jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

New Year’s Eve and a Child’s Soft Foot

More than flurries December 2015

More than flurries
December 2015

New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a time for big picture things, for the meta, the thoughts about the resolutions about thinking, if you follow me. Except I woke up sort of late this morning after a somewhat sleepless night of coughing and sniffling and generally phlegming all over.

And I came downstairs, exhausted, to find my husband making the kids scrambled eggs. Which was wonderful. With egg nog. Which seems conceptually sound. Eggs. Nog. But in reality, not so much.

After much spilling of eggs on the floor and refusal to get dressed I ordered everyone to head out the door for our sledding play date except one hold out simply wouldn’t eat his eggs (nog.) Or his banana. Or get dressed. Not even after a time out. Or cajoling. Or yelling (his and ours.)

And so I vowed to leave him behind. I loaded the minivan with three other kids dressed more or less appropriately for snow and gunned my way over the icy, snowy drive. But just as I crested the plowed snow onto the street, my husband, the survivor of the post-apocalyptic egg fiasco of 2015, shoved said egg nog holdout out the front door… In his pajamas, clutching his boots and snowpants and socks. Barefoot.

I stopped the minivan at the top of the driveway and went to open the slider door for the miscreant only to find the minivan door no longer sliding. Which is to say, the other door of my minivan is broken. Let me clarify- both sliding doors of my minivan are now broken.

So I was five minutes late for the play date and also, we didn’t have enough gloves to go around. Plus only one sled because we misunderstood ‘mix of rain and snow flurries’ to mean something other than sledding weather, apparently. But we persevered for two hours until 50% of our combined ten hands were frozen solid.

And also, my broken toe was frozen pretty solid, too. Such that once I finally herded everyone down the epic sledding hill, and into the passenger front door of the minivan, I took my boots off to drive barefoot home. But the door-open alarm to the car door started going off so that we sounded like a truck backing up. I pulled over and hopped out of the car in my socks. In the snow. In order to try to shut the car door, to no avail.

And then when I got home, and had unloaded my soaked and semi-thawed children plus their wet gear and the one sled, I found the front door to my house locked. And I didn’t have the key. Because I thought my husband would be home. I mean, I had the car, and there’s serious snow on the ground. And he did not bring boots to this idyllic, snowy getaway. But apparently, he wasn’t home! (And I intentionally try to never use exclamation points.)

Fifteen minutes of sitting in the minivan later I went back to our front door and banged again, only to be faced with a crisp, clean, handsome husband. Because he’d actually been in the shower.

And so it may not actually shock you to find that I simply couldn’t shake it.

I couldn’t shake the day and the annoyances, the phlegm and nog and door and freezing. Even as I internally professed my gratitude for having a car that works at all, or children healthy enough to refuse scrambled eggs (nog), or mittens to get soggy or a lovely home to get locked out of.

Even as I professed my gratitude, and made them a caprese salad for lunch. Plus hot cocoa. Even when we got changed and headed into town for our mini New Year’s celebration and went to a store and the kids picked up every fragile thing in sight and shook it. And I mildly said, “Let’s use our ears and eyes and nose rather than our hands, okay?” And the owner of the fragile-stuff store said, “You’re so patient!” Even then, I was still seething.

Early to the Indian restaurant December 2015

Early to the Indian restaurant
December 2015

Then I had to hurry ahead of everyone else early to the restaurant because two kids were “definitely needing the bathroom.” Once everyone else had arrived, we had an early dinner at the Indian restaurant and then afterward went for gelato, which was wonderful and delicious. But still, seething.

Gelato December 2015

December 2015

Later, after their teeth were flossed and brushed and while we let them sit down for an unprecedented hour of screen time watching Spike, the Elf I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday.

And then I began to write.

As the ugly words of complaint poured out of my brain onto the screen right here, I found myself cleared of the garbage. The seething stopped and I was left with a mental image, a mind’s eye picture of my youngest daughter early this morning, in the midst of my son’s total temper tantrum over the scrambled eggs (nog), and the shoving of two other wormy aggressive bodies jockeying for room in the mud room to wiggle into slightly damp and smelly snowpants. In that moment my youngest placed her foot into my hand to squeeze into her size 12 (size 12!) Bogs boot.

I looked at the foot and for one small moment I was amazed, not by how huge it is (and it sort of suddenly is) but how small it still is, how this chubby small foot still fits into the palm of my hand. That foot for a moment, for a tiny blip in the chaos of such annoying things and tugging, wrestling, combative kids, and sweaty, damp, sticky, clingy kid parts, of eggs and egg nog and goddamn doors, that foot was sweet, chubby baby flesh. It was perfection.

And then the moment was gone.

For just that small moment, that dear foot was a reminder of the time I still have left to get it right, of the future opportunities for sledding or eggs or fragile-stuff stores or New Year’s Eves and Indian food and cuddling on the couch. If I am very lucky, there is time for this, time for each of us to raise our weary heads from the chaos and be present enough to observe the perfection of a child’s chubby foot.

