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Doing the important stuff.

After dinner Monday night, my husband and kids asked if we had anything for dessert. There was nothing. We rarely have an “official” dessert after dinner here, and they rarely ask, so I felt a little bad. I did remember a brownie mix in the pantry, though, and promised I could make them that evening.

After dinner, I kept busy with work while football played in the other room. I lost myself in magazine submissions and email conversations, and before I knew it, it was almost 8:00 and I had not yet made the brownies.

But you know what? I was tired.

I slogged my way to the pantry, found the mix, and dragged myself to the kitchen. And there I found a gigantic mess from dinner. The sinks overflowed with greasy pots, pans, and plates. The counters were covered with mail and used drinking glasses. It would have been nice to just throw everything into the dishwasher, except that the dishwasher was still full of the clean dishes from lunch.

I know what you are going to say. You are going to say that with all these children in this house, I should have HELPERS. We should have regular chores and regular chore times so that the burden of housekeeping does not always fall upon mom’s weary shoulders.

I know that stuff. I get it. I have lectured other moms about the very same thing. I have done “organized chores” in the past, and I am sure I will do it again in the future, but here’s what no one mentions when they tell you to demand more help: Demanding help is draining. It’s sometimes more exhausting than just doing the thing yourself. Scratch that. It pretty much ALWAYS is more exhausting than just doing the thing yourself. Especially late in the evening. When we all want brownies.

I was pondering these things and beginning to wallow just a little bit in an indulgent pity party for myself (Hey! This is going on! Everyone’s invited!) when I noticed 14-year-old Stephen standing nearby, studying my face.

“Hey,” he said gently, “I can unload the dishwasher and then reload it.”

What. Really? How did he even know the status of the dishwasher? So much for my pity party.

As we went about cleaning up together, mixing the brownies, and getting them into the oven, we chatted. About school, about cross country, about his plans for a Halloween costume. I mentioned wanting to get up early and fit in a run the next morning, and my growing-up man reached for my phone. He opened the weather app and showed me that it would be 34 degrees at 7:30 am but would warm up to a sunny almost 50 degrees by noontime.

“You should wait and run around noon,” he suggested. He was taking care of me.

While my goal around here often is getting the “important stuff” done, I have to admit that sometimes the most important stuff that gets done never appears on a to-do list. It’s the growing we do when we live and work together. It’s the important stuff that happens while we are busy doing stupid things we think are important. It’s the growth in grace and generosity that happens in the talking and teaching and modeling and succeeding and failing as we struggle together.

Not every moment with a 14-year-old son is as gratifying as the one I had that evening, so I'll take it. And having that moment helped me see that whatever weaknesses or failures I might experience along the way, raising kids who are kind, who notice needs, and take care of others is the only “important stuff” I ever hope to do.

God bless your week,


THANK YOU to everyone who shared their laundry tips after last week's newsletter! I compiled some of the responses in a blog post so we can all share the wealth of laundresses' knowledge: 

We can't get enough of that laundry talk.

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Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
My daughter's boyfriend had some of this last week, took home the leftovers & had me text him the recipe to share with his mom. It WAS pretty amazingly good. Now that we know bacon is bad for you, let's have sausage instead. Try it yourself!


Celebrate Halloween? Yes or No?
I make a Catholic case for yes in Who's Afraid of Halloween?

"But we cheat ourselves when we skip over the scary and run straight to the glory. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating All Saints Day, of course, but evil, fear, and death are real, and Holy Mother Church doesn’t 'mommify' any of it."

Read the whole thing.
And here's a different argument in favor of celebrating Halloween that I share each year: Captain America costume in size 3T.

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