Onward: Kindergarten, Apples, and Hope

Honeycrisp apple treeThe fall that we moved to our hobby farm, my husband planted a small orchard of Honeycrisp apple trees in the front yard. The following year, we had twin babies, an active toddler, and one of the worst winters in memory. Newscasters kept calling it a polar vortex; I called it a one-way ticket to stay-at-home-mom insanity.

In the spring, (the late, late spring that year), a few of the apple trees barely leafed out. Some developed a blackish type of rot, and others just withered. Every so often, my husband would stalk across the yard carrying an uprooted sapling and add it to the burn pile. Meanwhile, he carefully tended to the rest of the trees: pruning, fertilizing, fencing, weeding, waiting.

Last year, seemingly out of nowhere, a few small, red apples dotted the branches. Jason hid the biggest one on the top shelf of the fridge, a ruby red trophy, and we marveled at it every day for a couple of weeks, waiting for just the right moment to cut into it.

Meanwhile, apple alchemy was working its magic in the little orchard.

This year, five of our most gangly, teenage-looking trees produced an incredible show of nicely sized, bright red, juicy apples. Afraid for the young branches and the weight they were carrying, we decided to pick last week, though I’m sure it may have been a little early. (Remember, it’s amateur farm hour here. We’re learning by… experience.) The girls joined me in carefully twisting off all the apples they could reach, and I couldn’t help but remember driving past the orchard that polar vortex winter, wondering how on earth those trees were going to make it.

***

Four years ago, we were in the thick of raising babies. My eldest was two, and our twin daughters were two months. For better or for worse, our life was about small, concentric circles; we moved around the house in reliable patterns – meals, naps, laundry, baths. Taking an outing required a ridiculous amount of prep work: diapers, clean clothes, snacks, wipes, extra clothes, socks, shoes, toys, etc. and so most days we stayed home, managing best we could.

I want to say, “fast forward a few years”, the way people do when they scroll through vacation pictures and only remember the highlights (conveniently forgetting all incidents of puke, sleeplessness, and wardrobe malfunctions), but the truth of the matter is this: those early years of raising little ones did not go fast. They were full of wonder and challenge, failure and growth. And like the apple trees, there were times I wasn’t sure just how we were going to make it through.

first day of kindergartenBut two weeks ago, I watched my eldest hang her backpack in her locker and walk into her cheery kindergarten classroom. We stayed for a minute, processing her emotions and getting her settled in before turning around and navigating back down the hallway full of eager and nervous students.  The following week, I watched the twins walk confidently through the preschool entrance and line up by the door. And just like that, my minivan was overcome with silence (Griff isn’t a big talker yet).

I drove a few blocks, parked, and pulled out the baby carrier. Griff and I commenced to take on a beautiful, albeit sweaty hike through the woods in Taylors Falls. (Twenty-five pounds of baby and carrier adds a new level to any exercise these days.)

For a majority of my walk, I kept thinking back to two things – apples (namely, the giant bags in the pantry needing to be processed) and waiting, an action I’ve struggled with all my life.

You see, I had to wait for those wimpy little trees to do something, anything.

I waited through those long, wintery days when my daughters tested every ounce of patience I could muster, and it felt like we’d never be able to open the front door without a mountain of snow spilling into the entryway.

I waited while I mowed in circles around the apple fences and weed-whipped around the trees, keeping them clear of intruding vines.

I waited through seasons of discipline when I sat my eldest firmly down on the stairs over and over, talking through actions and consequences.

I waited in the smoke of bonfires, watching the dry leaves of another failed tree darken and curl into ash.

I waited through shopping trips of horror where my daughters took the liberty to climb like monkeys out of the cart, eat Chapstick, tear tags off items for sale, land us in the bathroom multiple times during one trip, and demand to be fed every eight seconds.

I waited because I had the promise of something else to come alongside me through the difficulty.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

I had hope. Firm, anchoring hope, a Hebrews 6:19 hope, that what God promised me through his recorded words was going to come true.

I wasn’t muscling my way through the daily grind without reason. I was waking up day after day, pouring bowl after bowl of cereal, mediating argument after argument, reading story after story, because I had faith that eventually my children would learn to do those things for themselves…and that my perseverance in teaching them the small things would prepare me in maturity to teach them the bigger lessons later on.

