweater. Why in the world do they make so many variations?) But I help you look under the couch cushions.

Some days.

Some days, I wonder at the tiny. Because you remind me to.

And most days, at some point, I wonder at your wonder.

But every day, girls, every day:

I wonder at you.

Love,

Your Momma

 

 

The Sixty-Third Letter: How the Whole30 Confirms What I Know to Be True About Myself

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Dear Daughters,

You know what I’ve been thinking a lot about for the last week? What’s been on my mind every few minutes? Especially in those minutes where I calm my mind and try to find peace?

Nope, nothing holy or sacred or inspirational or Lenten, but rather:

A hot, steaming cup of PG Tips black tea with milk and sugar.

Also, bagels and cream cheese.

Also, peanut butter.

Also, bread.

Also, cheese.

Also, beans in my chili.

Also, rice with my curry.

SERIOUSLY, GIRLS.

Here’s the deal.

I am giving a no-dairy, no-legume, no-sugar, no-grain eating regimen a try in order to figure out why I just don’t feel well physically, emotionally, the whole gamut. It’s a regimen known as the Whole30, but a rose by any other name… Or something like that. I’m always messing up colloquial sayings. It makes me endearing.

You know what doesn’t make me endearing?

How much I feel like griping about all the food I’m not allowed to eat.

Because guess what?

I get to eat a lot of really amazing food on this regimen, and, well, let’s face it, I just don’t even care most of the time.

Like for breakfast the other day, I had a fried egg sauteed with broccoli and spinach and herbs d’provence. Do you know how good it was? Do you know that this is the exact sort of thing I would order in a restaurant if I went out to eat for breakfast? Seriously. The exact thing. Except probably with cheese. But what I wanted to eat was a bagel and cream cheese, and so I felt grumpy about it.

Do I love vegetables and fruits? Do I love seeds and nuts and eggs? Yes, I do! I love these things. But this last week, I’ve felt a bit resentful of them.

And so I’m realizing something about myself, once again.

I am absolutely a selfish human being. It’s been about as blatant as it can be. I want what I want when I want it, and I don’t want to be told I shouldn’t get it.

Even when it is for my own good.

I have done my fair share of fasting in my lifetime, and I think fasting is an important discipline that Christians these days don’t like to adopt because it makes us uncomfortable, but as silly as it sounds, this has been worse for me than fasting.

The truth is, I’m a week into this thing, and I’m actually feeling pretty good. I’ve been a little less grumpy the last few days about my decision-making, and I haven’t been craving my hot tea near as much. (For the record, hot tea is allowed on the Whole30, but I want mine with milk and sugar something fierce, so I had to rule it out for myself.)

So there’s been some progress.

But, girls, I am so selfish, and it’s become so striking to me, and I am feeling pretty convicted about it.

After getting married and then, eight years later, having babies, all of which taught me in painful ways just how selfish I am, I can only think of one other experience that has caused these emotions to well up in me like this.

Offering radical hospitality.

I’m serious. This selfishness down in my gut I’m dealing with this week is similar to the feelings I’ve had when we have had others living with us.

I have long said that offering radical hospitality has been the best way to learn how selfish and prideful I am. (And if you’ve ever heard someone tell me that I had a “gift” for hospitality, you’ve heard this schpiel before. I have a low tolerance for this whole “gift” business when it comes to hospitality. Hospitality is hard work. I have a “conviction” of hospitality, but I don’t think it’s any easier for me than for anyone else.)

Because when people who are not your family are all up in your stuff, in your business, eating your food, and not putting your utensils back where you want them to be, and leaving only one scoop of peanut butter in the jar…

And now I’m back to peanut butter again. 

Shocker.

These seemingly unrelated things–marriage, parenting, the Whole30, and radical hospitality–have really dug into the core of who I am as a profoundly selfish person. They are ways we intentionally limit ourselves, where we say for the sake of the end game, whether that be for our relationships or health or the kingdom of God, we will be vulnerable and needy and frustrated and have to deal with it even though we will want to give up sometimes.

But there can be no wimping out.

You don’t change your mind about your beloved spouse because he leaves the back door open in all kinds of crazy weather.

You don’t give the baby back to the hospital because she keeps interrupting you while you’re trying to type up a blog post.

You don’t kick people out when you’ve invited them in.

And you don’t quit this eating routine for the sake of peanut butter.

Instead, instead you make homemade almond butter with a little olive oil and sea salt to smear on your banana.

Because, I mean, come on, a selfish girl’s still gotta eat.

Love,

Your Momma