Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Exploding Cans, Chasing dreams.

Today I came home from church and as I was setting the table for lunch, 3 full cans of cherry Dr. Pepper rolled off the top of my refrigerator, exploded against the tile floor and splattered everything in the room with tiny, sticky-fizzy drops. 

As I scrubbed the walls, cabinets, kids, floor, and furniture in my Dr. Pepper-splattered church clothes, it struck me again that these unpredictable moments continue to splash me in the face on a daily basis. They are going to keep happening. How will I respond?

After lunch I was cleaning up the rest of the mess—it was a big mess, and decided to reward my clean-up efforts with a little blue DOVE chocolate square that I found in the bottom of the Easter candy basket—yes we still have lots of Easter candy left (and Halloween candy for that matter.) My metallic blue wrapper, as always, imparted me with an amazing tidbit of inspiration: “get out there and make your dreams happen.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you, DOVE. You are right, time to make some dreams happen!

Just then I smelled it. A dirty diaper--yet another dirty diaper. As I set aside my scrubbing sponge and switched gears back to mommy mode, I tried to figure out how a dirty diaper could possibly fit into making my dreams happen. It often feels like a cruel contradiction—I want nothing more than to live my dream of staying at home with my kids, but the daily demands and details that require my patience and the dirty work starts to wear away at the glamour of this dream. And I wonder if the messes will ever stop. Will they ever stop?

Yesterday I was scouring the bathroom sink late in the afternoon, and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror; I saw that crazy-haired lady with bloodshot eyes and a dirty shirt. It certainly wasn't June Cleaver or Donna Reed. This lady was bedraggled and needed a hairbrush and make-up and lots more coffee.

The “How To” books I've read on child-rearing and home-making rarely speak about the moments we see ourselves in the bathroom mirror, holding a toilet brush and pretending we don't hear the baby who is already awake again after the world's shortest nap. The books don't talk about kids who won't eat anything but Cheez-its or the sharp toys you will step on while walking through the house barefoot in the middle of the night. Parenting books fail to mention that often when you hold the baby above your head to play he will drop drool directly into your mouth. It will happen, so be ready.

These days are spent knee-deep in diapers and spilled soda and pyramids of toppling toys—and when I read a phrase on a metallic DOVE wrapper telling me to get out there and make my dreams happen it is hard to see past the messes and keep my true priorities in check. The poster children for this dream have dirty faces and ketchup stains on their clothes. For me, it requires great effort to consistently respond to the exploding cans correctly.

When the kids are well-rested with full bellies and we are driving to Sunday morning church wearing ironed clothes, it is easier to put the images inside a picture frame on the mantel. But when everyone is screaming for food and needing a nap and the clothes are covered in cherry Dr. Pepper, I have to remind myself that the dreams are messy after all. And the mess is what keeps this our home—a place where we don't feel guilty when our clothes don't match and when we eat out of a Kraft macaroni box because we didn't quite make it to the store.

We don't always put the chaos in a frame for world to see, but the cluttery disarray and how we respond to it is generally what defines our home and our dreams in the end. All we can do is roll with the messes and latch onto things that really matter, because there will always be exploding cans and babies who discover 6-month-old teddy grahams under the kitchen rug. 

This is one of my favorite Phyllis Diller quotes, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”

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