And then it struck me that here, in this season, some of the things I’ve been waiting FOR just climbed into the passenger seat next to me like it was no big deal. It’s like when you see your child make their own toast and pour their own milk and you feel like THE WORLD has opened wide up with progress.

We survived that first awful winter, and the ones after it, with a little bit of pluck and gumption. The toddlers that tried my patience are now talking about helping others on the playground and raising their hands in class. The apple trees are thickening their limbs, digging down deep to produce the richness they were meant to.

Our daily life, which used to feel so small, is now moving forward, not at breakneck speed, but with a steady, constant pace that I have grown to appreciate as I deepen my understanding of things like faithfulness, and patience, and hope.

Onward.

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For the mom who failed yesterday

Untitled design (2)Hey friend.

You too?

Sigh.

Maybe it started off so well. Maybe you put real breakfast on the table for the first time in awhile, and knowing that you and your kids ate something besides sugar covered corn bombs for breakfast felt, somehow, refreshing.

Maybe you picked up the house the night before and awoke to a clean slate, a day of possibility.

Maybe there was the thick aroma of dark coffee.

Maybe your eyes found the sunlight through this morning’s windows and felt the promise of new mercies for the day.

Maybe it was all going along just perfectly…

And then. And then. And then.

Maybe you forgot an appointment and felt like a complete dolt for yet again unsuccessfully straddling your schedule.

Maybe you had to rewash the same pair of pants you just washed yesterday because someone’s diaper leaked. Maybe there was another pair of wet jammies and sheets. And another few loads of tiny clothes that seemed to mushroom in every corner of the house, no matter how many times you picked them up.

Maybe you remembered a relationship that was off kilter, a wound still full of sting.

Maybe your littles managed to make a mess in every room of the house before 9:30 am.

Maybe it felt impossible to say good things because everyone seemed to need correction.

Maybe there wasn’t much food around because last week’s meal plan was for last week, and you didn’t get a chance to go to the grocery store yet. Or maybe there was never a meal plan in the first place, because you can barely keep up with the constant requests for snacks, much less think that far ahead.

Maybe you longed to ward off the loneliness, the kind that makes no sense in the mothering journey when you’re surrounded by children, that crept in as you washed yesterday’s dishes and stacked them up haphazardly to dry on their own.

Maybe your phone dinged, and you picked up it up hoping for a post or message from a friend, only to find that your Flashlight app was done updating.

Maybe there was angst and noise and constant movement and it started to wind you up tighter and tighter as the hours slowly slid down the wall of the afternoon.

Maybe all you wanted was an unsuspicious silence.

And maybe all those things started swirling up and threatened to topple you, head over heels, off the rest of the day, even though there were still plenty of hours left that you had to manage, especially the ones containing bedtime, and it all started to feel impossibly difficult and when, for the love of Pete, were you ever going to just. get. it. right?

Maybe you sat in the rocking chair at bedtime and sang the extra lullaby.

Maybe you dug through the backpack and repacked clean gym clothes.

Maybe you stroked the perfect silk of someone’s hair an extra minute or two because they told you it felt so good.

Maybe you caved and read just one more story, even though you’d already read four.

Maybe you remembered the child who had a nagging cough, and managed to find the cough syrup now instead of in the middle of the night when the hacking started.

Maybe the words I love you mama relaxed the wrinkles you didn’t know you were holding in your brow.

Maybe you walked a little slower down the hallway or the stairs, just in case someone called for you one last time.

Maybe motherhood wasn’t as easy as it looked when your mom stood at the counter making dinner, folding clothes, pulling weeds, buying groceries. Maybe it’s because she wore it better.

Or maybe it’s because we were too busy with the stuff of childhood to notice the raw mechanics of life in place all around us.

Maybe that was okay.

Maybe it will still be okay.

Maybe those mercies will be new again today.  Maybe that’s simple, or feels trite, but maybe that’s all the hope we need to start in yet again, the possibility for failure notwithstanding.

 

 

 


 

PS. New Header! Christine over at JoyNoelle Photography captured some perfectly amazing moments with our family last weekend, and this photo was exactly what I have been wanting as a feature image for a long time. Stay tuned for more fun pics from our session and a glimpse into the reality of getting six people to smile for the camera all at once.