He'll eat Baingan Bharta, but not scrambled eggs (nog) December 2015

He’ll eat Baingan Bharta, but not scrambled eggs (nog)
December 2015

The dumb elf movie is almost over now and so we’ll clump up to the bunk room for bed. I will lay first with my oldest son, then with egg nog boy, then the chubby foot girl, and lastly, with the complicated middle girl who has to always use the bathroom now, and in my pre-pneumonia croupy voice I will sing Auld Lang Syne to each of them, first in my faux Scottish brogue, and then in English.

Burns’ original Scots version

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’lltak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.


The girl with the chubby foot
December 2015

And with each child, I will hold out my hand in the darkness- “And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere, and gie’s a hand o’ thine.” And each in turn will place his or her still soft, warm, fleshy hand in mine.

“See you next year,” I’ll say as I leave their room and close their door quietly.

“Imagine all the things that are possible in the new year. Dream of great things. I love you, always.”

And to you, my friend. Dream of great things. Imagine all that is possible in the new year. See you next year.

23 comments on “New Year’s Eve and a Child’s Soft Foot

  1. AnnaMarie
    December 31, 2015

    Wishes for a Happy Healthy New Year for you and your family!

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      And for you. Here’s to nothing but greatness in 2016, or at least the illusion of joy in the face of two broken minivan doors. 😉

  2. Crazy on the Farm
    January 1, 2016

    Awe. This was precious. We all have crazy days like this. But bringing it all back around to that spot where we can be grateful and find contentment is what it’s all about. We will look back and remember how precious these days were and forget the chaos when our kids are grown. 😊 Happy new year!

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      I already look back and can’t believe how the precious these days are, even when I’m in the midst of seething. It’s such a dichotomy- they exhaustion of parenting, the looming sense that time is passing too quickly.
      Wishing you all the best in the new year!

  3. Jesska
    January 1, 2016

    🙂 *hugs*

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      Happy new year! Here’s to a minivan that works, lots of Indian food and many chubby kid feet.

  4. CarolBarrel
    January 1, 2016

    Beautifully told , Jen. I hope you feel better. And Happy New Year with tons of warm cozy family love to all of you, even the extra cute scrambled egg rejector! xoxoxoxox

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      Really, the fact that he thought egg nog would go with eggs. There’s no way I would have eaten those eggs. Not in a million years! Ha!
      Happy new year, my dear, sweet MIL!

  5. afthead
    January 2, 2016

    Sniff. What a sweet very real post. Thanks.

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      Thank you for forgiving the gratuitous seething (why can’t we stop seething in those moments?!) and for getting to the chubby baby foot part. Because that’s the part that makes all the rest okay.

  6. lafriday
    January 2, 2016

    I’ll tip a cup o’Nyquil to you Jen (I’m in a vat of phlegm too). What lucky kids that their mother can still see them for the precious gifts they are amidst illness, irritation and life’s vagaries. Your “seething” was palpable, and in the end, so was the love. As always, you managed to bring me to tears of sweet remembrance. Happy New Year!

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      Thank you for that. I’ll tip a cup o’Robitussin to you, my friend. Hope you’re feeling better (I’m sort of not… but they’re back at school so WHO CARES?! Woot, woot!) Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016.

  7. Heidi
    January 2, 2016

    Wonderful, honest, real. You are such a good Mom. Your children are so fortunate to have you (as is your husband…)

  8. Dawn Quyle Landau
    January 4, 2016

    Can I just say: I think you are already, very much getting it right? For real. xox

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      Oh, Dawn, you know me for the hot mess of a farm share pickin’ Mama that I am. And you love me anyway. How great are you?!
      We’ll take a cup o’kindness yet, for auld lang syne. xoxo

      • Dawn Quyle Landau
        January 5, 2016

        I get you and wish I’d done it half as well, darlin’. You just keep pluggin along. You’re on a solid path. xox

  9. Burns the Fire
    January 4, 2016

    Oh, finally, to read you again. xo

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      You, too, my sweet. Now that the interminable “vacation” is finally over I am so looking forward to reading and writing and commenting and being with my friends again, virtually or otherwise. Here’s to 2016 and finally toasting in person? (Perchance to dream?)
      And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere… xo

  10. Perfection Pending
    January 4, 2016

    I love this. So honest and true and heartfelt. Such a good testament to what being a mother means with all its highs and lows. Glad you were able to find that little foot and gain perspective. That’s what makes life beautiful. 🙂

    • jgroeber
      January 4, 2016

      May we all find that little foot in the new year. (Or a glass of wine or bacon or chocolate- pick your poison. Sometimes we need a place-holder until that little foot places itself in our hand.) 😉
      So good to see you here!

  11. Anna Spanos
    January 13, 2016

    This is so beautiful! And such a perfect encapsulation of how maddening motherhood can be without ever actually losing the beauty of sleepy moments and the nostalgia of those chubby little feet. I hope you had a wonderful new year, look forward to reading something more from you soon…

    • jgroeber
      January 26, 2016

      Happy new year yourself, mama. Thank you for sticking with this crazy blog and this lazy comment-responder, even in the midst of these blurry, busy pregnant days. Wishing you someone to rub your feet and an extra treat, whatever that may be. xo

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2015 by in Memory, Uncategorized and tagged , .

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