Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Twas the Night Before School Started and All Through the House, Was a Whole Lot of Crazy...and a Chewed-up Gym Bag.

The last day of summer arrived and so did my nerves. I went for an early run, downed my coffee, and made my list.

  • Clean up the kitchen.
  • Finish the laundry.
  • Wash Blondie's linens.
  • Run to Rack Room so she can decide on those new sneakers.
  • Pick up scrapbook paper and stickers so she can make her binders.
  • Ready the bags and lunch boxes and {said} binders.
  • Bake a pan of granola bars.
  • Grab a few groceries. 

You get the picture--normal day-before-school mom stuff. As long as I stayed on task, we'd all be fine. But The Man had to teach that night so it was imperative that things proceed in an orderly fashion for meal-time, showers, and bed-time to go as planned.

By 6:30 pm, I was beyond bewildered at the crazy turn my day had taken. There I stood on a crowded downtown avenue in a sea of giddy college students as my own three kids ate snow cones. Three kids who had not yet been showered, properly fed, or readied for bed. Oh, and the youngest of these three? Was dressed as Spiderman, the fake-muscle-suit Spiderman. 

But before we get to that, a bit of backstory. My 11-year-old daughter struggles with an inherited disorder called "decision-making anxiety." I don't know who she gets it from. Ahem.  

Picking out school supplies and choosing new clothes requires an inordinate amount of time and patience. She is not a diva. She does not like to stand out. But she's as particular as the day is long, fretting over minutiae like the color of stitching on shoes or the perfect shade of aqua or the texture of just about anything.

And this is why we ended up in a sweaty, jam-packed, downtown college street fair when we should have been at home, eating a leisurely dinner. 

You see, the dog had chewed up her gym bag. Her plain ol' green and black cinch sack that she's had for a couple of years and had planned to use for P.E. 

We don't live in a retail metropolis so I called every store from the downtown Hallmark shop to a sporting goods place to see if they had reasonably priced cinch sacks. Apparently a lot of kids needed new bags for gym. Or a lot of dogs wanted to torture frazzled mothers who didn't already have enough on their plates. 

I finally found a shop that carried cinch sacks for the right price: $9.95. They closed at 6:00 pm. So with granola bars unmade, laundry unfinished, and pizza dough rising on the counter, I loaded two big kids and one tiny superhero in the van and high-tailed it to the boutique. 

The traffic was ridiculous. Fake-muscled-Spidey fell asleep {at 5:45...awesome}. And a carnival-like atmosphere greeted us as we turned onto the main street of downtown. A Welcome-Back Festival was in full swing; what a perfect time to venture downtown! With one's kids. 

Okay, I said to myself, we'll just grab the bag and get home. We'll still have time for homemade pizza and proper bedtimes. 

The boutique bag was adorable, zebra print with purple backing. But it was a bit too small for a gym bag. She looked up at me with apologetic eyes and put the bag back on its hanger. 

We left. 

With no gym bag. 

The sweet girl in the shop said that the boutique was giving away some larger free bags {with the shop's logo} at the festival about 30 yards away. 

So I abandoned all reason right there in the parking lot, grabbed my son and muscled Spidey and bought $5 worth of tickets for who knows what. We moved like a small convoy of bumper cars through a sea of crazy co-ed's.

For a gym bag.

Because it was after 6:00, the kids were hungry and dinner was still just a ball of flour and yeast on my kitchen counter, 15 minutes away. 

But I had five dollars worth of tickets! So, three slices of pizza, several rainbow snow cones, one frisbee, and a "free" gym bag later, we made it back to the van, mostly unharmed. 

But my daughter, she was troubled over this bag; it was not what she'd planned on. And when it's the eve of the first day of 6th grade, one is not rational about one's true identity or the futility of a gym bag search. One finds security in cute school gear and smooth hair. How well I remember.

Remembering gives life to understanding and understanding sometimes kicks common sense to the curb in order to secure a cinch sack the night before school.

So we stopped by the sporting goods store on the way home and spied a trendy, though flimsy, Nike cinch sack. For $20. And though my love knows no limits, my wallet does. 

I told her I'd cover ten dollars of it but the rest would have to come out of her money. So she decided to wait and use the freebie cinch sack. We finally headed home. 

The boys played with their new frisbee while I readied the dough. But when Spidey took a hit to the nose, the fun was over and the Mama was weary. I felt as if my day had taken a hit as well. 

The boys helped spread the sauce and sprinkle the cheese. And when it was time for everyone to eat, they swallowed maybe two bites and asked if they could be done. Probably because the appetizer of pizza before the entree of pizza had filled them up. And because the whole wheat crust was extra-whole-wheaty and barely edible. And because they were still high on artificially-colored high fructose corn syrup from the snow cones. 

As the events of the day unfolded, so did the lesson: Nothing has gone as planned. The pizza and the snow cones and the foiled gym bag all reflect the unplanned-ness of the bigger picture.

I hadn't planned on the larger complications and personal travails that necessitated putting my kids in school in the first place.

I hadn't planned on anything looking the way it does right now.

You can probably fill in your own blank(s). I hadn't planned on ________________.  

But if I believe what I profess to believe, I know that this is not punishment or failure or Plan B or happenstance. 

This is Grace.

All's Grace. It's the way Ann signs her posts and it's the title of Brennan Manning's final book. It's the way I'm only now beginning to {barely, sometimes} see my days, my circumstances, my kids, my story.

I dropped her off at the middle school this morning and she told me only moments before that she was so nervous, she could barely feel her legs. I was so nervous, I could barely feel anything except my pounding heart and desperate love for her. She hopped out and I drove away; it all happened so fast.

I fought every urge to whip that minivan into a parking space and race inside the building to help her

What if she can't find her first class? What if she has a breakdown? What if she can't find a place to sit in the cafeteria?  

And all of that could happen. She may have her own difficult day of dashed expectations and botched plans. 

I cried the whole. way. home. I'm still crying.

But even though I'm emotional and even though I can't believe she's there, it doesn't feel wrong. It just feels hard. 

God uses a day gone awry and a life run amuck to show me that plans, the little ones and the big ones, are to be held loosely. Control is an illusion. Middle School brings anxiety. Life defies expectation. Beauty blooms out of brokenness. 

And All is Grace. I'll breathe this Truth in and out for the next 4 hours. Pick up's at 3:00. 


  1. Prayed for her last night. One of the first prayers again this morning.

    Your post is a hilarious scream...plus a cry of the heart. Remember at the end of the day...it's the end of the day. They all got tucked in (and hopefully, you did as well).


  2. Prayed for all of the kiddos today with our kiddos. Looking forward to hearing of the adventures God has in store for them. Kristen

  3. This was a beautiful post. Grace and Peace xo-Renee

  4. Oh, you have no idea how much I look forward to your posts! Praying for you and your kiddos. I hope they have a terrific year!

  5. Oh, you have no idea how much I look forward to your posts! Praying for you and your kiddos. I hope they have a terrific year!

  6. I agree with you that so much of life with kids is unplanned! I look back at life before kids and think how orderly it was. And love your distinction between wrong and hard. The right thing is so often not the easy thing.


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